|Wednesday, 19 February 2020|
Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 12-11-28
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM: Eurogroup deal opens way for growthAMNA--The Eurogroup's decision in the early hours of Tuesday morning marked the end of a "very grey, very dark period for Greece," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening.
"It was a period that was dragging us back and threatening us directly as a country and a society. Greece has succeeded in regaining its credibility. It has also succeeded in turning a programme of endless austerity into a programme that dares to carry out reforms and leads to growth," he emphasised.
Samaras stressed that the decisions for Greece had laid the foundations for making the country's debt sustainable and for ensuring that Greece remained in the euro.
He particularly emphasised the fact that, out of the 34.5 billion euro in bailout loans for Greece that European countries had agreed to disburse in mid December, only 10 percent would be used to pay off interest and repay debts.
"The rest will stay in the country, in one way or the other," the premier noted, with seven billion going directly to the economy to cover this year's deficit and pay off state debts to the private sector. Similarly, he added, most of the nine billion to be disbursed over the next three months would go to the real economy.amna
Samaras noted that the money spent to recapitalise the banks, which will make up the bulk of the aid received by Greece, will act to permanently protect the deposits of the Greek people and also allow the return of vital liquidity to the Greek economy, finally leading to recovery and stemming the rise in unemployment.
He also highlighted a decision allowing Greece to directly reduce its debt through bond buybacks at low prices and a reduction of interest charged on the remaining debt, so that repayments were less of a burden on Greek tax payers.amna
"The interest rates paid by Greece will now be among the lowest in Europe. Furthermore, we will not pay interest for 10 years and principal for 15 years. This will give a huge respite to the Greek economy, so that we can enter a stable growth trajectory," Samaras underlined.amna
Even the profits made by foreign banks from Greek bonds will be returned to Greece to pay off its debts, without an official default that would put the country's future in hock for decades, he added.
Perhaps the most important thing about the deal was that Greece's overall debt will be reduced by 20 percent of GDP, thus permanently pushing aside the prospect of a country mired in endless debt and with a precarious position in the eurozone and opening the way for Greece's renewal, Samaras said.amna
The prime minister emphasised that this was a result that all Greeks achieved together, through their sacrifices and their support for difficult decisions taken in very difficult times, and he praised the role played by all three parties in the coalition government and thanked his two coalition partners for their support.
He also stressed that this outcome was the result of tough negotiations in successive phases, which helped to change Greece's image abroad.
"We converted many enemies into friends. We achieved things that most considered impossible a short while ago. And we have opened the way for even more...We spoke little and did much. And this proved to be a much better negotiating strategy than that of those that shout alot and destroy everything," he said.amna
Stressing the need for unity, the prime minister underlined that Greeks had to stay together and promised that there would be a relief of injustices once the goals set were overshot, while noting that the main order of the day was work and investments that would create jobs, especially for young people.
 Chinese officials, COSCO hail Eurogroup decisions on GreeceAMNA--Chinese officials and the management of China Ocean Shipping (COSCO) Group on Tuesday expressed great satisfaction with the Eurogroup's decisions on tackling Greece's debt issues, during a meeting between Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas and China's Vice Foreign Minister Xie Hangsheng, attended by top COSCO executives. The meeting was held on the second day of Kourkoulas' visit to China in order to attend the 11th Greek-Chinese Joint Interministerial Committee (JIC) in Beijing on Wednesday.
"This agreement puts Greece on track for an exit from the crisis and constitutes a vote of confidence from our European partners and international creditors in the stabilisation programme implemented by the Greek government," Kourkoulas told AMNA from China.
The minister said that COSCO had once again reaffirmed its satisfaction with the investment it has made in Piraeus, repeating that it considers Greece a gateway to southeast Europe, the Middle East and north Africa, and presenting figures showing an impressive increase in the tonnage moved through Piraeus since the start of its investment there.
Indicative of the weight given to the Piraeus investment, the minister added, was the fact that COSCO President and CEO Capt. Wei Jiafu had invited top executives of the group stationed in Asian and European countries to be present for their meeting.amna
Talking to AMNA, Kourkoulas said that the Chinese group, which currently employs 130,000 people and transports goods to 80 countries and 1,600 ports around the world, expressed a desire to increase its investments in Greece and also expand into the energy sector.
"The Chinese believe in Greece's recovery," Kourkoulas stressed, adding that their plans involved strategic investments that could act as a positive example for other foreign investors.amna
During talks with the Chinese business community, the deputy minister also informed them of actions taken by Greece to create an investment-friendly environment, including fast-track investments and actions taken to facilitate the issue of visas, as well as plans to grant long-term residence permits to foreign nationals that buy property valued at more than 300,000 euro in Greece. amna
Also part of the Greek delegation was foreign ministry secretary general for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation Peter Mihalos, who met with officials from the China Investment Corporation for talks concerning planned privatisations in which China has expressed an interest.
 Shipping minister in London, urges Greek ship owners to invest in GreeceAMNA--Shipping and Aegean Minister Kostis Mousouroulis on Tuesday noted the potential role of Greek shipping as a "lever for exiting the crisis", in statements to AMNA from London, where he is on an official two-day visit for talks with Greek ship-owners based in the British capital.
Noting that the Greek presence in London, a global centre of shipping and finance, had always been strong and prominent, Mousouroulis said he had come to ask Greek ship owners to support the Greek flag and shipping-related Greek businesses, through collaboration that was both absolutely feasible and efficient.
The minister's scheduled meetings on Tuesday include one with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu, covering general shipping issues such as shipping safety, piracy, carbon emissions and environmental pollution.amna
Mousouroulis said he intended to ask the IMO chief for greater participation by Greeks in the IMO in order to improve Greece's position in the organisation, in light of the country's dominant role in the global commercial shipping sector.
The minister is then due to meet members of the Greek Shipping Co-operation Committee in London on Wednesday, inviting them to carry out investments in Greece, both in shipping and more generally. The two sides are also expected to discuss the new Greek shipping register and ways to make the flag more attractive, as well as issues concerning ship safety and naval training.amna
Before departing for Greece, Mousouroulis is scheduled to meet the British Undersecretary of State for Transport Stephen Hammond, in charge of shipping issues.
 Council of State rejects appeals against incorporating pension funds in EOPYYAMNA--The Council of State, Greece' supreme administrative court, on Tuesday rejected appeals lodged by bar associations, the bank employees' union OTOE, notary associations and the Technical Chamber of Greece, which asked that the incorporation of their respective pension and social insurance funds into the National Organisation for Provision of Healthcare Services (EOPYY) be suspended.
The various bodies involved had asked the court to end the refusal of the National Actuarial Authority to issue an actuarial study on whether their respective pension funds were viable, which they intended to use in order to convert their social insurance funds into private-sector legal entities and avoid their merger with EOPYY.amna
Their case was rejected by the presiding judge because their respective pension funds had already been incorporated into EOPYY by the omnibus bill on the austerity measures passed by Parliament and the court had no powers to overturn an existing law.
 PM meets Venizelos and Kouvelis on WednesdayPrime Minister Antonis Samaras will hold a meeting on Wednesday morning with the two party leaders supporting his coalition government, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left party president Fotis Kouvelis.
At 11:30, Samaras will receive German State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office Emily Haber at the Maximos Mansion (premier's office).
Th prime minister will also chair a cabinet meeting at 13:00.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailiesThe Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
The day after the Eurogroup's decision on Greece and the government's priorities, mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
AVGHI: "Ten nails on Greece's crucifix".
DIMOKRATIA: "We are saved".
EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: "Disastrous triumph".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The four secrets of the agreement".
ESTIA: "Wrong recipe for taxation".
ETHNOS: "Growth, work and investments the wager".
IMERISSIA: "The keys of the agreement".
KATHIMERINI: "Buy-back of bonds the key".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "Obscurities in the bonds buy-back programme".
RIZOSPASTIS: "People must attempt the way of counterattack and rift"
TA NEA: "The wager of the three - The new package has gifts and traps".
6 DAYS: "The five black holes of the decision".
 Post Bank employees prepare for industrial actionAMNA--Hellenic Post Bank (TT) should be recapitalized and remain an independent credit institution under state control, so it can continue to offer its services to the country's economy, the nationwide board of TT employees said in announcement on Tuesday.
Employees are determined not to accept TT's break up into a so-called good and a bad bank, and are asking for a meeting soon with finance minister Yannis Stournaras, to be briefed on government plans on the future of TT. amna
In case a meeting with Stournaras is delayed, TT employees are decided to go ahead with a rally and a march to the finance ministry on Wednesday, a three-hour work stoppage on Thursday and a 24-hour strike on Friday.
 Saffron, the Gold of the Greek EarthAMNA--The harvesting season has begun for saffron, an autumn-flowering perennial plant that is used in cooking but also known for its medicinal properties.
Widely used in Indian, Persian and European cuisines, saffron has also been widely used as a fabric dye, particularly in India and China, and in perfumery.
It also has a long medicinal history in traditional healing, while modern research studies have hinted that the spice has possible anti-carcinogenic (cancer-suppressing), immunomodulative and antioxidant properties.amna
The Organic Red Saffron, produced by the renowned Kozani Saffron Cooperative, in Northern Greece, is a certified organic product that is distinguished for its excellent quality which places it in the Coupe Class, the top quality of Saffron in the world. Saffron, made from the dried stigmas of the crocus flower, is the world's most expensive spice.
Saffron cultivation is believed to date back to Prehistoric Greek times.
The excavations in Knossos, Crete, brought to light some frescoes where saffron is depicted. The most famous of these frescoes is the "saffron gatherer", where it was depicted that there was a monkey amongst the yellow saffron flowers.amna
Etymologically, the word crocus has its origin from the Greek word "croci" which means the weft, thread used for weaving on a loom.
Mythologically, according to Ovid, the plant took its name from the youth Crocus, who after witnessing in despair the death of fair Smilax was transformed into this flower.amna
Known since antiquity, saffron it was one of the most desired and expensive spices of ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Romans for its aroma, color and aphrodisiac properties.
It was quite popular among the Phoenician traders, who carried it wherever they traveled. The ancient Assyrians used saffron for medical purposes.
Hippocrates and other Greek doctors of his time, like Dioskourides and Galen, mention crocus as a drug or a therapeutic herb.amna
From the writings of Homer, who calls dawn "crocus veil", Aeschylus, Pindar, and others, it is known that the crocus was considered a rare pharmaceutical plant of ancient Greece with unique properties. It is referred to throughout ancient history and in the course of many medical writings of the classical Greek and Roman times all the way to the Middle Ages.amna
Another saffron use in ancient Greece was that of perfumery.
The history of red saffron in modern Greece starts in the 17th century when traders from Kozani, Macedonia, brought the red saffron from Austria.amna
For more than 300 years, Greek red saffron is systematically cultivated under the warmth of the Greek sun, in the rich soil of a unique area in Kozani, in western Macedonia.
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