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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-02-18

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM to visit Evros on Saturday; state of emergency declared due to flooding risk
  • [02] PM Karamanlis seen as 'most suited' for premier over predecessor Simitis in opinion poll
  • [03] Police bust international ring involved in trafficking women from former Soviet states
  • [04] Hierarchy gives vote of confidence to Archbishop Christodoulos
  • [05] Greek parliament discusses agricultural policy

  • [01] PM to visit Evros on Saturday; state of emergency declared due to flooding risk

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will visit areas flooded by the swollen Evros River on Saturday, after a state of emergency was declared in the area because of the rising water levels along the river. The premier will make the visit prior to his scheduled trip to the island of Samothrace, which was also hard hit in a recent wave of bad weather.

    Karamanlis will be accompanied in his on-the-spot inspection of the situation in Evros by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis, as well as Civil Protection General Secretary Panagiotis Fourlas and Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Regional Authority General Secretary Mihalis Angelopoulos and other officials.

    According to the latest updates on the situation along the banks of the Evros and Arda Rivers, meanwhile, the next few hours will be crucial as massive volumes of water are expected to come down coursing down the river from neighbouring Bulgaria after noon.

    An embankment in the Sofiko district near Didymotichos has already given way because of the increased force of the water, flooding cultivations in the area but not posing a threat to homes. The situation is more serious in the area of Lavara, however, where the rising water has encroached on the outskirts of the village.

    Work teams from the regional and prefecture authorities have been busy since Thursday artificially breaching embankments along the length of the river in order to relieve the rising water pressure and to divert floodwater away from homes and villages, most recently in Kastanies.

    Also on standby are the fire department, police, army and local authorities throughout the region, who have asked local inhabitants to remove any animals or machinery from areas near the banks of the river.

    A state of emergency was declared in the Evros following a meeting by local officials and the head of the Civil Protection agency on Thursday afternoon, which decided to proceed with controlled release of water from the river at selected points in order to ensure that the embankments will hold.

    In the area of Pythio, the water level had risen by 6.2 metres, 10 cm above the level the embankments are designed to contain and half a metre above danger levels. Also near or above danger level were water levels in Kipi, Petalo and Arda.

    Present at the meeting were Turkish local authorities from Edirne, which also flanks the Evros River, who were asked to artificially siphon off water on the Turkish side of the border near the Greek communities of Pythio, Petrades, Psathades, Mandra and Kornofolia.

    [02] PM Karamanlis seen as 'most suited' for premier over predecessor Simitis in opinion poll

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis was voted as "most suited for prime minister" by 49.5 percent of respondents in a nationwide opinion poll conducted by Kapa Research on behalf of the magazine "Krama", the results of which appeared in the magazine on Friday.

    Karamanlis was seen as "most suited for prime minister" by 49.5 percent of the respondents, against 34.7 percent for preceding (PASOK) prime minister Costas Simitis, in the poll conducted 11 months since the last general elections in Greece that brought the New Democracy (ND) party to government.

    The poll was conducted among a random sampling of 2005 households throughout the country, via telephone interviews, from February 3 to 7.

    Also, out of a total 18 comparisons between ministers in the previous PASOK and current ND governments, only three PASOK ministers scored higher than their ND counterparts in the same post.

    More specifically, new PASOK leader George Papandreou scored 47.2 percent preference as foreign minister in the Simitis government against current foreign minister Petros Molyviatis with 39.2 percent. Former Macedonia-Thrace minister in the PASOK government Haris Kastanidis was the preference of 42.8 percent of the respondents against current minister Nikos Tsiartsionis (23.6 percent), while former Aegean minister in the PASOK government, Nikos Sifounakis, was the preference of 40.8 percent of the respondents over Aristotelis Pavlidis (31.2 percent).

    Finance minister George Alogoskoufis was preferred by 44.1 percent of the respondents over his predecessor Nikos Christodoulakis (30.5 percent), while Interior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos was preferred by 44.4 percent over Costas Skandalidis (37.6 percent), and Defence minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos was preferred by 43.1 percent over Yannos Papantoniou (33.0 percent).

    Also, Transport and Communications minister Michalis Liapis was the preference of 45.3 percent of the respondents over Christos Verelis (36.2 percent), Development minister Dimitris Sioufas was preferred by 50.8 percent over Akis Tsohatzopoulos (29.4 percent), Agriculture minister Evangelos Basiakos was preferred by 40.4 percent over George Drys (26.6 percent), Merchant Marine minister Manolis Kefaloyannis was the preference of 46.9 percent over George Paschalidis (26.6 percent), Justice minister Anastasis Papaligouras was preferred by 47.0 percent over Philippos Petsalnikos (37.3 percent), Labour minister Panos Panayotopoulos was the preference of 46.0 percent over Dimitris Reppas (32.3 percent), Environment, Town Planning and Public Works minister George Souflias was the preference of 48.5 percent over Vasso Papandreou (36.2 percent), Education minister Marietta Yannakou was preferred by 43.2 percent over Petros Efthymiou (36.1 percent).

    Premier Costas Karamanlis, as Culture minister, was preferred by 43.8 percent of the respondents over Evangelos Venizelos (39.8 percent), Health minister Nikitas Kaklamanis was the preference of 68 percent over Costas Stefanis (16.6 percent), and Minister of State (for the press and media) and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos was preferred by 51.4 percent over Press minister and government spokesman Christos Protopapas.

    [03] Police bust international ring involved in trafficking women from former Soviet states

    Police on Friday reported dismantling a ring involved in the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women from former Soviet Union countries, who were put to work in Athens brothels.

    They said they had apprehended the ring leader and nine women, while another 20 people were also implicated in the case but had not been detained because they were not caught in the act. In addition, 18,000 euros believed to be proceeds from the exploitation of the women, 84 7.62mm shells and bank books containing deposits of 280,000 euros were confiscated during the operation.

    The investigation is continuing via Interpol with the assistance of foreign authorities in order to fully dismantle the international ring, since it was discovered that the girls were flown to various European Union countries before arriving in Greece.

    The operation was carried out on Thursday evening acting on information and a lengthy investigation over several months.

    According to investigating officers, the ring was comprised of Greeks and foreign nationals living in former Soviet states but also various travel agencies that sought out young women and undertook to provide them with travel documents, promising them legitimate work as baby-sitters, domestic help or waitresses once they arrived in Greece. Documents and tickets were provided free of charge but the women undertook to pay for them through their work once in Greece.

    On their arrival, the women initially spent a few days in various houses and hotels and were then delivered to the same person, who paid 2,500-3,000 euros for each one. The man then set up the young women in apartments specially rented for the purpose and used various means to persuade them to work as prostitutes, usually in exchange for arranging their legal residence in Greece.

    One method was to use either the women's own underage children or fake birth certificates and then find Greek men in dire financial need that were prepared to acknowledge the children as their own for sums ranging from 120 to 1,000 euro.

    This legalised the presence of the women in Greece, who were then put to work in five brothels owned by the ring-leader for between three and five years, depending on their age. The women each received three euro for every client, who paid between 20-25 euro a visit.

    According to police, 14 such 'recognitions' took place between 1999 and 2004, each time using the same notary and the same interpreter.

    They also noted that the ring leader had taken extraordinary measures to avoid capture, staying at a different address every night, using different cars and employing lookouts outside his brothels to warn him in case of a police raid.

    [04] Hierarchy gives vote of confidence to Archbishop Christodoulos

    Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece on Friday received a vote of confidence from the Church Hierarchy, at the opening of a crucial two-day meeting convened to discuss scandals that have been plaguing the Church and reforms. The vote of confidence was initiated by Christodoulos himself after Metropolitan Germanos of Ileia put forward an issue of dispute of the Archbishop to the Hierarchy.

    A total of 67 Hierarchs cast votes of confidence in Christodoulos, while four Hierarchs -- the Metropolitans of Zakynthos, Corinth, Ioannina and Filippi -- abstained and simply declared their presence, two Hierarchs -- the Metropolitans of Goumenissa and Mesogaia -- voted blank, and only one Hierarch, the Metropolitan of Peristeri, voted against the Archbishop.

    Christodoulos apologised to the Greek people, and the Church clerics who were beleaguered by the scandals, and launched a counter-attack against journalists, tv programmes and "those forces working to marginalise the Church".

    "I humbly apologise to the beleagured and devoted people, and to the holy clergy, the overwhelming majority of whom struggle daily and honour their humble and heroic priestly robes," Christodoulos said.

    He said that the situation was very serious, and required strong action, rather than "bandages".

    Referring to the case of Apostolos Vavilis, convicted in a drug smuggling case and wanted by Interpol for another drug trafficking conviction in Italy, Christodoulos said that "giving a letter of recommendation, or two, or three, or one hundred, to young people seeking my help either for an education, or to be appointed to a job, or to achieve some legal aspiration, or to recommend that they go to Mt. Athos for spiritual contemplation, does not constitute a sin".

    "I ask you, how may such letters have you, too, given?", the Archbishop asked the Hierarchs.

    The Prelate of the Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece, referring to press revelations on improper activities by clerics, said that that "the crimes of these clerics are basically two: hedonism and greed. And we must concede that, to a degree, we are all tolerated these situations".

    The Archbishop proposed a series of measures that should be introduced for "catharsis" in the Church, including the speedy (Church) trial of the moral transgressions of the accused clerics and Hierarchs, the presence of a lay lawyer at the Church trials, a minimum age of 35 for a priest's eligibility to become a Hierarch, the requirement of discharge papers from Armed Forces conscription (which is mandatory in Greece for all males) in order for a man to be eligible to enter the priesthood, activation of a "source of wealth" requirement for the clergy, simplification of the priestly vestments and abolition of 'gifts' to Hierarchs, setting up a Council in all Metropolises, the role of which would be to monitor the finances of each Metropolis, and to open up the Hierarchy to lay persons such as theologians, university students, as well as parish priests, preachers and monks.

    [05] Greek parliament discusses agricultural policy

    "We acknowledge farmers' just demands, we accept our responsibilities but we cannot accept that the truth be ignored," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told parliament on Friday.

    Speaking during an off-the-agenda debate on agricultural policy, Karamanlis said that "during the 11 months of the new government we worked with a sense of responsibility and with proven results. It is a fact, however, that there problems in the distribution of farm products, with low prices, due to excessive production and big stockpiles from imports".

    "The truth is known. The doors towards a deteriorating situation were already open. Community regulations were signed and the government had no right to intervene. Setting prices and obstructing imports would be an illegal act that would result in big fines from the European Union," he added.

    The Greek premier criticised the previous government's agricultural policy. "After 25 years of community subsidies and three Community Support Frameworks we had both huge funds and the time to move ahead. Instead, the result was a shrinking farm population, a drop of farm income to half the EU average, more imports, a constant widening of both trade and farm balance, an inadequate state mechanism and huge community fines from past excesses."

    Karamanlis said that the new government adopted stricter monitoring and inspection mechanisms and reiterated the government's position not to break community laws. "The state cannot break the law. The country cannot afford any more community fines. Inspections will be increasingly stricter. A modern Greece needs transparency everywhere. We said that and we are doing it," the Prime Minister told parliament.

    Main opposition party leader George Papandreou countered by accusing the Prime Minister of lack of any policy, ignorance of farmers' problems and backing away from his pre-election pledges. "The government has adopted a passive stance towards scenarios of a shrinking Common Agricultural Policy and does not take any advantage of opportunities offered for Greek products. It does not work on any large infrastructure project and cannot absorb community funds. The result of this policy is that there is not a single farm product with a better price than last year. All prices collapsed even in products excluded by PASOK's "bad" regulations," Papandreou told parliament.

    Alekos Alavanos, the leader of the Coalition party who asked for the off-the-agenda discussion on agricultural policy, criticised both the government and the PASOK party for the Greek farm sector's accumulated problems over the years. Alavanos said that PASOK governments signed "destructive" community regulations in the past and said that New Democracy's government was ill-prepared and incapable to manage the farm sector's problems.

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga told Parliament that agriculture's problems were on a crucial course and blamed both the main parties for the crisis.

    "Both ND and PASOK promised peanuts before elections and now the government can't even do that. It's giving a rise of just 12 euros," she said.


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