|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-07-02
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM: Boosting employment top priorityPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday announced a separation of the health branch from the social insurance branch of the Social Security Foundation (IKA), part of efforts to modernise the state's largest social security fund, in statements after a visit to the employment ministry.
Karamanlis further said that the recent introduction of personal social security numbers (AMKA) would curb contribution-evasion and wasteful spending in health, and also noted the recent unification and merger of a plethora of smaller social security funds into a handful of larger funds.
Further, he said that boosting employment was a top priority of his New Democracy government, and noted the reduction posted in unemployment between 2004 (when ND took office) and 2008, adding that available data for the second quarter of 2009 indicated a halt of the upward trend in unemployment.
The premier added that the global financial crisis had found Greece in a better position than many other countries, attributing this to the serious reforms made by his government in recent years.
 Papandreou outlines proposals against corruptionMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou addressed his party's Political Council Thursday and outlined four proposals aimed at tackling corruption, including the confiscation of property not declared in the means and assets statements submitted by politicians.
In reference to the ongoing Siemens investigation, and the damaging testimony linked to PASOK that has emerged from this, Papandreou stressed that the party wanted a full and thorough investigation into what had happened.
"I am the first that wants to know if someone has neglected his duty or who has become involved in cases of scandal in the past," he stressed, adding that PASOK had made clear and specific proposals on this issue while ruling New Democracy preferred to remain silent.
He also underlined that there were several other scandals that remained "open", such as the Vatopedi monastery land swaps affair, the structured bonds sold to social insurance funds, the subsidised ferry lines and others.
Papandreou underlined that PASOK's stance on issues of corruption was consistent and called for "transparency at any cost and with no exceptions," alleging that an attempt is being made to hold the entire political world hostage.
His four proposals included holding an extraordinary plenary session in Parliament to set up a parliamentary investigation committee on the Siemens case; exerting pressure on the German company to present all evidence that concerns Greece; adoption of a special regulation providing preferential treatment for those who present tangible evidence against corrupt politicians and confiscation of undeclared property assets.
He noted that the four measures would require an act of legislation and asked for the backing of the other opposition parties for the immediate measures he had proposed.
PASOK's leader repeated his party's call for immediate elections, saying that ND "cannot handle the fate of the nation", and adding that PASOK intends to submit a policy platform at the Thessaloniki International Fair that will be the result of broader discussion.`
"PASOK's goal is victory in the elections, a majority government but also to create broader social consensus," he added.
Papandreou was particularly critical of the government's handling of economic affairs, stressing that Greece was in dire economic straits and lacked a plan for dealing with the crisis.
"We have never seen the country in a worse economic state," he underlined, saying that the measures taken by the government were "measures of desperation, that do not address the long-term problems but instead strike at middle and low incomes," while warning of another wave of similar measures in October.
Papandreou went on to brief the Political Council on his recent tour of the Balkans and announced that the Socialist International will put together a special team on green development, while the SI's will present its proposals to the United Nations in September and at the World Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.
CAPTION: ANA-MPA file photograph of main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou.
 Hellenic Postbank, Hellenic Post unveil Post Insurance Brokerage«ellenic Postbank and Hellenic Post on Thursday signed the statute of Post Insurance Brokerage SA, a subsidiary offering brokerage insurance services, signalling the beginning of a new era for Hellenic Postbank as it transforms into a large bank, constantly expanding and seeking new market shares.
Announcing the creation a Post Insurance offering bankassurance products, Angelos Philippides, chairman of Hellenic Post, said the management‚s intention was to transform into a robust bank without losing its social character.
 Papoulias in SerbiaBELGRADE (ANA-MPA) -- Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Thursday arrived here for an official visit, where he was warmly greeted by his Serbian counterpart Boris Tadic, who expressed his country's thanks for Athens' standing position regarding the Kosovo issue.
"It is with truly great satisfaction, not just personally as president of the country, but on behalf of the entire Serbian people, that the president of the Hellenic Republic is here today in Serbia," Tadic said in greeting the Greek head of state.
"Greece has not recognised the self-proclaimed independence of Kosovo, and for Serbia this is particularly significant," he added.
On his part, Papoulias, days after an official visit to Syria, emphasised that Athens considers Serbia as a strategic partner and preferred interlocutor. "(It) is a country that can and should play a stabilising role and substantially contribute to the development and prosperity of the entire region ... It is with great joy that I am here today in Belgrade, in Serbia, a friend and neighbour," Papoulias stressed.
He said Serbia's European prospects dominated talks with Tadic, reiterating Greece's standing foreign policy position of supporting Serbia's accession to the European family "as soon as possible, a place where it deservedly belongs".
Along these lines, he said Greece is actively backing the ongoing initiative within the EU to lift visa restrictions for Serbian nationals wishing to travel to the Union, while predicting that the matter will be resolved, possibly, within the year.
"Therefore, our friends, the citizens of Serbia, as well as the citizens of other countries in the region, will soon be able to travel, freely and without hindrance, to Greece and other EU countries without the obligation of first issuing a visa," he said.
In responding to Tadic's statements on Kosovo and the Greek stance vis-?-vis the matter, Papoulias, a former foreign minister in the 1990s during successive PASOK governments, referred to the support towards Belgrade's positions.
"Regarding the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo, the Greek stance is well known. My country has always been a supporter of the need for a mutually acceptable solution, one based on international law and derived via dialogue and negotiations; a solution that will respect the human rights and minority rights and will not create victors and vanquished," Papoulias said, adding:
"Economic development and the improvement of living conditions, protection of minorities and respect for their rights as well as protection of Serbian cultural and religious heritage are very high priorities for us in Kosovo. We believe these goals are served by our participation in KFOR and EULEX," Papoulias underlined.
Both heads of state said they absolutely agreed on the need for Balkan countries to find their common future within the EU, with Tadic cautioning that there are "also extremist political trends (in Serbia) trying to prove that all of Europe is against the interests of Serbia and Serbia's accession to the EU. However, because of Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus, we can definitely document the fact that Europe is our home, and that there are countries in Europe that will never recognise the independence of Kosovo ... Serbia will never recognise Kosovo (independence), and I want to be clear on this."
Papoulias on fYRoM 'name issue'
Regarding the nagging "name issue" involving Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), Papoulias merely noted that the Greek side will continue to work for a resolution based on international law.
"We expect the political leadership in Skopje to abandon its nationalist and antiquated practices, and work towards the prosperity and progress of all its citizens," he concluded.
 Credit growth at 8.8% in MayCredit expansion fell further in May, with the credit growth rate at 8.8 pct, down from 10.2 pct in April 2009 and 15.9 pct in December 2008, the Bank of Greece announced on Tuesday.
The central bank, in its monthly report, said credit expansion slowed both towards domestic enterprises and domestic households. The Bank of Greece has already cut its forecast for credit growth in the country to 5-6 pct this year, from an initial estimate of 10 pct.
However, the report said net fund flow to domestic enterprises and households reached the highest level so far this year in May, with net fund flow to enterprises totaling 765 million euros for a credit growth rate of 10.2 pct in May, from 11.8 pct in April and 18.7 pct in December 2008.
Credit expansion slowed significantly towards the manufacturing sector (5.9 pct in May, 9.0 pct in April and 15.8 pct in December 2008) and commerce (14.0 pct, 16.5 pct and 19.5 pct, respectively), while credit expansion grew towards the electricity-gas-water sector and the communications and transport sectors excluding shipping.
Net fund flow to Greek households (mortgage and consumer loans) totaled 338 million euros in May, with credit growth slowing to 7.3 pct in May, from 8.4 pct in April and 12.8 pct in December 2008.
Mortgage loans totaled 186 million euros in May, for credit growth rate of 6.9 pct, from 7.8 pct in April and 11.5 pct in December 2008, while consumer loans totaled 109 million euros for a 12-month growth rate of 8.4 pct in May, 9.8 pct in April and 16.0 pct in December.
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