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Local Elections Run-off

Following the second round of local elections yesterday, the ruling PASOK party won the majority of regional governorships (8 to 5).
In municipal elections and -despite a high abstention rate- there was a change of leadership in the three major cities.
In Athens, Giorgos Kaminis, the former Ombudsman, won the mayorship, with the support of Pasok, after defeating the incumbent New Democracy (ND) mayor, Nikitas Kaklamanis.
In Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, the independent Yiannis Boutaris, supported by Pasok, defeated ND-backed candidate Costas Gioulekas, while in Pireus, Vassilis Michaloliakos, supported by ND defeated Pasok candidate Yiannis Michas.
Commenting on the results, Prime Minister George Papandreou said that the citizens “rejected the sirens of destabilisation and gave the government a clear three years of work to enable it to continue the effort for the country’s salvation and recovery.”
The premier also called on all political parties to “assume responsibility” and work together with the aim of saving the country. Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras said that “the second round confirmed the political conclusions of the first Sunday” and gave the opportunity to his party to emerge “renewed, strong and responsible.”
For more information: Ministry of Interior, Decentralization and E-Government: Regional & Municipal Elections 2010 Results (in Greek); Kathimerini Daily: Pasok gets regional upper hand; YouTube: PM’s nationwide televised press statement (in Greek)
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

Eminent Greek Authors Digitised

Tributes in the form of cultural events and publications prepared over the last few years by the National Book Centre to commemorate birth or death anniversaries of eminent Greek writers now take a permanent place in the Centre’s digital archive.
Authors such as Stratis Tsirkas and M. Karagatsis, as well as poets like Nikos Kavvadias have their own website in the progressively increasing Book Centre’s electronic archive of Modern Greek literature. The latest addition bears the name of poet Yiannis Ritsos, whose 100-year birth anniversary was observed in 2009.
National Book Center: Modern Authors Archives in Greek
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

Immigrants vote in 2010 Municipal Elections

The much awaited immigrants’ participation in municipal elections is a fact, following a new legislative amendment passed by the government.
According to an interior ministry circular, all eligible immigrants can register untilAugust 31 2010– the previous deadline was June 30 – at their local municipality’s election office should they want to vote in the upcoming ballot on November 14. Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis stressed that “the participation of legally residing, long-term residents is a historic event.” 
About the procedure and the eligibility criteria: Ministry of the Interior (in Greek)
(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)

Greece at Frankfurt Book Fair

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) At the Frankfurt International Book Fair 2009, which took place from October 15 to 19, author Ioanna Karistiani greeted her loyal fans and Soti Triandafyllou presented her “Chinese boxes” from Suhrkamp Verlag.  The same company recently published Yiannis Ritsos’ book “Monemvassia” translated by Klaus Peter Wedekind, on the occasion of the centenary of the poet’s birth.  A noteworthy initiative of the German branch of Hellenic Foundation for Culture in Berlin is the publication of a booklet presenting Greek writers who attract the interest of German readers and publishers.

Underground Art in Athens

» Next Stop: Larissis

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) “Stathmos Larissis” on line 2 of the Athens metro, which is connected to the capital’s central railway station features on its platforms works of art by Greek artist Yiannis Gaitis.

Gaitis (Athens 1923-1984) is known for his small figures of men –”little men”- a trademark of his personal style that marked his work throughout his career. Having appeared for the first time in 1967, they gradually grew bigger and converged on a central theme. Since the 70s, their form has become fixed and they have been reproduced constantly and in an impersonal manner, denouncing thus the mechanisms of society.   After 1974, they come in three sizes, in groups and in various manifestations: children’s toys, everyday objects, furniture, fabrics, and were even used in fashion shows and film productions.  Gaitis studied at the School of Fine Arts in Athens (1942-1944) and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. By the 80s, at the peak of his career, he had displayed his works at several exhibitions around the world. Major retrospective exhibitions of his work were held at the National Gallery of Athens in 1984, the Benaki Museum in 2006 and the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki in 2008.

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.”

Greek Economy to begin Recovering by end 2009

papaecon(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   The Greek economy will begin recovering by the end of 2009 and will return timely to positive growth rates in 2010, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou estimated on Thursday. Addressing a Hellenic Federation of Enterprises Euro-Mediterranean Business Forum in Athens, Papathanasiou said Greece along with Cyprus were the only Eurozone member-states to maintain a slight positive growth rate in the first quarter of 2009. However, he added that following a general phenomenon in the EU, the Greek economy’s slowdown was greater compared with initial forecasts and noted that this trend would continue for the rest of the year with growth rates around zero. This performance, he stressed, although better compared with the EU’s average rate, would be markedly lower from an 1.1 pct growth envisaged in the country’s updated stability and growth program. He expressed optimism that the Greek economy would begin recovering by the end of 2009.  Greece actively participates in all stages of creating a Union for the Mediterranean, focusing on the East Mediterranean region, Papathanasiou stressed. Greece has gained representation in the Union’s secretariat and has submitted specific proposals regarding cooperation in solar energy, water management and creating sea routes with the interconnection of ports in South-eastern Mediterranean, he added. Hellenic Federation of Enterprises: “Bridging the Mediterranean – Athens Business Forum”  Ministry of Economy and Finance: www.mnec.gr; www.investingreece.gov.gr

Greek FINMIN in Brussels

papathanasiouECOFIN1(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   The explosion of the unemployment rate in the European Union is the biggest social problem facing EU member-states, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on Tuesday, adding that employment in Greece remained at better levels compared with other EU states. Speaking an Economy and Financial Affairs Council meeting, the Greek minister said the government was determined to combating unemployment with specific measures, such as programs for the construction sector.  Papathanasiou said the Council meeting also discussed changes in the taxation of tobacco products. “Our interest is to support Greek production, the Greek tobacco industry and job positions,” he said, adding that the Council leaned towards a compromise proposal in favour of Greek interests, although it failed to reach a decision. An increasing number of EU member states entering into excessive deficit procedures facilitates Greece task in requesting a one year extension to 2011, if necessary, to bring the deficit down to 3%. Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Latvia and Rumania join the list of countries with excessive deficits (France, Greece, Spain, Ireland, UK) as of today, while another 9 countries including Italy and Germany are to join the list in November.  Greek News Agenda: Tax Package to Curb Budget Deficit

Greece: Tax Pacage to Curb Budget Deficit

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou announced on June 25 a €1,9 billion package of new tax measures, in an effort to boost state revenues and reduce public deficit. The package includes higher taxes on fuel, mobile phones, lottery earnings, cars with more than 2-litre engines and recreational boats over 10 metres in length. Another €1 billion in revenues is expected from legalizing unauthorised home construction. Papathanasiou stressed that the government remains committed to the goals of reducing the fiscal deficit to 3.7 pct of GDP this year, creating initial conditions for limiting public debt and preserving the credibility of the Greek economy. The Greek minister added that a battle to combat tax evasion and cutting public spending would continue.  Kathimerini daily: Gov’t seeks 2 bln euros in new taxes

Greek Finance Minister at 10th Venture Capital Forum

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Economic growth will come from within business activation and through collaboration between public and private sector, economy and finance minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said on Tuesday, addressing the 10th Venture Capital Forum organised in Athens by the Invest in Greece Agency in cooperation with the New Economy Fund (TANEO) and the PRAXIS network.  Papathanassiou also said that the government will continue to fulfil its duty with responsibility, adding that it was seeking consensus, unanimity and understanding at the national level.  In the framework of the country’s safe exit from the crisis, he said, businesses were called on to assume their significant role with new initiatives, a creative disposition, and investments in sectors on which growth in the new era will be founded. Ministry of Economy and Finance: Statement by Minister at 10th Venture Capital Forum (in Greek, 16.6.2009) 

Greek Finance Minister: Economic Prospects

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The next two years will be a period of intense reform, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said on Monday (25.5), addressing an Economist conference in Athens. He also stressed that the growth model that helped Greece enjoy strong rates so far, must be adjusted to modern demands and expressed the government’s determination to improve the country’s competitiveness by taking measures to support innovation, reduce bureaucracy, promote alternative energy sources, and attract big foreign investments. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) published yesterday (25.5) its annual report on the Greek economy, according to which the economy is expected to shrink by up to 2% this year with recovery beginning late in 2010. The IMF also recommended sweeping changes to tax regulations, continuing wage moderation and social security reforms.  Commenting on the IMF report, Papathanassiou said that “the Government is studying and carefully evaluating all the reports by international organisations pertaining to our country, even when it happens to disagree with certain estimates and predictions. In any case, it is clear that the next two years will determine the outcome of many significant issues for Greece’s present and future.”  Ministry of Economy and Finance: Speech by minister Papathanassiou at the Economist conference (in Greek); Kathimerini daily: IMF sees better days in late 2010

EU Cooperation on Immigration

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  “The problem is not a Greek problem, it is a European problem, because if one illegally enters Greece one also illegally enters the EU and the Netherlands,” said the Netherlands’ Deputy Justice Minister, responsible for immigration issues, Nebahat Albayrak, on Wednesday (May 27) after visiting an illegal immigrants’ reception centre on the eastern Aegean island of Samos.  “Certainly many problems exist, but we also have many possibilities for cooperation, not only on a bilateral basis, but also within the framework of the European Union between member-states,” added the Dutch official who earlier this week had talks in Athens with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis.

2009 Dedicated to the Poet Yiannis Ritsos

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Yiannis Ritsos -together with Kostis Palamas, Giorgos Seferis, and Odysseus Elytis have marked contemporary Greek poetry- and has been among the country’s most widely translated poets. A prolific writer – many of his poems, like Epitaphios and Romiosyni were set to music by renowned composer Mikis Theodorakis. 
Born on May 1st, 1909 in Monemvasia, Lakonia, to landowners, Yiannis Ritsos was often persecuted for his left-wing politics. That combined with the tribulations of his personal and family life (death of his mother and elder brother, his father’s commitment to a mental institution, his own struggle with tuberculosis since 1926) inspired his poetry and led him to receive many distinctions in Greece and abroad. He was awarded the Lenin Prize for Peace in 1977 and the 1956 State Poetry Award for his work “Moonlight Sonata” and was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1968. He died on November 11, 1990.

♦ Marking the Centenary of the Poet’s Birth

In order to bolster research and disseminate the work of Greek authors and bring them closer to the general public, the Ministry of Culture and the National Book Centre of Greece (EKEBI) launched, some years ago, the initiative of commemorating one literary figure every year. This year, to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Yiannis Ritsos the two institutions have planned a series of commemorative events such as the publication of a special volume dedicated to the life and work of the poet, the creation of a special website with extensive information on the poet, the preparation of a mobile exhibition which will travel around Greece and abroad, as well as the release of 12 commemorative telephone cards in collaboration with Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE). Also, since March 21, EKEBI has released a series of small-size posters on the Athens tram and metro.

Monemvasia to Honour Poet

A much-anticipated exhibition to take place at the medieval fortress of Monemvasia this summer will mark one of the artist’s lesser known talents. “Ritsos the Artist” will be inaugurated by the French ambassador in Greece, Christophe Farnaud, on July 4 at the restored Agios Nikolaos Church, once the elementary school where Ritsos studied. Apart from some personal items, the show will mainly consist of watercolours, ceramics, and reed roots painted by Ritsos. Running through to August 4, the Ritsos exhibit is one of many events put together by the Monemvasia municipality and the show’s artistic director, composer Pigi Likoudi, to mark the centenary of Ritsos’ birth. [Programme of events in Monemvasia (in Greek)

Monemvasia, a Jewel in the Myrtoan Sea

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    Located in the southeastern Peloponnese in the prefecture of Laconiaa, Monemvasia is a castle-city of unique beauty, standing on a rock in the Myrtoan Sea.  Homeland of Yiannis Ritsos, Monemvasia takes its name from a narrow piece of land (“the bridge”), which joins the rock of Monemvasia with the mainland, creating thus the one and the only entrance to it. Within its castle, there is a whole medieval city, living on the rhythm of today, but with a magical ambience of the past.   Just like it is about to break the bond with the earth and set sail in the blue sea, Monemvasia enchants every visitor with its unbeatable combination of natural beauty and cultural heritage. 

Greek Financial Ministe: Economy Resistant to Crisis

The Greek economy is showing stronger resistance to pressure from the ongoing global economic crisis, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou stressed on Monday. Commenting on the European Commission’s (EC) spring economic forecasts, the minister said the Commission cut forecasts over economic growth in the Eurozone and the EU, noting that Greece – although projected to present a negative growth rate this year – was showing stronger resistance compared with other eurozone countries. 
Papathanassiou stressed that the EC’s forecast for Greece does not take into account recent government steps aimed at boosting the economy. The EC’s forecast predicts that the Greek economy will present a negative growth rate of 0.9% in 2009 – compared with other countries where the economy was expected to shrink by 4.0% – before recovering to a growth rate of 0.1% in 2010.

The finance ministry is more optimistic and is sticking to its anticipated expansion rate of 1.1% for this year, emphasising that “the Commission’s latest forecasts have not taken into account recent measures taken by the government to support economic growth, such as measures to boost construction activity, the car market and employment,” said the minister. 
In any case, Papathanassiou said, the government would re-evaluate economic progress in June and if needed, would make any necessary adjustments to achieve its budget targets. 
European Commission: Economic Forecast Spring 2009 – Greece ; Athens News Agency: Negative growth in 2009; Ministry of Economy and Finance: Statements by Finance Minister Yiannis Papathansiou on EC’s forecast (May 4, in Greek)

The Prospects of the Greek Economy

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)     Addressing institutional investors in London (February 10-11), Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou presented the prospects of the Greek economy. Papathanassiou stressed that the government’s economic policy remains absolutely focused on controlling and further reducing the fiscal deficit and repeated that the state projection of the 1,1% growth rate is realistic and therefore the deficit can be reduced to below 3% by 2011. From 7.5% of the GDP since 2004, the fiscal deficit has this year dropped to 3.7%. Concerning other fiscal indices, Papathanassiou said that expenditure will be contained and the aim is to save €500 million for 2009. Overall, 35% of the amount needed to consolidate and pay for the country’s needs for 2009 has by now been easily secured. Referring to the increased spreads detected in state bond market, Papathanassiou pointed out that Greece managed to overcome the adverse climate. He further commented that the burden of  spreads derived to some extent from an ambience created by unjustified rumours concerning the viability of the euro currency, the Greek economy’s course, or Greece’s and other countries’ future in the eurozone. Ministry of Economy and Finance: Speech of the Minister of Economy And Finance on the prospects of Greek economy & Update of the Hellenic Stability and Growth Programme 2008-2011 (January 2009) ; Greek News Agenda: Ecofin Discusses European Economies; Bloomberg: Greek Minister Says Bond Spreads Not Justified as Debt Shrinks

ECOFIN Discusses European Economies

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Efforts to restore the operation of the banking system in Europe and the implementation of an updated Stability and Growth Pact were the main focus of the Ecofin meeting in Brussels on February 10 Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said, speaking to reporters after the meeting. The minister underlined the need to respect the rules, as laid out in the Stability and Growth Pact and added that the updated Greek version submitted to the European Commission pledged to reduce the country’s fiscal deficit below 3% of the GDP by 2011. Asked whether there is a need of revising a 28-bln-euro plan to prop up liquidity in the Greek banking system, Papathanasiou said that there is no such need because Greek banks have had minimum exposure to the so-called “toxic” assets.

Greek PM: Talking for International Crisis

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis said on Thursday that the government has a clear plan to handle the international economic crisis which, as he stressed, is more intense now than in the past and is on Greece’s doorstep. The premier spoke following Finance and Economy Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou’s presentation of the stability and growth programme, and noted that the government’s responsible and stable policy guarantees a better future for all citizens. He said that government policy is based on three targets: ensuring growth, reducing waste and supporting the poor. Karamanlis emphasised that with the new stability and growth programme, following the revision of evaluations of all the international organisations as well, “the government is taking all factors into consideration with a new policy. No country and no society can handle the international crisis by itself. However, we can, with a specific programme, prevent the grave repercussions with realism and with a stable policy.”

Greece: Updated Stability & Growth Programme

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis chaired a meeting on Friday (30.1) of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Economy, which discussed the updated three-year stability programme that was later submitted to the EU. Presenting the updated Stability and Growth programme for the period 2008-2011, Economy and Finance minister Yiannis Papathanassiou stressed that Greece is expected to be one of the five eurozone member-states to achieve positive economic growth rates in 2009. According to the programme, the fiscal deficit would be 3.7% in 2008 and 2009, falling to 3.2% in 2010 and 2.6% in 2011. The economy is expected to grow by 1.1% this year, 1.6% in 2010, reaching 2.3% in 2011, while employment is expected to grow by 0.2% this year and by 0.6% and 0.7% in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Unemployment is expected to grow from 7.5% in 2008 to 8.0% this year and to remain at this level until 2011, before beginning to fall. Ministry of Economy and Finance: Updated Stability and Growth Programme for 2008-11 (in Greek) & Fact Sheets

Positive Growth for Greece at Negative Conjuncture

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The European Commission (EC) on Monday released its interim forecasts on European economies for up to 2010, anticipating recession in the Union with an increase in deficits, but also a reduction in inflation. Specifically for Greece, the country will be one of the five within the eurozone to demonstrate marginal growth, while at the same time negative growth rates are foreseen for 11 of the 16 eurozone members and for 18 of the 27 EU member states. The Commission noted that deficits above the 3.0% limit are anticipated this year in 9 of the 16 eurozone members and 15 of the 27 EU member states. According to the Commission, Greece’s fiscal deficit will increase from 3.4% points of GDP in 2008 to 3.7% in 2009 and 4.2% in 2010, taking into consideration, however, that the basic guidelines of the draft 2010 state budget have not yet been released. Regarding Greece’s fiscal deficit, it will climb from 3.4% points of GDP in 2008 to 3.7% in 2009 and 4.2% in 2010, taking into consideration, however, that the basic guidelines of the draft 2010 state budget have not yet been released. The Commission noted that deficits above the 3.0% limit are anticipated this year in 9 of the 16 eurozone members and 15 of the 27 EU member states. Concerning unemployment, the rate stood at 8.3% in 2008 (compared with a eurozone average of 7.5% and EU average of 7 percent), while it is expected to rise to 9% in 2009 (against 9.3% in the eurozone and 8.7% in the EU). With regard to performance in the eurozone, European Commissioner Joaquin Almunia stressed that there will be no break-up of the eurozone. Following a meeting with Minister of Economy and Finance Yiannis Papathanassiou today, Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the eurozone group stated that “Greece is not the only country with an excessive deficit” and added that “we will handle Greece, the way we handle all other member states with respective problems”. In related predictions, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released its semi-annual “Economic Outlook” (November 2008) forecasts that the Greek economy’s growth rate will be gradually stabilised in the second quarter of 2009, after staying at feeble levels during the first six months of next year. Meanwhile, in its “World Economic Outlook“, released in October 2008, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) foresaw growth in Greece at 2%. Athens News Agency: EU Commission report on Greece European Commission: Economic and Financial Affairs- EU interim forecasts for 2009-2010- Greece (December 2007)  (p.26) 

FinMin on Forecast

After meeting with EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia in Brussels yesterday, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou said the government’s economic priorities would focus
-on fiscal adjustment,
-support of the real economy
-support of the social groups hardest hit by the downturn
“We believe that with the policies we follow, we will have positive results and achieve better performance than the Commission has forecast for Greece,” he said. Next week, the finance ministry is expected to submit to Brussels its updated Stability and Growth Programme, in which it will lower its GDP growth target for 2009 from 2.7% currently. Kathimerini daily: Beating grim Brussels forecasts Ministry of Economy and Finance: The 2007 Update of the Hellenic Stability & Growth Programme 2007 – 2010