|Sunday, 21 July 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-02-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>February 7, 2005
 Poll shows overwhelming backing for government's volition to tackle graft
Athens, 7/2/2005 (ANA)The first opinion poll in the wake of an ongoing trial-fixing probe that has shaken the Greek judiciary and spilled over into the Church of Greece records a noteworthy "confidence gap" in public opinion for the country's venerated institutions, although the Karamanlis government's volition to tackle graft is overwhelmingly backed.
Several judges have already been sacked for allegedly taking bribes to fix trials and grant parole to convicted felons, while an investigation is continuing to uncover the extent of the problem. Simultaneously, a handful of high-ranking clerics face antiquities smuggling, embezzlement and indecency charges, among others, as in at least two instances the judicial and clerical corruption charges are intertwined.
According to an opinion poll published in the weekly newspaper "Paron" on Sunday, 53.6 percent of respondents declared that their confidence in the "institutions" (Church, judiciary etc.) has been shaken. Conversely, the vast remainder of respondents (43.5 percent) said the latest incidents would be dealt with.
In terms of the Karamanlis government's profile, 67.4 percent of respondents said recent high-level announcements promising to fight judicial corruption were positive or "probably positive". Conversely, 25.4 percent favored the opposite opinion.
Influential Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos also apparently fared well in the opinion poll, with 50.4 percent of respondents saying his stance in the face of the Church corruption allegations was positive. Exactly 38.3 percent said the Archbishop's stance was negative, while 10.3 percent did not voice an opinion.
As far as the entire Church's reaction is concerned, 50.5 of respondents said decisions by the Holy Synod -- the plenum of the Church of Greece's ecclesiastical hierarchy -- to combat corruption within the Church "are in the right direction". A differing opinion was expressed by 38.6 percent of respondents.
In other questions, 26.3 percent of respondents said the instances of judicial corruption were the responsibility of specific officials; 22.6 percent agreed with the notion that the entire affair stems from a general crisis in society's morality; 21 percent attributed the instances to "tolerance" by the state and 13 percent said the corruption stems from the manner in which the public sector operated during the past decade. Some 11.4 percent of respondents attributed the phenomena to loopholes in the legal system.
The opinion poll was conducted by the Athens-based Kappa Research firm for the newspaper "Paron" on Feb. 4 via telephone interviews with respondents in the greater Athens area.
Justice minister promises punishment, not resignations for rogue judges: Justice Minister Anastasis Papaligouras emphasized in published comments over the weekend that resignations of judges attempting to avoid punishment for their involvement in a trial fixing and bribery-for-parole scam will not be accepted.
"Rogue judges will be referred to (the independent judiciary's) relevant disciplinary organs and punished with all the foreseen consequences," he said.
In comments published by the Athens daily "Chora", announced that the government is proceeding with a plan to relieve prison overcrowding and to institute a separation of inmates based on age, conviction and type of crime committed.
He also announced an effort to improve vocational training from inmates and healthcare in correctional facilities.
Christodoulos says he's determined to proceed with 'clean-up'; cites 'attack' on Church itself: Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos stressed during a closely watched sermon on Sunday that he is determined to proceed with a "clean-up" in the powerful Church, following a series of embarrassing charges aimed at a handful of top clerics over the past weeks.
Speaking from the pulpit to parishioners and several members of the Holy Synod -- the Church of Greece's hierarchical plenum -- Christodoulos nevertheless said the "heavy climate" in the Church is being "maintained by those making revelations of scandals, real or fabricated."
"What purposes does this daily vilification serve? Of what consequence are the (television programs') proclamations of coming revelations? Do they not create a climate of blackmail? Do they not turn those they threaten into hostages? Is a clean-up achieved in this manner, with vilification and not internally (by the Church itself)?" the influential Archbishop rhetorically asked while delivering a sermon from the Penteli Monastery in Athens on a day that coincided with the holding of an annual one-day seminar on theological issues.
Moreover, he said the recent crescendo of media attention on the accusations against the high-ranking clerics -- ranging from antiquities smuggling to embezzlement and misappropriation of funds to even charges of indecency and licentiousness -- is merely an attack against the Church "during a period when the country needs its (Church) spiritual guidance".
Finally, Christodoulos said whatever problems related to the clergy are not solved with a prosecutor's "stick".
The highest-ranking cleric touched by the recent furor is Metropolitan of Attica (prefecture) Panteleimon, who was suspended by the Holy Synod from his ecclesiastical duties for six months until an investigation into the charges against him is finalized.
Synaspismos leader says position for separation of Church and State vindicated by events: Recent revelations concerning high-level corruption within the clergy and justice system have vindicated the standing position of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) for a separation of Church and State, party leader Alekos Alavanos stressed on Saturday.
"Church and State, judges and metropolitans (high-ranking Orthodox clerics), politicians and prelates, have proved to be 'communicating vessels' in which the pathological phenomena of decay, corruption and graft move freely, undermining the entire range of values that our society yearns for even more," Alavanos said.
He called on all parties to lift their objections and cease "their embraces with the Archbishop and the prelates, that are carried out in order to secure electoral clientele."
Alavanos stressed that the Coalition's position was not inspired by animosity toward the Church. Conversely, he added, a separation of Church and State might be able to stop "the separation of the Church's leadership from the values of humility, frugality, spirituality and love that we on the Left like to call solidarity," he added.
He also criticized the media for what he claimed was an excessive emphasis on the Church scandal.
"The media can play a critical role, expose things that are hidden and shed light on dark sides of public life. But that is completely different from the 'serials' on churchmen that we are currently seeing...a foreign visitor who came to Greece without knowing which country he was in and turning on the television might think he was in Iran or some other theocratic regime," he said.
 Papandreou repeats overall criticism of gov't; defends past PASOK govts' record
Athens, 7/2/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou again went on a weekend tour and made a subsequent address in a provincial town on Saturday, a continuing communications campaign that has taken him around the country on successive weekends ahead of his party's crucial congress early next month.
The former foreign minister again repeated his standing criticism of the government on issues ranging from the high-profile fiscal audit of the Greek economy -- which reversed lower budget deficit figures given by past PASOK governments and earned the close scrutiny of the EU Commission -- to farm sector issues and even foreign policy.
Papandreou told a gathering of supporters in the town of Tripoli, the capital of Arcadia prefecture in the central Peloponnese, that the government's economic policies since its election last March diminished the country's potential before and after the Olympic Games, while a law allowing for repatriation of capital by Greek citizens was an "amnesty" for money launderers.
Moreover, he called for the resignation of Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis.
Regarding a continuing furor in the justice system over a trial-fixing syndicate of judges and lawyers that apparently manipulated court hearings and parole proceedings for several years, Papandreou cited the need for a "democratic spring in (such) institutions, one with transparency, accountability and meritocracy, where the citizen is the guarantor of morality and transparency."
As far as involvement of several high-ranking clerics in the judicial corruption ring as well as embezzlement and indecency allegations leveled at others, Papandreou said he doesn't want to comment on the Church's internal affairs.
Nevertheless, he said PASOK and other progressive forces "will not allow (ruling) New Democracy to politically exploit the crises with the institutions (justice system and the Church)..." a direct reference to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' recent high-profile declaration that his government will crackdown on corruption and graft in the judiciary with legislation.
Turning to the all-important "internal party front", Papandreou said PASOK "does not belong to any mechanism or official..."
Additionally, he defended the record of his predecessors, two-time premier Costas Simitis, and the party's founder, his father, three-time premier Andreas Papandreou.
ND government has failed on all fronts, Papandreou tells 'Sunday Eleftherotypia': The ruling New Democracy government had failed on all fronts, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou claimed in an interview with this week's "Kyriakatiki Eleftherotypia", the Sunday paper put out by the publishers of the 'Eleftherotypia' daily.
He claimed that ND was deliberately promoting the same ideology on which Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi had built his own style of government, because it believed that this "serves its end for full and absolute control of the political system and public life," Papandreou said.
"Expressions such as 'they're all the same' or 'they're all on the take', the logic of putting everything on the same level and devaluing all which New Democracy has introduced is dangerous and catastrophic for our political system. Not everyone is the same. Not everyone is 'on the take'. We have a duty to defend democracy every day," PASOK's leader added, noting that a simultaneous crisis in justice, journalism and politics in Italy had led to the Berlusconi policies.
Visit to Polish House: Meanwhile, on Sunday Papandreou toured the "Polish House" in Athens, the cultural centre and school for the vibrant and well-respected Polish expatriate community of Greece.
Among others, the PASOK leader reiterated his call for immigrants in Greece to participate in his party's upcoming pre-congress procedures and to elect representatives.
His visit coincided with the party's Day of Dialogue with Migrants.
He also reiterated his support for a simplification of bureaucratic procedures on issues of non-EU foreigners' residence, work and naturalization status, and said that it was "significant for migrants to vote in municipal and European Union elections".
 Synaspismos to initiate 'aggressive alliance policy', party leader Alavanos says
Athens, 7/2/2005 (ANA)Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos told a party meeting on Saturday that the party will begin an "aggressive" alliances policy, beginning with cooperation with forces of the radical left and radical ecology as its base.
The party meeting on Saturday marked the start of political and organizational preparation by Synaspismos for the upcoming local government elections in 2006.
He stressed that the party should operate with the logic of a movement in the local government elections, stressing the elements of its program concerning ecological concerns, quality of life, social issues and regional development, and cooperating with the forces of 'sensitivity'.
He said the Coalition will seek to develop SYRIZA in this context and to cooperate with forces from the Left, radical ecologists and those not organized with any party that were interested in cooperating in local government.
"It's very important to highlight a unifying program inspired by the Left, to highlight program ideas that are related to institutional issues concerning local government but chiefly with the major ecological and social issues that concern citizens and can be solved by local government institutions," he stressed.
 Parliament president addresses parliamentary forum on Mediterranean security at Nafplio
Athens, 7/2/2005 (ANA)Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki on Sunday addressed the 4th Conference for security and cooperation in the Mediterranean that is taking place in Nafplion, which is discussing the creation of a permanent forum for Mediterranean parliaments.
In her address, Psarouda-Benaki stressed the need to accentuate efforts to create a Euro-Mediterranean free trade zone and to resolve security issues that have arisen in recent years.
Without a secure environment it was inconceivable to expect Mediterranean countries to develop and their people to prosper, she noted.
At the same, security could not be imposed by "raising walls or by the threat of arms procurements but arose from the will of the people and the cooperation of governments," she added.
Referring to terrorism, she said that it was a serious threat to humanity that was becoming particularly serious in the Mediterranean because of the fluidity of its political and socioeconomic fabric. Noting the need to stamp out this "evil nightmare", she stressed the need to address the roots of the phenomenon and try to deal with it using democratic processes, without putting in jeopardy "our achievements in the area of political institutions and human rights".
 Education minister stresses that dialogue for education is genuine
Athens, 7/2/2005 (ANA)Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou on Sunday stressed that the dialogue on education initiated by the government was genuine and substantive and urged all sides to take part, during a speech at the Patras branch of the Constantine Karamanlis Institute for Democracy.
She praised the stance displayed so far by the main opposition in the National Education Council.
"We are giving others the opportunity to meet with us. At the moment an uncompetitive system is sinking due to lack of assessment. The scene will be cleared up with the responsibility of the State," she added.
The minister underlined, however, that good state schools also required teachers to adapt to the new conditions. She referred particularly to life-long education and announced that a second foreign language will be introduced as a mandatory class from the 5th grade of primary school.
She also stressed vocation training, noting that technical schools will become true lyceums for trade professionals and create more opportunities for the students studying at them.
 Pangalos criticizes former PASOK governments for inaction on judicial corruption
Athens, 7/2/2005 (ANA)Main opposition PASOK MP Theodoros Pangalos exercised harsh criticism against his party's former governments in a speech on Saturday at Polykastro, Kilkis leading up to the party's congress.
Pangalos said that PASOK governments should have intervened to clean up the justice system of judges that were accused of accepting bribes.
"Didn't we know that judges were 'on the take'? All of Greece was buzzing, all lawyers knew it, therefore our government also knew it and should have intervened," he said.
Similar controls should have been exercised on the Church, especially Church property, he added.
"What's happening with the vast property of the Church, whose precise size and uses are both unknown?" he asked.
These were matters that should have been resolved and "as a government we made a mistake," Pangalos said.
The MP also attacked the government over the introduction of personal interviews in the selection process for civil service recruitment.
"Doesn't a civil servant have the right to be a homosexual, to have orange hair and two earrings," he said, accusing Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of "Mussolini-style poses".
 Snow continues to cause problems throughout Greece as cold snap continues
Athens, 7/2/2005 (ANA)The heavy snow that fell in many areas of Greece continued to cause problems on Saturday, particularly in northern Greece. Persistently low temperatures, icy sleet and snowfall played havoc with transport systems, with the biggest problems in the northeastern prefecture of Evros.
Attica also faced its share of problems, with snow chains needed on roads from Malakasa to Aghios Merkourios, Markopoulos, Oropos and Skala Oropou and from Kapandriti to Varnava, Kalamos and Amfiario. Police also closed off Parnitha Avenue from the funicular railway and Filis Road after the Kleiston Monastery.
Five villages were still cut off in the Ioannina on Saturday morning, as well as two in Evrytania, four in Ilia, 11 in Orestiada and the entire region of north Evros. Roads were also impassable in the Agia district in Larissa, part of the Evrytania road network, mountainous areas of Evia and in Fthiotida from Amfiklia to the Parnassus ski resort.
Traffic was interrupted on the Preveza-Igoumenitsa road due to subsidence of the road surface, while snow chains are needed throughout the country at higher altitudes.
State and local government services have been out in full force since early on Saturday morning and are gradually opening roads and restoring communications during the course of the day.
In Evros, in particular, the Civil Protection Agency arranged to send an additional 12 snow ploughs from central Macedonia and two EMAK emergency rescue teams that are on standby in case they are needed.
Greece has also sent three snow ploughs across the border to Albania, which is also facing severe problems due to the bad weather, in response to a request for aid made by Albanian authorities to the EU.
 Papadopoulos committed to federal solution, ready to compromise
NICOSIA 7/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos stressed here on Saturday he remains committed to a bizonal, bicommunal federation that would bring social and economic reunification and would not allow either of the island's two communities to lead the common state to permanent deadlock.
He also said that the government is working quietly and systematically in order to create the right preconditions to ensure that negotiations will lead to an agreed solution, given the fact that Cyprus is now a member of the European Union.
"I shall not get tired of stating, repeating and meaning what I say, that I remain committed to a bizonal, bicommunal federal solution that will be viable and workable and bring social and economic reunification and will not separate the two communities and their institutions," he said, as he unveiled a memorial to the dead and missing persons, who have served in the infantry during the 1974 Turkish invasion.
He stressed that the solution he is seeking must ensure that none of the two communities will impose its will on the other and that neither will have the possibility to lead the common state to permanent deadlocks, to paralysis and to the dissolution of the state.
"We are working quietly and systematically to create the right preconditions that would give us the guarantees for substantive and constructive negotiations which will lead to an agreed settlement, in the new circumstances created by our membership of the EU," Papadopoulos added.
He reiterated that arbitration and strict timeframes have proved inconclusive for a free negotiation that could lead to an agreed and viable solution.
"Irrespective of difficulties and the small size of our homeland, we shall note tire of protecting what we believe are undeniable rights of our people and oppose to designs and attempts that will not safeguard a viable and workable settlement," he said.
President Papadopoulos said that "we have proved that we are reasonable and realistic and ready for a painful but honorable compromise and we want a settlement more than anybody else."
"However, we are not prepared to sign up to a settlement which in theory reunites our country but in practice consolidates divisive tendencies in society, the economy and the institutions," he concluded.
 House President:Turkey must accept substantive changes to UN plan
NICOSIA 7/2/2005 (CNA/ANA)House President Demetris Christofias has called on all those who insist that the Greek Cypriot side takes initiatives on Cyprus to direct their efforts towards Ankara.
They must ensure that Turkey is ready, through dialogue, to accept substantive changes to a UN-proposed solution plan, without altering its philosophy, to render a settlement viable and workable, he said.
Speaking to overseas Cypriots in London, he said at present Ankara is focusing on moves to lift what it calls isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and to secure such arrangements for the adaptation of the Ankara Agreement with the European Union to include Cyprus that would suit Turkish objectives.
''Our initiative must aim at presenting in a convincing manner our positions regarding changes to the UN (Annan) plan that would result in a viable and workable solution,'' he said, adding that Greek Cypriot parties must develop ''regular and creative contacts with Turkish Cypriot parties'' in a bid to satisfy the concerns of the Greek Cypriots the way Turkish Cypriot concerns are met in the Annan plan.
He noted that the Greek Cypriot side is currently trying to create the preconditions for the resumption of a dialogue and to this effect parliamentary parties, comprising the National Council, began an exchange of views.
Christofias said AKEL's position, tabled at a Council meeting, reflects the wishes of the majority of the people for substantive changes to the UN plan, without however altering the substance of the proposed solution.
''We want a solution as soon as possible. We want an agreed solution, not one that would emerge through arbitration,'' he said, adding that the consensus is that the Annan plan as it stands cannot be put before the people for approval.
On Turkey's objectives with regard to Cyprus, Christofias said its public declarations for a UN initiative appear to be more of a public relations exercise than a substantive move towards a solution.
''We believe that Turkey, following the EU decision to begin accession negotiations on 3 October, has more of an interest to sign the protocol of its customs union agreement with the EU and lift the so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots than any other goal, at this stage,'' he said.
He said those who turn to the Greek Cypriot side urging it to undertake an initiative should address themselves to Turkey and ''secure that it is ready through a dialogue to accept substantive changes to the Annan plan in order to create the preconditions for a viable and workable solution.''