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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-02-23

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Monday, 23 February 2009 Issue No: 3129


  • [01] PM: No thought of early ballots, end of speculation
  • [02] ONNED central committee meeting
  • [03] Papandreou: Five priority nat'l targets
  • [04] Papandreou warning to banks
  • [05] Papariga re-elected to KKE helm
  • [06] Leftist party secretary on Euroelections
  • [07] LAOS leader in Pyrgos
  • [08] Anniversary of Ioannina liberation
  • [09] Design exhibition opens
  • [10] Foreign Exchange rates - Monday
  • [11] Convict Paleokostas repeats helicopter escape
  • [12] Greek ship attacked by pirates of Somali coast
  • [13] Latest manifestation of urban terror gang takes responsibility for TV station shootings
  • [14] Brief disruptions in traffic on Rio-Antirrio bridge this week for maintenance work
  • [15] Illegals located aboard 4 Turkish trucks
  • [16] Turkish MP, author presents novel in Thessaloniki
  • [17] Ergotelis downs Olympiakos
  • [18] Snow, rain on Monday
  • [19] Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glance
  • [20] Cyprus President: No application for PfP membership
  • [21] Christofias in Serbia for official visit
  • [22] Christofias: Aim for reunification unwavering, irreplaceable

  • [01] PM: No thought of early ballots, end of speculation

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Sunday went out of his way to dampen ongoing early election speculation, during an address to members of his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's affiliated youth group, ONNED.

    "They (elections) are of no concern to us. I am not thinking of elections; this is the end of such talk," the prime minister stressed.

    Karamanlis also blasted main opposition PASOK, describing election-mongering as "incited by the main opposition party's irresponsible scenarios," while he called on PASOK to clarify its position regarding the election of a new President of the Republic, due in May 2010.

    "We have clarified our stance on this issue; we will not toy with the top institutions such as that of President of the Republic," Karamanlis said, adding that "everything else is blatant irresponsibility that compromises its protagonists".

    The premier also stressed the need to confront the impact of the global economic crisis.

    "What comes first right now is to face the crisis and to limit its inevitable consequences. This is our concern. Everything else is not our concern, but the anxiety of other parties, and it is harmful to the country," he said, stressing that he will not "play games" with the country's future nor will he back down for the sake of temporary expediencies.

    Turning to the state debt, which he said his government inherited from previous PASOK governments, Karamanlis noted that it was very high.

    In its five years in power, his government has accomplished substantial work, and dared to face comparison, Karamanlis continued, asking what would have happened today, given the crisis, if the country had the unemployment rates of 2004 (when his government took office from PASOK).

    The premier warned that challenges are not met or overcome with words and rationales of the past, charging that the stance displayed by opposition parties during the recent closure of the country's highways (by protesting farmers) and the violent incidents before "harm the economy", while those who are vying against each other in the "race of promises" also doing damage to the country, adding that he was determined to "carry on and to overcome the crisis".

    Karamanlis devoted a substantial part of his address to the economic crisis, which he said no one could predict its size and extent, but stressed that Greece was in a much better condition than the other euro-zone countries, "given that, at a time when the powerful giants are collapsing and layoffs in Europe are turning into an avalanche, forecasts for Greece are that it will have a positive growth rate, a lower deficit and low unemployment in comparison with the euro-zone (averages)".

    "However, we do not have margin for flexibility due to the immense debt, which is an open wound for the economy," Karamanlis warned, stressing that his decision is to "speak the truth to the Greek people".

    The premier further stressed that there were "no easy solutions" and that a "perpetual balance among the developmental fiscal and social targets" was necessary. "It is our decision to put emphasis on the needs of today, but without undermining the tolerance of the economy," he said, noting that the three focal points of the government's policy for facing the crisis were growth, fiscal streamlining and fortification of the financially weaker strata.

    He also noted the government's 28 billion euros bank liquidity package, a programme that he said was being undermined by the opposition and, referring in particular to PASOK, asked point-blank: "Does it agree or not with the reduction of interest rates? Does it agree or not with credit expansion for business and housing loans and, if it does, why did it not back the programme?"

    Karamanlis also invited youth to contribute to the ongoing dialogue on reforming the university entrance system.

    [02] ONNED central committee meeting

    The ruling New Democracy (ND) party youth organization's (ONNED) central committee convened on Sunday, with ONNED president George Papanicolaou focusing on the global financial crisis, noting that the government has set out growth, fiscal adjustment, assistance to those needing and cooperation among all the political forces of the country as the fundamental elements for bringing the country out of the crisis.

    ONNED, he continued, did not believe that the exit from the crisis could be found in the "tried and failed recipe of socialism and strong state interventionism, nor in the extremes of anarchy and uncontrolled operation of the market".

    "We deeply believe that the solution can be given by our ideas, which are encapsulated in the meaning of social liberalism, which on the one hand allows the citizens freedom to act and crate, while on the other sets out a distinct legal framework of rules to be abided by all, and an index of protection and social solidarity for the weaker members of our society," he said.

    Papanicolaou stressed that the optimum way to overcome the crisis was investment in the future and the young generation, but added that a condition for that was ensuring the present.

    ND central committee secretary Lefteris Zagoritis charged that it was only to be expected that main opposition PASOK was preserving the election talk, since it did not have a proposal or a plan of its own, and had nothing to say in this difficult conjuncture, replying to press questions after the prime minister's opening address to the ONNED conference.

    Zagoritis, echoing the prime minister, stressed that early general elections would not be called.

    What occupied the government and all the Greeks at this time was facing the immense issue of the financial crisis, shielding the country and fortifying the financially weaker strata.

    Zagoritis further noted that Greece was among the five euro-zone member countries with a positive growth outlook, while its deficits and unemployment rate were below the EU average.

    [03] Papandreou: Five priority nat'l targets

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Sunday noted that the "time has come for the people to speak and change the country's course", speaking at an open gathering of supporters, where he outlined his party's five "national targets" for the 21st century.

    Papandreou said that times were critical and as such he was personally assuming responsibility for bringing the country out of the crisis, expressing optimism that a way out of the crisis existed.

    There were times in the career of every politician, "the big moments when the politician finds himself face-to-face with history ... when he must meet the major targets and the coming generations," Papandreou said, adding that, for him, "that moment is now".

    He added that he has set a high standard, because the country's needs today are very great.

    The five national targets set out by Papandreou are foreign policy, so that Greece "will have a voice everywhere", "green" growth, education and culture, the welfare state, and a productive and well-governed state.

    Papandreou said an exit from the present crisis was feasible only if those five national targets are also advanced as well.

    He expressed his full confidence in Greek citizens that they could succeed in this, while stressing that he, himself, needed the confidence of the citizens, which he wanted to win daily.

    Papandreou said the banking system could act as a lever of development and function with crystal-clear rules and regulations for private banks, "regulations that will not privatise the profits while nationalising the losses".

    He further endorsed the nationalisation of banks "where necessary", adding that "we will not allow the credit crisis to be paid by the ordinary citizen".

    The country, he added, cannot exit the crisis simply through a restrictive fiscal policy.

    PASOK, Papandreou continued, will govern with transparency as its primary and inviolable rule.

    Touching on the all-important question of where the money will be found to fund PASOK's plan, Papandreou said funding will be raised from a reduction in tax-exemptions given by the ruling New Democracy government to its 'select' friends, as he charged, as well as from cutbacks in non-productive expenditures; a redistribution of expenditures, aimed at boosting public investments, and from better exploitation of the state's large real estate holdings, as well as through the funds of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF).

    Gov't reaction

    "PASOK's president is an incorrigible earner of the past, which he served without protest as a minister," government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said in reaction to Papandreou's statements.

    "Today, we discovered his real intentions: He wants to turn Greece back, to the era of unchecked deficits, ones caused by the governments of which he was a top member," the spokesman added.

    [04] Papandreou warning to banks

    Meanwhile, on Saturday, Papandreou was quoted as warning Greek banks that they could face nationalisation if they act irresponsibly.

    In comments reprinted in an Athens daily, Papandreou, the former foreign minister, states that "we (PASOK) won't hesitate to proceed with nationalisations if necessary ... the banks can no longer be free to take their decisions".

    The PASOK leader charged that amid a period of economic crisis banks want Greek taxpayers as partners in losses but not in profits. He also sharply criticised what he called outrageous salaries paid to banking executives, sums he said are paid for by Greek borrowers, "an unprecedented social provocation", as he noted.

    Additionally, he again criticised the government for its 28-billion-euro liquidity support package to domestic banks, saying it lacks guarantees that banks' funding will be funneled into the real economy.

    The interview was published in the Saturday edition of "Imerissia".

    [05] Papariga re-elected to KKE helm

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) secretary general Aleka Papariga was re-elected to the party leadership at the KKE's 18th Congress, it was announced on Sunday.

    A KKE announcement said that Papariga was re-elected as secretary general of the party by the new KKE central committee that arose from the 18th Congress, in its first meeting.

    The Congress further passed two central theme documents: A central committee account on activities since the party's 17th Congress and its responsibilities leading up to the 19th Congress, and a report containing assessments and conclusions of the socialist structure of the 20th century and the KKE's perception of socialism.

    The 18th Congress further ratified the party's Financial Audit report on the KKE's finances.

    The two theme reports will be released in the next few days.

    [06] Leftist party secretary on Euroelections

    The European Parliament elections will assume the dimensions of a generalised showdown among the political parties if (early) national elections are not held before them, Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) central political committee secretary Nikos Hountis said Sunday in Thessaloniki.

    Synaspismos, he added, would wage the Euro-elections battle from within the ranks of SYRIZA (the affiliated Radical Left Coalition) and the European Left Party, adding that the SYRIZA group of Eurodeputies must be pluralistic.

    [07] LAOS leader in Pyrgos

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.OS) leader George Karatzaferis visited the town of Pyrgos, Ileia prefecture, on Sunday, where he gave a press conference.

    Karatzaferis reiterated his position in favor of dialogue with other parties in the event that the next general elections do not produce an autonomous government.

    Questioned in an interview appearing in a Sunday newspaper and asked whether he would "speak" with main opposition PASOK in such an eventuality, Karatzaferis stressed that "if we begin with not speaking with anyone, as proposed by the left, we will not be helping the country".

    "We are obliged to speak with and discuss (with other parties) on the basis of the mandate that the electoral body will give, on what needs to be done," Karatzaferis said.

    The LA.OS leader also reiterated his proposal for a national consensus (all-party) government under European Central Bank (ECB) vice-president and former Bank of Greece governor Loukas Papademos, in order to take the country out of the crisis, as he said.

    He added that the New Democracy government's "anemic majority" of 151 MPs (in the 300-member Parliament) was unable to give the country the momentum it needed to exit unscathed from the "worst global crisis of the last 100 years".

    [08] Anniversary of Ioannina liberation

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias arrived in the northwest lakeside city of Ioannina on Saturday to attend events marking the 96th anniversary of the city's liberation from Ottoman rule by advancing Greek forces in 1913.

    "I am certain that despite the (economic) crisis at hand, Greece and Greeks have the ability and skills to deal with whatever unfavorable circumstances. I am certain that better days are ahead for the country," he said following a military parade through the city, the biggest and traditionally the most important metropolis in the Epirus province.

    Immediately afterwards, Papoulias unveiled a statue of the most eponymous ruler of Epirus during antiquity, King Pyrrhus, in a central Ioannina square, before attending an official reception in his honor at the city's officers' club.

    Financial News

    [09] Design exhibition opens

    An exhibition organized by the Association of Greek Architects, devoted to Greek design, opened Saturday night at the Olympic Fencing Centre on the premises of the former airport in Athens, and will run through February 25.

    The exhibition, which was inaugurated by deputy foreign minister Theodoros Kassimis, focuses on innovative materials, forms and ideas as inspiration for special constructions, furniture, lighting and bathroom fixtures on display by Greek designers.

    Kassimis said that the exhibition hoped to give momentum to Greek design and showcase Greece abroad as a "boutique" of state-of-the-art services.

    The exhibition, and a parallel exhibit titled 'Trends and Extensions of Greek Design", showcases the works of 20 Greek designers, and aspires to attract an international public in the future.

    [10] Foreign Exchange rates - Monday

    Reference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:

    U.S. dollar 1.269

    Pound sterling 0.888

    Danish kroner 7.509

    Swedish kroner 11.161

    Japanese yen 119.57

    Swiss franc 1.504

    Norwegian kroner 8.819

    Canadian dollar 1.603

    Australian dollar 1.990

    General News

    [11] Convict Paleokostas repeats helicopter escape

    Convicted felon Vassilis Paleokostas and Albanian convict Alket Rizaj again became Greece's most wanted fugitives on Sunday after again escaping from the Korydallos penitentiary, and again by helicopter, an unprecedented repeat of their Hollywood-style escape from the same prison in June 2006.

    Paleokostas and Rizaj were spirited away by helicopter on June 4, 2006 from the courtyard of Korydallos prison near Piraeus, in a spectacular operation masterminded by Paleokostas' brother Nikos, a fugitive from justice.

    Vassilis Paleokostas was re-captured on August 2 in Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, and was named by police as the mastermind of the abduction two months earlier of Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBBE) president and industrialist George Mylonas outside Thessaloniki, who was later released after his family paid a hefty ransom.

    Rizaj was captured three months after the escape in the coastal village of Prodromos in Viotia prefecture, while fugitive Nikos Paleokostas was arrested a few weeks afterwards near Livadia, also in Viotia prefecture, after years of eluding police capture.

    Second escape

    According to reports on Sunday, the helicopter in the second escape flew low over the Korydallos prison and its crew lowered a rope ladder, with which the two inmates climbed up to the helicopter, which then flew off unmolested. Questions remained as to whether prison guards fired shots at the helicopter. The helicopter was later discovered, without its occupants, near the small community of Afidnes, due north of Athens and adjacent to the main Athens-Thessaloniki highway that runs north to south.

    Justice minister asks for resignations

    In an initial statement, Justice Minister Nikos Dendias, whose portfolio includes correctional facilities, merely noted that "I will not tolerate this insult. All the necessary measures will be taken, no matter how strict they may be."

    He later followed up his comment hours later by stating that he has requested the resignations of three top officials, two justice ministry secretaries and the penitentiary's warden, while stressing that an appellate-level prosecutor has been asked to officially open an investigation.

    [12] Greek ship attacked by pirates of Somali coast

    The Malta-registered Greek merchant ship "Santalia" was attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia on Sunday, according to an announcement by the Merchant Marine ministry.

    The ship, with a 24-member crew on board, was carrying a shipment of coal headed for Slovenia.

    [13] Latest manifestation of urban terror gang takes responsibility for TV station shootings

    A recently emerged moniker for the perpetrators of series of terrorist strikes in the recent period, "Revolutionary Sect", took responsibility for a shooting spree in the rear parking lot of an Athens television station last week.

    The ultra-leftist urban terrorist outfit using the specific name took responsibility in a proclamation left with a mass circulation Athens daily, while also issuing threats to journalists and warning of new strikes.

    In uncharacteristically crude ideological phraseology, the proclamation refers to "slugs of media journalism, which besides saliva that they leave behind them when flattering their establishment bosses and the (vested) interests of their sponsors, will soon leave blood as well."

    The proclamation was left outside a residence in the Kato Patissia district where a botched police raid in September 1998 during a hostage situation resulted in the death of a woman.

    Four suspects sprayed cars with bullets during an afternoon attack at the Alter television station's parking lot.

    [14] Brief disruptions in traffic on Rio-Antirrio bridge this week for maintenance work

    Brief disruptions in traffic, in both streams, on the Rio-Antirrio bridge have been announced for Tuesday to Thursday due to maintenance work on the bridge.

    Traffic will be discontinued on the bridge at brief intervals from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on those three days, with each break in traffic estimated at 5-8 minutes.

    In the event of adverse weather conditions, the maintenance work will be postponed to the following week, a Gefyra S.A. announcement said.

    [15] Illegals located aboard 4 Turkish trucks

    A total of 28 illegal immigrants, most Bangladeshis, were discovered early Saturday morning in four trucks that had previously entered the country from Turkey, following a police operation just outside the central Greek city of Lamia.

    According to reports, authorities were initially searching for hidden narcotics in the four trucks, following a tip-off.

    All four lorry drivers, Turkish nationals, were arrested on migrant-smuggling charges.

    [16] Turkish MP, author presents novel in Thessaloniki

    Turkish parliamentarian and author Kemal Anadol on Friday evening presented his historical novel, "The Great Separation" (BŁyŁk Ayrili) to a Thessaloniki audience at the Macedonian Studies Society.

    In the book, Anadol, a high-ranking CHP deputy in the neighbouring country from the Izmir district, recounts the daily lives of ordinary Greeks, Turks, Armenians and Jews in the 20 years before the Asia Minor catastrophe in 1922 in the then Smyrna, Istanbul, Fokaia and Aivali.

    "History is not exclusively comprised of the sounds of canons and swords, smoke, gunpowder and marches; history is also love stories, love, hate, music, cuisine and trade between ordinary people," the author and politician said.


    [17] Ergotelis downs Olympiakos

    Olympiakos Piraeus suffered its second loss of the season on Sunday, falling to feisty Ergotelis Crete 1-0 away. Both clubs chasing the league-leader posted victories, meanwhile, with PAOK and Panathinaikos edging Iraklis and Panionios, respectively, on Saturday -- 1-0 and 2-1.

    Results of other action over the weekend:

    Panserraikos Serres - Levadiakos 1-0

    Thrasyvoulos Athens - Panthrakikos Komotini 0-2

    Larissa - Aris Thessaloniki 1-1

    Asteras Tripolis - AEK Athens 0-1

    Xanthi - OFI Crete 0-0

    The standings after 23 weeks:

    1. Olympiakos 57

    2. Panathinaikos 46

    3. PAOK 46

    4. AEK 41

    5. Larissa 35

    6. Aris 32

    7. Panionios 29

    8. Xanthi 29

    9. Panthrakikos 28

    10. Ergotelis 27

    11. Iraklis 26

    12. Asteras 25

    13. Levadiakos 22

    14. Panserraikos 21

    15. OFI 19

    16. Thrasyvoulos 13

    Weather forecast

    [18] Snow, rain on Monday

    Snowfall, heavy in certain mainland locations, is forecast for much of mainland Greece on Monday. Rain and thunderstorms elsewhere. Temperatures ranging from -2C to 10C on the mainland; 5C to 11C on the islands. Northeasterly winds 5 to 7 on the Beaufort scale. Cloudy with a chance of snow for Athens, 0C to 7C; the same for Thessaloniki, -2C to 5C.

    [19] Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glance

    The global economic crisis and the ever-present press speculation of early general elections were the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on Sunday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "9-month military conscription terms commencing - Important interview with (defence minister) Evangelos Meimarakis".

    APOGEVMATINI: "The first 20,000 unemployed being hired - Joint ministerial decision on the OAED (state-run manpower employment organization) programme".

    AVGHI: "Elections dilemma via Brussels - Critical 10 days for political scene - 'tsunami' of layoffs grows".

    AVRIANI: "Government-banks war - Provopoulos (Bank of Greece governor) seeks to conduct social policy with banks' money".

    CHORA: "Changes to property taxes".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Greek tourism threatened with 'crash' - Predictions of 1.5-2 million fewer arrivals - Fear of 50,000 layoffs".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "German 'governess' - The Merkel (German chancellor) Directive now imposes regime of dual 'supervision' (excessive debt procedure) on Greek economy".

    ETHNOS: "Business as ... in the past - Vatopedi (land transactions with state) scandal lives, reigns and produces money - They're seeking permits to build on their land plots".

    KATHIMERINI: "Appearance of new generation of terrorists causes worry - Police investigations into 'Revolutionary Struggle' and 'Revolutionaries' Sect' in the dark".

    LOGOS: " 'Scent' of early elections - Karamanlis, Papandreou preparing 'for all eventualities'."

    NIKI: "We will not become co-culprits in the country's destruction - PASOK secretary Ragoussis".

    PROTO THEMA: "1,000 euros per capita tax - What incomes it will apply to - How it will be applied - Papathanassiou (economy and finance minister) plan for urgent collection of 700 million euros".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Strong KKE counter-attack - We're setting the standard high".

    VIMA: "They 'lost' 5.5 billion euros - 'Black hole' in social security Funds - Financial crisis rocking the social security system".

    VRADYNI: "Package of 200,000 jobs (for unemployed) without ASEP (civil service hiring examinations board) procedures - 15 measures to boost employment budgeted at 1 billion euros".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [20] Cyprus President: No application for PfP membership


    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias reiterated on Sunday that Cyprus would not apply for accession to the Partnership for Peace.

    His remarks came after a resolution approved by the European Parliament, which calls upon Turkey to cease hindering the cooperation between EU and NATO and encourages Cyprus "to review its political position on its membership of the Partnership for Peace".

    Replying to a question whether he would revise his position on PfP accession after the EP resolution and encouragement from Cypriot parties, the President said ''of course not.''

    He referred to decisions taken by former Presidents Tassos Papadopoulos and Glafcos Clerides not to apply for accession to PfP and wondered why now his government is being urged to apply for PfP membership.

    ''We will promote the policy approved by the people and not that approved by party leaderships or that party leaderships want to impose,'' he concluded.

    [21] Christofias in Serbia for official visit


    Cyprus President Demetris Christofias departs today for Serbia, where he will pay a two-day official visit.

    On Monday, President Christofias will have a half-hour tete a tete meeting with his Serbian counterpart Boris Tadic, followed by official talks.

    According to an official press release, the talks will focus on deepening further existing excellent bilateral relations and on strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries. The talks will also cover the Cyprus problem, Serbia's relations with the EU and other bilateral and international issues.

    The talks between Tadic and Christofias will be followed by the singing of a number of Agreements and Memoranda of cooperation, which will further consolidate the relations of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

    President Christofias will attend a working lunch hosted by Serbia's Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic.

    He will attend a ceremony for the opening of the new premises of the Cypriot embassy in Serbia and will meet President of the Serbian National Assembly Slavica Djukic Dejanovic.

    [22] Christofias: Aim for reunification unwavering, irreplaceable


    Cyprus President reiterated on Sunday that the aim for the reunification of Cyprus in a bi-zonal bi-communal federation with a single sovereignty and political equality as defined in the UN Security Council resolutions is ''unwavering and irreplaceable''.

    In an address to the 23rd conference of the Union of Cypriot Christian Scientists, read out by the Director of his office Vasos Georgiou, President Christofias said both he and his government pledge ''to exert with sincerity and consistency ever effort to bring resurrection in Cyprus.''

    ''The finding of a just, viable solution which would allow all Cypriots, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Maronites, Armenians and Latins, to live in conditions of freedom, security, equality, peace and justice in a united Cyprus, free of occupying and other troops,'' Christofias added.

    He made clear that when he speaks of solution he does not mean ''any solution,'' adding that a solution should terminate occupation and settlement, to restore and safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people and should be functional and durable.

    ''We can reach this solution remaining consistent in the commitment assumed by the first President of the Republic Makarios and all the other Presidents of the Republic. ''A commitment for a bi-zonal bi-communal federation which we agreed with the Turkish Cypriot community in 1977 and was adopted by the UN in a series of resolutions,'' he stressed.


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