|Tuesday, 28 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-06-20
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece becomes 12th EMU member, PM Simitis says entry marks new historic era for countryFEIRA, 20-06-2000 Portugal (ANA - D. Stamboglis)
Greece lives a historic moment as officially became on Monday the 12th member of the EU's Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Prime Minister Costas Simitis said here.
A European Union summit endorsed earlier Greece's long awaited entry into the euro-zone.
In an exclusive interview to the Athens News Agency (ANA), Simitis said:
"Our country is living a historic moment. The country's accession to the Economic and Monetary Union marks a new historic cycle for Greece. It opens up a new era of security and stability, development and prosperity. The image of a small and introverted Greece is finally leaving from our horizon, a country which was at the margin of major international developments.
"Today, Greece is a strong and modern country, with a robust economy and international recognition. We deservedly entered EMU. The first decade of the 21st Century finds our country an equal partner in the large European family. This conquest was the result of a policy which was followed consistently. It is due to the efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people.
"Greece answered successfully to the greatest challenge it has faced in a period of peace, that is to achieve a position, within the group of the most developed countries of the world. We have proved in practice that we are a country and a people who, when they fix targets and have a strategy, can achieve what they aspire. Greece's participation into the euro-zone has never been a purpose in itself. It constituted a national target of strategic importance.
"Within EMU, we have a protective shield against shocks arising from globalization. In parallel, our participation in EMU reinforces the competitiveness of the Greek economy and offers new possibilities of development and prosperity. Structural measures which are being taken such as the liberalization of energy and telecommunication markets, the restructuring and modernization of the public administration and the measures towards a rational public spending, renew the Greek economy's potential and contribute towards a faster rate of economic growth.
"For the first time in Greek history, the Greek economy has before it the perspective of a long-term stability...the dangers of parity fluctuations are minimized as well as the price paid for real high interest rates. The high growth rates in the new environment create the healthy surplus for extending social policies of cohesion and solidarity.
"The country's great success should not allow us to be complacent. We are now in a new economic and political reality which creates new needs and demands. We are now before a great challenge to utilize all the potentials which are opening. We are at the start of an optimistic and hopeful course for our country, society and the citizens.
"Our aim now is to achieve real convergence, to secure social cohesion and stability, care for the improvement of the citizen's quality of life. It is our duty and commitment to increase employment, to fight against social inequalities, underdevelopment and poverty, to create a society of meritocracy and transparency which will offer equal chances to all citizens, to improve the standard of living and to offer education which will correspond to the new realities of the society of informatics and knowledge.
"We are based in this effort on the strong foundations we have created in past years. We are based on possibilities we have for a further increase of growth rates higher than those of our partners.
"Achieving our aims entails reinforcement of our efforts. Today we are aware of our strength. Greece has got rid of the passivity of the past. It is a Greece which opens a new page, leaving behind it a past of underdevelopment, introversion and fear. "Greece of EMU is a creative and open Greece. It is a Greece which opens new horizons for the present and the future of its society and citizens. It for this Greece that we are working for. We must all rally for this Greece. This is what our history, the present and the future of Hellenism command."
 Greece ready to contribute to the creation of 21st century Europe, Simitis saysFEIRA, Portugal 20-06-2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)
Addressing the gathered heads of state and government at the EU Summit in Portugal, where the historic decision to bring Greece into EMU was unanimously taken on Monday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis noted that this was a historic day that "confirmed and rewarded long effort."
With the EU's help and support, he added, the country was now ready to "contribute creatively to a common course and the creation of the dynamic Europe of the 21st century."
"Greece was a country with a considerably lower level of development," Simitis noted. The consequences of the civil war, the seven-year dictatorship in 1967-1974 and its "client" politics, he continued, had taught Greeks to live with loans, deficits and inflation and to consider economic stability to be an unreachable goal.
Achieving the Maastricht criteria had been harder for Greece than for other countries, Simitis said, because "we also had to change ways of thinking and working, to reform our economy and put down sound foundations for its further development."
Success, the Greek prime minister said, marked the start of a new cycle of development and participation in the process of European integration.
"The goal of European development is also our goal. My government will continue a policy that ensures economic stability, as provided for in the Stability and Development Pact. It will continue carrying out modernization and reforms."
He stressed, however, that the government would now focus on distributing the benefits of this development as widely as possible, in accordance with the decisions of the previous EU summit in Lisbon. "Social cohesion and the fight against social exclusion will be our primary target," he underlined.
 Economy Minister Papantoniou says EMU entry creates conditions of stability and growthFEIRA, Portugal 20-06-2000 (ANA-D. Stamboglis)
Greece' economy has "secured conditions of stability with low inflation and low interest rates, a stable currency and a fiscal stability but has mainly secured conditions for strong growth," Greece's National and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said.
He was speaking to the Athens News Agency (ANA) after an EU summit here endorsed Greece's entry into the euro-zone.
Papantoniou also said that Greece's priorities "are now directed towards utilizing the opportunities which have been created by the country's EMU entry through our steadfast and responsible policy".
 Solbes greets Greece's entry into eurozone as positive for Greece and EUFEIRA, Portugal 20-06-2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)
European Commissioner Pedro Solbes, responsible for economic and monetary affairs, on Monday expressed his satisfaction at Greece's entry into the euro-zone, saying it was positive for the EU as well.
The Spanish commissioner said that Monday's decision inducting Greece into EMU was a positive development, not only for Greece but also for the European Union.
Solbes underlined that Greece would now "benefit from a climate of economic and monetary stability".
"For the EU it was a positive event because it shows other countries that the door to joining the euro-zone was open to those that want and can pass through it," he said.
 Greek entry into euro-zone a 'historic step' says Bank of Greece officialFEIRA, 20-06-2000 Portugal (ANA)
Greece's entry into the euro-zone is a historic step that makes it part of the process of European integration, Bank of Greece second-in-command Nikolaos Garganas said on Monday.
The central bank's deputy governor went on to say that the adoption of the euro by Greece had great political significance because it put Greece into the category of EU member-states that are enhancing cooperation between them and can progress to the next stages of European unification.
Garganas also expressed the view that Greece could expect substantial economic benefits from participating in the euro-zone. "We are adopting a currency of international scope that is characterized by internal stability," he said.
He expressed the view that the euro's current doldrums were temporary and that it would eventually become a strong currency, pointing to its recent signs of recovery against the dollar.
Despite the progress Greece had made, Garganas warned, much work remained to be done in order to correct the Greek economy's still significant weaknesses - particularly in relation to the new technologies and a persisting "knowledge gap" in relation to its EU partners.
If these were dealt with, he said, Greece would not only survive within EMU but also prosper.
 European heads of state and government hail Greece's entry into eurozone with ample praiseFEIRA, Portugal 20-06-2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)
Most of the European Union leaders gathered here for the EU summit on Monday made statements hailing Greece's entry into the euro-zone.
European Commission President Romano Prodi congratulated Prime Minister Costas Simitis, saying that success had been achieved by the Greeks' persistence and consistent effort and because they had believed in Simitis' European vision.
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, current president of the European Council, also congratulated Simitis, particularly on the impressive improvement of the Greek economy. Like Spain and Portugal, he noted, Greece was a Mediterranean country that had had to overcome the problems of under-development and the consequences of civil war and dictatorships.
Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok applauded Greece's efforts, which he said demonstrated that a small country that did not have the same rate of growth as developed countries could make great strides through persistence and consistent effort.
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin described Monday's developments as historic for Greece and mentioned a proposal by the French finance minister that Greece informally sit in on the EU's ECOFIN council as of July 1, saying this was a measure of France's trust in Greece, the Greek economy and "personally to my friend Costas Simitis."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder described Greece as a friendly nation that had in recent years begun to adapt to European standards, with "admirable economic results". The results he said were due to the effectiveness and realistic policy followed by Simitis.
Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson was particularly warm in his praise of Greece's achievements, saying that it had covered lost ground due to Simitis' policy, who he said had "defied political cost" in implementing it.
Britain's premier Tony Blair, meanwhile, congratulated Simitis and said Greece had won its bet to enter the eurozone.
Juliano Amato, prime minister of Italy, hailed the "sacrifices, work and labor of Greek citizens" in the hard and systematic effort that led the country to successfully enter EMU.
Finally, Spanish premier Jose Maria Aznar, was lavish in his praise of the Greek government and Simitis achievements in the economy, saying they had achieved a truly difficult goal set just a few years ago.
 US President Clinton congratulates Greece on its EMU entryWASHINGTON 20-06-2000 (ANA-T. Ellis)
US President Bill Clinton on Monday congratulated Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the country on its successful entry into EMU, according to a White House press release.
The EU Summit's decision to bring Greece into the eurozone on January 1, 2001, one full year before the currency is introduced, said Clinton, "demonstrates Greece's remarkable economic progress in recent years. This economic success complements Greece's increasingly active political role within the EU."
"Through determination and hard work, Greece succeeded in meeting all the Maastricht Treaty economic criteria," Clinton continued, saying that entry into EMU is "not the end of the race, but the start of a challenging new phase of economic reform."
He expressed the hope that this would "usher in a new era of increased trade and investment between our two nations."
 Karamanlis hails Greece's entry into EMUFEIRA, Portugal 20-06-2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)
Greece's main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis, here to attend the sessions of the European Peoples' Party (EPP), on Monday hailed Greece's entry into the Economic Monetary Union.
Speaking on the sidelines of the official EU summit, he said it was a great day for the country and a very significant event, at the same time noting that "from now on there are a series of priorities and challenges which Greece must correspond to."
The ND leader underlined the need for the speedy promotion of structural changes, the need for the liberalization of the market and the modernization of public administration.
Karamanlis further expressed the necessity for the implementation of a stable and fair taxation system.
Smaller opposition parties greet EMU entry without enthusiasm
The smaller opposition parties greeted the news of Greece's entry into the euro zone without enthusiasm on Monday, with reactions ranging from lukewarm to downright icy.
The Coalition of the Left and Progress said only that the country's participation in the euro zone "offered positive possibilities," but that Greece would find itself under highly "stressful conditions" and that there was a high social cost that had been "unequally and unjustly," distributed by the government.
The also left-wing Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) led by former PASOK minister Dimitris Tsovolas, meanwhile, was almost wholly critical, saying that Greece's EMU entry had been achieved with "political not economic criteria," and had received its "ticket" after the Greek government's "unacceptable concessions at [the EU summit in] Helsinki." DHKKI was knocked out of Parliament in the last elections, failing to gain the 3 per cent minimum of the nationwide vote needed to get a representative on the legislature.
The right-wing Political Spring, meanwhile, criticized what it called a "two-year delay," in achieving entry and urged the government to press ahead with necessary reforms saying that "there is no convergence for Greece." Political Spring did not run in the last elections.
 Discussion on EU reform is unavoidable, says SimitisFEIRA, Portugal 20-06-2000 (ANA - D. Stamboglis)
Discussion on EU reform is unavoidable, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said here on Monday, referring to the talks between the EU heads of state and government with regard to the Inter-governmental Conference (IGC). The discussion within the IGC, which is trying to find a formula to make EU decision-making more effective before new members join the "15" in 2003, is due to have finished when the EU leaders meet again in Nice this December, under the French presidency.
The question is, Simitis said, what procedures would be followed. According to the premier, all issues related to enhanced cooperation and flexibility had been discussed and all had agreed that these issues, plus the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the charter of human rights, are the ones that need to be addressed.
Simitis said there were now varying approaches to these issues.
 Greece positive on French proposal for Balkans Conference, says PapandreouFEIRA, Portugal 20-06-2000 (ANA)
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Monday that Greece looked positively on a French proposal for a Balkans Conference, made here during deliberations between EU leaders earlier in the day regarding Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania.
Speaking to reporters, Papandreou noted that Greece had made a similar proposal in the past. He said that Athens supported the proposal in principle, but had expressed the desire to later contribute its own modifications and ideas to it.
In Athens' view, he added, the chief aim of such a conference should be security in the Balkans and to reinforce the principles of the inviolability of borders, territorial integrity, democratic processes and protection of human and minority rights.
According to the Greek foreign minister, many of the member-states had talked about the need to lift sanctions against Serbia, saying that these were ineffective. They had also stressed the need to support democratic processes within Serbia.
The climate had been in favor of supporting moderate forces among Serbs and Kosovars in Kosovo, Papandreou said, while the issue of crime, illegal immigration, drug and arms smuggling had been cited as another reason for greater involvement by the EU in the region.
The EU leaders had also talked about reinforcing European cooperation in combating terrorism and illegal immigration.
 Simitis, Blair discuss Saunders murder, promote EU role against terrorismFEIRA, Portugal 20-06-2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)
The murder of Brig. Stephen Saunders, a British defense attaché that was killed in Athens on June 8 by the terrorist group "November 17", was discussed here on Monday by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his British counterpart Tony Blair, on the sidelines of the EU Summit.
In statements to reporters afterward, Simitis said he had expressed his sorrow over the tragic event and assured the British premier that Greek society completely condemned it. Greek authorities, he went on to say, would do everything in their power to effectively deal with the issue of terrorist activity by "November 17". At the same time, he underlined that it was Greece's goal, and that of other countries, that the European Union have an active and strong involvement in efforts to fight terrorism.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou also mentioned the same issue during a press conference, saying he had discussed the matter with his British counterpart Robin Cook. According to Papandreou, Greece and Britain would jointly press for the insertion of two paragraphs in the summit's final communiqué, one of which will condemn international terrorism and the other note the need for all necessary measures to be taken at an EU level.
 FM Papandreou will represent Greece at Saunders' funeral in G. BritainAthens, 20-06-2000 (ANA)
Foreign Minister George Papandreou will represent Greece at the funeral of British military attaché Stephen Saunders which will take place on Tuesday at Salisbury, England.
 Samaranch says pleased with PM's moves concerning preparations for Athens 2004 OlympiadAthens, 20-06-2000 (ANA)
The president of the International Olympics Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, in an interview with the Ethnos of Sunday newspaper, said he was pleased with Prime Minister Costas Simitis's recent moves in preparations for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
He also expressed confidence in the person of the president of "Athens 2004", Yianna Daskalaki-Angelopoulos.
Samaranch dismissed fears by the international press on Greece's security during the games, stating with emphasis that "he is certain that the Greek government will control the problem."
He noted that Culture Minister Theodoros Pangalos knows the issue of the Olympiad very well and that he would be very useful.
 Simitis writes to Patriarch over identity card issueISTANBUL, 20-06-2000 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)
Prime Minister Costas Simitis has sent a letter to Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, it was announced here on Saturday, in which he refers to his government's disagreements with the Greek Orthodox Church related to a decision to remove the religion category from state-issued identity cards. Simitis' letter, dated June 14, was in response to a letter sent by the Patriarch two days earlier.
In the letter, Simitis underlines that "the information written on identity cards is the sole responsibility of the State," and he says that the issue has been blown up out of proportion by the Greek Orthodox Church.
"No one can seriously claim that to not write down one's religion [on an identity card] in any way compromises the faith of Greek Orthodox Christians," Simitis says in the letter, and expresses the view that the current tensions were a result of confusing the police-issued state ID with the deeper identity and traditions of being Greek.
"Respect for the laws, for equality in the eyes of the law and the State forms the basis of our people's unity," Simitis continued, and repeated once again that the government was ever ready to discuss with the Church any matter that could be jointly dealt with for the benefit of the country.
 Inter-Balkan Medical Centre inaugurated in ThessalonikiAthens, 20-06-2000 (ANA)
The Inter-Balkan Medical Centre of the Apostolopoulos Group was inaugurated in Thessaloniki on Saturday night, in the presence of the last president of the former Soviet Union, Michael Gorbachev.
Also present at the inauguration were actor Peter Ustinov, who attended in his capacity of goodwill ambassador of UNESCO, the widow of late French president Francois Mitterrand, Danielle, tens of ministers from Greece and abroad, deputies, mayors and deans.
Archbishop Christodoulos expressed the wish that the Centre become "a link between the peoples of the region and of our people."
 Ustivov - Mitterrand awardedAthens, 20-06-2000 (ANA)
On the occasion, the Thessaloniki municipality at a ceremony at the municipal council hall on Sunday afternoon, awarded Ustinov and Mitterrand with the silver medal of the city.
Ustinov, 79, said he felt at home in Greece, expressing respect for the Greek people who discovered democracy. He also praised Danielle Mitterrand's work and struggles. Danielle Mitterrand is the president of "France Libertes" Foundation.
On her part, Mitterrand said the honor was not just for her but also for the Kurds and all the other peoples and to persons who strive without work and without official documents and to those who struggle for people who are living at the margins of society.
 Kavala tourism offices set up in TurkeyAthens, 20-06-2000 (ANA)
The Kavala municipality has set up four tourism offices in Turkey, following meetings which the city's mayor had with local government officials and businessmen in the neighboring country.
Kavala Mayor Stathis Erifyllidis went to Turkey a few days ago in order to discuss the latest details for the establishment and operation of the specific offices.
The Kavala delegation also met with other businessmen of the region who showed interest for the development of commerce, tourism and culture in relations between Kavala and Istanbul.
 Traffic accidents claim 22 lives during holiday exodusAthens, 20-06-2000 (ANA)
Increased activity on the national highways, due to the mass exodus of citizens leaving the cities to enjoy a three-day holiday break, has once again resulted in a heavy death toll.
According to police figures, 22 people were killed and 300 injured in a total of 230 traffic accidents throughout Greece from Friday to Monday afternoon.
 Athens taxi, trolley drivers to stage work-stoppages on TuesdayAthens, 20-06-2000 (ANA)
Athens taxi and trolley drivers will be staging five-hour and four-hour work-stoppages respectively on Tuesday, in order to attend their general assembly meetings.
There will be no taxis on the roads between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The work-stoppage by the trolley drivers will be from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.