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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-03-09

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] FinMin presents policy priorities for 2006-07
  • [02] Vodafone head testifies on phone-tap affair
  • [03] Papandreou meets Rehn, discusses Balkans, Turkey

  • [01] FinMin presents policy priorities for 2006-07

    The first two years of reforms by the government will be followed by a two-year period of implementation and performance, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis stressed on Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister presented his policy priorities for the period 2006-2007. These include:

    -implementing a second phase of a tax reform programme envisaging higher tax-exempt ceilings and a gradual reduction of tax factors (the main factor will drop from 30 percent to 25 percent, while the highest factor will fall from 40 percent to 35 percent over the next three years).

    -implementing government pledges to raise supplementary pay to pensioners,

    -promoting a dialogue over the country's pension system. Alogoskoufis said the government's aim was to seek the widest possible political and social consensus on the issue,

    -implementing a privatization policy in 2006. Alogoskoufis said the programme would focus on banks this year and will expand to the country's infrastructure (ports, airports) in 2007. The minister said the government was likely to announce a consultant to the sale of Emporiki Bank next week,

    -accelerating absorption of EU funds,

    -adopt a more effective control of public spending,

    -combating tax evasion,

    -support exports, and

    -implementing a National Strategic Framework for the period 2007-2013 and a Digital Strategy.

    Alogoskoufis, commenting on the country's economic course, underlined the economy's strong growth rate (at 3.7 pct in 2005), a decline in unemployment to 9.7 pct and a reduction of the country's budget deficit (expected to total 2.6 pct of GDP this year), as well as a 13.1 pct jump in exports last year.

    He also sharply criticized the previous governments' policies of leaving the country's fiscal condition "in quicksand", as he said, with nil foreign investments and low competitiveness.

    Commenting on a same-day decision by Eurostat regarding the method for registering defence spending on state budgets, Alogoskoufis said the decision would be implemented for future budgets and that the impact of this decision would be insignificant for the years 2005-2006.

    In other developments, Alogoskoufis said he agreed with remarks made by Bank of Greece Governor Nikos Garganas, as the latter warned of dangers from a rising household debt in the country.

    On his part, Economy Deputy Minister Christos Folias said the government managed to cut the loss of community funds to below 10 million euros last year, and pledged that not one euro would be lost in the future.

    Economy Deputy Minister Petros Doukas said the government managed to contain primary budget spending in the period 2004-06 by 0.7 percent of GDP.

    Finally, Finance Deputy Minister Antonios Bezas said budget revenues rose significantly in the first two months of the year (17.7 pct up in January, 14.4 pct up in February).

    ANA-MPA Copyright © 2004-2005 All rights reserved.

    [02] Vodafone head testifies on phone-tap affair

    The CEO of Vodafone Greece George Koronias told a Parliamentary investigation on Thursday that Vodafone had at no time purchased the software used to carry out the illegal phone taps through its digital systems, while stressing that the people responsible had to have extremely high technical expertise and a deep knowledge of Ericsson's programming environment.

    Koronias was testifying before Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee regarding the illegal phone-tapping software secretly installed in the company's systems, which had monitored calls by highly-placed Greek officials - including the prime minister - for over a year.

    During his testimony, Koronias stressed that Vodafone had "not requested, not ordered and not received" the legal low-phone interception programme developed by Ericsson, which the phone-tappers had managed to activate in order to monitor the roughly 100 mobile phones that were under surveillance.

    He said that the low-phone interception programme was added to Ericsson systems at the request of its customers after the September 11 attacks, but underlined the costly service had not been purchased by Vodafone.

    Koronias also emphasised that the Greek mobile-phone provider had never been officially aware of the inactive low-phone interception software's presence in its systems, but only the supplier Ericsson.

    At the same time he pointed out that Vodafone, as a provider, would not be given access to the source code for the software. Ericsson did not provide this to its customers and the software was operated only Ericsson's authorised staff, he said.

    Asked who might have made the 'rogue' software, Koronias said that it would have to be someone with intimate knowledge of Ericsson's programming environment that could write directy in assembly language, which operators were not able to do.

    "The complexity of the programme points to someone with extremely high expertise," Koronias said, while clarifying that Vodafone's staff did not possess this level of skill.

    Vodafone's CEO also expressed annoyance at the comments made by the Authority for the Protection of Communications Privacy (ADAE) in the report it released on Wednesday, one day before he was due to appear in Parliament.

    According to ADAE's report, the 'ghost' software found at Vodafone was of a 'general type' since it contained parts that were not used by Vodafone or by Greek companies in general. The software could have been used by any company in any country that had the specific Ericsson system installed.

    ADAE also found that the software was installed in three digital centres, as opposed to the two already known, as well as discrepancies between the list of phone numbers Vodafone and Ericsson submitted.

    Furthermore, according to ADAE, changes were made to the software after its installation.

    Commenting on part of the report, Koronias said that the person able to infiltrate into the low-phone interception system was interested in penetrating Ericsson's systems.

    The system could be parameterised and use in other countries possessing Ericsson's programme, he added.

    He also pointed out the difficulty for policies for legal surveillance, given that the 'ghost' software could operate, even if the legal lowphone interception system had not been activated.

    The Vodafone CEO then gave a step-by-step account of the company's action from the time when the discovery of the 'ghost' software was discovered until it informed the government.

    Koronias said that he had treated the matter as an issue of national security once he discovered that the prime minister's phone was among those being monitored.

    He stressed that he had asked for the software to be removed in order to protect the rights of the company's subscribers and that this had not "wiped out" any traces.

    Questioned about his meetings with the public order and justice ministers, he said that the central issue raised was how someone could infiltrate Vodafone, one of the top mobile phone providers in the world that had international security certificates, and also security issues in Greece in areas like defence, the TAXIS system used by the finance ministry and software used by banks.

    Regarding the death of Vodafone staff member Costas Tsalikidis, Koronias said that he had brought this to the attention of the ministers and the Supreme Court prosecutor, placing himself and the company at their disposal, because it had coincided with the discovery of the 'ghost' software and informing the government.

    In a re-opened investigation into Tsalikidis' death that is now underway, meanwhile, first-instance court prosecutor Ioannis Diotis on Thursday heard testimony from the coroner Giorgios Dilernia who examined the body at the time and the head of the coroners' service Philippos Koutsaftis.

    Dilernia said the 39-year-old's death had clearly been caused by hanging, while both coroners agreed on a verdict of suicide and said that disinterment of the body would not bring about any result.

    Tsalikidis was found hanged in March 2005, just days after the company discovered the 'ghost' software in its systems and informed the government. A police investigation at the time had attributed the death to suicide but this has been questioned by the family, especially in the light of later developments and the revelations about the phone-tapping scandal.

    The phone-tapping plot was revealed by the government in February, after a nearly year-long covert investigation by the authorities had failed to find those responsible. It said the roughly 100 phones that were tapped included those of ministers, high-ranking police and armed forces personnel, activists, journalists, business people and even one U.S. Embassy employee.

    Government spokesman on ADAE report

    Commenting on the independent authority's report on Thursday, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros also noted two key discrepancies in the information supplied to the authorities by Vodafone concerning the phone-tapping software.

    One was the omission of key evidence concerning a third monitoring centre, in addition to the two revealed by the company - "with all that this might entail for the credibility and the motives concealed by this move," the spokesman said.

    Secondly, the last paragraph of the ADAE report said that Vodafone had provided the independent authority with data for only certain dates, saying that it did not keep all the data that had been requested in its files.

    "I remind you that in an extract of a recent official announcement by the company it spoke about a "precise picture" that had been "fully recorded in magnetic media", Antonaros said.

    The revelation of more and more evidence proved the correctness of the government's approach in referring the case to justice as soon as it came to the government's attention, so that all aspects of the case might be fully investigated, he added.

    "Justice is now investigating this case in depth. The investigation is continuing with the aim of solving the case," Antonaros stressed.

    Asked if the findings of the report might lead to prosecution of Koronias, the spokesman confined himself to saying that the investigation was still underway and that this was a matter for justice, while he refused to comment on an announcement on Wednesday that Koronias had been promoted by the parent company Vodafone.

    ANA-MPA Copyright © 2004-2005 All rights reserved.

    [03] Papandreou meets Rehn, discusses Balkans, Turkey

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou met Thursday in parliament with visiting EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, with whom he discussed issues pertaining to the Balkans, Kosovo and Turkey.

    On the Balkans, Papandreou expressed his conviction that "their prospect and the prospect of stability and prosperity, is the European prospect", adding that he stood firmly behind the EU decision (taken at the Thessaloniki summit in 2003) for the accession course of the entire region.

    Regarding Turkey, Papandreou reiterated his 'dedication' to the neighbouring country's European course, provided it materialised all the conditions set out by the EU.

    Papandreou also briefed Rehn on his recent discussions with UN secretary general Kofi Annan and with Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, stressing that "a very important initiative has been forthcoming from Mr. Papadopoulos, which could be a good start for a development towards a substantive discussion, negotiation and ultimate solution, to the benefit of all the citizens of Cyprus".

    The PASOK leader further said he impressed upon Rehn that "Turkey's European course, but also the fact that Cyprus is today inside the EU, means something very simple: That any solution must utilise the European acquis communautaire and must also be compatible with the acquis communautaire".

    Papandreou described his meeting with Rehn as "useful", and expressed hope that "it will contribute to the future developments, particularly, of course, to various initiatives as well, such as that pertaining to Famagusta".

    ANA-MPA Copyright © 2004-2005 All rights reserved.

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