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New party seeks to shake up Greek politics, says founder

A new Greek political party that has catapulted to third place in the polls is hoping to overhaul the country's dysfunctional politics, its founder said Sunday. Former TV journalist Stavros Theodorakis said in interviews with Sunday newspapers that he wanted to break the rigid party-driven format of Greek politics. Launched in February his party To Potami -- 'river' in Greek -- already polls at up to 10 percent, enough to win third place in forthcoming European elections.

Greece reaches long-delayed deal with international lenders on next bailout loans

ATHENS, Greece - Greece concluded seven months of tortuous negotiations with its international debt inspectors Tuesday, reaching a deal that will allow it to access a long-delayed rescue loan installment. The deal does not require Greece to impose any new austerity policies, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras insisted, as he outlined a series of relief measures for the most needy. "Today a long period of tribulations has ended, and a new beginning is being made," Samaras said.

Greek budget surplus topped 1.5 bn euros in 2013

Greece in 2013 registered a budget surplus of more than 1.5 billion euros ($2.05 billion), exceeding requirements for additional debt aid, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Sunday. "We have created a primary surplus in 2013 when the target was for 2014... it is over 1.5 billion euros," Samaras told To Vima weekly in an interview. "Three times more than we originally calculated," he said. A month earlier, Samaras had placed the primary surplus -- a budget surplus not counting debt servicing costs -- at around 500 million euros.

Greek PM says 2013 budget surplus to exceed $2.05 billion: paper

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's primary budget surplus for 2013, which excludes interest payments and other one-off items, has exceeded the latest estimates and come in at over 1.5 billion euros ($2.05 billion), Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has told a newspaper. "The primary budget surplus is much higher than we had initially estimated ... I am telling you now that it exceeds 1.5 billion euros, three times as big as we initially calculated," Samaras said in an interview published in Sunday's edition of To Vima, which hit newsstands on Saturday evening.

Greece to meet primary budget surplus target: finance ministry

Greece will meet its target of a primary budget surplus exceeding 800 million euros in 2013, the deputy finance minister said on Tuesday. Deputy finance minister Christos Staikouras told reporters that the general government primary surplus -- the budget surplus not counting debt servicing costs -- would close at "over 800 million euros" in 2013. The central government surplus for the 12-month period of 2013 is already 691 million euros, he added.

EU elite in Athens for Greek presidency launch

Europe's political elite gathered in Athens on Wednesday as troubled Greece officially takes over the presidency of the EU for a six-month stint set to include European elections in May. Police threw up a tight security cordon around Athens city centre ahead of the evening's official opening ceremony for the Greek EU presidency, with protests banned in the area. Athens assumed the rotating presidency on January 1, as the bloc battles a rise in anti-EU sentiment and Greece itself struggles with recession and social discontent.

Crisis-hit Greece takes EU helm

Greece on Wednesday began a six-month stint as president of the European Union, as it continues its own struggle against recession and social unrest. Athens assumes the bloc's rotating presidency at a time of change, with elections in May set to usher in a new European parliament amid fears of gains by anti-EU parties. Greece takes the reins of the EU "with a keen sense of its responsibility to its EU partners and all European citizens," said Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Greek EU presidency a challenge given ongoing crisis

Crisis-hit Greece in January takes over the six-month rotating EU presidency with a crucial European Parliament ballot looming, and the bloc divided over delicate efforts to create a banking union. Added to Greece's own considerable economic and political troubles, these issues could prove a major challenge to the Greek presidency, analysts note. "I don't expect that the Greek presidency will be, and can be, as smooth as other presidencies," said Zsolt Darvas, an economist and senior fellow at the Bruegel Institute in Brussels.

Greek lawmakers pass property tax reform mandated by indebted country's creditors

ATHENS, Greece - Greek lawmakers have passed a law on property tax, as demanded by the country's creditors, but the ruling coalition of conservatives and socialists has lost another member when a former conservative minister voted against it and was immediately expelled from the party. The law passed in the 300-member Parliament Saturday, with 152 lawmakers voting for and 143 against. It consolidates previous taxes and replaces a property charge imposed in 2011, which was paid through electricity bills.

Greek prime minister's jet forced to land shortly after take-off due to suspected malfunction

ATHENS, Greece - A government jet carrying Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on a visit to Azerbaijan has been forced to return to a military airport near Athens shortly after take-off following a suspected malfunction. Samaras' office says the air force Embraer jet landed safely at Elefsina Airport late Monday. It is undergoing inspections to see whether it can make the flight or a replacement plane will be needed. The aircraft presented the problem 15 minutes after taking off for the Azeri capital of Baku, where Samaras is due to sign natural gas deals Tuesday.
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