|Sunday, 17 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 08-09-08
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 8 September 2008 Issue No: 2990
 PM at TIF: international developments need steady course, solid steps"The Global Community is going through a period of serious turbulences and strong financial turmoil. The fronts around us are many and the facts need a steady course plan, a solid basis and steps. We move towards the right direction. We have put the country timely into a secure orbit of changes and reforms, of growth and outgoing trend. The financial and social benefit is confirmed during the most difficult times. The gains for the future of the country are very significant," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said during the traditional Prime Minister's speech on government policy to the country's producer classes in Thessaloniki on Saturday.
In his address, the Greek PM said a series of international energy agreements (Greek-Turkish and Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline, the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline and now the South Stream project) put the country into the global energy map, they bring revenues and guarantee new job positions in Northern Greece.
Karamanlis noted that a reform in education has opened the roard to upgrading public universities, putting an order in a chaotic situation with free education centers, opening an International University in Thessaloniki and beginning a national dialogue on a new entry system to universities.
Meanwhile, reforms introduced in the framework of economic policy have led the country out of an excessive deficit procedure, with the smoothest possible way, and drastically enhanced the resistance of the economy. "We all realize how dramatic things would have been today if we did not dare to take specific (not pleasant, but necessary) measures," he noted.
The Prime Minister said that reforms also ranked Greece in the third position on incoming investments and secured one of the highest growth rates in the Eurozone. They also offered social results, such as: a significant increase in employment, while unemployment falling below 7.0 pct in May. Per capita GDP rose to 98 pct of the EU's average, from 92 pct in 2003, real wages grew an annual average 3.0 pct, compared with 0.3 pct in the Eurozone, pensions also rose, while families with three children were offered more financial support.
A pension reform program also ensures the viability of the system, by drastically combatting accumulated disparities, he said.
"Nothing of all these was easy. In every case we needed to combat with vested interests and conservative views. We dare to give difficult battles. Battles that offer gains to all citizens," Karamanlis said.
The international crisis
"A year ago, by highlighting the economy as a national affair, I asked for early election. Citizens gave us a new, strong mandate. I was, and still am, fully focused on our commitments. We continue, consistently, the necessary reforms. But we face a difficult international conjucture, as the world has entered an uncertain, turbulent period. A credit crisis in the United States, increasing demand and international speculative "games" led to an explosion in international oil prices, food prices and commodity prices. As a result, economic growth rates are slowing down, economic activity falls and price increases become a major social issue.
Growth rates in the Eurozone fell by half compared with a 2.8 pct reading in 2006, while the EU's largest economies (Germany, France, Italy) recorded negative growth in the last quarter. At the same time, average inflation in the Eurozone jumped to 4.0 pct, from 1.8 pct in July 2007, to a new record high. This crisis, inevitably, affected our country as well. Net payments for fuel grew by almost two billion euros in the first quarter of 2008, compared with the same period last year, import prices grew by more than 12.5 pct, the inflation rate reaches an annual 4.5 pct and economic growth slowed to 3.5 pct in the first half, from 4.0 pct originally forecast. Also, rising interest rates significantly increased the cost of servicing the country's public debt, while state spending also grew and revenues fell.
This conjucture overturned the main goals of the state budget. "We are fully aware of the difficulties. We listen to citizens and acknowledge their feelings. We must support those mostly in need and to maintain our growth dynamism. We know where we want to go, and how to get there. International developments leave us no room for hesitation or postponment," Karamanlis said.
The Prime Minister noted he has made a harsh self-criticism for any government delays, but reassured he is determined to move forward with the necessary changes.
The Greek economy has, still, serious problems from chronic weaknesses, but also has significant capabilities. "I know the road ahead is difficult. I move forward, taking any cost is necessary. I am determined to continue by intensifying reforms. This is my decision," Karamanlis vowed.
The Greek PM said the main axes of economic policy will remain unchanged: sustainable fiscal consolidation, viable growth at the peak of Eurozone, social protection net for those in need. "Our first priority is continuing a fiscal consolidation program to eliminate deficits," he said. Karamanlis said a package of measures, recently announced by the government, was aimed at ensuring that state spending was contained and fiscal transparency was promoted further.
Another priority was to find solutions both for Olympic Airlines and Hellenic Railways Organisation, two state-owned organisations that burdened taxpayers with around 2.7 million euros per day.
Our aim with Olympic Airlines is to promote a new strong and competitive airline company, under the same name and logo, but withough the debts and problems currently facing with the European Commission. Our goal is clear: transfer of personnel to other state agencies and a voluntary retirement plan, ensuring air connection with all our islands and prohibiting any private monopoly in the airline business.
We also plan the corporate transformation of Hellenic Railways, envisaging modern financial methods to manage its debt, joint ventures with the private sector to fully exploit its real estate property, austere controls in management practices and a voluntary retirement plan.
The Greek PM also said the government was working hard to achieve a more fair tax system and to combatting tax evasion. "Tax evasion is a deeply anti-social behaviour. We all must work together to combat it," Karamanlis said.
Improving growth environment
Our policy focuses on ensuring high growth rates to increase wealth, boosting social dividend and creating new jobs. We seek to attract large investments and to supporting business activity by ensuring environmental protection, he said, adding that the government has taken a series of major steps to protecting the environment, such as a National Land Register. The government was also taking measures to minimize procedures and costs of setting up new enterprises, in line with European standards. In energy policy, we are implementing a long-term plan to save energy, promoting alternative energy sources and expanding natural gas networks.
"A National Digital Strategy also contributes to saving millions of productive hours, for both public services, enterprises and citizens. Research and new technologies are supported with a new modern framework, higher funding and an ambitious project to boost broadband by developing a new optical fibre network, worth 2.5 billion euros," he said, adding that the government also focused on deregulating so-called closed professions.
The government also seeks to build a viable social state, boosting employment and continuing a battle against price increases. It is very important the fact that a gap in the inflation rate with the Eurozone's average has been cut. But the domestic market still faced chronic problems, suffering from unfair practices and an inefficient competition in certain sectors. Karamanlis said the government was in a head-to-head clash with speculative practices.
"Our policy is reducing unemployment, supporting new enterprises, investments, new job positions," Karamanlis said, noting the significance of a viable social insurance system. He stressed that the government will soon activate a National Social Cohesion Fund aimed to support those mostly in need, such as unemployed people and low pension incomes.
Re-inventing the state
The Greek PM said the most serious problem was an ineffective public sector and its chronic weaknesses: overspending, bureaucracy and corruption and noted that the government has launched a plan to continuously strengthen all internal control mechanisms.
Karamanlis also said that local authorities would be strengthened through the implementation of a "Theseas" program, the transfer of 90 pct of revenues from vehicle circulation stamp to municipalities and rescheduling of withheld funds' return, totaling 1.7 billion euros.
Greece follows a course plan aimed at exploiting its geopolitical advantages, boosting outgoint trends and improving its attractiveness. The country has a better prospect ahead of it, the PM said, noting that the country was a pole of stability and growth in Southeastern Europe, a modern energy, transit, commercial and banking hub in the wider region with updated infrastructures. The public works ministry is currently implementing an investment program, worth 18.5 billion euros -of which 40 pct in Northern Greece. Strategic agreements with global port operators for the ports of Thessaloniki and Piraeus, will change the ports' character and bring large investments, cutting transport costs and boosting public revenues.
Karamanlis stressed that he supports the relocation of the Thessaloniki International Fair facilities outside the city and to transform the current facility into a metropolitan park for the city.
He also noted that a National Reference Strategic Framework, for the period 2007-2013, envisages that 82 pct of funds would be directed to regional programs with a series of major road projects, worth more than 9.5 billion euros, promoting joint ventures between public and state enterprises, worth 5.7 billion euros and approving investment projects worth more than 10 billion euros. The Premier said the government has earmarked around one billion euros for interventions in fire-hit regions of the country, supporting farmers and investing in quality tourism.
Challences in turbulent and difficult times need solid steps of security and safety. The base of our course is the European Union and in this framework we seek special policies and financial support for our islands, policies to enhance social fraternity, a common immigration policy and a single European coast guard corp, Karamanlis said. "We support the European prospect of our neighbouring countries, by making it clear that full respect of the principles, values and prerequisities of the EU, also means their full accession. We have made it clear to our neighbouring Skopje that, in any case, primary importance was to establish good neighbouring relations. Our credibility has been tested and our position in known: A name with geographical determinant to be valid for all".
Karamanlis also noted that Greece was working towards a full normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations. "We welcome a restart of negotations in Cyprus and urge Ankara to encourage the Turk-Cypriot leadership to seek a functional, democratic and European solution for a united Cyprus without any occupation troops," the Greek PM said.
Closing his address, the Greek Prime Minister said the duration and the extend of the international financial crisis was unpredictable and stressed that the government was moving forward without any illusions. "In difficult times there is no luxury for short-term pleasant interventions, ending in catastrophe. There are no easy solutions. Our commitment is to take all necessary measures for the interest of the country and its citizens, without compromises, or fear," he said.
"I will not undermine the country's prospect for any short-term government popularity gains. Reforms are continuing to put an end to public sector's problems, to combatting weaknesses, producing more social dividend. They give a positive answer to citizens' expectations. This is our strategy. And this strategy will not be abandoned, but enhanced. It will not be postponed, but accelerated."
 PM rules out early elections, reshuffle, at TIF press conferencePrime minister Costas Karamanlis ruled out the prospect of calling early general elections or a government reshuffle, during a press conference on Sunday at the 73rd Thesaloniki International Fair (TIF), just hours after unveiling the basic guidelines of his New Democracy (ND) government's economic policy for the following year during a TIF banquet on Saturday night.
Replying to press questions about disagreement with government policy voiced by ruling party MPs, Karamanlis stressed that every MP has the right to his own opinion, but added that there was a commitment to support the government's program and, "from there onwards, everyone assumes his responsibilities".
To a relevant question, Karamanlis ruled out early general electins being called, stressing that the government had received a year ago a "strong mandate" by the Greek people, and has "much work ahead", referring to the September 2007 general elections in which ND was re-elected to government, while on a question of whether a government reshuffle could be expected, Karamanlis replied that "there is no such issue".
He further rejected recent charges by main opposition PASOK of adulteration of the (<ay 27) vote in parliament on revision of the Constitution, stressing that even (political) gaffes could not be excused by the lack of positions and proposals, and warned that PASOK's attacks against the institutions were "irresponsible and dangerous".
Karamanlis further said that next year's European Parliament elections were "significant", and had a "political content", but added that they did not elect a government and do not decisively influence the political developments.
To a question on the prospect of collaborations with other political parties in the event that a parliamentary majority did not arise in the next parliamentary elections, Karamanlis reiterated that he does not cooperate "with the extremes", nor does he see margins for other types of collaborations.
 Party reactions to PM's press conferenceMain opposition PASOK press spokesman George Papa-constantinou said Sunday that the address given by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis the previous day was "empty of content", proving that he has completely lost touch with the reality in Greece. The premier's press conference on Sunday, meanwhile, had additionally proved that he was weak, could not govern the country and that he could not give solutions to the major problems faced by the Greek citizens.
He said that Karamanlis had presented a "miserable picture", while he had provided full cover "for his ministers who are accused of abuse of power and illicit influence", and "decided that he and his government will sink together".
Papaconstantinou warned that the country, however, cannot continue sinking, stressing that a plan for taking Greece out of the economic and institutional crisis was necessary and added that only PASOK had a plan, and the volition, to bring the country out of the crisis.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) political bureau member Makis Mailis, commenting on the premier's press conference, charged that the government's policy was the only path for capital, while the working class, the people, had their own path, that of insubordination, hard struggle to avert the attack and to reverse the course of the euro-path.
Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alexis Tsipras said that the he prime minister's speech had revealed his own personal responsibility for the harsh policies being followed by the government.
"Until yesterday, many believed that the prime minister bore no responsibility for the foundering of the government. Either because he was supposedly trapped by the strategy of his associates or because he was cut off from society. Today, there is no longer any excuse," Tsipras said regarding the premier's press conference.
"It is proved that he bears complete responsibility for a heartless policy. It is proved that from the theory of zero tolerance he has now moved on to the theory of cover-ups and shared guilt," SYN's leader added, noting that the country needed a way out and would find a solution from the Left.
 PM inaugurates 73rd TIFPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis officially inaugurated the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday morning and then toured the pavilions and exhibition site after a blessing service.
Visiting the development ministry pavilion he saw a robot displayed by the Research and Technology Foundation, while at the education ministry pavilion he was shown one of the 5,000 laptops distributed to students by Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis.
At Thessaloniki municipality's pavilion, Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos handed the premier a resolution with the demands of various bodies in the city.
Karamanlis also visited a pavilion set up by the fire brigade and police, while outside that of the Thessaloniki prefecture he was met by boys and girls dressed in traditional costume dancing Pontian dances.
 PM visits ANA-MPA pavilionDuring his tour of TIF, the prime minister also stopped at the pavilion of the ANA-MPA, where the ANA-MPA General Director George Tambakopoulos showed him the agency's website on the Internet, the news programme broadcast by the agency on the Internet and a small broadcasting studio.
Karamanlis was accompanied by Minister of State Theodoros Roussopoulos, who is responsible for press issues, and the head of the prime minister's press office Giannis Andrianos.
After visiting the TIF-HELEXPO's administration and exhibition premises, the premier will address representatives of producer classes at the Vellidio Convention Centre in the evening.
 FM visits ANA-MPA pavilion at TIFForeign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Sunday visited the ANA-MPA pavilion at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), where she was briefed on Greece's first internet television station developed by the news agency and its other services.
Bakoyannis described the Athens News Agency-Macedonia Press Agency (ANA-MPA) endeavor for the development of internet TV as "very significant', while she also surfed the ANA-MPA website -- the news webpages which provide integrated information in the Greek, English, French and Russian languages, as well as the specialized web pages on the Greeks abroad, Southeast Europe and others -- noting that the national news agency was carrying out very important work.
"The government has a mandate to work hard, under difficult conditions, and to successfully deal with the country's problems. That is our job, and we must do it well," Bakoyannis said earlier, replying to press questions after the inauguration of the foreign ministry's pavilion at the TIF.
She said the foreign ministry has developed into a very productive ministry, which was also promoting economic diplomacy.
The foreign minister noted that she had recently visited Kastoria, where she discussed the prospects of the Greek fur industry with local fur producers, adding that in the past it had been inconceivable that an ambassador would pick up her or his telephone and occupy himself/herself with a Greek enterprise abroad. This was happening today, and business missions were being organized to various countries, she added.
Bakoyannis further said that Greek foreign policy had successes to boast, adding that Greece was a factor of stability in the wider region, had decisively faced the provocations by FYROM, and was at the same time working for the European prospect of the Balkan countries.
The inauguration of the foreign ministry's pavilion was attended by US ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard, the US Consul General in Thessaloniki Hoyt Bryant Yee, and Thessaoniki prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis, among other officials.
Several ministers and high-ranking government officials visited the ANA-MPA pavilion on Saturday, following a visit by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in the morning, as well as Athens journalists' union (ESHEA) president Panos Sobolos.
The Athens News Agency-Macedonia Press Agency (ANA-MPA) new services are displayed on high resolution LCD screens within the agency's pavilion.
Greece's national news agency is taking part in TIF with its own pavilion this year at the HELEXPO venue, opposite the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) tower, from where it is covering all the TIF events on a daily basis with its press and technical staff, broadcasting live on its Internet hub the most significant events of the day, such as the inauguration ceremony, the prime minister's address, and the addresses of the main opposition leader and other opposition party leaders.
It will also cover the planned events to be held in the framework of the TIF, while it will host political, economic and business officials at a studio it has set up at the TIF for interviews that will be broadcast on live webcasts.
 Several visits to ANA-MPA pavilion at TIFSeveral ministers and high-ranking government officials visited the pavilion set up by the ANA-MPA at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday, following a visit by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in the morning.
The premier had the opportunity to see new cutting edge services now offered by the ANA-MPA, like the agency's new Internet television news webcasts, which are the first in Greece.
Other visitors to the agency's pavilion included Minister of State and government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros, the head of the prime minister's political office Costas Staikouras, the head of the prime minister's office Giannis Angelou and the head of the premier's press office Giannis Andrianou.
Among ministers visiting the ANA-MPA stalls were Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis and Deputy Interior Minister Athanassios Nakos. Pavlopoulos, in particular, praised the work done by the national news agency and said the information it provided was "prompt, reliable and easy to use".
Visits to the pavilion were also carried out by New Democracy Central Committee Secretary Lefteris Zagoritis, the head of the Attica municipalities and communities union TEDKNA Dimitris Kalogeropoulos, Hellenic PostBank chairman Angelos Philippidis, Thessaloniki MP George Orfanos and the head of the Athens journalists' union ESHEA Panos Sobolos.
The Athens News Agency-Macedonia Press Agency (ANA-MPA) new services are displayed on high resolution LCD screens within the agency's pavilion at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Trade Fair (TIF).
Greece's national news agency is taking part in TIF with its own pavilion this year at the HELEXPO venue, opposite the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) tower, from where it will cover all the TIF events on a daily basis with its press and technical staff, broadcasting live on its Internet hub the most significant events of the day, such as the inauguration ceremony, the prime minister's address, and the addresses of the main opposition leader and other opposition party leaders.
It will also cover the planned events to be held in the framework of the TIF, while it will host political, economic and business officials at a studio it has set up at the TIF for interviews that will be broadcast live on the Internet.
 PM sees no FYROM intent for name solutionPrime minister Costas Karamanlis said on Sunday that he saw no disposition on the part of Skopje for finding a FYROM name solution soon, replying to questions during a press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
He reiterated Athens' "absolutely clear" position of an international name for the northern neighbor that would contain a geographical determinant and would be in effect for everyone.
"The attitude and statements by the Skopje government, in this phase, do not make me optimistic. I see no move in positions, nor even the desire for a mutually acceptable name to be found," Karamanlis said in reply to press questions.
Karamanlis stressed, however, that Greece supports the European prospect of the Balkan countries, including FYROM "provided that the (name) issue is resolved in the manner I said earlier", and added that the Athens government has a "clear, strong and specific position", from which it will not back down.
To another question on whether Athens planned to recognise Kosovo as an independent state, Karamanlis replied that "we are weighing all the facts", adding that "at the present time, there is no reason to change our policy on this matter".
Karamanlis further said that Greece would be taking more initiatives for further improvement of its relations and cooperation with the Arab countries.
 PM: Greece's position in line with EU on Caucasus crisisGreece's position on the recent crisis in the Caucasus will be in line with that of the European Union, prime minister Costas Karamanlis clarified on Sunday, duriing a press conference at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Replying to a question by ANA-MPA, Karamanlis warned that energy issues should not be confused with the violence that took place in South Ossetia.
"Greek policy, at all levles, is a policy of consistency, based on our specific principles, but also on our commitments in alliances and partnerships, such as the EU," Karamanlis said, asked to comment on statements by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Mat Bryza regarding Athens' energy choices and the South Stream natural gas pipeline at a time when NATO and the EU were condemning the Russian intervention in S. Ossetia.
Asked if Greece will revise or 'freeze' some of its plans in the energy sector, in the aftermath of the Bryza statement, Karamanlis responded: "There are two different things. One is the government's responsible policy of dealing with the country's energy issue, for the present and the future, and we have done this with consistency, prudence and with relative success: with the Greek-Turkish pipeline and its extension, with our cooperation with other countries of the Mediterranean, such as Egypt, and also with the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, and more recently with the South Stream pipeline. Besides, very many European countries have such cooperations, and it is only natural that this is so".
Second, he stressed, "there should be no confusion with the crisis that occured, to the regret and worry of all, in the Caucasus area recently".
"On that, too, our position is crystal clear," Karamanlis said, adding that it is a "position of principles", since a fundamental principle of Greek foreign policy is that it does not recognize the solution of international disputes with violence, and places respect of territorial integrity as a matter of principle.
The premier stressed that of course Greece's position and policy will remain aligned with that of the EU, and particularly at this stage, in which France was presiding over the EU, in full cooperation with France, which he said had been made quite clear last Monday during the extraordinary EU Summit meeting.
 Interior minister inaugurates police pavilion at TIFInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Saturday inaugurated the Greek Police (ELAS) pavilion at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), stressing its role in dealing with the new challenges faced by law enforcement against the new forms of organised crime of the 21st century.
"The level of democracy is constantly changing. The role of ELAS is also changing. It has a different mission. It is the police of Democracy and the citizen. It stands beside the citizen, is the servant of the citizen. It is on this basis that the government has begun to organise ELAS and to provide its staff what they need in order to make progress," he said.
Among steps taken by the government he referred to a five-year plan to reorganise and reinforce police infrastructure and the recent recruitment drive for special guards that he expected would help fill existing staff shortages.
The inauguration ceremony was also attended by Deputy Interior Minister in charge of public order issues Panagiotis Hinofotis and top echelons of the Greek Police in Thessaloniki.
The pavilion, which was set up as part of the interior ministry pavilion for the first time, was later visited by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.
 Interior minister inaugurates fire brigade pavilion at TIFInterior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Saturday inaugurated the pavilion of the Fire Brigade, which formed part of the interior ministry's pavilion at this year's 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair.
 Papandreou: No to collaboration with NDMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou rejected press speculation of collaboration with the ruling New Democracy (ND) party in the event that the next general elections fail to produce a majority government, in a newspaper interview appearing on Sunday.
In an interview with the Sunday edition of Eleftheros Typos daily, Papandreou denied the rumors of a prospective governmental collaboration with ND, and reiterated his position endorsing a Center-Left collaboration.
He said it was PASOK which would be called on again to save the Greek economy from collapse, with a new plan for economic growth that would set different priorities, and launched a scathing attack on the government, warning that ND's political time "has run out".
PASOK, he said, was "looking ahead, not backwards".
"We want the Greek citizen to feel the security and certainty he deserves for his future. This means a social state that guarantees services in education, health and welfare deserving of a modern European country. A state that opens up opportunities and prospects, that participates, decentralized, in development, at the side of the citizen, always with transparency and social accountability,' Papandreou said.
He said that, without transparency and accountability, the "state today is a source of wasteful spending and corruption", adding that the state requires "a taxation system that distributes the tax burden fairly and enhances redistribution", and "a competitive economy that produces wealth, investing in our comparative advantages such as the environment and our history, but also creating new means through investment in education".
"Above all, we need to restore self-confidence and optimism" to the people, Papandreou continued.
Asked whether his assessment that the Karamanlis government's political time has expired was a "heavy word", Papandreou noted that just one year ago ND had achieved a "stillbirth' victory, and had failed to comprehend that the Greek people gave it a marginal majority, «and that's why it did not change anything in its policy towards the better but, conversely brazenly continued the same failed recipe".
"Today, the impasses for the country as a whole but also for the average family are insurmountable. The citizens no longer hope in anything from an ND government. When you reach that point, it means that the ND government's political time has expired," he explained.
Asked whether he considered possible the appearance of a new political party in the political arena, Papandreou noted that he, too, was following the relevant rumors and workings with interest, but stressed that a political party has substance, dynamic and a future when it responds to the real needs of society, when it expresses real trends seeking their representation. If such a party arises, then it is welcome, the PASOK leader said, otherwise, if it was a "concoction from above" that simply attempts to take advantage of the circumstances in order to serve the plans of the establishment, then the venture would soon prove to be "stillborn".
He further charged that there were "interests" which were systematically working to undermine PASOK and its potential, and "economic forces and non-institutional conservative political centers that don't want a socially just PASOK in power, that don't want anyone with principles and who was fighting for those principles to be in power'.
To another question on the prospect of governmental cooperation with ND, Papandreou said that "we cannot change the country's course by collaborating with those who are responsible for its present course"."
"It is impossible for us to collaborate with a party that represents the most aggressive neo-conservative forces, that exercises extreme policies in order to serve the big oligarchic interests, that produces and covers up scandals, that considers the state its spoils, that even adulterates the parliamentary procedures, and which never wanted to work with us to combat those phenomena," he added.
On the prospect of a PASOK collaboration with the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary alliance, Papandreou said PASOK's position was clear and simple, that it issued a proposal for cooperation to the other forces of the Center-Left, the form of which could be set out through a dialogue and could be a general cooperation or a cooperation on specific issues on which they shared views.
"We believe that collaboration gives strength to ideas, ensures consensus, mobilizes forces. We believe that unity brings a better result. We do not fear collaboration on specific issues, even if we disagree on others. There can be only benefit to society from such a collaboration. Whoever doesn't comprehend this must assume their responsibilities. The irony is that their refusal to participate in an alternative plan of governance of the country pushes the citizens to the 'two-party system' which they are supposedly fighting against. Because the majority of the people don't want to simply express an abstract protest. They want solutions to their problems. Solutions that will arise from a government that will work on the basis of a specific program," Papandreou said.
 Bakoyannis reports support for Sarkozy over CaucasusAVIGNON (ANA-MPA - N. Megadoukas)
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Saturday reported general support among European Union countries for the initiatives undertaken by French President Nicolas Sarkozy with respect to the crisis in the Caucausus. She was speaking after attending the informal EU foreign ministers' meeting (gymnich) held in Avignon, France.
"Alot of ideas were put on the table. The essence, however, is just this: that we all support President Sarkozy and the next meeting that he will have in Moscow. We have the decisions that were taken by the European Council, which say that six points of the Sarkozy proposals which both sides have committed themselves to must be carried out and implemented," she said.
Clarifying her statements further, she stressed that this meant the withdrawal of both Georgian and Russian forces, a return to the previous situation, and from then on the start of in-depth talks between the two sides at an international conference.
"We hope that the meeting that President Sarkozy will have on Monday will be substantive," she added.
Replying to questions regarding the prevailing attitudes toward relations between the European Union and the United States, Bakoyannis said these should remain good:
"It is a shared view that what we need most is more Europe but with extremely good relations with the U.S. In other words, that more Europe does not detract from the U.S but instead strengthens relations on both sides," she said.
Questioned about the presence of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki at the meeting as a guest, Bakoyannis said that she had greeted him but that they had not spoken.
 Cyprus FM Kyprianou speaks to the ANA-MPANICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A.Viketos)
Cyprus Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said on Sunday that differences between the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot sides would be bridged and direct talks for finding a solution to the protracted Cyprus problem that began on September 3 would end in success only if the Turlish Cypriot side showed good will and readiness for "an honourable negotiation to the benefit of the people of Cyprus and not of third countries."
Speaking in an exclusive interview with ANA-MPA, Kyprianou, who is expected in Athens for talks on Tuesday, made clear that the Greek Cypriot side has exhausted all margins for compromise and could not accept a solution of "two states" through a 'virgin birth' process.
The reference to "two constitutent states, which is sometimes distorted by the other side, does not constitute a starting point but the conclusion of the process" in the sense that "the federal solution will be a partnership between the two communities and will be formed by two local governments and not states, as is the case in all federations," Kyprianou added.
The Greek Cypriot side's objective for a "Cypriot solution" does not ignore the fact that Turkey, as the country which occupies the northern part of Cyprus, "holds the key to the solution in its hands," Kyprianou also said.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Mehmet Ali Talat began on Wednesday, September 3, direct negotiations with a view to reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion. The two leaders will meet again this week.
 Greek envoy in Nicosia on Cyprus issueNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A.Viketos)
Greek Ambassador to Cyprus Dimitrios Rallis said on Sunday that Greece was following developments in the Cyprus issue "actively and with special attention" and that it spared no effort in order to "contribute, in close and steadfast cooperation with the Cyprus government, in the best possible political and diplomatic way on an international level, towards the success of the new negotiation process."
Speaking in an interview with the Cyprus newspaper 'Simerini', Rallis also commented on Ankara's demands for Turkish guarantees and intervention rights to be included in an agreed solution to the Cyprus problem, reminding that Greece is also a guarantor power in Cyprus and added: "In the modern European environment, however, in which the Cyprus Republic participates on an equal basis, guarantee patterns which belong to the past and rights of intervention are outdated, leading to impasses and not to stability."
The Greek envoy also said that the "objective is, according to the 1977 and 1979 high level agreements, for the Cyprus Republic to evolve into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with a single sovereignty, single citizenship, single personality with political equality, as this has been defined by the UN Security Council. Greece provides full support to (Cyprus) President (Demetris) Christofias' handlings."
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat last Wednesday began direct negotiations with a view to reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
 PM: Economic policy will focus on safeguarding gains, successesThe government's economic policy will focus on safeguarding Greece's gains and successes, such as the drastic reduction of the fiscal deficit from 7.5 percent to 2.5 percent and unemployment from 11 percent to approximately 7 percent, prime minister Costas Karamanlis stressed on Sunday, during his press conference at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Asked whether the government would succeed in reducing the deficit to below 3 percentage points of GDP this year and if it could rule out the country being placed under new economic supervision by the EU, Karamanlis stressed that first of all, the significant successes need to be ensured. This, he continued, meant that the fiscal balance achieved needs to be ensured, and the folowing steps, but with great care so as not to harm the financially weak brackets, salary and pension earners, adding that Greece had faced and was facing new circunstances that had to do with the international crisis.
The goal, he noted, was a further reduction of the deficit, gradually, "year by year", adding that the government will not back down on its commitments for introducting a Minimum National Salary, while he also announced that in the next fes weeks the government's economic staff would be ready to introduce legislation for the relief of Greek borrowers following the international credit crisis.
Karamanlis said it was "very important" that the level of the real economy, the growth rates, had remained above 4 percent for four years. "The fact that even today, at least up to the second quarter of 2008, we have a growth that approaches 3.5 percent while other countries, such as France and Germany, have negative growth, proves the truth of this," he added.
To a question on the Minimum National Pension, Karamanlis noted that amidst difficult fiscal conditions, the government had fulfilled all its commitments, such as increasing the farmers' pensions, the EKAS low pension benefit and the unemployment benefit, while social remittances had exceeded 17 percentage points of GDO last year, compared with 15.5 percent in 2005.
He said the government has not backed down one iota on the Minimum National Pension, explaining that "we had said that it would be established after the passing and commencement of implementation of the new social security regime". Now, he continued, the government was in the stage of efforts so that the social remittances will be as targeted as possible, adding that this would become visible with the full activation of the Social Cohesion Fund, on which he has placed get priority for the immediate future.
Questioned on the Public Power Corporation (PPC) rates and a prospective restructuring of the utility, Karamanlis clarified that the intervention plan has alrady been announced and that there is no doubt that internal restructuring and modernization needs to begin. He pointed out that the PPC had the lowest rates in Europe-wide, and possibly the lowest rate in the eurozone, adding that any increases made did not concern small households.
Asked to comment on the loss of job positions, in conjuncture with the profits of the large enterprises, Karamanlis noted that the government was not affecting the interests of the working people, but was trying in every way to transform the Greek economy into a robust, growing economy that generates income and new jobs.
"I'm not saying that we've attained the goal, because so long as even a single unemployed person remains, it means that we have not reached full success. On the other hand, though, the results of this policy are tangible and positive, and indicate that we are heading in the right direction," the prime minister stressed.
Greece shows greater resistance to international credit crisis, FinMin says
The Greek economy's resistance to an international financial crisis is much better compared with other European countries, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters, during his visit to the Economy ministry's pavillion in the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair, Alogoskoufis expressed his confidence that an international crisis was affecting Greece more lightly on growth and employment, but not on the inflation rate. The Greek minister reiterated the government's determination to complete its reform program.
Govt is working hard to achieve price stability, Development minister says
The Greek government will work hard to combat price increases in the domestic market, Development Minister Christos Folias said on Saturday. Speaking to reporters, during the inauguration of the ministry's pavillion in the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair, Folias said most of the 41 measures announced by the government to combat price increases, have already been introduced, while the ministry has strengthened the regulatory framework of market controls. The Greek minister stressed that 2008 was a year of significant steps made towards deregulating the domestic energy market and promoting three energy deals of major significance for the country and the region, such as a bilateral agreement between Greece and Russia to build a natural gas pipeline, the operation of a Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline and the construction of an oil pipeline between Burgas and Alexandroupoli.
"We want our energy initiatiaves to have friends everywhere and to be evaluated as a positive contribution to region cooperation and stability," Folias said.
Commenting on Public Power Corporation, Folias reiterated that the Greek state will hold 51 pct of the enterprise. PPC's chairman and chief executive, Takis Athanasopoulos, said an internal reorganisation plan of the enterprise aims to significantly cut spending and vowed that no one will lose his job. Athanasopoulos said PPC will soon announce two significant projects in Albania.
 Development minister addresses merchants' event at TIFThe government will not allow the deficit to exceed 3 percentage points of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), development minister Christos Folias stressed on Sunday in Thessaloniki, addressing an event organized by the Federation of Professional Merchants of Thessaloniki Prefecture, on the sidelines of the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
He said that "that which we have achieved together, with sweat and hard work, and which rendered us the most consistent and efficient in the EU, we are not inclined to let them be blown away," Folias said, referring to the new tax regulations.
He said that the daily burden that will result for merchants and professionals "corresponds to the value of a packet of cigarettes or a cup of coffee", and wondered whether "this cost is indeed unbearable".
"The measures are not forever. In no country in the world are the tax measures imposed by the governments pleasant. In times of extraordinary needs, extraordinary measures are implemented," Folias said.
In questions from the floor, the merchants expressed opposition to the new tax regulations, and called for solution of the problems concerning social security, fuel commerce and distribution, and other matters.
The Federation's president Yannis Mandrinos said that the recent economic measures announced by the government generalized the abolition of the tax-free ceiling, and asked that they be imposed on "those who are really evading taxes".
 Development minister inaugurates 4th Business Forum at TIFDevelopment Minister Christos Folias opened the 4th Business Forum that is taking place as part of the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sunday night, underlining Greece's new role as a link in major international energy networks through international and bilateral agreements.
"We are securing for Greece a key position in the Global Energy Map with initiatives like the international agreement for the South Stream pipeline, the operation of a Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline and its extension to Italy, and the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline," he said.
He also referred to planning for the distribution of natural gas within Greece, the development ministry's strategies for energy conservation, including the incorporation of an EU directive into Greek law and energy conservation programmes already implemented by local government that had led to a 30 percent energy saving in buildings and outdoor areas.
The main work of the forum is scheduled to begin on Monday and will be completed on Tuesday with the award of prizes for HELEXPO's "Ecological Business Innovation" competition.
 EETT head sees wave of mergers, closures in telecoms marketThe head of Greece's Telecommunications and Post sectors' watchdog on Saturday predicted a wave of merger and closures in the Greek telecoms market, which cannot afford such a large number of enterprises-alternative telecom services providers, under their current form.
Nikitas Alexandridis, president of the National Commission for Telecommunications and Posts (EETT), speaking to reporters in Thessaloniki, said international experience showed that a small country, like Greece, with a limited market, cannot afford a large number of such providers. Some will not survive competition while others should merge with larger players and others to change their operating model. Alexandridis said Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation was not a funding firm and that the organisation should seek payment of around 76 million euros of smaller providers' debt to the organisation.
He said that electronic communications providers' investments in Greece totaled 1.29 billion euros last year, from 804.6 million in 2006, of which 295 million were made by OTE and the remaining 999.1 million by other providers. Alexandridis said broadband lines were up 23 pct at the end of June 2008, compared with the same month last year and more than 10-times more compared with August 2005.
He said that the Commission's regulatory strategy will focus on encouraging competition in services, full development of competition in infrastructure, improving availability and supporting infrastructure in wireless networks, ensuring availability of innovative services to consumers and maintaining high quality standards on services, networks and information.
 European Commissioner Hubner ends visit to Central GreeceEuropean Commissioner for regional policy Danuta Hubner concluded her visit to Central Greece late on Sunday, promising continued EU funding support for projects that would make the region more competitive and innovative.
During her visit, Hubner visited the new landfill site under construction at Thiva and works to restore a monastery at Orhomenos that was severely damaged in a fire. She also visited the Lake Copais facilities that have been refurbished and today house a second-chance school and life-long learning classes.
 Tourism minister announces planned Greek-Cypriot committeeTourism Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos announced plans for a mixed Greek-Cypriot committee to examine areas of possible cooperation in the tourism sector, such as marine tourism, golf, marinas and other activities, following a meeting on Saturday with Cypriot Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Andonis Pachalides in Thessaloniki.
The meeting was held on the sidelines of the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), where the minister had earlier visited the pavilion of the Greek National Tourism Organisation accompanied by a group of cyclists seeking to promote 'green' tourism.
 Reforms for IKA the next challenge, employment minister saysReforming and modernising the Social Insurances Foundation (IKA), Greece's largest social insurance and pension fund, was the next big challenge for the employment and social insurance ministry after the completion of pension system reform, Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia said while inaugurating her ministry's pavilion at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday.
She confirmed that the National Strategy Report for Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2008-2010 will be submitted to the European Commission by the end of September, emphasising especially a new programme run by the ministry via the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) for allowing people to acquire work experience and social insurance rights.
 Government promises jobs for BIAMYL workersEmployment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia and other state officials on Saturday gave assurances that all workers made redundant by the BIAMYL sugar and starch mills would be found new jobs.
In statements at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), Palli-Petralia stressed that "not even one of the workers of BIAMYL will remain jobless" and said that the ministry had contacted the large companies in Thessaloniki to absorb the redundant factory workers.
"Already, for nearly all of them, there is a possibility of employment as of next week," she said.
Regarding the Siemens factory in the area, which was also heading toward closure, the minister said the government was "looking into this".
Similar statements were made by the head of the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) George Bernadakis when he visited the ANA-MPA pavilion, who said that new jobs would be found by next week for all those working at the BIAMYL plant due to close at the end of September.
 Greek railway drivers strike on MondayThe association of train drivers working for the Greek Railways Organisation (OSE) has announced a three-hour work stoppage on Monday between 16:00 and 19:00 in the evening, in order to attend the funeral of a train driver killed in Halki on Saturday, when his train crashed with a truck that illegally entered an unguarded level crossing.
The public has been advised to call the phone line 1110 in order to find out about possible changes to train timetables for OSE and the Athens suburban railway Proastiakos.
 BA airplane lands safely in Thessaloniki after malfunction alertA British Airways (BA) airplane carrying 95 passengers landed safely at Thessaloniki's Macedonia Airport on Sunday afternoon after a malfunction in its landing system.
Macedonia Airport was placed on alart just after 2:30 p.m. when the Control Tower was informed by the pilot of the BA Boeing 737, which was flying from London to Thessaloniki with 95 passengers and a five-member crew aboard, that its landing system suffered a malfunction as the plane was in the process of descent.
Airport mergency crews and equipment, as well as Fire Brigade unites, were immediately moblized, to intervene in the event that the Boeing needed to attempt a forced landing.
The airplane was successful in landing without problems, and the alert ended, Macedonia Airport chief Savvas Vassilidaids told ANA-MPA, and attributed the pilot's emergency call to a faulty indication on the cockpit's instrument panel, given that the plane's landing gear kicked into operation without a hitch.
 Police looking into death of former diplomat's daughterThe death under mysterious circumstances of a 37-year-old woman, the daughter of a former Japanese diplomat now living permanently in Greece and a Greek woman, is currently being investigated by police on the island of Evia as a possible case of homicide.
Police originally became involved on Thursday, when the woman was reported missing by her husband after he had repeatedly tried and failed to contact her. The woman had apparently taken their three-year-old daughter in order to visit her parents' villa at Amaranthos on Evia.
A search was ordered but the case immediately took a different turn when the Greek mother of the missing woman appeared at Kymi Hospital on Friday morning and asked for a death certificate for her daughter, saying that she had died accidentally as a result of a fall down the stairs. Doctors alerted police, who went to investigate.
Shortly before 8:00 on Friday evening, police visited the villa where the woman's parents lived but faced an unexpected obstacle because the house was overrun by some 14 dogs. The dogs were knocked out using anaesthetic spray, after which the police found the body of the missing women in one of the toilets of the villa, completely rigid and wrapped in a sheet.
Officers investigating the case became concerned, however, when they were unable to find any sign of obvious injury on the woman's body with the exception of a cut on her left wrist that had not caused any bleeding, leading them to think that it was inflicted after death had set in.
They are now awaiting the results of a full autopsy and the report on the cause of death by the coroner, who was due to arrive in Amaranthos from Athens. In the meantime, the woman's 67-year-old mother is being held in custody until the facts of the case have been cleared up.
 Parliament president at events honoring war hero on CreteParliament President Dimitris Sioufas on Sunday attended events organised at the city of Iraklio on the island of Crete in honour of war hero Captain Georgios Petrakogiorgis, a member of the Greek resistance during the Nazi occupation of WWII.
At the two-day events, which included the unveiling of a bust of Petrakogiorgis, the government was represented by Deputy Defence Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis.
 Forest fire reported in FlorinaA forest fire in the region known as Antartiko in the prefecture of Florina has been burning since 14:00 on Sunday, the fire brigade said.
Four fire engines and the commander of the Florina fire brigade are on the scene to fight the blaze, which is burning in an inaccessible area and appears to be spreading from an oak forest to a nearby pine forest.
 Hot on MondayHigh temperatures are forecast in most parts of the country on Monday, with wind velocity between 3-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 17C and 38C. Fair in Athens, with 4-6 Beaufort north northeasterly winds and temperatures ranging from 22C to 36C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 20C to 34C.
 The Sunday edition of Athens' dailies at a glancePrime minister Costas Karamanlis' traditional address at the 73d Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) unveiling the guidelines of economic policy for the following year dominated the front pages in Athens' newspapers on Sunday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Karamanlis prepared for everything - He is decisively carrying on with the reforms and is optimistic about the future".
APOGEVMATINI: "Karamanlis' 7 targets - Fully structured economic, social and foreign policy presented yesterday (Saturday) by prime minister in his TIF address".
AVGHI: "Karamanlis at TIF with basket (of measures) full of holes".
AVRIANI: "Clear-cut message from Karamanlis on the economy, growth and reforms - I will not mortgage the country's prospects on the altar of temporary popularity for the government".
CHORA: "Karamanlis clarifies everything - Clear-cut words today by the prime minister on the murky landscape (iat his scheduled press conference at the TIF on Sunday)".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Six in 10 citizens now demand government reshuffle - Displeasure with the government - ND lead over main opposition PASOK now stands at 2 percentage points - Clear decline in SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left parliamentary alliance) popularity".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Scandals, provocative attitudes, tax raids hurting Karamanlis' popularity".
ETHNOS: "Karamanlis obliged to carry out clean-up in ND - Shocking statement by Yannis Kefaloyannis against George Voulgarakis (merchant marine minister) and others".
KATHIMERINI: "Karamanlis facing critical dilemmas with his ministers' faux pas".
LOGOS: "Persistence on the reforms, despite the political cost - Karamanlis' 'account' on the economy".
NIKI: "Karamanlis faces fire, trapped by the scandals and the unfeeling policy".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Disengagement from the policy of the plutocracy the only way out for workers, poor farmers, self-employed".
TO VIMA: "Elections scenaria - What Karamanlis will decided - Government seeking 'package of dates' ".
VRADYNI: "Karamanlis counter-attack - Significant iniatives to change the morose climate".
 Garoyian:Turkish positions aiming at reaching a two-state settlementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus House President Marios Garoyian has expressed the need for a stable and determinative management of direct talks aiming to reach a Cyprus settlement and for a stable and firm stance towards Turkish policies.
Garoyian said that the Cyprus question is in a new, particularly critical phase during this period and that "with the beginning of direct negotiations between Cyprus President and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat the time of truth has come."
He said that "it has to be ascertained whether Turkey has the will for a Cyprus settlement on the basis of international law principles, the UN principles and decisions, the EU principles and values and the international law rules."
Unfortunately, Garoyian said, "direct talks begin during a period during which the Turkish side is intensifying its intransigence and hardening its stance."
He noted that during the last period the Turkish side has intensified its intransigent positions and "it is obvious that the goal of Turkey is to achieve a settlement of two states."
Garoyian said that the President of the Republic "proceeded to the first meeting of direct negotiations with a clear political will for a settlement of the Cyprus question, on the basis of UN principles and resolutions, the high level agreements and the EU principles and values."
Garoyian said that President Christofias "has submitted clearly positions in the framework of the principles for a settlement of the Cyprus question deriving from the decisions and the relevant resolutions of the UN, while his good will to work for the success of the direct negotiations was also made clear."
"Unfortunately the Turkish Cypriot leader has not shown the respective political good will," he said, adding that "his opening statement fully confirms the negative and intransigence stance of the Turkish side."
"Despite all efforts to appear as conciliatory and positive, Talat submitted to the negotiating table the well known Turkish positions, aiming at reaching a settlement of two states," he added.
He said that "obviously Ankara does not have the will to solve the Cyprus question" adding that the Turkish Cypriot leader "spoke overtly for a partnership of the two constituent states and for Turkish guarantees, while he "meticulously avoided to refer to the form of the pursued settlement, as defined by the UN resolutions and did not make any reference to the bizonal- bicommunal federation."
"It is obvious that the Turkish side is trying with the beginning of the negotiations to undermine and falsify the basis on the negotiations and the framework of a Cyprus settlement," Garoyian said, adding that "such positions and manoeuvres do not certainly allow any optimism for the future of the direct negotiations."
He called on the UN to exert their pressure on Ankara so that it turns back to the basis and the framework of the negotiations and the basis of a Cyprus settlement, as defined by the resolutions of the international organization and the high level agreements of 1977 and 1979.
"If Turkey does not change its position and goals and continues to dictate and impose its policy on the Turkish Cypriot community, direct talks will reach a deadlock," Garoyian concluded.
President Christofias and Talat began on Wednesday direct negotiations with a view to reunite the country, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion.
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