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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-02-01

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] European socialists call for solutions to growth,social policies: Simitis stresses
  • [02] Karamanlis confident of ND victory in next elections
  • [03] Snowfall blankets northern Greece
  • [04] PASOK's Papathemelis announces formation of non-aligned citizens' movement
  • [05] New agricultural institute planned
  • [06] Secondary teachers' federation fail to decide on common positions
  • [07] G. Papandreou: Closer EU-Turkey ties only if Ankara reverses policy on Cyprus
  • [08] Imia crisis casualties remembered
  • [09] Fire erupts on Cypriot-flagged vessel, no injuries reported
  • [10] Search continues for runaway Austrian schoolgirl
  • [11] Quake shakes western Greece

  • [01] European socialists call for solutions to growth,social policies: Simitis stresses

    VIENNA 01/02/1999 (ANA - D. Dimitrakoudis)

    European socialist leaders on Saturday endorsed a manifesto for next June's Euro-elections in the 15-nation bloc that pledges to lower unemployment, expand social policies, boost growth and improve environmental protection.

    The manifesto, the first of its kind devised by European socialists, was approved at a leaders' summit in Vienna and is destined for ratification at a congress of the European Socialist Party (ESP) in Milan on March 1- 2.

    It will act as a base for election campaigns by socialist parties in Euro- elections in June, but allows them to tailor the details to the needs of their countries.

    Representing Greece at the summit was Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who said that European socialists and social democrats wanted solutions to guarantee growth and employment.

    "Economic progress so far has helped to ensure stability and growth in Europe. But clouds on the horizon - financial crises - are likely to suspend the growth process, having a negative impact on employment," Mr. Simitis said.

    "That is why socialist parties in government are concerned at how they can give new impetus to growth and employment by reducing taxes, reinforcing demand, creating infrastructure, including the Trans-European Networks, and backing research and technology," he added.

    The manifesto was drafted by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Henri Nollet, a leader of the French Socialist Party.

    Representing Greece on the manifesto's drafting committee were Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis and an advisor to the premier, Nikos Themelis.

    The European Socialist Party (ESP) is the largest group in the Europarliament, holding 214 out of 626 seats. Eleven of its members are in government.

    The manifesto contains a commitment to forge an agreement on employment, and a strategy for growth based on coordinating national economic policies in order to spur demand and investment, also developing the Trans-European Networks.

    Germany, the EU's six-month rotating president, hopes the agreement on employment will be adopted at an EU summit in June, when its term ends.

    The agreement could act as a counterweight to a stability agreement forged two years ago in order to attain fiscal discipline among countries destined to join European economic and monetary union, socialist officials said.

    Other targets contained in the 21-point document are the encouragement of tax harmonisation, closer defence cooperation, revision of the Common Agricultural Policy, reform of the EU budget, and greater transparency and efficiency in the EU's Council of Ministers.

    In addition, other targets include reinforcement of citzens' rights; supporting youth in the next century; guaranteeing women's equal opportunities; fighting racism and xenophobia; protecting the environ-ment; upgrading Europe's cultural diversity; figh ting crime and accelerating the EU accession of candidate states.

    Promise of less taxes : Athens will be able lessen the tax burden on Greeks as of next year if the economy continues to develop positively, Prime Minister Simitis said.

    Speaking to Greek reporters after the meeting, Mr, Simitis said the Socialists' policies could be summed up as being in favour of a "market economy but not a market society".

    The European socialist governments deeply feel the duty and their mission to achieve a Europe which is continually developing and socially just, he said.

    The summit underlined the common values of democracy, human rights, social justice, equality of opportunity, social rights and social responsibility, he added.

    Also stressed at the meeting was respect for international legality, with Mr. Simitis saying political expediency could not be cited as an excuse for the non-enforcement of international law in any case.

    The ESP's manifesto, Mr. Simitis said, also underlined the need for policies which would bring the European Union closer to its citizens. The operation of the European Commission should inspire confidence in Europeans, he said.

    He also stressed that Greece continued to insist that each EU country contribute to the common cause in line with its wealth and ability to produce, recognising that not all countries were at the same level.

    Contributions to the Community budget should be based on national GDP in relation to the Union's GDP, he said.

    Simitis on Euroelections : Premier Simitis said the vote during the June Euroelections cannot be and should not be what he called ''slack'', because some very important issues will be decided for Greece.

    Following the summit and referring to Greece, Mr. Simitis also said a socialist majority in the Europarliament will allow Athens to promote its economic, social as well as national aims much easier.

    The premier said that with the vote in the Euroelections, Greek voters are called on to provide answers to dilemmas such as the continuation of policies to date, as well as the strong presence of Greece in European procedures and international balances, which are responsible for the decision-making process.

    Tsohatzopoulos : On his part, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed what he called the challenge and ability emerging for European socialists to offer their peoples what neo-liberals and conservatives could not over the past decades.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, participating in the ESP summit as a vice-presi-dent, said the difference with conservatives, was that socialists' decisions can become a "comprehen-sive strategic proposal for a new Europe, to be built after the upcoming Euroelections."

    He said the manifesto tabled policies and concerns, as well as its aims and commitments that European socialists undertook to implement.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Karamanlis confident of ND victory in next elections

    BONN 01/02/1999 (ANA - A. Panagopoulos)

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday expressed certainty that ND will win the next general elections.

    During a conference of ND party cadres in Germany over the weekend, Mr. Karamanlis also said ND is developing a specific programme for every major sector.

    "Tomorrow, as the (new) government of the country, I will want to have decided on which policies I will follow, and not just blow hot air."

    Mr. Karamanilis said that what he is aiming at a major leap for Greece in terms of effectiveness, reliability and quality, as well as "of lesser words and more action."

    He called on unity from ND officials, while pointing to ND's course as one of victory.

    Commenting on the ruling PASOK government, he said "it is closing its cycle in history and does not correspond to expectations of citizens."

    "The European Union of the 21st century needs a new vision, which is nothing more than its unification," he added.

    Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, he said Ankara is encouraged to increase its demands by what he called the PASOK government's "policy of acquiescence."

    Speaking on the government's controversial education reform and what he termed expatriates' "severe education problem," Mr. Karamanlis admitted that all governments since 1974 did not live up to expectations.

    He added that since the end of dictatorial rule in 1974, the rule of democracy was established in Greece, although this conquest had hidden imperfections, particularly in the public administration system, noting that in essence, Greece is not a European country.

    The ND leader went on to say that the quetion is not when will Greece enter European Monetary Union (EMU) but whether "we will enter standing up or out of breath and last in line."

    Mr. Karamanlis said the conference was but a beginning of a continuing dialogue between ND and expatriate Greeks, while he promised to re-instate the institution of an undersecretariat for expatriate Greeks when he comes to power.

    He also said that there should be Greek schools outside Greece and in cases where there are not enough Greek students, a mixed educational system should be implemented, adding that Greek expatriate students should have access to the Greek university sys tem through bilateral agreements.

    In addition, Mr. Karamanlis called for a policy toward expatriates based on the opportunity for their children to learn Greek and Hellenic culture, .

    While Mr. Karamanlis did not comment on speculations that popular Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos will create a new party, he did issue an indirect warning, saying that "those who are comfortable with today's decline will attempt to stop ND from coming to power."

    "Alliances and friendships with such kind of expressions of power and interests we never had, nor will we ever have...There cannot be a force to stop our course," he added.

    Today, Mr. Karamanlis is expected to meet with former German chancellor Helmut Kohl for talks on the issue of dual citizenship, an explosive topic in Germany at present.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Snowfall blankets northern Greece

    Athens 01/02/1999 (ANA)

    Thessaloniki's Macedonia Airport was closed for the second day in a row on Sunday as overnight frost made plane landings and take-offs too risky.

    Severe weather is expected to continue today, with snowfall, freezing rains and cold temperatures throughout most of Greece.

    On Saturday, heavy snowfall in the northern city kept the airport closed for most of the day, allowing it to open late in the afternoon.

    The sudden drop in temperatures across most of northern Greece has also made the region's roads hazardous for drivers. The mercury in much of northern Greece fell to zero. The melting snows has forced motorists on national roads and even within the city centre to resort to snow chains. Thessaloniki residents were last forced to use snow chains to move around the city in 1988.

    A number of minor accidents, attributed to low visibility, forced drivers to abandon their cars and make their way on foot. Also treacherous, particularly for the elderly, were slippery footpaths, with emergency services advising the elderly to stay home to avoid falls after they received dozen of calls for help.

    Police reported a 10-car pile-up on the city's main seaside boulevard. There were no serious injuries in the accident.

    Seven villages - four in Grevena, two in Kozani and one in Florina - have been snowed in by heavy snowfall. Snowfall also caused a power outtage in the villages of Kardi and Epanomi, near Thessaloniki.

    Finally, a 64-year-old man was found dead in his home by his son yesterday in the village of Zagliveri Thessaloniki, with a coroner later ruling starvation and severe cold as the causes of death.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] PASOK's Papathemelis announces formation of non-aligned citizens' movement

    Athens 01/02/1999 (ANA)

    Ruling PASOK deputy and former minister Stelios Papathemelis announced yesterday that he was launching a non-aligned citizens' movement to explore and challenge social, religious and foreign policy issues.

    The Thessaloniki-area deputy said the movement aimed to cut through political party affiliations and attract a wide range of people, although politicians would also be welcome.

    Mr. Papathemelis was speaking in the northern port city at a New Year's celebration held by his political office, while around 2,000 people attended, despite inclement weather.

    He said that also launching the movement, whose founding meeting will due to be held in Athens in mid-February, were friends and associates who represented "a broad social spectrum of thinking and active citizens."

    The movement's main areas of interest were research into Hellenism and Greek Orthodoxy, the struggle for Greece and for democracy, as well as civic responsibility and ethics.

    In his address to the celebration, the deputy blasted the non-deployment of the Russian-made S-300 missiles on Cyprus, and their projected redeployment on Greece's largest island of Crete.

    Commenting on a recent statement by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos that the missile order was wrong, Mr. Papathemelis said: "The minister is speaking as if he were from another government, country or planet."

    Athens News Agency

    [05] New agricultural institute planned

    Athens 01/02/1999 (ANA)

    Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis yesterday announced that the "National Institute of Agricultural and Farm Exploitation" will be operational by April, having been first turned into a research institution.

    At the end of his four-day tour of eastern Macedonia and Thrace yesterday, the agriculture minister said that within February the legal framework will be created for the new agency.

    He added that 23 product lines have common organisations, while at least 18 of those should have their own professional organisations.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Secondary teachers' federation fail to decide on common positions

    Athens 01/02/1999 (ANA)

    A divided seconday school teachers' federation (OLME) resumed talks again yesterday in an attempt to find a unified position for upcoming negotiations with the education ministry over finally resolving a more than two-month impasse in secondary education.

    Squabbling between political groups in OLME led to Saturday's meeting being called off, with the PASOK-affiliated faction, PASK, walking out. A scheduled meeting for yesterday was also cancelled, as PASK members failed to show up at the federation's offices, which were also filled with protesting students.

    Sources said the dispute between PASK and other factions was whether to request not holding examinations for 11th grade high school students this year.

    Representatives of students occupying schools in the Athens region reiterated over the weekend a call for talks, saying they now do not demand abolition of the law but only abolition of exams at the 11th grade level.

    High school students have called for the education ministry's wide-ranging reform law to be revoked and for Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis to resign, saying the changes would transform secondary education into an endless stream of examinations.

    Examinations for 11th graders are considered a crucial factor in any talks, as the new law provides for an average of the final two years of senior high school to be taken into account for university entrance.

    Students are opposed to the measure both for the emphasis on examinations and because they believe that they have not been given enough forewarning of the measure.

    Widespread protests have been characterised by occupations of schools, mass protest marches and sometime clashes with motorists as students block city and national roads.

    According to Deputy Education Minister Yiannis Anthopoulos, most occupations of schools appear to have petered out over the past two weeks, with 6 per cent of schools around the country still occupied.

    At the peak of protests, hundreds of schools were out of action.

    Talks early last week between the ministry and teachers broke down after two days, with teachers holding a 48-hour strike against the law on Thursday and Friday.

    The ministry, meanwhile, is working on a formula that will allow students to make up for the time lost during school protests and to enable them to sit exams this year.

    This will probably entail lessons on Saturdays, public holidays, a cutback in school holiday periods and excursions as well as extending the school day by one hour.

    Thrace prosecutor warns of charges over students' road blocks : Pupils blocking roads in eastern Macedonia and Thrace to protest the government's education reforms will from now on face charges, a public prosecutor said yesterday.

    Thrace appeals court prosecutor Argyris Tsihlas asked regional judicial authorities to inform pupils and their parents that "patience had worn thin, and legal action would be taken."

    "Judging by their behaviour, pupils seem to believe they have the right to act arbitrarily - and occasionally destructively - without being punished," Mr. Tsihlas stated in a circular to the heads of regional prosecutors' offices.

    Protesting students throughout the country have staged brief blockades of both primary and secondary roads for two months, often severely disrupting traffic. Violence has also occasionally erupted.

    He added that the legally ordained limits for protest action were clearly defined.

    "We are legally obliged to assume responsibility for defending law and order and law-abiding citizens before we are accused of abuse of power, and before we find ourselves mourning casualties," he warned.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] G. Papandreou: Closer EU-Turkey ties only if Ankara reverses policy on Cyprus

    NICOSIA 01/02/1999 (ANA - N. Megadoukas/CNA)

    Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed here yesterday that Greece continued to support Turkey's efforts for closer European Union ties, warning however, that they would be in vain if Ankara did not change its stance on Cyprus.

    Speaking in Nicosia during a conference on the last day of a three-day visit, Mr. Papandreou said Ankara was using the Turkish Cypriot community on the divided island to push its own designs.

    "We want Turkey in Europe but it falls on the shoulders of the neighbouring country to prove it can meet the criteria it has been set...criteria that are not only economic but related to democracy, human rights, respect for international law," Mr. Papandreou said.

    "These are related to its ties with Cyprus and Greece," he said.

    He called on moderate Turkish Cypriot groups to reject the intransigent policies of the illegal regime in the Turkish-occupied territories headed by Rauf Denktash, which he said, worked to the detriment of all the Turkish Cypriots.

    He added that Cyprus' accession to the European Union would bring the Turkish Cypriot community economic and political benefits and also deprive Turkey of the argument that occupying forces on the islands were needed to protect the community.

    "It is up to them (the Turkish Cypriots) whether they will participate in accession procedures," Mr. Papandreou said. "Cyprus will in any way accede to the European Union, whether with the Turkish Cypriots or without them."

    Cyprus EU accession procedures were a "strategic advantage" for the solution of the political problem of the divided island, Mr. Papandreou stressed, while he urged a resumption of bicommunal talks which would lead to one unified sovereign state on the island republic.

    He also stressed that all political powers in Greece and Cyprus should make a joint effort over a common course, adding that both countries are utilising the decision of Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides not to deploy the S-300 missiles on the island.

    "This is something that we will do and we are doing,"he said, adding that both countries have goals, which include Cyprus' European Union membership.

    Speaking after a meeting yesterday with Socialist Party EDEK leader Vassos Lyssarides, Mr. Papandreou said they discussed cooperation between Greece and Cyprus regarding the joint defence doctrince, initiated by his father, late premier Andreas Papandreou. He said the pact was "a given fact." Earlier yesterday, he visited the relatives of missing persons, who gather at the Ledra Palace check point every weekend to brief tourists wishing to cross into Turkish-occupied areas about the Cyprus problem.

    The Greek minister had meetings Saturday afternoon with leading officials of the Democratic Party, the United Democrats, the Eurodemocratic Renewal Movement, and the Movement of Ecologists -Environmentalists.

    Mr. Papandreou also addressed the 21st Session of the National Olympic Academy of Cyprus. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.

    The Turkish side has failed to abide by numerous UN resolutions calling for the withdrawal of the Turkish occupation troops from this east Mediterranean island and the establishment of a bizonal, bicommunal federation.

    Cyprus applied for EU membership in July 1990. It signed an association agreement in 1972 and a customs union protocol in 1987. In November last year it started substantive talks for accession due to take place in the first phase of EU's enlargement.

    On Saturday, the Greek minister pledged that Athens would help Cyprus to harmonise its laws with the EU in preparation for entry.

    The task would raise political and technical difficulties, but the Greek and Cypriot parliaments could work together to resolve them.

    In addition, Mr. Papandreou promised to ask Greek legal experts and the lawyers' union to propose members for a working group to hammer out details.

    His statements on legal code harmonisaton were made at a meeting with Cyprus' Attorney General, Alekos Markides. He returned to Athens last night.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Imia crisis casualties remembered

    Athens 01/02/1999 (ANA)

    Separate memorials for the three Navy helicopter crewmembers who died in action during the Imia crisis in late January 1996 were held yesterday in Athens and Piraeus.

    A memorial bust of helicopter commander Christodoulos Karathanasis was unveiled in the Papagos district of Athens, as Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, the nation's military leadership and relatives attended the ceremony.

    Christodoulos noted that Imia was a "national disgrace...something that should never be repeated."

    A memorial service for co-pilot Panayiotis Vlahakos took place in Piraeus, while a third ceremony for Ektoras Yialopsos was held in the Petroupoli district.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] Fire erupts on Cypriot-flagged vessel, no injuries reported

    Athens 01/02/1999 (ANA)

    A fire that broke out early Saturday morning aboard a Cypriot-flagged cargo vessel was partially under control yesterday afternoon, authorities said.

    No injuries were reported among the crew of 27 - five Greeks and 22 Filipinos.

    The 10,800-grt "Rallia", carrying 14,000 tons of sugar from Belgium to Iran, was sailing off western Crete amid gale force winds when the fire erupted in its engine room.

    A rescue vessel, a tugboat, a Russian cargo ship, a fishing trawler and an air force helicopter rushed to the scene.

    The cause of the blaze is unknown.

    By early afternoon, all 22 of the Filipino seamen had been either airlifted to Crete or picked up from liferafts. The five other seamen, including the captain, remained on board.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Search continues for runaway Austrian schoolgirl

    Athens 01/02/1999 (ANA)

    Police in the port city of Patra continued a search for an Austrian schoolgirl missing since Saturday.

    Silvia Hobarth, 16, was last seen on the yacht "Noah", which was docked at the port of Patra.

    The teen is in Greece on a school trip sponsored by the Austrian government. Sources said the 16-year-old had left a note explaining her disappearance, while she is believed to still be in Patra.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] Quake shakes western Greece

    Athens 01/02/1999 (ANA)

    An earthquake measuring 4.2 on the Richter scale shook Aetoloakarnania and Achaia prefectures 2:16 p.m. yesterday. No injuries or damage were reported, police said.

    The epicentre of the earthquake was recorded between Antirrio and Nafpaktos.

    Athens News Agency

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