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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-07-12
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece now focused on 'digital leap', gov't stressesΤέλοςφόρμαςΑρχήφόρμας"The government's goal is to bring about a 'digital leap' so that by 2008 at least 7 percent of the population uses fast Internet access," alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros announced on Wednesday, outlining the government's digital strategy.
In announcing the European Commission's approval, on July 7, of a high-profile government programme to dramatically boost the use of broadband Internet in various provinces around Greece, Antonaros stressed that enhancing the use of digital technology and faster Internet services by the Greek public and businesses was a top priority for the government.
He also stressed that the country had occupied a very low position in the 'digital race' when the government took over power, with just 0.1 percent of the population having broadband Internet access in March 2004 and a poor record in all other indicators concerning the use of new technologies.
The government's response had been to draft and set in motion a digital strategy for the period 2006-2013 that hoped to remedy this situation, Antonaros said.
As part of this strategy, the government had asked and received the European Commission's approval for a β¬210 million programme to speed up the switch to broadband, in a project funded by the Society of Information programme that seeks to boost private investments using broadband throughout Greece by 50 per cent, except in Athens and Thessaloniki.
According to the spokesman, the Commission made "extremely favourable comments", hailing the project as the largest broadband plan undertaken by any EU member-state.
The plan formed part of a larger strategy that included other actions and had an overall budget of β¬480 million, Antonaros added.
Asked to comment on the present high cost of Internet services in Greece, meanwhile, the spokesman said that prices were expected to drop as the number of users increased and cited the drop in Internet rates over the past 18 months.
Caption: A file photo shows a unique 'cyber demonstration' in the northern port city of Thessaloniki in June 2002 against various tax measures and bureaucratic restrictions, proposed by the previous government, against Internet cafes. ANA-MPA / P. Makridis.
 Mediterranean Sea at risk, Greenpeace warnsWrapping up the first phase of an international campaign for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea, members of the Greenpeace group gave a press conference here on Wednesday on board the group's flagship "Rainbow Warrior".
Greenpeace also presented details of its actions for the protection of the Mediterranean from illegal and catastrophic fishing practices. The Rainbow Warrior's captain noted that they faced real pirates who prey on the Mediterranean waters, destroy sea life and threaten all those standing in their way.
Highlighting the catastrophic impact of driftnets, in particular, which are used illegally to fish for swordfish and tuna, Greenpeace activists pointed to the tragic state of the red tuna fish reserves in the Mediterranean, and stressed that driftnets were responsible for the deaths of thousands of dolphins, whales and sea turtles in the Mediterranean. The Greenpeace activists underlined that sea life will continue to be downgraded unless Mediterranean countries decide to implement the banning of driftnets and pledge to create sea life sanctuaries.
Driftnet fishing was banned by the European Union in 2002 but it is still practiced in the Mediterranean.
Greenpeace called on Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean Basin countries to protect the Mediterranean Sea from unlawfulness, over-fishing and destruction by creating a network of sea life sanctuaries covering 40 percent of the sea.
Caption: Greenpeace's 'Rainbow Warrior' docked in the port of Piraeus on Wednesday, July 12, 2006. ANA-MPA / O. Panagiotou.
 Gov't focused on fiscal, structural reforms, FinMin saysThe government is steadfastly focused on its policy of fiscal restructuring and structural reforms, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister underlined that he approved only ministerial demands for spending within the budget limitations. "I do not approve decisions derailing the budget," he noted.
Commenting on the results of an ECOFIN meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, Alogoskoufis said it reaffirmed the positive course of the Greek economy and reiterated the government's commitment to reducing the country's fiscal deficit below 3.0 pct of GDP in 2006 and stressed that fiscal efforts and structural reforms would continue in the coming years to bring the deficit to 2.3 pct of GDP in 2007 and 1.7 pct of GDP in 2008.
"This will be achieved with permanent measures to save spend and boost revenues from combating tax evasion, according to provisions made in an updated stability and growth plan," he said.
Commenting on the Greek economy said the fiscal deficit fell significantly in the 2005-06 period. The Greek minister will present analytical budget figures for the first half of 2006 next Monday. Alogoskoufis said the pension problem was discussed in the ECOFIN meeting in Brussels and stressed that he informed his EU counterparts over the beginning of a dialogue in the country over the issue. He said that the next government would be able to proceed with necessary reforms after the dialogue process would end the greatest possible consensus. He expected all differences with Eurostat over collection and recording of budget statistical data to be completed by autumn.
Alogoskoufis did not exclude the possibility that the EU Commission would offer one year extension to Greece to absorb all funds from the 3rd Community Support Framework and stressed that the measure was approved only for states with extraordinary developments.
The minister said a second phase of a tax reform by the government would be presented in autumn.
 Karamanlis condolences to Indian PM SinghPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday conveyed his condolences to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh in the wake of the multiple train bombings in Mumbai a day earlier.
Karamanlis strenuously condemns what he calls the murder of innocent people, while noting that Greece has also been severely tested by the scourge of terrorism. He also expresses his solidarity to the families of the victims and the injured.
On its part, the foreign minitry strongly condemned the attacks.
"We expressely condemn the terrorist attacks against the railway network of Mumbai, causing the death of a large number of citizens," a press release by the foreign mnistry said.
"We express our sincere condolences to the victims' families, the government and the people of India," it added.
"Nothing could justify such barbarous acts. The effective confrontation of the phenomenon of terrorism as well as the arrest and the bringing before justice of people responsible for such cowardly and hideous acts, remains the steadfast position of Greece," the press release concluded.
 Premier confers with health ministerA total of 1,700 hospital personnel will be hired in the next two months through ASEP (Supreme Council for Public Sector Personnel Selection) procedures, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos announced on Wednesday, after the meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
Avramopoulos told reporters after the meeting that the ASEP should not be abolished, and characterizing it as a guarantor of transparency and meritocracy, adding that the relevant procedures were being accelerated and that the desired results will be here soon.
Avramopoulos said that the meeting was held within the framework of his regular contacts with the premier, whom he briefed on the programmes being advanced by the health ministry.
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