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PM Papandreou meeting with French President Sarkozy

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Prime Minister George Papandreou flew to France yesterday, for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy – on an array of issues, focused mostly on economic matters – ahead of today’s European Council meeting.
After his meeting with the French president, Papandreou stated that the Greek government is committed to taking all necessary measures to fix Greece’s public finances.
 “We are ready to take any measures in order to cut public deficit to 8.7% of GDP in 2010 from 12.7% in 2009 and to meet the commitments the government has undertaken in its Stability and Growth Programme.”
Besides the pressing deficit and credit crisis burdening Greece, Papandreou said issues dealing with the Balkans, the Cyprus problem, climate change and even Europe’s position on the international stage were discussed.
Kathimerini daily: Premier talks tough but EU may offer help; Youtube.com: Greek prime minister in France for debt talks

Immigration Policy:Interview of Giorgos Tsarbopoulos

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) In an interview with a Greek daily (Ta Nea), Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, head of the Greek branch of United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) comments on the government’s decision to overhaul Greece’s migration policy.
Tsarbopoulos admits that the draft law on granting citizenship to immigrants is a positive initiative but needs to be supplemented.
He says that naturalisation should be the first step within a broader social integration policy. Similarly, asylum policy needs to be enhanced by a well organised hospitality and welfare safety net.
What is important about the new asylum policy is that it disassociates itself from the police and that a new independent body is created to address the issue.
UNHCR recognises that within the European Union, the Dublin II Regulation has placed a disproportionate burden on Greece and advises other EU countries not to send back asylum seekers when their reception is deemed precarious. 
Greek News Agenda: UN Refugees High Commissioner in Athens & A Joint Letter on Immigration; UNHCR: 2010 Regional Operations Profile – Greece

PM George Papandreou at the World Economic Forum

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Speaking as part of a panel – that also included Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet – at the annual World Economic Forum taking place in Davos, Switzerland (January 27 -31), Prime Minister George Papandreou said that Greece would not leave the euro area and would use the discipline of membership to slash its budget deficit and make long-delayed structural economic reforms. “The answer is very simple. We went [to the market] for borrowing two days ago and we were five times oversubscribed. We’re not looking for money from anywhere else…” said Papandreou. He outlined an ambitious goal to reduce the deficit by four points this year and bring it below 3% by 2012, through measures taken as part of Greece’s Stability and Growth Programme (SGP)
The premier held a meeting with EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia yesterday, and the discussion focused on Greece’s SGP in light of the report that the European Commission will be submitting on February 3, on Greece. 
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso – speaking in Brussels on Thursday – stressed the need for the greater coordination of economic policies in the EU, emphasising that economic policies are not only a national issue, but European as well. Referring to Greece specifically, he expressed the conviction that the Greek government must be supported in its effort to fulfil its commitments in the framework of the SGP. 
See world reports – BBC.co.uk: Davos 2010: Greece denies a bail-out is needed; Reuters.com: Greece says being targeted as euro zone “weak link”

Diamandouros re-elected EU Ombudsman

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) The European Parliament (EP) re-elected Nikiforos Diamandouros as European Ombudsman with 340 votes out of a total of 648 valid votes cast.
Diamandouros was first elected to the post on April 1, 2003 and this will be his third term as European Ombudsman.
“I am very grateful for the support of the European Parliament and for this vote of confidence in my work.
I look forward to continuing my efforts to improve the quality of the EU administration and to promote a culture of service in the EU institutions for the benefit of European citizens”said Diamandouros, who was the first to hold the post of National Ombudsman in Greece.

United Nations Climate Change Conference begins

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Global attention is focused on Copenhagen which is hosting the United Nations Climate Change Conference, beginning today, and continuing through December 18.
Greece fully endorses the decisions of the European Union concerning climate change. Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Tina Birbili announced that Greece is willing to commit to the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by the year 2020.
She said that Copenhagen talks must deliver a legally binding document which will incorporate the Bali Road Map and the ‘Kyoto Protocol.
She further noted that by 2010 Greece will have presented a time-framework and announced Prime Minister George Papandreou’s initiative to promote together with the Spanish EU Presidency a post-Copenhagen action plan for the protection of the Mediterranean from climate change. 
Ministry of Environment, Energy & Climate Change: UN Climate Change Conference- Position of Greece; George Papandreou personal website: Position on Climate Change

The OSCE on a new path

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Political Declaration Adopted

Foreign ministers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) 56 participating states charted the way ahead for the OSCE-anchored debate on the future of European security known as the Corfu Process in a decision and a Ministerial Declaration adopted yesterday after a two-day Ministerial Council held in Athens (December 1-2).
“The Corfu Process will be taken forward by our Permanent Representatives to the OSCE in Vienna, in accordance with the decision we are adopting today.
We remain committed to provide strong political impetus to the Corfu Process, and we are looking forward to reassessing its progress in 2010, in the format and level that we will deem appropriate, taking into consideration the results we achieve,” it is stated in the Declaration, which is the first to be adopted since 2002.
Athens Ministerial Council (dedicated webpage)

» Turning a New Page

Commenting on the Ministerial Council at a press conference, held at the end of the meeting, Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office George Papandreou referred to a new page in the Organisation’s history.
“We have committed ourselves in a joint document on how to face common challenges,” he said noting that, Kazakhstan’s task -which is assuming the Presidency of the OSCE for the next year-, is difficult.
But as the Greek premier stressed, “we proved today that if we want we can. The process can revive political dialogue and the tangible result was consensus.”

ON THE SIDELINES

» Meeting with Russian FM

The strategic nature of Greek-Russian relations and their excellent level was reaffirmed during a meeting in Athens on Wednesday between Prime Minister George Papandreou and visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, held on the sidelines of the OSCE Council in Athens.Papandreou accepted a formal invitation to visit Moscow in early 2010.

Papandreou and Lavrov discussed bilateral relations in all sectors, ranging from energy to culture and from regional cooperation to relations with the EU and NATO, and signed a 2010-2012 joint action plan to be renewed every two years.

» Meeting with Turkish FM

Prime Minister George Papandreou also met with visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, with both sides citing closer cooperation in all levels.
The potential for the adoption of practical measures to boost cooperation of the foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey in 2010 was also discussed at the meeting. Davutoglu spoke positively of Greece’s target for the EU integration of the western Balkans in 2014, and he confirmed Turkey’s intent for closer bilateral cooperation.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Bilateral Relations Greece- Turkey

Informal Dinner in Madrid / Western Balkans

Droutsas

Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Ahead of Spain’s assumption of the EU presidency, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas attended an informal dinner of EU foreign ministers, hosted by their Spanish counterpart in Madrid. This was an initial meeting to discuss the priorities of the Spanish Presidency, during which Droutsas had the opportunity to set forth Greece’s proposal for the inclusion in the EU of the Western Balkans, with the target-date of 2014.

Eurozone Focuses on Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Greece has failed to take the necessary measures to cut its fiscal deficit, according to the directions offered last spring by the EU Council, the European Commission (EC) announced on Wednesday, before recommending that the country be placed under excessive deficit procedure of Article 104(8) of the Treaty of Maastricht.

Responding to this, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said that the government is determined to restore the credibility of its macro-economic statistics and reduce its large fiscal deficit.In its autumn forecasts, released last week, the EC sees Greece’s budget deficit remaining above 12% of GDP through 2011 – at 12.2% in 2010 and 12.8% in 2011. “We do not share the EC’s projections that see the deficit over 12% in the coming years. This projection was made without taking into account the change in policy,” said Papaconstantinou, who believes he can lower the budget deficit to below 10% next year. “We are changing policy and this will be reflected in the next budgets,” he said.
Kathimerini daily:Eurozone concerned about Greece

Greece at the EU Negotiations

» ‘Lisbon’ & ‘Copenhagen’ in EU Spotlight

Prime Minister George Greek Prime Minister Papandreou (first from the left) participates in the two-day meeting

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) The meeting of heads of state and government in the European Council began yesterday and concludes today (October 29-30). Prime Minister George Papandreou (first from the left) participates in the two-day meeting, the agenda of which is dominated by deliberations on climate change ahead of the Copenhagen meeting, and the European Union’s institutional future under the new Treaty of Lisbon.

» Breaking the Ice

Yesterday, on the sidelines of the EU Council, Papandreou held a 20-minute informal meeting with Nikola Gruevski, the Prime Minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.Papandreou reiterated his personal initiative to promote the Western Balkan states’ accession to the European Union by 2014, stressing that a mutually accepted name erga omnes is a prerequisite for Greece in the case of FYROM.

» Socialist Call for Green Growth

Addressing a meeting of the EU Socialist Prime Ministers -Party of European Socialists (PES)- ahead of the European Council Meeting, Papandreou spoke of the need for EU Socialist Parties to push through changes that would put the citizen first and secure that the Copenhagen meeting’s resolution consolidates green growth.

EU’s Enlargement Strategy

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The European Commission (EC) adopted its annual strategy on European Enlargement yesterday (October 14).  Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn urged Skopje to settle the name issue with Greece, after announcing that FYROM now “meets” the criteria for opening accession negotiations.   Rehn added that he viewed the launch of talks with FYROM as “a very strong encouragement” in this direction and expressed his hope that “the government in Skopje gets this message as well.”  Regarding Turkey’s accession, Rehn revealed EC’s dissatisfaction with its progress and called on Turkey’s obligation, as an aspiring EU member state, to open its air and ports to Cyprus.  Turkey must contribute to the resolution of the Cyprus issue with “concrete terms,” during negotiations, he added.

Commenting on the EU’s progress reports, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas stressed that Greece is promoting the accession course for all Southeast Europe countries, by already having put forward a roadmap until 2014.  “The prerequisite for this course is that all the countries should […] fulfil the necessary criteria. With regard to FYROM, in particular, this means finding a solution on the name issue” said Droutsas.  Kathimerini Daily: EU nod for FYROM despite name   Greek News Agenda: SEECP Meeting- A roadmap for accession

FRONTEX Patrol: Turbulence in The Aegean

FRONTEX(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens has lodged a complaint with Ankara after Turkey’s latest attempt to oust an EU Frontex helicopter operating over the Greek isle of Farmakonisi in the Aegean.  On September 8, the Latvian pilots on board a Frontex helicopter – an EU agency coordinating boarder controls in the EU- were asked by Turkish authorities, via radio, to submit a flight plan. The pilots continued their operation without responding to the call and reported the incident to the Greek authorities, who issued a démarche with Turkey. This incident constitutes Turkey’s sixth attempt to obstruct EU agencies’operations in the area in 2009.Kathimerini  daily: Turks continue to stir tension; Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Greek Territorial Waters – National Airspace

Map of Greece / Χάρτης της Ελλάδας

Hellenic Acquaculture Thrives

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Greeks have always had a symbiotic relationship with the sea. It is no surprise that they are at the forefront of sea farming, especially nowadays that consumer demand for seafood is increasing, while over-fishing and other industrial practices have depleted wild fish supplies all over the world. In the European Union (EU) alone, farmed fish has more than doubled in the last 20 years.  The EU supports sustainable aquaculture as a means to replenish natural stocks and supplement the struggling fishing trade. In Greece, the number of fish farms rose from 12 in 1985 to 290 in 2005.  With annual production of approximately 100,000 tons (Greek Mariculture Federation), and sales turnover at €460 million, mariculture is now the psaria3country’s second biggest export sector.  Greece is the world’s leading exporter of Mediterranean sea bream and sea bass, whose short production cycles are ideal for farming in Greek waters.  Greek Mediterranean Gastronomy: www.kerasma.gr; Federation of Greek Mariculture: www.fgm.gr; European Commission: Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

Greek FM: Relations with Turkey

Dora-Bakoyannis(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  “Bullying does not wash with Europe,” Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said over the weekend commenting on the latest Turkish over-flights in the Aegean, ahead of an EU foreign ministers’ summit, hosted by the new Swedish presidency of the Union. ” say this as an old friend of the Turkish people and a long-standing supporter of Turkey’s European course. Turkey is obliged to adhere to what it has agreed to. It doesn’t have a good record in doing so, but in Europe there is no other way,” Bakoyannis underlined. She also said that she has accepted, in principle, an invitation by her Turkish counterpart to visit Ankara, adding that she would do so at a suitable moment in order for the visit to be beneficial and effective.

Greece Honours French Stateman

Valery Giscard d'Estaing(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  French statesman Valery Giscard d’Estaing was presented yesterday with the “Award for Parliamentarism and Democrac” – the highest honour bestowed by the Hellenic Parliament to influential international figures. The 2009 award was handed to d’Estaing by Parliament Speaker Dimitris Sioufas in a ceremony held in the Greek Parliament’s portico, attended by Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, ministers, politicians, artists and academics.  Sioufas described the former French president as “a unique, great European visionary, an ally of Greece, a philhellene,” who not only assisted in the restoration of democracy in Greece, in 1974 but, crucially supported Greece’s entry into the European Economic Community (EEC).

Immigration: Greece Cannot Be Left Alone

PierreLelouche-Valinakis(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The French Minister of State, responsible for European affairs, Pierre Lellouche was welcomed yesterday by deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Valinakis in Athens.   The two ministers had the opportunity to discuss a number of issues of European interest ranging from the Lisbon Treaty and immigration to Balkans and Turkey’s candidacy for the EU.   Referring to immigration in particular, Lellouche acknowledged that his visit to Greece helped him realise the true extent of the problem which Greece is facing and stressed that in view of the 150,000 illegal migrants that have entered the country, Greece cannot be left alone to deal with the problem, whether that help consist in prodding Turkey to cooperate or coming up with a coastal protection scheme.  Greek News Agenda: Diplomacy on Migration- Barrot visits Migrant Centres

FYROM Name Issue

» Athens dismisses latest quip for ‘double-name’ solution

Bacoyannis(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis dismissed yesterday (July 21), statements made by the prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Nikola Gruevski that Skopje’s ‘natural position’ is a “double-name formula” to overcome the thorny name issue.”   This statement shows that Mr. Gruevski has not realised the message of the international community, which is clear and unanimous: for the sake of his country’s and his people’s Euro-Atlantic course, a mutually acceptable solution to this issue must be achieved; a composite name with a geographical qualifier, erga omnes,” the FM underlined in a press release.  Greek News Agenda: Greece has a strong case on the name issue

President of Hellenic Republic Briefed on Immigration Agenda

Pavlopoulos - Papoulias(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The course of Greece’s migration policy was the topic of discussion between President Karolos Papoulias and Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos. Addressing the press, the minister mentioned that Greece “has played a decisive role in drafting the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum as well as in the evolution of Frontex –an agency monitoring EU’s external boarders-, which is now conducting operations in the Eastern Mediterranean all-year-round”. The minister also stressed that Turkey’s obligation to fulfill the terms of its bilateral agreement with Greece on illegal migration has now become an obligation of European-wide dimensions, paving the way for the signing of an EU-Turkey readmission agreement by the end of 2009.   Greek News Agenda: Immigration Agenda 2010-2014

EU Migration Agenda 2010 – 2014

passport1(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The Informal Ministerial Meeting on Justice and Home Affairs, which is taking place from July 15 until July 17 in Stockholm, discussed the guidelines of a 2010-2014 agenda on illegal migration, according to which, EU members agree to boost funding for Greece and other member states guarding the European Union’s external borders and call upon Turkey to cooperate on curbing illegal immigration.  In addition, EU ministers agreed to support efforts to strengthen the EU border-control agency Frontex and to create a Common European Asylum applying to all incoming migrants. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos stressed that guarding the Union’s borders is not purely a Greek problem but an EU affair, which requires close cooperation among the member states.  Pavlopoulos said that he is pleased to see that the European Pact on Migration and Asylum signed in Paris becomes a solid base for further negotiations and stressed that there is a difference between addressing migrants’ reception upon arrival, asylum granting procedures and legal migrants’ integration in a society.

Karamanlis – Berlusconi Focus on Energy & Migration

karamberlouskoni(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Illegal migration was the focus of discussions Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis held in Rome with his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi. In brief statements after the meeting Karamanlis said that the EU should act for the solution of the problem, in particular towards the signing of repatriation agreements with the migrants’ countries of origin and transit and the strengthening the EU’s border agency Frontex. Berlusconi struck a similar note, calling on all member states to contribute to efforts to tackle the problem.  The two Prime Ministers also discussed energy issues, especially the progress made in the two major projects currently underway, the South Stream and the Turkish-Greek-Italian (ITGI) natural gas pipelines.  “The agreement signed just Wednesday, July 15, between Greece and Bulgaria for an offshoot of ITGI gives this project even greater importance,” said the Greek PM.

EU Solidarity Needed to Tackle Migration

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Acknowledging Greece’s concerns on the problem of illegal immigration, EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Jacques Barrot expressed fears that the uncontrolled influx of illegal immigrants could threaten stability in the reception countries and called for solidarity within the EU – an issue that will be raised Thursday, july 16,  at an informal meeting of Justice and Home Affairs EU ministers in Stockholm. Barrot warned that the influx of immigrants and refugees threatens to destabilize certain countries, including Greece. The Commissioner expressed understanding for the particular problems faced by Mediterranean countries, noting that, if these were left by their EU partners to deal with the issue on their own, the problem would probably be exploited by extremists.  The issue of illegal immigration is going to be at the centre of talks Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis held Wednesday, july 15, in Rome with his Italian counterpart, Silvio Berlusconi.  Kathimerini daily: Dramatic appeal on migrants by Barrot