|Sunday, 26 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-05-17
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM underlines commitment to strong local governmentPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday underlined the government's commitment to building up strong local authorities, which would be a vital part of a modern, flexible and decentralized state. He was speaking after a meeting with the newly elected leaderships of Greece's national local government unions, the Central Union of Municipalities and Communities of Greece (KEDKE) and the National Union of Prefectures of Greece (ENAE).
"Three and a half years ago the citizens and we decided on a national strategy for strong, sustainable growth everywhere. Day by day, this strategy is becoming a national conquest. We are moving ahead with all Greek men and women, with the people of local government as valuable advisors and partners on the road to development and progress," Karamanlis said.
He underlined that dialogue with the local authority organisations was ongoing and constant, open, honest and produced tangible results. When this was completed toward the end of the government's four-year term, it would allow reforms of critical importance to the administrative structure of the country, he added.
"This reform cannot fail to produce more powerful, more effective, more productive and more transparent local government units, which with the support, incentives, and encouragement provided by the state, by using the new legal framework and through metropolitan collaboration, will be in a position not just to follow but to create developments, meet the challenges and take a leading role in the new era," Karamanlis stressed.
The prime minister also emphasised the "new relationship of trust" between central and local government that had been built up over the past 3.5 years, through measures like the new code for municipalities and communities, the five-year developmental programme "Thiseas", the payment by the state of all funding due to local authorities under the law, the steady and constantly increasing funding for prefectures, new developmental opportunities for local government and new structures for its support and for the absorption of 4th Community Support Framework funds that exceed 36 billion euros, of which 80 percent would be spent in Greece's regions.
At another point, the prime minister referred to the European Commission's decision to allow Greece to exit the excessive deficit procedure and said that this confirmed "that a policy of change and reforms yields results and guarantees important and sustainable benefits for the country and its citizens".
Fiscal reforms freed resources for policies that improve the present and secure a better future, he added.
In this context, the government was planning the gradual return to municipal authorities of funds that had been illegally held back by PASOK governments, Karamanlis said.
"With optimism and confidence based on what we have already achieved we are continuing on the road to changes and reforms. We are breaking through outdated structures and distortions, overcoming mentalities and views that prevented the country for striding forward, building a modern, reliable and efficient state that is decentralised and flexible, with strong and reliable local government," the prime minister stressed.
Kaklamanis, Drakos comments on results of meeting
As the newly elected president of KEDKE, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis stressed the importance of the prime minister's invitation to the new local authority leadership, just two days after the elections.
"This demonstrates the prime minister's interest in local government," the mayor stressed, while noting that Thursday's meeting had been used to set the agenda for talks during a second meeting with the premier at the end of June.
These would concern new administrative reforms, metropolitan-level cooperation between municipalities, municipality finances, environmental issues focusing particularly on waste management and the 4th CSF.
He announced that KEDKE intended to put forward proposals for dealing with corruption when this arose.
The new ENAE president Dimitris Drakos, who met Karamanlis immediately after the Athens Mayor, said he was very satisfied with the agenda of talks decided on for prefectures after the meeting.
He said his talks with the prime minister also covered the new prefecture code that is currently being prepared and absorption of 4th CSF funds and promised to "closely monitor" the implementation of the premier's pledge to spend 80 percent of these on the regions.
In statements after the meetings between local authority leaders and the prime minister, Interior, Decentralisation and Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that the funds withheld from local governments were being paid over this period and the big challenge ahead was management of the 4th CSF.
He said a special mechanism will be set up by the government to ensure payment of funds to local authorities.
 Papandreou criticism on bonds affair, fiscal auditMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou reiterated his sharp criticism over the government's policies, this time in late-night comments to reporters on Wednesday, as the former foreign minister focused on the bonds affair and other issues he said were outstanding.
Among others, he again cited the Vodafone mobile phone tapping conspiracy that targeted members of the Karamanlis government and the premier himself, as well as delays in a judicial probe of claims by a handful of Pakistani guest workers in Athens charging illegal detention and interrogations by intelligence agents in the wake of the London underground terror attacks.
Asked about the 1999-2001 stock market 'bubble' that generated heated criticism of the PASOK governments at the time, Papandreou said "let them (government) open the (issue) whenever they want, we have nothing to fear." Moreover, he said a full disclosure on the specific affair will remove the "durance" in which ruling ND has held main opposition over the past three years.
Regarding other timely issues, he again criticised the government over its high-profile "fiscal audit" when it assumed power in March 2004; said he was not afraid of broaching thorny social security reforms and predicted victory of his socialist party in any upcoming elections.
Finally, the PASOK leader said EU Commissioner Joaquin Almunia recently told him that following Greece's successful exit from the excessive fiscal deficit procedure (EDP), the challenges ahead for the east Mediterranean country are competitiveness, education, exports, private sector investments and social security reform.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of George Papandreou.
 Draft bill for opinion polls unveiled by gov'tThe government on Thursday unveiled the general outlines of a draft bill on establishing a stricter framework for opinion polls and polling firms in the country, with the relevant Minister of State expressing a hope that the bill will soon be tabled in Parliament.
In a related development, Minister Theodoros Roussopoulos, who is also the government spokesman, said the government has no interest in excluding newscasts and news programmes from television ratings.
Representative of political parties in Parliament's institutions committee had mostly favorable reactions to the draft bill, while emphasising that it should be tabled and voted on before any upcoming elections.
"As long as there is a gap in the institutional framework (for opinion polls) there is a danger that instead of opinion polls recording, in an unadulterated manner, the volition of public opinion and developments, that they will be turned into tools of those attempting to manipulate," Roussopoulos said.
On his part, PASOK deputy and former minister Evangelos Venizelos said the legislation was "in the right direction", nevertheless, "provisions must be harmonised with international standards and be compatible with the Constitution and Community law."
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) MP Liana Kanelli praised the political consensus on the specific initiative, which she said serves to "protect the public from crafty opinion polls".
Finally, Coalition of the Left deputy Fotis Kouvelis called for a detailed definition of such firms' ownership and a prohibition against the participation of off-shore companies in polling firms' ownership.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos.
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