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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 16-03-11
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM Tsipras: 'Europe is crushed between austerity and closed borders'PARIS (ANA-MPA/O.Tsipira) – Europe is stuck between a rock and a hard place, austerity and closed borders, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday during a speech at a press conference in Paris for an event titled "Europe must change", organized by Pierre Laurent, secretary general of the French Communist Party and president of the European Left.
Tsipras was invited by French President Francois Hollande and will be a keynote speaker at a broad meeting on Europe organized by the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS).
"Europe is stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is crushed between austerity and closed borders," he said in his intervention, adding that it is keeping borders closed for the downtrodden and open to extreme austerity policies. "We should reaffirm the guidelines of our policy and agree that Europe is at a political impasse."
He continued to say that Europe is faced with the consequences of its actions and highlighted the wars in which European countries participated, such as Iraq, Libya, Syria, adding that it has been proved "incapable" of resolving the Palestinian issue.
"Today, Europe is fearfully discovering that the problem has reached its courtyard. The Eastern European countries react with a nervous breakdown (...) not because their society could not absorb 1-2 million refugees, but because the austerity policies have nourish the monster of fascism in Europe's underbelly (.. .) which they feed by reacting spasmodically," he said and brought the result of Slovakia's elections as an example.
He also said that despite the "disappointment", Greece is determined to fight within Europe's framework and not outside it. "However, today more than ever, we have to ring the alarm for its future and its course," he said.
 Economy, Finance ministers conclude talks with mission chiefsThe government's aims as reflected through the new draft law on growth and the contribution to growth through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) toolbox was the main focus of the meeting between Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis and the heads of the institutions on Friday.
Following the meeting, the minister simply told the press the two sides "discussed issues relating to [economic] growth".
The government, in agreement with the institutions, is expected to present its comprehensive draft bill for economic growth in about two months.
In a separate meeting with the mission chiefs, the government's economic team discussed the full independence of the tax administration.
Following the meeting, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said there are no open issues with the institutions on this issue. However, concerning their request to reduce the tax-free threshold, he said that the government will submit a counterproposal tomorrow.
The general secretary of public revenues, Giorgos Pitsilis also attended the meeting.
On Saturday, the government's economic team will meet anew with the mission chiefs at 14.00 (local), instead of 15.00 as initially announced, to discuss fiscal issues. Earlier, the institutions will hold a meeting on reforms in public administration (10.30) and on social security (11.30).
 US Assistant Secretary of State Nuland expresses U.S. solidarity in migration crisisIn statements to the press on Friday, the second day of her visit to Greece, US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland repeatedly stressed that her visit sought to demonstrate US solidarity in the face of the intense challenges posed by the migration crisis and to better understand how the U.S. could be helpful.
"I came at this time to express American solidarity with Greece during these difficult times with the migration crisis, since your border has closed to the north, and to better understand what is happening in northern Greece," she said. Nuland also declared herself impressed and repeatedly praised the "enormous generosity" of individuals and local people in Greece toward the refugees.
The United States were closely watching the ongoing talks for an agreement on a European level, she added, both between the EU and Turkey and those between Turkey and Greece.
"We want to help so that this agreement is concluded in a fair, clear and transparent way," she noted, referring to the resettlement process, in particular.
Reporting on her visits to the refugee relocation centre in Diavata on Thursday and then to the refugee camp at Idomeni, Nuland said the former was very well organised and should serve as a model for others set up in Greece under the EU-Turkey resettlement agreement. In Idomeni, by contrast, she reported substandard conditions, with desperate families and children living in the mud, despite the great efforts of the Greek police, non-governmental organisations such as Doctors Without Borders to provide relief and the great generosity of the local people. The US official underlined the need to find better accommodation for the people there and said this was among the issues she discussed with the Greek side, namely how to build more centres like that in Diavata.
"We want to support Greece by helping it implement the agreements with the EU and between the EU and Turkey," she said, repeating that her visit aimed to see how much the United States can help and how.
Referring to her meetings on Friday, Nuland said she met Minister of State Nikos Pappas at the prime minister's office and the foreign ministry general secretary at the foreign ministry. She said the discussion had centred on the return of the institutions and the economic situation - where Washington encouraged Greece to reach an agreement so that it can then move on to the phase of discussing debt relief. They also discussed energy security, the Cyprus issue and other foreign policy issues, she added, while stressing that the main aim of her current visit was to get a better understanding of the situation relating to the migration crisis and how the U.S. can help.
Nuland said that Greece has asked for U.S. assistance and she noted that the U.S. will likely respond in the next few days by providing emergency humanitarian aid, while continuing to work with Greece for a correct implementation of the relocation and resettlement programmes. Her visit, she added, aimed to assist the upcoming agreements on a European level between the EU and Turkey, as well as the cooperation of Greece and Turkey and other countries in the region in order to reinforce efforts for a ceasefire in Syria and a UN-brokered political settlement.
 ND leader: 'The sooner this government leaves the better for Greece'Main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Greece will be better off if the current coalition government leaves power sooner rather than later, according to an interview wthat will be published in the Sunday edition of Eleftheros Typos.
"Every day that goes by, I consolidate my belief that the sooner this government leaves, the better for the country," he was quoted as telling the paper.
Commenting on the ongoing refugee crisis, the leader of New Democracy said his party chose to do everything in its power to form a national strategy on the issue, as "it is truly a critical issue of national dimensions", noting that this is the reason ND insisted on holding the political leaders' meeting on March 4, before the EU-Turkey summit meeting.
"New Democracy is making every effort to reduce the damage, to promote and support Greece's just demands," he said and slammed Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for his handling of the crisis, saying Tsipras' "fake humanism has drowned in the mud of Idomeni."
"We don't need such humanism. It has nothing to do with dignity and the sincere solidarity of the Greek people."
Turning his attention on Justice, Mitsotakis said the coalition government has developed "a very dangerous cancer that spreads aggressively in the functions of the State, the independent institutions and Justice. We will not allow them this digression."
He also reiterated his decision that when ND is elected into power, it will set up a Committee of Inquiry that would investigate the activities of SYRIZA-ANEL coalition for the period January-September 2015. "We owe it to a people who were deceived and are paying a heavy price from Tsipras' incompetence and unreliability".
 Greece, Russia launch cultural cooperation with exhibition at Acropolis MuseumGreece and Russia launched their one-year cultural cooperation with the opening on Friday of a small exhibition of three selected golden objects from the Scythian collection of St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum.
The presentation of these objects is a precursor to a larger exhibition which will take place in during the year. On its side, Greece will lend Hermitage a marble statue of a 7th century BC archaic Kore from the collections of the Acropolis Museum.
Culture Minister Aristidis Baltas and Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko inaugurated the event at the Acropolis Museum by signing an agreement certifying the program exchanges and events organized by the two countries.
The group of items consists of two vases and a piece of jewelry which were part of a unique Scythian burial set of the 4th century BC, found in 1830 in the royal tomb Kul-Oba, in the Crimea. These masterpieces of metalwork were made by Greek settlers in Crimea, with whom nomadic Scythians had established close trade relations.
"It is a great pleasure for us to inaugurate today officially the Greece-Russia year between two countries with a long history and fraternal relations," said Baltas, noting that this cooperation involves two very well worked for both countries.
"It is a dedicatory year that wants to highlight not only the ties with the past and the friendship of the two peoples but also to respond to the crisis facing Greece, Russia and the surrounding region," he added.
On his side, Prikhodko said that the two countries count thousands of years of political, religious, historical and cultural ties. "Since ancient times, Greece was a source of scientific knowledge for Russia," he said.
"We believe the Greece-Russia year will contribute to the effective strengthening of relations between our countries and will boost trade and economic cooperation which is not going through its best phase," he added.
Commenting on the exhibition, the president of the Acropolis Museum Dimitris Pandermalis welcomed the event saying it is a testament to the close relations between Greeks and Scythians.
"There could not be a better selection of items, which are the ambassadors of this year of friendship; these three articles which show in the most vivid way the close relationship between the Greeks and the Scythians," he said.
The Director of the Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovski described the items as "the pride" of the museum. "It is a great pleasure and honor for the Hermitage Museum to present our exhibits in one of the most modern and large museums in the world. The exhibits are the pride of the Hermitage and Russian archeology. They are the best exhibits and truly reflect the very good relations between Greece and Russia," he said, adding that Russian often say the country is part of the European culture thanks to Russia's Greek roots.
He also said that officials at Hermitage are already preparing the area where the Kore will be exhibited, noting that this will be followed by a Byzantine exhibition, which will be a joint collaboration between the two museums.
The event was attended by State Minister for Coordinating Government Operations Alekos Flambouraris, Alternate Education Minister for Research and Innovation Kostas Fotakis, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Amanatidis, as well as other officials, from the foreign ministry and the Russian embassy in Greece.
The three objects will be exhibited at the ground floor of the Acropolis Museum from March 11 until October 2, 2016.
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