May Day celebrations in Athens yesterday culminated with a rally at the Pedion tou Areos Square and a procession to Parliament where a petition containing labour claims was presented to Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis.
The events were organised by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) and the Athens Labour Centre (EKA).
Delivering the petition to Mr. Kaklamanis, GSEE President Christos Protopapas said the unionist movement's main demands were a 35-hour working week to combat unemployment, protection for the incomes of working people, pension increases, a dialogue on the insurance issue, measures to support industry and promote major projects and the initiation of collective negotiations in the public sector.
Mr. Kaklamanis said he considered the 35-hour working week a "humane and just claim", adding that if a serious effort for dialogue was launched an agreement with employers was feasible. He said increasing unemployment was the "scourge" of modern societies and promised to convey trade union claims to political parties and Parliament.
The May Day rally was inaugurated with an address by EKA President Christos Polyzogopoulos and followed by addresses by GSEE Secretary-General Mr. G. Mavrikos, GSEE Alternate President Mr. G. Manolis, ADEDY Secretary-General Ilias Vretakkos and a pensioners' representative.
The government was represented by Labour Minister Ioannis Skoularikis, Labour Under-Secretary George Adamopoulos, Alternate Interior Minister George Daskalakis, Merchant Marine Minister George Katsifaras, PASOK Central Committee Secretary Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Parliamentary Group President Dimitris Beis.
The New Democracy party was represented by Mr. G. Kalantzakos, Political Spring by Andreas Lentakis and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) by Secretary General Aleka Papariga, Harilaos Florakis, Mitsos Kostopoulos and Ioannis Theonas while the Coalition of the Left and Progress was represented by a delegation headed by party leader Nikos Constantopoulos. Also present were Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, deputies and trade unionists.
In a message, Mr. Skoularikis said "unemployment and the social and political degradation of labour" seriously threatened the achievements of working people at present. He expressed solidarity for claims put forward by trade unions and expressed the wish that "May 1, 1995 be the starting point for a joint effort to tackle the difficult conjuncture with success."
At the end of the rally, demonstrators marched to Parliament where senior trade unionists delivered their petition to Mr. Kaklamanis.
A May Day message to the Greek people by prime minister and PASOK leader Andreas Papandreou said important institutional changes and positive macroeconomic results of an economic policy, implemented over the past year-and-a-half with responsibility and consistency, confirmed the possibility of the country being led to development through a stable course of restructuring and recovery of the economy. At the same time, it added, the incomes of working people and the promotion of social justice and cohesion would be safeguarded.
The message said this would be safeguarded by a continuous social dialogue for necessary policies at all levels to promote an essential social accord and acceptance and a very wide mobilisation of the forces of production and labour in the country's new creative course. In this direction, it said, the main priority was a stable effort to confront the major problem posed by unemployment and employment which harmed young people in particular.
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert said in his message "economic crisis and recession in the economy create daily new armies of unemployed, marginalise the working man and constitute a threat to the cohesion of society."
He said the tolerance and endurance of working people had been exhausted and whoever disregarded the fact that social justice and solidarity should coexist to enable democracy and human liberties to survive was mistaken". "The country's leadership, all of us, should resist society's decline and offer tangible tokens of sensitivity before the dangerous phenomena of decadence," he added.
The Political Spring party said "May Day in 1995 did not only constitute a point of reference and memory but also a message for a struggle, an economic policy of development recognising, at last, that people existed behind cold figures." Political Spring added that deindustrialisation and unemployment experienced by Greeks were the tragic results of the policy of governments in the past 10 years.
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said "this year's May Day as well finds workers all over the world confronted by the most harsh onslaught of multinational capital and the strategic pursuits of the 'New Order'."
"The capitalists are making efforts not to leave anything standing from the acquisitions of the working class in order to increase their profits. One hundred and nine years after the Chicago uprising, they are aiming at abolishing the seven and eight-hour working day and the five-day working week," it added.
KKE said the present government was implementing, as the previous New Democracy government did, the mandates of Brussels and the demands of the Federation of Greek Industries and of big interests.
The Coalition of the Left and Progress said it was struggling for an alternative economic prospect and an effort for "viable" development to replace the antisocial "stabilisation" of recession and austerity. "Austerity will come to an end and the incomes of working people and pensioners will be upgraded. There will be a generous redistribution of income," it added.
Greece said Sunday that an unofficial visit by a Turkish minister to the north-eastern prefecture of Thrace, due to begin today, should not be used to import Turkey's domestic problems to other nations, and particularly Greece.
A Turkish delegation, led by minister without portfolio and government spokesman Yildirim Aktuna, is due in Thrace today to examine what a report from Ankara said were "problems of the Moslem minority" in the region.
"Mr. Aktuna's visit has been prepared in a negative atmosphere and in a climate which could create tension," government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said in Thessaloniki on Sunday. "Greece avoids manufactured tension and uses language which is exceptionally cautious and calm".
On Saturday, Mr. Venizelos called on the delegation to observe the ethics of international relations. Mr. Aktuna, Mr. Venizelos said at his regular press briefing in Thessaloniki, "should take as an example occasional visits to Turkey, by Greek politicians, government and non-government officials and be inspired by their behaviour."
Reports from Ankara said that the delegation also includes four members of parliament, an advisor to the Turkish prime minister's office and 36 journalists.
At a recent meeting in Istanbul of a group calling itself "the international parliament of western Thrace", Mr. Aktuna was reported as saying that "the Greeks were afraid of the Turks and that is why they oppress the Turks (Moslem minority) of Western Thrace."
"The use of such methods, like the establishment of a (western Thrace) parliament in exile is simply a caricature, which does not help, at all, in maintaining stability in the region," Mr. Venizelos said.
Meanwhile, the opposition Political Spring party called on the government to ban Mr. Aktuna's visit to Thrace, saying his presence in the region "is aimed at creating a climate of controversy and constitutes an intervention in Greece's domestic affairs."
In a statement, Political Spring described the visit as "provoca-tive", pointing to the "inflammatory statements" Mr. Aktuna made in Istanbul concerning the establishment of a so-called "international parliament of Western Thrace." Such visits "can only cause tension to the already existing problems between the two countries," the statement said.
The Greek government said on Sunday that it deplored a US State Department report that Greece was not doing enough to combat terrorism. "It is unfortunate for the State Department's officials, when they draft a report on terrorism, to make (such) a reference to Greece, when they are aware of the facts,"
Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias told reporters when asked to comment on the report shortly after his return from Tehran where he attended talks on the Bosnian crisis. "I reject not only such a thought, but even a suspicion about Greece," Mr. Papoulias said. "These gentlemen, whoever they are, know well that Greece is suffering from terrorism and what it is doing against this scourge. They should seek other sources of terrorism," Mr. Papoulias said.
Earlier, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos described the report as an "erroneous appraisal of the real situation." Speaking to reporters in Thessaloniki, Mr. Venizelos expressed the hope that "it (the report) had no official character, because if it does" then "all the necessary demarches will be made in order to restore the true picture, because Greece is absolutely consistent and severe on such issues."
"Greece is a country which makes every possible effort within the context of the Constitution and legal order as well as its international obligations to combat terrorism and organised crime and it makes these efforts both by itself and within the context of international co-operation," Mr. Venizelos said.
Yesterday, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, secretary of the ruling PASOK party's Central Committee, also sharply criticised the US State Department report. Speaking to reporters shortly before his departure for Brussels to attend a meeting of the European Socialist party vice-presidents, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the US services should be "more cautious when they refer to Greece" in connection with terrorism, especially "when they themselves are not in a position to ensure the safety of their citizens from terrorism".
"Politically, I believe that Greece has paid for this carelessness and the expediencies shown by the US services in the 80s when it (Greece) became a victim of the hysteria, at the time, against terrorism," he added.
Former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis in statements Sunday agreed with the US State Department's report and accused the government of not wanting to combat terrorism.
The Jewish community in Greece paid tribute on Sunday to the memory of the 50,000 Greek Jews who perished in Nazi concentration camps and crematoriums during World War II. Memorial services held in synagogues and cemeteries in Athens and Thessaloniki were attended by cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, mayors, local government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and the Jewish communities in both cities.
During a solemn memorial service at the Monastirioton Synagogue in Thessaloniki, six survivors of the Holocaust symbolically lit a candle each in memory of the six million European Jews exterminated by the Nazis.
Andrea Sefiha, president of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki said the commemoration of the Holocaust, was "not something outdated but an occasion for a discreet appraisal of our times" since, he said, "a simple comparison of 1945 with what is happening around us in recent years offers a bitter feeling that no lesson was learned from what had happened."
Mr. Sefiha expressed bitter criticism at Polish President Lech Walesa omitting any reference to the Jews during recent remembrance ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the horror camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau.
Thessaloniki was historically home to one of the biggest Jewish communities before the Nazi occupation, totalling some 49,000 people, a community that had found haven in the northern city after fleeing the Inquisition in 15th century Spain. Fewer than four per cent of the 46,061 sent to concentration camps over six months in 1943 survived.
The Thessaloniki memorial service was attended by the Minister of Macedonia and Thrace, Constantine Triarides, Press and Mass Media Minister Evangelos Venizelos, members of parliament, the mayors of Thessaloniki and Veria, university officials, politicians and religious and military representatives.
"The entire Greek people carry deep in their conscience the precious memory of the victims of the Nazi atrocities and as we mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, we should vehemently oppose, in time and effectively, any trace of racism, xenophobia and social hatred in every part of our planet," Mr. Venizelos said in a statement.
Similar memorial services were held at the Jewish cemetery in Athens attended by government officials, politicians and the mayor of Athens Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias on Sunday welcomed his Bosnian counterpart's statement that his government would observe the four-month truce after its expiry yesterday.
Speaking to reporters on arrival from Tehran where he attended a meeting with Irfan Ljubijankic and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, Mr. Papoulias described the results of the talks as "good". The joint Bosnian peace initiative was launched by Greece, Iran and the Bosnian government last month.
The Bosnian foreign minister's statement that his government "will avoid every hostility, and even shooting, is of major significance," Mr. Papoulias said. "They (the Bosnians) want to observe this truce," Mr. Papoulias said, stressing Mr. Ljubijankic's belief that "time was needed in order to achieve a peace process."
"This is a positive result and an achievement of the second tripartite meeting, following the one that was held in Athens on March 8 in an effort to find a peaceful solution" (to the Bosnian crisis) , Mr. Papoulias said.
Mr. Papoulias further said that he also held talks with his Iranian counterpart and the speaker of the Iranian parliament Natek Nouri with whom he discussed the Bosnian peace initiative and bilateral issues. "Both meetings were positive and I believe that a new chapter is opening in Greek-Iranian relations on multi-level co-operation," he added.
Earlier yesterday, Mr. Velayati told reporters at a press conference after the Tehran meeting that "Greece has become a significant factor in the region and we must all seek its advice." Mr. Papoulias also said he was contacting Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic later Sunday to set a date for a visit to Belgrade to brief the Serbian leader on the results of the Tehran meeting.
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos left for London Sunday to attend the second session of the International Ecological Conference which began in Japan last month.
An announcement by the Ecumenical Patriarchate said "during his visit the Ecumenical Patriarch will also attend events marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. George Carey."
"The conference's works will take place at Windsor Castle and participants will be the guests of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh," the announcement said.
The Ecumenical Patriarch is accompanied on his visit by the Metropolitan of Pergamos Ioannis and Church officials Mr. Elpidoforos and Vassilios Anagnostopoulos. Patriarch Vartholomeos will return to Istanbul on May 7.
National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou will meet today with visiting International Monetary Fund officials to discuss the revenues and expenditures of the state budget, the course of inflation and civil servant appointments.
The IMF officials will also hold talks with Finance Minister Alexandros Papadopoulos and the governor of the Bank of Greece Lucas Papademos.
Mr. Papantoniou will also meet with the premier at 2.30 p.m. today.