|Monday, 24 September 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-09-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 7 September 2009 Issue No: 3290
 PM unveils bold reform plan at TIFGreek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday unveiled an ambitious reform plan aimed at helping the country exit the current financial crisis stronger, including drastic cuts in public spending, freezing pay rises for workers and pensioners of the public sector, combatting tax evasion and promoting structural changes.
In what was widely greeted as the most crucial speech of his career as prime minister - the contents of which were kept strictly secret and not released to the press for the first time in the history of the institution - Karamanlis stressed that this was a crucial juncture for the economy and that a difficult two years lay ahead. He defended his decision to call early elections on October 4, just two years after his last election victory in 2007, saying that his decision to seek a fresh mandate from voters was prompted exclusively by the best interests of the country.
"If we do not act immediately and decisively, the dangers will be great," he stressed.
His traditional speech to the country's producer groups, from the podium of the Thessaloniki International Fair, focused on the necessity of dealing with economic developments at a time when the global economy had been hit by the worst crisis of the last 80 years.
Karamanlis noted that the Greek economy was already suffering the consequences of external shocks, with lower shipping and tourism revenues limiting demand, commerce, exports and hitting the finances of households and enterprises, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises. At the same time, the crisis had hit the execution of the state budget, with revenues down and budget spending rising because of higher social spending.
The economy was additionally suffering from a huge public debt, accumulated in the past, with an annual interest payment burden of 12 pct. At the same time, the crisis intensified chronic economic problems.
"There is no doubt that the next two years would be crucial for our future," he said, adding that 2010 would be a year of particular importance and all necessary policies must be immediately implemented to creating the solid foundations for a long-term development.
"My intention was to complete the four-year term of the government and to implement an economic policy based on three axes....," Karamanlis said.
He cited these as:
-An austere and efficient control of public spending through the introduction of direct and medium-term measures,
-A combat against tax evasion,
-Structural changes creating new structures, capable of ensuring sustainable growth and a strong social state, focusing on improving competitiveness, labour relations, the pension system, the national health system, the wider public sector and education.
Implementing this policy, however, required the right political environment, which did not exist because the main opposition party PASOK had locked the country into a protracted pre-election period ahead of the election of a new President of the Republic in March.
"I called for early general elections to avoid a protracted pre-election period because we need a strong government with a plan and the will to deal with the crisis and to lay the foundations for a stronger future. This responsibility is a priority for me. Everything else comes second," he said.
The Prime Minister presented in detail, the government's work in the past five and a half years, saying the implementation of an integrated infrastructural reforms plan was changing the country, with an extensive program to build new roads, improve port facilities and airports, new railway networks.
"We completed a Third Community Support Framework Program without losing one euro," Karamanlis said, adding that government measures helped in improving investment conditions, promoted a "green" economy, while a Fourth Community Support Framework directed 80 pct of funds to Greek regions.
He also pointed to the establishment of comprehensive special town planning rules, improvements in the country's energy balance in favour of "green" energy that had tripled the capacity of renewable energy sources and the signature of significant international energy deals (Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, Italy-Greece-Turkey natural gas pipeline, South Stream and Greece-Romania-Hungary natural gas pipeline).
Other policies strengthened a knowledge society, combining research with production, supporting innovation, presenting a digital strategy focusing on boosting broadband services (with significant results already), promoting an optical fiber network in the country, supporting a public unversity plan, and bringing Greece among the top five countries in the EU in spending for high education with spending at 4.6 pct of GDP.
A pension reform policy succeeded in merging 133 different pension funds into 13 funds, while measures were taken to support social benefits and working mothers.
Karamanlis then listed the government's achievements in reforming the wider public sector, with the sale of Olympic Airways offering a benefit of 1.0 million euros daily to public coffers, signing a strategic alliance for cargo services in the port of Piraeus, along with measures to support the shipping sector, tourism and the farm sector.
"Greece has reported improved economic figures steadily since 2004, with unemployment falling steadily and spending to support a social state rising by 60%," he said.
The Greek Premier underlined that the inflation rate performed better than the EU's average rate and noted that government policies have helped the country avoiding a deep recession like the one hitting other European countries. "Our strategy strengthened the country's resistance," he said.
Karamanlis said the government has acted immediately after the crisis erupted taking measures aimed at limiting the impact of the crisis and preparing the economy for a dynamic recovery, based on prudent policies and not populism. These were measures to boost liquidity in the economy, offering state guarantees for savings deposits, protection of borrowers, and low-cost money to small- and medium-sized enterprises. At the same time, the government took difficult decisions to cut its fiscal deficit and its flexible public spending by limiting hirings (with the exception of the education and health sectors), supporting employment and the vital sectors of the economy (constructions, exports, tourism and the auto sector).
Based on this facts, I have decided to ask for a new mandate by voters to implement the necessary policies, Karamanlis said, reiterating that his criterion for this decision was one and only: the nation's interests.
"I know that because of the crisis, the country will face two crucial years ahead. Our strategic choices are two: either succumb to populism, or dare to take diffuclt decisions," he said.
Karamanlis said populism will be pleasant for the short-term, but the consequences would be very painful for citizens in the future, while it would take much more time to exit the crisis.
"On the other hand, if we dare take the difficult road now, if our priority is reforms and not efforts to become pleasant to citizens, then one thing is certain: We will exit this crisis soon and stronger, with new prospects for a long-term growth and a real social state".
The Prime Minister stressed that the government must be very strict in its efforts to cut public spending, limiting fiscal deficits and gradually restructuring the economy. "Our program includes direct and medium-term measures," he said, such as:
1. Freezing of all hirings in the public sector for 2010, with the exception of any necessary hirings by the Health and Education ministries.
2. Strict limitation of hirings for an additional two-year period (one hiring for two retirements).
3. Freezing of pensions and wages in the public sector in 2010, with special care for low wages and pensioners. Pay increases in the following years will be set according to the inflation rates of Greece and the Eurozone. The measure will cover non-listed public sector enterprises as well.
4. No new social benefits for a period two years.
5. Cutting overtime work by 30 pct for two years.
6. Cutting by 30 pct of all transfer spending.
7. Restructuring budget spending, focusing on sectors promoting economic growth.
8. Creating a single authority for public sector payrolls.
9. Introducing a new payroll for new hirings in the public sector and
10. Cutting deputy compensation and the wages of all government, prefect and municipal authorities for the next two years.
Karamanlis said the government's medium-term measures included, clear principles and procedures in drafting and executing state budgets, introducing specific methods for evaluating certain spending, drafting three-year budgets, promoting greater transparency in fiscal management, introducing detailed annual balance sheets by all agencies and organisations of the public sector and introducing clear numerical fiscal rules for each spending category.
"Principles and rules everywhere to get the state finances in order. Strict control and full transparency," the Greek premier said.
Our second aim is a "war against tax evasion". It is our responsibility to win this battle against a source of social injustice, that weakens the social state and undermines every effort for fiscal restructuring "I don't deny that all governments have their share of responsibility. But this phenomenon cannot be allowed to continue. And it will not continue however the cost. Our measures include: creating a single data base with all tax and social obligations of every citizen and every enterprise in the country, integrating tax and social security contributions, introducing an on-line system linking all cash registers and billing mechanisms of enterprises with the Finance ministry, obligatory electronic tax statements by enterprises and introducing living standards tax rates.
The third aim is structural changes, creating structures to support a long-term sustainable growth and a strong social state. Measures include: opening of all closed professions, crucial to the economy, abolishing cabotage practices to support the sea cruise sector, simplifying business start up procedures, reforming the labour market with stricter conditions for granting unemployment benefits with the aim to returning to employment. In the pension system, we aim to cut the number of so-called heavy professions for newcomers in the job, stricter criteria for pensions to disabled people, stricter control to drastically cut social security contribution evasion, while in the health sector we plan stricter controls on supplies and offering more quality health services to citizens.
Our reform program for the public administration sector envisages creating fewer and strong municipalities, boosting regional governments, while in the wider public sector it is necessary to drastically cut the number of public agencies, introduce stricter control of pension funds and municipal spending, continuing a program of privatisations and strategic alliances.
"We emphasize the restructuring of Hellenic Railways, making a more efficient management of the state's real estate property, privatising the Mont Parnes casino, Thessaloniki Water and Larko.
We seek two major reforms in the education sector, granting personal computers to all first grade students and reforming a Lyceum program, the premier said.
Karamanlis went on to underline the great importance given by the government to law and order issues and the protection of life and property, as well as the right of citizens to enjoy open roads, schools and universities.
"We are planning reforms against activities that paralyse city centres. We are also planning changes to university asylum, in linke with what applies in the rest of Europe," he said, stressing that places of learning could not be allowed to become hotbeds of lawlessness and crime.
He also stressed the government's commitment to control illegal immigration, by putting an end to centre of crime, intensifying policing and through a common European policy and said the country could not tolerate uncontrolled waves of illegal migrants or modern slave traders.
Turning to foreign policy and political issues, Karamanlis used the podium at TIF to send messages to neighbouring Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), stressing that Greece worked steadily for peace and development but was obliged to maintain a high deterrent capacity and the ability to fully defend its national sovereignty.
He stressed that FYROM's leadership had to appreciate that history could not be altered or rewritten and urged Skopje to abandon populist and nationalist rhetoric and work toward a mutually acceptable name applicable for all uses, stressing that failing to do so would jeopardise FYROM's EuroAtlantic prospects.
The premier also noted Greece's desire for friendly relations with Turkey, while underlining its obligation to actively contribute to a viable and functional solution of the Cyprus problem and that the status of the Aegean would not change because of provocations or threats.
"We have laid down clear red lines. These lines we will not abandon. We do not bargain over them. We do not go back a single step," Karamanlis underlined.
On the domestic front, the prime minister admitted that there had been mistakes, weaknesses and delays in the government's response to the crisis and the implementation of the reforms he had outlined.
"I admit that in some cases, we needed to act faster, more decisively and make deeper changes," he said, while adding that the government had nonetheless taken significant steps in pushing through reforms and curbing public spending but now needed to take "leaps forward" in war against tax evasion and to fight harder on all three fronts of its plan for exiting the crisis.
On this count, he levelled criticism at main opposition PASOK for fighting all structural changes and policies for reforming the economy.
"The truth is that those that government for 20 years created a rotten state sector, with attitudes and structures that acquired deep roots and are not easily eradicated," he said, blaming PASOK for the great weaknesses of the Greek state sector and of continuing to dish out promises in spite of the economic crisis.
"One thing is more than certain: if even a part of the promises dealt are carried out, the consequences would be catastrophic," Karamanlis asserted, adding that PASOK appeared neither to understand nor possess the basic tools for dealing with the crisis but was treating it as an opportunity for populism.
"I assure you my decision to seek a fresh popular mandate was not an easy one. But it is the only responsible choice for dealing with the major challenges ahead, challenges that can only be met by clear-cut choices and bold action," he stressed, and warned that this was not the time for experimentation, negative vote or disaffection but a time to put the interests of the country first.
 Party reactions to PM's speechThe smaller opposition parties united in criticising Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' speech at Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday, each expressing reservations about the premier's call for further reforms and changes.
According to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the prime minister "has once again confessed that the anti-working-class measures have been decided in advance, regardless of whether the next government is that of New Democracy (ND) or main opposition PASOK." It said they would once again seek to support the profits of big business by drastically reducing the income of working class families, labour, insurance and pension rights, and cutting back social spending.
The right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party accused Karamanlis of "threatening" to take brave decisions after six years of governing the country and strongly questioned the premier's pledge to clamp down on corruption:
"He is obviously admitting that until today, the decisions he generally took were not brave but cowardly. As for his reference to decisively fighting corruption, it sounds like a joke," a party announcement said, pointing out that the government had twice shut down Parliament and thus preventing investigation of cases in which his government ministers were implicated.
An announcement of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party, meanwhile, said the structural reforms referred to by the premier were nothing more than a continuation and deepening of the policies followed in the past years that had led to the current economic crisis.
"It is the policy that unbearably compresses the income of the weakest in society, heightens unemployment, wipes out farmers, shuts down small and medium-sized businesses and dismantles the social insurance systems and labour relations," it read.
 PM at TIF: Elections can be won, time to look problems in the eyePrime minister Costas Karamanlis justified his decision to call early general elections next month, stressing that he has always told the truth to the people about the state of the country and will continue to do so, and expressing confidence that his ruling New Democracy (ND) party will win the upcoming national elections for the third consecutive time, speaking at the traditional press conference at the 74th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sunday.
He also said it was time to look the long-standing inherent problems of the Greek economy in the eye, and said the policies he announced the previous day were tough but practicable, and definitely not tragic, adding that a difficult two years were ahead, but would produce results.
On the snap elections he has called for October 4, Karamanlis said that "nothing can be taken for granted", adding his conviction that "this battle can be won" and stressing that "I will give my all, as never before", speaking during a press conference at the 74th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Asked if he planned to resign from the helm of his ruling New Democracy party in the event that ND loses the elections, Karamanlis replied: "No, I am not resigning. For as long as I feel useful to the country, I will remain at the front line of the battles and ideals."
Outlining the reasons that led him to this "difficult but necessary" decision, he said the elections were "mandated by the national interest".
He accused main opposition PASOK of "forcing elections" by announcing that it would not vote for President Karolos Papoulias in the scheduled presidential election in parliament in March -- thus necessitating general elections at that time -- but would vote for Papoulias in a new parliamentary vote after the national ballots. PASOK's stance would have dragged the country into an extended pre-electoral period to March, even though it agreed to Papoulias' candidacy, Karamanlis explained.
Karamanlis also said that, even if his party lost the October elections, it would nevertheless vote for Papoulias again, but left open the issue in the event that a different candidate was put forward.
The premier ruled out the prospect of a post-electoral collaboration either with main opposition PASOK or the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party in the event no party achieved a self-sufficient majority vote, explaining that collaborations "cannot give solutions to today's problems". Specifically regarding LAOS, Karamanlis said it was a party with extremist ideology, stressing that there would be no collaboration "with the extremes".
Karamanlis reiterated that the exclusive criterion for his decision to seek a "fresh popular mandate" by calling snap early elections had been "the national interest alone" and, addressing himself to the people, added: "That's who I am. I presented my policy to you. There may have been certain mistakes and weaknesses, but I am determined to carry out what I say, and I will do so."
Asked whether cadres whose names had been implicated in scandals would be included on the ND ballots, Karamanlis stressed that "everyone is judged on his overall conduct", and asked the press to be patient for a few days until the candidate lists were completed and made public.
To a question on whether he believed that ND will win the upcoming elections, Karamanlis replied: "Yes. As simple as that".
Turning to the economy, Karamanlis said the time has come to "look in the eye the long-standing inherent problems of the Greek economy", and mainly the excessive public debt. He warned that there were two difficult years ahead for the country, and reiterated his announcements made the night before at the prime minister's annual TIF address for streamlining of the public sector, tackling tax-evasion and a "redoubled" continuation of the structural changes.
"It is certain that the recipe will produce yield, but this requires two years of efforts," the premier said in reply to a press question, warning that if the necessary, difficult, decisions are not applied now, "the bill will come a little bit later, but much heavier".
To another question, he clarified that "I never spoke of an increase in taxes", and personally guaranteed that there will be no suspension of payments by the Greek state up to the end of 2009.
Karamanlis explained that with the "tough, but not tragic, and practicable" policies he announced on Saturday night, a fiscal balance could be achieved in two years' time.
An immense state debt has accrued over the past 30 years, and the target is to have permanently and structurally reversed this tendency in two years, the prime minister stressed, adding that he has never "implied that the state of the economy is tragic", while Greece had "avoided the worst" in the global financial crisis.
Asked why the government had not implemented earlier the measures announced on Saturday, Karamanlis explained that the policies of the preceding years had without doubt been in the right direction, had produced results and will continue to do so, "but what changed things and made them more urgent was the crisis".
He reiterated the government's determination to stamp out tax evasion with better cross-checks, more audits, stricter penalties and the requirement of proof that income justifies lifestyle while, asked whether the measures announced would adversely affect the lower incomes, the prime minister stressed that "when you declare war on tax evasion, it is not the weaker incomes that are hit".
Karamanlis also described as "totally wrong" the view that government policy, such as that for boosting the small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), was not aimed mainly for the economically weaker, noting that, since early 2009, a total package of more than 3 billion euros has been channeled to support the working people, the unemployed, and employment opportunities.
Noting that some 95 percent of Greek enterprises were SMEs, he asked "should we not have set up the guarantees fund program, which kept alive 50,000 enterprises and preserved the jobs in them?"
To a question on the Fund against Poverty, the premier stressed that the Fund, as the government more generally, has done much for the social fabric and will continue to do so, but always on condition that the measures taken are within the limits of the economy's endurance.
"Overall, and despite the tough fiscal conditions, the support of the real economy resulting from the government's policies and EU programs has been great, and impressive," Karamanlis said, stressing that this policy will be continued, but "I will not risk blowing everything up into the air in order to appear more agreeable".
Prime minister Karamanlis urged Turkey that "it must do many things, more than it has done to date", in reply to questions during his press conference at the TIF.
"If you ask me whether I consider Turkey's attitude encouraging, especially in the past year, I will say 'no'," Karamanlis said characteristically, noting that the Greek government's policy on Greek-Turkish affairs is crystal clear.
"We have a clear-cut policy. The target is full normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations and Turkey's EU accession prospect, on condition, however, that it meets and adopts all the prerequisites" set out by the EU, Karamanlis stressed.
"I believe that this is a very correct policy that leads to clear messages. We've said it to everyone. We've said it to our partners. Our neighbors also know it," the premier added.
Karamanlis also said that he is satisfied with the handling of Greece's national issues, noting characteristically that "I have recorded good performance on the national issues".
To a question by ANA-MPA on seeming hesitations of the new Bulgarian government on the materialisation of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and Russia's stance on such a development, the prime minister expressed conviction that the project will progress, and recalled that a central part of his government's policy was "to render Greece an energy hub".
"I believe that the strategic importance and political will to proceed with this project exists on all the sides," Karamanlis added.
 Party reactions to PM's press conferenceThe opposition parties reacted later to the statements made by prime minister Costas Karamanlis during his press conference on Sunday at the 74th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Main opposition PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou said prime minister Costas Karamanlis was "unrepentant" on his policy "that brought the country into a crisis" and called him "unreliable" for the country's future.
"The people have no reason to give Mr. Karamanlis a third opportunity," he added.
He added that "for Mr. Karamanlis, it is always others who are to blame, the citizens who do not understand what he understands, or the social partners or political parties that are not letting him govern, but he himself is never to blame".
Calling the premier "arrogant", Papaconstantinou said that Karamanlis, with his answers to the press questions, showed lack of common sense.
He said that Karamanlis' answers were addressed to his own party in an effort to ensure his position after the elections.
"But this does not concern the citizens," Papaconstantinou continued, adding that the "citizens are seeking a government with vision and a plan, a government that will support the social state and the citizens, support growth, and give Greece a strong voice abroad".
"That government will be the government of PASOK," he concluded.
Communist Party of Greece (KKE) spokesman Makis Mailis said that in conditions of both capitalistic growth and financial crisis, the victim is always the labor class and the popular strata.
The same is true now, he continued, adding that the coming anti-popular storm will be continuous, and not of a two-year duration, regardless of whether ND or PASOK is in government.
"The people have the say," Mailis concluded.
The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN), in a press release, said that the only clear thing arising from the prime minister's press conference is a two-year escalation of the fierce austerity policy against the working people and the financially weaker.
The wager for the upcoming elections, to which ND was led through the collapse of its policy, is a change of course for the country and defeat of the neo-liberal policies regardless of whether these are served by ruling ND or by main opposition PASOK "which is unable to present alternative proposals," SYN said, adding that strengthening of the radical and renovative Left could contribute to the formulation of a social shield against the new policy of austerity but also open up new roads for the country.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis said that Karamanlis fell short of the expectations of his despairing MPs and his party's shrinking, disappointed rank and file, while his appearance, in general, had been "politically piteous".
 FM on foreign policy at TIFForeign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Sunday inaugurated the ministry's pavilion at the 74th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), and spoke on foreign policy issues.
Bakoyannis said that the coming period will be critical for the country's foreign policy as well.
On the FYROM name issue, she stressed that Greece must do its hardest in order to have a good outcome, and accused the Gruevski government of attempting to rewrite history and of cultivating fanaticism and intolerance among the FYROM people, thus taking the neighboring country further away from its Euro-Atlantic prospect.
Bakoyannis further stressed that the "red lines" that have been demarcated by the Greek government "are in force".
On the Cyprus issue, Bakoyannis noted that difficulties existed in the talks process for a solution, but added that prerequisites also existed for a solution.
She called on Turkey to actively manifest a "European deportment", noting that this is the way that leads to European Union membership.
Bakoyannis added that she is proud of the work she has accomplished at the foreign ministry, because this put forward the Greece of extroversion, the Greece that is everywhere, while she also made special note of the development of economic diplomacy and its contribution to promoting and boosting the Greek economy.
Turning to the snap early general elections on October 4, Bakoyannis said that prime minister Costas Karamanlis' decision to seek a "fresh popular mandate" had been a "brave" choice. She noted that difficulties exist, but also light, hope and vision.
"All we who served in the government are ready to wage the good, the correct, battle and we will vindicate us and the ND voters who entrusted us and supported us," Bakoyannis said.
Bakoyannis said that despite indications that rallying among the ND voters was still quite low, she nevertheless was totally confident that it would increase following the prime minister's address at the TIF Saturday night and his press conference on Sunday.
 Police pavilion at TIFAlternate Interior Minister Christos Markoyiannakis on Saturday inaugurated the Greek Police Information Centre pavilion at the 74th Thessaloniki International Fair, saying that the police should be relieved of duties related to public administration.
"Whenever there is a problem with public administration, the police are called in. We see a section of the police force occupied by duties unrelated with those they were trained for," the minister pointed out, listing activities like the issue of passports, driving licences, hygiene and building inspections.
"The work that should be done by the other large section of public administration is being done by the Greek Police. If the police did not devote time and energy to this kind of contribution, things would be much better," Markoyiannakis asserted.
The minister also referred to what he called a sudden qualitative and quantitative change in levels of crime in recent years, saying that the police force had succeeded in adapting to this and was "heading in the right direction".
 Papandreou: 'PASOK the only choice'The elections will be a clash between two radically different policies and diametrically opposed views about politics and the future of the country, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou said on Saturday while addressing the 16th Hellenic Conference of Young Farmers in Ancient Olympia.
"PASOK represents the hopeful and only choice that we have, a factor of which is that crises do not only create problems but also create opportunities for looking at what we are doing wrong and finding new ways of growth," he stressed.
Papandreou also expressed confidence that Greece could turn things around with the right kind of leadership in power:
"When we had leaderships that believed in our strengths, when the state was at our side and not on our backs, when there was a plan for all and not just privileges for the few then we worked miracles. This is the kind of leadership the country needs today," he stressed, expressing certainty that the morning after the October 4 elections would be the start of a new course for Greece with a majority PASOK government at the helm.
At another point in his speech, PASOK's leader stressed that his party's proposal for "green development" was the only feasible and realistic solution for bringing the country out of the current cul-de-sac and the crisis into which it was sinking, noting that 'green development' would benefit farmers and especially young farmers most of all.
He suggested that EU police should now shift away from supporting agricultural production based on land acreage to supporting environmentally-friendly farming practices.
PASOK's leader criticised the government for failing to address the problems faced by farmers and for failing to stand up to big companies and cartels that maximised profits at farmers' expense.
He promised to clash with middle-men and cartels that got rich on farmers' work, stressing that the existing framework of laws was adequate and required only the political will to enforce it. "This I am determined to do," he added.
 Papandreou: Country's future at stake in electionsMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou stressed that it was the country's future that was at stake in the October 4 general elections, and not the fate of (prime minister) Costas Karamanlis or himself, in an interview appearing in the Sunday edition of Eleftherotypia newspaper.
Papandreou said the decision that would be made in the elections was "whether we will continue on the course to decay, to financial and moral crisis, to concession of values, or whether we will come out of the quagmire with a collective effort that will unite all the creative forces of the country.
The PASOK leader expressed certainty that the citizens will opt for a strong, self-sufficient government, and warned that he will not allow the crucial electoral showdown to degenerate into a "cock fight", adding that he will invite the prime minister to an "upgraded pre-electoral dialogue process".
Papandreou said that in every eventuality, including a PASOK self-sufficient majority, he will seek consensus and cooperation with the wider progressive political and social forces because "that is demanded by the magnitude of the problems faced by the country, by the ambitious goals we are setting".
"We will exhaust all the margins in order to give solutions to the country's problems," he added.
The main opposition leader said he will be inexorable on phenomena of corruption, and from his very first moment in power will make every possible effort to clear up all the "fetid cases" that have hurt the Greek people.
Papandreou further said that his Cabinet will comprise a substantially reduced number of ministers and deputy ministers, adding that there are very many worthy Greeks "outside of PASOK but also outside the political parties in general" whom he will invite to contribute, from responsible positions, to a national effort above and beyond party demarcations.
 Papariga: KKE for resistance to EUThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) was an "advanced post" for resistance and counter-attack on a political level, KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga stated on Saturday, in comments on the upcoming general elections.
"Workers and employees, small business owners and poor farmers that are suffering, those that now know very well that the only difference between ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK is holding the government seat, must go to the ballot box with their heads held high," she underlined.
She urged voters to cast their ballot while thinking of the following days, weeks and months: "Whether we have an ND government or a PASOK government in power, whether one is main opposition or the other, they will completely forget their gilded slogans about boldness and bravery, about green development, and literally pounce on the labour, insurance and general social rights of workers."
According to Papariga, the only policies that would be carried out were those of European Commissioner for monetary affairs Joaquin Almunia, not the promises being made by the parties.
"The next day there needs to be something more certain and stable. A strong people, a strong movement. A decisive condition for this, the only one today, is that KKE emerge stronger in the polls," she underlined, adding that her party was prepared to head to elections.
 KKE nationwide meetingCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga addressed on Sunday a nationwide meeting of party and affiliated Communist Youth Organisation (KNE) officials for preparation ahead of the October 4 general elections.
Papariga outlined the KKE platform during the meeting, which was followed by a discussion.
Papariga called for strengthening of the KKE and weakening of the two mainstream parties (ruling New Democracy and main opposition PASOK) on the basis of the fact that, on the bottom line, "they are the same".
The 'morning after' requires a strong people with a strong KKE, she stressed, because new anti-popular measures were on the horizon, aind indeed in the midst of crisis.
There was no room for manoevering, but rather, obstruction of those measures was necessary in order to gain time and perhaps even to gain something, in order to organise the counter-attack, she advised.
 SYRIZA to go to elections without leaderThe Secretariat of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) on Sunday agreed to head into the elections without a leader heading its ticket, as proposed by its main component party the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN).
Under the compromise deal offered by SYN's Central Committee in a bid to break the deadlock of the past two days, each candidate on the election ticket will seek to enter Parliament with the votes cast specifically for them.
Of the 11 component mebers of SYRIZA, only the Communist Organisation of Greece has expressed reservations about the proposed compromise and will announce its position in the next few days.
SYN's Central Committee had earlier approved the proposal presented by the party's leader Alexis Tsipras, who had stressed the need for unity in view of the upcoming election.
The proposal was finally carried in spite of strenuous objections voiced by quarters within SYN, mainly by Fotis Kouvelis and the 'renewalist wing', who insisted that the party stick to its original decision of Friday, under which the head of SYRIZA should also be the head of its largest component member SYN.
Tsipras's proposal came after two days of deadlock between SYN and the other components of SYRIZA, who refused to accept Tsipras as leader and wanted previous SYRIZA Parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos - himself formerly president of SYN - to remain head of the ticket.
 Bakoyannis extends condolences for Ohrid accidentForeign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Saturday sent messages offering her condolences to her counterparts in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Antonio Milososki and Bulgaria, Rumiana Zheleva, for the tragic accident on Ohrid Lake earlier the same day.
Bakoyannis also expressed her deepest condolences and support for the families of the victims.
The Greek Association Bureau in Skopje has informed local authorities of Athens' readiness to offer all possible assistance.
 Development Minister urges need for structural reformsThe government must implement a reform plan focusing on cutting spending, combatting tax evasion and promoting structural changes and reforms, with a sense of national responsibility, Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis said on Saturday.
Addressing a general assembly of the Central Union of Greek Chambers, in Thessaloniki, the Greek minister referred to a series of programs -promoted by the Development ministry- in the framework of a Fourth Community Support Framework (2007-2013) and a package of new draft bills aimed at "putting an order" in business parks, set-up, transfer and closure of enterprises in the country. Under the latter bill, bureaucracy will be drastically cut, with only four steps needed to set up a new enterprise from 18 currently.
Earlier, Mr Hatzidakis inaugurated the pavillions of DEPA and Hellenic Petroleum in the Thessaloniki International Fair. He said energy had great significance for the national economy and urged all enterprises in the oil sector to safeguard smooth operation of the market based on competition rules and the respect of consumers.
 ATEbank optimistic for 2009 performanceATEbank will exceed an initial goal of raising its loan portfolio by 10 pct this year, the bank's governor Dimitris Miliakos said on Friday, inaugurating the bank's pavillion in the Thessaloniki International Fair.
"The bank has responded well to a government's call and continues to support small- and medium-sized enterprises," Miliakos said, adding that ATEbank ranked first in corporate lending in the first half of the year.
"During the last five years we have changed the bank's corporate image and culture, an effort showed in market ratings," Miliakos said.
 Foreign Exchange rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.437
Pound sterling 0.878
Danish kroner 7.503
Swedish kroner 10.366
Japanese yen 133.51
Swiss franc 1.527
Norwegian kroner 8.676
Canadian dollar 1.570
Australian dollar 1.705
 Ozone-level warning in Athens areaOzone levels in Athens exceeded warning levels on Saturday, rising above 180 micrograms per cubic metre in monitoring stations throughout the capital between 13:00 and 16:00 p.m according to the environment ministry. Specifically, levels of ozone were 181 micrograms in Maroussi, 197 micrograms in Peristeri, 184 micrograms in Lykovrisi, 190 micrograms in Agia Paraskevi and 218 micrograms in Thrakomakedones.
During the next few hours, members of the public suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular problems and those sensitive to air pollution are advised to stay indoors and avoid wandering about outside. Sensitive individuals and children are also advised to avoid strenuous physical activity that might irritate the air passages.
Ozone levels are expected to gradually drop off in the evening.
Alert levels for ozone in Greece are set at 240 microgrammes per cubic metre.
 Traffickers, illegal migrants arrested in AlexandroupolisThree immigrant smugglers and seven illegal immigrants were arrested in Alexandroupolis on Friday and Saturday, in two separate police operations.
The arrests on Saturday took place early in the morning at the Kipoi border crossing, where local police found two immigrant smugglers - both foreign nationals - driving two illegal immigrants hidden in a special compartment inside their car into Greece. Both the traffickers and the illegal immigrants were arrested.
The second arrest was at the Ferres border crossing on Friday afternoon, when the Alexandroupolis security illegal aliens squad intercepted a car with five illegal immigrants and one immigrant trafficker at the 17th kilometre of the Egnatia highway from Alexandroupolis to Komotini. The driver failed to comply with a signal to stop and tried to speed away, exiting the highway, then tried to abandon the car and get away on food but was caught by police.
All the suspects were led before an Alexandroupolis Misdemeanours Court Prosecutor on Saturday.
 Immigrant trafficking arrests in XanthiXanthi police on Saturday announced the dismantling of a ring of migrant traffickers responsible for smuggling illegal immigrants from Asian countries into Greece.
A police announcement said that Kotyli border police had caught seven Romanian citizens as they tried to bring 13 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Iraq and Afghanistan into the country using four cars.
During the preliminary inquiry, police discovered that one of the seven migrant traffickers had also violated the terms of prison leave given to him by the Agia Prison, where he was being held on remand for a robbery.
Police confiscated the four cars, nine mobile phones and a fake Romanian ID and will bring the suspects before the Xanthi First-instance Prosecutor.
 Major fire in Evros, villages evacuatedTwo villages were evacuated and traffic on the Egnatia Highway between the Makri and Ardani junctions was interrupted as a result of a forest fire with two fronts that broke out around midday on Sunday near Aetochori and Melias in the prefecture of Evros.
The fire spread quickly because of strong winds of up to 7 Beaufort blowing in the area, prompting authorities to evacuate the settlements Pefka and Loutra as a precaution. Drivers on the section of the Egnatia highway going through the area were diverted onto the Alexandroupolis-Ferres national road.
Deployed to battle the blaze were a number of fire engines, two Canadair water-bombing aircraft, two fire-fighting helicopters, machinery supplied by Evros local authorities and private owners, as well as army vehicles.
By nightfall, however, when aircraft could no longer take part in the fire-fighting effort, the blaze was not yet under control, with smoke and ash reaching as far as Alexandroupolis.
 Miro exhibition in ThessalonikiThe tribute to painter Joan Miro, the first major exhibition of his work in Greece, opened its doors at Thessaloniki University's Telloglion Art Foundation on Saturday.
The exhibition entitled "Miro of Majorca" will be open to the public from Sunday, on which day entrance will be free of charge. The official opening will be carried out on Tuesday, October 6, by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Queen Sofia of Spain.
On show are more than 400 paintings, sculptures, engravings and sketches by the artist, while the exhibition is also notable for the faithful reproduction of Miro's workshop, presented in miniature, in the garden outside the Telloglion.
The exhibition will run until February 5.
 Italian Navy's school ship 'Amerigo Vespucci' sails into Cretan portOne of the world's biggest and most impressive saiboats and the pride of the Italian Navy, the 'Amerigo Vespucci', sailed into the port of Heraklion, Crete, on Sunday, where it will remain docked until Wednesday.
The Amerigo Vespucci, which is used as a training vessel by Italy's Navy Cadets Academy, sails annually around the world as an ambassador of the arts, cultue and maritime tradition of the neighboring country.
Heraklion is the final stop of the Amerigo Vespucci's training journey this year, during which it also visited ports in Bulgaria, France, Romania, Tunisia, Turkey and the Ukraine.
The sailboat's skipper paid courtesy calls on the Heraklion political and military authorities.
The vessel is the tall ship of the Marina Militare, named after the explorer Amerigo Vespucci, and its home port is Livorno, Italy.
The Amerigo Vespucci is the second of two school ships ordered in 1925 by the Regia Marina, inspired by the syle of the large late 18th-century 74-cannon ships. The first was the Cristoforo Colombo.
The Amerigo Vespucci was built in 1930 at the (formerly Royal) Naval Shipyard of Castellanmare di Strabia, and was launched on February 22, 1931. It has been carrying out journeys since then, with the exception of the the period during World War II, mostly throughout Europe, but it has also traveled in the past to America and the Pacific, while in 2002 it sailed around the world.
 Youth Parliament this weekendGreece's 14th Youth Parliament was officially inaugurated on Friday night and began debating sessions in earnest on Saturday. An innovation in this year's Youth Parliament was the participation of 54 teenagers from 28 countries in the European Union and the EuroMediterranean Cooperation region, invited to attend by Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas.
In addition to outlining the views, the teenagers in the Youth Parliament were also given an opportunity to visit the New Acropolis Museum and watch a screening of the show "The violent Cosmos" at the Athens Digital Planetarium.
 Mammoth Grevena tusk in Guinness Book of RecordsA fossil mastodon tusk found in the northern Greek region of Grevena was officially entered into the Guiness Book of Records on Saturday as the largest ever found.
The tusk is truly mammoth at 5.02 metres in length, dates back three million years and belongs to the extinct mastodon species Mammut borsoni. The previous record for the world's largest tusk was also held by a tusk found in the Grevena region in 1997, with a length of 4.39 metres.
In a special event at the Milias Natural History Museum, where the tusks and other paleontological finds discovered in a local dig are on display, the Guinness Book of Records also awarded the museum and Grevena local authorities for their contribution to the work being carried out by Thessaloniki University's Geology Department.
After receiving the prize, Grevena prefect Dimosthenis Kouptsidis outlined plans for a modern Paleontology Centre in the Milias are, at a site near the excavation area.
 Ferry rams into islet, no injuries reportedA car/passenger ferry rammed into Despotiko islet off the port of Carpathos island on Sunday, but no injuries were reported among the 262 passengers.
The ferry 'Prevelis', which was carrying out the itinerary from Rhodes to Carpathos, Kassos, Crete (Siteia and Heraklion), Thira, Milos and Piraeus, sailed safely into Carpathos harbor on its own steam.
The vessel will be inspected by the local port authorities, which will decide whether or not the Prevelis is in condition to continue its journey.
 Stormy on MondayRain and storms are forecast throughout Greece on Monday, particularly in northern and central parts of the country, with sharp drop in temperatures. Winds northerly, ranging from 3-8 Beaufort, with temperatures between 13C and 29C. Stormy in Athens, with winds up to 6 Beaufort and temperatures ranging from 18C to 25C. Same in Thessaloniki, with winds up to 7 Beaufort and temperatures from 16C to 21C.
 Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glancePrime minister Costas Karamanlis' address on Saturday night at the 74th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), five new opinion polls and the drafting of the political parties' candidate lists for the October 4 early general elections were the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on Sunday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Karamanlis: Do you want a responsible government, or empty words? The big battle begins from Thessaloniki".
APOGEVMATINI: "5 steps for the future - The government's priorities for the 'morning after' the elections unveiled by the premier at the TIF".
AVGHI: "Steadily towards the radical Left".
AVRIANI: "PASOK begging SYN (Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology) for...coalition government, in return for 2 ministries and numerous positions in the state machine".
CHORA: "ND in flames - Karamanlis lethal mistakes that are leading the ruling party to a Waterloo and out of power".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "The public sentiment may consider a PASOK victory on October 4 a given fact, but the Karamanlis 'bill' has not expired yet...".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The government I am planning - Interview with (main opposition PASOK leader) George Papandreou: Fewer ministers and deputy ministers, with utilisation of non-parliamentary personalities".
ETHNOS: "ND and SYRIZA laying down...self-sufficiency carpet for George (Papandreou) - Signs of decomposition on the left and right of PASOK".
KATHIMERINI: "The citizens demand answers - Opinion poll: 42 percent feel that no self-sufficient ND or PASOK government can better face the crisis".
LOGOS: "Prime minister waging battle for political survival - He's 'cleaning up' the ND candidate tickets in a last-minute show of strength".
NIKI: "The 'morning after' in ND a nightmare - The dauphins (hopeful successors) fully armed and waiting".
PARON (weekly): "Karamanlis' 'morning after' - Revelation of why he opted for early elections".
PROTO THEMA (weekly): "ALCO opinion poll: PASOK will win with self-sufficient majority in the first round, with 6.3 percent lead over ND".
RIZOSPASTIS: "On with optimism to the battle for a stronger KKE and popular movement".
REALNEWS: "MRB opinion poll: 80 percent of ND voters say to Karamanlis that all those who 'scandalised' (were implicated in scandals) must 'go away'."
TO VIMA: "Wave of change - PASOK ahead with 6.7 percentage points - Opinion poll".
VRADYNI: "The new faces on the candidate lists - Those who were left out, the pressures and the behind-the-scenes in the selection of candidates - The names on the ND and PASOK ballots".
 President reiterates commitment for a Cyprus settlementNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias reiterated on Sunday his unwavering aim for a solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal bi-communal federation, as this constitutes ''the only realistic option'' for the reunification of Cyprus.
''Our commitment is a solution of bi-zonal, bi-communal federation which would safeguard the unity of the state with a single sovereignty, one international personality, one nationality and political equality of the two communities, as defined by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,'' the president said in a ceremony in which he lead the foundation stone of a cultural centre in Larnaca.
''This,'' he added, ''is the only realistic option for the reunification of our country, the riddance of the occupation, the entrenchment of human rights, the termination of illegal settlement and the liberation of Cyprus from any form of guardianship.''
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat began on September 2008 UN-led direct negotiations aiming to achieve a mutually accepted settlement of the Cyprus problem and they will enter the second phase of the talks. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 FM briefs EU counterparts on Cyprus talksNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou participated in the EU Informal General Affairs and External Relations Council which took place in Stockholm, September 4-5.
According to an official press release, on the sidelines of the Council, Kyprianou held a series of meetings with a number of his counterparts, whom he briefed on the recent developments regarding the current UN-led direct negotiations for solution to the Cyprus problem, while he outlined the Cypriot positions concerning the EU-Turkey relations in view of the upcoming evaluation of Turkey's accession process in December.
The main items on the agenda of the Council were the recent developments in Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Speaking during the first day of the Council, the Cypriot FM stressed the importance of resuming the peace process in Middle East and the direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority as soon as possible, aiming at achieving a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.
Kyprianou also referred to the importance of terminating Israel's settlement policy and underlined the need for a more active EU involvement in the Middle East peace process.
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