Greece

National Archaeological Museum to unveil renovated garden

The National Archaeological Museum in central Athens will show off its renovated garden to visitors on Friday.

The garden now features about 700 new plants, including several species mentioned in ancient Greek mythology and literature.

Renovation works marking the 150th anniversary of the museum’s establishment were carried out by the Ecoscapes design firm with funding from JT International Hellas.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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What’s worked for tourism has not for exports

NICK MALKOUTZIS

With a 7.5-billion-euro bailout tranche virtually secured, Greece could settle down on Friday to watch the start of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament without any concerns about whether the loan will be disbursed. The Greek national team has not qualified for this year’s edition of the European Championships, which means local viewers will perhaps follow the event with a tinge of sadness that Greece finds itself shut out of European proceedings – a common theme in political and economic developments over the last few years.

The road to recovery for Greece (the country, rather than the soccer team) runs through its tormented economy. In the past, Greek success on the pitch (triumph at Euro 2004, qualification for Euro 2008 and quarterfinals at Euro 2012) has been the result of blending several strengths: good organization, team spirit, a strong defense and effectiveness in counter-attacks and set pieces. In contrast, Greece’s economy seems like a one-trick pony that repeatedly relies on a thriving tourism sector to get it out of trouble.

According to a report earlier this year by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), travel and tourism directly contributed 13.3 billion euros (or 7.6 percent of gross domestic product) to the Greek economy in 2015.

However, when one also takes into account the indirect and “induced” economic impact – which includes factors such as investment and the supply chain involved in providing for the tourism sector – the contribution is seen at an impressive 32.5 billion euros, which is close to a fifth of the GDP.

Tourism is largely delivering again this year. Travel receipts for the first quarter surpassed 500 million euros, matching the performance of the same period last year, aided by increases in the number of arrivals from Russia and the US, as well as the UK, France and Germany.

According to the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises (SETE), international tourism arrivals at the main Greek airports grew by 6.5 percent in April year-on-year and by 7.6 percent over the first four months of the year compared to 2015.

That is not to say it has all been plain sailing. The recent protests against the privatization of Piraeus Port Authority (OLP), the refugee crisis and the general uncertainty surrounding Greece over the last few months have caused setbacks.

Turnover in the accommodation and food service sectors, for instance, fell by 11.7 percent in the first quarter of the year and hit the lowest level since the first quarter of 2013.

Nevertheless, SETE still expects foreign arrivals this year to reach 25 million, which is a rise of 1.5 million compared to the record year of 2015. Direct tourism revenues are also seen hitting a record sum of 15 billion euros.

The flourishing of the Greek tourism sector during a gruelling period for the country can be put down to a number of factors. These include the abiding appeal of Greece as a holiday destination, the instability in the region that led to travelers avoiding some foreign resorts and reduced prices, despite the repeated tax hikes.

Greece’s tourism sector is bucking the trend in the Greek financial crisis because it has managed to do certain simple things well, essentially making it the country’s most significant export by far.

The challenge for Greece, though, is to augment this by helping other sectors of its economy grow. Tourism alone cannot be the source of a decisive turnaround.

For instance, while tourism forges ahead, Greece’s exports continue to suffer. Last week, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) announced that the country’s trade deficit rose by 21 percent in April on the back of imports rising by 7.1 percent and exports falling by 3.8 percent. Worryingly, this was the twelfth consecutive monthly fall for exports.

Greek exporters continue to be plagued by the problems that have dogged them throughout the crisis. This includes a lack of liquidity, problems accessing finance, an unstable politico-economic environment and a lack of business-friendly measures.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) expects exports to drop by 1 percent this year before shooting up by 5.7 percent next year.

However, the Paris-based think-tank believes there must be certain preconditions for this recovery. Apart from political stability, the OECD stresses the need for reforms that will simplify regulatory procedures and ease the administrative burdens on Greek companies.

The message is that reviving the export sector will be a complicated task. There is no magic solution. The truth is that Greece’s internal devaluation, which has seen employees’ compensation fall by roughly 30 percent since 2009, has not aided Greek exports in the way that many had expected over the last few years.

Greece has gained some price competitiveness due to the sliding wages, which has helped the tourism sector, but this has not translated into a boost for exports, which face a set of more complex challenges, argues Christian Odendahl, the chief economist at the Center for European Reform in London.

“Pure price competitiveness is a flawed concept: Companies also need to invest in innovation, marketing, technology and – yes – people in order to remain competitive,” he told Kathimerini English Edition.

“Tourism is more price sensitive and does not require as much investment, since Greece is spectacular as it is. This means that in tourism, the price effect could dominate. But in other businesses, prices cannot fall fast enough to compensate for the lack of investment and innovation.”

All of which takes us back to the blend of components that helped the Greek national soccer team overachieve for so many years. If Greece wants an economic recovery, it cannot rely on just one sector, and if its exports are going to be successful then a combination of factors are needed to help the flourish. At the moment, these elements are absent on and off the pitch. Greece will have to settle for a summer of watching others prosper.

SOURCE:eKathimerini

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Artists lament theft of five bronze busts from central Athens park

Five bronze busts of eminent figures of the arts, politics and letters have been wrenched off their marble pedestals and stolen in two operations in the Writers’ Park of the Athens Cultural Center, bringing the total of looted statues in the open-air gallery to eight.

According to sources, the five busts were removed overnight on May 25 and 26 by unknown assailants using equipment that allowed them to saw off the heavy busts from their stands and make off with the recently restored artworks undetected.

In 2013, the busts of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, Nikos Kazantzakis and Antonis Tritsis were stolen from the same location and have never been found. It is believed they have been sold for scrap and melted down, fetching around 100-120 euros per bust.

“I have been very upset and extremely troubled since I heard of what happened,” sculptor Praxitelis Tzanoulinos, who crafted the stolen busts of Kostas Ouranis, Costis Bastias and Dimitris Horn, and worked on the restoration project, told Kathimerini.

“It despairs to me to think of the love, attention and dedication I put into those pieces just so have them end up as scrap at a foundry,” Tzanoulinos said. “For an artist, this is rape.”

Athens School of Fine Arts Professor Theodoros Papagiannis, who sculpted the stolen busts of Yiorgos Theotokas and Angelos Terzakis, also expressed his frustration over the incident.

“We are living in age of barbarism. What happened in the heart of Athens, for the umpteenth time, is proof that we are a broken country where nothing is protected. As a teacher and an artist, I am ashamed.”

Source: eKathimerini

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Idomeni migrant camp, before and after bulldozers

Once home to more than 14,000 refugees and migrants, the makeshift camp at Greece’s border village of Idomeni has now been evacuated and its former occupants transferred to other, supposedly better organized camps. Bulldozers have removed the detritus and the railway line linking Greece to neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic...

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Afghan interpreters see their visa dreams fading

FILIO P. KONTRAFOURI It all started with a chilling text message. It was Wali, one of a group of Afghans who worked as interpreters for the Greek military in 2010-12 during NATO operations in the war-torn country. “I’m in Turkey with my family. One of my children died in...

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Dance Party | Athens | May 28

TAGS:Special Event

The Athens Boogie and HiRollers dance troupes will be taking part in an open-air sunset dance party to the sounds of swing, jive and rock’n’roll at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in the Faliro Delta on Saturday, May 28. Admission is free of charge. Starts at 8 p.m.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, Faliro Delta, Evripidou & Doiranis, Kallithea, tel 210.877.8396-8, www.snf.org

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10 riot police units to evacuate Idomeni camp

idomeni

Operation to take place Monday or Tuesday

Ten riot police squads will be deployed to Idomeni refugee camp, after the Greek police decided to evacuate the 12,000 refugees and migrants to relocate them to organised hotspots throughout Greece. The units are expected to arrive either Monday or Tuesday in the Kilkis region in central Macedonia, and then deploy to the Idomeni camp to start the evacuation operation. Sources say the squads have orders to use force if the refugees resist. The planning will involve the creation of a buffer zone around the camp to prevent NGO activists from interfering with the procedure, while a helicopter will be hovering above during the operation. Police officials say suitable living quarters have been set up to host the 12,000 refugees and migrants.

SOURCE: http://en.protothema.gr/

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Refugee children stranded in Greece ‘cannot even hold a pencil’

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Some teachers in the camps are trying to teach children in make-shift classrooms

More than one in five school-aged refugee children in Greece have never been to school, a study conducted by aid agency Save the Children reveals.

Child refugees stranded in Greece have been out of school for on average 1.5 years, and many of them “cannot even hold a pencil”, Independent reports.

Some teachers in the camps are trying to teach children in make-shift classrooms, but as they say, the children are already lagging far behind the schooling levels they should be attaining.

Sacha Myers, Save the Children’s communications manager, said: “Several refugee teachers have started their own initiatives with the small amount of materials they have.

“One primary school teacher from Syria who is now living in Nea Kavala has cleared a space in her tent and has 25 children attending Arabic and maths classes. She told our staff the children have not learnt anything for three or four years and many don’t even know how to hold a pencil or sit and listen in class.”

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International, said: “Children who have risked everything to reach Europe are now wasting the best years of their lives, in refugee camps, in detention centres, and behind border fences and walls.

“Many know nothing more than conflict, violence, forced displacement, and their current deplorable conditions which offer little hope for their futures.”

The organization Save the Children is currently scaling up its education activities in Greece to provide child refugees with access to basic education through temporary classrooms and provides non-formal lessons – including English and Greek classes.

SOURCE: http://en.protothema.gr

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Greek Parliament approves controversial tax and pension reform bill

Major criticism from opposition parties – All 153 SYRIZA and Independent Greeks MP supported the bill

Monday, May 09, 2016

Parliament approves controversial tax and pension reform bill

The coalition government’s controversial tax and pension system reform bill was approved by Parliament on Sunday evening, with the support of the 153 SYRIZA and Independent Greeks MPs.

Prior to the critical vote, the government and opposition debated over the controversial bill. The Minister of Labor Giorgos Katrougalos defended the bill, claiming that it streamlines the pension system and that under the ‘zero deficit clause’ the cuts on supplementary pensions would be over 20%.  Mr. Katrougalos also accused the opposition parties of not submitting any alternative proposals and asked them to clarify whether they are in favor of pension cuts or raising contributions.

In his speech, the leader of the main opposition Kyriakos Mitsotakis repeated his call for early general elections and accused the coalition government of opportunism and lying. Mr. Mitsotakis’ criticism focused on the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Euclid Tsakalotos, stressing that the pension reform will perpetuate the existing problems, rather than address them. He further claimed Greece is in need of a different policy mix, namely tax cuts, budget cuts and a fair distribution of the burden.

In response, the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stated that the government is working for the best possible agreement with the country’s creditors and underlined that his aim is to see Greece recover and break away from vested interests. The PM repeated that there will be no cuts in main pensions and challenged the main opposition to clarify what he means by ‘budget cuts’, namely wage cuts and dismissals.

Later on PM Tsipras accused Mr. Mitsotakis of calling for elections in order to save his ‘friends and media moguls’ because the current government is tackling corruption. The Prime Minister underlined that the government is being attacked by systemic media over its efforts to bring justice and order to the operation of the media.

The leader of the River Stavros Theodorakis accused the coalition government of being conservative and embracing everything that bankrupted the country. Mr. Theodorakis claimed that the government is repeating the same mistakes and argued that it has no plan for growth or production.

Similarly, the secretary general of the Communist Party Dimitris Koutsoumpas warned that the Greek people will not legitimize the controversial bill and that claimed that the SYRIZA-led government is merely completing the ‘dirty work’ that the previous governments failed to do.

Criticism also came from for former PASOK president Evangelos Venizelos, who stressed that the coalition government will bring a fourth bailout agreement due to its handling of negotiations. The president of the Union of Centrists Vasilis Leventis on the other hand repeated his call for the formation of an ecumenical government with technocrats and noted that the pension reform bill is paving the way for private insurance.

SOURCE: TO VIMA

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Greek deal closer, euro zone finance ministers to meet May 9

JAN STRUPCZEWSKI & FRANCESCO GUARASCIO
 

Greece and its international lenders are close to a deal on a package of bailout reforms and are working to agree further contingency steps by May 9 when an extraordinary meeting of euro zone finance ministers will be held in Brussels, EU officials said on Thursday.

Talks between Greece and its lenders have almost reached a conclusion on reforms agreed within the current bailout program, while more negotiations are needed on further contingency measures that Athens must commit to in exchange for debt relief negotiations.

“We are 99 percent of the way there, we have converged on almost all aspects,” European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici said on Thursday on the original reform package, which includes a pension and income tax reform, a way to deal with bad loans and setting up a privatization fund.

“As for the contingency mechanism, which in our view is not really justified by data but politically necessary, let’s work on that,” he added.

The work is expected to be concluded by May 9 when euro zone finance ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss progress on Greece.

There will be an “additional eurogroup on Greece on Monday 9 May at 3 p.m. in Brussels,” the spokesman of euro zone finance ministers’ chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said late on Thursday in a tweet.

Entire Article HERE

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