Greek factories still awaiting promised revival

Among the promises that propelled leftist SYRIZA to power two years ago was a commitment to revive domestic industry. Even after the government signed Greece’s third bailout agreement in the summer of 2015, the promises kept coming thick and fast. The deputy industry minister at the time, Theodora Tzakri, even drafted a plan for the industrial revival that foresaw the return to operation of 166 shuttered factories.

Two years on, the record of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition in industry is negligible at best. According to 2016 data from the Labor Ministry’s Ergani database for employment, four of the five activities with the most negative net employment balance in the past year have been in the industrial sector: the food industry, mining and quarrying, specialized construction activities, and non-mineral product manufacturing.

Among the cases that the government cited – and invested heavily from a communications standpoint – was Shelman wood product manufacturer, United Textiles and Hellenic Fertilizers (ELFE). In all these cases, the harsh reality remains far removed from the government’s promises.

United Textiles has been bankrupt since 2012. The company’s resurrection faced a number of legal and financial obstacles, yet this did not prevent Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government from announcing in July 2015 that four units, in Komotini and Noussa in northern Greece, would be back in operation that autumn. This deadline, of course, was missed but the government did not give up and on December 30, 2015, it issued a legislative act suspending the liquidation of the company’s assets for another six months.

Any hopes that remain of the United Textiles factories ever operating again rest on abandoning the plan to bring the company back to life and finding a new investor to buy its assets. According to Yiannis Mousoulidis, the company’s last CEO before it went bankrupt, the Luxembourg-based Aiglon investment fund has already surveyed 65 percent of the company’s facilities. “As soon as that process is completed and it has assessed the company’s assets, it will submit an investment proposal within two weeks.”

Mousoulidis said “a written commitment to the council of creditors” already exists to this effect, while adding that the fund (which also consists of Greeks) will fully implement the operational plan he and other former employees have drafted.

This remains to be seen, however, as there is also the issue of a European Commission ruling according to which the Greek state must recoup 30 million euros in illegal state subsidies given to the company.

The case of Shelman, which went under in April 2014, is proving equally thorny. Its plant in Komotini has been managed for the past year by a group of former workers (there were more than 90 before it shut down). “We guard the facility and take care of the necessary maintenance,” says Nikos Alexandridis, the head of the workers’ group. In October 2015, the bankruptcy court ruled that the factory could be auctioned off after a Greek investor expressed interest.

The evaluation of the Komotini facility took six months and was completed in March 2016, settling on a value of 11-12 million euros. The preparation of the public auction took an additional eight months.

“It took judges four months to approve the decision by the council of creditors to put the factory up for auction,” says Giorgos Kymparidis, head of the Rodopi Bar Association and the workers’ legal representative. “When it was eventually issued it was the middle of summer and we had to wait until September to get things moving again.”

According to Kymparidis, beyond the first potential investor, others have shown an interest in the facility. This has failed to materialize, however, in consecutive weekly auctions held since early December.

Explosive chemistry

ELFE, meanwhile, is steeped in controversy and tension. Nikos Vogiatzidis, who represents 180 sacked workers, tells Kathimerini that businessman Lavrentis Lavrentiadis, who took control of the company in 2009, transferred all its operations to two new companies in 2015, leaving to ELFE only its massive debts. Then, last March, says Vogiatzidis, “we [the workers] were asked to sign a buyout agreement – the compensation was one month’s salary plus 1,000 euros to be paid in installments – with the possibility of being rehired at the new companies on individual 14-month contracts.”

Vogiatzidis said that those who refused to sign were sued by the company for a number of reasons, including sabotage of company property. After the suits were filed, “we were fired without compensation and without the ability to claim unemployment benefits,” he claims.

Those who signed the buyout agreement are on fixed-term contracts (there are more than 400 now) and in open confrontation with the sacked workers. Meanwhile, on December 30, production was transferred to yet another new company, called Nea Karvali Fertilizers.

Following months of unrealistic promises from the government, the Labor Ministry is expected next week to send the agency responsible for the Nea Karvali Fertilizers plant’s operating license (the Regional Authority of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace) a scathing report on safety violations found at the unit. This report looms as yet another bump in the course of the company’s turbulent history.

source:, Yannis Palaiologos

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As markets rally, should you still hold gold?

Trump’s election victory has tempered demand for the yellow metal

A desire to hold “real assets” in turbulent times has massively boosted the popularity of gold-backed exchange traded funds (ETFs). But following the biggest political upset of the year — Donald Trump’s US presidential victory — gold prices have gone into reverse.

After a brief rally following last week’s election result, gold ended the week down 5.2 per cent at $1,234.50 a troy ounce as the dollar rallied, and investors ditched traditional haven assets. In contrast, gold rose by $100 a troy ounce in the two weeks following the Brexit vote in June.

That was a disappointment for investors in the yellow metal, who have ploughed a record $64.5bn into gold-backed ETFs this year, according to the World Gold Council. In the third quarter, 78 per cent of the inflows were into European-based products according to their data.

The direction of future gold prices greatly depends on whether that investor flow stabilises — and, if not, whether demand from India and China, the two largest consumers, could help support the price.

Gold is still up 16 per cent this year in dollar terms, and 36 per cent measured in pounds. That compares with a return of about 12 per cent for the FTSE 100 index (with dividends reinvested) and about 4.68 per cent for the FTSE All-World Index.

Global markets avoided the feared “Trump slump”, with equities rallying on hopes the president-elect would boost spending and growth in the US economy. But gold could still benefit from his plans to boost infrastructure, according to analysts.

“Mr Trump’s policies could result in bigger public deficits, this could mean higher inflation and be supportive of gold,” says Jim Steel, an analyst at HSBC in New York.

Political uncertainty is also not going away. Investors in Europe are now turning their attention to elections next year in Germany and France, according to Alistair Hewitt, head of market intelligence at the World Gold Council.

“In Europe, we’ve got a very active political calendar next year and investors are thinking about the implications of that,” he said.

Still, the outlook for gold is likely to be heavily determined by the central banks — especially the Federal Reserve.
ECB policymakers are widely expected to extend their quantitative easing scheme by six months in December. The possibility of a US rate rise in the same month — which markets had been discounting before the election — now looks a distinct possibility. If the Fed goes ahead with a second increase, this could hit gold prices (rates rising will mean a stronger dollar and that is usually associated with falling commodity prices).

Another concern is that actual physical demand for gold in the form of jewellery and gold bars remains weak in the two largest consuming nations of India and China. Consumer gold demand fell by 22 per cent in China in the third quarter and 28 per cent in India, according to the World Gold Council.

Still, the two countries are likely to buy if the price of gold continues to dip, according to Mr Hewitt. A fifth of consumers in China and a third India are waiting for a further price dip according to their surveys, he says.

“If the price does dip there are plenty of consumers in the two large markets who will dive in,” he says.

Gold demand in China could also pick up ahead of the week long New Year holiday next January, when most Chinese return home with gifts. A property downturn in the country could also shift money to gold, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs.

James Butterfill, head of research at ETF Securities in London, remains convinced that ETF demand is relatively stable. The company has seen $4.3bn of inflows into gold products this year, with only about $110,000 going into products betting that the gold price will fall, he says.

That is different to gold’s last rally between 2007 and 2012, when there were strong investment flows into products that benefit if the gold price declines, he says.

“Investors are buying and holding on to gold,” he says. “The contrarian in you could see this as a great contrarian trade but it is driven by a lack of faith in monetary policy and political uncertainty.”

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Eurostat: Greece Is Still the Unemployment ‘Champ’ of the European Union

Eurostat, the EU statistics authority, reports that the euro area (EA19) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 10.1 percent in August 2016, stable compared to July 2016 and down from 10.7 percent in August 2015. This remains the lowest rate recorded in the euro area since July 2011. The EU28 unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in August 2016, stable compared to July 2016 and down from 9.3 percent in August 2015. This remains the lowest rate recorded in the EU28 since March 2009.

Greece remains the “champ” of joblessness with the highest unemployment rates in the EU. In June 2016, the Greek unemployment rate was at 23.4 percent, ahead of Spain (19.5 percent). In Cyprus, the unemployment rate fell from 14.7 percent to 12.1 percent. The member states with the lowest unemployment rates in August 2016 were recorded in the Czech Republic (3.9 percent) and Germany (4.2 percent).

source:, By Mary Harris

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Mineral Wealth, a Pillar of Democratic Development

The triptych, (i) Scientific/Technical Documentation, (ii) Political/Corporate Governance and (iii) Social Participation/Consent is the one that defines and determines the democratic context of productive exploitation of the mineral wealth, as well as of most of the other development activities. It consists the foundation of rational and pragmatic approach for each development activity, particularly in the case that it is related with investment initiatives and actions of the mining industry and, of course, of the productive economy in general. This proposal and application of social, economic, technocratic as well as moral principles composes, founds and establishes the Democratic Development, always on the basis of a purely objective approach and conception.

The “scientific and technical documentation” always occurs in a specifically proven and fully enshrined way. It is based on numbers and sizes that refer to qualitative and quantitative parameters, which, in their turn, evaluate and calculate in a mathematically correct way the deposit and mining value.

The “political governance” along with the corporate responsibility that is demanded and required today set the terms and the context and guarantee the public interest and the regional/local benefits. The programmatic agreement along with the operational plan, refer to the signed agreement that is characterized by transparency and is, at the same time, binding and viable, regardless of any political and/or governmental changes or turbulence. This means absolute, fair and mutual respect of all the involved parties.  The same also regards the issue of acceptance of the existing mining policy. The existence of a consistent strategy regarding the exploitation of mineral wealth consists an essential requirement for investment actions that can last over time.

The “social participation and consent” is essential for a strong and complete Democratic Development. Humans have by themselves an interactive presence individually as well as collectively and are interested in the advantages and the possible effects: new jobs and progress, but also quality of life and environment. They do neither express themselves with aphorisms, nor do they refuse, but cooperate, control and contribute. They think nationally and collectively and not only locally and personally. They put forward the vision and the future and put aside political expediencies and short-lived systemic issues.

Of course, the practice which is followed in our country is rather in the opposite direction. The scientific evidence and proof are not taken into account, or are interpreted as it suits, and are very usually “demolished” in an easy and irrelevant way. The political governance chooses to take a populist stance and to change strategies and the contents of investment agreements partially, without the perspective of the next step and for obscure reasons. The local societies, instead of choosing the honest dialogue having as unique and essential basis the guarantee of the viable development that serves and offers progressive value to the citizens of the area, act unconventionally and selectively which leads to fragmentation and polarization. A typical example of this is the Northeastern Chalkidiki, where the famous Mademochoria are clearly and dynamically in favor of the productive exploitation of the mineral wealth of the area, while the official Municipal authorities are persistently and fanatically against the ongoing mining investment. This is a curious and at the same time dramatic confrontation between the “de facto” residents and employed persons in the mines and the Municipal authority and the people that support it. Thus the Municipality has the intention to close the mine of Mavres Petres and to conduct a technogeological study in order to decide whether the “explosive” underground operations are responsible for the cracks and other structural failures that can be observed in houses at Stratoniki. There is no problem regarding the study, it must take place and draw its conclusions, having as main recipients of its results the residents of the area that are directly interested. However, the fact that the closure of the mine is demanded has no rational explanation and rather is unique in its kind at an international level, as it does neither take into account nor calculate the subsequent structural and environmental consequences and effects. And this happens at a time where one does not enter an uncharted area and things are not of course at level zero, since a similar study has been conducted and completed in the past. More particularly the IGME (Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration) has conducted in the period 2008-2009, the research project “GEOPHYSICAL, TECHNOGEOLOGICAL AND HYDROGEOLOGICAL STUDY OF THE MINING AREA OF MAVRES PETRES– MADEM LAKKOS” that included technogeological mapping and geophysical prospects. In the report that has been prepared and submitted, the “conduction of geotechnical drilling with the simultaneous conduction of seismodynamic tests” was proposed. Furthermore, the “examination of the buildings by engineering specialists of ITSAK (Institute of Engineering Seismology and Earthquake Engineering) and evaluation of the recordings of the local network of seismographs and accelerographs” was proposed, so that “the causes of the failures are assessed and the structural efficiency of the buildings is evaluated”. In its 3d report, that took place immediately after this, the Committee of Observation of Environmental Conditions has adopted, at the time, the proposals of IGME and proposed “that a further geotechnical examination of Stratoniki, regarding civil engineering issues, will approach the seismological aspect and will study through measurable sizes the potential effects to the environment of the buildings, proposing measures for the safety of the structures” and that “the geotechnical study which gives emphasis to the structured environment of Stratoniki should be completed”. In parallel, it remarked that “the sudden cease of operation of the mines will bring about uncontrolled environmental effects to the area”. This is loud and clear from any point of view. The actual discussion about the matter, that takes place almost 7 years after this study, is legitimate, but consists the sequence of existing data which must be used in order for the next interventions to be designed. And as it is, of course, understood, the arguments in favor of the closure of the mine have no scientific basis at all, are not rational and obviously serve other purposes.

On the other hand, a relevant and fully realistic comparison is that, by the same reasoning, one should stop the construction, operation and, why not, shut down the 160 subway systems that exist today in 148 large cities in 55 countries in the world at an average depth of 10-12 meters.  Thus the social and economic network would have been blocked and would have collapsed along with other development structures and actions.

In full contrast to this, Sweden could be regarded as a typical example of fair practice regarding the promotion and implementation of a Democratic Development. A country where the scientific evidence is not put in doubt but is rather promoted and exploited. The investment agreements take place regardless of the government that signed them or the politics that were followed at the time. An example of a high level corporate responsibility that has nothing to do with any political reality. A society and citizens that participate, discuss, set their own terms, but do neither refuse nor undermine the democratically taken decisions. A country where the national mining policy and strategy that has been voted by the former government is not abolished by the next one. That is the continuation and consistency of the function of the state toward its citizens, the present and future of the country. Today, 14 mines are operating in Sweden, which have produced in 2015 72 million tons of ore,  as well as 40 quarries of industrial minerals and 50 quarries of aggregates and building stones. There are 90 new ongoing investment plans and projects of productive exploitation of the mineral wealth, the licenses of which cover and regard an overall area of 10,630 square kilometers. 854 deposits and 17,000 metalliferous areas have been recorded. The country produces 92% of iron, 29% of zinc, 36% of lead and 24% of gold of Europe.

It is possible that, in Greece also, if we decide to seriously support the Democratic Development, we will finally manage to implement some investment opportunities regarding the exploitation of the mineral wealth of Northern Greece, such as the ones that have occurred and were brought forward in the past, and are presented as examples on the attached map.

[SOURCE:, by Nikolaos Arvanitidis, Doctor of Geology, 9/2/2016]


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A.Kefalas: €1 bn. of exports and 84,000 jobs in the extractive industry

The sector of extractive-metallurgical industry is a pillar of the regional economy and one of the greatest employers in the country, with international presence and 84,000 employees, as it contributes 3.4% of the country’s GDP with an annual turnover of 6.2 billion euros. 80% of the production is exported, while the value of these exports is over 1 billion euros per year. The great contribution of the mining companies to the Greek Periphery, has been described yesterday in a meeting with journalists by the President of the Association of Mining Companies Mr. Athanassios Kefalas. As he mentioned, the activities of the extractive sector have a significant positive impact on the economy of Attica too, by contributing approximately 2.1 billion euros. The reason for this is that the headquarters and offices of most of the companies of the sector are located in Attica.

The President of the Association of Mining Companies made a particular reference in his speech to the inhibiting factors that hinder the growth of the extractive sector and constitute a barrier. Among others were mentioned “the cumbersome licensing process, both for existing activities and for new investments, bureaucracy, the outdated quarrying law, the social reactions due to the great fear of environmental degradation in combination with the non existence of effective controls, the lack of stable tax and labor legislative framework, and above all the insecurity regarding justice”.

Mr. Kefalas, being invited to comment on the negative attitude of the Greek state in the case of Hellas Gold, argued that there is a bad past, with the licenses creating rivalry and social upheaval. “It is no accident that, when the licensing of a facility begins, the first thing they ask us is what is the opinion of the mayor and of the local community ” he mentioned, and pointed out that gold is not rings and bracelets, but it consists an industrial product that is used by manufactures of mobile (cell) phones, medical instruments (tomography scanners) etc. Mr. Kefalas tried to disprove the view that industries are destroying natural wealth and are harmful to the environment, by pointing out that on the island of Milos, where the facilities of the former S&B are located, where he was a senior employee and where he remains after the strategic merging with the French company Imerys, 63,000 square meters of land will be turned into vineyards, on the initiative of the company. Regarding the effect of the crisis in the sector, he declared that there is no impact on the turnover.

However it is observed that there is an impact on the competitiveness of the Greek companies, due, for example, to overtaxation.

Citing a study of the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, he pointed out that next to Attica, the contribution of the sector is quite significant in Central Macedonia too, and amounts to approximately 1 billion euros. Furthermore, 12% of the added value that is created in the Region of Sterea Ellada (740 million euros) is attributed to the extractive sector. This is the case respectively, for approximately 4% of the added value that is created in the Regions of Eastern Macedonia–Thrace (300 million euros), Western Macedonia (130 million euros) and Thessaly (270 million euros), as well as for approximately 3% of the added value that is created in the Region of South Aegean (160 million euros). The contribution of the extractive industry to the added value that is produced in Central Macedonia is also quite important (approximately 500 million euros or approximately 2.2% of the added value of the Region).

Mr. Kefalas referred to the regional effects of the extractive industry on employment which are today particularly important, arguing that in the last years it has been observed that it also contributes to the internal migration, as more and more young people are moving to islands and areas where respective activities take place., By Marianna Tzanne, 07/06/2016

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Greeks strike against leftist government’s pension plans

A one-day strike brought Greece to a standstill on Thursday, as trade unions protested against the left-led government’s plans for pension reforms that could help appease foreign creditors, but risks pushing thousands of people further into poverty.

Domestic flights were grounded, ferries stay docked in ports and most public transportation was paralyzed as part of the strike organised by Greece’s main labour unions, GSEE and ADEDY.

Thursday’s action is the second nationwide walkout since leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came to power in January 2015 on a pledge to end years of austerity, only to cave in and sign up to new reforms under a bailout package worth up to 86 billion euros, or face expulsion from the eurozone.

Thousands of workers, self-employed professionals, farmers and pensioners were expected to rally in central Athens around midday.

They will later march to parliament, in what is expected to be a test of the government’s resolve as it struggles to convince lenders it is committed to the terms of its third bailout while clinging on to a thin majority in parliament.

The nationwide strike coincides with a key bailout review.

The heads of the European Union and International Monetary Fund mission assessing Greece’s progress arrived in Athens this week to discuss the pension plan, tax reforms and bad loans weighing on banks.

The government wants to conclude the review swiftly to start talks on debt relief and convince Greeks that their sacrifices are paying off.

Greece must cut pension spending by 1 percent of GDP or 1.8 billion euros this year. To protect pensioners who have seen their pensions slashed 11 times since 2010, Athens plans to increase social security contributions.

But unions say the new plan hurts employment in a country where the jobless rate is 25 percent and forces workers, mainly self-employed, to tax evasion as it links social security contributions to income.

“We cannot live, we cannot survive with what the government is asking from us,” said farmer Socratis Aleiftiras, among thousands of farmers who have blocked roads across the country for the past two weeks.

Under terms of pension reform, their social security contributions will increase almost threefold in coming years.

Although the measures, which include the gradual phasing out of a pension benefit by 2019, are broadly in line with bailout demands, sources close to the lenders said they may not be enough to address a deeper-than-expected fiscal gap.


source:, by Renee Maltezou

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Euro area factories end 2015 with best growth in 20 months

Manufacturing in the euro area accelerated at the fastest pace in 20 months in December as rising new orders propelled output.

A Purchasing Managers’ Index for the industry rose to 53.2 from 52.8 in November, exceeding a Dec. 16 estimate for an increase to 53.1, Markit Economics said on Monday. For the first time since April 2014, manufacturing expanded in all nations covered including Greece, according to the report.

The economic recovery in the 19-nation euro area is picking up as unprecedented stimulus by the European Central Bank is reaching companies and households. Bank lending accelerated in November in a sign of increased spending and investment, and economic confidence is at the highest level in more than four years.

“The conditions remain in place for a modest euro-zone cyclical upturn,” said Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Global Insight in London. “Much will depend on the global economic environment – and it is currently hard to see euro-zone growth really stepping up a gear.”

The euro was little changed after the report and traded at $1.0915 at 10:21 a.m. Frankfurt time.

In China, manufacturing weakened for a fifth straight month, the longest streak since 2009. The country’s benchmark stock index tumbled almost 7 percent and the yuan slumped after the report highlighting sliding exports thanks to sluggish growth abroad, and overcapacity at home. A gauge of Chinese services rose to the highest level in more than a year.

Recovery gain

“The end of 2015 saw the euro-zone manufacturing recovery gain further traction,” said Rob Dobson, senior economist at Markit. “Italy remained the leading light in December, while accelerated growth in Germany and France added welcome buoyancy to the region’s manufacturing performance.”

Gauges for euro-area production, new orders and new export business all improved, according to Markit. At an average of 52.2 for all of 2015, the PMI exceeded results recorded in each of the prior three years, the London-based company said.

“While there is much to be positive about in these figures, the underlying picture is still one of solid yet unspectacular expansion,” said Dobson. “With euro-zone manufacturing still some 10 percent off its pre-crisis peak, it looks as if the sector still has some distance to travel before the climb back to full recovery is completed.”

[Bloomberg], Jana Randow


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Greek industrial output rises 2.8 pct y/y in September

Greek industrial output rose 2.8 percent in September from the same period a year earlier, increasing for a second month in a row, statistics service ELSTAT said on Monday.

Manufacturing production grew 2.6 percent from the same month a year earlier, ELSTAT said. Mining output declined by 4.4 percent while electricity production rose by 6.3 percent.

The statistics service revised downwards August’s industrial production reading to 4.1 percent from 4.5 percent previously.

Greece’s economy grew 0.9 percent in the second quarter, helped by consumer spending and net exports.

Its performance supports a more favourable outlook for the year as a whole, with the European Commission now projecting a 1.4 percent contraction versus a previously expected 2.3 percent recession.


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Five industry captains call for new policies

The heads of five of the country’s largest industry and manufacturing associations joined in calling for a new industrial policy to return Greece to normality, in a joint article to the ANA-MPA on Sunday.

The article is signed by Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) President Theodoros Fessas, Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (FING) head Athanassios Savvakis, the Association of Industries in Thessaly and Central Greece (AITCG) President Evripidis Dontas, The Attica-Piraeus Industry Association President Dimitris Mathios and Peloponnese Federation of Industries head Kleomeni Barlou. In it, they outline a common position and the main thrust of a new policy proposed by industry at “the most crucial juncture of the crisis, when our country is faced with two simultaneous and critical challenges.

“On the one hand, the need to urgently implement all the structural reforms and fiscal adjustments of the agreement with the creditors. Secondly, to plan and implement policies that will work as a developmental counterweight, making use of the many opportunities that exist, and restricting the new cycle of recession that lies ahead of us, thus avoiding structural unemployment.”
(source: ana-mpa)

By A. Makris –
Sep 14, 2015/

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Greek Energy Minister Rules Out Privatization of Independent Power Transmission Operator

Greek Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panos ruled out the privatization of Greece’s Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE) and stressed that the company will remain under state control, ensuring equal access to all energy producers.

Negotiations between Skourletis’ Ministry and Greece’s creditors’ representatives are due to begin on Wednesday and mainly focus on ADMIE’s privatization and other energy market issues.

Based on the Euro Summit decision, ADMIE must either be privatized or alternative measures must be found that have an equivalent result for competition.

In statements after meeting with the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) leadership, Skourletis said developments are leading to elections within the year, once an agreement with Greece’s European partners is signed. He also denied the existence of a “Drachma Plan” within the government, at least on a collective policy level.

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