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EU backs up Greece

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) The European Union yesterday, in a joint statement by the Heads of State or Government, agreed to take determined and coordinated action to safeguard financial stability in the euro area, and expressed full support for the efforts of the Greek government and their commitment to do whatever is necessary to get the country’s public finances in order.
European commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said that the statement was intended to end speculation that Greece would require a bailout package, while adding that “the Greek government believe they do not need financial support.”
Addressing a press conference at the end of the informal summit in Brussels and referring to this agreement to assist Greece, Prime Minister George Papandreou said:

“our partners assessed and ascertained our will to change, we convinced them, following our great efforts, and it is necessary for us to continue. We will succeed.”
Greece is aiming to reduce its deficit by 4 % of GDP this year, largely through cuts in public spending and an increase in taxes. However, Papandreou said that he would not hesitate to adopt more measures if it becomes necessary.
Council of the European Union: Agreement to support Greece; Kathimerini daily: EU offers help but no specific money pledge

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

New impetus for Greek-Turkish relations

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) A new impetus for Greek-Turkish relations was given yesterday following a letter by Prime Minister George Papandreou addressed to his Turkish counterpart, responding to prior correspondence between the two leaders.

The Greek side proposes the launch of a series of talks on the issue of the continental shelf, within a specific time limit and the option for both sides to resort to the International Court of Justice in The Hague in case of a dead-end.
Papandreou deems the Turkish proposal of establishing a High-level Council of Cooperation important and invites Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pay an official visit to Greece, sometime before summer, in order to set a time framework.
Moreover, the Greek Premier highlights the need for de-escalating tension over the Aegean Sea and stresses that military activity in the area must be avoided since it jeopardizes security and fuels tension. Referring to the pressure exercised on bilateral relations due to immigration flows’ movement, Papandreou reiterates the necessity for Turkey to abide by the Greek-Turkish Readmission Protocol (2001).
The premier concludes by expressing Greece’s support for Turkey’s European perspective, provided that the latter honours its obligations towards the Greek minority in Turkey and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Greece-Turkey Bilateral Relations & Greek-Turkish Rapprochement
[Photo from Papandreou’s visit to Istanbul, Turkey, October, 2009]

Greece in the Euromed space

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Greece in a Changing Euro- Mediterranean Setting: Guidelines for Future Action is a research monograph by Dimitris Xenakis, published by the Hellenic Centre for European Studies (www.ekem.gr).

After examining the changing Euro-Mediterranean setting and the parameters that have shaped Greece’s foreign policy, this study focuses on Greece’s increased involvement in Euro-Mediterranean affairs and the establishment of the Union for the Mediterranean.
Assessing both the challenges and the opportunities for the country’s strategic and economic interests, the research concludes with guidelines for future action in the framework of the new Euro-Mediterranean structure.

Greek foreign policy in 2010

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas outlined Greece’s foreign policy priorities for 2010 during a press conference held yesterday.

Together with Deputy Minister Spyros Kouvelis, Droutsas highlighted that protecting Greece’s sovereignty and putting an end to past inertia will constitute the ultimate objective for the country’s foreign policy.
Referring to issues of particular national interest, Droutsas stressed that Greece has conveyed a message of friendship and peace to Turkey and expects the latter to respond to it.
The alternate minister mentioned the possibility of a meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister sometime in the near future.
On the Cyprus issue, underlined the government’s commitment to actively helping Cyprus with actions rather than words, pointing out that the first foreign visit carried out by Prime Minister George Papandreou had been to Cyprus.
As regards to the country’s relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the alternate minister reiterated that Greece enters negotiations with an open mind and keeps an edifying stance on the matter.
Droutsas pointed out that in the communiqué forwarded by the European Union in December, it was made clear that Greece’s support to FYROM’s European course depends on reaching a viable solution to the name issue.
Greek News Agenda:  Greek Foreign Policy- Challenges and Prospects

Prime Minister`s Belgrade Visit

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Prime Minister George Papandreou paid a short visit to Belgrade on January 4 to address the Annual Conference of the Ambassadors of Serbia. During his visit, the premier met with Serbia’s President and Prime Minister, Boris Tadic and Mirko Cvetkovic.

Speaking after his meeting with the Serb President, Papandreou said that bilateral relations are excellent and noted that his presence in Belgrade signals the beginning of an effort to enable the western Balkans to join the European Union in 2014.
“Greece is in the front line of the initiative that constitutes a basic aim for peace, cooperation, and stability in the region,” Papandreou said. 
Addressing the 3rd Congress of Serbia’s ambassadors, Papandreou said that 2014 is a crucial year for the EU accession of the Western Balkan states, stressing that this region has to make big steps forward and leave behind the wars and conflicts of the past.
The premier also referred to “global governance that is in the making,” stressing, among other things, that “national states are gradually becoming incapable of handling global problems by themselves, such as climatic change, immigration and organised crime,” and called for global cooperation and regional alliances. 
See also: Athens News Agency: PM reiterates support for Serbia’s EU course

Finance Minister Interview in “Der Spiegel”

 
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)      Greece has no current need for credit and the excessive pessimism of the financial markets is unjustified, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told German weekly Der Spiegel, in an interview.
He added that while Greek spreads had soared this week, they would narrow once again, when Greece had proven that it was doing all it could, to improve the country’s financial situation.
“We are in a very serious fiscal situation, we have debts with a dangerous dynamic,” said the minister. “But we have a new government that clearly recognizes the problem. With our savings programme, we will reduce the deficit in the coming year by 3.6 percentage points.”
Papaconstantinou further said that there was no reason for Greece to ask for help from the International Monetary Fund. Instead, it would solve its problems inside the European Union and according to the bloc’s rules. Greece would release a new bond at the beginning of January, he concluded. 
On Friday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said Greece would meet its debt obligations and planned to reduce its budget deficit to below 3 percent of GDP within four years, sending bond yields lower. Today, the premier is expected to announce the measures, his government plans to implement, following talks with representatives of labour unions and business groups.
Foreign and Currency News: Greece has no urgent credit need – Greek Finmin 

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

Black Sea Business Forum / Thessaloniki, 12 & 13 November 2009

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) The Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline is a significant project with geopolitical, economic and energy importance, Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis noted, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a Black Sea Business Forum in Thessaloniki, on November 12. 
The 3rd Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises (UBCCE) business forum, entitled “Seizing New Investment and Trade Opportunities in the Black Sea and Caspian in the Post Crisis Era,” is being held in Thessaloniki on November 12-13.

It is hosted by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises and the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece.
Addressing the event, Kouvelis stressed Greece’s commitment to the enhancement of co-operation with the European Union, through the establishment of “Black Sea Partnerships” within the “Black Sea Synergy” process, as well as through the new “Eastern Partnership” EU initiative.
Greece, he said, will have the chance to advance this perspective during the Greek Chairmanship of the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), which commences on June 1, 2010.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization

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.

French Minister Visits Samos

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) During his visit to the Aegean island of Samos, on Friday Sept 18th, French Immigration Minister Eric Besson, accompanied by Greek Caretaker Interior Minister Spyros Flogaitis, visited the Italian vessel of Frontex and the immigrants’ reception centre, pointed out that Greece is confirming its good name regarding hospitality issues.  Besson was in Samos for a briefing on the situation prevailing in this eastern part of Europe, in light of the meeting today, among European Union Interior Ministers on justice and domestic issues, to discuss the increasing illegal entry of foreigners from the Turkish coast.

Greek Government to Deregulate “Closed Professions”

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The government is to bring national legislation in line with European Union directives in what concerns the deregulation of the service industry and the opening up of the so-called closed professions to competitive conditions, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou announced yesterday after a meeting of the inter-ministerial committee for the economy chaired by Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. Papathanassiou stressed that this is a very important reform, which when fully implemented could lead to lower consumer prices and improve the competitiveness of the Greek economy, contributing to economic growth and higher employment. He also said that more changes to closed professions, which are not included in this draft bill will follow after further studies and dialogue.”

Bridging the Mediterranean

bridgingm(GREEK NEW AGENDA)  The Union for the Mediterranean launched in 2008 has created lots of expectations for revitalising the cooperation of all business communities of the countries concerned. A new political will has been expressed at high level for the transformation of the Mediterranean basin to an area of sustainable development, economic integration and social cohesion.  Following the very successful “Med Business Days” organised by MEDEF in Marseille last year and the previous events in Valencia and Palermo, the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises hosted the new edition of the major Euro-Mediterranean Business Forum: “Bridging the Mediterranean – Athens Business Forum”, which was being held in Athens (Divani Apollon Palace & Spa- Kavouri) from July 8th to 10th, 2009.  Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Speech of FM Dora Bakoyannis at the Euro-Mediterranean Business Forum  

The smoking ban in Greece takes effect today

No smoking(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The smoking ban in Greece takes effect today, and cafes and restaurants are preparing for the introduction of EU-dictated smoking restrictions. According to the relevant decision, premises smaller than 70 square metres will henceforth be either exclusively smoking or non-smoking. Those which allow smoking must have their operating licenses revised, have adequate air-conditioning units installed and display a special sticker determining their status. Larger establishments must restrict smoking to a separate section of their premises, exceeding not more than 30% of the surface area. Live music venues must separate smokers from nonsmoking patrons with the use of a 2-metre glass wall, while minors will be denied access to all smoking areas. As for offices, businesses employing fewer than 50 workers must ban smoking on their premises. Companies employing more than 50 people will have the right to provide smoking rooms. Europa: Green Paper on promoting smoke-free areas in the European Union; Secretariat General of Information: About Brand Greece – Health Services in Greece

EU Aid for Migration Comes with Terms

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The European Union through its representative Vice-president of the European Commission and responsible for justice, freedom and security, Jacques Barrot pledged to assist Greece in its efforts to deal with the influx of migrants, but said that the country must improve the process of reviewing asylum applications with the involvement of specialists, and make better provision for vulnerable migrant groups such as women and children.  Barrot, who is currently visiting Greece attending the works of the European Popular Party’s Study Days, met with both the Prime Minister and the Interior Minister, reassuring them that the European Union intends to pressure Turkey to honour its bilateral agreement with Greece. Barrot also said the EC would help Turkey strike up repatriation agreements with migrants’ countries of origin.  Kathimerini daily: EU vows to help with immgration; Greek News Agenda: Diplomacy on Migration & Illegal Migration: Going European 

EU Support for Tacling Immigration

council2(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) At the end of the two-day European Union summit (June 18-19), Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis took the opportunity to express satisfaction over the course of the leaders’ deliberations on a series of issues which are important to Greece’s national security.  Regarding the thorny issue of illegal migration, Karamanlis stressed that Greece’s diplomatic demarche to convince the EU over the perplexity of the issue, the ramifications of which go beyond Greece’s reach, have started to bear fruits.  Together with Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus, Greece sought the European Union’s support to cope with the rising tide of illegal immigration.  The Council agreed that the European Union shall seek new repatriation agreements with the migrants’ countries of origin and with transit countries such as Turkey and Libya. Existing bilateral repatriation agreements such as the one signed by Greece and Turkey in 2003, should be honoured, EU leaders agreed. According to the summit’s communiqué, the Council decided to reinforce its border monitoring agency Frontex The global economic crisis once again topped the agenda, with deliberations resulting in a number of decisions towards building a new financial supervisory architecture and taking measures to tackle unemployment. Climate change, a matter of increasing importance was also discussed, in view of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference at the end of the year. Finally, Karamanlis welcomed Jose Manuel Barroso’s appointment to serve a second five-year term as president of the European Commission, pointing out that the incumbent president has given Greece valuable support on a number of issues.

Greek Presidency in the Western European Union

WEU(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Greece will assume the Presidency of the Western European Union (WEU) for the second semester of 2009, and the Foreign Ministry presented the main priorities of the Presidency on June 3, regarding budget, institutions and the future of the WEU. Speaking in WEU Parliamentary Assembly, Secretary General for European Affairs of the foreign ministry Dimitris Katsoudas mentioned the major challenges that Europe faces this period in many sectors, and stressed the leading role of Greece in combating piracy and supporting the European perspective of Western Balkan counties. The Western European Union was established on the basis of the Treaty of Brussels in 1948.

European Elections

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) The 27 countries in the European Union will elect the 736 members of the European Parliament this weekend for a 5-year term. More than 375 million people are eligible to vote in the 27 EU member states. Voting is by secret ballot, and results cannot be released by any country until voting ends in all member states. Since the last election in 2004, Romania and Bulgaria have joined the EU. Kathimerini daily: A quick guide to the European polls
 
Greek Expats 

According to figures available by the Greek consulate authorities, a total of 24,644 voters have registered to vote in Germany, 4,700 in Cyprus, 2,123 in Belgium, 673 France, 325 in Luxembourg, 518 in Sweden, 450 in Britain, 163 in the Netherlands and a few hundred in the rest EU countries. Roughly 500,000 Greek expatriates live across the EU.
See also Greek News Agenda: Special Issue- European Elections 2009

Greece: Encouraging Business Investment

untitled(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   A €2 billion government plan aimed at subsidizing guarantees and offering reduced interest rates to businesses suffering due to the credit squeeze was approved yesterday (June 3) by the European Union antitrust regulators.  The scheme relates to state guarantees for investment and working capital loans contracted by companies through the end of December 2010, with the maximum duration of the guarantees capped at five years. The European Commission assured that this state aid does not distort competition in the European Union of 27 Member States, while stressing that a significant reduction in the cost of loans could be an effective way of encouraging business investment and economic recovery. Similar schemes drawn by other European countries have also been approved by the European Union. Kathimerini daily: Companies to get 2-bln-euro boost

Farewell to Greek PM Michalis Papagiannakis

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Member of Parliament for the wider Athens constituency and former MEP Michalis Papagiannakis passed away on Tuesday at the age of 69. Papagiannakis was first elected to the European Parliament on the Synaspismos ticket in 1989, and was re-elected in 1994 and 1999. He served as vice-president of the European Parliament’s Social Committee, vice-president of the United European Left group and of the inter-party committee for the protection of animals. In January 1992 he was elected vice-president of the Europarliament’s Social Affairs and Employment committee. He also served as vice-president of the Hellenic Committee for the European Union,, which was the Greek branch of the Brussels-based supra-party European Movement.