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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 96-12-23

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada <grnewsca@sympatico.ca>

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN (1073), December 23, 1996

Greek Press & Information Office
Ottawa, Canada
E-Mail Address: grnewsca@sympatico.ca


CONTENTS

  • [01] Parliament approves budget of 'economic growth and social justice'
  • [02] Mubarak offers to mediate for better Greek-Turkish relations
  • [03] Arab League visit
  • [04] New Democracy approves extraordinary congress for February-March
  • [05] Christmas wishes to expatriate Greeks
  • [06] Premier to meet with farmers' organizations today as last road blocks go over the weekend
  • [07] Athens sends Xanthi flood victims aid
  • [08] Tsovolas predicts New Democracy split

  • [01] Parliament approves budget of 'economic growth and social justice'

    Athens, 23/12/1996 (ANA)

    Parliament approved in the early hours yesterday the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government's budget for the year 1997, designed to bring Greece closer to fulfilling EU Maastricht criteria.

    The budget was passed with 160 votes in favor and 136 against. Four deputies were absent from the vote.

    Main opposition New Democracy party and Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) party deputies, however, voted in favor of the national defense ministry's budget. Closing a five-day parliamentary debate on the government's economic plans for 1997, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that the government's budget was the "only conclusive proposition" to the economic problems of the country.

    This budget, he added, "is the basic instrument for economic growth and social justice and not the sum of economic figures, while it exactly depicts the government's main target, which is the creation of a strong and prosperous Greece." The Greek people, Mr. Simitis went on, with its vote on the September 22 general elections asked from the government to "respond positively to the challenges of European unification".

    "This decision is not due to external coercion since national interest would command the same economic policy even in the absence of the EU Economic and Monetary Union.

    "Participation in Economic and Monetary Union is a matter of national survival, development and security," the premier said stressing that Greece is last on the list of EU member-states to qualify for EMU membership.

    "The dilemma is clear," he said. "Either Greece will play the ostrich, raising protective walls to international competition, a road amounting to national catastrophe ... or it will get on the road for international competition."

    Stressing that the proposals put forward by the opposition parties would lead nowhere but, rather, would worsen problems, the premier reiterated that "all Greeks should contribute accordingly to the national effort... in order to strengthen those weaker financially."

    "The Greek people," he added, "know that the government's economic policy protects workers' incomes, improves the social infrastructure of education, (improves) health, welfare, social security, reinforces defense and continues the course to European unification."

    "Greece is one of the very few EU countries to give real increases in incomes while also increasing social policy funds," the premier said.

    Accusing the opposition of being overwhelmed by "an atmosphere of misery and barren reaction," the prime minister said that since ruling PASOK took office, inflation has fallen to 7.7 per cent from 12.3 per cent while the deficit came down to 7.6 per cent from 14.2 per cent. He admitted, however, that problems do exist, but expressing the conviction that a huge step towards resolving them will be made in 1997.

    "When deprivation leads to benefits, it is no longer sacrifice: It is investment," the premier said.

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader, Miltiades Evert, described the budget as "a document of political deceit" and a "monument of non-credibility" and "inconsistency."

    Mr. Evert said the government's economic measures were "cruel" and "unfair," adding that "the low inflation target forecast by the budget is to deceive employees regarding the government's income policy and limit pay increases and pensions."

    "This," Mr. Evert said, "is political deceit."

    Accusing the government of the inability to show a specific and concrete economic strategy, the ND leader said the tax measures were "unfair."

    Mr. Evert said the government's economic measures will prove to be a disincentive for development "because new tax conditions are being created which no one knows and will therefore result in crippling the competitiveness of Greek businesses and markets and damaging all modernization efforts in the private sector."

    Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos also said the budget was "unfair."

    "The budget does not give solutions," Mr. Constantopoulos said submitting a series of EU documents which, he said, lead to the conclusion that the Greek economy suffers from crucial structural problems.

    DHKKI president Dimitris Tsovolas accused the government of "following a neo-liberal policy."

    He said that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thacher had followed the same "monetarist policy which led .... to Britain facing huge problems."

    [02] Mubarak offers to mediate for better Greek-Turkish relations

    Cairo, 23/12/1996 (ANA - N. Megadoukas)

    President Hosni Mubarak said on Saturday he hoped Greek-Turkish relations would be normalized, adding that he could undertake the role of mediator if requested.

    Speaking at a joint press conference after one hour of talks in the Egyptian capital with his visiting Greek counterpart, Kostis Stephanopoulos, Mr. Mubarak said he hoped a solution would be found to the problems in Greek-Turkish relations "so as to avoid bloodshed and the enormous cost of (military) spending".

    Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Mubarak underlined that Egypt did not take sides between Greece or Turkey, but was "on the side of justice".

    Mr. Stephanopoulos said he had briefed Mr. Mubarak on Greek positions concerning "certain crucial aspects" of Greek-Turkish relations. Asked how he saw Egypt's role in the broader Mediterranean region, Mr. Mubarak replied that his country belonged to the forum of Mediterranean countries, and plays the role that any country in the basin can.

    The two heads of state also discussed developments in the Palestinian issue and bilateral relations which, they said, although at a high level, could be further developed.

    The Greek president stressed Greece's concern about the situation in the Middle East, and its support for the observance of international treaties and agreements envisaging the consolidation of peace in return for withdrawal from occupied lands.

    "We hope for positive developments in the Middle East so that justice prevails," he added, while also singling out the leading role played by his Egyptian counterpart.

    Mr. Stephanopoulos is accompanied by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who told reporters after talks with his Egyptian counterpart Amr Mousa and Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi that the latter would visit Athens in the first quarter of 1 997 for talks with his Greek counterpart Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

    Mr. Pangalos said that Cairo was following with concern the domestic situation in Turkey, adding that the Egyptian political leadership was apprehensive about the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel.

    [03] Arab League visit

    Cairo, 23/12/1996 (ANA)

    On Saturday afternoon, the Greek president visited the headquarters of the Arab League in the Egyptian capital, and discussed the Middle Eastern problem and Greece's relations with the Arab world with the League's Secretary Abdel Meghid and the ambassador s of the member countries in Cairo.

    Mr. Meghid expressed appreciation for Greece's stand on the issues concerning the Arab world, while Mr. Stephanopoulos said his visit to the headquarters of the Arab League was an expression of the feelings of the Greek people towards the Arab nation.

    Yesterday, Mr. Stephanopoulos visited Cairo's archaeological museum, and then left by plane for the 1,500 year-old monastery of St. Catherine's on the Sinai peninsula.

    Late in the afternoon, the president arrived at Luxor in Upper Egypt, where he was scheduled to attend the sound and light show at Karnak.

    [04] New Democracy approves extraordinary congress for February-March

    Athens, 23/12/1996 (ANA)

    The New Democracy party Executive Committee yesterday formally approved leader Miltiades Evert's recommendation for the holding of an extraordinary congress, with most likely dates February 28 or March 2.

    The Committee rejected two proposals by leadership contender George Souflias for discussion and agreement in the party's Political Council on enlarging the representation at the congress from the party base.

    Messrs. Evert, Souflias, and deputy party leader Ioannis Varvitsiotis are to meet anew on the issue.

    Former parliamentary group secretary Stavros Dimas said there would be no deviation from procedures envisaged in the party charter.

    [05] Christmas wishes to expatriate Greeks

    Athens, 23/12/1996 (ANA)

    Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis has addressed a message on the occasion of Christmas and the New Year holiday to expatriate Greeks, stressing that their compatriots back home continue to view their achievements with pride.

    "Your compatriots, relatives and all Greeks are proudly mindful of your achievements, because, indeed, with your spiritual and material progress, you do justice to the name of Greece everywhere," he said.

    [06] Premier to meet with farmers' organizations today as last road blocks go over the weekend

    Athens, 23/12/1996 (ANA)

    Greece started moving again yesterday as the last of the road blocks on the nation's highways and rail links were lifted by farmers, ending a 24-day protest that had brought the country to a virtual standstill and dealt a crippling blow to the economy.

    But farmers warned they would return to their stations in mid-January if they received no joy from the government.

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis is scheduled to meet with the leadership of the three main agricultural groups today.

    The final collapse of the long army of 10,000 tractors parked on roads and railway tracks came after the Pan-Thessaly farmer's committee voted to lift the barricades in a gesture of Christmas good will. "We have a deep religious feeling and it never occurred to us that we would cause trouble to the Greek citizen these days since Christmas is one of the greatest feasts of Christiandom," a representative of the farmers' coordinating committee said.

    But as public clean-up crews moved in to clear the roads in various regions, the representative warned that the farmers had not abandoned their demands and would review the situation after the Christmas holidays.

    "Our stance will depend on the government," the representative said.

    The farmers want lower fuel prices, higher price support, lower Value Added Tax (VAT) on equipment and the rescheduling of $1.3 billion in debts.

    Mr. Simitis had stood firm in his position that he would not meet with farmers' representatives as long as the barricades were in place and had made clear that he would rather "go home" instead of bowing to the farmers' demands.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said on Saturday the prime minister's meeting with the presidiums of the Panhellenic Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives (PASEGES), the General Confederation of Agricultural Associations (GESASE) and the Democratic Confederation of Agricultural Associations (SYDASE) today would be held within "the framework of dialogue concerning the problems facing the Greek agriculture, which must be held with the broadest possible participation."

    The spokesman said that the meeting would take place at 5:00 p.m., adding that Mr. Simitis would also meet at 6:00 p.m. with the coordinating committee representing farmers of Macedonia and Thrace.

    Speaking in Parliament before the budget vote, late Saturday night, Mr. Simitis had expressed the hope that the farmers would lift the remaining barricades.

    In recent days, farmers in numerous places around the country had de-escalated their protest action.

    Stressing that the government was willing to begin dialogue with the farmers, Mr. Simitis noted, however, that "the form of dialogue cannot be determined by certain groups with extreme forms of protest."

    "There are no winners and losers," Mr. Simitis said. "There are only big problems which have been created in the economy, in the society, the entire nation by the farmers' protests."

    Emphasizing that "all of us can be winners if we promote social cohesion," the premier said the government was willing to have dialogue but would not create "a society when those who take to the streets can receive money."

    "It should be made clear to all that demands for hundreds of billions (of drachmas) cannot be satisfied by any responsible government ... no responsible government can abolish the common agricultural policy without having to pay hundreds of billions in compensation," he said.

    [07] Athens sends Xanthi flood victims aid

    Athens, 23/12/1996 (ANA)

    Hundreds of tons of foodstuffs, medicines and clothes, collected by the Athens Municipality and the Athens Archdiocese have been sent to the victims of the recent floods in the border Xanthi region.

    Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos thanked citizens for their contributions, and said the city council had received more than 5,000 calls with offers of help.

    The Greek Red Cross has also sent considerable quantities of relief items, and spent more than 20 million drachmas from private donations.

    [08] Tsovolas predicts New Democracy split

    Athens, 23/12/1996 (ANA)

    Social Democratic Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas has forecast a break up of the New Democracy party in the life of the present parliament, which will also have repercussions in the ruling PASOK party.

    Speaking in Thessaloniki on the first anniversary of his party's founding yesterday, he said DHKKI must form a broad social-developmental front with the forces of labor and production, which would have to be activated in the framework of a new European progressive movement.

    He said that in the 12 months of its life, his party had proved to Greeks and foreigners alike that a party did not need the support of foreign embassies and financial barons to survive and grow.

    He charged that PASOK, with its collective leadership today, covered the New Democracy party ideologically and politically, and called on youth to stand on the front line in order to put paid to "the designs of foreign powers to shrink Hellenism in the Aegean, Cyprus, and, in future, Thrace".

    End of English language section.


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