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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 15-11-09

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Weekend News Bulletin

Monday, November 9 2015

CONTENTS

  • [01] Europe must take responsibility for ending war in Syria, President Pavlopoulos says on Lesvos
  • [02] PM Tsipras calls Merkel, Hollande and Juncker over refugee crisis, Greek programme
  • [03] 'Time is pressing' EU Commissioner Moscovici tells 'Real News'
  • [04] PM chairs meeting of gov't economic team ahead of talks with institutions
  • [05] PM Tsipras pledges protection for 'homes of the weak', addressing SYRIZA Political Secretariat
  • [06] Former minister's accusation 'too grave' to be made through media, PM's office says
  • [07] CoS orders diplomat's six-month suspension without pay over Filipino maid debacle
  • [08] Government's aim is a return to growth by mid-2016, Gerovasili says
  • [09] Meimarakis attacks government, says ND will not support new taxes if he is its leader
  • [10] No margins for complacency in bank recapitalization, Dragasakis says
  • [11] Regling: Eurozone ready to discuss easing Greek debt in 2015, but not haircut
  • [12] Christoforos Merousis wins Athens 'Authentic' Marathon for third consecutive year
  • [13] More than 7,000 refugees arrive in Piraeus on Sunday
  • [14] Man arrested for assault on MP in court on Nov. 19; four still sought
  • [15] Bellini's 'I Capuleti e i Montecchi' at Athens Megaron from Nov. 13
  • [16] Athens Headlines at a glance Politics

  • [01] Europe must take responsibility for ending war in Syria, President Pavlopoulos says on Lesvos

    The war in the Middle East and Syria must stop, otherwise the "nightmare" of the refugee crisis will continue, President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos said during a visit to the Aegean island of Lesvos on Sunday. Speaking at Skala Sykamnias, the stretch of coastline where the majority refugees making the crossing from Turkey come ashore, Pavlopoulos stressed that Europe has a duty to assume responsibility for this outcome.

    "It is Europe's responsibility for the war to end. And it is truly hypocrisy to ask for protection and help toward these people without looking at where the real problems lies," he said.

    The president announced that Greece and also he personally will undertake every possible initiative, apart from protecting people, to end the war and said he was appealing to all European leaders on Greece's behalf.

    He also made it clear that there should be "no more misunderstandings that the borders of Europe are the borders of Greece, which are determined with sovereignty and that we also determine the ways in which we will guard these borders. All can see here that Greeks guard the borders of Europe."

    Pavlopoulos had earlier visited the village of Skala Sykamnias and talked with local residents, who are daily witnesses of the refugee crisis on their island.

    The president, who was on the island to attend celebrations marking the 103rd anniversary since Lesvos' liberation from Ottoman rule, had earlier emphasised its contribution to both protecting the borders of Greece and the EU, as well as human lives, dignity and values.

    "Your example is one of civilisation and humanity. And until Europe makes its decisions, the weight falls on your shoulders but also the praise for what you do," Pavlopoulos said while addressing officers of the Lesvos Coast Guard. Among them were the crew of coast guard vessels involved in the rescue of literally thousands of refugees and migrants endangered in their attempt to make the crossing to Lesvos from Turkey.

    In statements after a parade in the island's main town Mytilene, Pavlopoulos noted that Lesvos, at this extremely critical time for the country, was proving the "sleepless and tireless guardian of the borders of Greece and the European Union, but primarily the ideal, to the point of self-sacrifice, expressor of peace and defence of humanity."

    He then attended a ceremony at the University of the Aegean, where he was presented with a medal by the university's rector Stefanos Gritzalis and, quoting a line from Aeschylus' 'Agamemnon', expressed hope that "we will soon stop 'seeing the Aegean flowering with corpses'".

    Referring to the patrolling of the Greek border, he said that Greece's actions were primarily focused on protecting people.

    "We protect with sovereignty the Greek border and simultaneously the European border. But at the same time we protect people. That is what we teach," he said.

    [02] PM Tsipras calls Merkel, Hollande and Juncker over refugee crisis, Greek programme

    Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Sunday contacted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and European Commission President Jean- Claude Juncker on the telephone to discuss the refugee crisis and the ongoing talks on Greece's programme.

    According to an announcement issued by the Greek prime minister's press office, Tsipras informed them about his upcoming visit to Turkey and analysed the Greek government's proposals for protecting the first homes of debtors from foreclosures. He argued that the Greek position on foreclosure auctions was compatible with the agreement struck between Greece and its Eurozone partners last July, as well as the need to protect social cohesion.

    Regarding the visit to Turkey, the three foreign officials welcomed Tsipras' initiative as part of broader planning by the European partners to cooperate with Turkey on the basis of international law, aimed at a more effective management of the refugee and migration issue and particularly the fight against trafficking networks.

    [03] 'Time is pressing' EU Commissioner Moscovici tells 'Real News'

    Greece needs to move quickly and reach "firm and specific agreements in the next few days on all the major outstanding issues under discussion," European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs stressed in an interview with the Greek newspaper "Real News" published on Sunday.

    During the interview, which the newspaper clarified was given on Friday, Moscovici emphasised that time was now pressing and expressed hope that Monday's Eurogroup will facilitate further progress in the talks very soon.

    The Commissioner emphasised that Greece was not carrying out reforms in order to please its creditors but to create the conditions needed to return to growth, so that businesses can start to invest and generate jobs and the country can have the prospect of a stable and prosperous future in the Eurozone.

    He said the momentum between Greek authorities and the institutions remained positive, with the earlier suspicion and lack of understanding now replaced by trust and a mutual desire to work together.

    Asked about the issue of non-performing loans, Moscovici said that a solution to this will also be the key to restoring Greece's banking system to health and restoring the flow of credit to the real economy. He said that "intense talks" were underway on the issue of foreclosure laws and that the aim was to arrive at a targeted formula that will protect only the most vulnerable groups while tackling "strategic" bad debtors, expressing confidence that a mutually acceptable and workable solution can be found.

    [04] PM chairs meeting of gov't economic team ahead of talks with institutions

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras chaired a meeting of the government's economic team at his offices in the Maximos Mansion, the government headquarters, ahead of intensive talks between Greek authorities and the institutions representing the country's creditors ahead of Monday's Eurogroup.

    The meeting on Saturday sought to clear the way for the Eurogroup's approval for the disbursement of a sub-tranche of 2.0 billion euros to Greece. The government is attempting to wrap up all open issues regarding the first group of prior actions and the Eurogroup Working Group that will make the recommendation to the Euro finance ministers is on standby to meet.

    The thorny issues that remain outstanding in the first group of prior actions include the issue of non-performing or 'red' loans and protection of primary residences from foreclosure auctions for borrowers that sought protection under the 'Katseli' laws, as well as the prices of generic medication and the equivalent measures to replace 23 pct VAT on private education and the 100-installment debt settlement measures.

    [05] PM Tsipras pledges protection for 'homes of the weak', addressing SYRIZA Political Secretariat

    Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras underlined the government's determination to protect the primary residence of Greece's economically weaker citizens in his address to SYRIZA's Political Secretariat, government sources said.

    "The government is moving forward, implementing its commitments both to the partners but also to the Greek people, since the main commitment on the basis of which we again received the popular mandate was the protection of the weak and preservation of social cohesion," he was quoted as saying during the Saturday meeting.

    "In the same way that we kept our promise about Drapetsona, just as we legislated counter to the 'interests' for the media licences, in the same way we will protect the primary homes of the weak," he added.

    The meeting chaired by Tsipras was held on Saturday afternoon and focused mainly on the refugee crisis, with Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas briefing the Political Secretariat members on the latest developments.

    [06] Former minister's accusation 'too grave' to be made through media, PM's office says

    Responding to claims made by former civil protection minister Yiannis Panousis with an announcement on Sunday, the press office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said that the accusations he made were "too grave" to be fodder for the media.

    "The accusations that Mr. Panoussis has publicly made are excessively serious for him to parade them around the mass media instead of officially submitting them with every detail to justice," the press release said.

    Sources said that Alternate Minister for Civil Protection Nikos Toskas had contacted Panousis and asked him why he had failed to inform the authorities about the alleged threats on his life. Replying, Panoussis said that the issue was political and not a matter for the police.

    Panoussis made his accusations in a sensational front-page interview with the newspaper "Proto Thema" on Sunday, under the headline "Politicians linked to terrorists are threatening my life."

    The prime minister was informed about the interview on the margins of meetings he chaired about the ongoing negotiations with the institutions and the refugee crisis, sources said.

    Main opposition New Democracy, in an announcement, urged the prime minister to take a stand regarding the former minister's allegations and called for a full investigation by justice.

    [07] CoS orders diplomat's six-month suspension without pay over Filipino maid debacle

    The Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, has revoked a foreign ministry disciplinary council ruling exonerating a Greek diplomat for alleged irregularities and suspended her for six months without pay, in response to a petition filed by General Inspector for Public Administration Leandros Rakintzis, it was announced on Sunday.

    The case concerned Greece's general consul in Geneva from 2001 until 2005, who was found guilty of a series of violations relating to a Filipino maid in her employment and her attempts to secure a residence permit for her maid from Swiss authorities.

    Swiss authorities had originally refused to issue a visa and residence permit and the consul resubmitted the request as urgent and also issued a consulate note verbale for the issue of an ID to the maid, without the knowledge of the foreign ministry.

    The foreign ministry was informed of the affair when the Filipino maid left the consul's employ in 2005 and sued her under Swiss employment law for back pay and unpaid social insurance contributions. In August 2007, a Swiss labour court ordered the ambassador and the Greek state to pay the maid 181,845 Swiss francs plus interest for the pay difference, overtime and holidays. An internal inquiry was ordered but the subsequent disciplinary hearing cleared the consul of all charges for disciplinary offences.

    Rakintzis had recommended that the CoS revoke the ruling and order the diplomat's permanent dismissal.

    [08] Government's aim is a return to growth by mid-2016, Gerovasili says

    The government's aim was for Greece to return to growth by mid 2016, government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili said in an interview with 'Kontra News' on Sunday.

    "We are, however, already implementing measures for the relief and protection of the weakest of our fellow citizens," she added, pointing to measures to provide health care to those without insurance and to continue the humanitarian crisis programme in the next year.

    She noted that employment schemes for the jobless were currently covering more than 200,000 individuals and were set to exceed 240,000 in the next six months, while 500 million euros had been secured for small and medium-sized enterprises from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

    Regarding Monday's crucial Eurogroup meeting, Gerovasili said it would be a "positive development" if all the outstanding issues were resolved but noted that this would not be done indiscriminately, especially on issues such as non-performing loans and protection from foreclosure auctions.

    Asked if the government would 'hold' in Parliament, she stressed that the government had a fresh mandate, a solid Parliamentary majority and a four-year prospect. More than half of civil servants to see small pay rises in 2016, minister says

    Some 55 pct of Greece's civil servants and public-sector workers will see small pay rises from the beginning of next year, Alternate Minister for Administrative Reconstruction Christoforos Vernardakis told the newspaper "Avghi" in an interview published on Sunday.

    Starting on January 1, 2016 there would be a gradual reduction of the so-called 'personal difference' and mergers of special wage scales from the current 20 to just six or seven, as well as a national register of qualified employees, he said.

    He said that salaries will no longer be linked to rank under the new wage scale, while pay raises will be linked to years in service, with increases every two years for employees with university education and every three years for all the rest. This would result in small pay hikes for roughly 315,000 of Greece's 570,000 public-sector staff.

    For the 90,000 employess paid higher salaries through the so-called 'personal difference' mechanism, Vernardakis said they would not see any pay cut but their pay will not rise in step with their colleagues but remain fixed for a period of five-six years until the discrepancy created is eliminated.

    [09] Meimarakis attacks government, says ND will not support new taxes if he is its leader

    Attacking the government during a meeting in the northwestern Greek city of Ioannina, main opposition New Democracy's leader Evangelos Meimarakis said it had set aside all its preelection pledges and claimed that the so-called social sensitivity of the Left was nothing but a myth.

    "With Meimarakis as president of ND, we will not vote for a single taxation measure because the ability of Greeks to pay taxes has been exhausted," he told the meeting on Saturday night.

    Meimarakis is among the candidates vying for the party's presidency in an upcoming ND election.

    Following SYRIZA's election last January, he added, current prime minister Alexis Tsipras was "shooting the country in the foot".

    "However dangerous he was with his 'no' to everything, he is even more dangerous with his 'yes' to everything," Meimarakis said.

    Financial news

    [10] No margins for complacency in bank recapitalization, Dragasakis says

    There were no margins for complacency concerning the recapitalization of Greece's banks, government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis warned in an interview with the newspaper "Real News" published on Sunday. He said it was possible for this to be completed successfully within the current year and that conditions will exist for the lifting of capital controls in the first months of 2016.

    Apart from the recapitalization of the four systemic banks, the government was also preparing a comprehensive policy aiming to create a parallel system of financing institutions and tools that will facilitate the mobilisation of domestic resources and also give access to "the pool of global liquidity," he said.

    Dragasakis played down fears that Greece's banking system will be "de-Hellenised" as a result of recapitalization and said the aim was a system where banks served society, employment, innovation and growth instead of the other way around.

    On the issue of non-performing loans, he said the government's intention was to protect people's homes but stressed that loans could not continue to be issued to "businesses that systematically have their debts in Greece and their profits abroad." He noted that perennially loss-making enterprises will henceforth have to present sustainable restructuring plans in order to be given loans, while businesses will have to start investing their own capital.

    Dragasakis said the government's biggest challenge was that of combining the country's memorandum commitments with a parallel programme of bold changes and reforms to the state, the political system, the institutions and the economy to create a "sustainable and socially just productive and social model".

    [11] Regling: Eurozone ready to discuss easing Greek debt in 2015, but not haircut

    NICOSIA (ANA-MPA/ A. Viketos) The Eurozone is ready to discuss the further easing of Greece debt within 2015 but not a nominal haircut, the head of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Klaus Regling said in an interview with Cyprus' "Politis" newspaper published on Sunday.

    Regling said the Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras now has a clear mandate to carry out reforms and that Greece can relaunch a process that was interrupted for nearly a year.

    He noted that this interruption was very costly for the Greek economy and this had made the current situation very difficult, because Greece was having to start from a lower base, so that people would once again have to put up with difficult measures.

    If Greece carries out the reforms - as it has shown it can do - the country will return to growth and Greeks wills start to feel the benefits, he added.

    He noted that Greece's debt was "not a threat" and that the country's European partners had already offered huge debt relief, in reality the largest given to any country.

    Given that Europe's financing to Greece was so great and extended up to three decades, the extremely generous borrowing terms (with interest rates around 1 pct) lead to a saving for the Greek budget in excess of 4.5 pct of GDP each year, he said.

    General News

    [12] Christoforos Merousis wins Athens 'Authentic' Marathon for third consecutive year

    Marathon runner Christoforos Merousis on Sunday emerged victorious for the third consecutive year, finishing first in the 33rd Athens Authentic Marathon men's race with a time of 2:21.22. The gold in the women's race went to Minori Hayakari from Japan, who beat local competition to come first with a time of 2:52.06.

    Silver in the men's race went to Dimitris Theodorakakos, who earned his ninth medal in the Athens marathon with a time of 2:27.03, while Dimosthenis Evangelidis finished third with a time of 2:27.28.

    Fourth to arrive at the Panathenian 'Kallimarmaro' Stadium in the men's race were Georgios Karavidas (2:30.41), followed by Michail Kalomoiris (2:31.39) and Kiriakos Simiriotis (2:32.10).

    Other medallists in the women's race were Greek runner Ourania Rempouli in second place (2:54.32) and Magda Gazea from Greece in third (2:55.35), earning her a 12 medal in the Athens marathon.

    Fourth in the women's category was Konstantina Stefanopoulou (2:59.08), followed by Gloria Priviletzio (3:02.01) and Georgia Louvi (3:04.32).

    A total of 43,000 runners took part in the race, which follows the classic route from the ancient battlefield of Marathon to the centre of Athens, covering a distance of 42,195 metres.

    According to an announcement by race organisers, 19 participants in the race had to be admitted to hospital during the course of the race, of which 15 have been discharged. Four remain hospitalised in the Evangelismos Hospital cardiac arrest ward.

    [13] More than 7,000 refugees arrive in Piraeus on Sunday

    A total of 5,630 refugees disembarked from ferry boats arriving at Pireaus port from the Aegean island of Lesvos on Sunday, with another 1,834 arrivals from Lesvos and Chios expected on the "Ariadne" during the day.

    [14] Man arrested for assault on MP in court on Nov. 19; four still sought

    A 24-year-old man arrested in connection with an assault by protestors on New Democracy MP Giorgos Koumoutsakos is to appear before a court on November 19 to stand trial, police announced. Four more suspects, including a woman, are still being sought for the attack on the MP on Thursday evening, during a rally of Pontic Greeks in front of the Greek Parliament.

    The man, who faces two misdemeanour charges, can be seen in a video footage to be hugging Koumoutsakos and leading him towards the riot police. In his statement he denied being part of the group that assaulted the MP and claimed he was leading Koumoutsakos to safety but authorities were not convinced. Police said the video evidence indicated that the 24-year-old was trying to delay the MP's escape and was actually leading him toward the protestors, not the riot police.

    The 24-year-old, who has now been released, was the only individual arrested in connection with the assault. According to one police source, all the suspects have been identified and at least two of them are members of the far-right party Golden Dawn.

    In a press release concerning the case, the opposition PASOK party on Sunday demanded that all the perpetrators of the attack be led to justice and called for their exemplary punishment, stressing that no further delay was acceptable.

    [15] Bellini's 'I Capuleti e i Montecchi' at Athens Megaron from Nov. 13

    The 'Megaron' Athens Concert Hall is to host a production of Vincenzo Bellini's classic opera "I Capuleti e i Montecchi" (The Capulets and the Montagues) based on the story of Romeo and Juliet for six nights, starting next week on November 13.

    An inaugural joint production of the Greek National Opera, the Fondazione Arena di Verona and the Fondazione Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, it is directed by Arnaud Bernard, with sets by Alessandro Camera and costumes designed by Carla Ricotti.

    Lukas Karytinos will conduct the Greek National Opera orchestra and chorus for six shows in the Athens Megaron on November 13, 14, 15, 18, 20 and 21.

    [16] Athens Headlines at a glance

    TO ARTHRO: Measures or Grexit

    AVGHI: The new face of Public Administration

    ETHNOS: Memorandum in the Aegean as well

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: Permanent clause for cuts to pensions

    KATHIMERINI: "Dark clouds gather over the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters)"

    LOGOS: Capital controls are hurting exports

    PARON: TSIPRAS: Topple me...

    PROTO THEMA: YIANNIS PANOUSIS SENSATION: 'Politicians linked to terrorists are threatening my life'

    RIZOSPASTIS: Worker-popular response with the strike on 12 November

    TO HONI: The 10 commandments of propaganda

    KONTRA NEWS: Karamanlis returning

    REAL NEWS: Everything up in the air!

    VIMA: Games with the loans

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