News

Ionian islands brace for double-digit tourism growth

STATHIS KOUSOUNIS

The Ionian islands are this year expected to enjoy a double-digit percentage rise in tourism arrivals compared to last year, as the region has not been affected by the migration problem that has affected the image of other destinations.

An event held on Corfu last week heard the head of the regional authority, Spyros Galiatsatos, further stress the significance tourism has for the Ionian islands, as it contributes 50 percent of the local economy’s gross domestic product, against a nationwide average of 8 percent.

Also its contribution to employment comes to 17 percent, against 8.4 percent in the whole of Greece.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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Black Sea Bank set to finance more Greek firms by end-2018

EVGENIA TZORTZI

The Black Sea Trade and Development Bank will offer Greek enterprises loans totaling 180 million euros up to the end of 2018, raising its target share in disbursements for Greece – one of its main stakeholders – to 16.5 percent.

Total financing to Greek enterprises from the BSTDB to date amounts to 207 million euros, and, according to its president, Ihsan Ugur Delikanli, the increase in loan issues is intended to create a balance between the percentage of loans to Greece and the country’s contribution to the bank’s share capital.

In a joint press conference held on Wednesday with Greek Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis, Delikanli also announced that the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank is in talks regarding the issuance of a loan to a Greek lender, and that the BSTDB’s the participation in the funding of the Transadriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will go through three of the bank’s founding states (Greece, Turkey and Albania), is a priority interest.

“Greece is one of the countries we wish to place more attention on for the additional reason that the seat of our bank is in Thessaloniki,” Delikanli stated, ahead of the regional lender’s 18th annual meeting of the Board of Governors that will take place at Hania on Crete, on June 12.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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US Coast Guard interest in Aegean

Charles D. Michel, the vice commandant of the US Coast Guard, held talks in Athens Tuesday with the chief of the Greek armed forces, Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis, which focused on Washington’s intention to contribute to patrols in the Aegean aimed at curbing illegal immigration.

Michel’s visit came a week after US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed Washington’s interest in contributing naval forces to NATO’s mission in the Aegean. Michel and Apostolakis discussed security issues in the eastern Aegean and illegal immigration.

The US vessel is to join four NATO ships currently patrolling the Aegean, the British Cardigan Bay, the Turkish Bodrum, the German Bonn and the Dutch Van Amstel.

In a related development, the chief of the Hellenic Air Force, Lieutenant General Christos Vaitsis, is to visit Ankara on June 14, the first ever visit to the Turkish capital by an HAF commander.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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Lonely Planet names Peloponnese top European destination in 2016

Travel guide publisher Lonely Planet has released its annual list of top European destinations to visit in 2016, naming the southern Greek region of the Peloponnese as its Number 1 choice.

“Now more than ever the Peloponnese is the perfect destination for absorbing traditional Greek life, compelling history and inspiring landscapes,” Lonely Planet says on its website.

“Travelers to Greece tend to flock to the myriad islands or marvel at the iconic Acropolis, but one of the country’s most diverse, vibrant regions is often forgotten: the Peloponnese. It remains an affordable enclave of magnificent ancient sights like Olympia, Mycenae and Mystras, which are scattered across a rich landscape of stone villages, teal seas and snow-capped mountains,” it says.

The Top Ten experiences it names are visits to the seaside town of Nafplio, the shipwreck dive in Navarino Bay at Pylos, catching a show at the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, bird-watching at Gialova Lagoon, a ride on the vintage rack-and-pinion railway between Kalavryta and Diakofto, partying at the Patra Carnival, exploring the Medieval walled town of Monemvasia, tasting the region’s famed olives, crossing the Corinth Canal to the Nemea wine region and touring the Peloponnese’s archaeological sites.

The second destination Lonely Planet recommends is  Aarhus in Denmark, named European Capital of Culture and European Region of Gastronomy in 2017, followed by Venice, the Dordogne in France, Lviv in Ukraine, Warwickshire in England, Extremadura in Spain, the east coast of Tenerife, Textel in The Netherlands and Croatia’s northern Dalmatian coast.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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The New Greek Americans Documentary

 

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Part 3 of our documentary series, THE NEW GREEK AMERICANS, crowdfunding campaign will blast off on MAY 24, 2016 @1:00 pm PST. The site will be available to you exactly at 1:00 pm PST on Tuesday. Please help complete the 3rd and final doc feature of the Greek American trilogy, highlighting the 2nd and 3rd generations. Please share this with your friends and family!!

 

Please help us complete THE NEW GREEK AMERICANS. We need your help and support! Greeks Supporting Greeks! Έλληνες Υποστηρίζουν Έλληνες!!! CLICK ON LINK BELOW AND MAKE YOUR PLEDGE! www.seedandspark.com/studio/the-new-greek-americans

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10 riot police units to evacuate Idomeni camp

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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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Yield curve shows investors still see short-term risk in Greece

ILIAS BELLOS

The significant decline in Greek bond yields reflects the market’s confidence regarding the smooth completion of the bailout review and the prospect of the national debt restructuring. However, the bond yield curve remains negative for now as short-term bonds have higher yields and lower prices than their long-term counterparts. This means that the market continues to sees an increased risk in Greece in the short term.

Still, prices have covered much of the ground lost in the last year, with the spread of benchmark 10-year bonds – i.e. the yield difference compared to German bunds – dropping to 700 basis points, from over 1,000 bps at the start of the year. The returns on 10-year paper have reverted to 7.40 percent, from 19.2 percent in July 2015, and from 11.5 percent in mid-February, just three months ago.

Last week all yields of bonds expiring from 2023 to 2042 ranged between 7 and 7.4 percent, while the yield on paper maturing next year remained at 7.7 percent, and that expiring in 2019 at 7.4 percent.

The next crucial dates are Tuesday with the Eurogroup in Brussels, and then June 2, when the European Central Bank board meeting decides whether to include Greece in its quantitative easing (QE) program. It is obvious that the main investment tool for foreigners is bonds: When the ECB restores the eligibility of Greek bonds, in the context of its QE program, that will send bond prices higher.

The same occurred a few weeks ago with the bonds of Greek banks that were included in the ECB’s to-buy list, sending their prices soaring. If this trend continues, it won’t just benefit banks significantly, but Greek enterprises in general. This serves to explain the significant rise in prices and trading volume on the Athens stock market recently.

However, for more quality buyers to invest in the Greek bond market than the funds currently active in it, Greece will also require credit rating upgrades. At the moment Standard & Poor’s has Greece on B-, Moody’s on Caa3 and Fitch on CCC. Moody’s will review its rating on June 24, a day after the British referendum on EU membership, followed by S&P on July 22 and Fitch on September 2.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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From its parks and telephone wires, Athens is home to a wealth of wildlife

STRATOS KARAKASIDIS

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Can wildlife coexist with 4 million people in a city full of apartment blocks, busy thoroughfares and noise? It certainly can and the Greek capital has a wealth of fauna, according to the deputy mayor of Athens in charge of issues related to greenery and animal protection, who recently published a catalog of the wild animals living in the city, compiled in 2015.

“Our wild friends are usually hiding in the woods and hills that are maintained by the Parks Directorate and avoid coming into contact with humans,” Giorgos Apostolopoulos tells Kathimerini. “[Before the catalog was compiled] citizens would report sightings of wild animals, some of which were confirmed by municipal workers, but there had been no systematic effort to create a record of the city’s biodiversity.”

According to Apostolopoulos, a fox was spotted recently near the courtyard of the Elpis Hospital in the neighborhood of Ambelokipi, north of central Athens. “It had come from the Attiko Woods on the Tourkovounia hills, where we have confirmed the presence of a small population of foxes. There also used to be foxes on Lycabettus Hill and in the Elaionas district and every so often we see some at the Municipal Plant Nursery in Goudi that have strayed from Mount Ymittos.”

Hedgehogs are a more common sight and they live on Tourkovounia and Philopappou hills, as well as in some empty fields in Elaionas.

Sightings of squirrels have been on the rise in recent years at the National Garden, particularly on the weekends. “Someone obviously released them from captivity there at some point but the fact that they have survived shows that the garden is being kept in very good shape as a natural habitat,” says Apostolopoulos. Bats can be seen flying over the capital every night, while there are rumors that there are also a few badgers in our midst.

The city’s biggest parks are also home to a number of reptiles, especially tortoises, as well as salamanders, lizards and a few snakes.

Frogs and turtles can still be found in the Podoniftis Stream in Perissos, while they also used to be found in the Ilissos River.

“Up until a few years ago, the Podoniftis had fish such as the native and extremely rare Pelasgus marathonicus, or Marathon minnow,” says the deputy mayor, adding that Iridanos River in Kerameikos hosts green toads and mosquitofish, and the ponds in the National Garden have goldfish, carp, toads and freshwater turtles. Insects are also quite abundant in Athens, in population if not in variety, while wild bees have been forming hives in the neighborhood of Exarchia.

According to wildlife watchers, Lycabettus Hill hosts 65 species of birds, including hawks and kestrels, owls, hoopoes, finches and thrushes, while sightings of at least 100 different bird species have been reported on Tourkovounia. Every other wood or big park in the city also has its own bird populations, while flocks of small green parrots have recently made an appearance in Goudi, Pedion tou Areos, Evangelismos and other parts. Blackbirds can also be heard singing in Kolonaki, Neapoli, Exarchia and Fokionos Negri squares, while you’re sure to see a few magpies on electricity and telephone wires and goldfinches in the city’s treetops.

“With all this data in our hands, we can’t but try to preserve the wildlife of Athens and protect it to the best of our ability,” says Apostolopoulos.

SOURCE: eKathimerini

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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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