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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-01-28

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM Karamanlis determined to proceed with needed reforms
  • [02] Åvents commemorating the Holocaust held in Thessaloniki
  • [03] Greece needs to reform public finances and pensions, EU says
  • [04] Greek, German FMs reaffirm 'excellent level' of bilateral relations, discuss Iraq, Iran, EU finances
  • [05] Greece, Russia, Bulgaria move closer to building Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline
  • [06] BSEC transport ministers agree to cultivate closer transport links with EU

  • [01] PM Karamanlis determined to proceed with needed reforms

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said that his government was determined to proceed with implementation of the reforms the country needs, during a speech he gave at an event held by ruling New Democracy's Secretariat for Women's Affairs on Wednesday evening.

    "This is a crucial year for the country's future; there is a heavy burden on public finances, the economy does not possess the structure and infrastructure required by our times, public administration is suffering from chronic problems that cannot go on any longer," he said, adding that the main priorities for 2005 is to re-establish the state and to implement new economic policy.

    Additionally, the prime minister said that 2005 is a decisive year for the implementation of new economic and development policies, noting that the new tax system which lowers corporate tax rates is already in place, while the new development law that subsidises the development of old and new businesses by up to 55% has also been passed, and the absorption rate of EU funds has been accelerated.

    Speaking of the agricultural issue, which has dominated headlines in the past weeks, Karamanlis said that his government has managed in the few months it's been in office to speed up the rate of giving out subsidies to farmers, has reduced borrowing rates for thousands of farmers, while the problem with overdue loan penalty rates is being addressed.

    "We are putting an end to the illegalities and bending of the rules of the past which resulted in huge costs and injustice at the expense of thousands of farmers; we are open to any good ideas that are within the limits of our country's obligations towards the EU," he said, concluding that the state must respect and apply the law.

    [02] Åvents commemorating the Holocaust held in Thessaloniki

    A series of events, organised by Thessaloniki's Jewish community to commemorate the 60th anniversary since the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, was held in Thessaloniki on Thursday.

    The events for the anniversary began in the northern Greek city on Thursday afternoon with a memorial service and the laying of wreaths at the Holocaust Monument. In addition to crowds of local residents and officials, the ceremony was also attended by Israeli Transport Minister Meir Sheetrit, Greek Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis, Deputy Foreign Ministers Evripidis Stylianidis and Yiannis Valynakis, Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis, the new United States Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries, German Ambassador in Athens Albert Spiegel and other diplomats.

    Amongst the gathered crowd, silent and lost in thoughts and memories, were 12 survivors of the horror in concentration camps like Auschwitz and Treblinka, where an estimated 50,000 Thessaloniki Jews were exterminated by the Nazi regime.

    The anniversary also coincides with the establishment of January 27 in Greece as a "Day of Memory" for the Holocaust.

    Addressing the gathering, the Israeli minister expressed sorrow for a "new voice of anti-Semitism that is being heard in Europe," indicated that "some have not received the message". He said that he had come to Thessaloniki to thank the Greek State for establishing a "Day of Memory" for the Holocaust and for efforts to teach the events of that time in schools.

    He also noted that Greece was one of few places under German occupation where Christians had hidden and saved many Jews at a risk to their own lives. "Greece is an example of courage and humanity. I came to bring the message that Israel lives, that Jews live," he added.

    A brief address was also made by Ambassador Ries, while the German Ambassador noted in his speech that "as a representative of the country responsible for the Holocaust, I bow in deepest sorrow to the dead".

    "We should not forget our daily duty of creating a culturally diverse society - democratic and open and one which respects differences," Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou said during a speech he made at another event held at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall on Thursday evening. "Today we condemn violence, absolutism, racism and anti-Semitism," he added.

    Other speakers included Tsiartsionis and Moses Konstantinis, President of the Central Isrealite Council of Greece, as well as David Saltiel, President of Thessaloniki's Israelite Community.

    [03] Greece needs to reform public finances and pensions, EU says

    BRUSSELS (ANA/M Spinthourakis) - Greece needs to create long-term viability in public finances and reform the pension system , the European Union said in a second implementation report on its 2003-2005 broad economic policy guidelines.

    The country still had excessive deficits in 2004; and pension reforms appeared insufficient to contain a budgetary burden arising from an ageing population, said the executive Commission's report released on Thursday.

    After one and a half years of implementation of the EU guidelines, Greece had achieved limited progress in meeting the targets. Despite robust growth, measures were not taken to lower the public debt and fiscal deficit at a brisk enough pace, and the country still deviated from a target of a balanced budget or budget in surplus.

    Looking at progress to achieve sound budgetary positions, only eight EU countries broadly managed to achieve and/or maintain a budget of close to balance or surplus, setting them in a better position to deal with economic fluctuations and the impact of ageing populations, the report said.

    Furthermore, the impact was still unclear of measures taken in Greece to improve productivity, although progress had been seen in the attempt to switch to an information society.

    In the electricity market, full competition had yet to be attained, but measures taken were in the right direction. And although attempts had been made to simplify the economic and taxation environment, the rate of harmonisation of national and EU law had slowed.

    Limited progress had been seen in reducing structural unemployment and boosting employment, especially among women. Measures taken to make wages match productivity differentials as part of salary talks were inadequate; the impact was unclear of government moves to spur part-time work and flexibility in the labour market due to major stumbling blocks; and the question of the viability of public finances and social insurance systems, including pensions, was disquieting.

    [04] Greek, German FMs reaffirm 'excellent level' of bilateral relations, discuss Iraq, Iran, EU finances

    The excellent level of Greek-German relations was reaffirmed Friday in Thessaloniki by Greece's and Germany's foreign ministers Petros Molyviatis and Joschka Fischer, respectively, following talks they had on the sidelines of events organised by the local Jewish community commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

    The events for the anniversary began in the northern Greek capital on Thursday afternoon with a memorial service and the laying of wreaths at the Holocaust Monument. An estimated 50,000 Thessaloniki Jews perished in nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Treblinka.

    The anniversary also coincides with the establishment of January 27 in Greece as a "Day of Memory" for the Holocaust.

    The two ministers discussed bilateral relations, developments in Iraq and Iran, the situation in the Middle East and the Balkans, and EU finances.

    "Our discussions were friendly, substantive and very useful. We reviewed bilateral relations, and ascertained their excellent level and our desire for their further expansion," Molyviatis told reporters after the meeting, while Fischer noted the "excellent level of bilateral relations".

    To a question on EU finances and disagreement among the '25' on whether to increase or cut back Community funding for the 2007-2013 period, Fischer expressed hope that "a compromise satisfactory to everyone" would be achieved.

    He stressed, howerver, the need for discipline in expenditures.

    Questioned on progress in the talks with Iran concerning its nuclear programme, Fischer replied that there was "room for optimism", adding that much would depend on Teheran's stance, but declined to elaborate further.

    Fischer arrived in Thessaloniki late Thursday night from Berlin, and addressed an event held by the local Jewish community.

    [05] Greece, Russia, Bulgaria move closer to building Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline

    Greek Development Deputy Minister George Salagoudis on Friday hailed the signing of an agreement between Greece, Russia and Bulgaria paving the way for the construction of an oil pipeline between Burgas (Bulgaria) and Alexandroupoli (Greece).

    Speaking to reporters in Moscow, the Greek minister said that "we had a difficult cooperation that ended successfully. I think that today's tri-party meeting made a decisive step towards completing the project and achieved two significant goals. First, creating an initiative group by oil companies. These companies met today for the first time and signed a protocol setting TNK-BP as the coordinator of the group. They also set goals and a timetable for their work. The tri-party commission also signed a protocol to meet again on March 9-10 in Moscow to examine the recommendations of the companies' initiative group. After that, the three governments are expected to sign a political memorandum on the project by March 15".

    Salagoudis said that except from the three companies registered in the protocol, other companies such as Lukoil, Gazprom, Rosneft and Transneft participated as observators during the first initiative group meeting. "I thin this very positive and showed an expanding group. We believe this expansion will continue to include more oil companies in the consortium to build and operate the pipeline," the Greek minister stressed.

    [06] BSEC transport ministers agree to cultivate closer transport links with EU

    Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) pact transport ministers meeting in Thessaloniki on Friday unanimously adopted a joint declaration calling for closer cooperation between the BSEC and the European Union for the extension of the InterEuropean Transport Network into the Black Sea region.

    They also agreed on developing maritime routes in the Black Sea in order to improve combined transport, with emphasis on facilitating border crossings and reducing administrative hurdles in order to improve commerce-linked transport.

    The private sector is called on to play a key role in this procedure by funding the necessary projects.

    Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, Greek Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis described it as a success and stressed that developing transport links with the Black Sea was a priority for Greece, which would help develop economic, commercial and cultural ties with countries in the region.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Evripides Stylianidis said the ministerial meeting had been organised in Thessaloniki through a joint initiative by the Greek foreign ministry, in collaboration with the Greek transport and merchant marine ministries.

    "Our aim was to provide a new boost to links between the countries of Southeast Europe and the Black Sea in the transport sector, ultimately aiming at the creation of a single transport area in the wider region that will give rise to new special interest sectors," Stylianidis said.


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