|Monday, 18 November 2019|
Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 17-05-26
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Energy issues and PPC discussed by PM Tsipras, W. Macedonia region governorThe content of a recent agreement between Greece and the country's lenders regarding the state-owned power company PPC were the focus of a meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the head of the Western Macedonia Region authority Theodoros Karypidis on Friday.
During the meeting, which was also attended by Environment and Energy Minister George Stathakis, there was a detailed briefing on the agreement reached with the institutions, while the prime minister stressed that "the worst had been avoided".
"The plan for the 'small' PPC was averted, which was a commitment made by the previous government and would have had significant consequences for both the company and consumers. It was possible to preserve and protect the PPC's hydroelectric plants from possible sale, which are crucial and rapidly growing productive units of the company," Tsipras noted.
Also fully protected was the public interest, since public control over the PPC was retained and this would allow the company to provide a series of social benefits, especially as regards pricing policy, he added.
The meeting sought ways to implement the agreement, including a requirement to upgrade lignite production. The possibility of public and private-sector partnerships for this purpose was discussed, with Tsipras urging Karypidis to examine the possible participation of the W. Macedonia Region in such a partnership. The prime minister also promised that the first 'productive reconstruction' conference will be held in the region and said the aim was to produce a plan for making W. Macedonia the 'energy heart' of the country that was attractive to investors.
 Mitsotakis: 'No confidence' in government handling of new-generation terrorismThe present government is not equipped to handle the new generation of terrorism, main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday, attacking the government's record on terrorism issues in statements at a book launch in Athens.
"I have no confidence that this government has either the will or capability to face the new generation of terrorism. New 'snake's eggs' are hatching; the state is obliged to crush terrorism with determination and sympathetic words are not enough," he said, noting that the government's record in this area left much to be desired.
"The government legislated for the release of Savvas Xiros and the cancellation of maximum security prisons," he pointed out and also referred to his own brushes with terrorism, through the murder of his brother-in-law Pavlos Bakoyannis.
"At that time, Constantine Mitsotakis had said that our duty was to stand upright and defend democracy and its institutions. This is our duty, to stand with determination against terrorism and the views that feed it and not allow a crisis of the economy to become a crisis of democracy," he said.
 Television licences tender should have been started 'yesterday,' Pappas saysThe process of issuing television content broadcasting licences must proceed without any further delay, Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas said on Friday, in statements on the state broadcaster ERT.
"The law and Constitution state that the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV) must immediately proceed with the tender for the television licences. Not tomorrow, yesterday. None of us can get away from this," Pappas stated. If some parties thought they could rob ERT and the multiplex in order to increase the number of licences for private channels, they could forget it," he added.
The government has already presented its view in support of having four private channels, Pappas said, while adding that the government "will show the required flexibility so that the process can be completed very quickly."
He also ruled out all possibility that the government will sign temporary operating licences for the existing television stations.
 Greece aiming for 500,000-plus Chinese tourists in next two years, Kountoura saysGreece aims to attract between 500,000-600,000 Chinese tourists each year for the next two years, Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura said on Friday, while addressing an event at the Athens Chamber of Tradesmen. Chinese officials, she noted, put this number even higher at one million.
The minister was speaking at an event entitled "Alitrip in Greece: Boosting incoming tourism from China to Greece" organised by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and the tradesmen's chamber to present the Chinese travel platform to Greece. The aim, according to Kountoura, was to capitalise on the contacts between the Greek and Chinese governments, working in cooperation with all the agencies involved, from local government to private businesses.
Presenting the Alitrip platform - part of the Alibaba group - was Alitrip Vice President for European Markets Kai Cui, while 50 top Greek tourism-sector companies and agencies attended. Given that the Alibaba "ecosystem" currently has more than 500 million Chinese users and the Alitrip platform is one of the largest in China, the company's executives believe that a target of one million tourists to Greece over three years can be met.
Kountoura noted that the number of Chinese tourists to Greece had risen almost ten-fold in the last two years, from 15,000-20,000 in 2015 to some 150,000 at present. "This is a significant increase even if this number does not yet satisfy us, given that the number of Chinese travelling to Europe are 15 million," she added. A key to further growth in tourism would be the start of a direct flight from Athens to Beijing in the autumn, Kountoura said.
The minister also referred to efforts to open new tourism markets, such as South Korea, China, the Middle East, India and Brazil and "rekindle" existing markets, such as Russia and the United States.
"In the last two years, the growth of Greek tourism was at 7 pct - or double the world average. In 2016 we had 28 million arrivals (with cruises) and increased luxury tourism by more than 10 pct. We had a spectacular start to 2017, with prebookings and occupancy in hotels exceeding all expectations from all markets," she said.
 Appeals Justices again acquit former ELSTAT chief Andreas Georgiou, two othersAn Appeals Justices' Council on Friday again acquitted the former head of Greece's statistical authority Andreas Georgiou, as well as two other ELSTAT employees, of charges that he had artificially inflated Greece's 2009 public deficit figures. This was the second judgement that dropped the charges and ruled that Georgiou should not stand trial.
The council's ruling said that none of the three ELSTAT executives should be indicted for the offences of colluding to produce a false certification at the expense of the state, aggravated by the "especially high value of the object of the crime."
The judgement was reached by majority vote, with just one council member voting to indict the three accused to stand trial before a criminal appeals court. It was in line with the recommendation made by the Appeals Court Prosecutor in the case.
The case against the former ELSTAT chief was based on the accusations made by academic and former ELSTAT board member Zoi Georganta, who said that Georgiou had acted in concert with Eurostat to misrepresent the figures for Greece's deficit so as to facilitate decisions for the Greek bailout.
The first judgement for Georgiou's acquittal was issued in 2015 but reversed by a Supreme Court criminal section, which returned the case to the appeals court for re-examination.
 BBSF Forum: Chinese investment mostly focuses on Greece, Serbia in SE EuropeGreece and Serbia continue to attract most of the interest on the part of Chinese investors in the wider region, analyst Frans Paul van der Putten told participants on Friday, during the second and last day of the Balkans and Black Sea Cooperation Forum (BBSF) in the northeast city of Serres.
Van der Putten, a senior research fellow at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations - Clingendael, spoke during a Friday session entitled "Maritime, Infrastructures, Transportation & Hubs - Regional cooperation", where he said China's interest in SE Europe and the Black Sea region is significant.
A landmark privatization in Greece was completed by transferring the management of the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) to Chinese multinational Cosco in August 2016. The Chinese shipping company was the top bidder in an international tender for a 67-percent stake in the port authority.
The Dutch researcher added that Beijing and Chinese companies select agreements and contacts with countries on a case-by-case basis, ranking countries based mostly on their geographic position vis-a-vis the modern-day "Silk Road" trade and investment initiative that Beijing is actively promoting and funding.
"China is interested in bilateral contacts and agreements, with Greece and Serbia in first place in terms of investments," he said, adding that following the assumption of the port's management, the Chinese side wants to construct a rapid rail connection between Belgrade and Budapest and to also exploit the pan-European road corridors (highways) X and VII. He also referred to a "Danube Corridor" for transporting Chinese products to European markets.
Van Der Putten said large amounts of Chinese cargo continue to reach Europe via Russian railways, while combined transports through Iran, Turkey and Bulgaria also pique China's interest.
University of Belgrade political science professor Jelica StefanoviÄ‡-Å tambuk referred to the importance attached by the Chinese side for overland transport routes in the Balkans.
"Serbia needs more rail connections, more infrastructure and is open to investment," she said, noting that the US remains the top investor in the country, although the Chinese side is showing an interest in telecoms, along with infrastructure.
Romania's minister delegate for European Affairs, Anna Birchall, referred to Bucharest's assumption of the EU presidency in the first half of 2019, while adding that the "European project" should be based on solidarity.
She also touted prospects for the so-called "Danube Corridor".
Ozan Tylan Uzel, the head of network and business development for Turkey-based Arkas Shipping Holding, a major international container shipper, underlined that the current economic situation in maritime transport is negative and that forecasts are also gloomy. He warned that shipping companies and carriers are being pressured due to very low shipping rates.
The forum is organized by the Geo Routes Cultural Institute (GRCI), and is held under the auspices of various international, European and Black Sea region organizations, in cooperation with the Serres regional unit.
BBSF's official partner is the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organization, whereas strategic partners are the European Bank Federation (EBF), the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank (BSTDB) and the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR).
The event is supported by the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) and its affiliated Praktoreio 104.9 FM radio station.
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