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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-04-15
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM Karamanlis: Euro-Constitution an important milestone on road to European integrationPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday fervently supported the ratification of the European Constitution, stressing that a United Europe is not only an international economic powerhouse but is slowly being transformed into "a political union of nations and peoples, one that positively influences developments around the planet."
Karamanlis, the nephew and namesake of Greek statesman Constantine Karamanlis, who spearheaded the country's entry into the then EEC in the late 1970s, told deputies during a Parliament debate that the Union has wholly benefited Greece's specific interests (tourism, special measures for island, border and mountainous regions etc.) in numerous ways, while the EU's emphasis on solidarity and mutual assistance "are undoubtedly in the direction of Greece's goals".
"The Constitution, of course, does not satisfy all of our positions, objectives and targets. It does not provide immediate solutions to all of the problems Europe faces in its long and painful effort to integrate. However, it is certainly a major milestone on the road towards our common European future," he underlined.
In beginning his address before the Parliament's plenum, Karamanlis initially referred to the "courage and bravery", as he said, of main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, as the latter praised Constantine Karamanlis for his foresight and forcefulness in getting the country admitted to the Union in the first place.
"...even this moderate self-criticism could come sooner, so that years don't go by," the premier said in characterising the one-time foreign minister's statements.
"I could harshly criticise the positions heard here today, but the position of responsibility we (ruling New Democracy) have adopted will not allow me; I will not enter into the reasoning of acts and omissions of the past. This may be in the interests of my party, or myself personally ... but it can also harm the country," Karamanlis warned during the speech that concluded a three-day Parliament debate on the seminal treaty.
Turning to ongoing developments, especially on the foreign affairs front, Karamanlis referred to two issues that dominated the national spotlight this month, namely, Greek-Turkish relations and the recent fillip in diplomatic activity to resolve the standing FYROM "name issue".
Karamanlis unreservedly defended Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis' actions during the latter's mid-week working visit to Ankara for talks with Turkish leadership, talks that were blemished by a series of Turkish military provocations in the Aegean -- especially the violation of Greek territorial waters near the sensitive Imia islets by a patrol boat from the neighbouring country's coast guard.
The premier said political parties' criticism is useful, but that it should be based on criterion of how productive it can be, "not (in the service) of the opposition's needs".
"...In any case, however, comments such as 'the foreign minister should up and leave Turkey' must be avoided. The foreign minister handled the issue well, but such statements demonstrate an irresponsible outlook, and also certainly damage the course of national issues, which are complex and are not solved from one day to the next with the waving of a magic wand," Karamanlis said in responding to the essence of opposition criticism over the past week.
As far as the difference over the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) name, Karamanlis echoed previous statements by his top ministers, saying that the UN special mediator's proposal for a compromise name "does not completely satisfy our positions."
Moreover, he dismissed any notion that the government attempted to hide portions of the Nimetz proposal, saying that the document was not the product of a final agreement.
"Before we proceed with any next step we will, of course, discuss it with political party leaders and by fully briefing the Greek public ... In fact, we were the ones that convened a council of political leaders for a complete briefing on the Cyprus issue. We'll do the same with the Skopje (FYROM) issue."
The 300-MP Parliament will vote on the European Constitution next Tuesday (April 19). At present, ruling ND and main opposition PASOK have backed the treaty, whereas the smaller Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) have expressed their opposition. A statement by PASOK's Parliament group on Friday said the party was against a vote on Tuesday, instead favoring a vote for the same day.
 European Environment Commissioner Dimas will focus on climate change and sustainable development during US visitBRUSSELS (ANA/M.Spinthourakis) - "Both climate change and sustainable development are top priorities," European Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas said in a written statement on Friday, referring to the two subjects he will be focusing on during his visit to the US next week.
Dimas will be traveling to the US capital with Luxembourg Minister of the Environment and President of the EU's Environment Council Lucien Lux and the UK Minister for Farming, Food and Sustainable Energy Lord Whitty. The EU representatives will meet with State Department officials, senators and representatives from the US Environmental Protection Agency and from non-government organisations to discuss environment-related issues and climate change within the context of an EU-US cooperation.
Dimas will also be attending the annual session of the UN's Sustainable Development Commission (CSD). During the session, government officials will decide on measures aimed at improving global access to clean drinking water and sanitation, and will also focus on living conditions in cities.
The CSD will be following up on decisions taken during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.
 Government holds talks with Hochtief on revising contract for Athens airportFinance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Friday had a meeting with representatives of the German construction giant Hochtief to discuss a possible revision of the firm's contract with the Greek State for Athens' international airport "Eleftherios Venizelos".
Under the original contract for the airport's construction, Hochtief had a 40 per cent stake and the airport's management. One third of its stake in the airport, along with other assets, was transferred in early March this year to three investment partners, Hastings Funds Management Ltd. of Australia, Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec of Canada, and KfW IPEX-Bank of GErmany, with which it formed the new Hochtief AirPort Capital company.
After the meeting, Alogoskoufis said the discussion had focused on ways to make the airport more competitive.
According to the minister, the talks were conducted in a friendly climate and "certain conditions have to be fulfilled in order to proceed with steps to privatise the airport".
 Deputy FM Valynakis to brief informal EU foreign ministers' session on FYROM name issue developmentsLUXEMBOURG (ANA - N. Melissova) - Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valynakis is due to brief his counterparts at the informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers here on Friday and Saturday on the latest developments in negotiations on the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) name and on Greek-Turkish relations.
"The steadfast position of the Greek government is that pending issues and friction must be handled constructively and, at the same time, with political determination. In any case, this is also the way with which the EU always works and solves problems," Valynakis said at the end of the session's first day.
"We are at a delicate phase of negotiations with Skopje, but there is a desire to support decisiveness so that the dialogue can reap results," he added.
The deputy foreign minister also referred specifically to EU High Commissioner Javier Solana, whom he met during his tour of European capitals over the past two days, saying that "as Mr. Solana also said, a solution must be found to this problem and the solution must be found as soon as possible."
Meanwhile, according to diplomatic sources, "perplexity" is prevailing in FYROM following the publication of the Nimetz proposal in Athens and the first indications of a small decline in the intransigence of Skopje's leadership are appearing.
Valynakis will have the opportunity on Saturday, due to the informal character of the session, to brief his counterparts on Greek-Turkish relations and on the visit made to Turkey by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis.
Official decisions are not taken at the informal session. Discussions held on Friday focused on the EU's relations with the Southern Caucasus, Belarus and China, while EU foreign ministers will be discussing relations with Mediterranean and Middle East countries on Saturday.
Saturday's luncheon, to be served for the 25 foreign ministers, will also be attended by their counterparts from the four, EU candidate countries - Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Turkey - with the purpose of exchanging views on the Security and Cooperation Organisation in Europe.
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