|Saturday, 16 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-11-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 30 November 2009 Issue No: 3362
 PM addresses PASOK Political Council: Optimism that crisis will be overcomePrime minister George Papandreou on Saturday chaired the first meeting of his ruling PASOK party's newly-elected Political Council, during which he described the state of Greece's economy as "tragic", putting full and exclusive blame on the preceding New Democracy (ND) government and the policies it implemented over the last five years.
He also accused ND of concealing the real state of the economy "up to the last minute" before the October 4 general elections, that brought PASOK to power, and of speaking of a "cushion" for the budget without actually having ensured one.
Papandreou said that PASOK took over the country's governance in one of the hardest times in its post-war history, and at the same time shouldered the responsibility of taking Greece out of a deep crisis and reviving its wheezing economy.
In order to do this, administration of authority is not sufficient, but it is necessary to proceed to deep changes and reversals so as to reach a "different Greece" through change of the manner of governance, the premier explained.
He further said that it is necessary for the government to prove its reliability on a daily basis, working hard on the country's major needs. This, he added, was the philosophy behind the government's plan for its first 100 days in office, which was designed precisely to face the immediate hardships caused to the citizens by the generalised crisis.
Despite the difficulties, however, Papandreou sent a message of optimism to the Greek society, stressing that this tough economic situation will be overcome, and pointed out three areas on which the government's effort is focused: tidying up the economy, economic recovery, and a developmental prospect for the country.
"The fact that the problem is much bigger than presented by ND obliges us to remain even more dedicated to our philosophy and program," the premier said, adding that PASOK's firm position continues to be that the economic crisis is fought with investments, and not 'drying up' the market.
Planning has been made so that all the commitments made by PASOK for its first 100 days in government will be met, Papandreou said, and referred to the steps it has already taken, "which show our determination to remain true to all our commitments". As examples, Papandreou cited the social solidarity benefit, the abolition of the STAGE programs, the introduction of electronic deliberation, the containment of state overspending, the drastic reduction in state cars, the transformation of the National Statistics Service (ESYE) into an Independent Administrative Authority, and the commitment for transparency across the board through the release and uploading of all signatures on the internet, and noted that the relevant draft law has already been drawn up and will soon be put to public discussion.
Papandreou, who also holds the foreign ministry portfolio, stressed that Greece has once again begun being 'present' abroad, putting forward its opinions and observations, participating in the decision-making, and once again picking up the thread from where it had left off in 2004 (when ND took office).
Indirectly replying to criticism that the government delayed in staffing the political positions in the public sector, Papandreou stressed that the procedure being followed for the staffing was a time-consuming and difficult one for the government, but one of major benefit for society. He pointed out the three main difficulties faced by the government in this effort. First, the non-existence of mechanisms in the public sector to undertake those procedures. Second, there is no list of all the agencies and political positions that are the responsibility of the government to assign. Third, a "bad tradition" of the past according to which those positions are staffed either by unknown individuals with degrees and academic qualifications but without experience, or by individuals with a political perception and experience. However, it was impossible to find both (credentials and experience) in the same individual. This combination is what the government is trying to do today, Papandreou explained.
Referring to recommendations to the government on economic policy forthcoming from several quarters, including the EU, Papandreou said that PASOK had warned the European Commission on the ND government's methodisations, and therefore today it could not demand of his government, which has been in office only 50 days, to answer for it.
Papandreou also accused banks internationally as being accountable for the crisis, charging that they are collecting money but not investing it.
The premier made it clear that his government has no intention of changing its economic policy, noting that in the coming period it will go ahead with full implementation of its four-year program for the country in order to bring it out of the vicious circle of underdevelopment and continuous problems.
"We will not resort to temporary solutions that have no prospect, as is being persistently recommended to us, and indeed at a time when the country has a new government that has received a mandate from the people to exercise a different policy," Papandreou stressed.
The Political Council meeting was also attended by PASOK parliamentary group secretary Christos Papoutsis, finance minister George Papaconstantinou, and government spokesman George Petalotis.
In an interview with a weekly financial newspaper appearing on Saturday, Papandreou stressed that "we will not become a government in a state of hostagery. If needed, we will clash to defend our positions and the just rights of the country".
The government will in no instance allow the weaker strata to pay the brunt of the crisis, the premier assured in his interview with the "Kosmos tou Ependyti" (Investors' World) weekly.
"Those who enjoy hefty salaries and receive large bonuses cannot demand of us that we cut the salaries of the working people and pensions," he stressed, adding that "those who created the crisis have no right to want it to be solved today on the backs and at the expense of the many who are not to blame for it".
 PM to address AHCC 'Greek Economy Conference'Prime minister George Papandreou will address the opening session of the two-day 20th annual American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce's "The Greek Economy Conference" on Monday at a central Athens Hotel.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Greek Economy Conference, a conference which has become the leading economic conference not only in Greece, but also in the greater region of Southeast Europe. The conference provides the ideal meeting place for representatives from the public and private sector for an exchange of views on proposals regarding development, investment and business policy.
Papandreou will address the conference at 8:30 in the evening, while other speakers include Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping minister Louka Katseli, US ambassador in Athens Daniel Speckhard, and Columbia University professor Graciela Chichilnisky, a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was the co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
 Voting ends in ND for new leaderVoting for the election of a new leader of the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party ended late Sunday night, with three candidates vying for the leadership. The first results were expected in the early hours on Monday.
The procedure was marred by a technical glitch in the on-line system, which was gradually being restored. Candidates Dora Bakoyannis and Antonis Samaras voted in polling stations in the greater Athens area, while Panagiotis Psomiadis postponed his vote for later in the afternoon.
This is the first time that the ND leader will be elected directly by the party's grass roots, as voting for the ND leader has been extended to all of the party's registered voters.
A total of 1,039 voting stations have been set up throughout the country, while 64 voting stations have been set up in other European countries, which will be linked on-line with the elections supervisory committee at the ND headquarters on Rigillis street, as will be all the polling stations.
Voting began at 7:00 a.m. Sunday and will close at 7:00 in the evening, but Organising Committee chairman Dimitris Sioufas has clarified that the closing time may be extended in specific polling stations in the event that lines of voters were still waiting their turn to cast their ballot at closing time.
First results will begin to be broadcast after the returns are in from 20 percent of the polling stations, although they will not be representative of the final outcome, according to Sioufas.
The listing of members who voted at the various polling stations was being conducted by hand, after the on-line system collapsed in the morning, while the problem was being addressed by technicians from the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), the provider of the on-line service, according to ND representative George Koumoutsakos, who added that the turnout of voters was large.
Outgoing leader and former prime minister Costas Karamanlis cast his vote at a polling station in his home town of Rafina, northeast of Athens. "I hope and believe that New Democracy, united and strong, under its new leader, will once again become a protagonist in the country's public affairs, as it befits it," Karamanlis said after casting his vote.
Former foreign minister and one-time Athens mayor Dora Bakoyannis voted at the indoor gymnasium at Mets, in central Athens. "We have said and heard a lot in these past two months. Today, the citizens have their say. Today, the heart and conscience of the New Democracy members speaks. I call on everyone to join in this great celebration of our party, which marks a new beginning of hope for New Democracy. We will leave behind everything that hurt us and proceed, together, to create the big centre-right party that we envision and can be useful to Greece," she said.
Former culture minister Antonis Samaras voted in Pylos, Messinia prefecture. "Today, hundreds of thousands of party members are making the big reversal and acquiring hope. Tomorrow a new era begins both for New Democracy and for our country," he said afterwards. Samaras will return to Athens later in the afternoon.
Thessaloniki prefect Panagiotis Psomadis went to a local polling station to vote on Sunday morning, but refused to do so after learning that the on-line system was down, and postponed voting to 5:00 in the afternoon. In a letter to Sioufas, Psomiadis said he rejected the process of voting with handwritten voter lists.
 ND leadership candidate Panayiotis Psomiadis suffering from pneumoniaCandidate for the leadership of the main opposition New Democracy party Panayiotis Psomiadis was admitted to the Interbalkan Medical Centre in Thessaloniki on Sunday night, suffering from respiratory problems.
Doctors tested him for new flu, but the result was negative and they diagnosed pneumonia.
 PM Papandreou expresses condolences for Russian railway accidentPrime Minister, Foreign Minister and OSCE chairman George Papandreou expressed his condolences and grave concern over the railway accident in Russia.
Papandreou also expressed his profound sorrow over the tragic loss and injury of many people during the derailment of the Nevsky Express train that was running on the Saint Petersburg-Moscow route in Russia.
"I express my condolences to the families of the victims and my most sincere wishes to the injured for a speedy recovery. I am shocked over this tragic event and I express my condolences to the Russian people and the Russian government. The Presidency of the OSCE expresses its profound concern and its support for investigations into the causes of the accident," the prime minister said.
 Deputy FM Droutsas' interview with German newspaperThe decision for the commencement of accession negotiations with FYROM belongs to all the EU member states, and consequently Greece as well, and one thing is certain: a prerequisite for the opening of accession talks is prior solution of the name issue, alternate foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas explained in an interview with journalist Michael Martins in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
On Greek prime minister and foreign minister George Papandreou's recent discussion with FYROM premier Nikola Gruevski, during a trilateral meeting organised by Papandreou on conservation of the Prespes Lakes ecosystem, Droutsas said that it was an important step that such contacts are taking place again after so many years during which formal meetings were avoided.
As for Turkey's EU accession course, Droutsas reiterated the Greek position that: "We fully back Turkey's accession to the EU. However, as a candidate country, Turkey has obligations to the EU and the Union's member states. These include the obligation of maintaining good relations with its neighbors. This also means implementation of the Ankara Protocol, and consequently the extension of the Customs Union with all the EU member states, including the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey is obliged to accept Cypriot ships and airplanes at its ports and airports."
On the new PASOK government's foreign policy, Droutsas said the government is following a dynamic foreign policy that will be characterised by initiatives, not just reactions.
To a comment by Martins that Papandreou's meeting in Istanbul with Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan (during the Southeast European Cooperation Process-SEECP- foreign ministers' meeting in October) and his visit to the grave of Turkish former foreign minister Ismail Cem (Papandreou and Cem were foreign ministers concurrently in their countries in the late '90s) had created an affinity in the Turkish people towards Papandreou, but that, beyond the symbolism, certain issues remained between Athens and Ankara that required clarification, and particularly that of the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf, Droutsas replied: "This is a purely legal matter, which should have been resolved by the authoritative international body set up by the United Nations, namely the International Court of Justice at The Hague".
 SYRIZA: 1st Panhellenic Conference adopts 7-point resolutionThe two-day First Panhellenic Conference of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA parliamentary alliance) ended shortly after midnight on Saturday with the adoption of a seven-point resolution introduced by SYRIZA rapporteur A. Davanelos.
According to the resolution, a SYRIZA member card will be introduced, while a register of members will be created in every local or prefectural committee. Further, SYRIZA's top executive will be the Panhellenic Conference, while the SYRIZA Secretariat will have the responsibility for the alliance's political activity and function between the Panhellenic Conferences.
The resolution calls for immediate materialisation of the First Panhellenic Conference, with a SYRIZA press office and press spokesman, the publication of a periodical and operation of an internet page by a SYRIZA editorial team, and the establishment of a SYRIZA Panhellenic Coordinating Committee.
Second, the basic nuclei of SYRIZA's organisational structure will be the Local, Prefectural and Branch Committees based on an Assembly of the members, which will have the right to decide, by consensus or vote, on the local, prefectural or branch political matters and vote for the Committees' coordinating secretariats.
Third, the term of SYRIZA "member" is established, in direct link with the Local or Prefectural (or/and Thematic, where they exist) Committees. A Uniform Member Register" will be set up in every Committee, while the SYRIZA members will be provided with a "member" card by the corresponding Committee.
Fourth, a Panhellenic Coordinating Committee will be set up as an "in-between" body, comprising the members of the Secretariat, Parliamentary Group and Coordinators of the local committees, with the responsibility of coordinating political action or discussion of important policy matters.
Fifth, the Panhellenic Conference is SYRIZA's to executive body, which will be convened regularly once a year and extraordinarily, by decision of the Secretariat, when a serious issue arises. The delegates are designated by decision of the Local, Prefectural and Branch Committees via consensus or vote, on the basis of pluralistic representation, so that the composition of the delegates will be strong and undisputable.
Sixth, the SYRIZA Secretariat will be responsible for the function of the alliance between the Panhellenic Conferences. The members will be designated by consensus, with the participation of at least one representative from each component faction or group of the alliance.
Seventh, the SYRIZA Fund will be decisively reinforced so as to ensure its central and local operation.
 Tsipras criticises governmentCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party leader Alexis Tsipras charged that the PASOK government "fell into the trap of fully adopting the spectre of bankruptcy in order to lower the people's expectations and prepare the groundwork for tough anti-popular measures", in statements on Saturday.
Tsipras also accused the government of heavy blame "because it has accepted and co-built a political framework that ties the hands of our country", adding that the political framework of the Stability Agreement does not allow Greece to borrow directly from the European Central Bank, thus rendering it a hostage to profiteering intentions and also to the intentions of all those in the EU who want Greece to become the guinea pig as an example to other countries.
The SYN leader called on prime minister George Papandreou to stop operating as an active foreign minister and take up the role of a prime minister who will try to reverse the "arrow of pressure" away from Greece and toward the EU.
 Econ minister addresses Cambridge U's Center for International Business and ManagementEconomy, competitiveness and shipping minister Louka Katseli stressed the importance placed on the Greek government, through a network of actions, on rendering Greece an attraction for investments and on strengthening the country's presence on the SE European markets and also the extroversion of Greek enterprises in the midst of the crisis, during a symposium on the economic crisis in SE Europe held Saturday at Cambridge University's Center for International Business and Management.
Katseli noted that Greece is an important trade partner for most of the countries of SE Europe, as an estimated one-fifth of the volume of Greek exports are channeled to that region.
According to figures from Greece's national statistics service (ESYE) and Greece's local commercial and economic offices in the region, transactions were rising steadily over the past three years (2006-2008), exceeding 8 billion euros in 2008. Greece's most significant trade partners in the area are Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania, which account for 76 percent of the overall volume of Greece's trade with the SE European countries. In addition, Greece is an important destination for products from the region. For FYROM, for example, it is estimated that Greece is the third largest trade destination.
In 2008, Greece topped the list of foreign investors in Albania, FYROM and Serbia, while it was the third largest foreign investor in Romania and the fourth in Bulgaria and, according to the Turkish ministry of finance, Greece was the third largest foreign investor in the country in the years 2006 and 2007.
"It is important to note that even during the crisis, when there was an outflow of foreign businesses that have invested in the region, the Greek enterprises and banks stayed put in those countries, reinforcing their domestic economies," Katseli stressed, adding that Greece has for many years also been an ally of the SE Europe countries in the European bodies, in the process of their integration.
Katseli further noted the initiatives to which the new government will place emphasis on for the development of the region, noting the importance of the Greek plan for the economic reconstruction of the Balkans (HiPERB), and also the importance of the initiatives being undertaken by the private sector to make use of the funds earmarked for the Black Sea and Caspian Sea areas.
"In this spirit, we plan to work towards the establishment of a Greek developmental financing body, including aid," the minister said, adding that reinforcement financing is a useful tool that is used by nearly all the member states of the EU, as the third pillar of developmental cooperation, which provides the proper tools for European businesses to invest with flexible and well-grounded strategies, such as the European investment capital for the western Balkans.
She further noted the need to "restart" and "re-propel" the Greek economy and the activities of the Greek enterprises through boosting their exports and their international orientation.
 Foreign Exchange rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.503
Pound sterling 0.916
Danish kroner 7.502
Swedish kroner 10.515
Japanese yen 130.23
Swiss franc 1.518
Norwegian kroner 8.559
Canadian dollar 1.612
Australian dollar 1.663
 Greek tanker seized by pirates off Somali coastA Greek tanker was seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia on Sunday morning, the Greek Coast Guard said.
A team of nine armed Somali pirates seized the Piraeus-registered "Maran Centaurus" and its 18 crew members comprising nine Greeks and 19 foreign seamen.
The vessel's first mate informed the shipowners Christen Navigation of the incident, adding that the crew was well in health, and informing the owners that the pirates have directed the tanker to sail to a Somali port.
The Maran Centaurus was headed from Kuwait to the US, loaded with mazut.
 New flu on rise, third phase of inoculation begins MondayThe third phase of inoculation against the new flu commences on Monday, director of the National Center for Health Operations (EKEPY) director Dr. Panayiotis Efstathiou announced, adding that the virus was clearly on the rise.
The third phase of vaccination is addressed to the wider population, encompassing children aged six months up and adults up to 50 years of age, as well as people belonging to the other population groups who were not inoculated during the preceding two stages for healthcare employees and vulnerable groups.
All the new flu monitoring indicators have doubled, Efstathiou said.
According to official figures, 28 people are currently hospitalised in intensive care units (ICUs), of which 13 are in critical condition. Among them are two minors and a pregnant woman.
Most of the hospitalised patients have disorder-related obesity, while 21 patients have pneumonia. A total of 17 people have died, 15 of them from complications to existing medical conditions caused by the new flu, while only two were not suffering from any other disease.
Further, a total of 99 kindergartens, 71 primary schools, 28 junior highschools, 28 highschools and 423 departments of various schools closed on Friday due to a high absentee rate.
To press questions on possible side-effects of the new flu vaccine, Efstathiou noted that 65 million people have been vaccinated throughout the word, and not a single serious problem has arisen as an undesired side-effect apart from some allergic reactions, localised pain and minor blotches. Those, however, were negligent compared with the immense number of inoculations.
He added that the first statistical studies have been released in Europe, namely in Britain and Sweden, and showed no cause for concern.
 Greek solidarity for suffering children of the worldVIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
The UN's Women's Organisation in Vienna organised an event in support of the suffering children of the world with the collection of money from the huge Christmas Bazaar at the UN's installations in the Austrian capital.
Greek women volunteers, employees or relatives of the employees of Greek services in Austria and international organisations had an impressive presence.
Dozens of Greek women working for days in the framework of the charitable event, mainly prepared traditional Greek food, Christmas dishes and cakes, together with traditional Greek drinks that they sold on the day of the event to the many thousands of visitors.
The Greek presence at the event also included a four-hour Greek music concert presented at the Greek pavilion by the music group of Vienna "The Greeks."
 Super League resultsOlympiacos Piraeus beat arch rival Panathinaikos Athens 2-0 at home over the weekend to climb to the top of the Greek Super League standings and AEK Athens beat PAOK Thessaloniki 1-0 at home, while Aris Thessaloniki was held to a 1-1 draw at home by ambitious Panionios Athens.
In other action:
Iraklis Thessaloniki-Ergotelis Crete 0-2
Asteras Tripoli-Xanthi 0-0
Panthrakikos Komotini-Levadiakos Livadia 0-2
Atromitos Athens-PAS Yiannina 2-1
Standings after 12 weeks of play:
1. Olympiacos 30 points
2. Panathinaikos 29
3. PAOK 21
4. Kavala 18
5. AEK 18
6. Panionios 18
7. Ergotelis 17 (11 games)
8. Asteras 16
9. Aris 16
10. Xanthi 14
11. Larissa 13 (11 games)
12. Atromitos 13
13. Iraklis 12
14. PAS Yiannina 11
15. Levadiakos 11
16. Panthrakikos 1
 Fair on MondayFair weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Monday, with wind velocity reaching 2-7 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 24C. Fair in Athens, with variable 2-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 12C to 23C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 8C to 20C.
 Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glanceThe economy and the leadership election in main opposition New Democracy (ND) were the main front-page items in Athens' Sunday newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "The new New Democracy being born".
APOGEVMATINI: "Concern on two fronts - ND seeks leader, and the government...money".
AVGHI: "Benefits in lieu of...pensions - The secret agenda".
AVRIANI: "(Early) General elections in March if the economic collapse is not halted - With the new state of affairs, Dora (Bakoyannis) and Samaras (the two main candidates for the ND leadership) are not bound by Karamanlis agreement for (backing the re-election of President of the Republic) Papoulias".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Historic decision - Today, the ND grass roots speak".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Tax for the social security system - New revenues of 2 billion euros annually and additional taxation of big incomes and Large Property".
ETHNOS: "Emergency plan for bigger reversals in salaries and pensions following the stifling pressure from Brussels (EU) and the international markets".
KATHIMERINI: "European Commission seeks timetable with tangible measures from Greece - IMF (International Monetary Fund) team coming urgently to Greece".
LOGOS: "Government setting up 'line of defense' - Governmental 'map exercise' to repel profiteerers and 'objectors'."
NIKI: "Yes to the sacrifices...by others - Everyone agrees on taking measures, provided they are not affected themselves".
PARON: "The past clashing with the future - ND at a critical crossroads".
PROTO THEMA: "EU recommends 'Ireland recipe' for Greece, demanding 7.5 percent reduction in salaries and pensions for all civil servants and DEKO (public utilities and state organisations) employees".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Action with PAME (KKE-affiliated trade union organisation) for the December 17 strike".
TO VIMA: "The Black December for the Economy - The profiteerers attacks, the bankers' demands, the pressure, the reactions, and the fear of (early general) elections".
VRADYNI: "How much tax the self-employed professionals will pay".
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