|Sunday, 17 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-12-17
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 17 December 2007 Issue No: 2774
 Deputy FM Kassimis reiterates Greece's support for Lebanon, winds up three-day visitBEIRUT (ANA-MPA/S. Aravopoulou)
Greece is always at the side of Lebanon and supports the efforts of the government of prime minister Fouad Siniora for de-escalation of the political crisis that still plagues the country, Greece's deputy foreign minister Theodoros Kassimis conveyed to Siniora and ministers of the Lebanese government during a three-day visit to the country that wound up on Sunday.
The visit took place during a very critical time, amidst a new tragic blow with the assassination of Lebanese Armed Forces deputy commander, General Francois El Hajj and other soldiers in a morning rush-hour car bomb attack in Baabda, Lebanon, which increased the existing worry and uncertainty over the country's future.
The talks with the political leadership of Lebanon were held in a spirit of friendship, mutual respect and confidence that pervades the realtions between the two countries, according to diplomatic sources. Kassimis was briefed on the situation and the crucial issue of the election of a President of the Republic in Lebanon, which has divided the government and opposition, thus increasing the risk of destabilization of Lebanon.
In his talks with prime minister Siniora and foreign minister Fawzi Salloukh, and also with minister of information Ghazi Aridi and minister of culture Tareq Mitri, Kassimis reiterated the firm positions of the Greek government supporting the independence and political sovereignty of Lebanon and the unity of the Lebanese people and political forces who were trying to find a solution to the country's political problem from within the constitutional framework and the democratic principles governing the country's form of government.
The election of a President in Lebanon will be the first fundamental step on the way to resolving the political crisis, according to the ministers who met with Kassimis, and who appealed for a consensus solution and compromise.
On Lebanese-Greek relations, both sides described them as excellent and mutually supportive in the international organizations, while, in the context of the meetings, the two sides also examined further prospects for strengthening the bridges of friendship and cooperation between the two countries in the economic, cultural and educational sectors.
The Lebanese government also thanked Greece for its humanitarian and foreign aid to Lebanon both during the war and afterwards.
During his visit, Kassimis also met with the small but robust Greek communities in Beirut and Tripoli, and with the Metropolitans of the two cities, and the deputy minister was declared an official member of the Greek community of Beirut, during a reception in his honor, in a gesture of gratitude for the efforts of the Greek government and Kassimis himself throughout the crisis of the summer of 2006, when Greece was a protagonist in the evacuation of civilians wishing to leave Lebanon, while after the war ended Greece was also the first country to send humanitarian aid.
Kassimis further visited the University of Balamand, which has an Orthodox Theology School, and promised to study a request for the establishment of a Greek Language and Culture Centre at the university.
He said that the Greek government was trying to reinforce the activities of the Greek communities, and of the associations of Lebanese graduates of Greek universities and all the orther organizations with Greek links that are in Lebanon.
Kassimis announced that, as of the next academic year, the number of scholarships for Lebanese students at Greek universities would be increased, as would the number of Lebanese children hosted every summer at the camps belonging to the General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad.
 Greece supports efforts to end political crisis in Lebanon, Kassimis statesDuring a visit to Lebanon on Saturday, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis indicated Athens' support for efforts to find a constitutional solution that would allow Lebanon to emerge from its current political crisis.
"The Greek government supports the independence and political sovereignty of Lebanon, the unity of the Lebanese people and its political forces," he said, while speaking in a joint press conference that followed his meeting with Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi Aridi.
The Lebanese minister, on his part, appealed for a consensus solution regarding the election of Lebanon's new president, stressing that the Lebanese government would like to see its current Armed Forces chief General Michel Suleiman in the post as soon as possible.
Aridi underlined the need for a solution as quickly as possible, so as not to perpetuate the current gap in power and said that a consensus solution would be the best answer in order to avoid the fragmentation of Lebanon.
He welcomed Kassimis' visit as one more confirmation of the friendly ties between Greece and Lebanon.
Earlier, Kassimis had a meeting with Orthodox Christian Metropolitan Elias (Audi) of Beirut and pledged greater support from the Greek government to the local Orthodox Church and enhance existing ties in order to act as a bridge between Lebanon and the European Union.
He wrapped up his scheduled meetings during his three-day visit to the country with a working lunch held with Beirut MP Ghasan Tueni. Kassimis is due to return to Athens on Sunday morning.
 PM Karamanlis gives interview on the eve of a three-day official visit to MoscowMOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)
The energy and broader economic relations between Greece and Russia as well as a series of current international problems will be on the agenda of the talks which Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will have with Russian President Vladimir Putin, during his three-day official visit to Moscow which begins on Monday.
"The big energy links constitute a strategic option for Greece, which we serve with consistency," the Greek prime minister stated in an interview he gave to the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, describing the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and the natural gas pipeline South Stream as confirmation of the Euro-Russian strategic relation in the energy sector, "but also a positive development in diversifying the channels of Europe's supply of oil and natural gas."
"It's natural and logical for the interest of the European Union, which is energy dependent, to centre on the secure supply and diversifying its dependency from sources and route channels. In this logic is incorporated a series of initiatives, with the most characteristic this energy dialogue with Russsia," Karamanlis said.
The meeting with President Putin "will give a new impetus in our entire energy plans," said Karamanlis in another interview with the Russian-language megazine "Ellada" (Greece), which is published since spring in Moscow in cooperation with ANA-MPA. "Through these, Greece is converted into a significant channel of energy transport, in a substantial energy hub and contributes in Europe's energy sufficiency. We attribute particular importance to this effort, with planned moves and with a substantial as well as stable national policy regarding sought targets," the prime minister said.
"Greek-Russian relations are henceforth in a new, dynamic orbit. The progress is particularly visiible these past years. Their level is excellent and I attribute this both to the historic good relations between our two countries and peoples and to their continuously developing prospects," said the prime minister in the same interview, noting the "excellent relations we have with Russian President Putin."
Commenting on existing "friction" in Russia-EU-NATO relations, the prime minister expressed the hope that "the remaining pending matters will be soon solved, so as to start as soon as possible the negotiations for the signing of a new EU-Russia Agreement." Regarding Russia-NATO relations, he added: "Russia is a very important factor, it contributes substantially in the consolidation of security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic space. Therefore, Greece, from the start, was with consistency a stable supporter of progress in NATO-Russia relations. We look forward to the deepening of the political consultations, within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, in crucial issues of the international scene, such as the Balkans, Afghanistan, central Asia and the Midddle East, in which the Russian experience no one is allowed to underestimate." He noted that the political dialogue must continue "also in issues in which the two sides disagree, so as to cultivate mutual trust with necessary transparency."
With regard the decision for the procurement of Russian tanks, the prime minister said "the criterion of our foreign policy, but also of our national security policy is the maintenance of peace and of international stability, with first priority the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean." He also referred to "the need of a continuous strengthening of our armed forces, so as to consolidate the feeling of security within society and to operate successfully, in accordance with the demands of the composite geo-political environment" as well as in "constructive cooperation" between the two countries, which is "steadily strengthened, with all the prospects of its broadening, among which the co-production of weapons systems, thus contributing in the developmental prospects of Greece and Russia."
 Bakoyannis against linking Serbia's EU prospects to KosovoGreece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis has expressed strong opposition to any attempt to link Serbia's European prospects to events in Kosovo, according to a Greek foreign ministry press release on Saturday.
"At this crucial moment any attempt to link the European prospects of Serbia with the matter of Kosovo's future status would be counterproductive. It would be a mistake to link these two issues," Bakoyannis was quoted as saying.
The minister was answering a question by reporters on whether Serbia's EU prospects should be linked to developments in Kosovo in the form of a criterion.
"The western Balkans are undergoing a critical period for their stability, peace and developmental prospects. The Greek proposal to give a new impetus to the rapprochement with the EU of countries in this region, including Serbia, is on the European daily agenda. Serbia is a country of pivotal importance for regional stability. Its European prospects must acquire a new, tangible impetus: first with the signature of the Stabilization and Association agreement and then, by the end of 2008, with it acquiring the status of an EU candidate-country," the Greek minister said.
 SYN criticizes 'unacceptable' EU position on KosovoThe head of foreign policy for the Coalition of the Left, of Movements and Ecology (SYN) party Panos Trigazis on Saturday strongly criticized the positions announced by European Union leaders during the EU Summit on Friday regarding the future of Kosovo, describing them as "unacceptable".
"The conclusions [of the Summit] seem to indicate that EU leaders consider a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo unavoidable. This is an unacceptable position reflecting an absence of political will and refusal to take responsibility to continue efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution based on international law," Trigazis said.
Regarding a statement made by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on the issue, who said that "the margins for diplomacy had not been exhausted" in the case of Kosovo, Trigazis said that their only purpose was to alleviate the negative impression that the decision would have on public opinion in Greece.
 Parliamentary debate on the 2008 state budget beginsThe Parliamentary debate on the 2008 state budget began on Sunday in the presence of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Ruling New Democracy (ND) general rapporteur Marios Salmas stressed that "the 2008 state budget serves the policy of changes and reforms which started four years ago and implemented to the full are all the important commitments which we undertook before the (general) elections."
According to ND's Etoloakarnania deputy, the new budget "strengthens the social state and the income of the economically weaker individuals with targeted actions and grants, while indicative also of the decisiveness and the government's pace is the immediate tabling and voting in the first three months since the elections of five important economic draft laws which we had announced before the elections. The new system of management of the EU funds of the new program period, the National Social Cohesion Fund, the provisions for the combating of tax evasion, the increases in pensions and the tax adjustments on fuel and real estate are already laws of the state."
Salmas criticized the main opposition PASOK party of "fabricating the fiscal figures," when it was in power and noted that "we always find before us in the planning of the future the mistakes of the past."
He praised Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, saying that the minister's effort is bearing fruit. "All the reports which to date have seen the light of publicity, as the per capita GDP in purchasing power is assessed to have been increased in relation to the average limit of the '15' of the EU, while the index of the economic climate in Greece remains very close to the EU average level and exceeds significantly the average in the Eurosone," Salmas said.
The Parliamentary debate on the 2008 state budget will come to an end on Friday midnight with a vote.
 PASOK criticises gov't economic policiesMain opposition PASOK accused the government on Sunday evening of "shortsighted policies which have led the economy to an impasse and low and medium income earners to asphyxiation."
Addressing Parliament in the first day of a six-day debate on the 2008 state budget, PASOK's general rapporteur Louka Katseli claimed that the government "tries to paint a fausse picture of the Greek economy, beautifying measures that hit low and medium incomes."
Katseli proposed the reinforcement of infrustrures in the regions through "an increase in public investments, taxation of capital's incomes, broadening of the taxation base, stregthening public enterprises of strategic importance, productive restructurings and targeted motives for the private sector, a turn to a 'green economy' and securing a respectable basic pension."
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis responded to the PASOK deputy saying that the main opposition party "remains trapped in the impasses of its own past."
"The policies we listened to today are the same policies which had over-indebted the country in the 80's and some of what we heard today had not been heard even then," the minister commented.
PASOK leader George Papandreou, in response to the minister, said that Alogoskoufis' response "was not a response, it was some of those generalities with which you are trying to hide the truth for the past four years."
Katseli also charged that the government's "claim that reducing taxation for enterprises leads to productive investments is a myth."
"In practice, reduced taxes on profits was translated into a profit record of 11 billion euros, mainly for the banks, the social insurance and investor companies, while the only investments that were increased were those regarding houses and construction," she noted.
 KKE terms 2008 budget 'deeply antipopular'The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on Sunday night strongly criticized the government's 2008 state budget terming it a "deeply class oriented and antipopular which will broaden social inequalities in favor of plutocracy and against working people."
Speaking during a six-day Parliamentary debate on the 2008 budget, the party's rapporteur Nikos Karathanasopoulos said that "hard reality and truth are manifested through Sunday's discussion. That young people, pensioners, broad popular strata have nothing to wait for. On the contrary, this budget as well is yet another instrument for the worsening of their position. That is why they should build up popular barricades and oppose the antipopular policies which are being promoted."
The KKE rapporteur also attacked the main opposition PASOK party accusing it of applying the "same antipopular policy."
 SYRIZA speaks of 'austerity budget'Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) general rapporteur, Yiannis Dragasakis, speaking in Parliament on Sunday night at the beginning of the six-day debate on the 2008 state budget, spoke of "an austerity budget for the many, excessive profits for the few and the widening of incomes inequalities."
He stressed that "the target of zero deficit would have meaning if it was incorporated in a broader plan for no unemployment, the combating of poverty and the safeguarding of the viability of social security."
The SYRIZA deputy added that the new budget "lacks transparency and credibility, it is based on an over-evaluation of taxation revenue and an under-evaluation of the public expenditures."
 LA.OS terms government's economic policy 'ineffective'Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) general rapporteur Makis Voridis, speaking in Parliament on Sunday evening at the start of the six-day debate on the 2008 state budget," said that "the government's economic policy is ineffective, with unclear targets." He also spoke of "a particular form of reproduction of the bureaucratic state as an apparatus of interests."
Voridis noted that the governments of the past years "are unable to deal with the problem of corruption which has a great economic cost for the operation of the public sector," as well the problem of tax evasion, which, as he said, "remains unsolved after 14 draft laws."
"The only certain thing is that you (the government), will receive 6.6% more indirect taxes in 2008," the LA.OS rapporteur added."
 PASOK leader Papandreou addresses party's Parliamentary GroupMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Sunday evening addressed the party's Parliamentary Group which convened to discuss the 2008 state budget which started earlier in the day.
"We shall reveal the forgery of reality attempted by the government with its beautified numbers," Papandreou said.
"PASOK will table its own alternative proposals which show that there is another road for the country, and which has three basic parameters. A new national strategy, which will include the overturning of the existing operation of the political system. A new developmental model. And a new welfare state," he said.
Papandreou termed the government as "incompetent to advance any reform" and accused it that "instead of reform, it is promoting the service of specific interests and the 'comfort' of its own people. At the same time, the government is systematically undermining every meaning of meritocracy in the public sector and undermines independent authorities."
The PASOK leader also accused the government that "in order to serve its objectives, it is recruiting police violence so as terrorize the progressive citizens." He also spoke of "the directing of Justice" by the government "for the impunity of police officers who abuse their authority."
 Government announces employment minister's resignationGovernment spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Saturday announced the resignation of Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas, who is to be replaced by former minister for tourism Fani Palli-Petralia.
"Employment Minister Vassilis Magginas submitted his resignation this morning for reasons of sensitivity. It was accepted by the prime minister, who thanked Mr. Magginas for his important contribution in the matter of social security reform," the spokesman said.
Roussopoulos also underlined that the government's position regarding the need to continue social security reforms without any attempt to tone these down remained steadfast and unchanged. He stressed that the only criterion for the reforms remained the interests of the Greek people and ensuring the viability of the social insurance system.
Palli-Petralia is due to be sworn in at noon on Monday, before President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias.
Magginas submitted his resignation in response to a series of damaging articles in the press concerning his summer house in Koropi, following revelations that this was built using a licence to erect a canteen.
 Israeli government recognises Patriarch of Jerusalem TheophilosThe Israeli government recognised on Sunday Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III, according to A Greek foreign ministry press release.
The press release said that Israeli Minister of Pensioners Rafi Eitan, who is also president of a three-member ministerial committee on the Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, called on Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis to ask him to convey to Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis that the Israeli cabinet decided during a meeting Sunday, to recognise Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III.
Kassimis thanked Eitan and welcomed the decision "as a move in accordance with Israel's committments towards the international community and Greece regarding the respect of the pilgrimatic status and of the centuries old privileges of the Jerusalem Patriarchate."
Kassimis also expressed "certainty that the road is henceforth open for the Patriarchate to respond, with the creative contribution of all, to its sacred mission in the fullest possible manner.'
 Two million Cyprus pounds raised for Greece's fire-victims on CyprusA fund-raising effort held on Cyprus has managed to raise two million Cyprus pounds to assist the victims of last summer's mega-fires in Greece. The money will be given to the special committee set up in Greece under former foreign minister Petros Molyviatis, to administer as it sees fit.
Also due to be given to the committee is the sum of 95,654 Cyprus pounds collected by a special edition of the Cypriot newspaper "O Fileleftheros" on September 16.
 Judges union holds annual meeting held in AthensThe annual general meeting of the Union of Judges and Public Prosecutors was held at the Athens Appeals court on Saturday. Among those attending were Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas and a number of government ministers, including Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis, former Parliament presidents Apostolos Kaklamanis, MPs, senior ministry officials and the presidents of the country's three highest courts.
 PPC chief on new power units in MegalopolisPublic Power Corporation (PPC) president and managing director Takis Athanasopoulos on Saturday unveiled the plans for the construction of a large photovoltaic park by the PPC in Megalopolis.
Speaking at an event. Athanasopoulos said that the photovoltaic park will have a capacity of 500 megawatt (MW), and would be the second largest in Europe while, upon completion, it would employ 70-100 people on a permanent basis and will also be an important tourist attraction.
He also said that another electricity production unit being constructed in the region, powered by natural gas and with a capacity of 800 MW, would be ready in 2011.
Athanasopoulos further announced that the PPC was conceding a major expanse of land it posesses in the area to the Municipality of Megalopolis for the creation of an industrial park,
 Agriculture minister chairs meeting on infrastructure, water resources projectsAgricultural development and foods minister Alexandros Kontos on Saturday invited all the agencies in Pieria prefecture to a 'race' so as to promptly program the projects needed in the region with respect to infrastructures, environmental protection, exploitation of water resources, and more general strengthening the competitiveness of Greek farming.
Chairing a meeting at the local Prefecture on utilization of EU resources, Kontos said that only in this way could materialization of the specific projects, in the framework of the 2007-2013 Agricultural Development program, could begin immediately.
More specifically, he called on the agencies' representatives attending the meeting to promptly submit an integrated program for the development of the farming sector in Pieria prefecture, so as to enable its immediate negotiation, which in turn would enable the State to "begin work immediately".
Pieria prefect George Papastergiou presented Kontols with a memorandum for the incorporation of 14 projects in the Fourth
Programming Period, which covers the period from 2007 to 2013, including anti-flooding and anti-erosion projects in the region following the July-August wildfires (projected expenditure of 8 million euros), upgrading of Olympos with the creation of a special program and completion of the Olympos museum (1.15 million euros), irrigation works (12 million euros), and the construction of five dams so as to permanently solve the irrigation problem.
 Foreign Exchange Rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.462
Pound sterling 0.721
Danish kroner 7.521
Swedish kroner 9.497
Japanese yen 165.3
Swiss franc 1.680
Norwegian kroner 8.038
Cyprus pound 0.589
Canadian dollar 1.496
Australian dollar 1.683
 Cold front sweeps northern GreeceA cold front bringing snow and very low temperatures swept areas of northern Greece on Saturday, with snow settling even in the centre of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki and the plains of Trikala.
Vehicles needed snow chains on many parts of the road network in northern parts of the country, especially at high altitudes, while several flights due to arrive at Thessaloniki's Macedonia Airport had to be cancelled or rerouted due to low-lying cloud that created conditions of low visibility and prevented aircraft from landing.
Even though the snow stopped falling later on Saturday afternoon, conditions in the area remained difficult and more roads became impassable without snow chains by Saturday evening.
Among the flights re-routed were a Swiss International Airlines flight from Zurich and a CSA flight from Prague - both of which landed at Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Athens - while two outgoing flights by Aegean Airlines for Athens and Dusseldorf were cancelled. Also cancelled was a scheduled stopover at the airport by an Aegean Airlines flight from Athens to Stuttgart via Thessaloniki, which was carried out without the intermediate stop.
More flights were prevented from landing later in the day, including Olympic Airlines flight 906 from Athens to Thessaloniki, an Alitalia flight from Rome to Thessaloniki and back, a German Wings flight from Stuttgart and back and another German Wings round-trip flight from Cologne. All the above flights from abroad landed at Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos.
 Anniversary of 1st National Assembly at Epidaurus celebratedEvents marking the 186th anniversary of the First National Assembly at Epidaurus (1821-1822) were held on Sunday at Nea Epidaurus, Argolis prefecture in southern Greece, attended by representatives of parliament, the government and the political parties.
According to historians, the participants at the 1st National Assembly, which begain on December 20, 1821, ended on January 15, 1822, with the adoption of the first Greek (provisional) constitution marking the birth of the modern Greek state after liberation from Ottoman rule.
The constitution was revised by the 2nd National Assembly in January 1823 in Astros.
, attended by representatives from regions involved in the Greek revolution against the Ottoman rule, will be held on Sunday at Nea Epidaurus, Argolida Prefecture, Peloponnesus, in southern Greece.
The Hellenic Parliament was represented at the commemoration by 1st Vice-President Elsa Papadimitriou.
A wreath-laying ceremony was also held in the central square of Nea Epidaurus.
 2nd SE Europe Theatre Festival to be held in TurkeyThe 2nd Theatre Festival of Southeastern Europe will be held in Turkey, either in Izmir or in Antalya, in the summer of 2009, according to a decision taken on Sunday in Thessaloniki by the artistic directors and representatives of nine threatres from the Balkan states, comprising Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, FYROM, Greece, Monetenegro, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.
The dialogue amont the theatres of SE Europe on ancient drama, which opened last summer with a with the 1st Theatre Festival, featuring a series of performances staged by Balkan theatrical troupes in Thessaloniki, at the initiative of the State Theatre of Northern Greece, continued on Saturday with a meeting of the artistic directors, and with a day event on Sunday held at the Society of Macedonian Studies threatre on the theme "Ancient Drama today: approaches and prospects".
 Two arrested on drug smuggling chargesTwo men were arrested Sunday on the Serres-Thessaloniki stretch of the National Highway by Serres security police on charges of drug smuggling and trafficking, after quantities of heroin and cocaine were found hidden in their car.
More specifically, police arrested a 28-year-old and a 30-year-old, who are accused of smuggling heroin and cocaine into Greece from Bulgaria in their car.
A search of the vehicle revealed 29.5 grams of heron and 15.7 grams of cocaine hidden in the base of the car's gear shift.
It came out during preliminary questining that the two detainees had smuggled drugs into Greece in the same manner on at least two more occasions in the past.
 SportsGreek Super League soccer matches played over the weekend:
Panionios Athens - Panathinaikos Athens 1-0
Veria - Asteras Tripoli 1-0
OFI Crete - Iraklis Thessaloniki 2-0
Atromitos Athens - PAOK Thessaloniki 0-0
Aris Thessaloniki - Xanthi 2-0
Levadiakos Livadia - Ergotelis Crete 0-0
Apollon Kalamaria - Larissa 1-1
Olympiakos Piraeus - AEK Athens 1-0
Standings after 12 weeks of play:
AEK 27 points
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS