|Wednesday, 23 September 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-03-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>March 7, 2005
 Main opposition leader winds up party congress, citing unity
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)The leader of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Saturday wound up a national party congress that unanimously endorsed a manifesto and statutes geared to giving the party a new lease of life.
"The congress has taken the big step. I shall be presiding over a new model of power," Papandreou told delegates.
Introducing a new slogan - "Change now, change everywhere, change always" - he said the gist carried the same weight as the party's founding concept of change.
Earlier, congress chairman Costas Laliotis said that the unanimous vote on key party documents showed that differing viewpoints could eventually be reconciled.
"We are working to achieve the end of this conservative phase with the (ruling) New Democracy party in one, two, or three years at the most," Laliotis said.
Papandreou also denounced the government in a blistering attack for damaging the country since it took office after general elections in March 2004.
"The government is near to collapse. It is taking the country downhill. The Greek Right has brought nothing but suffering to the Greek public," he said.
Among party resolutions adopted by the congress were backing for the European constitution and a call for broad-based talks on the separation of church and state.
On Sunday, congress delegates will vote for members of the party's national council.
Main opposition congress approves political manifesto: A national congress of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Saturday unanimously endorsed a party manifesto and statutes.
"The unanimous vote was impressive as it shows that composition (of the documents) was made possible through dialogue and hearing different viewpoints," congress chairman Costas Laliotis said.
"We are working to achieve the end of this conservative phase with the (ruling) New Democracy party in one, two, or three years at the most," he added.
Main opposition congress hears views on party's past and future: Delegates speaking at a national congress of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Saturday outlined their views on the party's future and past, including analysis of why general elections were lost a year ago, in the third day of debate.
"We are socialists, we have our own identity, values and principles. There is therefore no need to change the word or mask it," the party veteran said.
"The congress must address differently the impact of election loss so we can find the way to overcome it," he urged.
"PASOK lost the elections because it lost control of the political agenda in terms of relations between the state and the public, and on the level of values," Papantoniou noted.
Kaklamanis also opposed private financial backing for political parties. Instead cash for a party's basic operational and election expenditure should be allocated from the budget.
Debate in PASOK's congress is due to end on Saturday with a speech by party leader George Papandreou on the party's internal workings and structure before a vote by delegates on statutes and policy. On Sunday, members of the national council will stand for election.
Opposition congress delegates back separation of church and state: Delegates to a congress of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Saturday came out strongly in favor of separation of church and state during a forum, also criticizing the term in office of Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece.
"We support safeguarding our values, the values of democracy, and our traditions of Hellenism and Orthodoxy. We do not, however, accept certain parts of the establishment using these for their own ends," PASOK leader George Papandreou said in a brief contribution to the debate.
At the end of the congress, the party issued a resolution for broad-based talks on the separation of church and state.
Separating the roles of the two institutions meant that the church would cast off dependence on the state, alien to its spiritual and social mission; and the state would be freed from practices foreign to Europe's constitutional culture, the resolution said.
Serbian president greets party congress: Serbian president Boris Tadic on Saturday greeted a party congress of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK).
"I am close to my friends in Greece, and to (PASOK leader) George Papandreou, who stood by my people, as did the Greek people," Tadic told the congress.
"I aim for reform, and I also share PASOK's slogan of 'Let's change'," the politician said.
Main opposition honors chief Olympics organizer: The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement on Saturday conferred an award on Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, chief organizer of the Athens 2004 Olympics, for her contribution to the global event.
"The award is for her personal endeavor, and I would say, sacrifice, as she devoted her whole life to the effort in those years," PASOK leader George Papandreou told the ceremony.
Daskalaki has recently resumed public appearances after being hospitalized in December suffering from overwork and exhaustion.
 Opinion poll: Ruling party leads in voter preference
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)The ruling New Democracy (ND) party has 36.1% support among voters, 4.1 percentage points ahead of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) at 32%, according to a survey conducted by Opinion for the Sunday Eleftherotypia newspaper.
Next in voter preference comes the Communist Party of Greece at 5.9%; the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, 3.7%; and Laos, 3.5%.
ND leader Costas Karamanlis has backing of 49% for the post of premier, which he holds; followed by PASOK leader George Papandreou at 32.3%.
Tipped to win national elections is ND at 59.1%, ahead of 21.4% for PASOK. The party best able to govern is ND at 36.2%, with 25.4% for PASOK, the poll showed
Asked to name the main problems in the country, 72.9% of respondents opted for the economy, followed by unemployment (58.8%), the Church (7.8%), education (7.1%), corruption (also 7.1%), pollution (6.0%), hospitals (5.6%), crime (also 5.6%), and the judiciary (2.0%).
In order of popularity among senior clerics, Archbishop Anastasios of Albania ranked top, followed by Patriarch Vartholomeos in Istanbul in second place, and Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece running third.
 Gov't, ruling party officials on first year in power
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)Ministers and the secretary of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party on Sunday outlined the government's first year in office in separate meetings around the country, also countering criticism from main opposition PASOK.
ND secretary Evangelos Meimarakis welcomed the government's term, also urging the party to focus on teamwork accompanied by self criticism. He accused PASOK of arbitrariness and imposing its views.
Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that the government had shown it was resolved to tell the truth and uphold its pledges.
"The adverse economic situation did not stop the government from to carrying out its promises, as in the pension levy affair," the minister said.
"Let us not forget that this government in a single year met problems head on that no one had dared to touch, and it has not taken into account the political cost," he added.
Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas noted that PASOK had held power for nearly 25 years but now acted as if it bore no relation to the problems that it passed on from that era.
"They are pretending it was a virgin birth," added Sioufas, referring to the party's national congress.
 Majority of public sees no need for cabinet reshuffle
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)Forty two percent of the public sees no need for a cabinet reshuffle, with 38% in favor and 20% unable or unwilling to answer, according to an opinion poll conducted by Alco and published on Sunday by the Proto Thema newspaper.
Asked whether Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had lived up to their expectations in his first year in office, 20% were very satisfied, 25% fairly satisfied, 36% slightly satisfied, and 22% not at all satisfied.
Replying to the same question about George Papandreou, leader of the main opposition PASOK party, 20% were very satisfied, 23% fairly satisfied, 32% slightly satisfied, and 27% not at all satisfied.
Concerning Papandreou's future, 50.5% believe that he will remain in opposition, and 31.6% that he will win the next general election.
Asked whether the government had upheld its election pledges on the economy, 27.7% replied in the affirmative, and 64.4% in the negative.
 President urges tougher sanctions for corrupt state workers
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)Tougher sanctions should be imposed on corrupt judicial and other state employees that would underline the ethical nature of the crime and blacken their names in society, the president of the republic, Kostis Stephanopoulos, said in hard-hitting statements on Sunday.
"Existing penalties, some lacking and others non-enforced, require a supplement. For me, they do not go far enough, as things stand, these penalties concerning liberty imposed by the courts. Fines that fall under the category of penal sanctions also do not go far enough, in my opinion.," Stephanopoulos told a public event in Hania, which included the deputy public order minister representing the government.
" I think we could put out a new law to establish another type of penalty for the courts to pronounce - ethical sanctions, for a person who commits these acts to be declared unworthy and base. This would apply not only to judges but to all public employees who use their occupation for personal gain," the president said.
Acknowledging that judges and other public employees were underpaid, he underlined that state finances were restricted, and salaries failed to justify corruption.
"If these ethical sanctions existed, which would constitute social rejection, the corrupt elements in society would be rejected, and we would make them carry a stigma that is maybe excessive, but nonetheless necessary," the president said.
 Cypriot government spokesman briefs minister
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)Cyprus' visiting government spokesman, Kypros Chrysostomides, on Saturday briefed Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis on the latest developments affecting the island republic.
"We find ourselves at a difficult, complex turning point. Our side is ready to start negotiations as soon as possible as part of a process that would ensure well-intentioned progress and prospects that could lead to an agreed solution, acceptable to the two communities that comprise the Cyprus Republic's one people," Chrysostomides told a news conference in Thessaloniki.
Tsiartsionis noted that the two countries were cooperating in all sectors on a bilateral and European Union level.
 Greece to seek Kosovo reconciliation as security council president
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)Greece will seek to reconcile opposing factions in Kosovo when it assumes the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council in July, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis said on Sunday.
"As Greece, a country, and as president of the security council, we must be ready to bridge the gap that today divides the positions of the two sides, so that a solution may be found," Valinakis said in an interview to NET television.
"But in order to proceed with this, criteria set by the UN would have to have been fully met and evaluated by summer," he added.
 Self-criticism "useful" to straighten out the Church, top cleric says
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece said on Sunday that self-criticism was "useful" for correction of the Church, following a spate of alleged sex and financial scandals that have frequently made headline news.
"It has made us all examine ourselves and our environment, and to take measures. This disease requires treatment. We have been affected, even if we were not directly connected," Christodoulos said from a suburban pulpit.
"This suffering has strengthened our faith," he added.
 Gov't plans to form natgas trade group
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)Deputy Development Minister George Salagoudis said on Sunday that the government planned to form an association of firms involved in natural gas whose membership would be mandatory.
The purpose of the association would be to create a post-graduate education centre for natural gas studies aimed at engineers; create a sector vocational training centre; arrange conferences; handle publicity drives; and provide quality certification services, the minister told a seminar in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
 Gov't rejects main opposition's criticism of economy
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Sunday rapped the main opposition PASOK party for its record on the economy.
"Contract workers held hostage, low pensions and a problematic economy are some of the 'achievements' of PASOK's twenty-year policy, in which (PASOK leader) George Papandreou took part as a minister," the spokesman said in a statement.
He was responding to criticism by Papandreou of the government's economic policy earlier in the day.
 Coalition of Left raps gov't on social, economic policy
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)The leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology on Saturday blasted the government for its economic and social policy, saying the state of the country was going "from bad to worse."
"Greek capitalism, in an era of fiscal supervision by the European Union, has entered a phase of major economic recession, if not extended economic crisis," Alekos Alavanos told his party's central political committee.
"We are experiencing the outright failure of neo-liberal policies and restructuring launched by the PASOK party in the 1990s and perpetuated by the New Democracy government," Alavanos complained.
People on low incomes were suffering under a combination of economic austerity and high consumer prices, fuelling a widening of social inequality, he added.
 Development minister to EU meeting on Lisbon strategy
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas is to attend a European Union ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday.
Among items on the agenda of the development ministers' meeting is an interim review of the bloc's Lisbon strategy and implementation of the single market.
 US welcomes teamwork with Greece in combatting drugs trade
WASHINGTON 7/3/2005 (ANA/T Ellis)Greece, a major transit point for illicit drugs flowing into Western Europe, has achieved an excellent level of cooperation with US narcotics and law enforcement agencies, the State Department said in a worldwide survey released on Saturday.
"Cooperation between U.S. and Greek law enforcement officials is exceptionally close and professional; the government of Greece is very responsive in its aggressive pursuit of processing U.S. requests for legal assistance," the State Department said.
Greek authorities report that drug abuse and addiction continue to climb in Greece as the age for first-time drug use drops. Drug trafficking remains a significant issue in the country's battle against organized crime, the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs said in its international narcotics control strategy report for 2004.
Investigations initiated by the DEA and its Greek counterparts suggest that a dramatic rise has occurred in the number and size of drug trafficking organizations operating in the country.
"Greece is not a significant source country for illicit drug production, though shipment of anabolic steroids to the United States does occur on a small scale. Use of anabolic steroids is legal in Greece. However, it is illegal to ship them to countries where they are a categorized as a controlled substance, the survey said.
Several joint U.S./Greek Counter Narcotics investigations occurred in 2004 with significant arrests and seizures. In July 2004, the DEA, in cooperation with Hellenic, British, Spanish, Belgian and French authorities, dismantled a major maritime smuggling organization, culminating in the seizure of 5,400 kilograms of cocaine, the M/V AFRICA I, and 4,000,000 euros; along with the arrest of nine individuals. The Greek Financial Crimes Unit is conducting an intense financial investigation into the related drug trafficking organization, which may lead to additional seizures and arrests.
In June 2004, DEA and the Greek Counter Narcotics Units targeted a group utilizing pleasure craft to transport multi-ton quantities of cocaine from the Caribbean to Western Europe. In August 2004, this joint investigation culminated in the seizure of 1.2 tons of cocaine and a sailing yacht, along with the arrest of seven individuals.
"Officers and representatives of Greece's law enforcement agencies are generally under-trained, underpaid, under-appreciated, and overworked. Although this atmosphere has the potential to breed corruption, the level of corruption in the law enforcement agencies is relatively low with regard to narcotics and narcotics-related money laundering," according to the report.
Regarding the judiciary, at least a dozen judges are currently being investigated for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for favorable judgments for a variety of defendants, including accused drug traffickers. The justice ministry has ordered the investigation be accelerated so that indictments may be handed down by mid-2005, it added.
 Level of Evros River may rise due to rain and melting snow in Bulgaria
Athens, 7/3/2005 (ANA)Authorities said on Sunday that water levels of a river feeding the Evros in the north were slowly but steadily rising due to rain and melting snow in Bulgaria.
A day earlier the Evros' water level had dropped below danger level but experts warned of possible new flooding within 48 hours as temperatures rose, washing down snow.
Emergency services were on stand-by in case Evros' waters again started to swell.
The minister of agricultural development and foods toured the area on Sunday to assess damage to crops and announce compensation for farmers.
Gov't speeds up bad-weather compensation
for farmers: Agricultural Development and Food Minister Evangelos Basiakos said on Sunday that the government was implementing its pledge of accelerating compensation for farmers incurring losses due to bad weather.
In the latest instance, the country's north was badly hit by ice, rain and snow this winter.
Basiakos said that payments to northern livestock breeders would be made within two months of claims due for submittal to authorities in March.
The minister was visiting the prefecture of Evros to assess crop damage and announce compensation.
 US delegation wraps up contacts at UN Headquarters on Cyprus
UNITED NATIONS 7/3/2005 (CNA/ANA)A four-member US delegation headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Laura Kennedy visited the Cypriot Permanent Representation to the UN Friday night, wrapping up its investigative contacts at UN headquarters on Cyprus.
A diplomatic source told CNA that the contacts aimed at recording the views of the parties involved in the recent phase of the Cyprus problem with a view to brief newly appointed US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
In all meetings, the US delegation pointed out that they espouse UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's view that Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos should submit the Greek Cypriot side's suggestions for alterations to the Annan plan, rejected by the Greek Cypriot community during last April's referendum.
According to a Greek diplomatic source, no new elements emerged from the US delegation's meeting with the Greek Permanent Representative, Ambassador Adamantios Vasilakis.
The Americans pointed out the need for President Papadopoulos to present the Greek Cypriot side's suggestions for alterations to the Annan plan and requested Greece's support for the approval of the European Commission's regulations on financial aid and direct trade with the Turkish Cypriots.
The Greek diplomat pointed out that the US should approach the situation in a more sober manner, pointing out that the pressure-exerting policy on Nicosia does not assist efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.
The US delegation also met with UN Under Secretary for Political Affairs Sir Kieran Prendergast, the Turkish and British Permanent Representatives to the UN, the Turkish Cypriot so-called ''representative'', and UN officials.