|Sunday, 18 August 2019|
Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 16-04-18
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Discussion on fiscal targets must come after review is concluded, gov't sources insistAny discussion on divergence from fiscal targets must wait until after the conclusion of the first review, Greek government sources insisted on Monday, while criticising the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) positions. Once a discussion on Greece's debt has begun, this can incorporate a discussion on any missed fiscal targets, the sources said.
Their criticism of the IMF position was centred mainly on the fact that IMF forecasts have failed to be confirmed before and the likelihood that this would happen once again, as well as the fact that economic figures were better than expected.
They also noted that the European Central Bank's decision to allow Greek banks to join the ECB quantitative easing programme was expected to facilitate bank lending and boost liquidity in the Greek market, while Eurostat was expected to release figures in the next few days showing that the Greek economy was performing better than initially forecast.
In light of this, the government sources said that an agreement with the institutions on the level of technical teams before the Eurogroup meeting scheduled on April 22 was both a reasonable and realistic target.
The sources also noted that the Staff Level Agreement that will be discussed at the Eurogroup will include the Greek proposals for pensions and taxes, since there were no objections to the government proposals during the negotiations.
They said the government was steadfastly aiming to complete the review and striving for its conclusion by the next Eurogroup so that a discussion on relieving the country's debt can begin. At this stage, the only thing that can happen is the implementation of the July agreement, nothing more and nothing less, the same sources insisted.
 Mitsotakis pledges ND action to support investments under Juncker planMain opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis met visiting European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen on Monday, discussing the new financing instruments for businesses available under the Investment Plan introduced by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Mitsotakis and Katainen agreed on the need to speed up promotion of investments through the Juncker plan, using the financing tools from the Commission and the European Investment Bank.
Sources said that Mitsotakis promised ND initiatives and support for actions promoting a faster and more effective use in Greece of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and EIB funding. He also informed the Commissioner of ND plans for a working meeting with organisations and businesses, aimed at securing the technical assistance of EIB experts in drawing up investment plans.
The meeting was attended by the head of the European Commission Representation in Greece Panos Carvounis and ND Vice-President Adonis Georgiadis and other party echelons.
 EU's Katainen talks to ANA-MPA about promoting investments via Juncker PlanEuropean Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen, in a statement to the ANA-MPA and the state broadcaster ERT at the Info Day event on Monday, said his visit to Greece primarily aimed to boost investments and new businesses via the Juncker Investment Plan.
"One possibility is to use the European Strategic Investments Fund to set up Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), and for this reason I am meeting with representatives of banks, given that we will always need an intermediate legal link for the financing of these businesses," he said.
Speaking to Greek business people at the event, Katainen had earlier analysed the ways in which the Juncker Investment Plan aimed to help promote investments and create jobs without state or bank financing and in addition to the funding provided by European Structural Funds.
Katainen said that the results of funding SMEs had been very satisfactory thus far, with more than 136,000 businesses currently receiving financing in this way in Europe.
"I want, therefore, to encourage Greek banks to use the European Strategic Investments Fund for the creation of SMEs but also private investors to contact the offices of the European Investment Bank (EIB) here in Athens, in the event that they need funding," he told ANA-MPA and ERT.
Commenting on Katainen's visit, the head of the European Commission's Representation in Greece Panos Carvounis highlighted its significance and noted that the first project had received advance approval, with the name of the company to be announced within the coming week:
"The visit by European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen is important because he came to Greece to promote [European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's] Investment Plan. It is one additional opportunity for Greek businesses to carry out investments in our country with money that comes neither from the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) nor from the Greek banking sector. It is an additional possibility to carry out investments and boost employment. We must exploit this possibility in our country and for this reason, there is an important interlocutor, which is the EIB, which can provide every kind of information with regard to exploiting this possibility. It is, I would say, a private-sector opportunity, there are no quotas, one does not go via the state but directly addresses the EIB."
 Injured refugee rushed to hospital from Idomeni; tension with policeA seriously injured refugee was rushed to a Kilkis hospital from the camp at Idomeni, on the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on Monday. Police said the cause of his injuries is still unknown.
The incident sparked tension in the camp, where residents attacked a police van that they considered was somehow involved, throwing stones and causing damage to the vehicle. Greek police had earlier made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade refugees and migrants to clear the railway tracks that traverses the border into FYROM, which was only briefly cleared before tents reappeared on the track.
 Culture minister refutes Ryanair accusations of ignoring requests for lower airport levyCulture Minister Elena Kountoura refuted accusations on Monday by budget airline Ryanair that she has ignored numerous letters and pleas from the company to reduce an airport tax imposed on all airline tickets, saying that such decision lies with the ministries of Finance and Transport.
Kountoura said the airliner has indeed requested repeatedly from numerous governments to reduce the airport levy and cut it altogether for Kos, but noted that she explained to the company representative that such a request will have to be raised with the competent ministries which have the authority to alter taxes.
"I have previously thanked Ryanair's representative and I thank him once again publically for his intention to bring an extra five million passengers to Greece, in the next few years. And, of course, I stressed that I support any action that makes tourism in our country more competitive," she said.
In an interview published in Greek newspaper To Vima on Sunday, Ryanair's Chief Commercial Officer, David O'Brien, announced the Irish company would cut the summer season flights to Greece two months earlier than planned, starting with the island of Kos. Ryanair's decision would leave Greece without eight flights per day and two months before the end of the season, he said.
The CCO said the airliner had proposed since early 2014 that the government reduces fees and taxes in the low season, and exempts small airports from the Airport Modernization and Development levy which amounts to 12 euros per passenger, for five years. It also proposed reducing the same tax by 50 pct for Athens' International Airport. In return, the company pledged it could bring an additional two million passengers to Athens and another 3.5 million in regional airports. O'Brien said his company never received a negative or positive answer.
 Greeks trust locally-made drugs but don't know they are cheaper, survey showsA majority of Greeks trusts domestically produced pharmaceuticals but is not aware that local generics are cheaper than imported drugs, according to a survey conducted by ALCO for the Pan-Hellenic Pharmaceutical Industry Union. Those taking the survey largely blamed multinational firms and bad policy for the fact that 80 pct of drugs consumed in Greece were imported.
According to the nationwide survey, eight in 10 Greeks trust Greek pharmaceuticals and this percentage rises to 84 pct of those over 45 years old, who are the main consumers of medicinal drugs.
Asked why 80 pct of pharmaceuticals consumed in Greece are imported, 43 pct blamed "pressures from multinational companies" on governments, 24 pct blamed doctors for promoting imported drugs, 18 pct blamed bad policies, 10 pct blamed misinformation and 3 pct said promotion by pharmacists was responsible.
Regarding the recent government measures on pharmaceutical policy, 73 pct consider that these are damaging for the Greek pharmaceutical industry and should be withdrawn, while 27 pct consider that they are correct.
The survey additionally showed that Greeks are largely unaware that Greek-produced generics are, on average, 65 pct cheaper than imported brand-name originals. Only one in 100 of those taking the survey were aware of this large price difference and only a minority of four in 10 was aware that Greek generics were cheaper than their imported brand name counterparts, though not by how much.
The other six in 10 people taking the survey either had no idea what price relationship there was between Greek generics and imported brand name drugs (32 pct) or else wrongly believed that Greek-produced drugs were more expensive than their brand name counterparts (28 pct).
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