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A.N.A. Bulletin 30/3/95

From: "Greek Press Office BBS, Ottawa" <grnewsca@sympatico.ca>

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN, March 30, 1995


Greek Press & Information Office

Ottawa, Canada

E-Mail Address: grnewsca@sympatico.ca)


CONTENTS

  • [1] Commission gives Spata airport project the go-ahead

  • [2] Premier tells protesting farmers: Government's careful handling is not weakness

  • [3] Parliament to discuss blockade

  • [4] Premier asks Papathemelis to quit

  • [5] Reactions

  • [6] Shopkeepers pull down shutters for the day to protest tax measures

  • [7] Skaramangas workers rally outside parliament

  • [8] Evert tells EPP conference that he wants a strong federal Europe

  • [9] Arsenis responds to NATO members' letter: Greece will not bow to pressure

  • [10] Papoulias, Niles meet on Greek relations with Albania, Skopje

  • [11] Venizelos: Greece will be at the UN on April 6


  • [1] Commission gives Spata airport project the go-ahead

    Brussels, 30/03/1995 (ANA):

    The European Commission yesterday gave Greece the green light to go ahead with the construction of Athens' new international airport after deciding to drop an investigation into bidding procedures. The decision means that the government is now able to go ahead with the signing of the contract between it and Hochtief AG, the winner of the original international tender in 1993.

    After lengthy discussions, the Commission rejected Internal Market Commissioner Mario Monti's recommendation that Greece should be referred to the European Court for breaching EU rules on equal treatment in the Community's services sector.

    Following a discussion in which Greek Commissioner Christos Papoutsis strongly questioned the soundness of Mr. Monti's legal arguments, a vote followed in which eight of the Commissioners supported Mr. Monti's recommendation, eight were in favour of dropping the matter, two abstained and two were absent. Disagreement followed among Commissioners as to whether a tied vote automatically meant the closing of the dossier, forcing Commission President Jacques Santer to hold a second vote in which 13 were in favour of dropping the matter and only five supported the opening of proceedings.

    Greece chose Germany's Hochtief consortium as a partner to build and operate a new $2.2 billion airport for Athens last year after improving the terms of a previous contract. The government froze a contract its conservative predecessor made with Hochtief in October 1993, opting to review offers by the group and by another bidder, Aeroports de Paris. The deal was due to be signed the day of national elections. Negotiations were reopened last year with Aeroports de Paris, the loser of the 1993 tender and then dropped, sparking allegations of unequal treatment.

    National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Alternate National Economy Minister George Romaios expressed their satisfaction yesterday over the decision. "The decision now paves the way for the immediate implementation of this important project and confirms that the government handled negotiations with the two joint ventures responsibly and successfully, fully safeguarded public interests and struggled successfully at many levels in the European Union to achieve the project's disengagement," an announcement said.

    Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis said the decision was a major and indisputable success for the Greek government, achieved after months of efforts, adding that the way was now paved for the construction of a project giving an impetus to the country's economy. Under the terms of the revised contract, the Hochtief-led group would own 45 per cent of a company to be set up with the Greek state to operate Spata airport, against 60 per cent agreed in the previous contract. Hochtief would receive part of the airport's revenues for 30 instead of 50 years. The German consortium includes Hochtief Aktiengesellschaft of Essen, Flughafen Frankfurt Main AG, ABB Schaltanlagen GMBH of Mannheim and H Krantz-TKT GMBH.

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert, who is currently in Brussels, welcomed the European Commission's decision vindicating the Greek government on the issue of the Spata airport, saying it would give the Greek economy the opportunity to develop. He added he believed the Commission had shown understanding to the mistakes committed by the government, and that his trip to Brussels had contributed to this. Mr. Evert discussed the issue with Commissioner Hans van den Broek on Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, representatives of the "Panmesogian Co-ordinating Committee against Spata Airport" held talks with Community officials at the European Commission's headquarters, expressing their views against the construction of the Spata airport. They invoked infractions on the part of Greek governments in selecting the location of the new airport, the failure of governments to consult local authorities on environmental issues and that the Spata airport was not part of wider town planning in the eastern Attica region. The representatives proposed an extension of the existing Hellenikon airport and the simultaneous utilisation of the military airport at Tanagra.

    [2] Premier tells protesting farmers: Government's careful handlingis not weakness

    Athens, 30/03/1995 (ANA):

    Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou yesterday told protesting farmers that the government's "careful" handling should not be construed as "weakness" on the part of the state. Mr. Papandreou said that the farmers' mobilisations were causing incalculable damage to the country's economy and national defence.

    Farmers have created havoc on the country's road and rail network for the past ten days, blocking junctions and setting up blockades to protest a new tax law and to support other demands. The tax law in question provides for the calculation of income tax of non-salaried workers on the basis of "objective criteria", regardless of declared income.

    Announcing Mr. Papandreou's statement, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said the impression had been created that the government was not being tough enough against the road blockades by "a small group of farmers". "All are entitled to... demand their rights but nobody is entitled to break the country's backbone and cause incalculable damage to the country's economy and even national security," Mr. Papandreou said.

    "The handful of protesters must realise that the eyes of the public are on them and that Greek citizens have the right to free movement and communication... The problem has become more acute because some of the demands (such as objective criteria) have been withdrawn because they expose the protesters, others have been satisfied (cheaper fuel, register of farmers) and others are related to the operation of the European Union and the GATT agreement," Mr. Papandreou said.

    Describing the farmers' mobilisation as "unjustified" and "an abuse", the premier underlined that the government was negotiating with the legitimate farmers' organisations as well as at a central and prefectural level with the protesters' co-ordinating committees.

    Replying to questions, Mr. Venizelos said that the prime minister and the government were neither threatening nor warning, but "simply recording public sentiment".

    Meanwhile, representatives from Unions of Agricultural Co-operatives and Federations of Agricultural Associations from all over Greece met in Larissa yesterday to decide their stance on the mobilisations. The meeting was interrupted as soon as it started when an anonymous caller said that a bomb had been planted in the building which was immediately evacuated. The farmers' representatives continued the meeting in another building.

    After a meeting at the National Economy Ministry yesterday, with the participation of Finance Minister Alekos Papadopoulos, and Under-secretaries to the Prime Minister Antonis Livanis, and Public Order Sifis Valyrakis, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said it had been decided to adopt a wait-and-see stand and called on farmers to unblock national highways, so that further losses to the economy might be averted. He said the government would wait in patience for "this minute minority" to sense its responsibilities towards society as a whole.

    The main opposition New Democracy (ND) party called on the government to immediately revise the entire system of "the unjust and catastrophic criteria of over-taxation". ND spokesman Vassilis Manginas spoke of a "people's revolt" in the face of the government's "total failure". He rejected government accusations that ND was behind the mobilisations, saying that they were "instigated and caused by the government's incompetence and authoritarianism".

    "The present unprecedented mobilisations are nothing compared to those which will follow if the income tax settlement statements based on the current criteria for over-taxation ever reach the taxpayers," Mr. Manginas said. The spokesman said that when ND came to power it would revise the objective criteria clause.

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) also accused Mr. Papandreou of creating "a climate of authoritarianism and terror against the farmers with the government's indirect threat to use force against the farmers on the pretext of freeing the roads". "The government has no other choice but to satisfy the farmers' demands," the KKE said.

    In a related development, the Association of Supermarkets has sent a letter to the Trade Ministry warning of severe shortages of basic consumer goods in a large number of towns and cities as a result of the supply problems caused by the farmers' road blockades.

    [3] Parliament to discuss blockade

    Athens, 30/03/1995 (ANA):

    The government yesterday agreed to a proposition by main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert to hold an extraordinary parliamentary debate on the farmers' mobilisations, though not tomorrow.

    In a letter to Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis earlier yesterday, Mr. Evert proposed the holding of the debate on a party leaders level tomorrow. In his letter, Mr. Evert said the government's "continued inability to provide solutions to accumulated problems tends to make the situation explosive", and called on it not to resort to actions that may spark social upheaval with enforceable consequences.

    The debate will be held within the one-month limit imposed by parliament regulations, a government announcement said.

    [4] Premier asks Papathemelis to quit

    Athens, 30/03/1995 (ANA):

    The government said yesterday that Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou had requested Public Order Minister Stelios Papathemelis to submit his resignation for continually referring to the use of riot police to break up the 10-day farmer's revolt that has virtually paralysed the country.

    In his resignation letter to the prime minister, released yesterday, Mr. Papathemelis said the sole reason for his resignation was his disagreement over the use of force against farmers blocking motorways in central Greece.

    "Mr. Papathemelis' letter of resignation can give an inaccurate and false picture of the prime minister and government," a statement by government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said later. "Mr. Papathemelis' resignation was requested not because the premier or government desired the intervention of riot police in the farmer's blockade but precisely because allegations, such as those contained in Mr. Papathemelis' letter, were being continually repeated," Mr. Venizelos said. These allegations, the statement said, are unfounded, and the government has dealt and is dealing with the issue with great calm and caution, exhausting all possibilities.

    In his letter, Mr. Papathemelis said he feared bloodshed if riot police were used to break up the roadblocks either because farmers were armed and ready for a showdown or because of action by agitators. He said forcible intervention was alien to the present government's humanitarian spirit and that he was resigning to safeguard the prestige of both the government and the prime minister.

    The prime minister later announced that Mr. Papathemelis' deputy Sifis Valyrakis would take over as minister. A date for his swearing in will be announced later.

    [5] Reactions

    Athens, 30/03/1995 (ANA):

    Commenting on Mr. Papathemelis' move, main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Vassilis Manginas said the government ought to avoid any heavy-handed intervention because the only way out is sincere dialogue. "We were expecting that the prime minister himself and his government would resign, because responsibility for the chaotic situation is collective," he said.

    Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras called on the government to hold off on making a hasty decision to use riot police. "If (Mr. Papathemelis') resignation reflects the government's intention to send the riot squad (MAT) against the farmers, I call on the prime minister not to proceed to such an act of insanity, because in democracies disputes are resolved through fruitful dialogue, never through violence," he said.

    An announcement from the Coalition of the Left and Progress said the resignation constituted yet another symptom of the internal government crisis, and called on the prime minister and the resigned minister to explain the reasons of the resignation to the Greek people. It added that the Coalition was categorically opposed to the use of violence against the farmers.

    [6] Shopkeepers pull down shutters for the day to protest tax measures

    Athens, 30/03/1995 (ANA):

    Commercial life in Greece came to a standstill yesterday as shopkeepers and small businesses pulled down the shutters on their businesses in a 24-hour warning strike to protest the government's taxation measures. The stoppage excluded supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations, the civil service and public utilities.

    The merchants joined farmers who have set up road blocks with tractors and other farm machinery at major junctions along the National Highway, virtually cutting the country into two.

    Farmers, shopkeepers, owners of small businesses and self-employed professionals have been protesting a new tax law which calculates the income tax of non-salaried workers on the basis of "objective criteria" rather than declared income.

    Farmers are in addition pressing a number of demands related to crop prices, the absorption of agricultural produce and subsidies for fuel. Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said that the tax law had been the result of "a long social dialogue", had already been implemented for almost a year, had yielded revenue for the state and improved public finances.

    Industry and Trade Minister Costas Simitis described yesterday's protest as "an unjust cause". "Everyone agrees that it is vital for the country that tax evasion be combated and the black economy curtailed. The government's measures in this direction are dictated by social justice. They are a prerequisite for (economic) recovery... which is why there must be no giving way on this matter," Mr. Simitis said.

    Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) President Jason Stratos appealed yesterday to those taking part in mobilisations "to try to have problems resolved to enable production to resume its tempo because this will have great repercussions for the economy."

    Speaking to reporters on the "objective criteria" taxation measure, Mr. Stratos said: "We had said at the very start that of course it is not a just way of confronting tax evasion and widening the tax base. However, tax evasion must be stamped out and the tax base broadened. We cannot have Greek citizens who are taxed and others who are not taxed."

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) expressed its support for the shopkeepers and small business proprietors but also for farmers, construction workers and Hellenic Shipyards workers who are protesting the sale of the yard.

    Construction workers yesterday took part in a 24-hour nation-wide strike and demonstration outside the Health, Welfare and Social Security Ministry organised by their labour federation. Their main problem is unemployment which, according to trade unionists, has reached 40 per cent in the sector and is rising.

    The construction workers are also protesting the use of illegal immigrant workers and have a number of demands related to social security. The construction workers said a meeting with Social Security Under-Secretary Foivos Ioannides had been fruitless and announced another 24-hour strike for April 5.

    Meanwhile, Greek Post Offices (ELTA) workers today decided to convene a meeting of their labour federation's presidium on April 6 to decide whether to take strike action over the impasse in talks with the ELTA management on the collective labour agreement for 1995. If no progress is made in the talks, the federation said, worker action will be unavoidable.

    [7] Skaramangas workers rally outside parliament

    Athens, 30/03/1995 (ANA):

    Skaramangas shipyards workers yesterday rallied outside Parliament, causing serious disruption to traffic in central Athens, to protest government plans to privatise the biggest shipbuilding and ship-repair yard in the eastern Mediterranean.

    The House was scheduled to begin a debate on a draft law providing for the privatisation of the shipyard at Skaramanga yesterday evening. A vote will be held at noon today. Workers' representatives called on the government to withdraw the draft law, warning that if it was passed, they would fight "hard" to have the legislative act annulled.

    Main opposition New Democracy party representative George Kommatas said his party understood the workers demands for the withdrawal of the draft law, but it will insist on the policy for privatisation of the shipyards.

    Political Spring party representative Andreas Lentakis said that his party agreed on the withdrawal of the draft law and that the shipyard should remain under state control.

    Spokesman for the Communist Party of Greece Antonis Skillakos said he agreed with all the demands made by the workers and assured them his party would support their side in parliament. The shipyard workers have scheduled a four-hour work stoppage for today and will take part in a rally outside Parliament organised by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE).

    [8] Evert tells EPP conference that he wants a strong federal Europe

    Brussels, 30/03/1995 (ANA - P. Pantelis):

    Speaking at the European People's Party conference on the revision of the Treaty of Maastricht yesterday, New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert came out in favour of a federal scheme for Europe.

    "We want to build a European Union near the European citizen, democratic and transparent, with rights and obligations among all member countries, big or small, without technical barriers," he said. Federal Europe, he said, must be based on cohesion and solidarity if it not to end up as an extensive, but politically weak and loose customs union.

    The pursuit of a real Common External Affairs and Political Security policy, that would buttress its borders against any external threat, was the key to recovery and progress in Europe, he said. He described the delay in its application as unacceptable, and asked that provisions regarding external policy, justice, and internal affairs be unified in a supranational conceptual scheme.

    Regarding Cyprus, he referred to the EU's commitment for a start to negotiations for full membership, which he said would constitute a springboard for the Union to the huge political and economic area of the southern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Mr. Evert is due to meet Commission President Jacques Santer, and possibly Greek Commissioner Christos Papoutsis today.

    [9] Arsenis responds to NATO members' letter: Greece will not bow to pressure

    Athens, 30/03/1995 (ANA):

    National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis said yesterday that the Greek government was solely responsible for the formulation of national policy and was not receptive to pressure. Mr. Arsenis was commenting on a letter to the government from the United States, Britain, Italy and Germany regarding Greece's relations with Turkey.

    Replying to reporters' questions after a one-hour meeting with Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias, Mr. Arsenis said there had been no protest "but only an unsigned text" delivered to the Greek and Turkish governments by the ambassadors of the four NATO members in the two countries.

    The "spirit" of the letter, Mr. Arsenis added, was "to support the efforts of NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes aimed at resolving outstanding issues on the Alliance's Southeast flank".

    Mr. Arsenis said that both he and Mr. Papoulias had had the opportunity during meetings with the ambassadors of the four countries in Athens to make it clear that "the country's national policy is formulated by the government and we are not receptive to pressure". He said they also explained to the ambassadors Greece's initiatives to settle the outstanding issues for the benefit of the Alliance. Efforts to resolve the problems, he stressed, have been blocked by Turkey.

    Denying reports that he had received a letter from Mr. Claes, Mr. Arsenis said that he was in continuous telephone contact with the NATO chief. Mr. Claes was due to visit Athens on March 30 but was forced to postpone the trip for health reasons. He was also scheduled to visit Ankara. According to press reports, the government was rescheduling Mr. Claes' visit for May or June.

    Mr. Arsenis said he and Mr. Papoulias exchanged views on all foreign policy issues, in light of Mr. Papoulias' visit today to Sofia, Bulgaria. Mr. Arsenis said he briefed Mr. Papoulias on meetings he held during his recent trip to Bulgaria concerning the defence co-operation between the two countries and other issues which Mr. Papoulias will promote during his trip.

    [10] Papoulias, Niles meet on Greek relations with Albania, Skopje

    Athens, 30/03/1995 (ANA):

    Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias had talks yesterday with US Ambassador in Athens Thomas Niles on developments in the Balkans and Greek-Albanian relations in particular. Also discussed was the issue of Greece's relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    According to informed sources, Mr. Niles said the US desired the normalisation of relations between Athens and Skopje.

    The UN mediator on the Skopje issue, Cyrus Vance, has invited Greece and FYROM to take part in a dialogue in New York on April 6. Other issues discussed during the meeting were Greek-Turkish relations, efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem and t he island republic's accession to the European Union.

    [11] Venizelos: Greece will be at the UN on April 6

    Athens, 30/03/1995 (ANA):

    Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias has told UN mediator on the issue of FYROM Cyrus Vance that Greece will be present at the United Nations on April 6 to take part in a dialogue with Skopje under his aegis, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday.

    Asked if Greece had received an invitation from Mr. Vance to take part in the talks, Mr. Venizelos replied that the invitation had been extended to the government "in the form of a letter". Skopje has claimed that the international mediator sent no letter.

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