|Tuesday, 20 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 09-12-21
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 21 December 2009 Issue No: 3379
 PM appeals for national unity in tackling crisisPrime Minister George Papandreou appealled for national unity in order to fight the causes of the current economic crisis in Greece, shortly before the start of a debate on the draft budget for 2010 in the Greek Parliament. Papandreou was addressing a meeting of ruling PASOK's Parliamentary group held on Saturday afternoon, on the occasion of the budget debate later that evening.
The premier said the budget tabled by the government was a first step toward reviving the economy, as well as the country's credibility and prospects, and he urged PASOK MPs to give it their full backing. He stated that the government's goal with the 2010 budget was to reduce the deficit 4 percent by next year.
He also clarified that his call for national unity in the fight against the crisis did not mean amnesia or absolution for those responsible for nationally damaging policies like the general government audit, or the attempts to cover up major cases of scandal.
The premier went on to attack main opposition New Democracy, accusing the party of "abandoning ship" rather than facing problems it had helped create and said that it had become part of the problem by allowing the growth of graft and corruption.
Papandreou was positive, however, about the stance displayed by the opposition parties during a recent meeting of political party leaders chaired by President Karolos Papoulias, both on issues of corruption and on that of relations between politics and the media.
Turning to the economic crisis, the premier underlined that this was a "purely Greek problem" that needed a solution tailored to its own requirements, rejecting the idea of "one-size-fits-all" methods modeled after those of other countries, such as Ireland. He identified the Greek political system and a wasteful public sector as the main causes of the economic crisis in Greece, underlining the need to carry out possibly painful changes and not shy away from them.
He also emphasised the need to carry out necessary structural changes straight away, saying that there were no margins for postponing reforms.
"We must act now and we must act decisively," he told MPs.
Debate on 2010 draft budget
Shortly after the meeting of PASOK MPs, the debate on the draft budget began in Parliament with the opening address of PASOK general rapporteur Yiannis Koutsoukos, who described it as the start of a major and difficult effort to bring Greece out of the dead end in which it was mired.
He said the draft budget unveiled by the government was "transitional" and had multiple goals, while it was part of an overall plan that would be outlined in the four-year stability and growth programme, through which the government would seek to bring the deficit below 3 percent of GDP at the end of PASOK's four-year term.
Main opposition New Democracy rapporteur Manolis Kefaloyiannis, on his part, accused the government of having a hidden agenda and demanded more information and explanations.
"The budget is fake. The government is keeping double books," he said, calling the budget unveiled by the government "the apogee of creative accounting" that had artificially increased the size of the deficit. Kefaloyiannis asserted that this was closer to 19 billion euros or 8.3 percent of GDP, instead of the 12-odd percentage points claimed by the government and central bank.
According to speakers of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), the budget unveiled by the present government was essentially indistinguishable from that tabled by its predecessor ND, with LAOS MP Aivaliotis slamming it as a "ghost of extremity number 2" and saying that the tabling of the budget for Greek people had become a "series of ghastly horror films".
Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) rapporteur Panagiotis Lafazanis accused the government of having set aside the promises it made before the elections and of having promised something different again in statements abroad.
"It is a different budget you have tabled in Parliament to that you announced on Bloomberg's television, organ of international capital markets," he said.
 FinMin addresses Parliament on new budgetFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou, speaking in Parliament on Sunday during the ongoing debate on the new state budget, described it as "the new beginning of a four-year effort to bring order to the monetary chaos, restore lost credibility, end the country's ridicule and support the citizens in need."
Referring to criticism by the opposition that the new budget "is in the air and will not be valid," the minister said "we reply to those who are claiming such a thing easily and inconsiderately that the result of its implementation, at the end of 2010, will be better than expected."
Papaconstantinou spoke of "the explicit option of the PASOK government not to have low incomes burdened, despite the effort of terrorism taking place by some," while also sharply criticising the economic policy applied by the New Democracy party government, as well as its cadres present stance.
The minister further said that "the ND government abandoned the ship in the middle of the sea shortly before it sank and we are being called on today to lead it to calmer and safer waters."
Focusing on the new budget's monetary target, Papaconstantinou said that what is anticipated, among other things, is a decrease in the deficit by at least 3.6 GDP units, support for growth and investments, backing for the financially weaker, help for the unemployed to join the labour force and substantive support for the education and health sectors.
"All this without deviation from the goal of monetary adjustment. Because only those having ideological blinkers cannot see that the unimpeded funding of the economy by markets must continue," he added.
Papaconstantinou also reiterated the commitments of Prime Minister George Papandreou for support for sensitive groups, the tidying up of the public sector, justice, equality before the law and of rights and stressed that the effort to remedy the situation cannot take place from one day to the next.
 Alternate FM on Cyprus, regional policyTurkey must finally allow the Turkish Cypriots to fight for a solution to the Cyprus issue, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said in interviews printed by the press on Sunday.
In the Sunday issue of Adesmeftos Typos, Droutsas referred to efforts to solve the Cyprus issue and the possibility of agreeing on a solution before April, saying that Greece and Cyprus wanted a solution now but only if that solution was viable and functional, without artificial deadlines.
"President Demetris Christofias is battling for a solution to the Cyprus issue and has the full support of Greece. It is finally time for Turkey to allow [Turkish-Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat] to do the same," Droutsas underlined.
In an interview to "Typos tis Kyriakis', meanwhile, he stressed that Greece would not enter into any discussion regarding the Moslems living in Thrace with Turkey, underlining that Greece did not discuss the affairs of Greek citizens with any foreign government.
"We live in a difficult neighbourhood and if we want Greece to once more play a leading role we must play 'offence'," he said. Elsewhere he emphasised the government's intention to upgrade the country's presence in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and even the Middle East, while pointing to the Agenda 2014 policy for the accession of the western Balkans to the EU.
 Foreign ministry on Bartholomew's CBS interviewForeign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Sunday emphasised the importance of statements made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in an interview with CBS, in which the spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians complained of feeling "crucified" and like a "second-class citizen" living in Turkey.
"Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the religious and spiritual leader of hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the world. He is a leader noted for his wisdom and moderation, as well as his unswerving support for Turkey's accession to the European Union. When the disappointment of such a leader is recorded so unequivocally in an interview, excerpts of which we have seen, it is the responsibility of all and especially of those who are responsible for the situation faced by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek minority, to listen to him carefully," the spokesman stressed.
Regarding the incensed reaction from Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who criticised the Patriarch's remarks as 'unacceptable' and urged him to convey his complaints to the 'relevant authorities', Delavekouras simply noted that Turkey's obligations were well known to all.
"The problems, obstacles and shortages have been recorded in detail in the relevant EU reports. Among [Turkey's] obligations to the EU, of primary importance is respect for religious freedoms and minority rights, as is expressly stated in the conclusions of the EU Council we adopted a few days ago," the spokesman said, adding that this was a condition for Turkey's accession course.
Among the key complaints of the Patriarchate are Ankara's refusal to recognise the Patriarch's ecumenical title and its insistence on treating him as the leader of only the few thousand Orthodox Greeks remaining in Turkey, as well as Turkey's refusal to open the Theological School of Halki and thus depriving the Patriarchate of a means to train its clergy.
 Five new members for ND shadow cabinetMain opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras has named five additional people that will form part of his shadow cabinet, each in charge of specific areas of policy.
These included Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the younger brother of his recent rival for the party's leadership Dora Bakoyannis, who has been placed in charge of Environmental Policy. For the post of education and religious affairs refused by Bakoyannis, Samaras has named Eliza Vozeberg, while in the energy and natural resources post he has placed Viotia MP Mihalis Yiannakis.
In charge of tourism development is Olga Kefaloyiannis, while the agricultural development sector has been assigned to Kozani MP George Kasapidis.
 Tsipras sees crisis of confidence in politicsCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alexis Tsipras addressed a meeting of his party's Executive Secretariat on Saturday, stressing that the key feature of the current political situation in Greece was a crisis of confidence in the political life of the country.
This he blamed on Prime Minister George Papandreou, saying that PASOK's leader had used the pressures exerted by the European Union as an excuse for shelving all his pre-election promises.
A second key factor identified by Tsipras during the current period was the way in which democracy appeared to have been sidelined by the intervention of markets operating outside the institutions and he raised questions about "who is actually running the country".
In a scathing attack on the conduct of European leaders at the Copenhagen climate talks, meanwhile, Tsipras charged that their "only goal was to be photographed next to Obama" and noted that it was impossible to seek solutions using the specific model for growth, just as it was impossible for this model to give the planet any prospects.
 Citizens' Protection minister on reclaiming Athens centreIn extensive interviews with the Sunday newspapers 'Veto' and 'Typos tis Kyriakis', Citizens' Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis underlined his determination to end the "ghetto" created in the centre of Athens and protect the rights of citizens to an open city.
Regarding Greece's plan for dealing with the influx of migrants, the minister stressed that this was a broader European issue and that Athens, in this context, was pressing for cooperation between the EU border agency FRONTEX and Turkey.
He also outlined plans for a major organised crime department within the police force, pointing out the links between organised crime and terrorism. He said that hiring for this new department would begin over the next few days and expressed conviction that it would bring results.
 Economy minister: we have one line for economy's problemsEconomy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli rejected suggestions that the government had two competing lines on how to tackle the problems of the economy, in an interview published by the financial newspaper "Kosmos tou Ependyti" on Saturday.
"There is one line and it is expressed by the prime minister," she underlined in response to questions put during the interview.
In this, she repeated her objections to any cut in wages and stressed that such a solution would be neither effective nor viable.
"If we reduce payroll spending by 500 million euros, we will deduct some 1.5 billion euros from final demand," she stressed.
Regarding the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), the minister emphasised that no more time should be lost and that funds would be directed toward new programmes with a high added value and that were clearly oriented toward regional parts of the country.
The government's goal was to spend 10.3 billion euros on the Greek economy from the public investment programme during 2010, of which seven billion would be projects with joint funding (NSRF) and 3.3 billion would be national funds.
 Pension system on 'last legs', Loverdos warnsGreece's post-war social insurance system was "on its last legs" and his successor in 2015 might well be forced to announce a partial suspension of pensions unless radical changes were made, Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos said in an interview printed by the newspaper "Vima" on Sunday.
The minister expressed hope that the dialogue launched by the government would yield an agreement on both the size of the problem and the solutions that were necessary. He noted that there was very broad consensus at the discussion now underway before the appropriate Parliament committee, with the exception of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) that refused to attend and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) that rejected all the solutions offered.
 New prices for 6,000 pharmaceuticalsThe government on Saturday announced plans to revise the prices of 6,000 pharmaceutical drugs as of February, most of them downward, and to reintroduce a list of approved prescription drugs for social insurance funds. The planned measures were announced by Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli, Health Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou and Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos during a joint appearance before Parliament's Production and Trade Committee.
The ministers also unveiled plans for a system to review drug prices three times a year and the launch of a pilot scheme to check prescriptions electronically on March 1, designed to go into full operation from May 1, 2010.
The discussion was held in view of the tabling of an amendment by the finance ministry to reintroduce the approved pharmaceuticals list.
In statements to the committee, Katseli emphasised what she called a "tragic state" with respect to spending on medical drugs, noting that this had increased 120 percent in the last three years, while prices for pharmaceuticals were higher in relation to other countries and prescriptions were completely unmonitored.
Xenoyiannakopoulou pointed that hospital debts to pharmaceuticals suppliers had ballooned to 6.3 billion euros, of which the money owed to hospitals by social insurance funds came to 2.5 billion euros. While conceding that there had been several problems in applying the approved list of drugs when this had existed before, with several loopholes that had been abused at will, she promised that steps would be taken to avoid these mistakes in the legislation to be tabled in January.
She also pointed out that the previous government had taken absolutely no action to seek the 4 percent rebate on turnover from pharmaceutical industries foreseen under the bill that had abolished this list and allowed doctors to prescribe freely in 2005.
"The situation has reached its limit, it is at check mate. Total spending in private pharmacies exceeds 4.5 billion euros when in Belgium, with just 500,000 fewer residents, it is less than 2.5 billion. The increases in the last four years have been 10 percent, 10 percent, 13 percent and 25 percent when in Germany they were 5.5 percent and in the United States 6.5 percent," she pointed out.
 Foreign Exchange rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.445
Pound sterling 0.894
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 10.541
Japanese yen 130.72
Swiss franc 1.507
Norwegian kroner 8.462
Canadian dollar 1.541
Australian dollar 1.628
 Environment minister pledges to 'reclaim' Athens centre in interview with KathimeriniPreventing urban sprawl and the further expansion of Athens would not be achieved by talking about it but by reclaiming the centre of the city, Environment Minister Tina Birbili said in an interview with the newspaper Kathimerini published on Sunday.
"We are doing things there, we are talking to the municipality and the ministries. For example, with [Citizens' Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis] about Exarchia. He doesn't believe that the problem can be solve by the police, either. There will be a draft proposal with the participation of the residents," Birbili told reporters.
The minister emphasised that the strength of the city was in its own citizens and that it was the city that Athenians lived in and had to rebuild.
On other issues, Birbili said she was proud of the draft bill for protecting forests and stressed that the mechanism for carrying it out was to upgrade the monitoring role of the public sector but that ordinary citizens also had to act responsibly.
"When we talk of an end to unauthorised building in forests, we must show the required responsibility," she said.
The minister opposed nuclear power on the grounds of high cost for the management of nuclear waste, underlining her determination to set up networks for renewable energy in Greece.
 Painter Yiannis Moralis passes awayYiannis Moralis, one of the greatest Greek painters of the so-called "Generation of the '30s" and who had many distinctions both at home and abroad, passed away on Sunday at the age of 93.
Moralis was born in the city of Arta, in western Greece, in 1916 and settled permanently in Athens in 1927. At the age of 15 he was accepted at the Fine Arts School in Athens and in 1936 he left for Rome with a scholarship.
In 1949, he and several Greek artists founded the artistic group "Armos" and organised the first joint exhibition at the Zappion Hall in 1950, while in 1954 he began his cooperation with the Greek Theatre, first with the Art Theatre and then with the National Theatre.
He was honoured with a painting award in 1940 for the first time and works of his belong to public and private collections in Greece and abroad.
 Culture minister, ND leader on Moralis' deathCulture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos and main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras paid tribute on Sunday evening to painter Yiannis Moralis, who died earlier in the day at the age of 93.
"Today we say farewell to one of the greatest artists in modern Greece...It is a loss that will be felt by Art and our country," Geroulanos said.
On his part, Antonis Samaras said: "One of the greatest Greek painters, an important creator, who offered a lot to our country, has left us."
 Traffic diverted due to Tempi landslideRoad travel between northern and southern Greece remained problematic on Saturday, following the landslide at the Tempi Valley that cut off the main north-south axis.
Announcements by the Greek traffic police said that private cars and small trucks up to 3.5 tonnes using the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway heading south would be diverted at the junction near the city of Katerini and led to Agios Dimitrios and from there to the Katerini-Elassonas-Tyrnavos-Ambelonas-Gyrtoni national highway to the old Larisa-Thessaloniki national highway and then onto the Sykourio-Larisa rural road, where they would rejoin the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway at the Sykourio junction.
Larger vehicles and coaches will be directed off the national highway at Kleidi, Imathia toward the Egnatia Highway between Veria and Kozani, from which they would join the Kozani-Elassonas national highway and then follow the same route as cars and smaller goods vehicles.
Vehicles moving north, likewise, will be directed off the national highway at the Sykourio junction and follow the reverse routes toward Thessaloniki.
 Kiosk a bomb target second time this monthA kiosk in the west Attica town of Magoula was blown up by an explosive device set by unidentified culprits in the early hours of Saturday morning. The bomb went off at 2:45 in the morning, causing serious damage, and was the second targeting the specific kiosk this month.
Police have attributed the attack to personal differences with the owner. The explosive device was made of some three kilos of dynamite, a slow-burning fuse and a detonator that caused a blast so powerful that the kiosk was completely destroyed and a crater left at the blast site.
A similar explosion had also occurred on November 11.
An inquiry into the incident has been launched by the Attica Security extortion department.
 Vehicle owned by private firm blown upAn makeshift explosive device set under a private car went off at 4:45 on Saturday morning in the Athens district of Paleo Faliro. The car belonged to a private firm and the explosion caused minor damage. Police have launched an inquiry into the incident.
 Three cars torched in ThessalonikiThree parked cars were torched by unidentified culprits in the Toumba district of Thessaloniki in the early hours of Saturday morning. The fires were set using a flammable liquid and the fires put out by the fire brigade, while the damage caused was not very extensive.
 Panathinaikos tops soccer Super League standingsPanathinaikos Athens thrashed Super League newcomer PAS Yiannina 4-0 at home over the weekend to climb to the top of the Greek Super League standings after Olympiacos Piraeus lost 1-0 away to Aris Thessaloniki, while AEK Athens lost 2-0 away to Asteras Tripoli.
In other action:
Levadiakos Livadia-Larissa 3-0
Ergotelis Crete-PAOK Thessaloniki 0-2
Panthrakikos Komotini-Atromitos Athens 0-3
Panionios Athens-Kavala 1-2
Xanthi-Iraklis Thessaloniki 4-3
Standings after 15 weeks of play:
1. Panathinaikos 38 points
2. Olympiacos 36
3. PAOK 28
4. Asteras 23
5. Kavala 22
6. Aris 22
7. Panionios 22
8. Ergotelis 21
9. AEK 21
10. Atromitos 19
11. Xanthi 17
12. Iraklis 15
13. Larissa 15
14. PAS Yiannina 14
15. Levadiakos 14
16. Panthrakikos 2
 Cold and sunny on MondayCold, sunny weather is forecast in most parts of the country on Monday, with northwesterly winds ranging from 3 to 5 Beaufort, and up to 6 Beaufort at sea. Temperatures will range from -3C in the north to a maximum of 17C in the islands of the southern Aegean. Sunny in Athens, with temperatures ranging from 6C to 13C. Same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 0C to 6C.
 Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glanceThe economy and the pressures on Greece from international markets and the European Union were the main front-page items in Athens' Sunday newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Safari for the black money cartels - wage earners and pensioners will not always have to 'pay for the party'".
APOGEVMATINI: "Seven changes in retirement [rules] during 2010. What will apply for men and women in the public and private sectors".
AVGHI: "'Peoples' bond the answer to speculators".
AVRIANI: "George [PM George Papandreou] falls out with media barons and clashes with the racketeers of construction and procurements".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "George backpedalling. The period of grace for the government is over and the uphill climb begins".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "At panic stations. Government seeking additional measures by mid-January in order to convince the EU that it will carry out its promises".
EPOCHI: "Our lives at the mercy of markets. Copenhagen: no decisions for the planet. Athens: harsh measures, here and now".
ETHNOS: "Irish 'suit' ushered in from the back door after pressure from markets - Public sector: wages will not be cut but benefits are being 'snipped'".
FREE SUNDAY: "Doubletalk in view of measures".
KATHIMERINI: "30 crucial days for the economy. Banks. New evaluations on the way. Pressure from EU. Doublespeak from government".
LOGOS: "Popular dissatisfaction at taxation measures".
NIKI: "Party for the speculators. 'Gold-diggers' to attack Greek bonds in January".
PARON: "Civil war over measures within PASOK. [Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou] paving the way for the bad news".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Dynamic class showdown at the prospect of a counter-attack".
TO THEMA: "An end to tax rebates for five years. Emergency 'Plan B' due to international pressures".
TYPOS ON SUNDAY: "The 10 'dangerous duos' in the government". [runs article claiming deep divisions between members of the government and ruling party].
VETO: "Shock report by deputy prosecutor about Siemens"
TO VIMA: "Dietary 'bombs' and 'fakes' at our table - adulterated and spoiled foods - dietary scandal in the hands of the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET)".
VRADYNI: "New taxes and measures on the way - who loses out the most, who the least".
 President Christofias: We will continue talks with seriousnessNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias underlined here Saturday that the Greek Cypriot side will continue to attend negotiations, aiming to the settlement of the Cyprus problem, with seriousness.
Asked where the intensified talks to be held in January will take place, Christofias said that the venue of the talks will be announced on Monday, when he will have another meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in UN-led direct negotiations since September 2008, with an aim to reunify the island, divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
 House President: Turkish intrasigence at its peakNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the House of Representatives Marios Garoyian has said that Turkish intrasigence has culminated and warned that if the international community continues to tolerate Turkey, it will be co-responsible for the deadlock in the Cyprus talks.
The House President stressed that direct negotiations for a Cyprus solution have not yielded substantive results due to the Turkish stance and the tolerance displayed by the international community.
Garoyian also said that the Turkish side remains intransigent and has made no substantive move that would allow optimism as regards the course of direct negotiations.
"Turkey insists on a solution based on confederation and two states,'' he said noting that Ankara wants a solution that will legalize the consequences of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
As a result, he continued, "the negotiating process leads nowhere". "Direct negotiations have been impaired due to this Turkish tactic and due to the tolerance displayed by some in the international community. At the same time, the ineffectiveness and weakness of the UN to make Turkey respect UN principles and decisions is revealed", he stressed.
He expressed disagreement with the position that Cypriots are the only ones who have the responsibility for the solution of the Cyprus problem adding that all institutions of the international community also have the duty to safeguard peace, protect international law and human rights.
"We expect them to realize and undertake this responsibility. We expect them to address with determination and severity this Turkish intransigence" he went on to say.
He warned that if the international community continues to follow the same tactic, it will be "co- responsible for leaving the Cyprus problem pending and for the deadlock in the current effort to solve the problem".
He urged Cyprus' EU partners to address "Turkey's threats with determination".
"Turkey refuses to fulfill its EU obligations and commitments it undertook" he said, adding that if Ankara does not comply these commitments it must face the consequences of its actions.
The House President said that we are currently in a "particularly crucial time", adding that "Turkish intransigence is at its peak" and direct negotiations have yielded "no substantive results".
Garoyian said that the Greek Cypriot side "has accepted the bizonal, bicommunal federation with the right content, as a historic compromise" and it did not accept a solution based on confederation, or two states, which is Turkey's goal.
"We have proven to the international community our will to reach a solution the soonest possible", he went on to say, adding that President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has shown good will and made courageous offers to the other side.
"Our goal is to free our country and reunify Cyprus. Our goal is to safeguard the rights of our people in the framework of a just, functional and viable solution, based on the principles of international law, the UN decisions, and the principles and values on which the EU is founded", he concluded.
Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat have been engaged in direct negotiations since September 2008 with a view to solve the problem of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974.
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