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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-03-10

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Finance ministry defends fiscal audit policy
  • [02] ND ahead by 2.5 points in latest poll
  • [03] Vodafone CEO continues testimony in Parl't
  • [04] Papandreou at PES session in Prague

  • [01] Finance ministry defends fiscal audit policy

    Greece's Finance ministry on Friday defended its policy on performing a fiscal audit of the economy and strongly criticised past governments led by the main opposition PASOK party for deliberately hiding defence spending from the previous years' budgets, which it said in 2003 alone came to more than 2.0 billion.

    In an announcement to the press, the ministry said that a decision on Thursday by Eurostat to clarify the way of recording defence spending on state budgets "was not justifying PASOK's government policies but was another blow to practices followed in the past. The decision calls for defence spending to be recorded on delivery, something that PASOK governments failed to do".

    A Eurostat report on the government's efforts to restore transparency in Greek fiscal figures, published in November 2004, clearly stated that most sums for defence spending funded with borrowing "were not recorded in state budgets in the last seven years". Eurostat's head Guenter Hanreich, responding to an article written by former Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in December 2004, also clearly said that Greek authorities failed to fully record defence spending in state budgets, regardless of the accounting method used.

    The ministry announcement underlined that PASOK governments failed to record defence spending worth more than 8.0 billion euros in the period 1997-2003. "The government sought and managed to restore Greece's credibility with European agencies," it added.

    Government spokesman attacks PASOK stance

    Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, meanwhile, slammed PASOK's stance on the issue, following scathing main opposition criticism of the government's decision for an audit of the economy.

    He accused PASOK of being "architects of number fiddling that had deceived Greek citizens and their European partners," and said that they were "returning to the scene of the crime like classic criminals," without a world of "remorse or apology".

    The spokesman also stressed that PASOK had concealed that the audit of the economy was not just for defence spending, which were only a small part of the audit that targeted the "creative accounting and alchemy" used by the same people that were now accusing the government.

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

    [02] ND ahead by 2.5 points in latest poll

    The latest in a series of opinion polls timed to coincide with the two-year anniversary of ruling New Democracy (ND) party's election win in March 2004 shows a 2.5 percentage-point lead for ND over rival main opposition PASOK, 42 percent to 39.5 percent.

    In terms of other parties, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) garnered 8 percent of respondents' preferences; 3.5 percent for the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party and 4.5 percent for the out-of-Parliament Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) party.

    Moreover, 58 percent of respondents expressed a positive opinion of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis; 47 percent for PASOK leader George Papandreou.

    In response to an issue virtually always at the centre of local press speculation, namely, if and when early elections will be called, 81 percent of respondents said an early return to the ballot box would not be in the country's best interests, including 70 percent of respondents that identified themselves as PASOK voters.

    Regarding another timely issue, the Vodafone mobile phone tapping affair, 49 percent of respondents criticised the government's handling of the case, as opposed to 32 percent that approved. Some 75 percent of respondents said they believed the coming period will witness increased industrial actions on the labour front, whereas 49 percent said they do not believe an ongoing anti-corruption campaign in the justice system has succeeded; 44 percent believe it is succeeding.

    In the "most capable" for premier category traditionally asked by poll surveyors in Greece, Karamanlis earned 48 percent of respondents' approval, followed by Papandreou with 27 percent.

    Finally, 42 percent of respondents believe ND's assumption of power has benefited the country, with 41 percent expressing the opposite view -- figures that more-or-less mirror the election results the two parties posted during the March 2004 elections.

    The opinion poll, commissioned by the radio station SKAI, was conducted by the Athens firm VPRC on March 7 and March 8 on a nationwide sample of 963 people.

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

    [03] Vodafone CEO continues testimony in Parl't

    Continuing his testimony in Parliament for the second day, Vodafone Greece CEO George Koronias told Parliament's Institutions and Transparency Committee on Friday that a mobile phone given to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis by Parliament had been among those under surveillance, as well as a mobile number issued by the company ATEKE to the premier's family.

    Testifying in a parliamentary probe into the illegal phone-tapping software installed in Vodafone's systems, Koronias said that the company had discovered the premier's involvement after cross-checking a list of telephone numbers under surveillance provided by Ericsson - which supplied the system used by the mobile-phone provider - against its customer list.

    Vodafone then gave this list - which included a subscription in the name of Costas Karamanlis - to the government and to justice, Koronias said.

    Asked to clarify an earlier statement that the government had "processed" this list, Vodafone's CEO said that many of the numbers were owned by state services rather than individuals and the government had then announced the names of the people to which those phones had been issued.

    Koronias was also asked about an additional number under surveillance that belonged to Vodafone, whose existence was revealed by the independent Authority for Protecting Communications Privacy (ADAE) in its report on the phone-tapping affair.

    The company CEO said the particular phone was not used for making calls but for tests, while promising to provide more detailed answers upon receiving a technical report from his staff.

    Koronias was particularly hard pressed by New Democracy MP for Larisa Christos Zois regarding his testimony on Thursday, in which he claimed that Vodafone's management was completely unaware that the legal "lowphone interception" software was embedded in its system by the supplier Ericsson.

    Zois said he was unconvinced that Ericsson had supplied Vodafone with upgraded software without having informed the company, or that Vodafone had not found out from other sources.

    Koronias insisted that the company's leadership - himself and the technical director - had been unaware of the surveillance software's existence and promised to search in company files for the assurances of Vodafone's legal service that the company operated in accordance with the Constitution and the laws concerning phone-tapping.

    He was also unable to definitely say whether system supplier Ericsson had thoroughly checked both centres where the 'rogue' software was found, nor whether Ericsson was able to remotely detect phone-taps.

    Asked if there might be other lists of names and phones under surveillance, Koronias stressed that he had not personally hidden any evidence. At a later point, he said that Ericsson was in a position to say if more numbers had been found after sifting through the evidence in the software of the two centres.

    Concerning his decision to disable the rogue software - in light of ADAE's assessment that this could have safely remained in operation until the culprits were detected without posing a threat to national security - Koronias insisted that the authority had not drawn "safe conclusions".

    "It was not possible to keep an illegal software in operation, especially when there have been attacks in Spain and Britain through the use of mobile phones," he stressed.

    Vodafone's chief was also closely questioned about the company's ownership - with Vodafone Group holding 99.8 percent of its shares - and a visit by the company's Systems Security Manager to the house of the late Costas Tsalikidis, a Vodafone employee who was found hanged just one day before the government was alerted to the phone-tapping affair.

    MPs on the committee asked that a representative of the Ericsson parent company be called on the same day as the CEO of Ericsson Greece testified, while others requested the presence of Vodafone and Ericsson technicians to answer questions regarding the software.

    PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos also asked that former public order minister George Voulgarakis and Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras be recalled to cross-check the day when Koronias first contacted the government regarding the affair.

    The Committee decided to call the director of the premier's political office Yiannis Angelou to testify, since he was the person that Koronias first contacted when seeking to inform the government about the phone-tapping and arranged a meeting between Koronias and Vougarakis.

    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.

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

    [04] Papandreou at PES session in Prague

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou met with several European socialist leaders here on the sidelines of a Party of European Socialists (PES) conference in the Czech capital.

    Specifically, Papandreou, who is also the president of the Socialist International (SI), met with British PM Tony Blair, Bulgarian PM Sergey Stanichev, former EU president and Italian premiership hopeful Romano Prodi, new German Social Democrat leader Matthias Platzeck and the PES president Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.

    In his meeting with Rasmussen, Papandreou reportedly called for greater cooperation between the PES and SI.

    The western Balkans' and Turkey's European prospects, the Cyprus issue as well as cooperation between the PES and SI dominated Papandreou's agenda, while he also wished Prodi success in the upcoming elections in Italy.

    The PASOK leader is expected to meet with Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek in the afternoon

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

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