|Monday, 11 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 11-09-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 12 September 2011 Issue No: 3887
 Greece will fully implement all measures agreed, will exit crisis, PM saysGreek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Saturday sent a clear message to Greek citizens, to Europeans and to international markets that his government was determined to implement all measures agreed with its European partners and the IMF towards promoting structural reforms and cutting fiscal deficits to ensure the approval of a second support package for Greece and leading country out from its recent deep economic crisis.
In the traditional Prime Minister's speech to the country's productive classes in Thessaloniki, on the occassion of the 76th Thessaloniki International Fair, the Greek Premier expressed his confidence that all Greeks believed that the country has all the necessary sources and human resources and has significant prospects for the future, but people needed to find again their interest for their fellow men and to rediscover the importance of collective effort in order to move forward.
The Greek Prime Minister urged Greek citizens to forget -for the moment- the memorandum and any agreement with the country's creditors and to focus on the need to change everything not only to survive but to build a better country -not because some foreigners say so - "but for our national independence and dignity and for our children".
Papandreou also expressed his confidence that everyone acknowledged the need for Greece to maintain its European orientation and to remain a member of the euro area. "I am certain that we all believe we will be victorious at the end," he said.
The Greek Premier, in his speech, reminded that two years ago, Greek citizens sent his Pasok party to power asking his government to liberate the country's creative forces from any burdens. The people asked for a revolution. The revolution of the self-evident. To make all big changes that will allow the country to exploit its great capabilities. "This is what we do. This is our effort. This is our goal," he said.
He was clear that the government will take any decisions necessary to save the country from bankruptcy, to remain in the euro and to fully implement decisions taken in an EU Summit in July 21. He urged all Greeks to support the government in its efforts. "Those who bet on Greece leaving the euro will find a unified Greece against them. Those who hope to buy Greece for nothing, the enterprises, the land and its workforce, will find every Greek against them," Papandreou said, adding that "all those wishing disaster to save themselves, will also find all of us seeking a better future against them".
The Greek Premier that Greece will begin oil and natural gas explorations in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete, and that a decision for the tender will be signed soon.
Papandreou said the first priority of his government was to ensure that the country moved on a stable course, saving the country from bankruptcy. He said that the public debt soared to unprecedented heights after 2004, undermining the future of generations to come and noted that this rising debt was fuelled by sharp fiscal deficits, which surpassed 15 pct of the country's GDP in 2009. This deficit reflected mismanagement, overspending and breaching all sense of proper management.
Papandreou said a crisis currently prevailing in the country was the result of a trend to spend more than it could afford, lack of transparency, lawlessness, a deep lack of justice, a banking system that managed social wealth not always in a transparent and productive way.
The Greek Premier said the government was negotiating hard, taking in mind national and collective interest. "Greece is gradually regaining its credibility," Papandreou said, adding that decisions taken in EU summit in July were historic both for Greece and for Europe "which made a decisive step towards strengthening its cooperation, establishing new tools to deal with a debt crisis in the Eurozone.
These decisions helped to cover the biggest part of the country's borrowing needs by 2020, drastically reducing our debt obligations in the coming years, with an extension of the repayment period of the loans to 30 years, securing a lower interest rate for our loans, ensuring the participation of the private sector in a bond swap deal and an agreement of repurchasing state debt through a European mechanism.
"We have no right to leave this effort unfinished. And it will not as we are fully determined to defend this effort," Papandreou said.
The Prime Minister expressed his confidence that the country will meet all fiscal targets this year, despite the fact that an economic recession was much deeper from initial estimates.
"I want to be clear," Papandreou said. We will make no discounts, nor we will backtrack on our program. He noted that any delay, any other choice than to adhere to our commitments would be dangerous for the country and its citizens. "We will not let Greece become the scapegoat for the problems -institutional, populist political or other problems currently prevailing in Europe," he said.
Papandreou said there was hope and reiterated his confidence that Greece will make it. He noted however that this will need a hard battle, drastic changes, collective work.
He reminded that Greece achieved many things last year, cutting a fiscal deficit from 36.6 billion euros to 24 billion euros, the largest decline in the Eurozone, but the battle is not over yet.
"We have a long way ahead, but we are on the right track," he said.
Papandreou said that Greece could become a country identified with quality, more competitive, noting that exports grew 40 pct in the first half of 2011, in tourism new markets were opened, green energy was materializing, farm exports grew 25 pct in the first four months of the year, while the government negotiated solutions to speed up absorption funds from the EU.
He said that Greece needed to create a friendly investment climate in the country, by working together the government, businessmen and agencies.
The government ambitious privatization program will create great investment opportunities in the country. Privatizations was not just a way to reduce debt, but a basic development tool to creating new quality job positions and contributing in the creatin of a new wealth in the country.
"We are focusing on our advantages," Papandreou said, such as tourism. "Together we opened new markets in Russia, Israel, Turkey and Serbia and we are now focusing in China and India and to bring the US closer.
The government begins a process of offering land to yound people who want to become farmers. One million stremmata (one stremma=1,000 sq.m.) We plan to reverse a negative agricultural balance and reforming farm cooperatives.
Papandreou said that that green energy power could surpass a national goal set for 2020 after the government's approved a series of large-scale investments. He added that Greece has opened up the electricity and natural gas markets. "With a plan called "Helios" Greece will become a pioneer in solar energy production which will be exported to Northern Europe. Germany has already expressed interest in the program and we expect to attract investments more than 20 billion euros creating thousands of new jobs. The privatizations of DEPA, DESFA, Hellenic Petroleum and Public Power Corporation will bring new capital and know-how in the country," Papandreou said.
The Prime Minister stressed that the country's environment could become a development advantage for the economy.
Papandreou said another challenge was the create a modern state to better service the citizen, ensuring equal rights, protection and equal opportunities for all, through promoting significant changes in higher education, ensuring pensions for the next generations through a sustainable pension system, implementing programs to stop rising unemployment, promoting a new legal framework for drug users.
Papandreou announced a large scale battle to combat tax evasion and called all Greek citizens to help in this effort. "This is just the first step. But it proves our will. And we will continue, you must be certain of this".
Papandreou said it was unfair that wage earners and pensioners to pay their taxes while other owing hundreds of millions of euros, not paying taxes. In the past, Greece excelled through the activities of greatd donors, who earned money abroad and offered money to help the country and its citizens. The Premier expressed the hope that modern Greeks would follow this example.
Papandreou also said that Greece must have a political system worthy of the expectations and the rights of its citizens.
"In the past two years we fought to change our country. You can criticize me for several things. I am open to criticism. But I am fully determined in our national effort. This road has no return. But I know that Greece deserves better.
"I ask banks to respect the support offered by the state. Bankers must support their banks themselves. It is my decision than any bank needed capital support from the state, this will be offered through common shares. I ask Greek businessmen to believe and invest in Greece, all self-employed people to pay their taxes, our farmers to turn to exploiting the advantages of each region, to look abroad. I ask civil servants to support citizens. I ask all political parties to take a more responsible stance and to support citizens. To put aside our differences and petty ambitions," Papandreou said.
"I am here to achieve our goals together. And I promise that together we will succeed," Papandreou noted.
 PM: 'We will protect the July agreement'"We are determined to move forward, to protect the agreement of July which, when implemented, will make our debt fully manageable," Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed in statements on Sunday during the scheduled press conference given each year by Greek prime ministers at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
"I will not do anyone the favour of allowing the country to collapse," he stressed, shortly after Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos had announced a decision for a blanket tax on all buildings in the country.
"I would rather that we all lose something than that we should all lose everything for ever," Papandreou said, stressing that he was determined to take any decision was needed so as not to jeopardise the country's course and that Greece's commitments would be fully met.
The prime minister underlined that the country was experiencing an 'economic storm' and that he would not let anyone threaten Greece or make it a sacrificial victim.
He categorically ruled out the prospect of early elections, saying the government would not flee its responsibility and 'toss the hot potato' to someone else.
"The people do not want elections, they want changes. We are judged each day and we are fight a great battle," he stressed.
The prime minister was not sparing in his criticism of main opposition New Democracy, saying that he had given up on efforts for a broader consensus because of the main opposition "lack of maturity". He noted that several members of ND would have liked to support the government's effort.
Concerning the government's measures and the uniform public sector pay scale, he said there was no fear of lay-offs in the civil service, at least not in the near future, nor that civil servants pay would be slashed to about half their current levels.
Asked if he intended to propose the abolition of tenure for the civil service during the revision of the Constitution, he said that "there should be no taboos on what we discuss".
Foreign policy issues
Prime Minister George Papandreou, focusing on foreign policy during his scheduled press conference in the framework of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sunday afternoon, said it is the right of sovereign countries, such as Cyprus, to utilise and exploit their natural resources.
"It is a sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as of Israel and every other country, to carry out research or to make agreements either for the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or the pipelines and be able to exploit the natural resources it has," the prime minister stressed, adding that "this is a position that is not Greek alone, it is also a European position" and in any case it is "a clear position towards Turkey as well."
Asked whether the possible use of force by Turkey will constitute "casus belli" for Greece, Papandreou said "the threat of force is not at all pleasant and I believe that sobriety will prevail and of course I believe that the European Union in its entirety and the international community will not only want there to be noforce, but neither the threat of force."
The prime minister also stressed that "we have every reason to develop, as well as to improve our relations with the neighbouring country" something that "we are doing and we have proved", with "considerable progresses in various sectors", but underlined that "the basis on which whatever relation will be built, today, tomorrow and in the future is the basis of respect of International Law."
Referring to how the government intends to act regarding the exclusive economic zone in the Aegean, Papandreou said "in the framework of cooperation and of International Law we are claiming all our rights. Our rights demand, just as the issue of the continental shelf and the extension of territorial waters, the issue of the exclusive economic zone is an issue of a right, as well as an issue of cooperation with the neighbouring countries. This is what we are trying and promoting with all countries, including Turkey."
The prime minister further said that there must be a clear distinction "between our economic difficulties and whatever problems or major issues of national importance and foreign policy," adding that "we have achieved this and communicated it everywhere."
He also said that Greece's influence in the sense of economic cooperation "is not the same, as in the past, when we had a a stronger economy, when we had 5.5 percent growth and when there was not the pressure on the banking system as well, due to the public debt that the Greek banks also have", explaining that "this is yet another reason for which we must exit from this crisis soon."
Also commenting on developments in the Arab world, Papandreou termed the "Arab spring" a "great opportunity for democracy" as well as "an oportunity for there to be an initiative regarding peace, the Middle East issue, the Palestinian issue."
He expressed the conviction that "Israel and Palestine must at this moment proceed and establish a climate that will permit the creation of an independent Palestinian state, with one country nearby, Israel, that will feel safe and will also be recognised, in peaceful cooperation with the Arab countries."
Papandreou underlined that "it is something that we are pursuing, it is in our interest."
 PM holds last-minute informal cabinet meeting in ThessalonikiPrime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday called a last-minute, informal cabinet meeting in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, where he is visiting the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
The cabinet meeting started at 10:00 a.m. and ended just before 3:00 p.m., while the traditional press conference held by the prime minister at TIF each year was postponed until 4:00 p.m. instead of the scheduled time of 1:00 p.m.
 PM Papandreou to chair PASOK Parliamentary Group meeting on MondayThe Parliamentary Group of the ruling PASOK party will convene at 12 noon on Monday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister and party president George Papandreou.
 Political parties react to PM's speech at TIFOpposition parties levelled strong criticism against the speech delivered by Prime Minister George Papandreou at the opening of the 76th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday evening.
Main opposition New Democracy spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis said the premier had failed to say anything specific or meaningful but had confined himself to recycling the often-repeated theme that others were to blame.
He criticised Papandreou for failing to adopt even one of ND's proposals for reducing taxation on households and businesses, reducing VAT, support building activity, or refounding the tourism and merchant shipping ministries.
"The prime minister, with his insistence on a mistaken formula and the ineffectiveness of his government, is causing tension in international relations, uncertainty and anxiety for the citizens, a flight of capital abroad, even deeper recession, a drying up of the market and depression and rage in society," he added.
According to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the prime minister's promise that at least one person per household will have work was "horrifying but revealing about where they are leading the people."
It stressed that nothing the prime minister said could conceal the capitalist dead ends, the deep crisis and the contradictions within the EU.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis, on his part, said the premier's speech smacked of a pre-election period and was one he could have made in 2009.
Similarly, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party noted that the prime minister had once again steadfastly support the policies of the EC-ECB-IMF Memorandum and the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy, policies that "are destroying the economy, make society bankrupt and rapidly leading the country to marginalisation".
 Commissioner Rehn on Greek government's commitment to achieve fiscal targetsBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/V. Demiris)
EU Commissioner Olli Rehn expressed on Sunday satisfaction over the Greek government's commitment to fulfil entirely the agreed fiscal targets for this year and the coming years as well as to take the necessary stabilisation measures for achieving these targets.
The commissioner stressed that the measures announced by the government earlier on Sunday, including the duty on real estate, are moving in the direction for achieving these targets.
According to Rehn, Greece must achieve the agreed fiscal targets and implement the agreed structural reforms so that the preconditions for funding by the partners will be fulfilled. This is of decisive importance for securing the viability of public finances, the improvement of prospects for the Greek citizens regarding growth, jobs and prosperity, he added.
The commissioner also said that a delegation of the Commission will be returning to Athens in the coming days for the provision of technical assistance to the Greek authorities. "When Greece will have fulfilled the preconditions, I expect from the troika to have completed its evaluation by the end of September," he said.
 Greece can 'pull through', development minister stresses after inaugurating 76th TIFRegional Development and Competitiveness Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis on Saturday inaugurated the 76th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), expressing confidence that Greece will be able to "pull through" the current crisis provided that Europe also "rose to the occasion".
"We are determined to make all the decisions necessary to pare down the wasteful state sector, radically improve the business environment and clash with the bonds that keep the economy's competitiveness and the country's productivity pinned down. [We are determined] to protect social cohesion. Greece can pull through," he said shortly after inaugurating the 76th Thessaloniki International Fair.
He warned, however, that Europe must move toward implementation of the decisions of the July 21 summit since inertia would spell disaster for all sides.
Following the inauguration, the minister met the management of fair organisers HELEXPO and the management of TIF.
The opening of the fair was attended by Alternate Development Minister Sokratis Xynidis and Deputy Development Minister Thanos Moraitis, Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris, the Macedonia-Thrace authority secretary Thymios Sokos, Macedonia-Thrace General Secretary George Hatzikon-stantinou and the leadership of TIF and HELEXPO.
During a blessing ceremony at the opening of the fair, Thessaloniki Metropolitan Anthimos read out a message from Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and also stressed the need for Greece's political parties to display and sense of 'unity, common understanding, love, honour, respect and a sense of sacrifice for the country'.
 Nine arrested and charged during Saturday's incidents at TIF openingNine people arrested during clashes between demonstrators and police in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki were placed under arrest and led before a public prosecutor in the city on Sunday.
Most were charged with possession of weapons and other potentially dangerous items during the protests held outside the Vellidio conference centre and the site of the 76th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday night, when Prime Minister George Papandreou was delivering the traditional annual speech on the economy given each year by Greek premier's at TIF.
A total of 93 individuals were detained by authorities during Saturday night's incidents as a precautionary measure, most of whom were later released.
Bank branches in the area and the entrance of the Thessaloniki Officers Guard Club suffered minor damage during the incidents, mainly due to thrown objects.
According to police there were no injuries but protestors reported that ambulances were called in and took some 10 demonstrators to hospital, some of them suffering from respiratory problems as a result of the heavy use of tear gas in the area.
Teams of workers from the Thessaloniki municipality and the fire brigade were sent out overnight to clear the streets and pavements of debris and burnt-out dumpsters.
Clashes between police and various groups that were demonstrating outside the site of TIF continued until late into the night. Groups of protestors attacked riot police guarding the site with stones and other objects, while police responded with heavy use of tear gas and chemicals to disperse the crowds.
Tension started to rise from 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, when taxi owners attack police outside the south gate of TIF facilities, while the trouble later moved to a nearby square, when riot police clashed with youths throwing stones and, later, petrol bombs.
 Greek, Italian FMs to make joint visit to Albania on MondayForeign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis will be making a joint visit to Tirana on Monday with his Italian counterpart Franco Frattini, representing the European Union, aiming at sending a resounding political message for the continuation of reforms in Albania and the lifting of the political deadlock in the neighbouring country.
The visit is the result of the implementation of a Greek proposal raised by the Greek Foreign minister at the General Affairs Council on June 20 and concerns the activation of the European Union in the direction of assisting the lifting of the deadlock in Albania.
 KKE Gen. Sec addresses PAME rally in Syntagma SquareCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Saturday addressed a protest rally organised in Syntagma Square in central Athens by the PAME trade union faction, which is affiliated to the KKE, against the new tax measures announced by the government.
Papariga urged those present to "push aside their fears, self-delusions and hesitation or we, the working people, the working class, and especially young people will find ourselves literally up against the wall. The countdown for the rebirth and counterattack of the movement must begin now."
PAME members also underlined that their presence at an afternoon rally in Thessaloniki will be "dynamic".
 Papariga predicts high possibility of new economic crisis soonThere is a strong possibility of a renewed global economic crisis before there is any real economic recovery, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga predicted in an address at a festival held by KKE's youth group KNE at Kastro in the port city of Patras.
Speaking on Saturday night, she said that "there is strong chance that the competition between capitalist states will flare up again and strengthen the trend for departure from the euro."
"Without an aggressive intervention by the peoples, the repercussions will be unpredictable, catalytic and with serious consequences," she added, noting that a cessation of payments was not unlikely in Greece, nor a fall of the current government.
 SYRIZA's Tsipras calls for immediate electionsCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alexis Tsipras on Saturday called for immediate national elections, stressing that the "state of the economy and the market had reached the point of no return".
Tsipras, in a brief statement while attending a protest rally organised by the civil servants' union federation ADEDY in Thessaloniki, accused the prime minister of "hiding" and said that new social correlations had to be created through elections.
 Opinion poll puts New Democracy four points aheadMain opposition New Democracy would be four points ahead of ruling PASOK in an election, according to an opinion poll carried out by 'Public Issue' that is to be published in the Sunday edition of the newspaper "Kathimerini".
Based on the findings of the poll, PASOK would get 28 percent of the vote, ND would receive 32 percent. The rest of the vote would be shared among the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 10.5 percent, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) with 9 percent, the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party with 8 percent, the Ecologists-Greens with 4 percent and the Democratic Left with 3 percent.
The Democratic Alliance party led by former minister Dora Bakoyannis is seen receiving 1.5 percent of the vote, not enough to enter Parliament, while 4 percent is shared by other parties and the abstention rate is forecast to be 34.5 percent.
Six in 10 of those asked said that there was no need for early elections, while 57 percent said that they expected early polls.
 Archbishop of America Demetrius on September 11, 2001 anniversaryNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The Greek Orthodox church of Saint Nicholas, that had been destroyed completely by the collapse of the twin towers in Manhattan, on September 11, 2001, although it is still not included in the overall plan for the region's reconstruction, will be "built again, it will constitute a global symbol of prayers and will be open for all people."
Archbishop of America Demetrius, in statements to the ANA-MPA, says that "the final decision will be taken in the current year" and stresses that "there is no question of the church not being rebuilt."
Last February, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America had submitted a lawsuit against the relevant authority, the Port authority of New York and New Jersey, that had the responsibility for the development of the location, because its new director revised the initial decision and raised "various excuses" to prevent the building of the church, according to Demetrius.
Reffering to Sunday's 10th anniversary of September 11, he noted that "it marked finally and irrevocably life, not only here in New York, in America, but at global level."
 Government announces special tax on all buildings in GreeceVice-president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Sunday announced a special tax to be imposed on all buildings in Greece, amounting on average to four euro per square metre of built surface. The tax will be calculated using social and other criteria and have a duration of two years.
The decision for the new tax was made during an emergency cabinet meeting held in Thessaloniki on Sunday, to be collected via the electricity bills of the Public Power Corporation (PPC). Collection of the new tax is envisaged to be completed by February so that it will be included in the fiscal year 2011, while more installments are envisaged in 2012.
In addition, the cabinet has decided to lop off one month's salary from all elected or appointed state officials, ranging from the President of the Republic to ministry general secretaries, to bring forward the vote on the 2011 budget to October 31 and to enlist the help of Greek shipping companies in the government's fiscal reform efforts.
Shortly before holding the press conference where he made these announcements, Venizelos spoke on the phone with main opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras in order to brief him on the decisions of the cabinet.
Clarifying the measures further, Venizelos said that the new tax will be socially just and, along with the structural changes announced on Tuesday, sufficient to cover Greece's needs. He noted that the amount of the tax would differ according to the price zone of the property and its use, so that one person might have to pay just 0.50 euro per square metre while a luxury residence might pay as much as 10 euro per square metre.
The minister said that other criteria, such as unemployment, disability, family size and changes in land value, would also be taken into account, with further details to be announced on Tuesday.
He argued that the new tax was not a new financial burden: "The burden remains the same. But we need a mechanism to make up for reduced returns. In other words, we need to find something that is fair and socially acceptable, which differentiates between the rich, middle incomes and poor," he explained.
According to Venizelos, this was the only universally applicable measure that met those criteria.
Admitting that demands in September and October would be extremely high, the minister said that the government was short roughly 1 percent of GDP in order to achieve its targets.
"We have a shortfall because we do not have an integrated and effective state machinery, a tax administration that is able to run things," he said, adding that there was still an organised and unpenitent black economy and rampant tax evasion that prevented the relatively small sums needed in order to achieve budget targets from being collected.
Venizelos announced that the government will table the draft budget for 2012 on October 3, so that the vote can be held by the end of the month. At the same time, the national taxation system will also be tabled for a vote so that tax issues linked to payment of VAT or the correlation of income and assets can be settled.
On the salary cut for state officials, the minister said this will apply to all ranks of government, including the president, the Parliament president, cabinet ministers, MPs, ministry general secretaries, regional authority heads, mayors and the rest.
Explaining the aim of the additional measures, Venizelos said the government's first priority was to fully and completely carry out Greece's promises to its EU partners in relation to the bailout loans for the country.
This meant fully meeting fiscal targets for 2011 and 2012, which in absolute figures called for a public deficit of 17 billion euro in 2011 and of 14.9 billion euro in 2012, including the cost of servicing public debt.
He noted that the primary deficit that Greece had generated in 2009 in absolute terms, without taking into account the payment of interest on public debt, had exceeded 24 billion euro and that this was reduced to 11.2 billion euro in 2010.
"This year, if we fully meet our targets, the primary deficit will be just 1.8 billion euro, less than 1 percent of GDP. This means that if we implement our goals in 2012 as well, then the next year we will have a primary surplus of 3.0 billion euro for the first time. In other words, in March-April we will entered the clearing of primary surpluses," the minister said.
Commenting on the emergency decisions taken by the cabinet on Sunday, Venizelos said it had been called to deal with an extremely critical situation that had arisen in recent days in the Eurozone and the global market.
He stressed that the decisions were not triggered by the departure of troika inspectors from Athens on September 2 but the stance "of certain very important member-states that play a decisive role in Eurozone affairs," adding that these countries were externalising their internal issues so that these becames issues for the entire EU.
 Opposition parties' reactions to FinMin's statementsOpposition parties reacted immediately to the measures announced on Sunday by government Vice President and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis said "recession cannot be intercepted with new recession measures" and that "the new unbearable measures that annul yesterday's (Saturday) speech by Mr. (Prime Minister George) Papandreou confirm the blatant failure of his government and throw new burdens on the backs of the Greeks. The government must realise that the Greeks can no longer stand more tax burdens."
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) called for a "popular counter-attack to prevent, to reverse the antipopular policy of the present dangerous government and of whatever coalition government" and noted that "either the people will be saved or the profit-making of the plutocracy."
The Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party said on its part that "PASOK no matter how much it keeps company with the troika's neoliberal views, the communist conception and theory remains deep inside its DNA" and that "we are the only country of Europe that in essence is still communist-dominated through the unions."
Lastly, the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) said "the prime minister's cynical confession that unemployment will be the permanent companion of every home in our country in the coming years is enough for us to realise the magnitude of the disaster that he and the memorandum's policy brought about."
 Finmin calls for 'strong surge forward' in next two monthsGreece has to make a strong surge forward in the next two months, which will be critical for the country's future, Government vice-president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Saturday. He was speaking at the general assembly of the Central Union of Greek Chambers of Commerce.
"Every hour of those two months has to count as a year from the point of view of effort. In the period until the end of October we must prove that we can keep to our commitments by promoting structural changes, executing the budget and planning a reliable budget for 2012, as well as going ahead with privatisations," he underlined.
In addition, the issue of loan collaterals and the PSI would also have to be settled by the end of October, Venizelos added.
The minister stressed that there was no room for either inertia or back-tracking at this time and that Greece could only move foward.
"If by October the government commitments related to the agreement of July 21 for the Greek economy have been fulfilled, the atmosphere will change," he said, stressing that Greece had to stop generating primary deficits as quickly as possible.
Stopping the recession demanded full implementation of the decisions of July 21 and drawing the necessary funds from the public and private sector worldwide as soon as possible, Venizelos said.
Concerning the list of companies owing large amounts to the public sector, the minister stressed that if only 10 percent of the 32 billion euro owed was collected, Greece will have solved the problems concerning the execution of the 2011 budget and possibly that of 2012 as well.
"We are absolutely determined, without taking the passing political cost into account, to fully respond to our [EU] partners," he said, adding that it would be a "tragic mistake" to consider that the country's structural needs are imposed from outside".
 Venizelos: 'rumour of Greek default an attack on euro'Rampant Internet rumours that Greece will default over the weekend targeted "the euro and the heart of the eurozone, not Greece," Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said in statements at the general assembly of the Central Union of Greek Chambers of Commerce on Saturday.
Venizelos dismissed the rumours as "deliberate and organised speculation," warning that those who considered Greece a 'soft target' or the 'black sheep' of the European south were ultimately turning on themselves and the hard core of the eurozone.
"It is very important that we reply to the speculation and organised rumour-mongering against the euro," he underlined.
In statements earlier, the minister had said that those who believe that Greece was destroyed and that there was no hope "were completely out of touch with reality".
He also urged those in Greece to avoid further fuelling and recycling such rumours, otherwise those abroad would not stop "playing games at our expense".
Clarifying further, Venizelos pointed out that the Greek economy represented just 2 percent of EU GDP and less than 3 percent of the eurozone's total public debt, while its total debt amounted to no more than the annual borrowing needs of just one southern European country in the eurozone.
"Greece's economic figures do not convert it into a catalyst for the future and the survival of the euro. But if the eurozone is unable to solve the Greek problem, it will not be able to solve its own structural problem," he added.
The minister further noted that Greece was not handling the financial system nor the sphere of the real economy on its own.
However, Venizelos admitted that Greece was creating problems for its self and was a problem for its partners, who had supported and continued to the support the country systematically with total approved funds amounting to 219 billion euro.
 ND party agrees with speeding up of process for ratification of 2012 budgetThe main opposition New Democracy (ND) party agrees with the speeding up of the process for the ratification of the 2012 budget, party vice president Stavros Dimas informed government vice president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Sunday afternoon.
Earlier, Venizelos held a telephone conversation with ND leader Antonis Samaras.
According to a Finance ministry announcement, Venizelos informed European Commissioner Olli Rehn of this positive stance by the main opposition party during the second telephone conversation he had with him on Sunday.
 Minister inaugurates Serbia's pavilion at TIFAlternate Development and Competitiveness Minister Sokratis Xynidis on Saturday inaugurated Serbia's pavilion at the 76th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), along with Serb Agriculture, Trade, Forestry and Water Management Minister Dusan Petrovic. Serbia is this year's honoured country at the 76th TIF.
Some 40 organisations, companies, institutes and chambers of commerce are promoting their products and services at the Serbian pavilion under the banner "Serbia in Thessaloniki in 2011 - Always Together".
In statements as he opened Serbia's pavilion, Xynidis expressed hope that it would help give a powerful boost to economic and trade relations between Greece and Serbia, adding that Greece will provide help so that Serbia can get onto the path for European accession.
He noted that there was significant room for improving cooperation between the two countries in agriculture and banking, tourism and renewable energy resources.
Asked whether the current economic situation in Greece might lead to the flight of Greek investments from Serbia, the minister noted that Greece's problem was low competitiveness and that this was an incentive for Greek businesses to invest in neighbouring countries.
"In my opinion, it is more likely that Greek businesses will increase their investments in neighbouring countries, rather than that these should atrophy or be at risk," he added.
Xynidis said the difficulties faced by Greece will be the start for the rebirth of the Greek economy, adding that this was the "point of the effort we are making with the Greek people".
Petrovic, on his part, expressed confidence that Greece will be able to overcome its problems, adding that this was a difficult year for all countries.
He said that trade transactions between Greece and Serbia the previous year came to 400 million dollars, expressing the opinion that this could be greatly increased.
"We can do much more - mixed companies - we can proceed to make joint investments and exploit the joint opportunities that arise," he said, thanking Greece for supporting Serbia's efforts to join the EU and its policy on the issue of Kosovo.
 Taxi owners to hold 48-hour strike as of MondayTaxi owners throughout the country will begin new strike action as of 5 on Monday morning, for 48 hours, until 5 on Wednesday morning.
According to reports, in the framework of strike action, the taxi owners will make their presence felt in various locations, that will be announced at the last moment, so as to preserve the element of surprise.
 School year starts on Monday, but without booksMonday marks the start of the new school year for some 1.3 million children and 180,000 teachers in the Greek school system, as well as the launch of the education ministry's 'New School' initiatives.
For most parents, children and teachers, however, the launch of the new system and the changes to the curriculum will be overshadowed by the lack of the set school textbooks, which for the first time in many years will not be ready to be distributed to students at the start of the year.
Several schools are expected to face major shortages as the books failed to be printed on time, after the process became mired in Greece's labyrinthine legal system.
Islands and remote regions near the borders are the areas expected to be best supplied with the required books, receiving 85 percent of the needed books, while the ministry hopes to cover the shortages for the main body of books within a few days in most areas.
Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas, whose ministry is in charge of the national printing office, has ordered the printing over the weekend of 50,000 copies of a book containing the first 40 pages of the books in five subjects for the 3rd year of highschool.
In the meantime, students will be issued with DVDs containing all the information in the school books that students can download on their computers, as well as photocopies in the first few days.
The ministry has blamed the delay on the Council of State, Greece's supreme administrative court, which it said took 49 days longer than the time allowed by law to issue a decision concerning a tender for the purchase of paper. The final decision came out at the end of August, leaving insufficient time for the books to be printed.
The ministry has also invited students from previous years to return their old books so that these can be used by children in lower classes.
 Health minister, Thessaloniki metropolitan discuss organ transplants, methadone programmesHealth and Social Solidarity Minister Andreas Loverdos on Saturday met with Metropolitan Anthimos of the Thessaloniki diocese to discuss issues linked to promoting organ donation for transplants and cooperation for the support and rehabilitation of drug addicts.
In statements after the meeting, Loverdos stressed that Greece could not be allowed to lag behind in terms of transplants and said an effort was underway to persuade more members of the public to become organ donors, in which the Church could play a significant role.
He pointed out that Greece had one of the lowest transplant rates in Europe or even the Balkans, with just four transplants for every million people.
"We need to match the levels of Spain and Portugal, or at least reach a two-digit number," he said.
Reporting on the progress of a plan to set up methadone clinics in state hospitals, the minister said that Thessaloniki hospitals were joining the scheme "one after the other" and regional hospitals would join by the end of September. He promised that the waiting list to get onto a methadone programme will have been eliminated by the end of October.
The metropolitan noted that good cooperation between the Church and state and the desire to resolve and promote issues of mutual interest.
 Suicides on the rise in Greece, economic crisis implicatedSuicides rates have been rising in Greece since the start of the economic crisis, according to statements to AMNA made by the head of 'Climax Plus', a suicide helpline operating under the auspices of the health and social solidarity ministry on Saturday. September 10 has been established as 'World Suicide Prevention Day' by the WHO.
Psychiatrist Kyriakos Katsadoros said that calls to the 24-hour 1018 helpline 'Intervention for Suicide' have more than doubled in 2011 compared to the previous year, with one in four callers reporting serious financial difficulties.
He said this confirmed that the economic crisis was creating a vicious circle of problems and was one of the factors that had a negative impact on the mental health of individuals.
Katsadoros said the helpline had received roughly 2,500 alls throughout 2010 while calls in the first eight months of 2011 had already exceeded 5,000.
"The alarming factor is not just the huge increase in the number of calls but also the fact that the reasons why people seek help have changed. In 2008 and 2009, most callers suffered from pscyhological problems. Those who now call us have financial difficulties and are at a dead end," he said.
He stressed that suicide can be prevented, provided that there is awareness in the close and broader social environment of an individual, since a person contemplating suicide often exhibits give-away symptoms like increased consumption of alcohol, sleeplessness, scepticism and introversion.
Dr. Katsadoros announced plans for an informational campaign designed to sensitise and inform professional groups that come into contact with large numbers of people, such as taxi drivers, hair dressers and others. He said the group would be attending an international conference on suicide prevention in Beijing, the information from which would be used to launch the campaign.
"What Greece needs is to create a technical strategy for suicide prevention," he underlined.
According to an announcement by the WHO, the economic crisis and the insecurity this causes could lead to an increase in suicides, which are more frequent among the unemployed than those in work.
A person without work is two to three times more likely to kill themselves than someone in work, while an increase in unemployment by 3 percent is linked to a 4.5 percent increase in suicides in the general population.
Greece traditionally ranks low in European rankings for suicide rates, with the Hellenic Statistical Authority recording 4,042 deaths due to suicide from 1999-2009. Of these, 3,288 were men and 754 were women.
In recent years, however, the rate of suicide in the country has been tending to increase. For example, there were 393 suicides (333 men and 58 women) in 2009, up from 328 suicides (268 men and 60 women) in 2007. There are no statistics for non-fatal suicide attempts, which are estimated to be 10 to 20 times as many.
Most suicides in Greece use violent methods, specifically hanging, with 57 percent of men and 55 percent of women choosing this method to kill themselves in 2009. The second most frequent method is use of a fire-arm (usually a hunting rifle) for men and poisoning for women.
Among other action taken by Climax Plus to mark September 10 is its participation in the 'Dance for Life' event taking place at Thissio in central Athens on Saturday evening at 18:30, with the participation of volunteers and the general public.
The event is sponsored by the General Secretary for Youth and the Athens Municipality.
 Lanthimos' 'Alps' wins Venice film festival award for best screenplayThe film "Alps" by Yorgos Lanthimos has won the 'Osella' prize for best screenplay at the 68th Venice Film Festival 'Mostra'.
The script for the film was written by Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou. The film will open in Greek cinemas on October 27.
 Greek tanker attacked by pirates in Red SeaThe Greek-flagged tanker "United Emblem" was attacked by pirates on Saturday while sailing in the Red Sea, approximately 24 nautical miles west of Yemen and 36 nautical miles east of Eritrea.
The ship has a crew of 26, of which 10 are Greeks (including the captain and senior officers), 15 Filipinos and one Ukrainian national. It is loaded and set sail from Kharq Island in Iran on September 3 for the port of Fos in France.
The Greek coastguard Unified Centre for Coordinating Search and Rescue has set up a Ship Piracy Incidents Management Team, which has alerted Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis and the appropriate Development, Competitiveness and Shipping ministry services, the defence and foreign affairs ministries, as well as international centres for fighting piracy.
The ship's location and course is being constantly monitored by the task force, in cooperation with the Piraeus-based shipping company in charge of the vessel. It is also in constant contact with the international centres fighting piracy and a representative of the shipping firm.
According to a statement by the shipping firm's security officer and a company representative, based on the last communication with the captain at 16:05, all members of the crew were safe and well.
 Policeman injured in fracas with gypsiesA policeman was lightly injured late on Friday in Iraklio, Crete when he and three colleagues came under attack from a group of rock-wielding Roma gypsies. The four DIAS motorcycle police had enter a Roma camp to investigate a report of an attempted electric power theft.
As the officers approached the bridge next to the camp, they were attacked with stones by some 30 unidentified individuals, all of them Roma, who were seeking to protect two men attempting to illegal hook up to the Public Power Corporation network.
 Incendiary device explodes outside General Secretariat for TradeA makeshift incendiary device using gas canisters exploded outside the entrance of the General Secretariat for Trade on Kannigos Square in central Athens just after midnight, in the early hours of Saturday. The explosion and ensuing fire cause minor damage to the building's door and entrance. The culprits are now being sought by police.
 Attacks on police in Athens overnightPlatoons of MAT riot police in Athens came under repeated attack from hood-wearing youths lobbing stones and petrol bombs late on Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday morning.
Some 20 individuals attacked a group of MAT police officers at the corners of Akadimias Street and Zoodohou Pigis Street just before midnight, while at 2:40 a.m. on Sunday there was an incident outside the culture ministry on Bouboulinas Street, with 40 individuals attacking a permanent guard of MAT police stationed there and setting fire to a rubbish bin. Police resorted to restricted use of chemicals to drive the attackers away.
There followed a third attack by 70 youths in hoods at 3:15 a.m. who threw rocks and petrol bombs at the corner of Stournari Street with Spyridonos Trikoupi.
Four people arrested on Saturday night on Amalias Avenue in Syntagma for attacking police during minor incidents were led before a public prosecutor on Sunday.
 Hooded youths hurl firebombs at police van outside Culture ministryHooded youths hurled firebombs at a police van outside the Culture ministry in Boumboulinas street in central Athens shortly after 8 on Sunday evening.
The youths appeared suddenly and hurled firebombs at the police force, resulting in the vehicle catching fire and flames spreading to a first-floor office in the ministry. The blaze was extinguished in time by a strong fire brigade force before it took on greater dimensions. The van sustained extensive damage.
 Man shot dead in Tympaki, IraklioA 53-year-old man was shot dead by a 40-year-old acquaintance late on Saturday night, after they had both eaten out together at a taverna near Tympaki, Iraklio in Crete.
Witnesses said the two men had both consumed large amounts of alcohol and got into an argument as they were leaving the taverna. The 53-year-old left on a motorbike heading toward Tympaki, while the other man followed in a car driven by a third man, following the motorbike.
In the centre of Tympaki, the 40-year-old apparently rolled down his window and shot the man on the motorcycle, who fell down dead.
The culprit then went home and police finally managed to place him under arrest in the early hours of Sunday morning, along with the driver of the car from which the 53-year-old was shot and killed.
 Two arrested for illegal weapons possession in VolosTwo Albanian men aged 26 and 29 years old, respectively, were arrested for illegal possession of weapons in the coastal city of Volos, central Greece on Saturday.
During an inspection of their car, police found a 9mm automatic rifle and seven clips were found hidden under the driver's feet.
The firearm and ammunition were confiscated and the two suspects led before a Volos misdemeanours court prosecutor. An inquiry is underway by Volos security police.
 Super League resultsGames played for the Super League over the weekend had the following results: Panetolikos Agrinio-Panionios Athens 0-1, Ergotelis Crete-PAOK Thessaloniki 2-1, Asteras Tripoli-Kerkyra 0-0, Aris Thessaloniki-Atromitos Athens 0-1 and Panathinaikos Athens-PAS Yiannina 3-1.
 Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glanceGreece's future in the Eurozone, the EU's tough terms for the 2012 budget, the threat that the 6th tranche of bailout loans will not be disbursed and changes in taxation were the main front-page items in Athens' Sunday newspapers.
AVGHI: "Hope for the reorganisation of the country".
AVRIANI: "What the Schaueble plan for a Greek default envisages".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Civil war within the euro, Greece hanging by a thread".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Greeks at the oars, Brussels at the wheel".
ETHNOS: "OECD has 'Big Bang' plan for Greek public sector".
KATHIMERINI: "More taxes of 1.0 billion for 6th tranche".
LOGOS: "Workers sacrificed at the investors' altar".
NIKI: "30 days in order to not return to the drachma".
PROTO THEMA: "Private companies will decide for the labour reserve".
REALNEWS: "The plan of the '7' for the ouster from the euro".
RIZOSPASTIS: "All together in the fight against the burning measures for the people".
TO ARTHRO: "Joint government or default".
TO PARON: "Drums of war".
TO VIMA: "Everything for the next tranche. They are cutting another one billion from wages".
VRADYNI: "IKA: New favourable measures for going into retirement".
 Cyprus to commence drilling by early October, minister saysNICOSIA (CNA/ANA)
Cyprus will commence exploratory drilling in its exclusive economic zone in the beginning of October, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Praxoulla Antoniadou said on Sunday.
''The Ministry proceeds with its current planning for the commencement of exploratory drilling by the beginning of October,'' Antoniadou told the press following a memorial service of Cypriot-origin Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Giannos Kranidiotis held in Nicosia.
Responding to questions concerning representations over the Turkish threats, Antoniadou said Minister of Foreign Affairs Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis is making the necessary representations on the issue.
''It is obvious that the representations are yielding results as manifested from the statements made both the EU and the US,'' she pointed out.
Cyprus, divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupies it northern third, has granted Huston-based Noble Energy a concession for natural gas exploration in Block 12 of EEZ, which borders with Israel's "Leviathan''. Press reports suggest that Noble is expected to proceed with test drilling in Block 12 early next month. Cyprus has signed bilateral agreements for the delineation of the EEZ with Egypt, Lebanon and Israel.
Turkey, who does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus and disputes its right for hydrocarbon explorations, has warned it would not hesitate to deploy warships in the Mediterranean, if Cyprus proceeds with the exploration efforts.
Replying to a question concerning the escalating tension between Israel and Turkey, Antoniadou said everybody must behave responsively, adding ''the politicians should contribute with words and actions to the consolidation of peace and tranquility rather than instability.''
''It is up to the leaders of the region to show leadership and to lead and inspire the peoples of the region to move on in a common future where there will be profit for all countries through peace and cooperation,'' she concluded.
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