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Interview of Greece’s Ambassador Gabriel Coptsidis at “The Warsaw Voice”

As Appealing as Always
Greece’s Ambassador to Poland, Gabriel Coptsidis, talks to Ewa Hancock. (magazine April 2011)

What steps has Greece taken to extricate itself from the financial crisis?
The Greek government has so far managed to successfully complete a series of reforms in crucial sectors. It has radically limited the operational costs of the public sector and fully reformed the pension and labor market systems as well as the local government structure. Greece continues to press ahead with the necessary structural reforms aimed at promoting growth. In this area, steps have been taken to further reduce counterproductive public expenditure, increase competitiveness, remove bureaucratic obstacles from the investment procedure, introduce a new institutional framework for the promotion of exports, and make an organized effort to evaluate public property.
Let me please underline at this point that the European Council of euro-area member states on March 11—which the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, also attended—decided to reduce the interest rate on the loan for Greece by 1 percent and to prolong the loan repayment. These two factors are strong and vivid proof that our partners in the EU recognize the huge effort, the significant progress and sacrifices made so far by the Greek people.
Will the situation in Greece affect Greek investors in Poland?
We don’t expect that the current situation will negatively affect economic relations between the two countries. On the contrary, we believe that new opportunities have been created. Besides, Poland’s sustainable development, with its solid economic foundations, favorable location in the center of Europe, 38-million-strong consumer market and well-educated work force, makes the country an attractive place for investment and business expansion. On the other hand, Greek companies that are active in the countries of Southeast Europe in almost every sector of the economy—including information technology and telecommunications, the finance sector, the food and beverage sector, the energy and petroleum sector, building and packaging materials, construction and real estate—are also active on the Polish market.
When it comes to Greek investment in Poland, about 40 companies with Greek capital are currently active on the Polish market. Greek-owned companies have invested more than 1.4 billion euros and created a total of 11,000 jobs in Poland. Greek-owned companies have developed their business in various sectors of the economy. For instance, Germanos/Play is active in telecommunications, Polbank in the banking sector, Coca Cola/Hellenic Bottling Company in beverages, J&P Avax and Alfa Grisin in construction, Terna Energy in renewable energy, Chipita in food, and Totolotek in gaming.
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Deficit down by 46%

According to the preliminary data available for the state budget implementation for the first six months of 2010, on a fiscal basis the deficit presented a 46% year-on-year decline against a targeted 39.5% in the government’s economic policy programme.
The fiscal result of the first six months of 2010 is due to both restriction of expenditures and revenue increases. Nevertheless, these do not yet fully reflect all fiscal measures included in the government’s programme for 2010.
Furthermore, ordinary budget expenditures declined by 12.8% year-on-year against a targeted 5.5% reduction and primary expenditures decreased by 12.7% against a targeted 5.4% annual decrease.
Hellenic Stability & Growth Newsletter: June 2010
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

PM George Papandreou at the White House

» Meeting with Obama

Prime Minister George Papandreou met with US President Barack Obama in Washington yesterday.
After the meeting Papandreou said that the US is willing to work with the European Union to regulate the international financial system so speculators cannot target countries with troubled economies.
The premier said  that the issue of speculation will be discussed at the G20 summit in Canada, in June. The two leaders also discussed foreign policy issues such as the Cyprus issue, the integration of Western Balkans into Euro-Atlantic institutions, as well as Greece’s relations with Turkey.

» Visa Waiver

Furthermore, the US side announced that Greece will be included in the ‘visa waiver’ programme, thus enabling Greek citizens to travel to the US without a visa.
Papandreou termed the visa waiver “a vote of confidence” to Greece and noted that the Greek government is determined to respond to its obligations and cooperate closely at international level on the tackling of terrorism.

Kathimerini daily: US joins fight against speculators
The White House: Honouring Greek Independence Day (21.35mins)

» Papandreou’s Op-ed

In an op-ed published in the International Herald Tribune (IHT), Papandreou notes that the Greek case is not an outlier, but one more flare-up in a broken system of financial regulation and predatory behaviour.
“If global economic growth is to be sustainable, we need better coordination and greater solidarity between nations… We must now establish and enforce clear rules to contain the inordinate power of markets over our national economies and our common currency – not for Greece’s sake, but for Europe’s,” he stresses.
Prime Minister’s website: Meeting with President Barack Obama: Prime Minister’s statement ; Brookings Institution: Prime Minister’s speech & YouTube: PM’s speech at Brookings Institution  
New York Times & International Herald Tribune: Prime Minister’s article “Greece is not an island“; Hellenic Finance Ministry: Newsletter Updating Greek Fiscal Measures  
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

Papandreou at Conference on Progressive Governance in London

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Prime Minister George Papandreou arrived in London yesterday and will be participating today at a Conference on Progressive Governance, on “Jobs, industry and opportunity: growth strategies after the crisis.”
The premier will speak at a panel on the theme “Europe after the global crisis: A strategic role for government,” together with his British counterpart Gordon Brown, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. 
While in London, Papandreou will attend a working luncheon with the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and will meet with British Foreign Minister David Miliband.

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

Tax and spending policy

» PM: Tackling Economic Woes

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Prime Minister George Papandreou chaired a Cabinet meeting that discussed the draft tax bill and public-sector incomes policy.
He said that the government’s efforts to tackle the country’s economic problems will focus on three axes: reducing public debt, promoting growth, and accelerating legislative and institutional measures.
Papandreou stressed that the government’s primary duty was to save the economy, striving for fair solutions that would protect the lower and middle classes as much as possible.

» FinMin: New Tax Rates

A range of public spending cuts and tax adjustments were presented by the government yesterday, following an announcement last week by the premier that drastic measures would be taken to prevent Greece from defaulting.
Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou unveiled more specific policies, which included plans to cut the salaries of the premier and his ministers, a moratorium on hiring in the public sector this year – excluding however health services –  as well as changes to the tax system, which will now contain more tax brackets and will lead to higher earners paying more.

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”