Parliament set to probe politicians over Novartis affair – Easing of the capital controls – The American ExxonMobil and Nicosia – Samaras filed a lawsuit against PM Alexis Tsipras and others – Moody’s raises Greece’s rating two notches – A dangerous incident in south Aegean – The great Greek property sell-off – John Antetokoumpo “International Ambassador” – Philip II’s palace at Aigai to open to the public – New headless Aphrodite statue in Thessaloniki – Two Greek cities among the 100 best gastronomic destinations – Albanian President blocks talks with Greece – Direct link from Piraeus to the El. Venizelos airport – Τhe metro stations at Piraeus – 17 asylum seekers, crossing the Aegean
Parliament set to probe politicians over Novartis affair
Greece’s parliament voted following a marathon 20-hour session to investigate 10 senior politicians, including two former prime ministers, over allegations they were involved in a pharmaceutical bribery scandal. A parliamentary committee will be set up to investigate each of the 10, in a process expected to last for at least one month. Under Greek law, parliament must first investigate allegations against lawmakers before they can be stripped of immunity and prosecuted by judicial authorities. Government and opposition parties all backed the investigation, either in support of the probe or to clear the names of their colleagues. Separate ballot boxes were set up for each of the 10 politicians during the secret vote. The names of ten: former prime ministers: A. Samaras, P. Pikrammenos – former ministers: G.Stournaras, E Benizelos, D. Avramopoulos, A, Loverdos, A. Lykoyrentzos, M. Salmas, A. Georgiadis, G. Koytroumanis.
Easing of the capital controls
The government is considering a further easing of the capital controls it imposed 32 months ago, Skai Radio reported. The Finance Ministry, in cooperation with the Bank of Greece, is planning for bank clients to be allowed to withdraw 2,300 euros per month per account, up from the current ceiling of 1,800 euros. Citizens will also be freely permitted to open a bank account regardless of whether they already have an account in any lender.
The American ExxonMobil and Nicosia
The American energy giant ExxonMobil is signaling its intention to ply ahead with oil and gas exploration in the Republic of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), ignoring Turkey’s threats towards companies that have signed agreements with Nicosia. Turkish warships have at the moment blockaded the island to prevent a drill sent by Italy’s biggest energy company, ENI, from proceeding with scheduled drills. ExxonMobil, whose former CEO is US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has secured, in partnership with Qatar Petroleum, exploration rights for Block 10 of Cyprus’ offshore oil and gas fields.
Samaras filed a lawsuit against PM Alexis Tsipras and others
Ex-Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has filed a lawsuit against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Corruption Prosecutor Eleni Touloupaki, Alternate Justice Minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos, and the two protected witnesses in the Novartis kickbacks investigation, alleging that they set up a criminal organisation with the aim of slanderously implicating him in the Novartis kickbacks scandal.In a televised statement, Samaras said that the sitting prime minister is responsible for “setting up a miserable plot” that is “so poorly designed that it collapses without further ado”, and that the “it is patently obvious that the allegations are slanderous”.
Moody’s raises Greece’s rating two notches
Moody’s ratings agency upgraded Greece’s credit rating by two notches late on Wednesday to B3, saying the country is set to return to market-based funding following the conclusion of its current bailout program in the summer.
A dangerous incident in south Aegean
A dangerous incident took place in the south east Aegean, when a Turkish coast guard boat rammed a Greek patrol vessel in the coastal area surrounding the Imia islets. No injuries or severe damage were reported, despite the Greek boat having to harbour in Leros for minor repairs – the Turkish vessel departed the area immediately after the incident. This was the latest among a series of episodes of intensified military activity by the Turkish maritime forces in the specific maritime region, which includes the two rocky outcrops, which Turkey has called “Kardak” since early 1996, when a heated incident between Greece and Turkey nearly led to war – and resulted to the deaths of two Greek soldiers. “Greece is not a country that plays games. We are at the core of the European Union and a Nato member-state, with a strong regional role and international alliances. We are a country that is a pillar of stability and security in a more broadly destabilised region,” the PM stressed.
The great Greek property sell-off
A new study has confirmed suspicions that taxation and debt are prompting Greeks to sell off property they spent previous generations amassing. Property ownership has fallen for the first time in decades, and half of all Greeks don’t think it’s worth buying property any more. The likely result: a massive sell-off to overseas buyers. The combined pressures – property tax, inability to find paying renters, the commencement of foreclosures in earnest and the closure of tax loopholes – mean that a slate of Greek property will come on the market this year and next. According to Bank of Greece data, residential property prices fell by 40 per cent between 2007 and 2016. Whether this round of selling further depresses them remains to be seen.
John Antetokoumpo “International Ambassador”
Giannis Antetokounmpo started his second consecutive All-Star game in Los Angeles, finishing with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Antetokoumpo’s star has been rising this season with Milwaukee, and the young Greek is set to be a regular at the NBA’s mid-season event for many years to come. Antetokounmpo still couldn’t believe that just five years into his career, he’s already been selected as an All-Star twice after making his debut last year in New Orleans. The Greek Initiative (THI) is pleased to announce that the NBA star, John Antetokoumpo, becomes part of THI’s team as “International Ambassador”.
Philip II’s palace at Aigai to open to the public
Work is proceeding at a fast rate to prepare the magnificent palace of Aigai in the region of Pella, northern Greece, for its opening to the public in May, with its walls restored to a height of 1.6 metres and the rich mosaics uncovered on the hall floors. The palace, constructed during the reign of Philip II (359-336 BC), father of Alexander the Great, is three times the size of the Parthenon and belongs to a complex that includes royal burial clusters and a fortified town.
New headless Aphrodite statue in Thessaloniki
Given Greece’s long and rich history, it is not an uncommon occurrence to happen upon ancient relics during construction across the country’s cities and villages. The latest find has been unearthed in Thessaloniki at the site of the city’s metro station, where during an excavation archaeologists discovered a headless statue of the ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite. Chairman of Attiko Metro SA, Yannis Mylopoulos took to Facebook to announce the discovery, posting a picture of the statue, which was found near a fountain complex at the Aghia Sofia station.
Two Greek cities among the 100 best gastronomic destinations
Two Greek cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, are among the 100 best gastronomic destinations in the world according to a recent survey conducted by Caterwings, a UK-based catering order platform. The Spanish city of San Sebastian topped the prestigious list followed by the city of Tokyo in Japan, then New York in the US, while Athens ranked 54th with a score of 8.9/10 and Thessaloniki ranked 75th with a score of 7.2 in the category of the quality of offered services. The Caterwings-commissioned study focused on good food that was both accessible and affordable and examined factors such as the availability of vegetarian or vegan options, the quality of street food, and the ratio of fast-food chains versus restaurants.
Albanian President blocks talks with Greece
Determination of the sea border between Albania and Greece in the Ionian was further stalled after Albanian President Ilir Meta refused a request by the Albanian government to authorise talks. “The request doesn’t clearly define the object of negotiations for which the authorisation is requested,” Meta said in a statement, demanding furhter information on the government’s objective and strategy. The two countries signed an agreement in 2009, which gives Greece the right to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, miles from the baseline of its coastal state (from 6 nautical miles that it had been thus far), but the Albanian Constitutional Court annulled it in 2010 after finding it in breach of the constitution and international norms.
Direct link from Piraeus to the El. Venizelos airport
After almost three years of delay connecting the port of Piraeus to the Eleftherios Venizelos airport the direct link is ready to connect the two major locations. Metro station of Piraeus will become a terminus for the Proastiakos suburban railway, connecting travelers to and from the islands with the Sparta airport in 60 minutes. The same route will also link the cities of Corinth, Halkida and Kiato to the port.
Τhe metro stations at Piraeus
The tunnel-boring machine has completed work for the extension of the Athens Metro to Piraeus. According to an announcement by Attiko Metro, the work on opening the underground tunnel, extending the Athens metros Line 3 to Piraeus, has been completed. In 2019, the handover of the metro stations of Agia Varvara, Korydallos, and Nikaia is expected. The next step will be the handover of the metro stations at Maniatika, Piraeus, and the municipal theatre (Dimotiko Theatro), within 2019.
17 asylum seekers, crossing the Aegean
17 asylum seekers, crossing the Aegean from Turkey by boat, reached the Chios coasts couple weeks ago. The local Coast Guard patrolling the area located them as they were approaching the ‘Pounta’ beach at Oinousses and proceeded to their rescue. The 17 individuals were transferred to the Central Port Authority of Chios, where they were detained and questioned. According to reports from the local media outlets, the asylum seekers claim to be Turkish officers, working in the judicial branch of the government, some of them high ranking, who fled the country to avoid persecution and imprisonment by the Erdogan government, which has been pursuing dissidents since the failed coup of July 2016.