September 7, 2013 - 15:12 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras says the country's six years of recession will end next year. He said that Greece was now an "island of stability" in an ever less stable region, according to BBC News.
Samaras was speaking at the Thessaloniki trade fair, which has been the scene of protests about the country's tough austerity measures.
More protests are expected in support of civil servants who face losing their jobs. Four thousand police have been deployed to avoid violence.
Greece's economy has shrunk by 23% since 2008. So far the country has received two bailouts of about 240bn euros.
As part of current bailout conditions, the government has been forced to impose drastic cuts, tax rises, and labour market and pension reforms.
European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders project the Greek economy will shrink by 4.2% this year, after contracting by 6.4% in 2012.
But Samaras said the 2013 contraction would be "smaller than forecast".
Greece would achieve a budget surplus this year, Samaras said, apart from interest payments on its loans. He said Greece had done its part by achieving the largest ever reduction in the budget deficit - and added that the country's creditors must do theirs by further lightening the debt burden.
Greece posted a jobless rate of 27.6% in May, a new record high. The unemployment rate stood at 27% in April. Most worrying is the rate of youth unemployment. Almost 65% of Greeks aged 15-24 are unable to find work, CNN reported in August.
The figures are adjusted to take account of seasonal fluctuations caused, for example, by an upturn in employment in tourism during the summer months.
The number of Greeks out of work has increased by nearly 200,000 to 1.38 million over the past 12 months, and by one million over five years.
Alarmed by the longest recession since the euro was launched and record unemployment, EU leaders have slowed up the pace of their austerity drive in recent months. And there are signs that activity is picking up.
An easing of recession in Spain and Italy, combined with stronger data in Germany, suggests the eurozone as a whole may have managed to eke out growth in the three months to June after six consecutive quarters of contraction. The eurozone rate of unemployment may also have peaked.
After years of tax increases and spending cuts, Greece has been given the green light to cut sales tax on food and drink in restaurants to 13% from 23%.
The tax break -- which will last until the end of 2013 -- is a bid to boost spending and tourism across the country but will cost the government €100 million in lost tax revenue in the short term.