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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 27 August 2016
GREECE 22 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 27 AUGUST 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM 2016 to be a banner year for Greek tourism In debt-stricken Greece, tourism offers a ray of hope, as 2016 shows positive signs of becoming a record year, in no small part thanks to lastminute reservations in July. Despite local and regional problems - from the imposition of capital controls, to the ongoing refugee crisis, to political turmoil in Turkey - Greece saw a surge in tourist arrivals, especially in Crete, the Ionian Islands and the Cyclades, where airport traffic increased 12.8 per cent, 13.3 per cent and 8.7 per cent, respectively, compared to July 2015. Passenger traffic at the Athens and Thessaloniki airports was up by 10 and 11.4 per cent respectively. In terms of overland tourist arrivals in July, the numbers showed an increase of 26.8 per cent, 3.7 per cent and 46.2 per cent from Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey respectively. However, the numbers are different when it comes to the islands closer to Turkey, such as Samos and Lesvos in the north-eastern Aegean, and the Dodecanese islands, which are more affected by the refugee crisis. Kos, in the Dodecanese, reported 13 per cent lower airport traffic, Samos 16.3 per cent, but the most gravely stricken was Lesvos, losing 62 per cent of arrivals. The island is one of those targeted by people smugglers, sending boats filled with refugees from the opposite Turkish coast. Greece’s most hard hit sector: construction As Greece struggles through its sixth consecutive year of recession, there’s still no sign of life in the real estate and construction sectors. According to numbers presented by the Greek Statistical Service ELSTAT, only 2,751 new homes were built across Greece in the first four months of the year, down five per cent from an already low figure over the same period last year. Last year’s numbers were attributed to political instability caused by the long election period, as well as the effect of the time consuming negotiations between Greece and its creditors, which further created financial uncertainty. Proof of the dire situation the sector is in can be found in the general index for construction materials, which dropped 1.8 per cent in July from the same month last year, which had recorded a drop of 1.7 per cent from July 2014. In terms of volume, private construction to May was down 21.2 per cent, from a rise of 15.7 per cent during the same period last year. New building permits dropped 16.3 per cent in the five-month period, after rising 2.4 per cent a year earlier. Greece’s debt stands at $486.182b Greek authorities complete migrant pre-registration Pre-registration procedures for the migrants that are already in Greece has been completed, an operation proclaimed by Yannis Mouzalas as "chaos put into shape". The registered migrants will be provided with a card allowing them access to education and health services as well as some form of occupation. The deputy migration minister gave a press conference to address the issue, expressing the hopeful view that the migrant situation is "manageable now that there is a clear view". Proof of that is the fact that a significant number of migrants - more than 11,000 people - is being placed into flats and hotels rented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This will lead to 15 refugee camps shutting down within the following two months and more undergoing changes, in order to provide better services. "Some structures are bad and we will work towards more decent conditions," said the deputy minister. Speaking at the same press conference, the head of the UNCHR in Greece, Phillip Leclerc, noted that the procedure was extremely fast and added that according to his experience in other parts of the world, this was a "world record". Greece's exemplary response to the greatest humanitarian crisis of our times was praised by Angela Merkel, who said that the arrival of 45,000 migrants to Greece (from the time FYROM closed its borders to the implementation of the EU-Tur- key deal), given the country's size and population, is equal to 360,000 migrants arriving in Germany. Speaking to Passauer Neue Presse newspaper, she then pointed out that only 3,000 migrants have successfully relocated from Greece to Europe, expressing her disappointment in the way most EU countries have responded, especially compared to Greece. This echoed the sentiment expressed by Mr Mouzalas, who spoke of the obstacles presented due to the denial of several European countries to accept migrants. The Greek deputy minister for migration stated the urgent need for a European Relocation Mechanism to be established, as well as for further initiatives to be taken by the European foreign ministers. Greece’s foreign debt has risen from €321.015 billion ($474.909 billion) in March to €328.34 billion ($486.182b) at the end of June, following the conclusion of the first review of the third bailout program and disbursement of the most recent loan tranche from institutional creditors. A second review is expected to take place in September. Of the total standing debt, some €225.96b ($334.297b), or 68.9 per cent, is owed to institutional creditors, the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Meanwhile, Greek State Guarantees reached €13.859b ($20.5b) in the first half of the year, while 2016 also witnessed the first default of a state-guaranteed loan – taken by the state-run railways (OSE) – and the sum of €608.21 million ($899.538m) added to the country’s overall debt. Source: Naftemporiki Boutaris and Kotzias visit FYROM Two of the most prominent Greek officials paid a visit to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) last week, in two separate events that, combined, show a pattern. On Tuesday the mayor of Thessaloniki flew to Skopje, accepting the invitation of President Gjorge Ivanov. The two men have knitted a close relationship in recent years. On the following day, the Greek minister of foreign affairs followed suit in what is seen as a bid to thaw relations between the two countries. Invited by his counterpart Nikola Poposki, Kotzias was among keynote speakers at an annual gathering of FYROM ambassadors. His appearance affirmed hopes the time has come for a mutually-agreed resolution to the decades-old name dispute. The two countries have been working closely in addressing the refugee crisis, which has created a common ground for further building a stronger relationship. Two weeks ago, the Greek government sent assistance to FYROM, in order for the flood-stricken country to deal with the damages. The Secretariat General for Citizen protection, with the assistance of the Hellenic Fire Service, arranged for the sending of five portable pumps and five generators to assist those hit by the floods. Apart from that, the Ministry of Citizen Protection along with the FYROM Ministry of Interior came to an agreement for granting additional assistance to FYROM authorities to meet the needs of those hit by the floods.
20 August 2016
3 September 2016