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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-01-11

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Weekend News Bulletin

Monday, January 11 2015

CONTENTS

  • [01] Head of New Democracy: Kyriakos Mitsotakis
  • [02] FinMin Tsakalotos continues round of meetings with EZ counterparts this weekend
  • [03] Government preparing targeted policies for economic recovery in 2016, Dragasakis tells 'Avgi' newspaper
  • [04] Parliament president says gov't majority could be 'expanded' in vote on pension reform
  • [05] Masked attackers disrupt voting at ND's Nea Philadelpha polling station
  • [06] Portugal's leftist coalition government moving in 'positive direction', Greek FinMin Tsakalotos tells Lusa
  • [07] ND-PASOK governments 'used all methods' for undermining pension system, gov't sources claim
  • [08] Government's majority not at risk from pension reforms bill, Stathakis says
  • [09] About 70 pct of cruise passengers alighting in Volos would like to return, survey finds
  • [10] Flights delayed by up to 40 minutes after security alert at Athens International Airport on Sunday
  • [11] Search-and-rescue operation launched for missing hikers on Mount Olympus
  • [12] Trains cancelled on Monday due to railway work stoppages starting on Tuesday
  • [13] Greece's bar associations announce three-day strike on Jan 12-14
  • [14] Police to hold internal inquiry into incidents at pensioners' rally on Friday
  • [15] Three arrested during incidents in Exarchia in the early hours of Sunday
  • [16] Weather Forecast
  • [17] Athens Headlines at a glance

  • [01] Head of New Democracy: Kyriakos Mitsotakis

    New President of New Democracy is Kyriakos Mitsotakis after the first results of the second round of elections.

    With counted 70% of the votes, Kyriakos Mitsotakis leads with 51% versus 49% of Vangelis Meimarakis. The official announcement was made by J.Tragakis.

    Mr. Tragakis congratulated Kyriakos Mitsotakis while adding that the final results will be completed on Monday.

    Politics

    [02] FinMin Tsakalotos continues round of meetings with EZ counterparts this weekend

    Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos continued a round of meetings with other Eurozone finance ministers over the weekend, meeting his Portuguese counterpart on Saturday and travelling to Paris for talks with French Finance Minister Michel Sapin on Sunday afternoon.

    During the one-day visit to Paris, Tsakalotos is expected to request France's support in persuading the institutions representing Greece's creditors to accept the Greek government's proposals. The two are scheduled to meet at 20:00 (Greek time) and to make joint statements in a press conference after their meeting.

    On Saturday, Tsakalotos was in Lisbon for talks with Portugal's Finance Minister Mario Centeno. The Greek finance minister outlined the positive prospects opening up once the Greek government's road map is completed and they examined problems that Greece and Portugal have in common, with a view to forming an agenda for dealing with these in a progressive manner.

    According to finance ministry sources, they agreed that there were shared problems, since there are many similarities between Greece and Portugal, while they also discussed issues that could be raised jointly at the EU that concern both countries, such as the banking union, unemployment and investments.

    Tsakalotos began his Europen tour on Friday when he met Italian Finance Minister Pier Paolo Padoan, while he is due in Helsinki for talks with Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb on Monday. He is next due to meet Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup President Jeroen Djisselbloem in Amsterdam on Tuesday and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin on Wednesday.

    [03] Government preparing targeted policies for economic recovery in 2016, Dragasakis tells 'Avgi' newspaper

    Government Vice-President Yiannis Dragasakis outlined plans for a series of targeted policies to bring about economic recovery in 2016, in an interview published by the newspaper "Avgi" on Sunday. He also repeated the government's position that the issue of the debt was primarily a European problem demanding a European solution on the basis of mutuality. A single currency, he noted, could not have different interest rates and lending regimes.

    "If the leaders of Europe do not want to proceed with a radical solution now, we will inevitably go to a transitional solution, which will ensure that the debt and the cost of servicing it will not act - as is the case today - as an obstacle to long-term borrowing, investments and social policy," he said.

    According to Dragasakis, Greece's banking system is expected to assume a more active role in financing investments after a successful recapitalisation and completion of the first review of the Greek programme, which is expected to restore more normal access to liquidity from the European Central Bank (ECB). He also pointed to 6.5 billion euros that have already been earmarked for public investments in 2016, which might rise as high as 8.5 billion euros.

    He further pointed to a new development law due to be passed within the next month, as well as measures to secure financing for small and medium-sized enterprises and new financing instruments that will make use of funds from the EU and other organisations. Dragasakis said the government was preparing a comprehensive plan to attract foreign investments, especially the long-term investments that fit with its plan for a reorganisation of production in Greece.

    Dragasakis referred to the need for SYRIZA to now form "social alliances" in postmemorandum Greece, noting that there were middle-class sections of society created during conditions of economic prosperity and could not now be maintained on the same terms. "The government will support these strata to create new terms of survival and prosperity," he said.

    "We need to move away from an anti-memorandum alliance to a social alliance, aiming at post-memorandum Greece. From alliances on the basis of a mechanistic collection of grievances, we must create alliances based on the prospects that we want to give society and the country," he added.

    [04] Parliament president says gov't majority could be 'expanded' in vote on pension reform

    The government's majority could be expanded during the vote on the pension system reform bill, Parliament President Nikos Voutsis suggested in an interview with 'Realnews' published on Sunday, or at the least 'tolerated' by broader forces.

    "The relevant discussion has just begun and will take on international dimensions, with trips by government ministers and the prime minister himself to Europe for consultation on the government's proposal for pension reform," he said, predicting that the final result of this process would be much better than domestic doom-mongers predicted.

    [05] Masked attackers disrupt voting at ND's Nea Philadelpha polling station

    A group of around 20 masked attackers on Sunday attacked a main opposition New Democracy polling station set up in the Nea Philadelphia arts centre, temporarily disrupting the voting in internal party elections to choose a new leader for the party.

    Police said the group of masked assailants threw red paint over the ballot boxes and the walls, knocked down a voting booth and spray painted slogans on the walls before departing.

    The voting resumed shortly afterward since no damage was done to either the ballot box or the ballots.

    In an announcement, the SYRIZA party unequivocally condemned the attack on the ND polling station, saying that "SYRIZA stands against such practices".

    [06] Portugal's leftist coalition government moving in 'positive direction', Greek FinMin Tsakalotos tells Lusa

    Greece's Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos expressed his conviction that Portugal's ruling coalition of Leftist parties is "heading in a positive direction," in an interview with the Portuguese news agency Lusa published on Sunday. He predicted that this would benefit both the Portuguese and the other peoples of Europe by changing political balances on the continent.

    Tsakalotos expressed concern that, while left-wing forces were proposing economic policies that addressed people's needs in terms of salaries, pensions and the social state, a rising and potentially dangerous right wing was becoming increasingly strong in France, the Netherlands and Austria.

    Tsakalotos highlighted the common problems shared by Greece and Portugal, noting that the two countries had many similarities, including that of banking union, unemployment and investments. Commenting on the programme that the Greek government has to implement, the Greek finance minister said it was "important that progressive people proceed on the basis of progressive ideas, practically enforceable policies, such as how to manage a health system, education, pension reforms, how to distribute incomes and how to guarantee that banks secure the real economy, instead of profiteering."

    Such things can show the people of Europe that there was a different path to follow and raise a barrier to the rise of a nationalist right wing, he added.

    Admitting that exercising power was very different to being in the opposition, Tsakalotos warned that a progressive government of the Left needed to work with social movements, which were not just protest movements but also proposed new and different views on how things should be done and how they should be viewed.

    "I still feel the danger that many progressive people and social movements continue to believe that they don't need to do anything in order for a progressive government to exist," he said.

    "This happened in Greece...many believe that in order for there to be a Left government they don't need to do anything, not even on a political level."

    He noted that SYRIZA must restore its links to social movements and giving them "more room" for action. This relationship with society will be a decisive factor for the government's success against the challenges it faces, he added. "The right does not need this but the Left cannot exist without this relationship," he said.

    [07] ND-PASOK governments 'used all methods' for undermining pension system, gov't sources claim

    Government sources on Sunday replied sharply to critics of the proposed pension system reforms, noting that the previous PASOK and New Democracy governments bore a large share of the blame for the current state of the system.

    "There are many ways in which one can undermine the foundations of a social insurance system and the Samaras-Venizelos governments have used them all," they commented in response to critics.

    Pointing to a recent article by former PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, in which he opposed the prospect of increasing the 'non-wage cost' of employment, the sources noted that this essentially opposed any increase in social insurance contributions and would inevitably lead to pension cuts, given the drastic reduction of pension fund reserves as a result of PSI.

    "Mr. Venizelos glosses over the fact that a much larger reduction in social insurance contributions in July 2014 didn't create new jobs, nor increase available income anywhere," the sources said. Instead, they served only to increase the pressure on pension funds, which had been their purpose all along, the same sources added.

    They also levelled criticism at the head of the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) umbrella trade union group Yiannis Panagopoulos for opposing the government proposals, saying that his arousal was good news to "hundreds of thousands of workers, who wonder where he has been since 2010 and why he did not react to the 11 successive cuts to pensions, or the snatching of 13 billion euros from the pension funds via PSI."

    [08] Government's majority not at risk from pension reforms bill, Stathakis says

    The vote on pension reforms will not shake the government's majority, Economy Minister George Stathakis predicted on Sunday while talking on the 'Mega Weekend' television show.

    Defending the government's approach, he said SYRIZA's Parliamentary group would support the changes.

    He noted that the government, rather than imposing pension cuts, had instead opted for a deeper, more permanent and lasting reform, with a transitional period to smooth out any injustices that may arise. Some cuts to the very high pensions were unavoidable, he added, while predicting that a tax on bank transactions to fund the system would not be necessary based on the calculations made.

    On the issue of non-performing loans, the minister said the government had until February 15 to complete the legislation for protecting homeowners, SMEs and consumer loans and predicted that the high level of protection would continue.

    General News

    [09] About 70 pct of cruise passengers alighting in Volos would like to return, survey finds

    Cruise passengers visiting the coastal town of Volos in Greece were highly satisfied with their stay and 70 pct would like to visit again as soon as possible, according to a survey carried out by the Volos municipality.

    Of the passengers alighting in Volos that took the survey, 90 pct said they were satisfied with the behaviour of the inhabitants and the hospitality shown to them, as well as the information and tourist pamphlets supplied. An equally high 89 pct were satisfied with the sense of security in Volos and 88 pct were satisfied with their overall visit to the town.

    Around 75 pct were satisfied with levels of cleanliness and the operation of public spaces around Volos, as well as shop opening times, while 78 pct were satisfied with the traffic system, available parking and public transport.

    [10] Flights delayed by up to 40 minutes after security alert at Athens International Airport on Sunday

    Thirteen flights out of Athens International Airport were delayed by an average of 40 minutes on Sunday morning after authorities sounded the alarm for a female passenger flying to Madrid, who tested positive in a random screening for explosives. A subsequent inspection revealed no cause for concern, the airport said.

    The passenger had been cleared at a first security check before departure but a random spot check indicated that she should be checked again for explosives, an airport announcement said. In response, the airport had given orders preventing the take-off of all flights on the ground so that further security inspections might be carried out.

    The passenger in question had boarded Aegean flight A3688 to Madrid, however, which had already taken off. Acting on the information of a possible security risk, Aegean ordered the flight's pilot to land at the nearest airport - Palma de Mallorca - for further security checks of the aircraft and the passengers in accordance with the rules. This inspection showed no cause for concern and the flight then continued to Madrid.

    According to sources, however, the police are drawing up charges against the employees of the airport security firm for failure to promptly inform police authorities after the passenger was checked, so that she was able to board the plane.

    [11] Search-and-rescue operation launched for missing hikers on Mount Olympus

    The Thessaly emergency search-and-rescue (EMAK) unit on Sunday launched an operation to find two missing hikers - a man and a woman - lost on the slopes of Mount Olympus above Elassona.

    The two hikers lost their orientation and alerted authorities by calling the police in Elassona on their mobile phones. The police then alerted the fire brigade, which mobilised the EMAK unit and launched the rescue operation, with the participation of four vehicles and 11 men.

    Weather conditions in the region are currently difficult due to thick mist and rain.

    [12] Trains cancelled on Monday due to railway work stoppages starting on Tuesday

    A series of three-hour work stoppages by railway workers starting on Tuesday will lead to the cancellation of three train services start on Monday, as well as many more cancellations and modifications of trains during the coming week. The strikes will also affect the Proastiakos line and stop all rail access to Athens airport during the strikes, including that metro services.

    The three-hour work stoppages on Tuesday will be held from 5:00-8:00, 13:00-16:00 and 21:00-24:00. They will result in the cancellation of the 600 train from Athens-Thessaloniki-Athens (along the entire route) and the 601 on the section from Thessaloniki to Athens, as well as the IC85 and 743 trains from Thessaloniki-Edessa-Florina-Thessaloniki, and the IC90 Alexandroupolis-Dikaia.

    [13] Greece's bar associations announce three-day strike on Jan 12-14

    Bar associations throughout the country have announced a three-day strike on January 12-14 next week in protest against planned pension system reforms announced by the government.

    A meeting of the bar association presidents' plenum will be held in Athens next Thursday to decide whether to call for further strike action.

    The coordinating committee's recommendations to the presidents' plenum is an extended abstention by lawyers from their duties.

    All law firms and bar associations will be closed next Thursday and a protest rally is planned at noon outside the offices of the Athens Bar Association on Akadimias Avenue, followed by a march to Parliament. The Plenum will also send a letter to the government, political party leaders and others outlining its objections to the proposed reforms.

    [14] Police to hold internal inquiry into incidents at pensioners' rally on Friday

    The head of the Attica Police has ordered an internal inquiry into the incidents involving use of tear gas during a pensioners' rally in Syntagma Square last week, which is expected to be completed within about 20 days, police sources said.

    A senior officer at the Athens police headquarters on Saturday told the ANA-MPA that the orders given to the police at the rally last Friday was to avoid all use of tear gas and to keep their truncheons sheathed, pushing back protestors with only their shields.

    He said the inquiry would investigate the details of the incident and attribute responsibility where this was due, looking at all video recordings, audio recordings of the orders given over the radio, press reports and witness accounts of what took place. A preliminary inquiry will also be held into the injuries sustained by police officers.

    [15] Three arrested during incidents in Exarchia in the early hours of Sunday

    Police arrested three individuals during clashes that took place in the Athens district of Exarchia in the early hours of Sunday, during which a group of youths set fires and lobbed petrol bombs at police officers at around 2:00 in the morning.

    The incident continued for a long time and a group of hood-wearing individuals then lobbed petrol bombs at the offices of the PASOK party in Harilaou Trikoupi Street in central Athens two hours later, causing minor damages.

    Police proceeded to arrest three men, two aged 26 and one aged 25, who will be led before a public prosecutor on Sunday.

    [16] Weather Forecast

    Sunny weather is forecast in most parts of Greece on Monday, except in the west and eastern Aegean where the forecast is for clouds and brief showers. The weather service also warned that conditions on Monday will favour the transfer of dust clouds, with south southwesterly winds between 4-6 Beaufort and a slight increase in temperatures.

    [17] Athens Headlines at a glance

    AVGHI: The 10 days of Greece

    DEMOKRATIA: Meimarakis or Mitsotakis?

    ETHNOS: Tsipras-Schaeuble debate on the future of the EU

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: A taxation-social insurance SURVIVAL GUIDE

    KATHIMERINI: Turning-point elections for the political scene

    LOGOS: The president's hour

    PRIN: Popular uprising over the pensions reform bill

    PROTO THEMA: Will we have an opposition?

    REAL NEWS: The new map of tax-office assessed values for real estate

    RIZOSPASTIS: For the reorganisation of the movement for a strong KKE among the workers

    KONTRA NEWS: WHAT THE FUND OF SHAME CONCEALS

    TO HONI: SYRIZA battling for raises, the others for cuts

    TO PARON: SOLUTION FOR SAVING the funds

    TO VIMA: Rough landing for pensions

    VRADYNI: The INJUSTICES of the NEW pension system

    36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE * TEL: 64.00.560-63 * FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr * E-MAIL: anabul@ana gr * GENERAL DIRECTOR: Michalis Psilos


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