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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-07-09

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Papandreou slams 'phobic' EU at EuroMed forum
  • [02] Stage 6 swine flu pandemic

  • [01] Papandreou slams 'phobic' EU at EuroMed forum

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou was strongly critical on Thursday of "neo-conservative" forces that he said were currently dominating the European Union, accusing them of displaying "a phobic reaction to developments and thus missing historic opportunities".

    PASOK's leader made the statement while addressing the Euro-Mediterranean Business Forum taking place in Athens, during which he slammed EU policies in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.

    The main opposition leader also referred to Turkey's EU accession prospects, stressing that the Cyprus issue, immigration issues and its bilateral relations with Greece would prove a key to opening new chapters in accession talks with the EU in December.

    Papandreou repeated his proposal for the accession of the Western Balkan states to the EU by 2014, a symbolic year that coincides with the 100th anniversary since the start of World War I.

    Referring to the overall background for EuroMediterranean relations and relations within the region, PASOK's leader pointed to the war in Lebanon three years earlier, Israel's attacks in Gaza just a few months ago and the clashes in Tehran that were affecting the region, as well as the future of Iraq, the Cyprus issue, and relations between Greece and Turkey.

    He also referred to the situation in the Western Balkans, the latest developments with oil and gas pipelines, the effect of climate change and the increased population in the southern Mediterranean at the same time as the ageing of the population in the north.

    According to Papandreou, there were three requirements for the development of EuroMediterranean relations: resolving the Middle East problem, security of investments in agreement with the EU and boosting trade, investments and intra-regional transactions.

    Greece could play a major role in this direction, he concluded, given a strong and reliable government so that the country could undertake initiatives and begin planning for the broader region of the Balkans, Black Sea and Mediterranean.

    [02] Stage 6 swine flu pandemic

    Greece has entered a stage 6 pandemic, Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said on Thursday, stressing that Greece had taken all necessary measures for dealing with the A/H1N1 influenza or 'swine flu'. He was speaking during a scheduled press conference regarding the course of the disease in Greece.

    Up to 33 percent of the population might contract the disease on the basis of new global statistics, the minister said. He also warned that if the virus changed and became more aggressive, up to 54 percent of the population might get sick and the possibility of deaths as a result of the new flu in Greece could not be ruled out.

    "What we need is calm, wisdom and no panic," Avramopoulos stressed, adding that the country had a strategic plan and was operationally read to deal with the novel influenza.

    According to the minister, the pandemic was expected to last 12-15 months, or at the most 24 months.

    Measures like the closing of schools and services had not proved particularly effective in countries of the southern hemisphere when they were applied and would only be used on occasion in Greece, if serious symptoms of swine flu were observed, the minister said.

    The number of verified cases in Greece has now reached 201, of which 78 percent were people that had travelled to Greece from abroad. In the last two weeks, authorities were also observing an increase in secondary transmission of the virus, micro-epidemics and clumping of incidents.

    Vaccines will be available from October 2009 (first dose) and in February 2010 (for the second). The key was for the vaccines to be promptly approved by the European Foods and Drugs Agency, the minister said, while health authorities were working with prefectures throughout the country to organise the administering of the vaccines in special areas, without delays or panic.

    Avramopoulos said that healthcare professionals and poultry workers would be vaccinated as a priority, for fears that the swine flu virus will come into contact with the avian flu virus. Next in line are those with long-term health problems, those over 60, children and teenagers aged 1-18 years old.

    Epidemiological observation has shown that the novel influenza preferentially attacks young people and that the main cure is bed rest, staying hydrated and taking fever medication. Treatment with anti-viral drugs will be restricted to more serious cases.

    Avramopoulos also stressed the need for everyone to observe strict hygiene rules in order to protect themselves against the virus as much as possible.

    Encouraging results from smoking ban

    The minister reported on the first results of a smoking ban imposed in Greece at the beginning of July, saying these were encouraging.

    In 215 visits to venues by sanitary inspectors, 75 percent appeared to have conformed to the new measures and only 17 percent of owners claimed to have lost customers.

    Of the 38,000 calls to a special hotline for the smoking ban (1142), most were requests for clarifying measures, while several smokers had asked for advice on how to quit smoking.

    Caption: Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos announcing a stage 6 pandemic for swine flu in Greece during a press conference held in Athens on Thursday. ANA-MPA/Health Ministry/ Panagiotis Stolis.

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