|Sunday, 18 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 12-10-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Monday, 22 October 2012 Issue No: 4204
 Top gov't meeting on new austerity measures concludedA top government meeting with no less than 15 ministers concluded late Sunday afternoon at the Maximos Mansion after six and a half hours, focusing directly on urgent and controversial new austerity measures aimed to ensure the disbursement of the latest tranche of a bailout package by Nov. 16.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras reportedly instructed ministers to accelerate actions to conclude talks with the representatives of the EC-ECB-IMF troika by Oct. 29.
In speaking to reporters afterwards, Labour Minister Yannis Vroutsis appeared optimistic over the course of the labour sector changes, while Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras reminded that an "omnibus bill must be tabled in tandem with the state budget in order to be ready for the disbursement of the tranche, approximately in mid-November".
On labour sector issues, Stournaras said negotiations are ongoing and should show results in a couple of days.
The government is expected to table the new austerity measures in two draft bills within an allocated "fast track" parliamentary procedure, and in parallel with tabling the 2013 draft state budget.
 Labour minister: Talks at a satisfactory level, I'm optimisticTalks with the EU-IMF troika on labour issues were at "a very satisfactory level," Greek Labour Minister Yiannis Vroutsis told reporters on Sunday as he was leaving a government meeting on the package of austerity measures that will bring a much-needed tranche of bailout loans to Greece. He expressed optimism concerning the final outcome.
Within the prime minister's offices, meanwhile, a broad government meeting on the outstanding issues in the talks with the EU-IMF troika continued, with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras looking at the timing and actions that must be carried out in order for the Eurogroup to approve the disbursement of the 31.5 billion euro bailout tranche when it meets on November 12.
Vroutsis also praised the role of the other two party leaders in the coalition government, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left (DIMAR) leader Fotis Kouvelis, for their support of the government.
 DIM.AR calls for continued negotiations with troikaThe Democratic Left party, one of the three parties supporting Greece's coalition government, on Saturday called for continued negotiations with Greece's lenders "so that the political agreement will include a time extension and a clause for replacing measures in the package, as well as developmental interventions that will create jobs".
The statement was included in a DIM.AR announcement assessing the results of the EU summit, at which it notes "an important step was made for a political agreement with our partners that will include the commitment that our country will remain in the euro and a re-examination of the terms of the memorandum".
 FM condemns Beirut bomb attackForeign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos on Saturday expressed Greece's unqualified condemnation of Friday's bomb attack in the centre of Beirut.
"Greece stands in solidarity with the friendly Lebanese people at this difficult time and supports Lebanon's stability with all its strength," Avramopoulos said.
He also wished for a speedy recovery for those injured in the blast and expressed condolences for the families of the victims "in the hope that the culprits will soon be led to justice".
 Tsipras interview with 'Avghi': 'Peaceful uprising to stop measures'Main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) leader Alexis Tsipras, in an interview with the Greek newspaper "Avghi" published on Sunday, called for a "peaceful uprising" to prevent the government from voting the latest batch of austerity measures demanded by Greece's creditors.
"Let them not be the 'last' [measures] but the first that are not passed," Tsipras said, repeating that the coalition government was now "hanging on by a thread".
"Day by day, it is losing its democratic legitimacy," SYRIZA's leader added, noting that the government's Parliamentary stability will be tested when it came to voting and implementing the proposed measures.
"A peaceful uprising of our people against their own assisted suicide is the only choice that has hope and prospects," Tsipras emphasised, stressing that if this succeeded the issue of government stability and elections would be necessarily come up sooner or later.
Commenting on the results of the EU summit, he again accused the government of being incapable of exploiting the rifts appearing within the ranks of the creditors, estimating that there was a "unused negotiating reserve" in that the destabilisation of Greece was against the interests of the Eurozone and that the cost of a Greek exit for the Eurozone and the potential domino this might trigger in the European south carried a high cost for the global economy and for Germany.
Referring to SYRIZA's demand for a Parliamentary inquiry into the events that led Greece to agree to the bailout loans, Tsipras said that it was not right that no one should feel accountable and that those that played the leading role in the disaster should be "sleeping quietly and undisturbed".
On the rise of the ultra-right-wing Golden Dawn party in Greece, he said this was the 'child' of the brutal and anti-popular policies and that the only effective means to arrest the rise of Fascism in society was to immediately stop the economic, social and humanitarian disaster caused by the memorandum agreements.
 Tsipras: Coalition gov't 'hanging by a thread'The head of the main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA-EKM) party Alexis Tsipras on Saturday strongly attacked Greece's coalition government, saying that it was "hanging on by a thread" after having been "politically and morally debunked".
He was scathing in his criticism of the three parties supporting the government, as well as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in person, with respect to the results of the EU summit.
Tsipras was speaking during a meeting of the Central Political Committee of his coalition party's largest member, Synaspismos, where he said the three-party government led by Samaras was "buckling under the weight of its prior commitments to the creditors". He described the government as "isolated, dependent and frightened".
Expanding, Tsipras said the government had found itself isolated from the Greek people after all three parties making it up had 'cheated' them out of the vote prior to the elections, completely dependent on Greece's creditors and its 'trembling' domestic protectors and frightened of the repercussions of signing the new Memorandum.
Referring to the results of the EU summit, Tsipras said that the prime minister had returned from Brussels empty-handed, adding that the "three party 'consortium' of the Merkelists in Greece cannot even capitalise on the cracks that have recently appeared in Germany's European strategy" and had chosen submission to German Chancellor Angela Merkel over an alliance with the European south.
He also accused PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and the "government partners" of having provided "opt-out clauses" for all tax evaders, vested interests and major economic players wanting to avoid paying debts to the state and acting as a "protection clause" that guaranteed that Greece remained a paradise for a small and aggressive oligarchy and a hell for the majority of Greek people saddled with levies and insupportably high taxes.
 Tsipras to 'Neues Deutschland': "we need to restabilise Greece and Europe"Greece's main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, head of the 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) party, warned of the damaging repercussions of austerity policies imposed on Greece, including the threat to democracy, in an article appearing in the German newspaper "Neues Deutschland" on Saturday.
In this, Tsipras says it is imperative to "restabilise Greece and Europe" and criticises the coalition government led by Angela Merkel for refusing to bring back agreements such as that made in London for Germany's debts in 1953, which essentially relieved the country of its debt burden and opened the way for West Germany's economic success.
Tsipras noted that two and half years of unrelenting austerity and deregulation of labour markets have already yielded "bitter fruits" that included a constant and out-of-control growth of debt as a percentage of GDP, which no longer sustainable, a rapid slide for Greece down the global competitiveness scale in spite of continual reduction of per unit labour costs and large enterprises transferring their base outside the country.
In light of these results, SYRIZA's leader stressed that austerity was not the answer to the crisis but was the cause of the crisis and was jeopardising the cohesion of each Euro area member state individually and of the Eurozone as a whole.
He also drew comparisons with the rise of extremism in present-day Greece and the Nazis in pre-war Germany, saying that the "ghost of the Weimar Republic" was walking the streets of Greece, with black shirts and 'storm troops' spreading violence in the streets of Athens and Greek villages.
The social fabric was falling apart, Tsipras added, with the country on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, while suicides and incidents of violent crime were multiplying and more and more people were no longer able to afford medicine and visits to the doctor.
"Many expect that the coming winter will be the worst since the terrible winter of 1941. And this because salaries and wages have been reduced in the last three years by 25 percent on average. Official unemployment has already increased to 25 percent of the labour force and is expected to exceed 30 percent in the next years. Among young people it is 55 percent. The black veil of poverty covers one third of the population. On the other hand, prices for food stuffs and other basic goods have risen. Specifically, from March to October 2012, the price of heating oil has increased 40 percent. This happened because of an increase in the consumption tax imposed by the memorandum," Tsipras said.
 SYRIZA launches process to become single partyAfter the first reading, discussion and approval of the founding declaration text on Saturday, the parties making up the 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) have now launched the process of becoming a single, united political entity. A top cadre within the party predicted that there will be a constant and intense discussion, while the proposals submitted will "be a landmark for the future course of the Left" provided it does not test the party's unity.
The process officially began with the meeting of the Central Political Committee of SYRIZA's main component member, the Synaspismos party. The next step will be a meeting of SYRIZA's secretariat next Tuesday to discuss the founding declaration and the process of organising a nationwide conference in the first week of December, which will vote a Central Political Committee numbering a massive 301 members that will be responsible for SYRIZA's congress some time in the spring. It will also act as a crisis management council, dealing with problems and intervening in political developments.
 PASOK leader: 'No point to extension without reducing debt'In an interview with the newspaper "Kathimerini" published on Sunday, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos stressed the need to reduce the debt and said that without this there would be no point in extending the period of the adjustment programme. Venizelos leads one of the two smaller parties supporting the coalition government led by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
He welcomed a paragraph about Greece included in the final statements of the EU summit but stressed that valuable time had been lost in talk for the last 3.5 months, when there should have been effective political negotiation.
He repeated his support for the government and said that there was a unified stance in which PASOK "acts as the guarantor of an entire strategy".
Venizelos predicted that there would be no problem getting the measures passed by PASOK's Parliamentary group and said the furore surrounding the so-called 'Lagarde list' was an effort to target him and to make PASOK seem lax in tackling tax evasion.
 PASOK slams reshuffle speculation as 'harmful, disorienting'Speculation and rumours that a sweeping government reshuffle is imminent, bringing members of coalition partners PASOK and Democratic Left (DIMAR) into the government team, were roundly criticised by PASOK in a press announcement issued on Sunday.
The party slammed the rumours, and especially comments focusing on "supposed evaluations of ministers that do not belong to New Democracy," calling them "disorienting and harmful".
 Ind'p Greeks party leader calls on SYRIZA chief to 'provoke' early electionIndependent Greeks party leader Panos Kammenos, in an interview on Sunday published by a Thessaloniki daily, called on main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras to accept a proposal for both parties' MPs to resign in order to force early elections.
He pointed to such a maneuver ahead of voting for new austerity measures in Parliament.
"We give and will give our battle inside and outside Parliament, but we can block the measures and the country's surrender ... by provoking elections".
 Mihaloliakos addresses youth festival: 'We do not repent'The leader of the ultra-right-wing Chryssi Avghi (Golden Dawn) party, Nikos Mihaloliakos, on Saturday addressed an event for the 12th festival of Greek youth at a park in the east Athens district of Goudi, where he stressed that the party's youth are the 'flower' of Greek youth, whose aim and obligation are 'victory' and liberation of the homeland from local and foreign usurers.
Noting that the opinion poll gap between Chryssi Avghi and SYRIZA and New Democracy parties was narrowing, Mihaloliakos repeated that "we have never hidden our ideology. We are Greek nationalists. They can call us what they like. What is certain is that we do not have statements of repentance, we do not repent. Because we have always fought for these flags: for Greece, country, honour, faith and nothing else."
He also emphasised that no member of his party have been involved in whatever financial scandals and 'lists of shame'.
"They call us Nazis but they have never called us thieves. These hands may sometimes salute like this. But they are clean hands. They are not dirty. They have not stolen," Mihaloliakos said to cheering supporters, before extending his right hand in a salute.
In a reaction on Sunday, top New Democracy deputy and former minister Manolis Kefaloyannis issued an acerbic and personal response.
"For us -- the majority of Greeks -- who had both grandfathers executed by the Nazis, and who lost 11 families members in national struggles, the fascist salute is not just a provocation, it is hubris.
"... Days before we celebrate the Oct. 28 (1940) national holiday, the fascist tragedy of our country's occupation is presented as a fascist comedy by certain people in 2012 Greece," he added.
On her part, PASOK party spokeswoman Fofi Yennimata said Mihaloliakos has no problem in giving a Nazi salute, "he's exploiting the crisis and promising a new Greece with materials that led Europe to a catastrophe."
 DIM.AR says reshuffle discussion 'not timely'The Democratic Left (DIM.AR) party, a member of the coalition government, on Sunday criticised media speculation that a government reshuffle that would include the party's own leader Fotis Kouvelis and other members was imminent, saying that this discussion was badly timed.
"At a time when the country is striving to deal with major issues through negotiations with its partners, we consider misplaced any discussion of a government reshuffle," a party announcement said, adding that the government ministers and deputy ministers it has suggested have its full confidence.
 KKE cites 'exclusion' by broadcast mediaThe Communist Party of Greece (KKE), in an announcement on Sunday, called for an end to its systematic and "blatant" exclusion from discussions and panels on news programmes in the televised media, especially by the state run media channel NET.
According to KKE, on occasions this approached the limits of a "complete absence, an absolute blackout", with KKE representatives absent from dozens of discussions on all time zones and also central news programmes for weeks on end, culminating with maybe one invitation every 15-20 days to "keep up appearances".
An announcement by the party charged that this was a violation of people's fundamental rights to be informed of the positions of all the parties and stressed that it was not just the exclusion of one more voice but an exclusion of the alternative viewpoint expressed by KKE, which opposed the positions of the dominant economic and political system.
"They are excluding the viewpoint that tells the people the truth about the capitalist crisis and the role of the EU, about how struggle should be organised and what direction they must have in order to be effective, about where the pro-people way out lies".
 Greek activists on board "Estelle" return homeThe five Greek activists on board the Gaza-bound sailing ship "Estelle", including two main opposition MPs of the 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA) party, were released by Israeli authorities and sent home on Olympic Air flight OA302 from Tel Aviv, landing in Athens on Sunday afternoon.
They arrived at Athens airport looking visibly tired but otherwise in good health and were met by the head of the foreign ministry's Arab Countries and Middle East A6 directorate, ambassador Eleni Sourani.
A foreign ministry announcement said their unobstructed and swift return was arranged through the "systematic and coordinated diplomatic actions of the foreign ministry and the Greek embassy in Tel Aviv with Israeli authorities and with the cooperation of the latter".
Greece's ambassador to Israel Kyriakos Loukakis had a meeting with the Greek citizens on board the vessel early on Sunday morning to confirm that they were all in good health, the announcement added.
Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos also contacted the five Greeks on the telephone as they were departing. They included SYRIZA MPs Vassilis Diamantopoulos and Dimitris Kodelas and three members of a Greek pro-Palestinian organisation Vaggelis Pissias, Loukas Stamellos and Mihalis Tiktopoulos.
The five Greeks that took part in the mission announced that they will hold a press conference next Tuesday at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA).
According to an AFP report from Jerusalem, Israeli authorities have decided to allow eight of the 30-odd activists on board the "Estelle" to return home, among them the five Greeks, two Spanish nationals and one Italian. The remaining 19 foreign nationals - the majority Norwegians and Swedes - on board the vessel will be held for another 72 hours. For the three Israelis on the vessel, the cross-examination by Israeli authorities will continue and they may face charges.
The Finnish-flagged "Estelle" was intercepted, surrounded and boarded by the Israeli Navy some 31 nautical miles off the Gaza shore on Saturday.
The ship had set sail from Naples in a bid to break through Israel's naval blockade of Gaza, which has been declared illegal by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights as it unfairly penalises the civilian population.
Israel said its Navy commandeered the vessel in order to avert a violation of the blockade and because those on board refused to unload humanitarian aid they were carrying to the Palestinian people.
 RASS poll shows left-wing SYRIZA in leadThe main opposition 'Coalition of the Radical Left' (SYRIZA-EKM) is in the lead with 23.8 percent, with the ruling New Democracy party a close second at 22.7 percent, according to an opinion poll conducted by RASS for the newspaper 'Parapolitika' appearing on Saturday.
The right-wing nationalist Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party ranked third with 9.2 percent, coalition government partner PASOK came fourth with 7.2 percent, the Independent Greeks ranked fifth with 6.1 percent and the third member of the governing coalition Democratic Left (DIM.AR) came sixth with 5.0 percent, just ahead of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) with 4.5 percent.
The neoliberals 'Recreate Greece' received just 1.8 percent, not enough for a seat in Parliament, while the Ecologists-Greens just 1.4 percent.
The number of undecided/unspecified votes came to 11.6 percent, those voting for 'other' parties 3.6 percent and 'blank-spoiled' votes to 3.1 percent.
In answer to the question who would be most suitable prime minister, 45.5 percent replied the current premier Antonis Samaras and 29.9 percent chose the main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras.
 ND MP expelled from Parliament groupPrime Minister Antonis Samaras on Sunday informed the Parliament president that MP Nikos Stavrogiannis has been expelled from New Democracy party's parliamentary group, a relevant press release stated on Sunday evening.
The development came on the same day as the Fthiotida prefecture deputy was quoted in an Athens weekly as saying he would not vote for the latest round of austerity measures.
Additionally, a request was forwarded by the premier and ND president to the party's ethics committee to begin proceedings for the MP's expulsion from New Democracy.
 Papoulias attends 70th anniversary of El Alamein ceremoniesCAIRO (AMNA - L. Papathanassiou)
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Saturday wished for "better days in Greece" as he attended ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the historic battle of El Alamein, which sealed the Allies' victory in North Africa during WWII.
He expressed conviction that the "spiritual strength" possessed by Greeks will allow them to overcome any crisis, even if they were now suffering greatly.
In statements at the moving ceremony, Papoulias also pointed out that Greece was among the few countries that had stood up to the forces of Nazism and Fascism during that time, fighting against them in the mountains of Macedonia, then at Tempi with the Allies, then at the Battle of Crete, through the action of the resistance throughout the 1941-1944 occupation of the country and through the action of the Greek army in North Africa.
Papoulias was accompanied by National Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos and Deputy Foreign Minister for expatriate affairs Constantine Tsiaras. Panagiotopoulos also addressed a national ceremony in memory of the Greeks fallen and injured in battle at the Greek El Alamein memorial.
 Ecumenical Patriarch begins tour of central MacedoniaEcumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Saturday began a tour of Macedonia in northern Greece, with Akritohori in Serres as his first stop. His itinerary will take in a nunnery in Sidirokastro, where he is due to inaugurate a new church on Saturday evening, in a ceremony that will also be attended by brothers from the monastic community of Mount Athos and Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Ieronymos.
The Patriarch arrived in Macedonia airport at 2:45 p.m. where he was greeted with an official reception. He will remain in the area of the Sintiki municipality for about four days, visiting villages, monasteries and schools, Kerkini Lake and the Roupel Fort.
On Thursday he is due to depart for Siatista, where he and Archbishop Ieronymos will both participate in celebrations in honour of the St. Demetrius.
 Patriarch inaugurates new churchEcumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Sunday visited the nunnery of 'Timios Prodromos' in Akritohori, Serres where he inaugurated the new church by leading a celebration mass.
During a sermon after the ceremony, he sent a message of hope to all Greeks, urging them to believe in God's help during the time of crisis. He also expressed the Ecumenical Patriarchate's support for monasticism and praised the monks and nuns on the building of the new church.
A congregation of more than 2,500 gathered for the inauguration ceremony, including Macedonia-Thrace Minister Thodoros Karaoglou, Deputy Education Minister Theodoros Papatheodorou, Culture General Secretary Lina Mendoni and representatives of political and military authorities.
The new church inaugurated at the monastery is an example of the architecture of the monastic community of Mount Athos, using a Byzantine rhythm, and the art of traditional Macedonian masonry. The completed church, which bears great similarities in style with the 10th century cathedral at the Xenophon Monastery on Mount Athos to which the nunnery is 'spiritually' linked, is expected to make the nunnery a landmark for visitors of all kinds that want to see the faithful reproduction of a old-style Byzantine monastery, built on the verdant slopes of Mount Belles overlooking Lake Kerkini.
The construction of the nunnery and church reproduces traditional building methods used in the area, including the use of 'natural' cement made of lime and volcanic ash instead of modern concrete, with supporting walls instead of a supporting framework of concrete.
 Ferry boat collision in Tinos' harbourThe ferry boat "Ekaterini-P" on Sunday crashed in the quay in the harbour of Tinos during docking manoeuvres, the coast guard reported. All 46 passengers on board were reported as unharmed, while no cracks were observed.
The ferry intended to resume its course for the isle Andros and finally to Rafina with delay.
 Two wild fires in Lasithi, CreteA wild fire broke out early on Saturday morning in the region of Sitia, Lasithi on the island of Crete. Strong winds blowing in the area at the time hampered the fire brigade's efforts to put out the fire, which was burning through grass and meadows. The fire posed no threat to any inhabited area and six fire engines were sent to put it out. A second fire had also broken out at around 11 p.m. in the Karydi, Agios Nikolaos area of Lasithi on Friday night.
 Weak tremor in HalkidikiA weak tremor measuring 3.3 on the Richter scale was recorded at 1:19 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, 62 kilometres east, SE of Thessaloniki at Megali Panaghia in Halkidiki. Though weak, the tremor was felt in several Halkidiki villages.
 Rainy on MondayRain and storms and fairly strong winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Monday, especially in the east and south. Winds will blow from mostly north northeasterly directions, ranging from 2-6 Beaufort on land and up to 7 Beaufort at sea. Temperatures are forecast to fall slightly, ranging between 12C and 24C. Wet weather in Attica, with north northeasterly winds up to 7 Beaufort and temperatures between 16C and 22C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 15C to 23C.
 The Sunday edition of Athens' dailies at a glanceThe new package of harsh austerity measures that the government intends to pass in order for European leaders to agree to disburse the next tranche of bailout loans for Greece dominated the headlines on Sunday in Athens' newspapers.
AVGHI: "Samaras, Venizelos, Kouvelis are betting their small change!" [refers to effort by PM and the two party leaders in the coalition government to pass shock-package of 13.5 billion euro cuts in just 20 days]
DIMOKRATIA: "The measures that will turn the lives of Greeks upside down".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "New battle for extra tranche and Community money"
EPOCHI: "Whips and sympathy: EU summit decisions an assisted suicide"
ETHNOS: "Venizelos and Kouvelis to be vice-presidents: sweeping reshuffle after next tranche is disbursed"
KATHIMERINI: "The last obstacles to getting the loan tranche"
PARON: "They are setting up a new scene. Toward a new bipolarity"
PROTO THEMA: "Lagarde list was hidden for their sake. SDOE - when you see the prosecutions and the names, you will understand why it was...lost"
REAL NEWS: "Will we have time? Merkel-Lagarde 'playing' into overtime for debt, tranche"
RIZOSPASTIS: "Fight to disengage from the EU and socialise monopolies"
VIMA: "Apocalypse now! The new memorandum in full"
VRADYNI: "Pensions: a survival guide"
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