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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-03-17

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

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

Monday, 17 March 2008 Issue No: 2845

CONTENTS

  • [01] Papandreou closes 8th PASOK Congress
  • [02] Papandreou on high prices, consumer action
  • [03] Finmin interview: wage increases up to budget limits
  • [04] SYRIZA concludes 1st Nationwide Conference
  • [05] ND maintains lead in two opinion polls
  • [06] Justice minister pledges action to tackle delays in courts
  • [07] 5 injured in Albanian explosions hospitalized in Thessaloniki, PM offers Greece's assistance
  • [08] President Papoulias sends condolences to Albanian counterpart
  • [09] Tourism Minister Spiliotopoulos discusses tourism cooperation with Russian counterpart
  • [10] Employment minister meets local authority staff union federations
  • [11] Municipal garbage collectors to continue strike
  • [12] Feast of Orthodoxy celebrated
  • [13] One dead, two injured in truck-train collision in Peloponnese
  • [14] President awards top students of Aegean islands
  • [15] International documentary film festival in Thessaloniki ends
  • [16] Olympiakos tops Super League standings
  • [17] Cloud, local showers on Monday Politics

  • [01] Papandreou closes 8th PASOK Congress

    The 8th Congress of the main opposition PASOK party closes on Sunday with the election of 150 voted members to the party's National Council, which in addition includes the party's MPs, former prime ministers and other officials and 60 polling booths have been set up at the indoor Tae Kwon Do facility in Faliro, the venue of the Congress, to facilitate the approximately 7,000 delegates in the voting process.

    PASOK leader George Papandreou announced that major changes would take place in the party, during his closing address to the Congress on Saturday night.

    At the same time, Papandreou clarified his proposal for cooperation towards the other parties of the Left, while expressing his backing for nearly all the demands of the social groups currently holding, or planning, mobilizations, pledging that PASOK would be at their side and would support their struggles.

    Papandreou took everyone, even his closest associates, by surprise when he announced his decisions for renewal of the faces "at the top". he announced that the new Political Council (which is elected by the National Council) will be comprised of new cadres who have not previously served as ministers or deputy ministers, which would leave out high-profile cadres such as Evangelos Venizels, Costas Skandalidis, Anna Diamanto-poulou, Theodoros Pangalos and many others from the new composition of the party's highest steering body.

    The announcement was met with resounding applause by the more than 7,000 delegates to the Congress, which became even more enthusiastic when Papandreou invited his opponents for the party leadership to greet the gathering together.

    Papandreou explained, however, that his decision did not leave the party's most eponymous cadres without a role and position, noting his intent to put them to use in the "parliamentary process" in a number of ways.

    He said the establishment of new bodies in the party and in parliament was anticipated in the coming week, given that "a week of battles is beginning, and we will all be in that battle, at the side of the people".

    Papandreou said was led to this decision based on the principles of unity, renewal and meritocracy, and called on the delegates to 'ratify' his decision, receiving a resounding response.

    Regarding cooperations and his overture to the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (SYN), Papandreou clarified that the issue of self-sufficiency -- which PASOK was not abandoning -- was one thing, and its intention to achieve broader collaborations for solving the major problems faced by society and the country was another thing.

    He called on SYN to decide on whether it would move side by side with PASOK in the battle for Change, or whether it would opt "to hide behind pretexts".

    He further clarified that PASOK would seek the biggest possible electoral victory, and parliamentary self-sufficiency (majority), wider political consensus among the people, wider political cooperation, in order to provide "a government of Change, and the dynamnic reversal that the country needs".

    Stressing that its only opponent was the ruling New Democracy (ND) party and government, he expressed backing for all the mobilisations by the working people and their demands.

    [02] Papandreou on high prices, consumer action

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Saturday announced plans for the foundation of a National Consumer Network that would include an electronic consumer forum and price observatory, which would check and compare prices throughout Greece. At the same time, this would also act as a unit for dealing with consumer complaints, working in collaboration with the Greek Ombudsman's Office, he added.

    "We cannot stamp out price-gouging as a government, which we soon will be, unless we have a powerful and organized consumer movement," Papandreou underlined. According to PASOK's leader, the party was launching this initiative in order to create a "an organized quality market, that is monitored, with good prices that respect people".

    He was speaking during a workshop on the "Guerrilla warfare again high prices and excessive debt" held within PASOK's 8th Conference, where he stressed that PASOK's aim was to be close to citizens and help solve their problems on a daily basis.

    [03] Finmin interview: wage increases up to budget limits

    Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis promised that the government will not delay announcing its incomes policy during an interview with the newspaper "Imerisia" published on Saturday, while promising to give the biggest wage increases that could be borne by the budget.

    On this issue, meanwhile, he said that certain benefits currently given to public-sector employees would gradually be incorporated into their basic wage.

    Regarding inflation, he predicted that this would start to ease off in the second half of 2008 and said the greater part of this was "imported" but stressed that "we must all through our behavior prevent its conversion into a more permanent problem of the Greek economy".

    He also confirmed that the government is considering a change in the way that stock market transactions are taxed but stressed that no one would be taken by surprise.

    On the prospect for further privatizations, he said these would chiefly concern infrastructure and network businesses and that 2008 would be a year of preparation, because the moves would have to be very careful.

    On the extending Hochtief's contract for Athens' Eleftherios Venizelos airport, the minister said that negotiations were due to begin this year, while 2008 would also see the start of the privatization process for other airports, based on the country's envisaged role as a transport hub and achieving an outward-looking management of transport infrastructure.

    "We are progressing toward a combined strategy for transport with investments in road and rail networks, new methods of managing ports and airports and the involvement of the private sector in both investment and management of infrastructure. The year 2008 will be crucial for this policy," he added.

    [04] SYRIZA concludes 1st Nationwide Conference

    The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), the SYN-led parliamentary alliance, wound up its First Nationwide Conference on Sunday with the adoption of a text calling for the assumption of new initiatives for further expansion of the SYRIZA venture, the drafting of a radical Left solution, and the drafting of a political plan, and also the nationwide formulation of an organizational structure.

    According to the Text, the 1st Nationwide Conference marked the beginning of a further, substantive effort through an open, democratic and free dialogue with all the forces of the Left, in order to further rally the forces of the Radical Left and the radical left ecology.

    According to SYN (Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party) leader Alexis Tsipras, SYRIZA's increase in popularity and strength was not a "bubble" that would burst, and criticised those who had stated such a view, while also launching a scathing attack on main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou and on the government's policy.

    Tsipras said that SYRIZA's momentum was not a political paradox or phenomenon. "A political paradox is what we were living for so many years," he added.

    Responding to critics that SYRIZA did not have a 'platform', he said that SYRIZA did not have proposals for uninsured labor because it does not propose a reduction in pensions, it does not use terms such as 'flexibility' and 'competitiveness', and does not propose private universities.

    In extensive criticism on the main opposition party, Tsipras said that when he left the PASOK Congress, also taking place over the weekend, he was deeply troubled because "how is it possible that a party with such a large and significant history, which we respect, a party that in the past inspired thousands of strugglers, a party that listened to the deep desire of the people for deep-rooted changes and which even today has strugglers among its ranks, is not aware of anything of what is happening around it today?".

    Society was abroil inside and out, he said. "Outside, the correlations are being overturned, consensual bipartisanism is collapsing, and at the PASOK Congress, as if it's taking place in a greenhouse, as if the main opposition party is functioning in a sterilized glass bowl, PASOK is trying to regain its lost self-sufficiency", Tsipras said, and replying again on the issue of cooperation, he added: "Dear friends in PASOK, we warmly thank you for your kind offer, but no thanks".

    [05] ND maintains lead in two opinion polls

    The ruling New Democracy (ND) party held a 5.1 percent lead over main opposition PASOK with regard to voter intent, in an opinion poll conducted by MRB, the results of which appeared in the Sunday edition of Eleftheros Typos newspaper, while prime minister Costas Karamanlis held a 19.4 percent lead over PASOK leader George Papandreou as the most suitable party leader for the post of prime minister.

    More specifically, to a question regarding "intended vote" (what party they would vote for if elections were held tomorrow), 28.8 percent of the respondents stated a preference for ND, against 23.7 percent for PASOK, 17.9 percent for the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress 9SYN), 7.0 percent for the Communist Party of Greece, and 4.7 percent for the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party.

    To a question on whether they preferred a self-sufficient government or a cooperation government, 44 percent of the respondents opted in favor of a self-sufficient government, while 43.3 percent preferred a government of cooperation.

    Regarding who was the most suitable for prime minister, current premier and ND leader Karamanlis was the most popular among the respondents, with 36.6 percent, while Papandreou and SYN leader Alexis Tsipras each held 17.2 percent of the respondents' preference.

    In another opinion poll, conducted by RASS and the results of which appeared in the Sunday newspaper PARON, ND again maintained a 5.7 percent lead over PASOK with 30.2 percent of the respondents preferring the ruling party, against 24.5 percent for PASOK, 17.7 percent for the SYN-led parliamentary alliance SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left), 7.8 percent for the KKE, and 4.2 percent for LAOS.

    [06] Justice minister pledges action to tackle delays in courts

    Addressing the annual general assembly of the Administrative Judges Union on Saturday, Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis said the ministry's priority would be action to tackle delays in the clogged justice system, especially in administrative justice where the problems were particularly acute. He also congratulated judges on what he called an "exemplary self-cleansing" to rid the justice system of corruption, achieved at the initiative of the judiciary themselves.

    "I consider it my duty also to say, as the minister responsible, that the prestige of Justice has now been fully restored, in spite of the occasional mean-spirited and unfair attacks. I would like to praise the morality and contribution of the vast majority of Greek judges, who daily strive to carry about their difficult task," he stressed.

    While noting that the ministry's top priority was to accelerate the speed at which justice was administered, he underlined that justices themselves were not at fault for the delays, which were caused by the state's failure over several years to take measures to deal with accumulated problems, chief among them the delays.

    "The problem is particularly acute in the area of Administrative Justice. Unfortunately, the delay in administering Administrative Justice in many cases borders on a denial of justice. More than 350,000 cases are outstanding at first-instance level, at administrative first-instance courts. Around 30,000 cases are pending at administrative appeals courts," Hatzigakis pointed out.

    He underlined the importance of restoring properly functioning administrative courts, stressing that they were the citizens final line of defense against the abuse of power by the state and protecting individual freedoms.

    The minister also referred to a recent announcement of plans to build new first-instance courts in Attica, saying the present facilities at Evelpidon were patently inadequate for the volume of daily traffic at the capital's courts.

    Two other issues mentioned and criticized by Hatzigakis were recent attacks on judges by political figures in order to further their party's political agenda and exchanges of lawsuits filed by trade unions and firm managements in the framework of labor disputes.

    "Neither phenomenon is pleasant. They involve justice without reason in duties that exceed its function. Basically, they involve it in differences that ought to be solved in the framework of the laws, through dialogue carried out in good faith and through the operation of the institutions," he said, stressing that justice could not act as a "punching bag" for political and social conflicts.

    Hatzigakis particularly attacked what he called the cultivation through rumors and unsubstantiated claims of the impression of pervasive corruption in all areas of public life, from politics to administration and all institutions, and what he called a "crusade of so-called scandals" that were presented without any form of proof.

    "To this, justice and its functionaries are called to prove what? Usually what is unprovable and nonexistent. I point out, also, that almost none of those making those accusations has come forward to help justice with specific evidence," he stressed.

    The meeting was also attended by a number of MPs, the justice ministry general secretary and other officials, including Council of State President Georgos Panagiotopoulos.

    [07] 5 injured in Albanian explosions hospitalized in Thessaloniki, PM offers Greece's assistance

    Five people, including two children, injured seriously in a string of explosions at an Albanian army base were being treated in Thessaloniki hospitals on Sunday.

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis spoke by phone on Saturday with his Albanian counterpart Sali Berisha and extended assistance by Greece, after a string of large explosions earier in the day at the army base near Tirana, where obsolete munitions destined for destruction were stored, which killed at least five people and injured more than 250.

    A Hellenic Army C-130 personnel carrier took off for Albania on Saturday night, transporting vials of blood, medical personnel and equipment, while military and civilian hospitals were put on alert for the treatment of injured people.

    Although the official count was 5 persons killed, there were fears that the death toll could reach 60.

    Karamanlis spoke with Berisha on Saturday evening, assuring him that Greece was prepared to provide assistance if required, and ordered the relevant ministries to facilitate any assistance required.

    The Albanian prime minister informed his Greek counterpart that the treatment of injured people in Greek hospitals might be necessary.

    Meanwhile, the National Defense General Staff (GEETHA) announced that a C-130 carrying blood, medical personnel and equipment was taking off for Albania on Saturday night, while the military hospitals in Athens and Ioannina had also been placed on alert.

    Two children and three adults, all Albanian citizens, are being treated in Thessaloniki, where they were transported at dawn Sunday by the returning C-130 and then rushed to the Papageorgiou and Ippokration hospitals.

    A three-year-old girl and the three adults, aged 32, 53 and 54, were being treated at the Papageorgiou hospital, while another little girl, aged 6, who lost her right hand in the blasts, was being reated in the Intensive Care Unit at the Ippokration Hospital.

    According to the attending physicians, the 32-year-old and 54-year old underwent several hours of surgery, due to multiple injuries in their lower extremities.

    None of the five were in a life-threatening condition.

    [08] President Papoulias sends condolences to Albanian counterpart

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Sunday sent a message of condolences to his Albanian counterpart Bamir Topi, for the victims of the deadly explosion which occurred at an ammunition factory outside the capital of Tirana on Saturday.

    Financial News

    [09] Tourism Minister Spiliotopoulos discusses tourism cooperation with Russian counterpart

    MOSCOW (ANA-MPA/Th. Avgerinos)

    Tourism Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Strzhalkovsky agreed during their meeting here over the weekend to the preparation soon of a memorandum on tourism cooperation between Greece and Russia, with emphasis being placed on Russian investments in the Greek tourism industry and on Greek investments in the construction of marinas along the Black Sea coastline and the building of ships and pleasure boats.

    "We agreed to run with specific working groups to enable us to have over a short period of time a cooperation memorandum that will cover issues related to Greek investments in Russia and to Russian investments in the tourism sector in Greece, with the further strengthening of tourist and investing movement towards Greece," Spiliotopoulos said at the end of his talks.

    The Russian side requested Greek assistance and know-how for the modernization of the Russian river boat and cruise ship fleet, a branch that is very developed as a form of tourist entertainment in Russia.

    Spiliotopoulos assured that every possible cooperation in this sector will be encouraged as well and announced that Russia will be participating again in the Philoxenia exhibition in Thessaloniki, while Greece will be the theme country next year in Moscow's blossoming Intourmarket tourism exhibition, which is held under the auspices and backing of the Russian government.

    Spiliotopoulos left for Saint Petersburg on Sunday evening, where he will be inaugurating a Greek tourism poster exhibition on Monday, while on Tuesday he will be giving a lecture at the University's Greek department and meeting the city's governor and former ambassador in Athens Valentina Matvienko.

    [10] Employment minister meets local authority staff union federations

    Representatives of the two union federations for local authority workers, POE-OTA and POP-OTA emerged from a meeting with Employment Minister Fanny Palli-Petralia on Saturday afternoon with quite different evaluations of its results.

    Trade unionists in POP-OTA, which ended strike action on Friday night, said that their decision to call off their ongoing strike was vindicated since Petralia has promised to satisfy their demands during the meeting.

    POE-OTA President Themis Balasopoulos, on the other hand, said that no substantial progress in meeting the union federation's demands had been made during the talks with the minister.

    There will be a meeting of POE-OTA's general council on Sunday afternoon to decide whether to continue the strike by local authority staff, which has led to mounds of rubbish collecting on the streets of Athens and cities all around Greece.

    [11] Municipal garbage collectors to continue strike

    Municipal garbage collectors belonging to the POE-OTA labour union will continue their strike.

    According to its president, Th. Balasopoulos, they will continue their strike for the next 48 hours, while they will also be participating in the strike called by the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) on Wednesday, March 19.

    The Federation's General Council will be convening again on the same day to decide on whether or not to continue strike action.

    In another development, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis said in a statement that "those who, either for personal or other reasons, place public health in danger, set themselves against society in its entirety," adding that "I make it absolutely clear that whoever places the lives of working people in the sanitation sector of the Athens municipality in danger during the exercising of their duties will be faced with the laws and with justice."

    The mayor concluded by saying that "whoever wants is free to go on strike, but nobody can stand in the way of responsible working people who want to clean up the city and rid its citizens from the possibility of epidemics."

    General News

    [12] Feast of Orthodoxy celebrated

    The Feast of Orthodoxy (the first Sunday of Lent) was celebrated with pomp on Sunday at the Athens Metropolitan Cathedral, attended by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, parliament president George Sioufas, education and religious affairs minister Evripides Stylianidis, other government members, and MPs.

    The service, officiated by Archbishop Ieronymos, was also attended by the Holy Synod, representatives of other Orthodox Churches, representatives of the military and judicial authorities, and ambassadors of foreign countries.

    A similar celebration was held at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, officiated by Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos.

    [13] One dead, two injured in truck-train collision in Peloponnese

    One person was killed and two were injured when a train ploughed into a truck at a guarded level-crossing near the old Alfiousa station in Ileia, a prefecture in the west Peloponnese, at 2.00 p.m. on Saturday.

    The train was on its way from the coastal town of Kyparissia to Pyrgos when it collided with the truck, killing its driver. The train supervisor and another Greek Railways employee were injured and taken to Pyrgos hospital, where doctors said there injuries were not major. None of the five passengers on the train at the time of the accident were injured.

    As a result of the accident, the train was derailed and actually ploughed into the old station building, which currently houses a restaurant. Fortunately, there was no one in the restaurant at the time since the owners had left the premises shortly before the accident occurred.

    [14] President awards top students of Aegean islands

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Saturday handed out awards to more than 100 school children of the Aegean islands that graduated from their year with full marks, as well as the region's athletes and students that earned some form of distinction.

    The awards were handed out in a ceremony organized each year by the Aegean and Island Policy Secretariat of the merchant marine ministry and was attended by Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas and Merchant Marine and Island Policy Minister George Voulgarakis, as well as the deputy minister Panos Kammenos and other officials.

    [15] International documentary film festival in Thessaloniki ends

    The American documentary film "Through these eyes" by Hilary Helstein won the award given by the public for a foreign production during the 10th International Documentary Film Festival in Thessaloniki, Macedonia, over the weekend. The director had toured the world over the past 10 years, interviewing survivors of the Jewish Holocaust.

    The Greek documentary film "Birds in the swamp" by Alinda Dimitriou also won the great award given by the public, that focuses on women's participation and contribution to the resistance during the German occupation period of 1941-1944, as well as on its consequences. The award also carries a cash prize of 4,000 euros.

    The awards given by the public for films, a Greek and a foreign production, of a duration of less than 45 minutes was given to the Greek film "The Archelon Bubble" and to the British film "City of Cranes" by Eva Weber.

    Soccer

    [16] Olympiakos tops Super League standings

    Olympiakos Piraeus moved into first place in the Greek first division soccer championship (Super League) after beating Atromitos Athens 2-0 at Karaiskaki Stadium on Saturday night, displacing Panathinaikos Athens who lost to Xanthi 3-2 away, while AEK Athens remained in third place after drawing 1-1 with Aris Thessaloniki at the Athens Olympic Stadium.

    In other results of matches played over the weekend:

    Ergotelis Crete - Veria 2-0

    PAOK Thessaloniki - Asteras Tripoli 0-1

    Iraklis Thessaloniki - Panionios Athens 1-0

    Larissa - OFI Crete 5-1

    Levadiakos - Apollon Kalamaria 2-0

    Standings after 25 weeks of play:

    Olympiakos 58 points

    Panathinaikos 56

    AEK 53

    Aris 42

    Asteras 38

    Xanthi 36

    Panionios 35

    Larissa 35

    PAOK 31

    Atromitos 28

    Iraklis 27

    OFI 26

    Levadiakos 24

    Ergotelis 21

    Veria 20

    Kalamaria 19

    NOTE: Kalamaria has been penalised in a match and has had one point deducted.

    Weather Forecast

    [17] Cloud, local showers on Monday

    Cloudy weather and local showers are forecast in most parts of the country and high temperatures for this time of the year, with wind velocity reaching 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures in Athens ranging from 8C to 21C, and in Thessaloniki from 6C to 19C.

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana-mpa.gr * e-mail: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: GEORGE TAMBAKOPOULOS


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