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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-05-16
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM Karamanlis says Commission's decision for lifting EDP 'decisive development'Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday termed an EU Commission's recommendation earlier in the day to end disciplinary budget action against Greece for its excessive fiscal deficit, a "decisive development" for the country's course towards real convergence.
"In an indisputable manner, the European Union confirms the correctness as well as the efficiency of the economic policy we jointly decided three-and-a-half years ago and which we have since then followed without deviation, decisively and responsibly," the prime minister said addressing a special press conference at Maximos Mansion on Wednesday evening.
Karamanlis said the country entered the excessive deficit disciplinary procedure "because of the irresponsibility of past governments", underlining that "Greece exits from this procedure because it had the right to, because it achieved its targets and because it made important steps towards fiscal stability in a way which guarantees that what we have achieved will long last."
The premier said that due to the policy followed, the fiscal deficit fell from 7.8 per cent of the GDP to 2.6 per cent and within three-and-a-half years and for the first time since the country's accession to the European Monetary Union (EMU), the deficit moved to a lower level than the one set by the EU.
"This important success is the result of reforms we are implementing in the economy, that is, the restriction of public waste, the efficient handling of tax evasion, the decrease in tax scales for households and businesses, the privatisations and the new investment law, the faster absorption and more efficient utilisation of Community Support Framework funds," Karamanlis said, adding "all these results are important and satisfactory. But I want to emphasise, yet again, that this is not the end of the road, the country's fiscal problem has not been dealt yet in its entirety, fiscal adjustment continues at a milder pace and the new target is to have balanced budgets by 2010. This is indispensable in order for us to handle the plague of public debt we have inherited."
He said that reforms were "continuing to reinforce even more the economy's competitiveness, to reduce unemployment even more, to have a more efficient, fairer and really social state."
"Fiscal cleansing allows us to gradually but steadfastly focus our actions on the further improvement of the standard of living of all citizens, but mainly of the economically weaker groups, it permits us to liberate funds in order to implement policies against poverty and social exclusion, for education and health, for employment, for safe and sanitary conditions at the workplace, for the environment and the quality of life of all of us. Having as our steadfast target the building of a truly strong Greece, a society of cohesion, solidarity and humanity," Karamanlis added.
Concluding, the premier said that reforms and changes implemented by his government will continue.
The European Commission on Wednesday issued its mostly expected recommendation that the Council lift an excessive deficit procedure (EDP) against Greece, Germany and Malta.
In a particularly positive statement for Athens and the other two governments, the EU's executive emphasised that "in 2006 their budget deficit fell below the 3 percent of GDP ceiling on the back of a significantly improved structural budget balance reflecting permanent measures, and is projected to decrease further in 2007 and 2008."
The Commission added that the favourable developments in the "public debt ratio in 2006 and the projection for all three countries of a decreasing trend in 2007 and 2008. This achievement indicates a credible and sustainable correction of the excessive."
Specifically regarding Greece, the Commission said it considers that the excessive deficit situation has been corrected in a "credible and sustainable way."
On his part, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the Commission's recommendation to ECOFIN to terminate disciplinary procedures against Greece was a "positive development".
Speaking to reporters, Almunia underlined the need for vigilance on sustaining fiscal discipline in the future and reiterated the Commission's preference in taking measures of a permanent nature in fiscal consolidation efforts.
The EU Commission said a correction of Greece's fiscal deficit was "clear" and noted that exiting the procedure was a good first step, but not the last in fiscal consolidation efforts. He insisted that Greek authorities emphasise reducing structural deficit and avoid taking temporary measures.
Commenting on the medium-term and long-term sustainability of public finances in Greece, Almunia said reform of the social security system must become the primary commitment of Greek leadership in the coming years.
?This is a significant day for Greek economic policy,? Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis told reporters on Wednesday commenting on a decision by the European Commission to recommend the end of disciplinary budget action against Grece for its excessive fiscal deficit, while it also underlined the necessity for continuing economic reforms.
The Greek minister, currently in Paris for the two-day annual ministerial meeting of OECD, added the Commissionās recommendation was very significant since it justified efforts made by the Greek government and the people to cut its deficit. Alogoskoufis stressed that the Commission said the deficit cut was ?sustainable and credible?, but noted that the most important thing was the fact that the reduction was made through a policy mixture that maintained high growth rates, cut tax factors and reduced unemployment in the country. ?This makes us more optimistic for the future,? he said.
?We must continue efforts to present balanced budgets in the next few years. We must continue with a way to combine growth, strengthening the social state and dealing with unemployment. We significant reforms needed in the wider public sector to have a competitive and strong Greek economy,? he told reporters.
 Sioufas attends Int'l Energy meetingGreeceās Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas attended the ministerial meeting of the International Sustainable Energy Organisation, whose sessions ended in Paris on Wednesday.
The theme of the meeting was ?the bridging of the energy rift?, the promotion of new energy technologies and the securing of the short-term and long-term energy supply of the organisationās member-countries.
In his address at the meeting, Sioufas referred to the measures which the organisationās member-countries are obliged to take for the reduction of their dependence on oil and for the achievement of the diversity of energy sources, suppliers and energy supply routes.
The Greek development minister expounded on Greeceās energy policy and its initiatives in this direction.
He underlined the need for strengthening dialogue with the producer countries of northern Africa and proposed the founding of a new regional energy market with the countries of the Mediterranean (Energy Community of Mediterranean Countries).
Sioufas also proposed the establishment of a safety reserves limit for natural gas as well, according to the model which is valid for oil.
He noted Greeceās policy on the importance of upgrading the liquefied natural gas plant at Revythousa and the creation of a second liquefied natural gas reserves plant in Revithoussa.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Sioufas, accompanied by ministry Secretary General Nikos Stefanou, met with the president of the French Pasteur Institute, Francois Ailleret, to discuss cooperation with the Hellenic Pasteur Institute and the prospects of reaching a new ratified agreement for cooperation between the two Insitutes.
The Greek development minister also met with his Italian counterpart Pierluigi Bersani and EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.
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