|Monday, 18 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-02-13
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 13 February 2012 Issue No: 3996
 Greek Parliament approves crucial bailout planGreece's Parliament passed a batch of bitterly debated austerity measures in the early morning hours of Monday morning by 199 in favour to 74 against, fulfilling a crucial condition set by European partners and creditors to approve a climacteric 130-billion-euro bailout plan that will also open the way for a "haircut" of the mounting Greek debt.
The vote, which along with images of widespread rioting and fires in central Athens, generated extensive international news coverage in the previous hours, capped off a day-long marathon of debate, speeches, grandstanding, meetings and press "leaks".
Out of the 300 MPs in Parliament, 278 were present for the vote, with five deputies voting "present".
Twenty New Democracy (ND) deputies voted against, while one former minister and current ND MP was not present at the vote. According to reports immediately after the crucial vote, ND leader Antonis Samaras expelled the 21 MPs from the party's Parliament group and from the party itself.
On PASOK's side, which up until November 2011 was the ruling party, 13 PASOK MPs voted against, whereas seven were not present, according to the latest report. Sanctions were also expected by the party against its dissenting deputies.
The third party supporting the Papademos government, the small right-of-centre LA.O.S party, witnessed the two of its MPs holding Cabinet seats voting in favour of the bill, while the rest of the party's MPs voted against -- as per the instruction of LA.O.S leader George Karatzaferis.
The two LA.O.S deputies, Makis Voridis and Adonis Georgiadis, were also expelled from the party moments after the vote.
In terms of the specific articles, 190 voted for Article I, as opposed to 83 against and five declaring "present". This specific article was the most controversial, as it dealt with a decrease in the minimum wage.
The three remaining articles received slightly more support, two to three votes more.
 Political leaders' addresses before crucial voteParty leaders and the finance minister in Lucas Papademos' interim government address Parliament on Sunday evening amid the dramatic and often acrimonious debate over the latest batch of austerity measures.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos compared the repercussions of the voting for or against the latest memorandum and subsequent PSI, saying the latest measures will lay the foundations of a growth in the country that will not "be built in the sand".
Addressing fellow PASOK party deputies, he said "they spit at us, the revile us and insult us, but these same people will be the same ones that will not forgive us if we not send the right message to the international community."
"It's not the foreigners' fault. The conspiracy theories do not exonerate us from our responsibilities," he said.
On his part, New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras reiterated that ND deputies must toe the party line, stressing in dramatic tones that "with our vote we are preventing the country from going off the cliff."
Samaras said elections must absolutely come three weeks after a deal on the Greek debt "haircut".
"Today we're voting for a new loan agreement because today the facts have changed ... Our debt has become non-viable. Only we (ND), during the first memorandum, has warned that it was a mistaken recipe, but our warnings were ignored. Now, our country's membership in euro is directly threatened with bankruptcy," Samaras said, before pointing his aim directly at the previous PASOK government.
"In October 2009 PASOK inherited a common problem, the problem of the deficit, which it transformed into a problem of (sovereign) lending. Now we're in the third phase of the drama and the problem threatens to turn into a crisis of disintegration, in other countries as well; it is causing social explosions everywhere."
On his part, embattled PASOK leader and former prime minister George Papandreou called for support of the bailout plan, "so that the people's sacrifices of the past two years are not lost".
He also chided what he called the "clientele state" of affairs in the country, saying a clash with such a system and vested interests should have occurred years earlier.
"The country's problem was not created suddenly two years ago. The last two years (of his government) were not the problem, but the beginning of the solution, the beginning of the battle," he said.
"The responsibility is in the people's hands," Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga said, warning that the worst is before us, while she repeated her party's mantra of "popular struggle" to prevent the worst.
Papariga stressed that the people will not be saved from bankruptcy, and addressing the Cabinet members, she said "even if the people give you all their wages and work without getting paid for the next three years, the imbalance (in wealth) and the problem of competitiveness will not be solved.
Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) leader George Karatzaferis explained his party withdrawal from the government, saying "snipers and extortionists from above did not allow to this cooperation to continue." He added that he remains adamant in his decision to vote against the new bailout loan agreement.
Coalition of the Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group Alexis Tsipras said "the only thing that is left for you is to wage on the people's fear. But this is the last throw of the dice. You bet on the people's fear to survive from their rage," he said.
He reiterated that the people are before a parliamentary and constitutional coup from those who have led the country at the brink of bankruptcy.
 Extensive rioting in central Athens erupts prior to bailout voteScores of hooded individuals threw rocks, stones and firebombs at riot police outside the Greek Parliament on Sunday afternoon, once again spoiling a much larger demonstration by protesters rallying against the latest round of austerity measures demanded by Greece's creditors to approve a new bailout package.
Several buildings in central Athens were set on fire in the evening -- broadcast live by local and international by media -- as MPs and party leaders debated inside a heavily guarded Parliament building.
The hoodlums, alternately identified over the past two or so decades as self-styled anarchists, anti-state agitators or even disgruntled and marginalised teens, subsequently looted nearby closed stores and attempted to burn others in and around Syntagma Square. At around 9 p.m. (19.00 GMT) rioters had set fire to at least one bank, a cinema, a cafe and had broken store fronts.
The original protest was called by the two major labour union umbrellas groups in the country and the communist party-affiliated labour grouping against the new memorandum.
According to authorities, groups of hooded individuals attacked riot police, with the latter responding with teargas and flash grenades.
Twenty five arrests were reported, whereas 54 injuries were recorded, both citizens and police officers, none seriously. Dozens of people were treated for smoke and teargas inhalation.
According to the fire brigade, fires were reported in 35 buildings in central Athens, 26 of them still burning just after midnight.
Similar instances of violence on the sidelines of otherwise peaceful demonstrations took place in Thessaloniki and other provincial cities.
Meanwhile, a peaceful demonstration continued into the late evening in front of Parliament, ahead of the midnight vote by the legislature's 300 MPs on the latest austerity package, a prerequisite for a new bailout plan and subsequent PSI 'haircut'.
 Greek PM: We will defend place in eurozone, EuropeGreek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, speaking during a nationally televised address to the nation on Saturday evening, emphasised that the country, in the midst of its worst economic crisis since WWII, will not exit the crisis without sacrifices.
Papademos, a respected former central banker heading up an interim coalition government assigned the desperate task of achieving a second bailout agreement with EC-ECB-IMF creditors and proceeding with a PSI "haircut" of the 350-billion-euro external debt, spoke a day before Greece's 300 Parliament deputies vote on the bailout plan.
"We are a proud and earnest people; we know about struggles, and today this is a struggle for our homeland. For our children to have a European Greece, one stability, prosperity and democracy, which we achieved over the last 30 years," he said.
Papademos emphasised that today "it is not patriotic to throw down our shields, but united to take the necessary and difficult decisions for the salvation of the country. We will defend our place in the euro (zone) and Europe," he stressed.
"Today were looking at the Greek people in the eyes with an absolute understanding of the historical responsibility (involved). The social cost linked with this (austerity) programme is restricted in comparison with the economic and social destruction that will follow if you do not follow it," Papademos said, in beginning his address just before 9:15 p.m. local time.
"This is a struggle of our generation, and it would be the greatest defeat in post-1974 Greece if this country found itself bankrupt and out of the eurozone out of cowardice or an insufficient sense of responsibility, or from heightened negligence or a crucial mistake," Papademos said, adding that necessary reforms must and will take place.
"Some say: Instead of such an economic programme, which includes painful measures, isn't bankruptcy preferable? Those supporting this are woefully mistaken. An unruly bankruptcy would throw the country into a disastrous adventure; it would caused conditions of uncontrolled economic chaos and social explosion ... Greeks' standard of living in case of an unruly bankruptcy would collapse. The country would drift into a vortex of recession, instability, unemployment and extended poverty ," Papademos said.
He reminded a national audience that the new loan agreement means funding of 130 billion euros with the possibility to cut the external debt by 100 billion euros.
"In the past two years we decreased the primary public deficit from 24 billion euros to five billion euros, a reduction that corresponds to eight percentage points of GDP. We regained roughly one-third of the competitiveness lost over the past 10 years. The efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people are paying off and justify the respect of all," he added.
"It would be a tremendous injustice of history if the land from where European civilisation began, which in the past 65 years experienced a civil war and a dictatorship, but which progressed, nevertheless, which built up its prosperity and democracy ... to arrive at a bankruptcy and find itself -- even from a minor mistake -- in a state of national isolation and national desperation," he concluded.
 Papandreou: New memorandum our only hopePASOK leader George Papandreou, who resigned as prime minister last November, on Saturday called on remaining MPs in PASOK's Parliamentary group to "toe the party line" in Sunday's vote over a controversial new bailout package and related austerity measures.
"I ask and expect all of you to vote in favor the new agreement. It is difficult and painful ... but we must stand on our feet ... Tomorrow we must all do our duty".
Earlier in his address, Papandreou called on PASOK deputies to "rise to the occasion" in order for the country to avoid default, explaining what real bankruptcy will mean, as he said.
Referring to the Memorandum, he said it was not a solution to the problem but the beginning of the solution.
"I do not accept that the arsonists are not to blame, but instead those who tried to extinguish the fire are."
On the new bailout loan, Papandreou said that our partners state clearly that they will help us to put aside our heavy debts of the past with a new 130 billion euros support package and a 100 billion euros haircut of our debt, but our concern is not to create new deficits. "We made the start and we must not lose this war," stressed Papandreou.
The PASOK leader also attacked the Greek media, accusing them of "gambling" with the Greek people's agony.
 Venizelos: There are no alternatives; unruly default risks civil warGovernment vice-president and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos warned on Saturday that "Greece is worn out and desperate, and is in danger of making a huge mistake," addressing the PASOK party's parliamentary group.
He underlined that the real dilemma regarding the new bailout plan, which emanates from the Oct. 26 EU summit agreements, is the sacrifices foreseen (in the plan), as opposed to even more sacrifices, national humiliation, cutbacks and squalor.
He ruled out so-called 'alternative solutions' of unruly and structured default, saying that in both cases this would be translated into more conditions, "ones taken at gunpoint".
Venizelos said an unruly default would bring Greece to the verge of civil war, followed by the "the glorious Greece of the drachma, where those who have exported their money abroad will come back to buy the country under colonial terms."
In his address to Parliament's economic committee later in the afternoon, which convened to discuss the new bailout plan, he added:
"If we don't approve the measures we will be led to an unruly bankruptcy, which means total dissolution of the economic, social and institutional web of the country."
 Samaras warning to ND MPs; elections after PSINew Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras on Saturday issued a direct warning to members of his party's Parliamentary group, namely, that dissenters in the next day's vote for a new bailout package -- one linked with a controversial new round of austerity measures -- will not be on the party's ticket in upcoming elections.
He also maintained that elections will take place after a conclusion of a PSI deal for a 'haircut' to the Greek debt.
Moreover, he explained his support of the latest "troika"-dictated package.
"We are, as a country, in great danger. Prosperity is lost and regained. Today we are in danger of losing our freedom and independence. As soon as the bond swap procedure is concluded we will demand the dissolution of Parliament immediately. We are clear, we are in position to impose elections and we will do so.
"It is our duty to avert the danger that our country is facing in order to proceed. Things are not as they were two years ago, when the debt was viable, now they (the preceding PASOK government) have made it nonviable."
 Opposition to bailout plan by several ND, PASOK MPsThirteen New Democracy (ND) deputies have reportedly expressed their opposition to the EC-ECB-IMF bailout plan up for a vote by Parliament on Sunday at midnight, saying they will not vote against, despite party leader Antonis Samaras' warning on Saturday for MPs to "toe the party line".
A majority of those present in 300-deputy Parliament on Sunday is necessary to pass the legislation, which in any case cannot be under 120 MPs.
ND retains 83 MPs in the Greek legislature.
On the other side of the aisle, up to at least 12 PASOK MPs have either resigned or expressed their opposition.
Conversely, the situation in the small right-of-centre LA.O.S party is equally fluid, with three deputies, including Transport Minister Makis Voridis and Deputy Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis, saying they'll reign from the Cabinet but support the austerity package up for a vote.
Later on Sunday, former Minister and PASOK deputy Louka Katseli also added her opposition to the new bailout plan.
Earlier, newly-sworn in PASOK deputy Anna Vagena, who replaced a resigned MP from Saturday -- singer Pemi Zouni -- said that she will not vote for the new memorandum.
Finally, another six PASOK MPs, in a written statement on Sunday afternoon, said they will be "present" at the voting process in Parliament for the new memorandum, without clarifying whether or not they will vot for or against.
 Small LA.O.S party officially against bailout plan, austerity packageThe central committee of the small right-of-centre Popular Orthodox Rally (LA.O.S) party -- one of the three parties in Parliament backing the interim Papademos government -- unanimously called for a "no" vote against the bailout package.
The decision, taken on Saturday evening, follows a recommendation by party leader George Karatzaferis, who said his party is against the latest austerity measures demanded of Greece by its EC-ECB-IMF creditors.
Three LA.O.S MPs, Makis Voridis, Adonis Georgiadis and Thanos Plevris, nevertheless, had earlier expressed support for the bailout package, with the first two serving in Cabinet posts in the Papademos government. Both tendered their resignation following Karatzaferis' negative stance vis-a-vis the austerity measures and the linked bailout plan.
 SYRIZA leader calls people to prevent dissolution of democracyCoalition of the Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group Alexis Tsipras on Saturday made a plea to the Greek people, as he said, to "take their fortunes into their own hands and prevent the dissolution of democracy in the country where it was born".
Tsipras sternly attacked the parties that support Lucas Papademos' interim government, stressing that Greece's biggest deficit is not fiscal but a lack of political leadership.
Referring to the new loan agreement, he said that for SYRIZA rejection of the loan agreement and the latest austerity measures, which will sink the people into poverty, is an act of national responsibility.
 Former Dep. FM Kouvelis resigns from PASOKFormer deputy foreign minister and PASOK MP Spyros Kouvelis, in a letter to the party's president, clarified on Sunday that he will not vote for a new round of bailout plan-linked austerity measures during the midnight vote, saying he has lost his confidence in the country's partners, whose stance resembles that of a "loanshark".
Moreover, Kouvelis submitted his resignation from PASOK's parliamentary group.
Kouvelis added that he will not be candidate in the upcoming elections.
 IIF's Dallara urges Greek lawmakers to pass measures for bailout, write-downInstitute of International Finance (IIF) head Charles Dallara was quoted over the weekend as calling on Greek lawmakers to vote in favour of a new set of austerity measures in order to iron-out an agreement over a new bailout and subsequent write-down of the Greek debt.
His comments were published in the Saturday edition of the Athens daily "Kathimerini".
"It is important for lawmakers to understand what is at stake and that apart from the austerity ... there are also many tangible benefits for Greece and Greeks," he said, adding: "I am convinced that the (bond swap) agreement will find support by the markets, in the shape it is taking and with the EU's significant support ... We expect a very high voluntary participation rate."
 Draft law on bailout agreement in three articlesThe draft law on the new bailout deal for Greece was tabled on Saturday in parliament to the House's Standing Committee on economic affairs, and will be debated and voted on in the parliament plenary on Sunday under express procedures.
The bill will contain three separate articles: one for issuing the invitation of interest for the PSI bond swaps to reduce the Greek debt, one for the recapitalisation of banks and a third authorising the prime minister and finance minister to sign the new loan agreement with Greece's creditors. Annexed is the text of the agreement negotiated with the EU/IMF troika, that was agreed at the meeting between the prime minister with the leaders of the three parties supporting his government.
Under the Rules of Parliament, the draft bill will be discussed in the standing committee in a single session that may last up to six hours. On Sunday it will be tabled in the parliament plenum, for a session that may last up to ten hours, while the voting procedure must commence at midnight the latest.
The draft law must receive at least 120 votes in the 300-member House in order to be passed and ratified.
 Gov't spokesman on possible reshuffleA government spokesman on Saturday reminded that any reshuffle is the domain of the prime minister, while merely confirming that, indeed, a reshuffle may be announced at the beginning of the week.
Spokesman Pantelis Kapsis was speaking on state television.
 Deregulation of petrol station, power generation sectors foreseenDeregulation of gas stations' working hours, allowing the operation of petrol stations at super markets and liberalisation of PPC fares in a year -- second quarter 2013 -- as well as acceleration of the sell-off of lignite-fired and hydroelectric power plants is foreseen in the new memorandum for the energy sector.
For gas stations, in particular, the government is obliged to fully deregulate the sector's working hours.
 Memorandum foresees hikes in real estate objective tax criteriaHikes in objective tax criteria for real estate, to be implemented in June, will be tabled in Parliament.
According to the controversial new memorandum, the objective tax criteria must increase to market price levels.
The new memorandum also foresees more interventions in real estate taxation, namely, a uniform real estate tax that will replace the current ones as well as changes in the VAT rate, aiming to simplify the system; abolition in tax allowances and other expenses.
 Major traffic problems in W. Macedonia due to snowTraffic in several areas of western Macedonia province in northern Greece was suspended due to heavy snowfall on Saturday. Snow chains were ordered, however, in some areas movement was extremely difficult due to the height of snow, recorded at points as high as approximately four metres.
In Grevena prefecture, police banned trucks weighing more than 3.5 tons from the Grevena-Trikala national highway.
In Kastoria, Kozani and Florina prefectures, traffic was banned on most provincial roads, whereas snow chains were necessary on the national highway.
However, traffic on the Egnatia motorway was moving normally.
 Trio of Bulgarian nat'ls arrested on baby trafficking chargesPolice from the central Peloponnese city of Tripolis on Friday made three arrests in relation to an alleged infant trafficking ring. Two men and a woman, Bulgarian nationals, were arrested in Piraeus on related charges.
Two police officers, posing as would-be 'clients, managed contacted members of the alleged ring, before setting up a sting operation.
During a pre-arranged meeting at a Piraeus cafe, the 39-year-old woman handed over her 10-day-old baby to undercover police in exchange for 10,000 euros in marked bills. Two men, 50 and 51, accompanying the woman were arrested on the spot.
The trio will be sent before a local prosecutor.
 Three Pakistani men arrested for stealing PPC transformersPolice on Sunday arrested a trio of foreign nationals, identified as Pakistani illegal immigrants, on charges of stealing electrical transformers from the wider region of Argos and Nafplio, in southern Greece.
The trio of suspects, aged 30, 28 and 22, were arrested in the framework of a police operation in the village of Heraion, Argolida prefecture, when officers spotted and attempted to stop a fleeing vehicle. The car was subsequently re-spotted in a nearby village, where its driver and occupants were arrested.
A search of the vehicle revealed cooper weighing 200 kilograms, ostensibly derived from two PPC transformers stolen on Friday.
According to police, the suspects are alleged to have stolen 26 similar transformers since December 2011, with the value of the stolen electrical equipment estimated at 250,000 euros.
The suspects will be led before a Nafplio prosecutor.
 Arrest on European warrant for homicideA 47-year-old local man wanted on a European warrant for homicide in Germany was arrested in a village in Rodopi prefecture, northeast Greece, on Saturday.
The suspect will be sent before a local prosecutor.
 Greek Superleague resultsResults
Olympiakos Piraeus - AEK Athens 2-0
Panionios Athens - PAS Yannina 0-0
OFI Crete - PAOK Thessaloniki 0-2
Atromitos Athens - Kerkyra 3-1
Doxa Drama - Panetolikos 2-1
Aris Thessaloniki -Ergotelis Crete 1-1
Levadiakos Livadia - Asteras Tripoli 0-1
Panathinaikos Athens - Xanthi 3-0
Standings after 21 weeks
ATROMITOS 31 (20 games)
ASTERAS TRIPOLI 28
PANETOLIKOS 18 (20)
PAS YANNINA 18 (19)
LEVADIAKOS 16 (18)
KERKYRA 12 (19)
DOXA DRAMAS 12 18)
 Athens' Sunday newspapers at a glanceThe same-day midnight vote in Parliament over a batch of new austerity measures, calculated at 3.3 billion euros, to ensure the approval of the latest 130-billion-euro bailout package by Greece's creditors expectedly dominated the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on Sunday.
AVGHI: "Only vote is the people's".
DEMOKRATIA: "Parliament's living dead".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Memorandum's recipe destroying PASOK, LA.O.S".
ETHNOS: "Sudden death: Scenario for national destruction".
KATHIMERINI: "The hour of crisis in Parliament".
PARON (weekly): "They sunk everything".
PROTO THEMA (weekly): "What will happen if we default: Secret government report".
REALNEWS (weekly): "Political bankruptcy".
RIZOSPASTIS: The Communist Party-affiliated newspaper calls on people to attend a rally/protest on Sunday.
TO VIMA: "Earthquake! Politics, economy, society, parties in shambles".
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