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A.N.A. Bulletin, 23/08/96

From: "Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada" <grnewsca@sympatico.ca>

Athens News Agency Directory

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN (No 970), August 23, 1996

Greek Press & Information Office

Ottawa, Canada

E-Mail Address: grnewsca@sympatico.ca


CONTENTS

  • [1] Greece headed for elections on September 22

  • [2] Reactions

  • [3] Parties begin preparations for elections

  • [4] Athens dismisses calls from Ankara for talks on Cyprus

  • [5] NATO CINCSouth meets with Greek chief of staff

  • [6] Greece gets its own 'Open University'

  • [7] European Classical Education Studies Center

  • [8] First reactions

  • [9] Economy PASOK's strong card, Papantoniou says

  • [10] Evert says a ND will abolish "unfair" taxation on SMEs

  • [11] EU lifts ban on Greek meat exports


  • [1] Greece headed for elections on September 22

    Athens, 23/08/1996 (ANA)

    Greece was launched into a pre-election orbit yesterday following last night's decision by the Cabinet to go to hold an early general election on Sunday, Sept. 22.

    The two-hour Cabinet meeting, chaired by Mr. Simitis, came to the decision following a week of indirect government hints and press speculation that the government would seek a renewal of its mandate, more than a year ahead of the expiration of its current term.

    The premier stated after the meeting the decision to go the polls early was adopted unanimously, adding that he would visit President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos this morning to ask for the dissolution of Parliament.

    After the meeting with the president, scheduled for 11 a.m., the prime minister is to chair a joint meeting of PASOK's central committee and Parliamentary group.

    Referring to the reasons for seeking an early poll, the premier cited mainly the challenges the country will be facing in Europe in the next few years, the need to pursue further the modernization of the economy, as well as to consolidate national interests and the country's defense capability in the face of Turkish expansionism.

    "The next four years will be a period of great challenges and opportunities for our country. Greece must participate equitably and dynamically in the evolution of the European Union. Our country must adopt in time and decisively all the measures and necessary decisions so as not to be cut off from developments and be marginalized in the process of economic and political integration of the European Union," he said.

    "Radical modernization of our economy and society becomes a pressing need. It is necessary to put the country in an orbit of sustainable development, and reform the welfare state so as to make it fairer."

    "We need initiatives in the Balkans and our broader region that will consolidate co-operation and peace, as well as Greece's interests. The bolstering of the internal front and the upgrading of the country's strength is the necessary precondition for the effective support to the thorough diplomatic activity and defensive armoring vis-a-vis the Turkish threat, and the defense of our national rights in Greece and Cyprus," he added.

    "The sum of these reasons render pressing the avoidance of a long-drawn pre-election period that would be catastrophic to interests of the people and the country.

    "The period lying before us requires direct, but substantial and long-term options and decisions. Small steps are not sufficient, we need leaps. PASOK has the plan and the vision of a strong Greece. The Greece of prosperity, security, progress, and social justice," the premier concluded.

    [2] Reactions

    Athens, 23/08/1996 (ANA)

    Following Mr. Simitis' announcement of early general elections, main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert accused the prime minister of "consciously lying to the Greek people."

    Mr. Evert said the elections are being held in order "to cover the impasses to which Mr. Simitis' government has led the economy", and spoke of an unacceptable evasion in tackling of the country's economic problems, adding that the elections were sought by the economic ministers.

    The ND president criticized the prime minister, saying he has limited the pre-election period to a time when much of the population is away on holiday because he does not wish for the Greek people to be informed or for the smaller parties to prepare themselves.

    Mr. Evert stressed that early elections will damage modernization as the next Parliament will not be empowered to revise the Constitution. He said this will result in needed changes not proceeding, and added that the government has nothing to show. He also expressed his conviction that his party will win the elections, and added that "our position on premature elections is the same, we have shown reliability, whereas Mr. Simitis' position is unreliable." He called on the prime minister to hold "civilized elections", with three television debates in order to inform the Greek people on the parties' positions. He added he will hold a press conference today.

    "The Greek people will show confidence in ND and it will not be a victory for ND but a victory for the Greek people," Mr. Evert concluded.

    Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras also criticized the prime minister's decision to hold early elections, saying Mr. Simitis had "signed the certificate of his unreliability, blindly obeying those who planned his climb up to the leadership of PASOK and to the premiership."

    Mr. Samaras warned that the prime minister was preparing for "a new serious wave of austerity against the people," and accused him of blackmailing the people.

    The Political Spring leader accused Mr. Simitis of "refusing the possibility of a brave reform with a revision of the Constitution". He also criticized his foreign policy, which he said "pleases the foreign factor, and primarily the American (factor)".

    Mr. Samaras said he is "very optimistic" regarding the forthcoming elections, and stressed that the Greek people now had a chance for a solution to "the problem" by supporting his party.

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in a statement called on its members and supporters to "enter the battle of elections" in order to reinforce the party.

    "From these early general elections, a message of optimism and favorable prospects must be given, that in Greek society there exists the developing strength of resistance, fight and counter-attack to the policies implemented by the governments of ND and of PASOK," an announcement issued by the party's political bureau said yesterday.

    Commenting on the prime minister's announcement, KKE said "the reasons given by the government for calling early general elections do not hold true. On the contrary, they constitute a monument to political deceit and are used as a smoke screen for PASOK 's true intentions of wheedling out the votes of the Greek people."

    Coalition of the Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos said the prime minister is asking for an all-out authorization to conduct "leaps into the void," in commenting on the premier's statements concerning the holding of early elections. He said early elections are being held to serve petty political machinations by PASOK's leadership, adding that the nation needs significant changes in its foreign and domestic policies.

    Earlier in the day, the ruling PASOK party's executive bureau unanimously accepted Mr. Simitis' recommendation for early elections.

    In a written statement afterwards, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the country's course towards elections was not a reason to interrupt the government's work, which would continue both before the elections and after PASOK's mandate is renewed.

    In addition, Mr. Reppas said that whatever applied in the past concerning the replacement of ministers in the run-up to general elections would also apply on this occasion.

    Greece's Constitution provides for the holding of early elections within 30 days of the dissolution of Parliament, at the latest. Regular general elections were not due until October 1997.

    The 60-year-old prime minister took over as prime minister in January following the resignation of PASOK's founder Andreas Papandreou after an almost three-month illness. In addition, Mr. Simitis was elected PASOK president at a party congress in June. During the congress Mr. Simitis stated that he would exhaust the government's four-year term.

    Early yesterday, the premier held close-door sessions with several of his ministers, meeting with Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas and Justice Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

    After his meeting with the premier, Mr. Tzoumakas told reporters that "it is necessary to resolve this outstanding matter for there to be a new mandate. That is, to receive a political 're-baptism' in order to begin a new four-year term."

    Meanwhile, an announcement is expected to be made regarding preliminary elections in PASOK's bodies in order to elect candidate deputies. This will be the first time this procedure is implemented, and is to be held next Wednesday, according to party sources.

    According to PASOK's charter, candidates in these elections will include former deputies and candidates to be chosen by the central committee from a list to be proposed by party bodies.

    The executive bureau will convene again on Saturday morning in order to discuss the party's pre-election campaign and tactics.

    Particular emphasis will be placed upon television and radio discussions, where there is a possibility of one or more discussions being held between Mr. Simitis and Mr. Evert.

    [3] Parties begin preparations for elections

    Athens, 23/08/1996 (ANA)

    In a race with time to prepare for early elections in just one month, political parties yesterday proceeded to establish campaign committees headed by prominent party officials.

    Environmental, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis was appointed head of the election campaign committee for PASOK.

    Eurodeputy Nikitas Kaklamanis has been appointed head of the Political Spring's election staff.

    In another development, the leader of the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI), Dimitris Tsovolas, is due to visit the island of Syros on Saturday as part of the party's campaign during the run-up to elections. Mr. Tsovolas, a one-time PASOK minister, formed his party last year.

    [4] Athens dismisses calls from Ankara for talks on Cyprus

    Athens, 23/08/1996 (ANA)

    The Greek government yesterday dismissed recent statements by Turkish officials for a Greek-Turkish dialogue on the Cyprus issue, stressing that Cyprus was "an independent country, member of the UN, and it is not possible that other countries should discuss its fate."

    The Cyprus problem, added the foreign ministry, was not a Greek-Turkish difference but an international problem.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that Turkey, in particular, had "no justification in proposing such a dialogue, especially with Greece, after the recent events".

    He was speaking to the press following recent statements by Turkish officials proposing a dialogue between Athens and Ankara on the issue.

    "Dialogue is not an end in itself, and it cannot be held in order to mislead public opinion. Because in such a case, not only is it not of benefit, but it also leads to negative results," Mr. Reppas added.

    Meanwhile, foreign ministry spokesman Costas Bikas reiterated that the Cyprus problem was not a Greek-Turkish but an international problem.

    "It is a problem involving the violation of basic rules of international law and the ongoing 22-year military occupation of a large part of an independent state, namely Cyprus, by Turkey," Mr. Bikas said.

    The spokesman added that the Cyprus problem was at the same time a major national issue for Greece, on whose settlement the normalization of Greek-Turkish relations would depend.

    Mr. Bikas reiterated that particularly following the recent criminal incidents on Cyprus, resulting in the murder of two unarmed Greek Cypriots by Turks, Ankara should realize that it is not in its interests to continue the occupation and should instead display realism.

    "The international community also must have realized that there can be no stability in the region of the eastern Mediterranean as long as the Cyprus problem is not resolved," Mr. Bikas added.

    [5] NATO CINCSouth meets with Greek chief of staff

    Athens, 23/08/1996 (ANA)

    The new Commander-in-Chief of NATO forces in Southern Europe (CINCSouth), Admiral Joseph Lopez, had a one-hour meeting in Athens yesterday morning with Chief of the Greek National Defense General Staff, Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis.

    Admiral Lopez is in Greece on a courtesy visit to meet the Greek military leadership and discuss topics concerning Greece and NATO as well as the problems that have arisen in the southeastern Mediterranean, particularly in Greek-Turkish relations.

    No statements were made after the meeting.

    Admiral Lopez took over as CINCSouth on July 31, replacing Admiral Leighton Smith.

    [6] Greece gets its own 'Open University'

    Athens, 23/08/1996 (ANA)

    Greece is to get its own "Open University", as of December 1 this year, Education Minister George Papandreou announced yesterday.

    Revealing the details of a draft bill which establishes the university, modeled on Britain's university of the same name, Mr. Papandreou said the university was aimed at workers and the unemployed between the ages of 25 and 50, with either junior or senior high school education.

    The prospective students will be able to take lessons - by correspondence - in theology, public and business administration, informatics, environmental studies, Greek studies (history, philosophy, arts and letters), foreign languages such as English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic and Turkish, graphic arts, quality control, European civilization and telecommunications.

    Mr. Papandreou stressed that the country had need of an institution like the Open University "because there is a particularly acute desire for university-level education amongst Greeks." He said this desire could not be satisfied by the government despite its moves to increase the number of university places. He said the result of this situation was the exodus of young Greeks to universities abroad, exporting valuable exchange to universities which "in many cases offer studies of low quality".

    He added that the number of Greeks who were not able to undertake studies due to various reasons was very high, as was those workers with university degrees who were unable to undertake postgraduate studies, either because of time restrictions or because they were not accepted by established universities.

    This alternate form of tertiary education, he continued, can satisfy this desire for university education.

    He stressed that there were no entrance examinations or restrictions on the number of students studying for the Open University. The students will pay a nominal fee for lessons, as the university will be funded by the state.

    The state, the minister said, will deposit the amount of 200 billion drachmas in three installments, of which the interest will be the primary funding source of the university.

    Mr. Papandreou said this method was chosen so as to guarantee the company economic independence on a long-term basis and to free the company from the uncertainty from depending on the annual state budget.

    The capital will be able to be used to cover needs relating to the technological needs of institutes, inter-university study programs, European exchange programs, as well as other activities which cannot be funded through normal channels.

    [7] European Classical Education Studies Center

    Athens, 23/08/1996 (ANA)

    Mr. Papandreou also announced the establishment of a European Classical Education Studies Center, with the aim of strengthening classical education and the humanities in European Union countries.

    The creation of this center is the result of an initiative of the minister himself, which has been warmly greeted by his counterparts in the EU.

    The center will work towards expanding the co-operation between European educational institutes and will play an institutional role in the promotion of the Greek heritage beyond European borders.

    The activities may include teaching programs in ancient Greek and Latin, participation in archaeological digs and visits and educational programs at museums.

    Mr. Papandreou also announced the establishment of 30 European Language Centers which will offer tutoring in all the languages of Europe, while Greek will be offered at the centers as a foreign language with students having the opportunity to work towards a state-recognized degree of achievement.

    He added that the ministry had decided to introduce the teaching of the English language to primary schools as well as the option of a second foreign language at high schools.

    [8] First reactions

    Athens, 23/08/1996 (ANA)

    Coalition of the Left and Progress's youth, EAN, lashed out at Mr. Papandreou's announcement of the Open University yesterday, calling it "an indirect effort to establish private and paid-for higher academic education in Greece."

    [9] Economy PASOK's strong card, Papantoniou says

    Athens, 23/08/1996 (ANA)

    The current state of the economy is PASOK's draw card in the September elections said National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou adding that 'no other government has gone to elections over the past twenty years with such positive figures on the economy .'

    He was speaking to reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, also attended by Finance Minister Alekos Papadopoulos.

    Mr. Papantoniou specifically referred to the one-digit inflation rate, falling interest rates, the acceleration of the rate of development, the speeding pace of investment in both the public and private sector.

    He also expressed conviction that early elections would ensure the 'further favorable course of the economy and stable political prospects.'

    Indirectly denying opposition criticism that the government seeks a new four-year term in order to push through tough economic measures, Mr. Papantoniou predicted the 'stable and consistent implementation of the Convergence Programme,' as well as a 'firm progress in real incomes and better social services.'

    Finance Minister Alecos Papadopoulos said upcoming elections would not cause any diversions to the 1996 budget adding that the budget has so far been meeting its goals.

    Mr. Papadopoulos said that during September ministry action concerning tax-evasion and state auditing will proceed as planned.

    In reply to National Economy Minister Yannos Papantoniou's statements, yesterday, that the state of the economy was the government's 'draw card,' in the September elections, Main Opposition New Democracy party leader, Miltiades Evert later said the minister did not have a grip on reality urging him to ask the unemployed, the pensioners and the wage owners to state their opinion on the issue.

    Commenting on Mr. Papantoniou's statements, Political Spring party spokesperson Notis Martakis said the minister 'is either mocking the people or he is not in touch with reality.'

    'If this is not the case,' he added, 'then he should give convincing answers as to why he and the other economic ministers were agonizingly pressuring the prime minister into proceeding with early elections.'

    Answering to main opposition criticism, Mr. Papantoniou referred to economic figures during the ND administration in 1990-93 'when real incomes were down by 16 per cent and the development pace equaled one per cent.'

    Mr. Papantoniou said that 'PASOK has created the conditions for a firm increase in real incomes and economic development.'

    [10] Evert says a ND will abolish "unfair" taxation on SMEs

    Athens, 23/08/1996 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert reiterated yesterday during a meeting with representatives of small-and medium size enterprises (SMEs) his party's intention to abolish objective tax criteria and a 35 per cent tax on businesses a s soon as the party came to power.

    Mr. Evert said the objective tax criteria and the 35 per cent tax on businesses were unfair to merchants and businessmen, adding that the PASOK government should have had the courage to abolish them sooner. The objective tax criteria and the 35 per cent tax were imposed on businesses during the 1990-93 ND administration.

    General Confederation of Small Manufacturers and Professionals GSEBEE President Dionysis Korfiatis, meanwhile, lashed out at the government for announcing early elections, saying that businessmen would vote according to the way the government had dealt with their problems in the past three years.

    He said problems would not be solved with snap elections but with responsible decisions. President of the Merchant's Association Dimitris Kapsalis said that during the PASOK administration the government had been "negative," even "hostile" to the problems facing the merchants.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Evert's pledge to abolish the 35 per cent tax and the objective criteria was met with severe criticism by Political Spring party spokesman Notis Martakis who said that PASOK and the ND were "two sides of the same coin."

    Mr. Martakis accused Mr. Evert of being to eager to criticize the objective criteria imposed by the ND government and still overtly defended by many of the party's senior officials.

    Political Spring's spokesperson called on the ND leader to "try and convince his own party before attempting to convince the businessmen of the sincerity of his intentions."

    [11] EU lifts ban on Greek meat exports

    Brussels, 23/08/1996 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Union's Standing Veterinary Committee yesterday lifted a ban on the exports of live animals, meat and non-pasteurized dairy products from Greece, imposed after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease earlier this summer.

    A quarantine will remain in effect for the border Evros prefecture, although a veterinary delegation which visited Evros recently expressed satisfaction with measures taken by Greek authorities, adding that it believed the outbreak of the disease will soon disappear.

    The decision regionalizing the ban on exports has largely satisfied Greek authorities, which had pledged to implement a broad control programme in the neighboring Rodopi prefecture to avert any possible new outbreaks of the disease.

    The European Commission, which accepted yesterday that the handling of foot-and-mouth disease is an EU problem, will present at the Standing Veterinary Committee's next meeting on Sept. 10-11 a funding programme for the control of the disease in the regions bordering Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    The veterinary committee urged the Commission to urgently draft a programme for combating the highly contagious disease in the Balkans.

    In a related development, all imports of plant products from Turkey have been banned after a decision taken by Evros prefect Giorgos Dolios, with the agreement of the agriculture ministry.

    "Importation of all plant products is suspended only from Turkey as this is from where foot-and-mouth disease was transmitted to Evros, with the resulting severe damage to stockbreeding in Thrace," Mr. Dolios said.

    Plant products from Turkey passing though Greece with a final destination in another country are exempt from the ban, as are imports to Greece from other countries, which have passed through Turkey.

    End of English language section.

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