|Thursday, 23 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-01-03
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 3 January 2011 Issue No: 3684
 President calls for reinforcement of financially weaker strataPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias called for the reinforcement of the financially weaker strata, during the traditional exchange of New Year wishes with political leaders on Saturday at the Presidential Mansion.
Asked by the press if he considered the country's social cohesion a priority, the President replied in the affirmative, but stressed that social cohesion arises from a clampdown on the crimes against the Greek people. "It is not possible that those who evade paying their taxes rush to the state hospitals to be treated. This is unacceptable," he said.
To a question whether the most difficult times have been left behind with 2010 or are yet to come in 2011, Papoulias replied that there will be difficulties in 2011 "but I believe that the road that will lead us to a good 2012 is slowly opening up".
Asked if he fears social reactions, the President said that despite the fact that the weaker strata are suffering, they have nevertheless realised that there is no other path.
"We need to treat that path, and they have a persistence that I admire. But on the other hand, because I, too, have gone through hard times in my life, the Greek people faced such periods with great courage and with the hope that tomorrow will be better," he said. "I believe this is happening today, too...The powers that be need to facilitate the tolerance the Greek people are showing, and when I say facilitate, I mean that they must definitely reinforce, at least financially, the lower incomes," Papoulias stressed.
 President, PM agree to meet after latter's upcoming visits abroadPresident of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and prime minister George Papandreou have agreed to meet in due course, possibly after the latter's upcoming trips to Paris and the Turkish city of Erzurum.
The agreement for the meeting came during a brief discussion on Saturday at the traditional exchange of New Year greetings at the Presidential Mansion.
The two officials noted the difficulties the country and the Greek people are currently facing.
At this difficult time, what comes first is consolidation of the just state and social justice, which the government is working on, Papandreou said.
After the ceremony, Papandreou went to his office in parliament, where he held consultations with foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas and minister of state Haris Pamboukis ahead of the premier's planned visits.
 Intense 3-month period in economy, public sector ahead of next trancheThe government will enter an intense three-month period of interventions in the economy as of Monday with March looming large on the horizon -- when according to a published timetable, the EU-ECB-IMF bailout mechanism's fourth and biggest tranche (15 bln euros) is set for disbursement to Greece.
The period is considered crucial since, apart from the new inspection by the EU-ECB-IMF "troika" in February, the issue of an extension for the repayment of the bailout's installments will also be raised.
A draft bill on the opening of so-called "closed professions" is a top priority. Another important issue is the reform and cost-cutting plan for state-run utilities and wider public sector organisations.
The "troika" is expecting a detailed plan for every sector, particularly in terms of privatisations and the better utilisation of state real estate.
January will be an important month since at the end of it, or early February at the latest, a draft law on the reform of Greece's creaky tax administration must be tabled in Parliament. Announcements are also expected in January on actuarial studies concerning the main social insurance funds (IKA, OAEE and OGA).
Additionally, a detailed action plan must be presented by the end of February -- with specific deadlines -- for the long-south unified salary scale in the country's cavernous public sector, in order to allow the relevant bill to be ratified by the end of June.
 ND spokesman criticises gov't over immigration policyMain opposition New Democracy party spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos, referring on Sunday to the government's immigration policy and in reply to a series of recent statement by government officials on the problem of illegal immigration, referred to "isolated measures" and "band aids."
Panagiotopoulos accused the PASOK government of "failing absolutely in its immigration policy, with very unfavourable consequences for Greek society ... it is trying now, with isolated measures, to correct the incorrigible problem."
ND called on the government "to change its policy in its entirety, because with half measures and 'band aids' with whatever construction of special fences in Evros cannot solve major problems."
Panagiotopoulos was referring to recent statements by Citizens' Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, who announced a "get tough" policy in terms of illegal immigrants and the construction of a fence along the land border with Turkey.
He concluded his statement by saying "New Democracy has already shown the way, formulating a full immigration policy proposal, applicable immediately and effective."
 Gov't condolences, abhorrence over Alexandria bomb attackThe Greek government on Saturday evening expressed its solidarity and condolences in the wake of a bomb attack outside a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt, which occurred earlier in the day and claimed the lives of 21 parishioners.
Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas, in a telephone call with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmet Aboul Gheit, expressed the Greek government's support and condolences, while the foreign ministry issued a statement by ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras condemning the attack.
Delavekouras expressed "outright condemnation of the abhorrent terrorist attack at a church in Alexandria that targeted the faithful, who had gone to pray".
"This barbarous, criminal act, that cost the lives of more than 20 people, Christians and Muslims alike, reminds us once again how important and how necessary our common struggle against terrorism is," Delavekouras said in his statement, adding that "there is nothing that can justify or legitimise random violence, from wherever it originates."
Droutsas is expected to speak by phone with Orthodox Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria on Sunday.
 2011 brings price hikes due to VAT rise, but also reductions for meds, tourism servicesThe advent of 2011 has brought with it price increases in a wide range of staple goods and mainly foods, public transport, cigarettes, entertainment and utilities, while the prices of some 12,000 medicines will be reduced and electricity rates for about 1.2 million low income households will also decline.
Rises will result in the prices of a sweeping range of products and services on the market and utilities due to the increase of the 11 percent VAT to 13 percent as of January 1, 2011. These include food products sold in supermarkets, bakeries, vegetable and fruit shops and meat shops, at restaurants and all eating establishments, cafeterias and sweet/pastry shops, as well as cinema, concert and other events tickets.
Utility bills -- electricity, water, natural gas -- are also being moved to the 13 percent VAT category, as are the public transport tickets -- buses, metro, trains -- and also taxi rates.
However, the 11 percent VAT rate is reduced to 6.5 percent for medicines and also for tourism services.
 2011 finds Greece mostly without 'spectre' of cabotageThe year 2011 will be the first for the substantive imple-mentation of the lifting of cabotage, following the signing a relevant contract on cruises by relevant ministers last month.
The contract fully safeguards the interests of the public sector without restricting the activity of shipping companies with "superfluous bureaucratic procedures", according to the government.
Based on the ministerial decision, the contribution per passenger and roundtrip cruise voyage for ships flying a non-EU flag is set at 3.95 euros.
The amount of the contribution decreases by 20 percent on the explicit precondition that the company employs Greek seamen to a number corresponding to at least 1 percent of the total number of crew members. The amount of the contribution decreases by 7 percent for every additional Greek port that the ship approaches, according to the company's declared itinerary.
The first cruiseship to dock at the port of Piraeus in 2011 was the Costa Pacifica, while the MSC Fantasia docked at the port of Irakleio, Crete and Rhodes on Jan. 1.
 Sharp decline in holiday travelling by GreeksA major decline in travel by Greeks, both to popular destinations abroad and domestically, was recorded in the Christmas-New Year holiday season this year, according to travel bureau representatives.
The reduction in holiday travel mainly concerns the middle incomes, which are traditionally the staple clientele of travel bureaus, which attribute the decline chiefly to the economic crisis, according to representatives of Athens-based travel offices.
Organised trips to European countries, in particular, fell by 45-50 percent over the holidays, while domestic tourism dropped by 25 percent, Christoforos Mouzakis, director of organised trips to European destinations at a major travel agency in Athens, told ANA-MPA.
He said that the 400, 500 and 700 euros travel package visitors to central European destinations -- mainly civil servants and public sector employees, was the category worst hit, followed by young couples and families, indicating that the cause was the economic crisis.
Conversely, however, the more expensive packages for destinations abroad, such as the US, were not affected, as such destinations have a limited number of customers to begin with and also attract higher income travelers.
Mouzakis further noted that most of the travelers booked their trips at the last minute, waiting first for the special discount packages to be announced by the travel bureaus.
Another Athens-based travel bureau director for ticket and hotel booking, Roula Krezia, told ANA-MPA that a slump was recorded over the holidays in airline ticket bookings for such destinations as Prague, Vienna and Budapest which, she noted, are both inexpensive destinations and the local hotels were offering reduced prices.
Krezia further noted that travelers over the holidays generally avoided organised trips abroad and opted instead for individual bookings, seeking inexpensive solutions over the internet. Indeed, she added, a slump was also recorded in the most popular domestic destinations, such as Pilion and the Zagorochoria, while the destinations closer to Athens, such as Nafplio and Loutraki, fared a bit better.
 Toll rate increasesNew, increased toll rates will be effective as of midnight Sunday, January 2, at several toll points in Greece.
The new rates affect the toll stations at Afidnes, Thebes, Tragana and Aghia Triada.
At the Afidnes station, the new rates will be 1.40 euros for motorcycles, 2.05 euros for cars, and 5.20 and 7.25 euros for medium-size and large-size trucks respectively.
At the Thebes station, the new rates will be 1.70 euros for motorcycles, 2.50 euros for cars, and 6.25 and 8.80 euros for medium-size and large-size trucks respectively.
At the Tragana station, the new rates will be 1.65 euros for motorcycles, 2.40 euros for cars, and 6.10 and 8.50 euros for medium-size and large-size trucks respectively.
At the Aghia Triada station, the new rates will be 1.10 euros for motorcycles, 1.55 euros for cars, and 3.95 and 5.55 euros for medium-size and large-size trucks respectively.
 Increases in commuter tickets anticipatedIncreases in commuter ticket prices are anticipated in the New Year, in the context of the government's efforts for drastic reduction of the public transport organisations' deficits.
Although the new ticket prices have yet to be announced, according to sources at the Infrastructure, Transports and Networks ministry, the 1 euro ticket for public transport means in the wider Athens area are anticipated to increase by 30 percent to 1.30 euros, while increases are also expected for the unlimited travel passes (cards).
The ministry recently announced it was planning to reduce the state subsidy for public transport tickets from the current 70 percent to 50 percent, while the final decisions are slated to be announced in the coming month with the tabling of the ministry's bill for the restructuring of public transport means in parliament.
Substantial increases of up to 70 percent are expected in the Hellenic Rail (OSE) ticket prices, in the context of OSE's rationale to equate its prices with those of the KTEL inter-state buses, while increases in the Proastiakos suburban railway prices will be much smaller. Drastic restructuring of service, such as abolition of loss-making routes and enhancement of the more profitable routes are also expected at OSE.
 Trucks full of stolen goods foundTwo private trucks with Albanian licence plates filled with stolen goods were found Sunday by police in the Athens suburb of Moschato in an outdoor parking area.
Police, acting on a tip-off, seized the trucks and confiscated the stolen goods, which included three electricity generators, a roadworks machine, four motorcycles that had been stolen from the residential areas of Vyronas and Kaissariani, a jet ski that had been stolen from Kalyvia, in Attica prefecture, an outboard motor that had been stolen from Paiania, and several other public works machines.
According to police, the thefts were the work of a gang 'specialising' in stealing vehicles, generators and motorcycles, which it would then smuggle out of Greece.
The investigation was continuation to locate the perpetrators.
 Freighter rams into port breakwater near Corinth, no marine pollution causedAn Antigua and Barbuda-flagged freighter rammed into the breakwater of the port of Kalamaki, near Corinth, on Saturday, causing a rift in the vessel's prow, but no pollution to the sea.
The Isthmia harbor authority, which is conducting an investigation into the circumstances of the accident, has banned the ship from sailing until the damage is repaired.
No injuries were reported.
 Illegal migrant smuggler arrestedA 57-year-old truck driver was arrested and 12 illegal migrants were detained in the port of Igoumenitsa after the migrants were found hidden in the former's truck.
The migrants were found in a compartment behind crates of oranges in the truck, which was seized.
 Body found in rubbish binThe body of a 30-year-old woman was found by neighbours stuffed in a garbage can in the Athonos Square district in downtown Thessaloniki, shortly before noon on Sunday.
According to initial reports, the victim had two wounds caused by a sharp instrument, probably a broken bottle, while the slaying was estimated as taking place at roughly 8 a.m.
 Contraband cigarettesPort authorities in Crete confiscated 3,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes that were found in a Bolivia-flagged freighter outside the port of Kissamos.
The vessel, identified as the "Romeo", had left the port of Famagusta, in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus, heading for a port in Albania, while the nine seamen on board told authorities they were unaware of the cargo's content.
The confiscation of the contraband cargo was confirmed late on Friday afternoon by the Hania harbour master, who said that the vessel was in the gulf of Kissamos due to the weather conditions and was considered suspicious since it had attracted the attention of the authorities in the past as well.
The nine-member crew was arrested, and the ship was also seized.
 Overcast, rainy on MondayOvercast skies and rain are forecast for most parts of the country on Monday, with snow on high ground in central and northern Greece.
Overcast with local drizzle in the wider Athens area, with northerly winds of 3-5 beaufort velocity and temperatures ranging from 8C to 13C.
Thessaloniki will also be overcast, with light rainfall in the eastern part of the prefecture, northernly winds of 3-5 beafort velocity and temperatures ranging from 1C to 6C.
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