|Friday, 28 February 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 07-01-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Prime Minister Karamanlis vows to pursue reform drivePrime Minister Costas Karamanlis pledged on Saturday that his government would pursue its reform drive.
"The country's future lies in great change and reform," the premier told a meeting of the ruling New Democracy party's central committee.
"The basic, immediate target is to improve the quality of state education, bring about a rebirth of the state university, and undertake reforms that will lead to the education (system) of the future," he said.
Action was needed to resolve the problem of universities producing many degree holders who were unable to find jobs.
"Our universities need change. They need to acquire new abilities and offer degrees with a recognized value, in order to meet more fully their role for growth, social movement and progress," Karamanlis underlined.
It was positive that the way was open for revision of article 16 of the constitution on private universities.
Another key point in the government drive concerned the management of woodland in terms of article 24 of the constitution.
"We are employing the principle of viable growth with a goal of protecting the environment while making use of land to strengthen growth," the prime minister reported.
In addition, the government was moving to improve workings of the state, which he described as ailing.
"Despite major steps that have been taken, many more are needed. Clear-cut constitutional clarifications and guarantees are required, and the state has to be allowed to make use the entirety of its specialized human resources, beyond the current status quo for state workers, and it will gain this right," the premier noted.
"The distinction between permanent and non-permanent staff is arbitrary as it hinders the utilization of human resources," he added.
Turning to a recent terrorist attack on the US embassy in Athens, in which no-one was injured, Karamanlis stated: "All Greeks strongly condemn this attack, and we condemn any act that is targeted at society itself and the country's interests."
Finally, the prime minister laid a broad agenda for the party's next party congress, which is due in June or July, including internal dialogue on all major issues and an action plan for the maintenance of reform strategy in all areas.
"We are not playing games of populism, we are not sinking to (political) polarization, and we are not responding to provocation in the form of sterile confrontation or fanaticism. We have adopted practices that promote national unity," he stated.
"I wish to build a wide bridge for reform in the next four-year government term, for major statutory change that is to follow general elections in 2008," the premier said.
New Democracy came to power in March 2004, and the next elections are due in spring 2008. Karamanlis has repeatedly brushed off pressure from the opposition for early polls.
Education priority for ND
Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou told the central committee meeting that she was resolved that changes planned for the sector would be implemented.
"Changes in the education system need great effort and that is why the prime minister has placed them at the forefront of his reform policy. In the last two years, the government has provided all opportunities for dialogue," Yiannakou noted.
Underling the need for a collective drive to support changes in education was Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, who called the government's strategy for the sector "the largest reform."
He also outlined his ministry's main targets for 2007, which include boosting regional growth, a bill to allow the sale or lease of state property, a bill to reorganize the capital market, the implementation of rules of operation for banks, and a bill to set up a national commission to help tackle tax evasion.
The minister of the interior, public administration and decentralization, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, reported that the government had tripled funds to local government on a prefectural level between 2004 and 2006; and a further rise of 15% was set for 2007.
Pavlopoulos also sharply criticized the previous Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government for mismanagement of European Union funds in 2000-2003, which the country was now required to pay for in cash.
The government had negotiated returns to the 27-member bloc of 518 million euros, lower than the 1.25 billion euros originally sought.
Finally, the central committee's secretary, Lefteris Zagoritis, accused PASOK, now the main opposition party, of lacking policy, proposals and positions.
Zagoritis stated that attempts by PASOK leader George Papandreou to fuel confrontation had failed to win over the public and displayed a lack of arguments.
 Opposition raps PMThe main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Saturday disputed what it called "a rosy picture" of the country's economic and social situation presented by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at a ruling party central committee meeting.
"The truth is that the public's income is falling while prices are rising, the government's tax reform drive has hurt the majority of people, unemployment is only dropping on paper, selling off state property is described as reform, and state education is sub-standard and under-funded," PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou said.
"Mr Karamanlis is seriously confused. He seems to think that the ministers and heads of state organizations that applauded (at the meeting) him represent the Greek public and the reality of its life," Efthymiou charged.
In a separate statement, the Communist Party of Greece said that government policy remained the same while masquerading under different names.
The party also said that the policy was a continuation of that exercised by the government's PASOK predecessor.
Responding to Efthymiou's criticism, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos stated that PASOK was unable to change with the times and with the public's needs.
 Gov't condemns murder of Turkish journalistForeign Minister Dora Bakoyiannis on Saturday deplored the murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish journalist of Armenian descent.
Dink had worked for the fundamental right to freedom of speech, Bakoyiannis said in a statement.
"This cold-blooded murder runs contrary to the Turkish people's efforts to win a future in Europe," the statement said.
"Greece unreservedly condemns any act of violence or terrorism, and hopes for a swift resolution and punishment for the perpetrators," it added.
Dink, editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, was shot in broad daylight as he left his office in Istanbul on Friday.
 FM on working visit to Paris TuesdayForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will pay a working visit to Paris on Tuesday for talks with her French counterpart Philippe Douste-Blazy, the foreign ministry announced on Sunday.
Bakoyannis will also participate in a European Union General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels on Monday.
 Gov't sets priority on educationThe government has set a priority on education, the country's education minister, Marietta Yiannakou said in a speech on Sunday.
The prime minister believes that narrow party political attitudes and election maneuvers should be kept out of action for the educational system, Yiannakou noted.
Private universities would spur competition
Deputy Foreign Minister Euripides Stylianidis said on Sunday that allowing the creation of private universities in Greece would bring competition and improve the quality of state tertiary education.
"In addition, breaking the monopoly would reverse the brain drain," Styliandis, who handles economic diplomacy for the government, said in a speech arranged by the National Youth Council as part of an event named Money & Show.
Opposition: Public arena 'under siege'
The head of the opposition Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology says the public arena is under siege, triggered by controversy over the establishment of private universities.
"The clash over article 16 (of the constitution) does not only concern education, but the entire public arena, which is under threat and under siege," Alekos Alavanos told the Sunday Ethnos newspaper in an interview.
"We back one university, not state but public, that would be self-sufficient, govern itself and have funds," Alavanos noted.
University lecturers to strike next week
University lecturers are to stage a 48-hour strike on January 24-25, and again on January 31 and February 1-2.
If the government fails to meet their demands, then an indefinite walkout will be held, the Panhellenic Federation of University Teaching and Research Staff said in a statement on Saturday.
Both lecturers and students have opposed revision of the country's constitution that would allow the creation of private, non-profit-making universities.
 Unity needed to combat terrorismUnity is need to combat terrorism, the secretary of the ruling New Democracy's central committee said on Sunday.
Lefteris Zagoritis was speaking to reporters after a memorial service for the victims of terrorism held in Piraeus.
"Terrorism has murdered, wounded and destroyed in Greece as well," Zagoritis said. "The struggle against it is daily, difficult and lasting."
 Communist party to Turkey meetingA delegation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) left for Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday to take part in a congress of the neighbouring country's communist party.
The delegation headed by KKE leader Aleka Papariga will also take part in an international meeting arranged by the Communist Party of Turkey entitled "The Eastern Question", a sideline event to the congress.
Accompanying Papriga are senior members of the party and its youth movement, and a reporter from Rizospastis, the KKE's newspaper.
 Conference on ties between Greece, TurkeyThe Institute of International Economic Relations on Saturday held a discussion on how evolving economic ties between Greece and Turkey affect Ankara's policy towards Greece, and changes in the energy sector in the eastern Mediterranean in terms of Turkish foreign policy.
The main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement's shadow foreign policy and defense spokesman, Theodoros Pangalos - also a former foreign minister - noted that Turkey was largely ignored in Greece as there was no school of Turkish studies, which he called a fundamental error due to the country's geographical location and size.
The head of the Hellenic-Turkish Chamber of Trade, Panayiotis Koutsikos, reported that 70 Greek firms have invested in Turkey, many in the form of joint ventures with Turkish firms, which has not been seen in domestic firms operating in other countries including Albania, Bulgaria and Romania.
 Greece wants EU action on droughtNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A Viketos)
Greece believes that measures should be taken to pre-empt or relieve drought in order to protect the environment and support land and farmers under duress, Agriculture and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos said on Sunday.
The minister was speaking after an informal European Union meeting of farm ministers of Mediterranean countries held in the Cypriot capital.
"Bringing back the question of drought with emphasis on the competent EU authorities will give a new dimension and new perspective that environmental protection measures may be taken, along with support for farmland," he told reporters.
"The meeting was very constructive," Basiakos added.
 Constitution defends woodland, EU official saysThe European Union's environment commissioner says that the constitution protects the country's woodland.
"Revision of article 24 is unnecessary. The constitution's provision, as it stands currently, adequately protects our wealth in woodland," Stavros Dimas wrote in the Sunday Kathimerini newspaper.
"The EU backs strict and unadulterated protection for the environment, and any attempt to restrict this protection is a major source of concern to us," Dimas said.
Needed was the implementation of sustainability to allow economic growth coupled with respect for the environment, he added.
 Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos in StrasbourgSTRASBOURG (ANA-MPA/O.Tsipira)
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos arrived here at the weekend at the invitation of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly president, Rene van der Linden.
The Ecumenical Patriarch will address the assembly's plenum on Monday and have separate talks with van der Linden and the Council's Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg. He will also meet the head of Turkey's delegation to the CoE.
Patriarch Vartholomeos led an Orthodox service on Sunday at St. Paul's Protestant church in central Strasbourg.
 Economy needs to look outward, minister saysGreece's economy needs an outward-looking approach in order to survive and allow growth in coming years, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said on Sunday.
"We want our policy to open the way for Greek firms, and foreign companies that wish to invest in Greece, contributing to the country's growth and a rise in its international status. And we have already accomplished this," said the minister referring to a heavy emphasis she has laid on economic diplomacy.
"I will defend the image of contemporary Greece in Paris on Tuesday before 110 French businesses, the largest in the country," Bakoyiannis said.
Turning to Greek diplomacy in the Balkans, she reported that the country now enjoyed a leading role in the region as a force for peace and growth.
The government was advancing the gradual creation of a unified economic space as a parallel move to the Balkan countries' shift towards the European Union, which will aid them to meet future entry requirements.
"We contributed to the creation of a free trade zone in the western Balkans, signed a few days ago," the minister noted.
She was addressing an event entitled Money and Show held in Athens.
 Gov't vows to scrap key property tax after pollsFinance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Saturday that the ruling New Democracy (ND) party would abolish the current tax on large property if it won general elections due in spring 2008.
The levy would be replaced by a small real estate tax that would also replace other tariffs that drive up the cost of construction, Alogoskoufis told a conference of the Panhellenic Federation of Property Owners.
Scrapping the existing tax would fall under the third phase of the government's taxation overhaul, he added.
 Foreign Exchange RatesReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.302
Pound sterling 0.661
Danish kroner 7.513
Swedish kroner 9.172
Japanese yen 158.0
Swiss franc 1.631
Norwegian kroner 8.430
Cyprus pound 0.583
Canadian dollar 1.532
Australian dollar 1.655
 Opinion Poll: Backing for CCTV camerasThe majority of the public want CCTV television cameras installed in central Athens highways to remain in place, according to the findings of an opinion poll published on Sunday.
Of people polled nationwide, 61% backed retention of the cameras installed for the Athens 2004 Olympics and 26% wanted their removal, the poll commissioned by the Sunday Kathimerini newspaper showed.
Ten percent of respondents said retention or withdrawal depended on unnamed factors, and 3% had no opinion or declined to reply.
Thirty six percent of people polled believed the cameras were used mainly to monitor traffic; and 21% mainly to track members of the public. Thirty one percent said they were employed for both purposes, and two percent for neither purpose.
Fifty seven percent of respondents felt that the cameras acted as protection rather than a violation of personal and civil liberties, with 33% believing the reverse.
The telephone poll was conducted by VPRC in a sample of 606 respondents nationwide.
Minister says security systems underperforming
In an article in the same newspaper, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis stated that security systems installed for the Olympics, including the CCTV cameras, were now underperforming.
"The lives of the Greek public are not cheaper than those of visitors to the Olympics," Bakoyannis said.
 Farmers blockade motorway junctionFarmers on Sunday blockaded an intersection of the motorway linking the northern port city of Thessaloniki to the prefecture of Halkidiki in protest at fines imposed for excessive electricity consumption.
Motorists have taken side roads to leave or gain access to the motorway since the action began on Saturday afternoon.
Athens-quoted Public Power Corporation has reportedly fined 250 farmers between 7,000 and 47,000 euros for excessive consumption in 1999-2003, also cutting electricity to more than 30 pumps.
 Police: Baby-traffickers nabbedAttica police said on Saturday that they had broken up a baby-trafficking ring that included a lawyer and two gypsies.
Arrested were a gypsy couple whose baby born on January 15 was registered in another woman's name, who is being sought for questioning; and a 56-year-old lawyer who acted in the case, according to the Attica police's minors division.
 Floodlit Patras launches carnivalThe city of Patras launched its annual carnival at the weekend in a night of dance, music and light enjoyed by around 45,000 merrymakers.
At the opening on Saturday of the season's traditionally largest and most flamboyant festivity in Greece, dancers and acrobats stunned carnival-goers with a series of performances based on music from different countries and continents; and puppet musicians tracked events on central stage.
Bouzouki and brass compositions showcased Greece and the Balkans, climaxing in Zorba the Greek, which marked the triumphant entrance of the carnival king riding his chariot.
Patras Mayor Andreas Fouras launched the Carnival, whose opening ceremony ended with a giant firework display and open-air party in Georgiou Square, the centre of the festivities.
 Greek Super League soccer resultsResults of the Greek Super League soccer matches played over the weekend:
Xanthi - Panathinaikos Athens 0-0
Aris Thessaloniki - Egaleo Athens 3-1
Apollon Kalamaria - Ionikos Piraeus 1-0
Panionios Athens - Ergotelis Crete 2-0
AEK Athens - Atromitos Athens 3-0
Larissa - Kerkyra 2-2
OFI Crete - Iraklis Thessaloniki 1-0
PAOK Thessaloniki - Olympiakos Piraeus 2-3
Standings after 18 weeks of play:
Olympiakos 46 points
Apollon Kalamaria 21
Note: Ionikos was deducted five points for disciplinary reasons.
 Weather Forecast: High temperatures on MondayUnseasonally warm weather is forecast in all parts of the country. Temperatures in Athens from 8C to 19C; and in Thessaloniki between 4C and 17C.
 Athens Newspaper HeadlinesSUNDAY ADESMEFTOS: "Quick pensions with no red tape"
APOGEVMATINI ON SUNDAY: "Key speech by PM is guideline for 2007"
SUNDAY VIMA: "Three suspects and new evidence in terrorist attack on US embassy"
VRADYNI ON SUNDAY: "Secrets for quick retirement"
SUNDAY ETHNOS: "Internecine war in the government over dubious activities"
ESPRESSO ON SUNDAY: "Singer Yiannis Parios shuns the limelight"
SUNDAY ELEFTHERI ORA: âChange of guard in the anti-terrorist squadâ
EPOHI: "Government firebombs university asylum and education"
SUNDAY KATHIMERINI: "Opinion Poll: People say yes to traffic cameras"
HORA ON SUNDAY: "Three proposals from the finance ministry for wage rises"
AVGHI ON SUNDAY: "Ruling party abruptly reverts to form"
SUNDAY AVRIANI: "Mafia-like cartel in automobile market"
ELEFTHEROTYPIA ON SUNDAY: "New game involving bourse with the government investing to win political dividend"
SUNDAY RIZOSPASTIS: "Broad-based drive for the education system by the people and youth"
LOGOS ON SUNDAY: "Government's new political agenda: Final planning for education and the economy until general elections"
SUNDAY PARON: "Epic drive against vested interests ends in fiasco"
PROTO THEMA ON SUNDAY: "Ministers accused of encouraging cartels"
NIKI: "Ruling party pays internal games with education against election backdrop"
SUNDAY TRAFFIC NEWS: "Sakis Rouvas' tee-shirt on the auction block!"
TYPOS ON SUNDAY: "Ruling party sends strong message"
 President opposes diversion from July agreementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Any attempt to divert efforts towards a settlement in Cyprus from the process, based on the July agreement between the leaders of the island's two communities, is tantamount to questioning the credibility and the effectiveness of efforts to implement the agreement, President Tassos Papadopoulos stressed on Sunday, reiterating his firm position that he has no intention of signing any kind of a solution to "close" the question of Cyprus.
He also said that the issue of missing persons in Cyprus is and will remain a priority in terms of interest and effort to resolve it, adding that this purely humanitarian matter has no political dimension whatsoever.
"An unfair and imbalanced settlement will merely act as an illusion of a solution, something which will be disastrous for the country," he said as he unveiled a bust in honour of Takis Panayiotou who is missing since the 1974 Turkish invasion and Savas Antoniades who was killed during hostilities in the summer of 1974.
The president said it is self-evident that the continuation of the current deadlock encompasses risks which favour the gradual upgrading of the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime, in the occupied areas.
He dismissed suggestions that the only alternative is to accept procedures and proposals leading to a solution with two separate legal entities in Cyprus, as such a prospect will definitely lead to division and two separate states.
The July 8 agreement, reached between himself and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat, provides for talks between their aides on day to day issues as well as substantive aspects of the Cyprus question. It also provides for meetings between the leaders, which have to be well prepared to help lead to substantive negotiations.
"Any diversion from this procedure, any other move towards another direction, means doubting the credibility and the effectiveness of efforts made towards implementation of an agreement, which the UN have concluded at our initiative. We remain committed to this agreement and consistent with it," he said.
On continuing efforts to ascertain the fate of missing persons, the president had this to say: "I can assure you that our efforts will continue unabated and will intensify to establish the fate of each and every missing person."
This issue, he added, is "for me and the state a priority in relation to interest shown and efforts made and it will remain a priority until it is fully resolved."
Papadopoulos acknowledged that not a lot is said in public about the work done but much more is done to lead this issue to its resolution.
"Uncertainty about the fate of our missing persons, as well as other tragic aspects of the Cyprus problem, is linked to a correct political settlement and we cannot have a correct settlement without a correct resolution of this humanitarian issue," he concluded.
 Papadopoulos: efforts to implement Gambari agreement underwayNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President Tassos Papadopoulos said here Satuday that progress in working committees is dependent on progress in
technical committees, to be set up as part of the implementation of the July 2006 agreement, known as the Gambari agreement, with a view to prepare the ground for substantive negotiations between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus.
The president was invited to comment on the ongoing talks between his top aide the Director of his Diplomatic Office Ambassador Tasos Tzionis and the aide to Turkish Cypriot leader Racit Pertev, who meet regularly to help implement the July agreement.
"The fundamental provision of the July agreement is that substantive issues must be examined by experts to define the issues of disagreement which will be discussed by the leaders of the two communities," he explained.
If this preparatory work is not completed, then there is no meaning in a meeting with Talat, he reiterated, noting that in such a case a meeting will be a "decorative move."
"Progress in the technical committees depends on progress on the working committees and we are trying to find procedural methods that will allow coordination. This is what the two aides are talking about," he said.
On Turkey's European aspirations, Papadopoulos said Cyprus will opt to either lift objections or raise additional ones in Ankara's accession negotiations, depending on various factors.
"Eight negotiating chapters will not open (until Turkey complies with its EU obligations to Cyprus), in accordance with EU decisions. Turkey's compliance with the acquis communautaire, its attitude towards Cyprus and assessing the current situation to determine whether it is in our interest to either lift objections or raise new ones will be taken into consideration before we decide on opening new negotiating chapters," he explained.
The president described as "very important" a Supreme Court decision which dismissed claims for compensation by a Turkish Cypriot with regard to his property, in the southern government controlled part of the country.
"I believe that the Supreme Court has reaffirmed once more the legitimacy of the law governing the custody of Turkish Cypriot properties, saying this very fundamental legislation is constitutional," he said.
He expressed the view that the European Court of Human Rights will endorse this judgment, if and when the case is brought before it.
The Turkish Cypriot was seeking damages for the expropriation of part of his property, near the southern town of Limassol, and for granting the rest to Greek Cypriot refugees for temporary use, until a political settlement is reached.
Asked about Turkey's objections to a bilateral agreement between Lebanon and Cyprus for the exploration and exploitation of oil and natural reserves, at sea, the president stressed that the agreement delineating the exclusive economic zone between the two countries has been signed and it will be tabled to the UN, which will conclude the necessary procedure in relation to such agreements.
 President condemns assassination of Turkish journalistNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos condemned here Saturday the assassination of Hrank Dink, a Turkish-Armenian editor, who had been convicted of insulting Turkey's identity.
Papadopoulos said this was a "very regretable development" and called on Ankara to show that it respects dissent.
"This is a very regretable development and I believe that everybody condemns it. Turkey, which has European orientations, first has to show that it respects dissenting voices and those who have the courage to speak out for the need to see the country become more European and for the protection of human rights," the president said, when asked to comment on Fridays killing in Istanbul.
Dink, a high-profile editor who had been the target of nationalist anger for his comments on the Armenian genocide, was shot dead on Friday as he left his weekly paper Agos in the centre of the city.
The president was speaking on the sidelines of an electoral process of the ruling Democratic Party for a new deputy leader and described Dink as "the face of Europe, a trait given to him by the Turkish media as well."
"Hrant Dink is the only person convicted under article 301 of the Turkish penal code which the European Union wants amended," Papadopoulos said, adding that Dink was convicted for offending the Turkish state because he declared his Armenian origins and sought recognition of the Armenian genocide during the Ottoman Empire rule.