|Friday, 24 May 2013|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-11-18
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Investing in Greece has changed, Finmin stressesNEW YORK (ANA-MPA - P. Panagiotou) Greek Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis stressed the substantial changes in the Greek investment environment during a press conference held here on Friday night at the Greece's Press and Communications bureau in New York.
At the same time, he pointed out that Greece's image abroad would not change overnight and he underlined the need for consistency, credibility and a serious approach at all times.
"It requires great efforts that are sometimes cancelled out by isolated incidents, either in connection with specific investments that may come up against insuperable obstacles or the practices of some Greek exporters that take a short-term view and thus blacken Greece's image," the minister said.
Regarding the prospect of early elections in the country, Alogoskoufis said that the government's entire economic policy was planned around the government's commitment to serve a full four-year term.
"We pushed through reforms and in 2005 and 2006 we implemented these reforms. Some are also being made in 2007. We will go the end of the four-year period having the satisfaction and countenance to tell the Greek people that this was our specific programme that we successfully carried out. But also to announce a second round of reforms for the next four years. We still have a lot of time because the reform programme for these four years has still to be completed," he said.
The minister also outlined in detail the activities and initiatives begun by Greece via the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board to cultivate export markets for Greek products in the large markets of the U.S. and Canada, particularly for foods, beverages and building materials. Part of this effort was the recently launched "Kerasma" programme, in which promotional events based on a series of recipes based on Greek products were held every three months in New York to help place Greek agricultural exports like olive oil in the market.
During the press conference, Alogoskoufis also dealt extensively with the disillusionment experienced in the past by Greek expatriates seeking to invest in Greece, pointing out that many of the uncertainties caused by an unclear legal framework had now been ironed out.
"The Greek diaspora that had bad experiences in the past can today, with greater confidence, if it wishes, activate itself in the Greek economy and contribute but also gain from the investments that if can make in Greece," he added.
Among the improvements he listed a reduction in taxation of business profits from 35% to 25% in 2007, as well as the clarifications to issues concerning specialised forms of tourism that were being introduced by a bill currently being drafted by the Tourism Development ministry.
To a question on Greek-U.S. relations in economic affairs, Alogoskoufis said that these were to a great extent determined by relations between the U.S. and the European Union, of which Greece was a member, which had now entered a difficult phase after the U.S. President failed to get the approval of Congress to continue the "Doha Round" negotiations on trade and tariff issues at the World Trade Organisation.
"It would be very desirable if there could be a new U.S. initiative so as to untie the hands of the U.S. representative at the Doha Round and we can conclude an agreement within 2007, if possible, or maybe a little later. Because it would be very bad and detrimental to both the U.S. and the EU and to the developing world if we returned to practices like protectionism, or limited protectionism or to a logic of bilateral trade agreements, because we all know that such bilateral trade agreements are damaging to third parties that don't participate in these," Alogoskoufis told reporters.
Commenting on the Greek government's privatisation programme and the results of his talks with the senior management of investment banks based in New York - including whether Greece's privatisation plans extended to banks apart from the National Bank of Greece (NBG) and Emporiki - Alogoskoufis underlined that the government's top priority in the coming months was the further privatisation of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) by finding a strategic partner.
"It is a project that is fraught with difficulties and has been attempted in the past without much success. I believe that conditions are now much better because OTE has adapted to the competitive environment that exists in the telecoms market. It also has significant advantages in the Balkans but could, nevertheless, do still better if it found the right strategic partner. In issues of technology it has evolved greatly but, of course, needs a strategic partner in order to continue its expansion in other markets," the minister explained.
Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas, meanwhile, told reporters that the privatisation of Olympic Airlines was not addressed at all during the Greek delegations current visit, since Greece was still engaged in sensitive and difficult negotiations on this issue with the EU.
"As soon as this is cleared up and we know exactly what it is that we are offering investors, we will begin a new round of contacts," he added.
 Sixteen charged over Polytechnic anniversary riotingSixteen young people were placed under arrest and charged on Saturday for participating in rioting during the traditional protest march to the U.S. Embassy that takes places in central Athens every year on November 17, as well as events in Thessaloniki commemorating the Polytechnic uprising.
In Athens, seven adults - including one young woman - and two underage offenders were prosecuted on misdemeanour charges of repeatedly attempting to cause dangerous bodily harm, illegally carrying weapons, verbal abuse and attempting to free a prisoner.
The adults were remanded in custody until their trial, while the two underaged suspects were released so that their case might be handled by a public prosecutor for juveniles.
The public prosecutor also pressed criminal charges against unknown parties for construction of explosives and misdemeanour charges of causing dangerous bodily harm and violating laws on the use of flares, passing on the file to an examining magistrate.
In total, police took 118 people into custody on Friday night during the incidents, of which 109 were released because no evidence was found against them. According to police, the nine placed under arrest took part in violent incidents by throwing stones and other objects, while during a search of their homes ordered by a public prosecutor on Saturday morning, one was found to possess a non-functioning handgun.
Another seven arrested by police in Thessaloniki also appeared before a public prosecutor on Saturday morning.
They are suspected of being among some 40-50 people wearing hoods and helmets that attacked police with fire-bombs and stones from the safety of Thessaloniki University's old School of Philosophy on Friday night, taking advantage of university asylum laws that forbid police from entering in pursuit, while police responded by using teargas.
The seven were arrested during a police operation that attempted to cut off the rioters when they departed from the university grounds after midnight, during which 20 people were detained and taken in for questioning.
 UNMIK out of Kosovo by next year, Ruecker predictsPRISTINA (ANA-MPA - S. Papadopoulou) The head of the UN administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) Joachim Ruecker on Saturday expressed confidence that the proposal for the status of Kosovo presented by UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari after elections in Serbia would be "something that should be acceptable to both sides", in statements to the ANA-MPA.
He also predicted that the UN's political administration in Kosovo would not stay on beyond one year:
"I think UNMIK will stay here for one more year. I don't think that we will be here in November 2007," he said, though pointing out that UNMIK would cede its place to some other kind of international force in the region.
He noted that the Ahtisaari proposal would have to be approved by the UN Security Council, which would then have to issue a resolution replacing UNSCR 1244. "Otherwise, we will be here forever," he added.
Ruecker also underlined the need to maintain the momentum in the process for determining the future status of Kosovo, since any significant delay could render the problem unsolvable.
"It's like riding a bike. You have to keep pedalling. If you stop pedalling, you're in danger of falling," he said.
"If hope turns into disappointment, it is hard to control the margin of society, in all the world not just in Kosovo," Ruecker stressed.
He also described Kosovo as the "last piece in the Balkan puzzle" that had to be resolved, since failure to find a solution promptly would have significantly greater political and financial costs for the international community but also because it was important for strengthening regional stability.
UNMIK's chief was also positive about the climate in neigbouring countries regarding a solution, while predicting that the EU would finally reach a unanimous decision on the issue.
According to Ruecker, Kosovo's Serbs were coming under pressure from Belgrade not to become integrated in the province's economic and political life, whereas many among them were willing to do so if they were given the opportunity.
He stressed that integration and not isolation was the key for Kosovo Serbs and said that the new Serbian Constitution's reference to Kosovo as an integral part of Serb territory was "meaningless" for the present and future status of the region.
 47th Thessaloniki Film Festival beginsThe 47th Thessaloniki Film Festival opened Friday night with addresses by Culture Ministry Secretary General Christos Zachopoulos, the festival's director Despina Mouzaki and Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis.
This year's festival is adopting a phrase by French historian and film critic Andre Bazin (founder and publisher of the "Cahiers du Cinema") who considers cinema as "an open window to the world" as its "slogan."
The latest film by Stephen Frears "The Queen" was projected after the opening ceremony. The film, having a duration of 97 minutes, refers to the death of Princess Diana and the reactions of Queen Elizabeth II. Frear's film amazed the public in Venice, where it received the FIPRESCI award for Frear's directorship, the Golden Osella award for the best scenario by Peter Morgan, as well as the award for the best woman's performance.
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