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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-05-06

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM welcomes deficit reduction
  • [02] Opposition raps gov't over regions
  • [03] Thousands stage anti-war march

  • [01] PM welcomes deficit reduction

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Saturday welcomed a decline in the fiscal deficit that is due to fall below 3% of gross domestic product by the end of 2006, meeting the European Union's ceiling.

    "In the mildest possible manner, we have achieved a major decline in the deficit, taking it below the 3% limit by the end of the year," Karamanlis told trade representatives during a tour of Messinia in the Peloponnese.

    "The government has opted for the hard road of change and reform, and it finds itself in the middle of a tough but hopeful course of action," he noted.

    Despite a legacy of extravagence, low productivity and deficits from the previous government, the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement, the government was moving ahead.

    "They left the public with problems that affect everyday life, including unemployment, high consumer prices and social and regional inequality," the premier complained.

    "We have even attained one of the highest rates of growth in the eurozone coupled with a decline in joblessness despite the end of the era of the Athens 2004 Olympics. We have also achieved a major rise in exports, especially farm products," he reported.

    In addition, the government had also set priority on regional policy, including wide coverage under the next EU Community Support Framework package of funds.

    "Of the 20 billion euros available, 80% will be allocated to growth for the regions," Karamanlis said.

    He added that the government had offered practical backing for farmers, who had previously been left to fend for themselves.

    Measures included amendment of a harsh law on overdue loan penalty rates in favour of debtors, favourable terms until 2013 for Mediterranean farm products, and 22 billion euros for the same period allocated to infrastructure and agricultural development.

    ANA-MPA Copyright © 2004-2005 All rights reserved.

    [02] Opposition raps gov't over regions

    The leader of the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) on Saturday accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of neglecting regional growth.

    "Mr Karamanlis has forgotten the regions, and he and his government are also incapable of crisis management," PASOK head George Papandreou told supporters during a visit to the Ionian island of Cefallonia.

    "The government's handling of power outages in Cefallonia was only for show, aimed solely at the mass media," Papandreou noted.

    He charged the government with focusing on narrow party political interests and retaining power, to the exclusion of policy and planning.

    On the contrary, PASOK attached great importance to regional policy and the decentralisation of power, the party leader said.

    "For us, local elections (in October) are not only to showcase able candidates or renew our slates. They are mainly for us to offer society a new outlook," he added.

    ANA-MPA Copyright © 2004-2005 All rights reserved.

    [03] Thousands stage anti-war march

    Thousands of demonstrators marched through Athens to parliament on Saturday in an anti-war protest organised by the European Social Forum that passed the US and British embassies.

    Joining at least 10,000 visitors to the Forum's meeting in Athens that culminated in the peaceful protest were Athens residents, political parties, trade unions, non-governmental organisations, and migrant workers. Demonstrators shouted anti-American slogans to a backdrop of Latin American music and red flags.

    Amid tight security, the march passed the US and British embassies, marred by sporadic firebomb attacks near the two embassies after self-styled anarchists who held a separate demonstration later skirted the main protest, hurling stones at police, slightly injuring one. Firebombs were also thrown near the French and Italian missions. Damaged were a branch of ATEbank and a police transport van near parliament.

    Riot police used tear gas to disperse the roaming gangs of youths, who retreated towards the Monastiraki district, smashing shop windows. About fifteen people were held for questioning. Officials of the Forum stated that the attackers were not part of the main march.

    Many main thoroughfares and embassy sidestreets had already been sealed to traffic and parking banned from early morning. Eight thousand police were deployed around the city centre.

    "This was a major event for the entire Left, Europe and social movements....No more Iraq, no more war, and no return to Hiroshima," said Alekos Alavanos, head of the parliamentary Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, who took part in the Forum's march.

    Earlier, Alavanos told a Forum meeting that left-wing political parties and other social movements should seek to unite in a bid to create an alternative Europe.

    ANA-MPA Copyright © 2004-2005 All rights reserved.

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