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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-08-09

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>

Monday, 9 August 2010 Issue No: 3562


  • [01] EC-IMF team heads praise progress, 'more still to be done'
  • [02] FinMin: 2011 will be year of hard work for government, no new measures planned
  • [03] Birbili: Focus on deregulation of energy market, not PPC privatisation
  • [04] Reppas: No layoffs in transports
  • [05] Foreign Exchange rates - Monday
  • [06] World premiere of 'Othello' staged at Epidaurus Ancient Theater
  • [07] 'Odyssey' marathon reading on Kos
  • [08] Crete dances for global peace and brotherhood
  • [09] Two dead in shooting rampage near Lamia
  • [10] Small plane makes forced landing on Santorini, all passengers safe and well
  • [11] Wildfire west of Lamia
  • [12] 4.8R quake jolts southern Crete
  • [13] 4.5R quake jolts Halkidiki
  • [14] Pediatrician arrested on warrant for teen sex abuse, to be extradited to Canada
  • [15] Hot, windy on Monday
  • [16] Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glance
  • [17] Cyprus President: International reaction to our proposals, very positive Politics

  • [01] EC-IMF team heads praise progress, 'more still to be done'

    European Commission (EC) Deputy Director General for economic and financial affairs Servaas Deroose and International Monetary Fund (IMF) European Department deputy director Poul Thomsen, who headed the EC and IMF teams in Athens last week, praised the progress so far in the Greek economy, in interviews appearing in two Sunday newspapers, but also stressed that there is still much that needs to be done.

    In an interview with Ethnos newspaper appearing on Sunday, Thomsen stressed that there is no need for new measures this year, neither with respect to expenditures nor with respect to revenues, and voiced optimism that the fiscal targets for September and December will be met.

    Deroose, in his own interview with To Vima appearing on Sunday, said he was impressed with the progress to date, adding that Greece is changing and that "a revolution is in process".

    Both men clarified that the troika (EC, IMF and European Central Bank-ECB) have never asked, and are not asking, for the sale of Public Power Corporation (PPC) units, nor has it asked for dismissals in the public sector and the DEKO (public utilities and organisations), while Poul spoke of a social choice of the government, which is respected, but both stressed that the commitment for one hiring per five outgoing personnel must be adhered to.

    Deroose also stressed that there will be no restructuring of Greece's debt, belying local and foreign speculation.

    The way to reducing the Greek debt by half, according to Deroose, is first of all for the country to achieve a primary surplus of 5 percentage points of GDP and the reforms must result in 3 percent growth. He considers both these targets absolutely feasible and, in such a case, the debt will be halved from its present level in a decade.

    On the deficit, he said that if it falls to below 8 percentage points of GDP this would send a very strong message to the markets that the program is successful and functional. He warned, however, that the measures taken must not be reversed, such as reinstatement of the so-called 13th and 14th salaries. "That would not be wise," Deroose said.

    Tackling the thorny issue of tax evasion, Thomsen said that a fairer program is necessary that will tax the higher incomes. He does not believe that the tax rates need to be increased beyond what is foreseen in the Memorandum, but that the program must be strictly implemented. What is important, he continued, is that the political will exists to impose adherence to the law, and agreed with imprisonment in cases of large-scale tax evasion.

    Replying to a relevant question, Thomsen said that the political consensus on implementation of the Memorandum was not to the degree he hoped for, while Deroose, in reply to a question, denied press reports that the troika has prohibited early general elections. "That is wrong," he said, adding that "it is not our job to suggest if and when elections will be held in a country to which we are providing assistance".

    [02] FinMin: 2011 will be year of hard work for government, no new measures planned

    Next year will be a year of 'hard work' for the government, finance minister George Papaconstantinou said in an interview, referring to the big wager of restarting the economy, while he also stressed categorically that new measures are not anticipated with respect to revenues, or additional cuts in remuneration but, rather, the government was looking to completion of the major structural changes.

    In an interview with the financial newspaper Isotimia appearing on Saturday, Papaconstantinou said that the salary developments in the private sector were set out in the Collective Labor Agreement recent agreed between the social partners. "It is already known a new framework exists for regulation the regulation of labor relations, which is being advanced by the relevant ministry, and no abolition of the 13th and 14th salary (half-salary Easter and summer vacation bonuses and full-salary Christmas bonus) are foreseen in that framework," he said.

    On speculation of a prospective government reshuffle, Papaconstantinou said that the formation of the governmental scheme that must carry out this immense project is the responsibility of the prime minister, and it is the premier who assesses the needs with respect to staffing the government and the performance of each individual minister in implementing government policy. He added that the smooth implementation of the policy set out in the Memorandum, but also of the overall policy of the government, is not the responsibility of only one minister but a collective effort for achieving the many and varied targets that have been set out for the country's overall progress.

    Asked whether the Memorandum or the government's pre-elections program is the 'bible' for ruling PASOK, Papaconstantinou noted that "a more fair taxation system, putting the country's finances in order with major changes with respect to the budget and fiscal management, the opening of the closed-shop professions, reduction of bureaucracy, acceleration of the NSRF (National Strategic Reference Framework) investments, facilitation of entrepreneurship, the Kallikratis program, the creation of a viable social security system and a series of other policies that are contained in the Memorandum and which the government has already instituted and is materialising or have been planned with strict timetables for the coming period were all included in PASOK's pre-electoral commitments.

    On the cooperation with the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) 'troika', Papaconstantinou said the cooperation itself was an unprecedented procedure not only for Greece but for the three participating organisations themselves because, although the EC, ECB and IMF have collaborated many times with such interventions in other countries, this is the first time that such a large loan agreement and such a wide-ranging program is being implemented and, indeed, in a eurozone country at that. "All these create many restrictions for everyone and have led to necessary decisions for everyone. However, a categorical evaluation of the program - positive or negative - is not easy, especially this early on. Besides, the program itself is a dynamic process, and the main 'shareholder' of the program is the Greek government," the finance minister added.

    On the privatisations program, Papaconstantinou stressed that from here on and until the end of the year, there will be specialisation of the moves in some sectors, with priority on those sectors that have major structural problems, such as the Hellenic Rail Organization (OSE) for example, for which a restructuring plan is being prepared, but also in areas that have substantial prospects for regulation of the market and boosting state revenues, such as gaming.

    Asked when the country will return to the international markets for borrowing, Papaconstantinou said that "we will not have a practical need for returning to the markets until the end of next year, and this gives us a margin of time to carry on with our program, to restore the credibility of and confidence in our economy to the degree possible and therefore to return to borrowing on the markets at a time when we will be able to secure better terms...consequently, there is no specific date at this time, everything will be done in due course".

    [03] Birbili: Focus on deregulation of energy market, not PPC privatisation

    The government and the EU-IMF troika are focusing their attention on deregulation of the energy market and not on privatisation of Public Power Corporation (PPC) units, environment, energy and climate change minister Tina Birbili said in an interview appearing in the Realnews newspaper on Sunday.

    There is a specific area for private initiative in energy production from renewable sources, from natural gas and from lignite, she said, reiterating that the government has not intention of privatising the PPC in the deregulation of the energy market.

    Commenting on the strong reactions by PPC unionists, Birbili said that "we are all on the same side, because we have common targets", adding that the dialogue should be carried on in a cool-headed manner and that "elements of antagonism or coercion must be avoided".

    She said that the liberalisation of the wholesale market is a major issue for the government, and namely "those conditions that will allow the penetration and survival of private enterprises", adding that "the investments that will be carried out will create new jobs and contribute to the production of national wealth".

    Birbili left open the possibility of increasing household electricity rates in 2011, noting that if the household rates increase, "it will be a decision that will be taken by the government with very great social sensitivity, especially in a period of crisis".

    [04] Reppas: No layoffs in transports

    There will be no layoffs in the Hellenic Rails Organisation (OSE) or any other public transport company, infrastructure, transport and networks minister Dimitris Reppas reiterated in a newspaper interview appearing on Sunday.

    In an interview with the Sunday edition of Eleftherotypia daily, Reppas said it is self-evident that changes are necessary in the personnel policy and determination of a rational operation cost so as to keep OSE running, but stressed that the government is opposed to layoffs and is waging a battle for that.

    He said that much needs to be changed, and that a streamlining is necessary that will include a new modern structure of the OSE corporate group with the involvement of private investors too in the operational division, as well as a new routes and prices policy with an agreed state subsidy that will have a ceiling.

    Reppas said that public transport means cannot operate without evaluation and control, nor can they borrow constantly without a corresponding provision of services.

    Financial News

    [05] Foreign Exchange rates - Monday

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

    U.S. dollar 1.328

    Pound sterling 0.836

    Danish kroner 7.511

    Swedish kroner 9.455

    Japanese yen 114.05

    Swiss franc 1.394

    Norwegian kroner 7.940

    Canadian dollar 1.357

    Australian dollar 1.447

    General News

    [06] World premiere of 'Othello' staged at Epidaurus Ancient Theater

    The world premiere of William Shakespeare's tragedy "Othello" (1604), directed by Thomas Ostermeier, was staged by the German Schaubuehne Theater at the ancient Epidaurus open-air theater, the sole foreign performance of this year's Epidaurus Festival.

    The Berlin-based Schaubuehne Theater presented the premiere performance on Friday night, with a repeat performance on Saturday night, staged as part of the Athens and Epidaurus Festival (Hellenic Festival) 2010.

    The ancient theatre of Epidaurus may prove an ideal venue for Othello (1604), a play that has been described as "Man's tragedy enacted beneath an empty sky".

    Thomas Ostermeier, director of the celebrated Schaubuehne, tackles the tale of Othello, Desdemona and the diabolical puppeteer, Iago, frantically yanking the strings of passion and base instinct. Focusing on aspects of human behaviour-on male rivalry and ambition, on jealousy and social exclusion, on the paranoia of love and sexuality-he gives us an Othello for our times.

    [07] 'Odyssey' marathon reading on Kos

    "Homeric Days" returned to Greece, as part of the Hippokratia 2010 festival on Kos island, after traveling the world over.

    The week-long events concluded on Saturday with an overnight reading/singing of Homer's "Odyssey" at the island's Medieval Castle, with 200 readers of all ages and backgrounds, distinguished personalities from all fields, students, foreign visitors and citizens from all over Greece participating in an impressive 12-hour long marathon reading.

    The event was enriched with live Ancient Greek music that transported the audience to the times of Odysseus, performed by the ensemble Lyravlos-Greek Musical Heritage Center.

    The Homeric events began with the theatrical performance Odyssey by the Karmen Rouggeri troupe, and continued throughout the first week of August with a series of cultural and educational events dedicated to Homer and the diachronic value of his works, led by the renowned international literary organization The Readers of Homer.

    [08] Crete dances for global peace and brotherhood

    The southern Aegean island of Crete will held a "humanitarian-cultural event" with the participation of 250,000 dancers on Saturday, the day after the anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bombing on Aug. 6, 1945, in the final stages of WWII.

    The organizer, the not-for-profit association "Planet Crete", also staged "local happenings" in parallel with the main event, "sending out messages of love and fellowship to all the people in the world inviting them to dance and become one".

    At sunset, more than 250,000 professional dancers and "friends of Crete" from all parts of the world gathered along the central road axis beween Chania in the west and Agios Nikolaos in the east, a 200,000 kilometer-long stretch, and joined hands, forming a human chain, to dance a traditional Cretan dance, the 'Sigano (slow) Pentozali'.

    The organisers hope to establish the event as an annual "Day of dance for all the people of the planet".

    [09] Two dead in shooting rampage near Lamia

    Two people were killed in the early hours of Sunday and two others were seriously injured in a shooting rampage by a 68-year-old man in the seaside village of Raches, near Lamia, in Fthiotis prefecture.

    A 68-year-old man went on a rampage and shot a couple -- a 55-year-old man and his 53-year-old wife -- with a hunting rifle and also seriously injured two other people, who were rushed to hospital in nearby Lamia, before barricading himself in his house, from where he continued to fire at police who arrived on the scene.

    The area was cordoned off, and a police negotiator and EKAM (SWAT) team arrived from Athens but failed to convince the gunman to turn himself up. At about 7:00 a.m., the gunman emerged from the house and took to the streets, shooting as he headed for other houses and finally reached the beach, where police and SWAT team members surrounded him, and was injured as they disarmed him.

    The perpetrator was also taken to Lamia hospital.

    [10] Small plane makes forced landing on Santorini, all passengers safe and well

    A twin-engine Piper aircraft made a forces landing at the airport on the island of Santorini on Saturday morning, and its six passengers were all safe and well.

    The aircraft, a member of the Rhodes Aeroclub and with a Greek pilot and five Israeli security police officers on board, had taken off from Heraklion, on Crete, destined for Santorini to accompany a regular flight from Israel due to land in Santorini later in the day.

    During the landing procedure a malfunction arose in the aircraft's two wheels, and the plane veered off the runway before making a forced landing. The pilot and passengers were quickly evacuated from the aircraft and were all well in health save for some superficial scratches, but were taken to the Santorini medical center for precautionary reasons.

    The airport remained closed for approximately half an hour until the aircraft was removed from the runway, resulting in a few minor delays in air traffic.

    The Civil Aviation Authority's (YPA) accidents division is investigating the circumstances of the forced landing.

    [11] Wildfire west of Lamia

    A wildfire broke out on Saturday in a forest expanse near Grammeni village in Makrokomi, 20 kilometers west of Lamia, and spread quickly, fanned by high winds.

    The fire was currently burning on three fronts, and a strong team of firefighters were racing against time to contain the blaze to ravines so as to prevent it from spreading to populated areas.

    One of the three fronts was approaching the first houses on the outskirts of Grammeni village, and the locals teamed up with firefighters in battling the flames, while firefighters from adjacent Evritania prefecture have rushed to the area to assist their colleagues from Fthiotis prefecture firefighters.

    Reinforcements have also been requested from other neighboring prefectures, while three water-dropping planes and a helicopter were assisting the effort.

    [12] 4.8R quake jolts southern Crete

    A light earthquake measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale jolted southern Crete on Sunday morning, but no damage was reported.

    The earthquake was recorded at 7:06 a.m. at a distance of 370 kilometers south of Athens, with its epicenter east of the nearbly island of Gavdos, the southernmost island of Greece.

    The quake was strongly felt in southern Crete all the way to the city of Heraklion.

    [13] 4.5R quake jolts Halkidiki

    A light earthquake measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale jolted the Halkidiki peninsula, norther Greece, at noon on Sunday, but no damage was reported.

    The earthquake was recorded at 12:00 noon at a distance of 53 kilometers east of Thessaloniki, with its epicenter in the region of Arnaia, Halkidiki.

    The quake was felt in eastern Thessaloniki and areas of Kavala.

    [14] Pediatrician arrested on warrant for teen sex abuse, to be extradited to Canada

    A 30-year-old pediatrician, resident of Austria, with an outstanding warrant against him for child molestation was arrested on Saturday at the Nikos Kazantzakis airport in Heraklion, on the island of Crete.

    The pediatrician, a permanent resident of Austria, is accused of sexual abuse two years ago of a 15-year-old boy who was hospitalised at a hospital in Canada where the doctor was an intern.

    Procedures have been set in motion for the pediatrician's extradition to Canada.

    Weather forecast

    [15] Hot, windy on Monday

    Hot and windy weather is forecast throughout Greece on Monday. Sunny in Athens, with brief local cloud and temperatures ranging from 24 to 35 C. The same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures of 22-33C.

    [16] Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glance

    The government's consultations with the EU-IMF troika and rumored changes and the upcoming local government elections were the main front-page items in Sunday's newspapers.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Chaos ahead with the pensions of 800,000 professionals".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Plan to abolish the building coefficient".

    AVGHI: "Who is governing this country: The troika, with aura of government, announced what must be done this year and next year".

    AVRIANI: "PASOK-affiliated trade unionists' ultimatum to George (prime minister Papandreou) - They warned the premier to stop the reforms, otherwise they will topple the government".

    CHORA: "4+1 'hot' fronts opening up in autumn - Harsh measures coming in 2011".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "The ND-PASOK 'duelists' in municipalities and peripheries - The 'trump cards' and the surprises planned by Samaras and Papandreou".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "The Tax Bureau's client list - List of companies and individuals who will be called on to settle their debts".

    ETHNOS: "Sweeping changes for salaries, commuter tickets and personnel - Government mulling shock-proposal for public transport".

    KATHIMERINI: "Plan B for the Memorandum - The commitments the government made to the troika for cutting 2 billion euros in expenditure".

    LOGOS: "Hot autumn in view of third tranche of EU-IMF loan - The troika warns that next time it will not be lenient".

    NIKI: "For whom the bell tolls in the public sector - The nightmare of layoffs awakens bad memories".

    PARON: "250,000 dismissals - Ultimatum from the EU".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Unceasing raid on the people's interests by government, troika and plutocracy".

    TO VIMA: "Reversals everywhere in social state, growth and government - August a month of major changes".

    VRADYNI: "Single salary scale: the changes to the civil servants' remuneration - What the troika wants, what the government will do".

    Cyprus Affairs

    [17] Cyprus President: International reaction to our proposals, very positive


    President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias has said that the first reaction of the international community as regards the three proposals he had submitted last month on the Cyprus issue, is very positive.

    Addressing Saturday evening an anti-occupation event organised by the Famagusta Municipality to mark 36 years since the illegal seizure and occupation of the town of Famagusta by the Turkish military, the Cypriot president said the three proposals aim to address Turkey's intransigent stance on the Cyprus issue. He also noted that these proposals could be presented with arguments to the EU and the international community.

    "The first reaction of the international community to our proposals is very positive," he pointed out.

    In his speech, President Christofias referred to his proposal to convene an international conference on the international aspect of the Cyprus issue, which will include the issues of guarantees, security and the withdrawal of foreign troops and settlers.

    He said that the Greek Cypriot side has asked for the internal aspects of the Cyprus issue to be of "Cypriot property" because "we have the bad experience of 2004 of arbitration and imposing of solution plans from outside".

    "If we want to deny this Cypriot property we can do it, but we should expect arbitration and pressure for imposition of a solution plan from outside. If we want that, we can do it, but I assure you, I will not", he went on to say.

    Last month, the Cypriot President announced three proposals on the Cyprus issue. The first suggests the linking of the discussion of three of the chapters of the Cyprus problem, those dealing with property, territory and immigration, for easing the resolution of the thorny chapter of properties and for expediting the dialogue.

    The second proposal urges Turkey to apply UN Security Council resolution 550, which calls for the transfer of the fenced off area of Varosha, in Famagusta, to the administration of the United Nations. Part of this proposal is the opening of the port of Famagusta under EU auspices to benefit the Turkish Cypriots.

    The third proposal is to convene an international conference when within range of an agreement on the internal aspects of the Cyprus problem.

    In his speech, President Christofias also thanked the foreign guests from Greece, UK and the European Parliament, who participated in the anti-occupation event, for their continuous support for justice in Cyprus.

    The anti-occupation event was attended among others by the Municipal Councils of Famagusta and Dherynia, members of the Council of Ministers, leaders of political parties, MPs from Cyprus, Greece and Great Britain, Members of the European Parliament, Famagustians and others.

    The people of Famagusta, holding candles and crying out loud "Together this year to Famagusta" and "We don't forget Famagusta and all our occupied areas" marched to the Dherynia checkpoint where they handed over a petition to UNFICYP asking for justice in Cyprus and return to their homes and properties.

    The petition is addressed to the UN Secretary General, the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council and the European Union Presidency.

    Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.

    UN-led talks began in September 2008 between President Christofias and former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. Talks continue now with Eroglu, who succeeded Talat in April this year.

    Famagusta was captured by the advancing Turkish troops during the second phase of the Turkish invasion, in mid August 1974. Famagusta remains under Turkish occupation with its Varosha area, still sealed off by the Turkish army, being called "ghost town".

    UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984), which is one of the strongest secured by Cyprus to date, condemns all secessionist actions, including the purported exchange of ambassadors between Turkey and the pseudo-state, declares them illegal and invalid and calls for their immediate withdrawal.

    It also considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the United Nations. Turkey has so far not complied with any of the UNSC resolutions.

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