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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-02-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 22 February 2010 Issue No: 3428
 PM Papandreou on BBC: Greece asking for political, not financial, supportGreece is asking for political support and time to implement its Stability and Growth Program and prove that it is once again trustworthy, prime minister George Papandreou said in an interview with the BBC, stressing that the government has the great majority of the Greek people on its side, who want to proceed with the changes.
What we ask of our partners is to be able to borrow on the same terms that the other eurozone countries borrow, he added, in an appearance on the Andrew Marr Show.
Reiterating that Greece is seeking political, and not financial, support, Papandreou said: "Give us time, give us support -- and I'm not talking about economic support, but about political support -- to prove that we have done what we are doing what we've said we'd do, and that we are once again trustworthy."
At this time, the Greek premier explained, Greece does not need to borrow, as its borrowing needs are covered up until mid-March. But what Greece is saying is that it needs assistance so as to be able to borrow at the same interest rates that the other (eurozone) countries borrow, and not at higher interest, which undermines the prospect for achievement of the targets (for reducing the deficit), he said.
Papandreou further said that the government has the widest support of the Greek society for the economic reforms, despite the protest rallies against the austerity measures that have been taken to tackle the crisis.
Despite the fact that they are indeed austerity measures and are truly painful, the government has the backing of 50-60 percent of the population to implement the measures, the prime minister continued.
Papandreou said he sees a sense of unity of the Greek people paralleled only by that during the time of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, a true desire to make the change.
The Greek premier suggested: "Let's sit together with the European authorities, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, and see what progress we have achieved, how the Stability and Growth Program we've drafted is going."
Indeed, he stressed, Greece is "within the targets, and even higher", in its January statistical data, so "we're doing well".
However, he added, if additional measures are needed to meet the target of reducing the deficit by 4 percentage points in 2010, his government will take them. "We are prepared to do so, if necessary," Papandreou said.
 PM Papandreou's interview with SpiegelPrime minister George Papandreou expressed his determination to implement tough economic reforms, despite labor strikes in protest of the measures, which he admitted "will be very painful", in an interview with the German magazine Spiegel to appear in Monday's edition.
"We have the support of the population. The trade unions know that too. I am determined to maintain my stance," the Greek premier said.
"We all know that the whole thing will be very painful. This is about the survival of our country," he added.
The premier expressed confidence that Greece can achieve the ambitions reduction in the budget deficit by clamping down on corruption and excessive state spending.
"If our state functioned well, there would be little room for cuts. But since there is so much waste everywhere, we can save a lot, too," Papandreou said.
"We need to understand the crisis as a chance to launch the necessary reforms," the premier said.
He said that Greece was not "asking for money from Germany, even if it is sometimes presented like that", stressing that the country needs access to credit under the same conditions as other eurozone countries, in order to implement reforms.
 Samaras at ND first pre-Congress conference: The country has need of unityThe country has need of unity, and not divisive quandaries, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras said on Sunday, addressing the first in a series of pre-Congress conferences leading up to the party's 8th regular Congress scheduled for June 25-27 in Athens.
Addressing the inaugural pre-Congress conference, held at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Faliron, Samaras attacked the government on its intention to set up a fact-finding commission on the economy, stressing that the country needs unity, and not divisive dilemmas, and accused the government of teetering.
"Instead of governing, it is setting up fact-finding commissions," he said, and further accused the government of "four months of inaction" and of "being at the center of the public debate for the measures it is not taking, whereas ND is at the center for the 23 measures it (recently) proposed for growth".
Samaras warned, regarding the proposed fact-finding commission on the economy, that "at this hour it is a mistake for us to poke out our eyes with our own hands" and put the country at the mercy of the international media.
He added, however, that if the government goes ahead with such a commission, ND "will participate".
The government, Samaras said, things that it will "entrap us", but "it is mistaken, we fear nothing, we have nothing to hide, we are covering up for no one", adding that everything must come to light, "we do not bow to extortion and opportunistic quandaries".
Samaras further described as a "pseudo-dilemma" the quandary of "whether we should take the measures ourselves or wait for the EU to impose them".
"The issue at hand is not the measures, but what measures one takes," the ND leader said, and opined that Brussels is increasing the austerity of the measures.
He warned at the same time that the government will have ND "on the opposite side if they lead us to (borrowing from) the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is anti-European". Any measures taken should limit squanderous state spending and not the needs of the many, Samaras added, stressing that the weaker strata but also the middle class must be protected so that the market will not dry up.
On his party's opposition tactics, Samaras said that "we are exercising progressive opposition, we are doing what is good for the country, but we are not co-governing...we support the country, and not the government...responsible opposition politics is one thing and co-responsibility in the mistake is something else".
"We will not accept unfair and ineffective measures," the main opposition leader stressed.
Samaras also accused the ruling PASOK party of championing "the bankrupt economic and social model that was prevalent after 1980 and is based on redistribution of the loans and clientele relations".
"Our country needs a change of example. The new ND being created on the road to the 8th regular Congress of principles and positions will lead Greece to a new era, which is the demand of the times and embraces the entire society," he continued.
Samaras outlined his vision for a "social liberalism founded on the values of Freedom, Justice, Equality before the Law, and Competitiveness".
"If I were to encapsulate my vision in a single phrase or slogan, it would be 'competitiveness everywhere, in the economy, in culture, in foreign policy, in defence'," he added.
 ND leader Samaras arrives in CyprusNICOSIA (ANA-MPA/A. Viketos)
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras arrived in Cyprus on Sunday evening expressing his deep emotion over being on the island republic.
Samaras, who was met at Larnaca airport by Democratic Rally (DHSY) party leader Nikos Anastassiades, said that the solution to the Cyprus problem must be in accordance with UN resolutions and the European acquis communautaire.
On Monday, Samaras will be received by President Demetris Christofias, the Parliament president and Archbishop Chrysostomos.
Samaras and his party's delegation will be holding talks with the president and a delegation of DHSY and will be discussing, apart from the issue of Cyprus, ways of further deepening cooperation between the two parties, members of the European People's Party.
The ND leader will also be holding separate meetings with the leaders of the other Parliamentary parties of Cyprus.
 KKE leader warns: 'More measures on the way'Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga expressed strong concern over what she called prospect agreements on the Aegean, the Cyprus issue and a series of outstanding issues in the Balkans, referring to "the other side" of the crisis Greece is facing.
Papariga said that behind all these "so-called pressures" and the government's decision on whether it will "turn the steering wheel more towards the US or the European Union" is "the problem of an agreement on the Aegean, on the Cyprus issue with respect to the Greek government, and not Cyprus itself, and the agreements on a series of outstanding issues in the Balkans".
She accused the PASOK government of putting the state of the economy -- the deficits and debts -- at the forefront in an effort to conceal from the Greek people "the agreements that seem to have been set in motion" which will have "economic, political and military consequences".
Those agreements "will be at the expense of the Greek people and, more generally, could set off a new circle of clashes and confrontations in the region in the coming years", she added.
Papariga said it was no coincidence that at the same time that the Greek government was giving the appearance of supposedly resisting and having an active policy on confronting the pressures, it was literally 'playing possum' on the daily Turkish violations (of Greek national airspace) in the Aegean.
She said that the 'package' comprising the planned abolition of the '14th salary' (Christmas bonus) this year and increases in VAT and special consumer tax on fuel will strike a harsh blow to the working people's and farmers' incomes was intertwined with the developments in the Aegean, Greek-Turkish relations, the situation in the Balkans, and even with the course of the Cyprus issue.
Turning to economic policy, Papariga charged that in saying that the Stability and Growth Program is sufficient, the PASOK government was attempting to put up a smokescreen over the new measures that are on the way.
She charged that the drastic cutbacks that have already been introduced "are not putting our house in order" but rather "a lethal attack against the people".
 Papariga: The people must have confidence in their strengthCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga acknowledged that "the times are indeed critical", and stressed that the working classes must have confidence in their strength and that there needs to be a popular uprising to defend their rights.
In an interview with the To Vima newspaper appearing on Sunday, replying as to why the KKE is not attempting a rapprochement with the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary alliance, Papariga said that the tendencies in the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN), which heads the SYRIZA alliance, and the components of SYRIZA, "are seeking a magical way that will make capitalism more human, the EU and the ECB (European Central Bank) more pro-people, so that profits can coexist harmoniously with the human".
"Fortunately for the working people and the popular movement, the KKE has not been infected with that incurable disease," Papariga added.
 KKE rally ahead of Wednesday's nationwide labor strikeThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE) staged a rally in downtown Athens on Saturday, ahead of Wednesday's nationwide labor strike called by the country's two largest umbrella federations ADEDY (civil servants unions' federation) and GSEE (General Confederation of Workers of Greece), which was addressed by party leader Aleka Papariga.
The KKE leader charged that the government, through the measures it is taking, wants to ensure the full profitability of the big capital, and warned that "there is no time, we must avert and obstruct the barbarous measures before the government brings them to parliament".
She said that the government intends to "take" not only the "14th salary" (Christmas bonus), but also 2-3 additional salaries of the working people through increases in VAT and the special consumption tax on fuel, which will raise prices in general.
"The government is lying when it says it is taking measures to cover the deficits and debts. In reality, only a very small part of those will be covered. It has one and only goal, to ensure the full profitability of the big capital, recovery on the backs of the working people who are not just simply the victim. This time, the consequences will be tragic and long-lasting," Papariga charged.
 LAOS: Blow against effort to exit the crisisPopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis said his party opposed the government's intention to set up a fact-finding commission on the economy, warning that it would be the biggest and most powerful blow against the effort for Greece to exit the crisis. He was speaking during a radio interview on Saturday.
Karatzaferis also accused main opposition New Democracy (ND) of lacking seriousness, referring to its change of stance on the issue of consensus.
Consensus, he continued, was part of the overall effort to exit the crisis, adding that ND lacked seriousness when it said one thing one day and another thing the next day, and opening the ND leader Antonis Samaras was forced to change policy from pressure coming from inside the party, while ruling PASOK, in turn, had provided him with the "alibi" to bow out of the consensus process.
Karatzaferis said that both PASOK and ND "have not found their pace", adding that Samaras was "obviously terrified" of what Constantine Mitsotakis and Costas Karamanlis (former ND prime ministers) will do.
As for prime minister George Papandreou, he said that "we had somewhat underestimated him, as a personality".
"My observation is that, in the deep waters, he holds up and has a good performance and breath, which means that at least I am a bit more assured than I was before the elections on his abilities at the helm," Karatzaferis said.
He added, however, that "this does not mean that he (Papandreou) does not need help, and he, too, realises that, domestically, he needs a booster shot, and that is my role".
"I see that there is ground for the opposition too to render its services by giving useful advise, instead of vociferating," Karatzaferis said.
 Tsipras sees rapid deterioration of economy on the horizonCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alexis Tsipras anticipated that the state of the Greek economy will deteriorate rapidly over the coming period, resulting in stifling pressure being put on the weak social strata, speaking at a meeting of the party's Central Political Committee on Sunday, during which he outlined the political action positions of the party.
He reiterated the need for the creation of a powerful front opposite the "conservative coalition" of prime minister George Papandreou, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras, and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis.
 Tsipras further reiterated the need for unity in the Left sphere.The SYN leader warned that the situation of the economy will deteriorate rapidly, and the recession will deepen to the point that it will not be at all easy to come out of it for many years to come. He added that the restrictive measures that have been proposed were totally ineffective because they will sink the economy deeper into recession and take Greece further away from any prospect of a way out.
This situation, in turn, will make the pressure on the weak social strata asphyxiating to the point that "we will have a dissolution of the social cohesion, and phenomena of nouveau poverty".
At the same time, however, the bankers continued unobstructed to profiteer, the shipowners continued to not pay taxes, the big-time contractors continued not to pay social security contributions, the Church continued to "keep all its robes for itself", and taxation on the profits of the big capital was being reduced, at a time when the low-salary earners were being squeezed dry by the indirect taxes, Tsipras charged.
Another major aspect of the repercussions of the economic policy being followed was the 'expropriation' of the social rights, he continued, stressing that, together with the immediate economic measures, institutional reforms were also being advanced that will "turn the country many years back".
In essence, he charged, the state was "pulling out of social security".
In an interview with Proto Thema newspaper appearing on Sunday, Tsipras said that Greece's problem is in essence a European problem and has to do with the structural weaknesses of the EU, which instituted a common currency without mechanisms to support the weaker economies.
 SYN Central Political Committee approves planning on labor, social and economic frontsThe Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) Central Political Committee approved a Political Secretariat recommendation on the party's political planning on the labor, social and economic fronts, with a broad majority on Sunday evening.
According to the decision, specific steps will be taken to strengthen SYN's bonds with the working people, pensioners and unemployed, aimed at substantive improvement of SYN's intervetion in the labor union movement and its effective support of the ongoing working people's struggles.
The Central Political Committee confirmed SYN's direction for the creation of the conditions for "forming a uniform social and political front for the reversal of the Stability Program and the social injustices, impasses and neoliberal measures being taken by the PASOK government with the consensus of (main opposition New Democracy) ND and (Popular Orthodox Rally) LAOS".
The SYN Central Political Committee also called on the party's friends, members and cadres to put all their strength into the success of Wednesday's nationwide labor strike "which must be escalated and serve as the springboard of even more dynamic and mass social resistance, aimed at reversing the applied policies with which the government aspires to a radical redistribution of incomes and rights, at the working people's expense".
 Tsipras blames governments, prefectural authority on Lake Koronia destuctionCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alexis Tsipras cast blame on the Greek governments and the Thessaloniki Prefectural Authority for the ecological destruction of Lake Koronia, near Thessaloniki, speaking on Saturday at a party event on restoration of the Lake.
"Reflected in the scant waters of the Lake are the criminal responsibilities of the governments and the Prefectural Authority, who did not put top priority on protection of the natural environment," Tsipras charged, noting that whatever measures taken for the conservation of Lake Koronia were inadequate, ineffective, and did not succeed in averting the destruction.
"Thus, the Lake, a few years ago (summer 2002), reached the verge of fully drying up, and at the same time became a basin for disposing hazardous substances, toxic substances, industrial waste and pesticides, posing an additional threat to public health," he added.
 President Papoulias at Ioannina liberation anniversary: We will once again overcome the difficultiesThose "who have" must contribute the most, and those who "do not have" will also give their obole, President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias said on Sunday, adding that "at this difficult moment, we are all here...we will give our all for the country".
Speaking in the northwest lakeside city of Ioannina after a parade marking the 97th anniversary of the city's liberation from Ottoman rule, Papoulias said that the country today was facing a difficult situation, and "we need the same virtues that led us to those results that amazed the Europeans and put forward a Greece that took its own place in the European entity".
"Today, too, we will again overcome the difficulties," the President said.
Speaking later at a banquet in his honor at the Officers' Club of the 8th Army Division, Papoulias said that at this time Greece is called on to make a historical transition, "and the challenge for all of us is that there be no phenomena of social dissolution".
In other words, the challenge is to "cross over to the other side without anyone being left behind". This, he said, is the critical national goal of our era, "and it is my conviction that the Greek people will manifest their maturity".
Papoulias said that remembrance of the struggles and sacrifices that were required for freedom and national independence serves a deeper national need, strengthening the sentiment of patriotism which is "precious in the current circumstances".
"The true and full meaning of patriotism has to do with the prevalence of the collective good over the individual good, with a sense of responsibility towards the future generations. Love of country is not rhetoric, but a life stance. And it needs to be proven daily with actions, and not treated as a tool for political communication, nor as a self-evident reference," the President continued.
He said that the biggest international crisis of the last 60 years had revealed the grave illnesses of the Greek economy and put an end to the Greeks' delusions.
Earlier, during a short ceremony in his honor at the Prefectural authority, Papoulias sent his own message to German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "Let me convey my own optimism that we will see the light and emerge from the darkness. We will fight. As I was myself for many years an immigrant in Germany, Ms. Merkel will allow me to see her weak points too. But there is no benefit in seeing only the weak points of the others and make excuses for ourselves. Unity and strength is required from all, and I am certain that the future will be better".
The anniversary celebrations were also attended by national defence minister Evangelos Venizelos, representing the government.
The paraders included pupils, students, scouts, Armed Forces and Security Corps divisions, and a division of the Presidential Guard, while, due to the economic crisis, the Armed Forces' motor divisions did not take part in the parade this year, nor were overflights made by Air Force planes and helicopters.
 Opinion poll on crisis, measuresA majority of 57.6 percent of respondents consider that the government's measures are in the right direction, although 74.2 percent said they had been unjustifiably delayed, according to a Marc opinion poll, the results of which appeared in the Sunday edition of Ethnos newspaper.
Further, 75.8 percent of the respondents said strikes should be put off until the crisis has passed.
Public opinion was split, however, on the government's plan to set up a fact-finding commission on the economy, with 49.5 percent of the respondents believing that it will further mar the country's image abroad and 42.3 percent believing it is necesssary.
On the causes of the crisis, 32.7 percent of the respondents attributed it to speculative attacks, followed by lack of credibility, and and effort to undermine the euro.
To a question on whether Greece will succeed in exiting the crisis, 51.3 percent replied in the affirmative and 43.0 percent replied in the negative.
Regarding the popularity of the political leaders, 74 percent of the respondents have a positive opinion of prime minister George Papandreou, 69.8 percent have a positive opinion of main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras, 45.7 percent of Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, 25.4 percent of Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga, and 24.6 percent of Coalition of the Left, Movements and Progress (SYN) leader Alexis Tsipras.
 Customs employees strike ruled illegal by Athens courtAn Athens court on Saturday declared an ongoing strike by Customs employees as "illegal", following an injunction submitted Friday night by the finance ministry.
Before the minisry tabled the injunction, finance minister George Papaconstantinou had met with representatives of the striking Customs employees, but the talks ended in deadlock after the strikers stated their unwavering determination to continue their mobilisation.
The Customs employees on Friday morning extended an initial three-day strike by three rolling 48-hour strikes, as reserves at petrol stations started drying up.
The customs employees throughout the country had initially launched a three day strike from Tuesday to Thursday, but decided on Thursday evening to call an additional three rolling 48-hour strikes.
 Joint work group between Greece and Abu DhabiA joint work group between Greece and Abu Dhabi will be created with the aim of probing possibilities of bilateral development cooperation, as well as Abu Dhabi's possible participation in the Greek Development Fund which will be created.
The joint group's first meeting will be taking place in Athens in the coming weeks, as it was revealed following meetings Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli had in a brief visit to Abu Dhabi, accompanied by Minister of State Haris Pamboukis.
The ministry's target is the strengthening of economic cooperation between the two countries with the attraction of investments from Abu Dhabi and with the active presence of Greek businesses in the development of the emirate's western region.
 Infrastructures minister meets Egnatia Odos SA administrationThe Infrastructures, Transport and Networks ministry is scheduling the beginning of the construction of Thessaloniki's circular road in 2010, according to statements made by relevant Minister Dimitris Reppas, following his meeting with the administration of the Egnatia Motorway SA company, in the presence of Deputy Minister Yiannis Mangriotis.
"It appears that we can, in 2010 or in the first six months of 2011 at the latest, tender the first section, from Titanas to Konstantinopolitika, having a length of about nine kilometres," Reppas said.
Asked about Thessaloniki's undersea motorway, the minister termed it a "typical excample of bad planning, with a cost for the public sector that is at the stage of arbitration."
 Foreign Exchange rates - MondayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.362
Pound sterling 0.885
Danish kroner 7.502
Swedish kroner 9.924
Japanese yen 125.16
Swiss franc 1.477
Norwegian kroner 8.170
Canadian dollar 1.432
Australian dollar 1.529
 Anti-racism rally held in AthensA march with the participation of 55 anti-racism and migrants' organisations and unions was held on Saturday afternoon from Omonia Square to Syntagma Square in downtown Athens.
Participants demonstrated for migrants' and refugees rights and against xenophobia and racism.
The Coaltion of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the Ecologists-Greens parties also took part in the march.
Afterwards, a concert was staged at Syntagma Square featuring bands comprising second-generation migrant youths.
 Panathinaikos loses but still leads Super LeaguePanathinaikos Athens lost 2-1 away from PAOK Thessaloniki over the weekend but remained at the top of the Greek Super League standings, while Olympiacos Piraeus was held to a 1-1 draw away by Ergotelis Crete and AEK Athens beat Aris Thessaloniki 1-0 at home.
In other action:
Iraklis Thessaloniki-Levadiakos Livadia 1-1
Atromitos Athens-Asteras Tripoli 0-0
Larissa-Panthrakikos Komotini 0-2
PAS Yiannina-Panionios Athens 2-3
Standings after 23 weeks of play:
1. Panathinaikos 52 points
2. Olympiacos 50
3. PAOK 50
4. AEK 39
5. Aris 35
6. Kavala 33
7. Atromitos 31
8. Asteras 30
9. Ergotelis 29
10. Panionios 28
11. Xanthi 25
12. Iraklis 25
13. Larissa 24
14. PAS Yiannina 21
15. Levadiakos 21
16. Panthrakikos 12
 Cloudy, rainy on MondayCloudy and rainy weather and northerly winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Monday, with wind velocity reaching 3-8 beaufort. Temperatures will range between -2C and 19C. Cloudy with possible light showers in Athens, with northwesterly 3-5 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 8C to 17C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 2C to 10C.
 Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glanceThe economy and anticipated additional measures, the state deficit and the Siemens case were the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on Sunday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Pressure again for new measures".
APOGEVMATINI: "Single Health Insurance Fund - The government's final plans on social security".
AVGHI: "Zero hour".
AVRIANI: "Greece at the mercy of speculators after the new 'cold shower' from our European partners".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The time has come for the big reversals - Samaras (main opposition New Democracy leader) message today (Sunday) at ND's first pre-Congress conference".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Ecofin's 80 dictates (measures)".
EPOCHI: "Everyone take to the streets - You fear the crisis, they (government) fear you".
ETHNOS: "MRC opinion poll with messages to the entire political system - 'Karamanlis guilty', but the fact-finding commission on the economy (planned by the government) divides".
KATHIMERINI: "The EU's demands, Athens' 'red line'."
LOGOS: "Greece in Brussels' 'vise' - Coercive dilemmas on the taking of harsh measures with political cost".
NIKI: "Unbearable 7 billion euros load - Unprecedented 'raid' in order for the country to avert bankruptcy".
PARON: "Europeans and Americans demand concessions in order to give us money...They're coercing us with the national issues".
PROTO THEMA: "The (former) ND government's fraud with the deficit - How it 'reduced' it by 3 billion euros in one day".
RIZOSPASTIS: "Everyone turn out for the February 24 strike".
TO VIMA: "Papandreou decides shock-therapy".
VRADYNI: "New tax-storm ahead - All the new measures - The dramatic behind-the-scenes of the decision".
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