|Wednesday, 24 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-08-22
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Inner cabinet approves draft bill for pension funds, social securityA Greek inner cabinet meeting on Tuesday discussed a draft bill aimed to better regulate social security funds. Speaking to reporters, after the meeting, Labour Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said the draft legislation would ensure the implementation of legislation and end any unfair measures in the system.
Under the draft bill, board members in social security funds and organisations could lose their jobs if they failed to draft the proper balance sheets and business plans. Tsitouridis said the draft bill also envisaged a rescheduling of social security contribution debt to the Social Security Fund (IKA), a move that could help both the market and the fund.
The Greek minister stressed that the government would continue its interventions to ensure a better present and future for the social security system, saying more legislative initiatives would be taken from September to strengthen the existing legislation.
Tsitouridis said the draft bill would be tabled to parliament soon and said the inner cabinet unanimously adopted the draft legislation.
Opposition parties slam draft social security bill
Measures in the draft social security bill unveiled by the government on Tuesday morning were slammed as "too little, too late" by the main opposition PASOK party, which said that they could not solve the huge problems of Greece's ailing pension system.
According to PASOK MP Maria Damanaki, these problems had sharply increased in the years of ruling New Democracy rule:
"In these last two and a half years, the state's debts to social insurance funds have doubled and contribution evasion has increased by more than 30 percent, while the measures unveiled today will increase contribution evasion further," she said.
According to Damanaki, the government's pre-announcement of settlements of business debts to social insurance funds almost a year earlier had encouraged companies to avoid paying even the bare minimum and would probably cover them for the coming 18 months as well.
PASOK parliamentary coordinator for social insurance issues Evi Christofilopoulou, meanwhile, accused the government of driving up debts to social insurance funds and undermining their viability.
According to Dimitris Stratoulis of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party, the draft bill was introducing measures that allowed business to virtually "write-off" debts of â¬3.0 billion owed to social insurance funds.
"In this way, [the government] is rewarding employers that systematically indulge in contribution evasion, contribution theft and contribution avoidance, while essentially encouraging those employers that have so far observed their legal insurance obligations to break the law," Stratoulis said.
 Greece to contribute to Lebanon international forceGreece on Tuesday decided to contribute two Navy vessels and a specialist commando divers unit to an enlarged international peacekeeping force in Lebanon, at a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Announcing the decision, Defence Minister Vangelis Meimarakis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said the council had decided to send one Navy frigate and its helicopter, the diving unit to carry out ship inspections and, if necessary, a Greek landing vessel to transport humanitarian aid from Cyprus to Beirut.
The government said it will consider sending other units in the future but with the strict condition that the situation in the region has normalised. For the time being, it completely rules out sending Greek land forces to the area.
The decision was also formally announced by government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos later on Tuesday, who said that it was in accordance with the United Nations resolution for Lebanon.
In addition to the diving unit and Greek Navy vessels, Greece will also provide administrative personnel and support supplies, he added.
Roussopoulos noted that Greece was among the first countries to arrive in the region with a significant number of ships to evacuate foreign nationals fleeing the bombardment of Lebanon and had also sent sizeable quantities of humanitarian aid through both state and other organisations.
The spokesman was also questioned once again concerning the foreign minister's tour of the Middle East, which begins later on Tuesday, and why this did not include a stop in Syria.
Pointing out that Greece has very good relations with the countries in the Middle East, he asked reporters not to place undue emphasis on event.
Prior to her departure and attending the KYSEA meeting, Bakoyannis had met with the prime minister.
She said that the aims of her trip, which will include stops in Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan, are to get a detailed picture of the situation and a full briefing to prepare for the takeover by Greece of the United Nations Security Council presidency on September 1.
 Putin to visit on Sept. 4 for talks on oil pipelineRussian president Vladimir Putin is due to arrive in Athens on September 4 for a trilateral meeting with prime minister Costas Karamanlis and Bulgarian prime minister Sergey Stanishev, foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis announced on Tuesday, adding that the meeting was being held at Putin's initiative, while development minister Dimitris Sioufas said the talks would focus on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.
Meanwhile, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos told a press briefing that the agenda of the meeting was energy issues, with the main thrust on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline.
Roussopoulos added that the Greek government has taken a series of actions aimed at rendering Greece an energy hub in the region.
 Gov't denies delays in fighting massive wildfireThe government on Tuesday sternly dismissed charges that state services were slow to react to a major wildfire in northern Greece the previous day, with the relevant interior minister stressing that all that was "humanly possible" was done considering the mini "heatwave" hovering over the area.
An estimated 3,500 to 4,000 hectares of forestland, fields and olive groves had been burned by Monday afternoon in the Kassandra peninsula of Halkidiki prefecture, a holiday destination east of the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
Roughly 50 residences, including legal and illegal holiday homes, were also burned, along with the destruction of shops, cars, farm machinery and livestock. Power outages were also restored by Tuesday morning in the affected areas.
At noon Tuesday, the blaze had been contained in the southwest part of Kassandra, the western most of three peninsulas on verdant Halkidiki that jut into the sea.
ANA-MPA photo / P. Makridis.
 National Bank: SE Europe expansion continuingNational Bank on Tuesday announced that it was continuing its drive towards further expanding activities abroad, and in particular, southeast Europe.
Greece's largest financial institution stated its intent in a letter sent to the Athens Stock Exchange.
National Bank said it has submitted a binding offer for the takeover of Serbian bank Vojvodjanska Banka and CEC in Romania. Serbian privatization authorities have also declared National Bank as a first-ranked bidder and the two sides were currently in negotiations over the sale of Vojvodjanska Banka.
In the privatization of CEC in Romania, National Bank - along with a Hungary-based bank - have been included in a short-list of candidates and were expected to submit improved offers.
National Bank is expected to announce its second quarter results on Thursday, Aug. 31.
In its letter to the Athens Stock Exchange, National Bank said it planned to apply with Turkey's Capital Markets Commission for a public bid to buy minority stakes in Finansbank AS and Finans Finansal Kiralama AS (Finans Leasing). Turkish market authorities are expecting National Bank to ask for an exemption from submitting public bids to buy minority stakes in Finans Yatirim Ortakligi.
Finansbank recently completed the sale of its international stakeholdings, Finans International Holding NV and Finansbank Romania, to FIBA Holding AS for 600 million US dollars and repurchased 99.9 percent of Finansbank Malta Ltd from Finans International Holding NV for 48 million US dollars.
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