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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 12 January 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 12 JANUARY 2019 15 GREECE ‘Nostos - Return to the roots’ forum comes to Melbourne Greek, Cypriot and Egyptian diasporans to unite in March at the Greek Centre Greek prime minister and leader of the radical left party SYRIZA Alexis Tsipars (L) talks with leader of Independent Greeks ‘ANEL’ Panos Kammenos (R). PHOTO: AAP VIA EPA/PANTELIS SAITAS Tsipras regards the Prespes Accord as his historic legacy - Merkel expresses support In an exclusive interview with reporter Elli Stai on Open TV, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that he takes pride in the signing of the Prespes Agreement, an issue that had been a burden for Greece's role in the wider Balkan region by remaining unresolved for the past 27 years. “The [Prespes] Agreement leaves no room for future nationalist leaders in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)," Mr Tsipras stated, adding that "Greece gains nothing by keeping an open front with the neighbouring country, and by wasting diplomatic capital". The Greek PM highlighted his administration's success in comparison to the inaction of previous governments not just in terms of the 'Macedonia' name dispute but also the successful completion of the loan adjustment programme. "The exit from the crisis is the greatest achievement of this government's tenure," Tsipras said; "Upgrading Greece's role is the second most important one." On the same note, Germany also hails the Prespes Agreement as a great historic opportunity to not only settle the long-standing name issue between Greece and FYROM, but as a way to generate more opportunities in the region. "Our contacts and discussions with the Greek government are intensive and frequent," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told journalists during a press briefing, adding that "we have the chance to meet on various occasions “The exit from the crisis is the greatest achievement of this government’s tenure. Upgrading Greece’s role is the second most important one,” the PM said. but it is good that the Chancellor will again visit Athens." Mr Seibert reaffirmed Germany's support on the Prespes Agreement, stressing the importance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Athens, her first in four years. In a joint press conference with Tsipras and Merkel expressed her support for the Prespes name deal as well as Greece's ongoing economic reform efforts, saying that "the country is entering a new phase" while "the name deal creates clarity and will be beneficial not just for Greece and FYROM but for the whole of the European Union". The Chancellor also held meetings with Greece's main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos with the presence of several officials from different sectors. Ms Merkel noted that she did not believe she could influence Mr Mitsotakis, explaining that Germany backing the Prespes Accord should not have any implications with Greece's internal politics. While most of the world regards the agreement between Greece and FYROM as a positive development in the area, the SYRIZAANEL coalition government has received much backlash, from Greece's main opposition party New Democracy (ND). Amidst speculation of an imminent government breakup, on the grounds of coalition partner Independent Greeks, disagreeing with the Prespes Accord and ND pushing Mr Tsipras to seek a confidence vote, the PM told the media that he does not believe ANEL leader Panos Kammenos will "pour more water on the mill and facilitate the plans of our political opponents". "Even if you haven't got 151 lawmakers, you have no problem by the Constitution in carrying on," Tsipras said, adding, however, that we would have a "political problem." "In such an eventuality, I will proceed in due time with snap elections, whose timing will depend on the crucial initiatives we have said we will implement. But I'm saying that there is no such thing as an impasse in democracy. I believe I will secure a confidence vote," Mr Tsipras added. When asked about an imminent ratification of the deal by the Greek government after FYROM amends its constitution, the Greek PM said that "the country will become an international laughing stock", if Greece refuses to follow up on its promise. Greece, Cyprus and Egypt signed a cooperation protocol back in 2017 that aims to bring Cypriots and Greeks who used to live in Alexandria back to the city under the auspices of the 'Nostos- Return to the roots' project. The project is an initiative of Egyptian Minister of Immigration and Expatriates Affairs Nabila Makram, who visited Cyprus, along with Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Terence Quick for consultations with Cyprus' Presidential Commissioner for humanitarian affairs Photis Photiou, as part of the tripartite cooperation of the three countries on diaspora issues. The programme is running its third phase at the moment, 'Nostos 3' and as part of its aim to establish a common strategy and joint actions in different Greek diaspora centres, the next 'Nostos' forum will take place in Melbourne on 25-26 March 2019. Melbourne, and specifically the Greek Community Centre, will host the successful programme, connecting Greek Cypriots and Greeks as well as their descendants in Alexandria and Melbourne. "We are delighted that the governments of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt have chosen our city and our Communi- (L-R) Terence Quick and Bill Papastergiadis. PHOTO: SUPPLIED ty to hold this very significant forum," President of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria Bill Papastergiadis told Neos Kosmos. "This is a great honour for us, as well as our participation in the project that will also aim at attracting foreign investors to these three Mediterranean countries; highlighting how Australia has benefited from the presence of Greeks, Cypriots and Egyptiots for many decades; and focus on specific issues that these three communities in Australia face in terms of connecting with their motherlands." Moreover, Mr Quick thanked the Australian diaspora communities in advance for the interest they have shown in the 'Nostos' programme stressing that this is only the beginning. The deputy minister also thanked Mr Papastergiadis for his hospitality and shared his excitement that the forum will take place in "the Home of the Greeks" in Melbourne, "where Hellenism will once again have a chance to demonstrate what it can offer to the countries where it resides, like in Egypt and Australia". The three officials also announced that they will attend the march for Greek Independence Day on 24 March in Adelaide and then celebrate in a joint Melbourne feast for Greece and Cyprus on the actual day (25 March). Minimum wage in Greece to increase in 2019 New Economy Development Fund (TANEO) is set while debt settlement platform expected to commence by March According to government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos, the SYRIZA administration plans to increase the Greek minimum wage as part of a series of measures discussed during the party's first 2019 secretariat meeting. The increase will aim to boost the income of Greek citizens, Tzanakopoulos told Greek news agency ANA. "This government has managed to take the country out of the memoranda and stabilise the economy while providing social support," he said, adding that the current parliamentary configuration guarantees that "the SYRIZAled coalition will complete the four-year term". "The government has been facing significant political and institutional challenges post-bailout but is planning to implement further positive measures aimed at relieving and supporting Greek society." Tzanakopoulos also commented on the “tremendous financial damage to the Greek state" caused by the Novartis scandal, stressing that "political responsibility lies with the ministers in charge during that period". "The question is now to in- vestigate whether the actions leading to the damaging result were also illegal," he said condemning the practices of the "old political system" for "mobilising every possible means and inventing the most outrageous arguments" in order to protect the system from total collapse. On another positive note, Greek Economy and Development Minister Yiannis Dragasakis signed the ministerial decision to fund the New Economy Development Fund (TANEO) with 700 million euros from the Public Investment Programme. TANEO will use these funds to participate in newly set-up business funds investing in Greek research and development. Meanwhile, in March the launch of a new mechanism is expected for the out-ofcourt settlement of debts by individuals, towards which the government has set aside 50 million euros. This applies to taxpayers that already enjoy the provisions of the Katseli protection law named after former economy minister Louka Katseli, as well as to those who are struggling to pay off their debts but have not applied for protection. The initiative will offer a rapid settlement of debts, including a possible state subsidy of instalments. It also aims to clear the years worth backlog of applications for the Katseli protection law, thanks to a special platform that is currently under preparation.
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