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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-03-24

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Reforms will continue, PM says after EU summit

  • [01] Reforms will continue, PM says after EU summit

    Reforms will continue, PM says after EU summit

    BRUSSELS (ANA/MPA - A. Panagopoulos) Reforms in Greece will continue and the government would neither back down nor back out, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed on Friday, underlining that this was a top priority so that the country might make up for lost ground.

    Speaking after a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels that discussed the Lisbon strategy, Karamanlis said the summit had pledged to make greater investment in knowledge and innovation, to ease the way of small and middle-sized businesses, unlocking their potential, and to increase job opportunities for vulnerable groups, like women and older people.

    He said the target was to preserve the European social model and environmental quality through an improvement in competitiveness and by boosting European economies.

    For Greece, in particular, he noted that the reform effort had "started from a relatively low position recently" so that Greece had more ground to cover than its other EU partners.

    "For this reaons, the efforts of the present government as outlined in the National Reforms Programme are for all us Greeks a top priority issue. The reforms we have already carried out and are carrying out are the cornerstone of government policy," Karamanlis underlined.

    Asked if the government might "water down" planned reforms for loss-making public utilities burdening the state sector, the premier said there would be no compromise:

    "The programme will be implemented because, above all, it serves the interests of Greek citizens," he said.

    Pointing to a meeting by government ministers on Thursday, meanwhile, he said this sent a clear message regarding the commitment to carrying out reforms and stressed that much had been achieved in two years.

    The Greek premier was careful to separate his position on labour issues from that of his French counterpart Dominique de Villepin:

    "We should not necessarily adopt ideas that exist in other countries. The initiatives taken by the government on labour issues are satisfactory and are being implemented. The key is how to make Greece more attractive for investments, how to overcome bureaucratic obstacles that remain after the steps already taken, how to make it produce more and export more without disrupting social peace and cohesion. Even the most ambitious reforms programme cannot work if it is not supported by society," Karamanlis stressed.

    He made it clear that the conclusions of the spring Summit did not contain views concerning employment for young people like those being promoted in France, saying only that young people that fail to complete their education should be assisted by specific policies.

    Regarding a summit reference to measures for discouraging early retirement, Karamanlis said the government did not intend to take immediate measures for the social insurance and pensions system but was seeking to initiate dialogue on this issue, so that all aspects of the problem might be laid out "mathematically" and not questioned by anyone.

    He said that social insurance reform was not a pressing issue at this time, though a well-organised state had an obligation to plan ahead.

    Questioned on the government's 'fiscal audit' policy and statements made by Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis concerning the conditions of Greece's entry into Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the prime minister urged reporters to look up the views of the EU finance ministers' council held in December 2004:

    "There is no doubt that the country had very acute fiscal problems. It did not deal with this in the way it should have done but by sweeping debts under the carpet. The problem must be resolved once and for all. The effort we are making is a serious one and has had notable results," he told reporters.

    Karamanlis referred to the goal to reduce the deficit to below 3 per cent of GDP and said that the National Reforms Programme submitted to the EU was accepted with relative satisfaction and was now in 7th place.

    PM backs common EU energy policy

    Karamanlis later backed the common energy policy agreed by European Union leaders on Friday and said that "economic nationalism" should not be allowed to sabotage efforts for European unification.

    The Greek premier underlined the need for the "balanced coexistence of security, energy supply, efficiency and viable growth".

    He also noted that recent developments in a "fluid international environment" made a common European strategy for energy even more imperative.

    Karamanlis said that the summit had given him an opportunity to stress the importance of creating regional energy markets, while he referred to the example implemented in the Balkans, with the energy community of Southeastern Europe and the treaty that was recently signed in Athens.

    While backing a common European energy policy in general lines, however, he also stressed the need to respect the particularities of each country.

    Karamanlis said that Europe had to move faster and more efficiently, while adding that the 25-member EU was a mechanism operating on consensus and cohesive processes that often ran up against conflicting views and interests.

    Asked if he was satisfied with the decisions made by EU leaders on Friday concerning revisions to the Lisbon strategy and the delays that have occurred, Karamanlis said that he might have had higher expectations but pointed out the many different angles existing within Europe.

    Commenting on recent efforts by EU member-states to protect their state utilities from cross-border takeover bids, the Greek premier stressed that this 'protectionism' should not interfere with the course of European unification.

    Asked if Greece intended to take similar measures to prevent the sale of state companies like Olympic Airlines or the Public Power Corporation (PPC) to foreign interests, the premier said that the position of the government known, adding that public utilities were often a "funnel for wasting public money".

    Regarding OA, in particular, he said that it was common knowledge that a process was underway to create a new company in which private interests would have the majority share, while the PPC would be reformed but the government will continue to control a majority share.

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


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