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Greek report Greek report
by Euro Reporter
2010-03-03 07:51:12
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Obama Invites Papandreou

The financial crisis and the way Greece is tackling its debt, the US-Greece bilateral relations, the Greco-Turkish relations, Cyprus, the issue of the FYROM name along with energy issues and the situation in the Balkans, will be included in the agenda of the talks between the Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou and President Barack Obama, on March 9th, at the White House. In addition, they will discuss possible ways for Greece to play a role in international issues important to the United States strategic interests. After a private meeting the two leaders will have a working lunch, joined by their aides.

Prime Minister Papandreou is expected to arrive in Washington on Sunday March 7 and depart on the 10th of March. He will also meet with the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and prominent members of Congress, and speak to prominent think tanks and journalists. The Greek government termed such a meeting really important, while political analysts in Washington interpreted Obama’s move as an extension of helpful hand to Greece and George Papandreou amidst tough financial pressure against Greece. “In the very difficult conjuncture that we are in, such an international contact is very important,” commented government spokesman G. Petalotis, further stressing that the exact date of the meeting would be fixed through diplomatic channels.

“In the very difficult conjuncture that we are in, such an international contact is very important,” Petalotis said. The Greek Prime Minister’s visit to the United States coincides with Greek Independence Day ceremony at the White House, on March 9th. On Monday, March 8, a special dinner in honour of Archbishop Demetrios and prominent Greek Americans is expected to take place at the Blair House. It not known if the Greek Prime Minister will attend either event. Announcing the meeting between Obama and Papandreou, the White House spokesman said in written statement released late on Friday that President Obama will welcome the Greek Prime Minister in Washington on 9 March. The statement also said that Greece has always been an ally to the USA in their joint efforts to promote stability and prosperity both in the Balkans and in the entire world. Being the homeland of Democracy, Greece and the USA share deep-rooted cultural and historical bonds, continued the statement.


PM seeks backing for more cuts

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday called on Greeks to “rally together” to stop the country from “going under” shortly before the European Union’s Commissioner for Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn, in Athens on an official visit, called on the government to take additional austerity measures to plug a gaping budget deficit. During a televised Cabinet meeting, Papandreou appealed to all Greeks to back the government’s efforts to exit the crisis. “Otherwise, we risk losing the ability to determine our own fate,” Papandreou said, a clear reference to the risk of Brussels taking over Greek financial decision-making. The premier said the government already had the backing of a large section of the public. “I am touched that citizens are stopping me in the street and telling me they are ready to sacrifice a salary for the good of the country,” he said.

The reference to the salary touched a nerve among unionists, angered by speculation that a new raft of austerity measures might include the abolition of the so-called 14th salary – one of two additional annual salaries paid to civil servants and employees in the private sector. The leader of the civil servants’ union, Spyros Papaspyros, said the 14th salary was a right established in history and that attempts to cut it would “provoke reactions commensurate with its significance.” The new raft of measures, expected to include a 2 percent increase to value-added tax, currently at 19 percent, a further increase in fuel tax and a new tax on luxury goods, is expected to be announced within days and certainly before Papandreou sets off for Berlin on Friday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel, who late on Sunday doused rumours of a financial rescue package for Athens, yesterday said that pushing through austerity measures would help stop market speculation that is posing a threat to the euro zone. Addressing a press conference after talks with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Merkel said it was vital that “Greece really implements its announced program.” “This will be the best way of avoiding further speculation against the euro,” she said, adding that “Greece can do it.”


Mykonos finances scrutinized

Seven people are due to be investigated after state auditors found that some 900,000 Euros is missing from the municipal coffers on the Cycladic island of Mykonos. An initial check of the municipal accounts was carried out at the end of last year after Mayor Athanasios Megas said that he suspected there had been some wrongdoing. “On our part, as soon as we realized that there was a problem, we took the necessary legal proceedings and the matter is in the hands of the justice system,” he said. “We believe that the matter will be cleared and that responsibility will be apportioned.”

The state officials found that between 2002 and 2009 four businesses had been paying their municipal rates (2 percent of their turnover) regularly but that these funds never ended up in the municipality’s bank account. The total amount in question is 888,659 Euros. The inspectors found numerous other accounting irregularities, including the failure to enter some data into the computerized system. They widened their checks to cover the municipality’s entire finances, especially as regards to what rates were paid by the numerous bars, restaurants and beach cafes on the popular holiday island.

Sources said that inspectors have already found that information that would have confirmed which companies had obtained licenses to operate beach bars and to rent out sun loungers has disappeared from the municipality’s offices. The Court of Audit and state prosecutors have been informed of the officials’ findings so far and seven people (four municipal employees and three former deputy mayors) are due to be investigated.

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