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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-09-03

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Monday, 3 September 2007 Issue No: 2687


  • [01] Barroso: 'Greece's problem is Europe's problem'
  • [02] PASOK leader meets European Commission President, sends letter to Socialist International
  • [03] Karamanlis addresses nation regarding wildfire devastation
  • [04] Karamanlis tours fire-stricken Evia; 'fires not a coincidence'
  • [05] PM to paper: Fires not a 'coincidence'
  • [06] Papandreou unveils programme for reconstruction of wildfire-stricken regions
  • [07] Minister of State on wildfire relief
  • [08] PM emphasises education, social security reforms as priorities
  • [09] KKE leader addresses rally in Korydallos
  • [10] KKE leader addresses rally in Keratsini
  • [11] Leftist leader tours Thisseio district near Acropolis
  • [12] SYRIZA leader presents party ticket at press conference
  • [13] LA.OS party leader Karatzaferis in N. Greece
  • [14] Gennimata disqualified from PASOK's state deputies list; reactions follow
  • [15] Patoulidou resigns seat on Thessaloniki prefecture council
  • [16] Last of major wildfires snuffed out as first autumn rains appear in N. Greece
  • [17] Farewell ceremony for Cypriot fire-fighters
  • [18] Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on wildfires in Greece
  • [19] Uprising at Alikarnassos prison ends without incident
  • [20] Firebombs found on Thessaloniki University premises
  • [21] Air Force helicopter rescues five people from yacht
  • [22] Alexandria Patriarch on new Ecclesiastical Year
  • [23] Panathinaikos-Olympiakos match ends 0-0
  • [24] Cloud, showers on Monday Politics

  • [01] Barroso: 'Greece's problem is Europe's problem'

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso flew in a helicopter over wildfire-stricken regions of the western Peloponnese on Saturday morning for two hours to ascertain the extent of the destruction, holding talks in Athens afterwards.

    Speaking after their meeting, and said in Greek to emphasise his words, Barroso said "Europe is on the side of Greece," adding that "we are by your side and we shall remain by your side. The problem of Greece is also the problem of Europe." Barroso said that it is an unprecedented situation and that the damage is very extensive. He also stressed that when an assessment will have been made of damage caused to the economy and to the environment, the European Commission will activate the Solidarity Fund and whatever else is necessary to help Greece.

    Karamanlis underlined that the European Union showed its solidarity immediately and that "our partners made a direct contribution to efforts to extinguish the wildfires ... The European Union is standing by Greece's side, it is a valuable ally of ours in pursuing without delay the reconstruction of the regions that were burnt," Karamanlis said.

    The prime minister said the EU "showed its solidarity for Greece's ordeal" and pointed out that our partners offered valuable assistance to Greek firefighting forces by sending aerial firefighting means and specially trained firefighters.

    Karamanlis further said that the Greek proposal for strengthened cooperation in Europe in the sector of protecting citizens and coordinated action to battle natural disasters received a positive response from Barroso and noted that Europe can prove on a daily basis that it stands by citizens.

    "The European Commission is standing by Greece's side at this difficult time, helping our priority to support our fellow countrymen who have experienced and are experiencing difficult times," the Greek prime minister said.

    Karamanlis further said that Barroso, Commissioner Danuta Hubner and Commissioner Stavros Dimas have shown their support in practice and that as soon as the assessment of damage has been completed all necessary procedures will be activated to facilitate immediate and substantive support from the Solidarity Fund and the Community Support Framework.

    The prime minister expressed confidence that Barroso will continue to handle the issue personally and that the European Commission "will contribute decisively and at a speedy pace to the restoration of damage in the stricken regions."

    Barroso said, on his part, that the Greek people must feel certain that they are not alone and that Europe is standing by their side in this time of need, while also expressing his condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of the victims.

    "We agreed at the Commission that we shall be making every effort possible to support Greece and, in this direction, we are ready to take into consideration claims that will be coming from Greece, as soon as the assessment of damage has been completed," he further said.

    "We are ready to activate the Solidarity Fund, that has been created in the EU, precisely to handle such situations. For this reason, Commissioner Danuta Hubner, who is responsible for regional aid, has come here for contacts with the Greek government, to see the situation and to ascertain whether more Funds must be activated, apart from the Solidarity Fund. What is necessary for this to take place is a full evaluation and assessment of the economic, as well as of the environmental, damage. And a certain initiative by the government will also be necessary. What I have seen confirmed for me that the damage is very great," Barroso concluded.

    [02] PASOK leader meets European Commission President, sends letter to Socialist International

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou, who will be presenting his party's programme on the reconstruction of wildfire-stricken regions in the country during his visit to the prefecture of Ilia on Sunday, met on Saturday with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

    Papandreou, in his capacity of President of the Socialist International, sent a letter to the leaders and party members of the International on the repercussions of the wildfires in Greece and on the acceptance of the proposal by its Secretary General Louis Ayala for a meeting of the Committee of the Socialist International on the viable World Society at Ancient Olympia.

    The PASOK leader stressed in his letter that "in the past days the entire world became a witness of the tragic events that took place in Greece with uncontrollable fires destroying land, animals and, what is worse, costing human lives."

    Papandreou added that "since my country is experiencing the worst diaster since the Second World War, I am taking the courage to appeal to you over the unprecedented destruction that Greece has experienced."

    He concluded by saying in his letter that "let us choose the place of the Olympic Movement and of the Olympic Truce as the place where our Organisation will inaugurate a new political agenda."

    [03] Karamanlis addresses nation regarding wildfire devastation

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis made a nationally televised address on Sunday evening regarding the destructive wildfires that have ravaged parts of southern Greece over the past 10 days.

    "Steadfast steps are being taken and there is clear planning to heal the wounds caused by the wildfires," the Greek prime minister said.

    "Our country is experiencing an ordeal. It is faced with an unprecedented and extremely difficult situation. Nobody can be satisfied, since human lives were lost, huge expanses of land were dealt a blow and several of our fellow countrymen lost their property. An effort and changes are necessary for a more organised, effective and friendlier state for the citizen," he added.

    Karamanlis further said that "we are continuing with greater determination to overcome the weaknesses of past decades. At the same time, thousands of people battled the flames and some also gave their lives. The great challenge lies ahead for all. The challenge is for the country to change its pace of work, for decisions to be taken swiftly."

    Lastly, the prime minister said "the crisis must be turned into an opportunity for progress. Together with the sense of honour, the solidarity of all of society was highlighted these days, patriotism makes all of us more effective, it makes us more optimistic about the future, a future that we owe to our children."

    [04] Karamanlis tours fire-stricken Evia; 'fires not a coincidence'

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Sunday toured the fire-stricken district of Styra, in southern Evia, the large island straddling the east coast of continental Greece, where he chaired an extraordinary meeting at town hall.

    Karamanlis was accompanied by a high-level government contingent during his meeting with local municipal leaders and residents.

    While there, the prime minister again reiterated that extensive assistance will be allocated to the affected areas for their reconstruction.

    [05] PM to paper: Fires not a 'coincidence'

    Meanwhile, in an interview published in an Athens daily on Sunday - his first after declaring snap elections last month for Sept. 16 - Karamanlis said the wildfire crisis in the country reinforce the position that reforms in the country for a modern, reliable and more functional state are imperative.

    Along those lines, Karamanlis said a possible merger of the public order and interior ministries is being considered, as well as the establishment of a separate environment ministry.

    Asked about the barrage of wildfires that erupted in southern Greece in late August, the Greek prime minister again said that "so many fires, at the same time and in so many different regions cannot be a coincidence."

    "The state is making every effort possible to find and punish those responsible, those who intentionally caused harm," he said.

    In response to a question over responsibilities for the state's performance in fighting the wildfires, Karamanlis said: "No one can be satisfied when human life is lost. The crucial question here is if the state's apparatuses, under these extreme and unprecedented circumstances, did the best it could " he added.

    In other matters, Karamanlis said his government will not implement additional measures to deal with the economic consequences of the catastrophe.

    Karamanlis' statements were carried in a front-page interview in the Sunday edition of the Athens daily "Kathimerini".

    [06] Papandreou unveils programme for reconstruction of wildfire-stricken regions

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou presented his party's programme for the reconstruction of wildfire-stricken regions in the Peloponnese and Evia, speaking in the city of Pyrgos, the capital of devastated Ilia prefecture, on Sunday afternoon.

    "Now is the time of truth," Papandreou said, terming the period crucial for the country, and adding that national unanimity is necessary to deal with the situation.

    He stressed that the plan has two pylons that are unbreakably connected to each other. The one is a plan of immediate relief, aid and the consolidation of a "right to life" for the wildfire-stricken and the other is a plan for the reconstruction and revival (social, productive, economic, ecological, town planning and housing) of the wildfire-stricken regions.

    Papandreou spoke at this point of "half-measures on the part of the New Democracy government and of Mr. (Costas) Karamanlis personally" with the purpose of "pulling wool over the eyes of the wildfire-stricken" and which "have the sole aim of whitewashing the shame and the huge responsibilities of the Karamanlis government for its incompetence."

    The PASOK leader said that "it is our desire to hold the population and provide a new prospect of development and prosperity for the region and our ambition is not merely to bring back the people and their places to the situation that they were in before the wildfires" and presented the plan's goal that is to make the Peloponnese "the craddle of a 'model' of ecodevelopment, of a new model of 'green' development with absolute respect for man, for nature, history and culture."

    Papandreou said that what is also necessary is the reshaping of the National Strategic Reference Framework 2007-2013 and of the Agricultural Development Programme of the 4th Programming Period, as well as of the country's General Town Planning and Sustainable Development Framework.

    He went on to say that the university can become the "centre for resolving conflicts and wars."

    -The foundations of a major theme park that will focus on Greek mythology and philosophy.

    -The foundations of knowledge, protecion and the promotion of crucial ecosystems and their unbreakable relation with man and his life.

    -The foundations of an international Olympic Sports Centre model that will be a point of reference for events and the holding of games for athletes, young people and sports fans from all over the world.

    -The Olympic Truce Centre.

    Papandreou said that this pole will be tantamount to a city that will be able to bear the name of "New Olympia" and "live up to the dreams and expectations of all Greeks and, mainly, of the younger generations."

    The PASOK leader also mentioned PASOK's policy position that "our growth prospect lies in the 'green economy'. With new organising and directions in the agricultural sector and a new agricultural land policy, with new policies for energy, transportation, industry, tourism."

    [07] Minister of State on wildfire relief

    Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos announced on Saturday that 774 applications have been submitted to the Agricultural Bank by wildfire-stricken people and the amount of 2,986,000 euros has been provided.

    Roussopoulos further said that four arrests have taken place and 125 people have been questioned, adding that the total amount at the Bank of Greece's Emergency Fund is 56,484,498 euros.

    The minister also said that he will be disclosing the total number of people arrested on Monday and clarified that compensation cannot be given to more than one member of a family.

    He further revealed that eight truckloads of food and clothing are already on their way to the prefecture of Ilia, in the Peloponnese.

    Roussopoulos also referred to the visit to Greece by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, at the invitation of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who briefed him on the extent of damage caused by the wildfires while flying in a helicopter with him over the regions affected and underlined his statement that "we are by your side and will remain by your side."

    The minister went on to say that the head of the New Democracy party's Eurodeputies, Yiannis Varvitsiotis, will be briefing a special European Parliament session on the wildfires on September 3 and a minute's silence will be observed.

    Asked whether an investigation will be carried out on responsibilities concerning the state apparatus's coordination, he said that investigations will be taking place wherever necessary.

    Lastly, replying to a question by the press, Roussopoulos said that the government is not considering the possibility of cooperation in the event it does not gain a majority of seats in the September 16 general elections.

    [08] PM emphasises education, social security reforms as priorities

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, quoted in an interview published in the Sunday edition of the Athens daily "Kathimerini", pledged that no special economic measures will not be taken to confront the consequences of the recent wildfire disaster.

    Regarding reforms in his next government, should ND win the upcoming election, Karamanlis pointed to the social security system and education.

    Focusing on the former, the prime minister said dialogue will continue, mergers of funds will take place, disability pensions will be rationalised and the status of heavy and hazardous occupations will be clarified. He further noted that it will not be necesary for the government to increase retirement ages or decrease pensions.

    In terms of education, priorities are revision of Article 16, a new law on post-graduate education and changes in primary and secondary education.

    [09] KKE leader addresses rally in Korydallos

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga addressed a rally in the Piraeus district of Korydallos on Saturday, criticising both mainstream parties, New Democracy and PASOK, for their election tactics.

    Papariga said that this situation is not only due to the wildfires, the tragedy in the Western Peloponnese and in Evia, but also "now they have produced the known danger talk that we will have no stable government, we will have chaos and the lack of governance. They are lying. They merely want to have great strength and to have their hands free."

    The KKE leader stressed that the two mainstream parties "want once again to steal the votes of people who know what they are and on the next day to say once again that 80-85 percent of the people votes for us, not for you communists, therefore the people are pleased."

    Papariga concluded by saying that only KKE is a counterbalance for anti-popular governance and for bipartisan rule, stressing that "only KKE can create a climate of encouragement for the people. The people have the strength and they must use it."

    [10] KKE leader addresses rally in Keratsini

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga addressed a campaign rally in the working-class Piraeus district of Keratsini on Sunday evening, calling on voters to distance themselves from two-party rule and vote for her party in order to strengthen the "popular movement and weaken the mainstream parties."

    "The safest criterion for a negative vote for the other parties is the experience of life in Greece and in all of Europe," she said and appealed to first-time voters to "think of their parents' experiences and to think in a class-oriented way."

    Regarding what she termed as the dilemma of "either a strong government or chaos," Papariga urged voters to ignore it and "not to be terrorised by the rumour-mongerers, and to think that this dilemma is the fear of the major parties."

    [11] Leftist leader tours Thisseio district near Acropolis

    Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos toured the Thisseio district near Acropolis on Sunday and proposed separate TV debates with the three other Parliament-represented party leaders, including the premier.

    Alavanos also back a proposal by main opposition PASOK for a television debate amongst all the party leaders, although he said such a debate will be "dull" because both major parties have a "parallel course".

    Consequently, Alavanos, who heads up the radical left coalition (Syriza) formation in the coming election, said he also called for a television debate that could be broadcast even by one channel alone.

    Lastly, Alavanos predicted that no party will gain a majority of seats in the Sept. 16 elections, adding that the key to developments will be young generation voters.

    [12] SYRIZA leader presents party ticket at press conference

    Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) President Alekos Alavanos on Saturday presented the party ticket that he is heading during a press conference, saying that it is as dynamic ticket that will win a seat in Iraklio.

    Alavanos criticised the two mainstream parties, New Democracy and PASOK, and included their policies on forest protection in his remarks. Referring to the destructive wildfires in the Peloponnese and in Evia, he said that he never imagined that "the state apparatus would be non-existent."

    He also focused on the issue of general elections being set for September 16, stressing that "the prime minister announced the elections during a holiday period, a tourist one" and during a high risk period for wildfires.

    Alavanos went on to say that "we also had a main opposition party leader who was travelling all over the country and was calling insistently for elections and we have reached this tragic situation that we have now."

    Alavanos, who clarified that the party will not be cooperating after the elections with any of the mainstream parties, will be inaugurating SYRIZA's election centre in Iraklio later in the evening.

    [13] LA.OS party leader Karatzaferis in N. Greece

    Out-of-Parliament Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party leader George Karatzaferis, speaking on Sunday to party candidates in northern Greece, expressed certainty that the new Parliament that will result from the Sept. 16 elections will have five parties and that no one-party government will be formed.

    Karatzaferis stressed that LA.OS will cooperate with the first party for the formation of a government but on the condition, as he said, that it will be a "government of personalities and not of families."

    He also accused the government of "inadequacy" on the issue of preventing and handling wildfires, as well as of "frivolity" that cost, as he said, human lives.

    Referring to PASOK, Karatzaferis said it was unable to prepare a firm state ticket, while he also referred to the issue created with the disqualification of Fofi Gennimata, a top PASOK candidate.

    "Is the Supreme Court to blame because (PASOK leader) Mr. (George) Papandreou does not speak with the main constitutional expert of his party, which is Mr. (Evangelos) Venizelos? If he had telephoned him, he (Venizelos) would have told him that it is contrary to the constitution," he added.

    [14] Gennimata disqualified from PASOK's state deputies list; reactions follow

    A Supreme Court ruling late Saturday evening disqualifying Athens-Piraeus super prefect Fofi Gennimata from main opposition PASOK's state deputies list - where she figured in the first prominent position, no less -- generated a fuming reaction by the party.

    The ruling cited Article 56 of the Constitution, which forbids serving prefects from vying for Parliament during their tenure, regardless of whether they previously resign the office during the term.

    PASOK Secretary Nikos Athanassakis was among the first party cadres to comment on the decision, referring to a "judicial coup" and a "deep-seated problem with the court system in Greece", statements echoed a few moments later by Gennimata herself outside PASOK's offices.

    The two-term super prefect also referred to what she called "the old and ruthless right wing".

    Meanwhile, PASOK leader George Papandreou linked the high court decision with ruling New Democracy party's "panic" ahead of the Sept. 16 election, in comments he made while heading to fire-ravaged Ilia prefecture.

    Gov't response

    Asked about the surprise ruling during a morning press conference on Sunday, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos dismissed any criticism aimed at ND and reiterated that the government does not comment on judicial rulings and verdicts.

    However, in reference to Gennimata herself, he cited written statements she made in two newspaper interviews, a television appearance and in the Athens-Piraeus super prefecture's own website, where she reportedly states that she will exhaust her four-year term in the prefectural office, while recognising and quoting the Constitutional Article forbidding a prefect's Parliament bid.

    Asked by reporters' if the government believed Gennimata was deliberately put on PASOK's state deputies list to generate the conflict, Roussopoulos said: "You should ask PASOK that".

    Each party in the election submits a list of 12 names for state deputies, who are elected to Parliament based on the percentage of the popular vote that they garner. Usually, the first five individuals selected by the two top parties enter Parliament, with the first party electing up to six MPs from the list.

    With Gennimata's disqualification, PASOK is left with 11 individuals on the list, as no additions can be made after Friday's deadline.

    [15] Patoulidou resigns seat on Thessaloniki prefecture council

    Voula Patoulidou, a 1992 Olympic gold medal hurdler and the head of PASOK's main opposition bloc on the Thessaloniki prefectural council, on Sunday announced her resignation from the post as well as her council seat, citing her disappointment with the fact she was not given a higher spot on PASOK's state deputies list for the Sept. 16 election.

    In a letter to PASOK president George Papandreou, released by Patoulidou herself, she referred to a "retreat" by the former from a promise to place her high on the list, thereby ensuring her a deputy's seat in the next Parliament.

    According to Patoulidou, the winner of the women's 200-metre hurdles at the Barcelona Olympics, she was initially offered the sixth-place spot and subsequently the fifth-place spot, whereas she held out for number four.

    "Due to the conflict of interest (as an active officer in the Hellenic Navy) I had to resign (the officer's commission) from the navy, I would, therefore, be without a salary, health care or a pension," Patoulidou said in explaining her decision last year to unsuccessfully vie for the Thessaloniki prefect's position.

    General News

    [16] Last of major wildfires snuffed out as first autumn rains appear in N. Greece

    The last spate of major wildfires in southern Greece, mostly centred in Arcadia prefecture of the Peloponnese, appeared to be under control or completely extinguished by Sunday morning, the fire brigade announced, as meteorologists were hopeful that rain showers in northern Greece would move south overnight, ending any chance of charred areas reigniting.

    Conversely, fire brigade officials announced that no less than 36 separate wildfires were reported in the previous 24 hours ending at 6 a.m., with only one blaze, on the Ionian island of Cephallonia, qualifying as a concern.

    The devastating wildfire fronts near the Karytaina, Mt. Parnonas and the Megalopoli districts of the southern Peloponnese were out, officials said on Sunday.

    Finally, the official death toll rose to at least 64 on Sunday following the death of a Mistros, Evia man, who had been hospitalized since last week with burns from a wildfire in the region.

    [17] Farewell ceremony for Cypriot fire-fighters

    A farewell ceremony was held on Sunday for a large contingent of Cypriot firefighters who arrived in Greece to battle the barrage of wildfires that ravaged parts of the country over the last 10 days.

    "Today we bid farewell to our Cypriot brother volunteers for their return voyage to Cyprus, after we thanked them and awarded honorary diplomas to them," Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said in a statement.

    "Now, at 10 a.m. on Sunday I am in the pleasant position to announce ... that all wildfires have been extinguished. They have mainly been extinguished on the front of Karytaina and Megalopoli, in this extensive area..." he said.

    [18] Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos on wildfires in Greece

    ISTANBUL (ANA-MPA - A. Kourkoulas)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos told a group of pilgrims from Greece on Saturday that "we are praying for all the victims and the sufferers of the wildfires that have harmed and, unfortunately, are continuing to harm Greece from one end to the other."

    The Patriarch further said that "we prayed, we felt pain, we are suffering with them, we sent messages of sympathy and solidarity to the President of the Hellenic Republic, to the prime minister of Greece, to the prelates of the wildfire-stricken regions."

    [19] Uprising at Alikarnassos prison ends without incident

    An uprising by inmates at the Alikarnassos prison near Irakleio, Crete ended without incident on Sunday morning after a disturbance the previous day and the subsequent arrival of riot police outside the correctional facility.

    Earlier, riot police had entered the prison's premises and called on the inmates to return to their cells.

    [20] Firebombs found on Thessaloniki University premises

    A sack containing firebombs has been found by chance on the premises of the Aristotelio University in Thessaloniki and has been sent to the relevant authorities to check.

    The University's board issued an announcement condemning the use of force as "unacceptable and inconceivable" and termed those exercising it "absolutely undesirable on the University premises," while calling on all the members of the University community to be vigilant.

    [21] Air Force helicopter rescues five people from yacht

    An Air Force Agusta Bell 205 helicopter rescued five people on board a Greek yacht at 11:35 on Saturday, according to an announcement by the Air Force General Staff, after it had sent a distress signal as it was sailing between the Aegean islands of Limnos and Agios Efstratios.

    [22] Alexandria Patriarch on new Ecclesiastical Year

    The Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa Theodoros II stressed the need for peace to prevail all over the world, in a message on the occasion of the new Ecclesiastical Year that is celebrated on September 1.

    He also expressed the wish that God will shelter and bless the whole world, particularly the land of Africa, the "crossroads" of culture, and provide health, happiness and progress for all people.


    [23] Panathinaikos-Olympiakos match ends 0-0

    Matches played over the weekend for the Greek soccer Super League had the following results:

    Aris Thessaloniki - Panionios Athens 0-0

    Xanthi - PAOK Thessaloniki 1-0

    Asteras Tripoli - Larissa 0-1

    Iraklis Thessaloniki - Ergotelis Crete 0-1

    OFI Crete - Apollon Kalamaria 3-2

    Atromitos Athens - Levadiakos Livadia

    Panathinaikos Athens - Olympiakos Piraeus 0-0

    Veria - AEK Athens (Match to be played on Sept. 26)

    Weather Forecast

    [24] Cloud, showers on Monday

    Temperatures will be decreasing even further throughout the country, with local showers mostly in eastern regions. Winds northerly with a velocity of 4-5 beaufort. Temperatures in Athens ranging from 22C to 30C and in Thessaloniki from 20C to 28C.

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