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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-05-26
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM outlines goals for higher education reformPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday outlined a series of measures aimed at upgrading the country's universities and tertiary technical institutes, noting that the reinforcement of higher education institutes' self-governance, resolving the problem of ‚eternal students', adoption of a textbook list and respect of university asylum are among the goals of reforms promoted by the government.
Karamanlis made the statements during an off-the-agenda Parliament debate on higher education initiated by Communist Party (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga.
Referring to proposals by ruling New Democracy (ND) for a revision of Constitutional Article 16 to allow the establishment and operation of private, non-profit universities in the country, Karamanlis underlined that support for the initiative by the current leadership of main opposition PASOK constitutes a positive development.
The prime minister also stated that the government definitely wants to allow the establishment and operation of non-profit higher education institutes outside the state domain.
Finally, he said changes and reforms aimed at improving the quality of education must continue, offering more opportunities to the young generations and by lifting the burden of higher education costs off the shoulders of many Greek families.
 Downed pilot dominates Parl't debate on educationForeign policy, relations with Turkey and the fate of missing Air Force pilot Constantine Iliakis shared the stage with private universities in Parliament on Friday, during an off-the-agenda debate on education requested by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
All the opposition parties used the opportunity to rap the government over the latest incident above the Aegean - an unprecedented collision between Greek and Turkish fighter jets - and to express support for the family of Iliakis, father of two, who has been missing since his plane went down in waters near the island of Karpathos on Tuesday.
During Friday's session, Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki announced that Parliament agreed to provide financially for the two underage children of the missing pilot, in accordance with a proposal made by main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, reading out a letter sent to her by Papandreou.
"In the last dramatic event in the skies above the Aegean, our country lost a pilot as he was heroically defending our sovereign rights.
I express the hope that the heroic Costas Iliakis will not remain missing," Papandreou said in the letter, proposing a special debate in Parliament to honour the missing pilot and all those who had fallen in the line of duty.
The proposal was immediately seconded by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Papandreou attacks government but backs change to article 16
During his speech in Parliament, Papandreou focused on ruling New Democracy's failure to fulfill pre-election pledges related to students and education - such as free computers for top students and cheap Internet rates - and the slow pace of those reforms and measures that the government had initiated.
He also dismissed ND's attempts to open the way for private universities as an attempt to evade its funding obligations to state-sector tertiary education institutes and said it was trying to reverse measures it had itself taken in 1974, when it had sought to ensure state control of developments in education and student movements.
"For you to talk about private universities sounds like an insult to the young person that today attends university. Do you want high-quality education for the rich and mediocre free education for the less well-off?" Papandreou accused the government.
At the same time, PASOK's leader criticised the opposition of the smaller left-wing parties to changing article 16 of the Constitution, which confines universities to the state sector.
"Article 16 does not restrict the private owner but the state. It restricts the right of the State, of the government and of Parliament to pass laws to supervise private tertiary education establishments that already operate in collaboration with institutes abroad. Is it left-wing for the state to be unable to regulate the operation of these bodies and for them to get their certification from foundations in Eastern Europe or the United States? This is the conservative view, which suits the worst profiteers on the private-sector side and the worst bureaucrats on the other side," he said.
Referring to the loss of missing pilot Iliakis during his rejoinder, meanwhile, Papandreou stressed the need for progress in improving Greek-Turkish relations and accused the government of lacking strategy and "frittering away the dividend of peace" that PASOK had worked hard to amass.
"We all owe him a lot. Even more, we have a debt to all the young people in the Armed Forces to establish, through strong political will and action, a climate of peace and cooperation in our surrounding region," he said.
PASOK's leader slammed what he called a slow Greek response to the incident, saying that no minister had come forward, while the premier had appeared after a full 24 hours, so that Turkish view had dominated the international media.
He asked the government for a full briefing on Tuesday's incident and on the political goals behind the buyout of Turkish Finansbank by the National Bank of Greece (NBG), saying that the buyout without the participation of the bank's social insurance fund stakeholders created a regime of complete non-transparency.
KKE stresses opposition to private tertiary education
KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga also led her address by referring to the tragic incident in the Aegean, expressing her sorrow and support for the family of the missing pilot and criticising Turkey's stance in disputing Greece's territorial rights in the Aegean.
"Our question about the unjust loss of the pilot is: Will he be the last?" Papariga stressed, while she also questioned the 'equal distances' policy adopted by NATO, the European Union and the United States over the long-term dispute.
Concerning universities and tertiary education, KKE's leader once again underlined her party's complete opposition to private education, including private universities, and said that both the main parties were responsible for "phenomena of crisis and corruption" seen in education today.
"We agree on the need for major changes and reforms. We don't defend the existing education system. But we want an education system that will be free, accessible and not devalued," she said.
The introduction of universities operating along private-sector lines would force those in the state sector to operate in a similar way and increase the dependence of universities on business and the rules of the market place, Papariga claimed.
She also predicted that universities would operate without moral inhibition, carrying out 'made-to-measure' research that would be used to manipulate public opinion and stressed that her party would strenuously oppose changes to university asylum rules, so that they remained places where more radical ideas could freely circulate.
Alavanos stresses opposition to private universities measure
The leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party Alekos Alavanos also opened his address by referring to the aircraft collision in the Aegean, expressing hope that no more young people would be lost in the state of "virtual" war with Turkey.
He reiterated a Coalition proposal for a mutual reduction of armaments by Greece and Turkey and called on the government to immediately undertake initiatives to resolve Greek-Turkish problems on the basis of international and European rules and principles.
Regarding education, Alavanos said his party opposed measures to allow private, non-profit universities and dismissed PASOK arguments as a ruse, since poor students would be effectively barred from attending these.
He was also strongly critical of education ministry measures for the assessment of universities and their staff.
 FM meets with China's Wu BangguoForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met with visiting high-ranking Chinese official Wu Bangguo on Crete late Thursday, as the chairman of the Far East nation's National People's Congress Standing Committee continued an official visit to Greece after first meeting with Greek leadership in Athens.
Addressing the large Chinese delegation during a formal reception, Bakoyannis stressed that a high level of cultural awareness brings the Greek and the Chinese peoples closer in forging bilateral relations based on a mutual respect for each other's lengthy history.
She also stressed that Greece, due to its geographical position and stable economic and political situation, can become an excellent entry point for Chinese products headed to Europe, the Black Sea region and the Balkans.
Bakoyannis welcomed Chinese investments towards upgrading Greek ports, stressing that the goal is to transform major ports -- Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Volos and Irakleio -- into world-class transit hubs.
She also stated that the number of Chinese tourists visiting the east Mediterranean country can further rise, given that Greece is a holiday destination where Chinese nationals can feel at ease.
In terms of political issues, Bakoyannis referred to Beijing's standing interest in a solution of the Cyprus problem, while conveying Athens' wishes for the best of luck to the hosts of the 2008 Olympic Games.
On his part, Wu Bangguo cited his attraction towards Greece and wished that the future of Crete always resemble its weather, "bright and alluring".
He also thanked Bakoyannis for her warm words and for the fact that, in spite of her heavy schedule, she traveled to Crete, and specifically to Hersonissos, to meet him and host the formal reception.
Caption: The chairman of China's National People's Congress Standing Committee,Wu Bangguo, addresses a reception in Irakleio, Crete, on Thursday evening, May 25, 2006. ANA-MPA photo / S. Rapanis
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