|Sunday, 17 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 06-12-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>December 18, 2006
 Government launches debate on 2007 budget
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)A deputy of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party on Sunday launched a parliamentary debate on the 2007 budget, saying it embodied the government's policy for economic and social progress.
"This is a budget characterized by a sense of responsibility, prospects, consistency and effectiveness, representing what is socially necessary, socially feasible, and desirable in terms of growth," Nikolaos Lengas, MP for Trikala, told the house.
"Coming generations are our horizon - not the next general election," Lengas noted.
The government's fiscal reform drive had brought results over two and a half years, despite major debts and deficits inherited from the previous government.
"Forecasts by former finance ministers of (main opposition) PASOK in December 2004 of a return to rising unemployment and a decline in growth have been disproved by events," the deputy said.
"Growth is at 4.4%, the fiscal deficit at 2.6% of gross domestic product, and joblessness at 8.7%, which is the level PASOK inherited in 1993 and then raised to 11.4%," he stated.
In addition, the main opposition had selectively employed the European Union's autumn forecasts for its arguments. Conversely, the report was entitled "Investments Recover" and predicted a rise in growth and employment coupled with a decline in inflation.
"Both the 2006 and 2007 budgets have a target of fiscal ease, so that we can grant the social dividend to vulnerable sections of the population," Lengas underlined.
Ahead of time, the government had met its election pledge of raising a supplement on low pensions by 490 euros a year. It had also increased farmers' pensions by 700 euros a year, hiked unemployment benefit and lowered tax brackets.
Turning to PASOK deputies in the house, Lengas stated: "When we made these commitments to the public, you asked where the money would be found. We are simultaneously lowering deficits and keeping our promises."
Joblessness had fallen by 2.5 basis points, but the government would not rest as long as one single person remained without a job, the deputy pledged.
Finally, the ruling party MP raised the question of privatization underway for Athens-quoted OTE telcom, a pledge contained in ND's election platform that has come under fire from PASOK and the firm's staff union.
"The government is seeking strategic alliances. But PASOK was giving 62% of the company with no planning, and it legalized a labor regime for (OTE mobile phone subsidiary) Cosmote that it is today opposing for OTE," Lengas stated.
Main opposition calls budget divisive: The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Sunday sharply criticized the government for its 2007 budget, which it called divisive and class-oriented.
"This class-based, dead-end budget that divides Greeks is (ruling) New Democracy's last," deputy Petros Efthymiou told parliament after hearing the government's presentation of the bill at the start of debate.
"The budget's only point is to embellish the fiscal situation at a time when economic problems are worsening. There is also a brutal redistribution of wealth, which is moving away from weaker social groups towards the powerful few - ND's friends at home and abroad," the MP charged.
In comparison with 2004, next year would see the imposition of 8.5 billion euros in additional taxes, up 22% in three years. Poorer people would shoulder the majority of the increase, he claimed.
"Merely from a reduction in tax on non-distributed (corporate) earnings, one billion euros will be granted to wealth and status. Half of the one billion will go to the country's 200 biggest companies, with 110,614 firms sharing the rest," Efthymiou added.
Finmin raps opposition: Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis rapped PASOK for its objections to the budget.
The minister recalled that in the past, the party had stormed out of parliament instead of voting for a rise in farmers' pensions and a supplement on low pensions.
The party had also declined to vote in favor of tax reductions, he added.
Communists see budget hurting workers
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) sees the government's 2007 budget as a tool for implementing policies to hurt workers.
"Like past budgets of (main opposition) PASOK, this new budget consistently serves the goals of making smaller firms pay up while boosting the profitability of monopolies," KKE deputy Angelos Tzekis told parliament at the state of debate on the bill.
"It also freezes or cut backs social spending," Tzekis claimed.
He stated that opposition between the ruling and main opposition parties was artificial, as both parties supported the same damaging policies.
"The government has pegged weekly and daily wages below inflation," the deputy added.
Coalition sees "brutal" cash redistribution: The opposition Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology on Sunday slammed the government's 2007 budget for what it called a "brutal" redistribution of wealth in favor of the rich.
"I can think of no other era when such a brutal redistribution of income has been presented, in favor of the few and against the rest," deputy Yiannis Dragasakis told parliament at the beginning of debate on the budget.
"Its first principle is that some will profit and others will pay up. Its second principle is that the rich will not even lose one euro....The budget widens social inequality instead of narrowing it," Dragasakis claimed.
 PM meets ruling party secretary
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday held wide-ranging talks with the secretary of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party, Lefteris Zagoritis.
Replying to a reporter's question after the meeting on disputes over changes at OTE telecom, which is under privatization, Zagoritis stated that ND was implementing its policy program, meeting its election pledges, and moving ahead with reform of the economy.
"The prime minister wants problems to be solved. Problems are being solved, reform is proceeding, Greece is changing - and that is significant," said the party secretary when asked if the prime minister was satisfied with events.
 Bakoyannis replies to Blair statement regarding Turkey
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)European Union leaders took a joint decision regarding Turkey that was binding for all EU member-states, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stressed in response to statements made by British Prime Minister Tony Blair concerning EU accession negotiations.
Reacting to Blair's call on Saturday for the immediate opening of new chapters in the accession talks in Turkey, Bakoyannis underlined that the EU's message to Turkey was clear and united.
Blair made statements that had the significance of political statements, but the essence lay in the decision of the EU General Affairs Council, she added.
During a press conference held in Ankara, the British prime minister called on Ankara to open its ports and airports to ships and planes from Cyprus but also urged the EU to "end the isolation of northern Cyprus".
He also said that Britain wanted and was now looking into the possibility of carrying out direct flights to the occupied territories in northern Cyprus, if this was allowed by international air navigation rules.
Blair underlined the need for a swift resolution of the Cyprus issue by the United Nations, urging the new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to begin a new mediating process when he takes over his duties on January 1.
 Papandreou in Beirut for SI meeting on Lebanon crisis
18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)A meeting between a Socialist International delegation led by SI president and Greek main opposition leader George Papandreou ended in Beirut with a pledge to support the elected government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
The meeting, which took place in the Lebanese capital on Saturday, also ended with a call to Lebanon's political parties to begin dialogue in order to extend national unity.
The SI delegation met with the leader and representatives of Lebanon's March 14 movement and was briefed on recent developments in Lebanon, noting the problems emerging after the massive protests staged by the Lebanon's main opposition to demand the government's resignation and other destabilizing actions.
Shortly before the meeting ended, Papandreou said that Lebanon was "experiencing a new crisis" and that Socialist International's visit sought to strengthen democratic institutions, national reconciliation and support efforts for Lebanon's integrity and independence, without the interference of external factors in its domestic affairs.
He stressed that SI was talking to all sides and continuing efforts for peace and democracy in the Middle East.
The meeting ended by issuing a resolution in which SI expressed support for Siniora and Lebanon's legally elected government, support for UN resolutions concerning Lebanon, while condemning terrorist acts and attempts to destabilize Lebanon. It also noted solidarity with a text drafted by March 14 movement and its efforts to ensure Lebanon's autonomy and independence.
The resolution additionally noted SI's intention to create an international committee to bring those responsible for the crimes committed under former Lebanese premier Rafik Harriri to trial and to shed light on all murder attempts before and after that murder, SI support for efforts to persuade Israel to return occupied territories to Lebanon and the exchange of captives, as well as its complete support of efforts for the economic reconstruction and social reform of the country, which it said should happen swiftly.
Papandreou, SI vice-president Deniz Baykal and SI Secretary-General Luis Ayala later attended a reception given by Siniora, who thanked them for SI's initiative and stressed that the situation in his country was critical.
 Socialist International seeks peace in Lebanon
BEIRUT, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA/P Haritos)The Socialist International wants to see peace in strife-torn Lebanon, the organization's president, George Papandreou, said on Saturday.
"What's happening today in Lebanon is of concern to the world community, especially the Socialist International," Papandreou, also head of Greece's Panhellenic Socialist Movement, told the start of a conference held by the group.
"We are here to express our support for the victims of murderous attacks, and for all who had the courage to come out and speak in current conditions...The answer is not to be found in arms or violence. We must work more for stability in Lebanon, for a solution to the Palestinian issue," he stated.
Conference delegates from more than 20 countries met to identify the situation in Lebanon and release a resolution that will back efforts by the government and the March 14th movement to find Rafik Hariri's killers and de-escalate tension in the country.
Attending the meeting chaired by Papandreou were Hariri's son, Saad; Wallid Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party and of the Druze; Ishmael Gemayel, son of a murdered deputy; and Lebanon's social affairs minister, Neila Mawad.
 Papandreou: PASOK ready to win next elections
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou stressed that his party was ready for elections and would emerge victorious, in an interview published in the Sunday issue of the newspaper "Eleftherotypia".
"PASOK does not have a defeat scenario. Victory is for us an obligation to the party and the country," he underlined.
One more vote for New Democracy would not be a second chance but "rewarding a bad policy", he added.
PASOK's leader also stressed that he was seeking a "first chance" to put into action the party's vision, which was "the creation of a country that broke new ground, was socially just, open to the world and confident regarding its future".
"We are ready to govern," he said.
Papandreou emphasized that the differences between PASOK and ruling New Democracy were deep, accusing the ruling party of implementing a form of "clientelist capitalism" where the "law of the powerful superseded the power of law".
Among the measures for bringing about a fairer society, Papandreou listed further tax reforms that would provide incentives but also act as an income redistribution mechanism, saying that the present system favored higher incomes at the expense of low incomes.
In other parts of the interview, PASOK's leader strongly criticized the government's plans for the privatization of Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) while referring at length to the party's own proposals for reforming higher education, stressing that these went far beyond modifying article 16 of the Constitution.
At the same time, he expressed support for modifying article 16, saying that it "emasculated the government's right to regulate a very important section of tertiary education".
Papandreou once again made overtures to the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party for cooperation, calling on the smaller party to submit proposals in the run-up to PASOK's program conference.
On the issue of changing electoral law, he said that this might be considered if the changes led to greater transparency and independence for politicians but ruled out all discussion of the issue as this was put by the present government.
Main opposition sees 2007 elections: The leader of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, George Papandreou, said on Sunday that he expected to see general elections in 2007.
"This failed government cannot govern Greece, and Greece cannot take this," Papandreou told a meeting of the party's parliamentary group. Elections are due in spring 2008.
The meeting preceded the start of debate in the house on the 2007 budget.
 Tourism minister ends US visit
WASHINGTON, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Tourism minister Fanny Palli-Petralia ended her visit to the USA at the weekend following a meeting with Francis Townsend, security advisor to President Bush.
In a dinner hosted for media, the minister outlined the advantages of Greece's tourism industry and the country's potential as a venue for alternative forms of tourism.
 Justice minister, German counterpart discuss prisoner repatriation
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Greek Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras held talks with his German counterpart Brigitte Zypries in Berlin to discuss a Greek initiative for facilitating the transfer of foreign prisoners to their country of origin, to serve their sentence in prisons in their own country, a Greek justice ministry announcement said on Sunday.
According to the announcement, Papaligouras has begun an international initiative for the repatriation of prisoners on chiefly humanitarian grounds, so that they are in contact with a familiar environment and family members. Moving prisoners to their own countries improves conditions of incarceration and communication, while it also facilitates vocational skills training and social rehabilitation after their release, the ministry said.
The meeting with Zypries was held in view of Germany taking over the rotating EU presidency at the start of 2007 and a discussion to begin in February at the Council of Europe on the Greek minister's proposal.
The German justice minister gave an initial assurance of support for the Greek proposal during Germany's six-month EU presidency, while Papaligouras underlined that it was important for the EU to adopt a uniform position of this issue, given that it will represent 27 of the 46 CoE member-states.
Adoption of the Greek proposal by the CoE will greatly relieve overcrowding in Greek prisons, where 40% of the inmates are foreigners, of which 90% are nationals of CoE member-states.
 Archbishop welcomes visit to Vatican
ROME, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece on Saturday welcomed his meeting with Pope Benedict at the Vatican last week, the first visit to the Holy See by a head of the Greek Orthodox church.
"The visit bore fruit, turning a new page in relations between the two churches and inaugurating a new era," Christodoulos told reporters shortly before leaving the Italian capital for Greece, and after a visit to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
"I appreciate the exceptional honors that were bestowed on myself and on my delegation, which often exceeded the Holy See's strict formalities," he added.
In a separate statement at the Vatican, Cardinal Walter Casper described the archbishop's visit as a good step forward.
He also underlined cooperation between the two churches on social, cultural and political issues, making special note of Apostle Paul's establishment of the Church of Greece.
 President of the Republic hosts reception for journalists
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias hosted on Saturday evening a reception for mass media representatives.
Present at the event were Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his wife Natasa, many government ministers, honorary president of the ruling New Democracy party and former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis while main opposition PASOK was represented by its Secretary Nikos Athanasakis as party leader George Papandreou was on a trip to Lebanon.
 Condolences for death of journalist
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)A long-standing political and parliamentary correspondent for the Ta Nea daily newspaper, Yiannis Diakoyiannis, died of cancer on Saturday aged 49.
A flood of condolences were released from the government, political parties and journalists' unions, lauding Diakoyiannis' contribution to news coverage, which included hazardous assignments to war zones.
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias paid special tribute to Diakoyiannis.
The funeral will be held on Monday.
 Government to sell about 20% of OTE, Finmin tells Sunday 'Vima'
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The government intends to sell about 20% of its shares in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) to a "strategic partner or ally", Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said in an interview issued on Sunday by the Greek newspaper "Vima".
Management of the telecom company would be shared by the buyer and the public sector, while the framework of this collaboration would have to be compatible with European Union regulations, he added.
Alogoskoufis said that the plan to further privatize OTE was a strategic one for the government but would be aborted if the appropriate ally could not be found. In this case, however, the government might opt for further securitization of OTE stock, he added.
According to the timeframe set by the government, the process will be completed by the middle of next year, so that the "strategic partner" might be chosen.
Asked why the government had abandoned plans to privatize state-controlled companies operating at a loss, Alogoskoufis pointed out that this was impossible because no one was willing to buy losses.
"There is nothing in our program about privatizing loss-making companies. For these companies the first priority is their reform, before you can think about any kind of privatization," he stressed.
Regarding the situation at Greek ports and the problems caused by an overtime boycott begun by dock workers protesting against the privatization of selected port services, the finance minister noted that this was an initiative exclusively handled by the merchant marine ministry, not his own, while noting that there was not disagreement between the two ministries on this issue.
 Finmin address New Democracy youth party meeting
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Outlining the government's policy on privatizations, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Sunday stressed that the government did not see the state as a profit-maker but a regulator. He was addressing a meeting of the New Democracy youth party (ONNED) Central Committee, at which he was the main speaker.
Alogoskoufis was referring to the government's controversial move to shed yet more of the state's share in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), the formerly state-owned telecoms monopoly.
Speaking about the money devoted to youth in the 2007 budget, the minister pointed to the high deficits, high public debt, high unemployment and declining competitiveness that the present government had inherited from its predecessors, noting that it had succeeded in reversing this climate.
He said the unswerving goal of the budget was to foster growth, employment and social cohesion, with a reduction in taxes for all that would increase incentives for investment provided under the developmental law.
The minister said that 2007 would be a crucial year in which the results of the reforms already begun would become apparent and the new cycle of reforms in view of the next elections will be designed.
 Section of natgas pipeline to Turkey opens 2007
18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The Greek section of a natural gas pipeline to Turkey is due to begin operating in May 2007, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Saturday.
The domestic stretch is budgeted at 82 million euros, Sioufas told a celebration by Public Gas Corporation to mark 10 years of natural gas in Greece.
"On operation of the pipeline, a major step will have been taken for implementation of a natural gas corridor between Greece, Turkey and Italy," the minister noted.
Natural gas consumption in Greece totals 400 million cubic meters by 300,000 households. Also connected are 750 schools and 29 hospitals.
Vasso Papandreou, a former development minister for the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, was presented with a plaque for her services to the sector. It was during her tenure that the use of natural gas was launched in Greece.
 Finance ministry and World Bank conference on SE Europe
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The economy and finance ministry and the World Bank are organizing a conference on "Forming the regulatory framework for the creation of dynamic and competitive markets in southeastern Europe" on Monday and Tuesday in Athens.
National Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis will open the sessions of the conference, while personalities and academics will refer to international experience gained regarding the deregulation of sectors such as energy, telecommunications and transport.
 Shortage of Greek products in Australia
MELBOURNE, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Greek products have disappeared from supermarket shelves in Australia as Christmas approaches due to an overtime boycott by dock workers in Greek ports, according to reports on Sunday.
Consumers but also Greek restaurants said they were unable to find Greek products on the market, because foods and beverages ordered by importers have not reached Australia in time.
Importer Yiannis Nomikoudis stressed that it was now too late for the holidays and also underlined the long-term consequences of the shortage:
"The worst is that consumers, if they don't find a product, will buy something else. In this way, habits will change. And this will be the greatest cost. Both for us but, chiefly, for Greek exports," he said.
 Greece sends fire engines to help fight massive blaze in Albania
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Greece sent two special fire-fighting vehicles across the border into Albania on Sunday to help battle a massive blaze at a large petroleum depot in the city of Leza, 40 kilometres north of Tirana. The fire-engines were sent by the Ioannina fire department, in accordance with a bilateral cooperation protocol signed by Greece and Albania.
According to reports from Albania, the fire has burned 90 million litres of petroleum and has created a massive pillar of smoke visible from the Albanian capital.
 AHEPA seminar on GM foods
18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) held a seminar in Thessaloniki on Saturday to provide information about genetically modifies foods.
"The event was part of social policy by AHEPA, which could not remain indifferent to such a serious and timely subject as genetically modified organisms," the president of the organization's Megas Alexandros branch said in Thessalonki, where the seminar was held.
Information focused on how to learn more about food bought in stores.
 Police set up unit to tackle soccer violence
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Police are to set up a soccer violence unit to help prevent incidents at football matches and other sports events that will also arrange data exchanges with authorities abroad.
Created under a presidential decree, the unit will be housed in a general policing division operations room at police headquarters.
Among the unit's duties will be locating suspects in sports violence and rating the danger level of events from a security angle.
 Greek Super League soccer results
ATHENS, 18/12/2006 (ANA-MPA)Results of the Greek Super League soccer matches played over the weekend:
Atromitos Athens - Aris Thessaloniki, 1-1
Iraklis Thessaloniki - Xanthi, 1-0
Olympiakos Piraeus - Ionikos Piraeus, 3-0
Egaleo Athens - Ergotelis Crete, 2-0
Larissa - Apollon Kalamaria, 0-1
Kerkyra - Panathinaikos Athens, 3-1
OFI Crete - PAOK Thessaloniki, 1-0
AEK Athens - Panionios Athens, 4-0
Standings after 15 weeks of play:
Olympiakos 39 points
Apollon Kalamaria 15
Note: Ionikos was deducted two points for disciplinary reasons.
 Eleni Mavrou becomes the first female mayor of Nicosia
NICOSIA, 18/12/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Eleni Mavrou, the candidate of the ruling coalition comprising left-wing AKEL, the Democratic Party and the Social Democrats Movement EDEK, became the first female mayor of the divided capital of Nicosia.
During Sunday's municipal elections, Mavrou received a total of 9781 votes or 34.93%, against independent Anna Marangou, who was backed by main opposition party Democratic Rally (DISI) who secured 9007 votes or 32.17%. Outgoing mayor, independent Michalakis Zampellas garnered 7650 or 27.32% while independent candidate Nicos Mesaritis secured 1562 or 5.58%.
Born in Kyrenia on 2 February 1961, Mavrou studied Civil Engineering at the Higher Technical Institute and then gained her undergraduate degree at the University of London in Politics and International Relations.
She was actively involved in the students' movement during her studies and later in the progressive, left youth movement of Cyprus.
She served as General Secretary of the United Democratic Youth Organization (E.D.O.N.)
In 1986 she was elected member of the Nicosia Municipal Council a post in which she was reelected in 1991.
Mavrou became a member of the House of Representatives in 1991 and was re-elected during the 2006 elections.
She is a member of the Central Committee of AKEL since 1990. Eleni Mavrou is the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment and member of the Committees on Human Rights and Interior.
She is member of the delegation of the House to the E.U.-Cyprus Joint Parliamentary Committee and was recently appointed as representative of the House to the Convention for the Future of Europe.
 Cyprus President underlines role of local administration
NICOSIA, 18/12/2006 (CNA/ANA-MPA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos has stressed that local administration is an important parameter in the functioning of democratic institutions and a necessary and valuable partner in the joint effort to enhance the quality of life.
In a statement at the Presidential Palace after the polls for the local administration elections closed, Papadopoulos commended all the Cypriots and European nationals who voted Sunday because, as he pointed out, the high percentage of participation ( 85% ) confirmed once again their dedication to democratic procedures and their respect to local administration.
Papadopoulos wished everyone elected in Sunday's local administration elections good luck "in the difficult task they assume."
He said those elected ''have undertaken great responsibilities" adding that "we all expect them to administer with responsibility, prudence, good measure, creativity, transparency and collectivity."
"We expect them to give in practice substantial say and role to the citizens. to strengthen relations between local administration and society, to the benefit of the people as a whole and the country as well," he added.
The president called on the guardians of local administration to show the necessary responsibility and political courage to secure their own funds, which is a necessary foundation for political autonomy, in addition to the state subsidy which will continue and increase.
Papadopoulos assured that the government will continue to strengthen the institution of local authorities.
"We will continue in close cooperation with all the Mayors, the community leaders and the members of the municipal and communal councils elected today to draft policies and implement commitments which promote local society and enhance the quality of life," he added.
President Papadopoulos commended the Chief Returning Officer, the District Returning Officers, public servants and educationalists for the zeal, the responsibility and the high feeling of responsibility they display and they continue to work until the process is completed successfully, in an objective way which secures absolute confidentiality of these important elections.
"I want to commend, he added, all the candidates and all the political parties and combinations for the high level of political moral and political culture they have shown during the pre-election campaign which allowed to have a fruitful and creative dialogue on the issues of local administration."