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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-06-01

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greek, Hungarian PMs discuss economic cooperation, European issues
  • [02] FinMin outlines achievements at IIF meeting

  • [01] Greek, Hungarian PMs discuss economic cooperation, European issues

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis met in Athens on Friday with his visiting Hungarian counterpart Ferenc Gyurcsány for talks on bilateral relations and European Union developments. During the meeting, the two prime ministers decided to set up a working group to look into the prospects of bilateral economic cooperation in combined transport, trade and energy.

    Karamanlis said the talks were "constructive" and that the final aim was to promote links between Greece and Hungary in these areas and to make use of European mechanisms available for similar actions.

    He termed the decision to set up the working group an "important development", adding that the talks with Gyurcsány also covered a number of European issues, such as the EU Constitutional Treaty, developments in the Balkans, Turkey and the Cyprus issue.

    With respect to economic cooperation, Karamanlis told reporters that Hungary desired cooperation with Athens in the energy sector, particularly in the transport of natural gas, as well as participation in ongoing Greek projects, given that the east Mediterranean country was proceeding with a major effort in the sector.

    Specifically, he said that Hungary expressed an interest in future imports of natural gas coming from either Russia or Azerbaijan via pipelines passing through Greece, a possibility to be examined by the working group that is being set up.

    Karamanlis stated that Hungary's interest was beneficial for the Greek side and "shows that we are now making a dynamic entry onto the world energy map".

    In his own statements after the meeting, the Hungarian prime minister pointed to the new role now open to countries that in the past were not at the forefront of international interest, such as Greece, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Portugal.

    According to Gyurcsány, these could help make political, trade and economic cooperation within Europe take on a "new turn".

    With the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the EU, Greece's geopolitical role had grown, since new possibilities for further development and links between Greece and other European countries had arisen.

    "There are two, three countries in the region who are much more interested in the fate of the western Balkan states. We bear a very great responsibility for a possible bad solution, since this can affect us very badly," he said.

    The Hungarian premier expressed satisfaction over the close cooperation between Greece and Hungary on a diplomatic level and said that he applauded Greece's effort for the resolution of problems in the western Balkans.

    He also referred to tourism, noting that some 400,000 Hungarian tourists visited Greece each year while Greeks visiting Hungary numbered just 100,000. Despite this negative balance, Greece's interest in Hungary was very high, Gyurcsány said.

    Pointing out that Hungary has no access to the sea, the Hungarian premier told reporters that his country was seeking to cooperate with countries planning to construct natgas stations, citing close links between Hungary and Croatia.

    "We are looking for possibilities and ways that we can contribute to Greek projects, since we see that Greece is making great efforts for development in this area at this time," he said.

    He also talked about possible cooperation between research centres in the two countries and stressed the efforts being made by both Greece and Hungary to increase the percentage share of renewable energy sources.

    Questioned about the Nabucco natgas pipeline that is set to pass through Hungary en route from central Asia to Austria, Gyurcsány said that Hungary is interested in increasing the security of its energy supplies and is therefore showing an interest in EU programmes.

    "Hungary must choose something that will increase its independence and this is one means to keep the country strong," he added.

    To other questions concerning the EU's Constitutional Treaty and developments in view of the upcoming EU summit, Karamanlis said Greece had been one of the first member-states to ratify the Treaty and stressed that the two-year deadlock on this outstanding matter needed to be settled within the EU.

    He also underlined that the final version of the Treaty adopted must have the minimum possible changes with respect to the current text.

    "In every case, however, we must have a very specific schedule, so that everything is completed by the next European Parliament elections in 2009. In this sense, we support the efforts - warmly, in fact - of the German presidency," Karamanlis said.

    Noting that he had lengthy talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, the Greek premier underlined that Athens "hopes, believes and supports this effort, so that at the European Council in June we will have a serious, positive development in this direction".

    Questioned on the timing of the next general elections in Greece -- the current government's term in office ends in March 2008 -- and whether a past statement of his that elections will be held in their "proper time" also includes the autumn of 2007, the prime minister merely replied "all will be done in their proper time".

    Caption: Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis (left) and Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány (right) shake hands after their meeting in Athens on June 1, 2007. ANA-MPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI

    [02] FinMin outlines achievements at IIF meeting

    The positive picture presented by the Greek economy and the achievements of the last three years were outlined by Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Friday, addressing the 2007 spring Membership Meeting of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), the global association of financial institutions, taking place in Athens with the attendance of more than 500 leading financiers and economic policymakers from around the world.

    Alogoskoufis placed emphasis on the Greek economy's strong growth rate, which reached 4.6 percent in the first quarter of 2007, stressing the importance of the fact that it was no longer fuelled chiefly by the public sector, but also by the private sector, exports, which he said were noting a strong growth, and investments.

    The minister further noted the significant reduction in the country's fiscal deficit, which fell to below 2.6 percentage points of GDP in 2006, while a new decline was anticipated this year, and also highlighted the substantial reduction in unemployment to below 9 percent in 2006.

    Alogoskoufis also outlined the positive results of the reforms that have been introduced, stressing that "we are halfway down the road, not at the end of it", and noting that there were still steps to be made so as to further boost entrepreneurship and strengthen the extroversion of the Greek economy.

    Speaking specifically on the extroversion of the economy, he stressed Greece's role in the wider region of Southeastern Europe, a region which, he noted, had the prospects to become Europe's next economic miracle. Alogoskoufis said that Greek businesses' investments in the region currently exceeded 15 billion euro, while the Greek banks were also playing a significant role in the area, with a network that exceeded 2,300 branches.

    Replying to a question, Alogoskoufis anticipated that the strong growth rate of the Greek economy would continue over the coming years, due to the positive developmental prospects of the wider region of SE Europe, and the course of the euro-zone in general.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of FinMin George Alogoskoufis.


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