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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-07-04

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

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

July 4, 2005

CONTENTS

  • [01] Karamanlis, Erdogan inaugurate work for vital natural gas pipeline project
  • [02] Social security reform dominates top gov't meeting
  • [03] PM's press office denies any statement vis-a-vis election in neighbouring Albania
  • [04] Voting in predominately ethnic Greek areas of S. Albania proceeding smoothly
  • [05] PASOK's Papandreou addresses mid-level party officials
  • [06] Greek delegation at 14th annual OSCE opening session
  • [07] Folias concludes official visit to Czech Republic
  • [08] Alogoskoufis satisfied with bank sector reform plan; responds to Evert criticism
  • [09] Vandals again target surveillance cameras in Athens

  • [01] Karamanlis, Erdogan inaugurate work for vital natural gas pipeline project

    (ANA), 4/7/2005

    The prime ministers of Greece and Turkey, Costas Karamanlis and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Sunday inaugurated a project to build a ground-breaking natural gas pipe-line connecting the two countries, and by extension, gas-producing regions in the Middle East with west European markets.

    A brief ceremony on a frontier bridge over the Evros River that separates the two countries' land borders in the Thrace region was, expectedly, rife with symbolism, as the two neighbouring states took yet another step in a nearly six-year run of rapprochement and closer ties, especially the trade sector.

    Both leaders subsequently made statements on the Greek side of the border during press conference at a customs post, with Karamanlis noting that the two peoples can cooperate well as neighbours. He also cited the project's geo-political importance.

    On his part, Erdogan initially stressed project's strategic importance in the energy sector, while calling it a step that further deepens Greek-Turkish bilateral relations.

    "The international prices for oil have followed a frenzied course over the past year and a half. This development shows, more than ever, that natural gas is a significant alternative choice with important economic and environmental benefits," Karamanlis said during his address on the Greek side of the border.

    He also reminded that the initial deal for the pipeline was quickly followed up with action by both the Greek and Turkish sides after May 2004, when the pact was ratified by parliament.

    The beginning of work on the pipeline comes after last month's signing of a Greek-Italian protocol of cooperation foreseeing the construction of an underwater natural gas pipeline connecting the two EU member-states across the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, in essence, an extension of the projected pipeline from Turkey.

    Erdogan: Turkish Premier Erdogan opened his statements to reporters by referring to a "historic moment".

    "I believe that this is a step that will assist in the further development of our relations. Additionally, it will help dissolve rumours, which circulate from time to time, about the two countries' relations. This bridge can lead to a further rapprochement between our two peoples on environmental issues and other matters," Erdogan said, adding:

    "I am also very pleased that this development coincided with these two governments in our respective countries. Let me express my hope that the ceremony that took place today, with my friend Costas, will generate positive results and lead to better days and developments."

    Following the ceremony on the Kipi Bridge, which links Greece with Turkey across the Evros (Maritsa) River, both premiers greeted military sentries posted at opposite border posts.

    Delegations from the two countries headed by the respective prime ministers and featuring a bevy of top ministers and officials from both Athens and Ankara, later met at the customs post on Greek territory before travelling across the river and into Turkey.

    Subsequent talks between Karamanlis and Erdogan reportedly focused on continued bilateral economic ties and further buttressing relations between the two peoples.

    In subsequent statements made at a Turkish customs building before an audience of some 2,000 people, Karamanlis reiterated that Athens firmly supports Turkey's European prospects, "and is following, with great interest, its (Turkey's) efforts, as pushed forth by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his government, to fully meet Europe's political and economic acquis communautaire."

    In terms of other areas of cooperation in the energy sector, the Greek PM said both governments are promoting the inter-connection of their power grids, a development that will significantly step up cooperation and upgrade the two countries' role in the regional energy market. Additionally, he cited cooperation in the field of renewable energy sources within the framework of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) organisation.

    Other ongoing projects cited by Karamanlis as facilitating bilateral development included the half-completed Egnatia motorway -- which will span the breadth of northern Greece from the Ionian Sea to the Turkish border -- as well as an express rail route between Thessaloniki and Istanbul along with the construction of a new border post and bridge at the Kipi site -- a project he said was a past request by Ankara.

    "It's time we invested in development, progress and prosperity; and what we want for us we also want for our neighbours," he concluded.

    Erdogan concluded his statements by again citing the Karamanlis government's support for Turkey's European prospects during a crucial EU summit last December, while adding:

    "I want this pipeline to again unite and bring the two peoples closer together ... that it serves as a bridge of peace between us. The heat produced by natural gas can never surpass the warmth that exists in our souls. It will, however, help towards increasing this warmth," Erdogan concluded.

    [02] Social security reform dominates top gov't meeting

    Athens, 4/7/2005 (ANA)

    The government's closely watched initiatives and overall strategy concerning the social security sector dominated a meeting at the prime minister's office on Saturday, two days after the government passed a bill on bank sector pension reform through Parliament.

    In exiting the meeting, chaired by Premier Costas Karamanlis, Labour and Social Securities Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos echoed other top officials by stressing that it was not in the government's designs to change the overall social security framework within this term of office.

    He again stressed that contribution levels, maximum retirement ages and pension payments were also not being considered.

    Besides the bank sector bill, which shifts thousands of bank employees to the primary state-run Social Security Foundation (IKA) and lays down the framework for unifying separate banks' supplementary pension funds into one entity, the government also eagerly backed and subsequently approved of a ground-breaking early voluntary retirement plan for the state-run telephony provider (OTE).

    Both initiatives, called nothing less than imperative by the New Democracy government for the social security system's future solvency as well as long-term economic development in the east Mediterranean country, were met by fiery opposition from other political parties and the trade union movement. Charges by the latter included criticism that state coffers would unduly pay for the reforms; that private interests benefited more that the state or taxpayers and that junior state-run banks' and OTE employees (hired after Jan. 1, 1993) would lose vested pension and employment benefits.

    On his part, Panayiotopoulos said Saturday's discussion focused on the "day after" the bank sector bill's passage and its implementation by individual banks. In referring to a portion of criticism by trade unions, the minister said the bill spells out safeguards for jobs and pension rights.

    Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis, the other top minister who engineered the bill, also told reporters that a lengthy dialogue with social partners and other parties would be held to achieve consensus before any major reforms in social security.

    [03] PM's press office denies any statement vis-a-vis election in neighbouring Albania

    Athens, 4/7/2005 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' press office on Sunday flatly dismissed earlier same-day reports claiming that the Greek premier expressed his satisfaction over the outcome of election results in neighbouring Albania.

    The press office also stressed that the Greek prime minister, who earlier on Sunday was in the Evros border prefecture to inaugurate a project to build a natural gas pipeline linking Greece and Turkey, made no comments whatsoever regarding parliamentary elections in west Balkan country.

    According to an ANA dispatch from Tirana early Sunday afternoon, the main opposition Democratic Party reportedly claimed that Karamanlis made such a statement in its favour, an assertion quickly disputed by the rival Socialist Party.

    [04] Voting in predominately ethnic Greek areas of S. Albania proceeding smoothly

    TIRANA, 4/7/2005 (ANA - P. Barkas)

    Voting in predominately ethnic Greek areas of southern Albania was proceeding more-or-less smoothly, according to reports, during Sunday's general parliamentary elections in the west Balkan country.

    The total number of ethnic Greeks that returned to the country from neighbouring Greece in order to exercise their voting rights was estimated at roughly 7,000.

    Border officials added that the number of ethnic Albanians -- employed in Greece as guest workers -- that crossed the frontier in order to vote was light. According to reports, Albanian PM Fatos Nanos' campaign chartered 15 coaches to bring voters from Greece to the town of Sarande, the precinct in southern Albania where he is standing as a candidate for parliament.

    [05] PASOK's Papandreou addresses mid-level party officials

    Athens, 4/7/2005 (ANA)

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou met in Athens on Saturday evening with recently elected prefectural and regional party officials, an event capped off by an address replete with comments over changes he wants to introduce into the party.

    Taking the podium after several addresses by PASOK officials, Papandreou noted that he believes the party's "mid-level cadres" should steer clear of "client relations" with voters, a policy he said should be followed by the party's top cadres as well.

    He also told supporters that he rejects the model of a "leader-based" party, saying that such a model better suits conservative, rather than progressive parties.

    Moreover, the former foreign minister charged that numerous "varieties of PASOK" -- in power between 1981 and 1989 as well as from 1993 to 2004 -- were evident over the previous years, a phenomenon that he added "has not yet been eradicated".

    "Don't forget that there is an effort underway to promote even the most minor of incidents and the most insignificant statement by (ruling) New Democracy as a clash with PASOK..." he said.

    Papandreou also called on his party's cadres to refrain from a "clientele" mentality during the upcoming municipal and prefectural elections, warning also against PASOK officials becoming "guardians and promoters of certain candidacies ... because they themselves will lose the match, just as PASOK will ... you must be the guarantors of serious and correct (political) appraisals and procedures," he added.

    [06] Greek delegation at 14th annual OSCE opening session

    WASHINGTON, 4/7/2005 (ANA)

    Parliamentarians from the 55-member countries of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) met here on Friday, as the five-day 14th annual opening session began with talks focusing on piracy, human and arms trafficking as well as combating terrorism.

    Greece is represented by deputies Panos Kammenos (New Democracy) -- the head of the delegation -- Christos Zois (ND), Zetta Makri (ND), Petros Efthymiou (PASOK), Yiannis Damiras (PASOK) and Yiannis Dragasakis (Coalition of the Left).

    [07] Folias concludes official visit to Czech Republic

    Prague, 4/7/2005 (ANA)

    Deputy Economy Minister Christos Folias wound up an official visit to the Czech Republic this past week, including a meeting with Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, with talks focusing on opportunities for cooperation within the framework of talks by the EU's "25" regarding fiscal prospects in the Union during the 2007-2012 period.

    Folias visited Prague at the head of an official Greek government delegation.

    [08] Alogoskoufis satisfied with bank sector reform plan; responds to Evert criticism

    Athens, 4/7/2005 (ANA)

    Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis reiterated on Sunday, as part of an interview published by an Athens daily, that the recent banking sector pension reform finally pushed through by the government last week was a "major and difficult reform".

    In pointing to the complexity of the scheme, Alogoskoufis said this was clearly demonstrated "during a dialogue held over the past six months.

    "Neither the banks agreed amongst themselves, nor did OTOE (the bank employees' trade union), which tried to prop up a system that was favourable for bank employees in comparison to other wage-earners. I wholeheartedly believe the solution that was ultimately found is a good solution," he was quoted as saying by the daily "Ethnos".

    Moreover, he again stressed that the bill passed by Parliament last week means that a "level playing field" in the bank sector has been created, whereas a major problem affecting state-run banks was solved, "especially with Emporiki and ATE bank, which were being led to their closing".

    Asked about biting criticism last week by former New Democracy (ND) president and current MP Miltiades Evert vis-a-vis the plan -- which he later voted down in Parliament, the only ND deputy to do so, in fact -- Alogoskoufis charged:

    "Such interventions do not help in revealing the real problem that the government faced in pushing through this reform."

    Additionally, he said the next major initiative by the government's economic policy team over the summer will be the promotion of a new framework for private and public sector partnerships, as well as combating tax evasion.

    [09] Vandals again target surveillance cameras in Athens

    Athens, 4/7/2005 (ANA)

    A half dozen traffic cameras around the greater Athens area were vandalised in the early morning hours of Saturday, police said, ostensibly part of a stepped up effort by self-styled anarchist and anti-state groups of mostly teens and young adults to neutralise a surveillance and traffic management system installed prior to the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

    While the actual cameras, placed atop sturdy seven-metre concrete pylons were not targeted, perpetrators merely burned the telephony distributors at the base of each pylon.

    The small, elusive groups have even plastered posters in central Athens warning of more action against such surveillance cameras. Roughly 40 such surveillance cameras have been targeted in the recent period.


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