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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-05-11

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM outlines proposals for Constitutional revision to ruling party MPs
  • [02] Gov't eyes 2.0 bln euros for railway upgrades
  • [03] Greece, Egypt examine routes for nat-gas supply

  • [01] PM outlines proposals for Constitutional revision to ruling party MPs

    Substantial changes that focused on seven main areas, including the much-debated and controversial sanctioning of private universities and the easing of an absolute ban on MPs engaging in professional or business activity while in office, were included in a set of proposals outlined on Thursday by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for revising the Greek Constitution.

    Addressing a special meeting of ruling New Democracy's Parliamentary group, Karamanlis said the changes placed emphasis on modernising education, independent justice, environmental protection, protection of property (including intellectual property), ensuring a state of law in the service of citizens, strong local government and laws that guaranteed transparency. Several of the proposed changes also concern Parliament and party finances.

    The premier stressed that the proposed revision of the Constitution would be unaffected by party expediencies and will consolidate the refoundation of the State.

    He also noted that there was no need to revise articles in the Constitution that regulated the relationship between the Church and State since these had discrete and separate roles. Sundry issues regarding the Church did not require revising the Constitution and could be settled through simple acts of legislation, the premier added.

    Similarly, Karamanlis said that existing articles governing the election of the president of the Republic "operate positively" and did not need revising.

    Stressing that the revision of the Constitution was the foremost process through which the government would continue the changes and reforms it had promised to make to the electorate, Karamanlis invited main opposition PASOK to submit its own proposals but urged it to "avoid generalities and communications games".

    During the meeting, Karamanlis additionally outlined the details of the proposed revision by article.

    Media and Education

    Among these are changes to article 14 governing the restrictions on media owners undertaking government contracts and changes to article 16 that allow the foundation of private, non-profit universities guaranteed by the state sector.

    Regarding article 14 and paragraph 9 concerning the "primary shareholders" of media enterprises, Karamanlis said the revised version will address the concerns of the European Union and establish polyphony in the media, while at the same time dealing efficiently with graft and corruption.

    He also stressed that changes to articles for education would link this with Greek and European culture.

    Property, ownership, environmental protection

    Changes related to property and copyright include an amendment to article 17 that will make a direct reference to the definition of ownership and the protection of intellectual property and creative work, in addition to establishing strict conditions for the expropriation of property by the state in accordance with land planning laws.

    Changes to articles 24 and 117 seek to provide efficient protection of forests and ensure sustainable development. The limits of forests and forest expanses will be determined on the basis of what was in effect in June 1975, Karamanlis said. Areas then defined as forest would now remain areas earmarked for reforestation, while forest expanses will be linked with land and town planning. According to the premier, there would be changes in their destined use for public finances reasons.

    State, Parliament, MPs and party finances

    The interpretative clause in article 28, which governs the transfer of international rules (including EU treaties) into domestic law, is rephrased so that this is done with an absolute Parliamentary majority.

    Article 29 that governs the operation of political parties is amended so that parties are financed entirely by the state budget, while introducing strict control of party finances and campaign spending by parties and individual MPs.

    Karamanlis said that this control will be carried out by a special department of a Constitutional Court that will be established through a revision of article 100 of the Constitution. This will be charged with controlling the transparency of party finances and the operating expenses of MPs and candidates, as well as the statements of means and assets submitted by MPs. It will be given powers to impose stiff penalties on offenders, including stripping MPs of their office.

    Other changes envisioned by the government include an increase in the proportion of state deputies in Parliament, as outlined in article 54, though the premier did not specify the exact number. State deputies are not elected directly but based on the proportion of each party's electoral strength nationwide.

    Revisions are also planned to article 56, which lists the public officials and other persons that are barred from standing for election to Parliament through their office, and to articles 57 and 115 that have established absolute incompatibility between holding a seat in Parliament and engaging in any form of professional or business activity, replacing this with qualified incompatibility. The premier stressed that the absolute ban on MPs working had not acted positively.

    In article 58, meanwhile, responsibility for adjudicating on the validity of elections is transferred from the Special Highest Court to the new Constitutional Court established through the revised article 100.

    Parliamentary immunity is redefined in amendments to article 62 and will be confined to cases that are directly linked to the office of MP and for political reasons, Karamanlis said.

    State and citizens, justice

    The prime minister proposed changes to article 20, introducing the right to a person's legal protection by the courts within a "reasonable space of time", and to article 22, establishing the state's responsibility to provide social welfare to citizens in order to consolidate social justice.

    Additions to article 78 will require that guarantees of the Greek State to third parties can only be given through a special law.

    The government's changes also envision the conversion of the Special Highest Court in article 100 to a Constitutional Court, whose main job will be to be the final judge of whether laws are constitutional. Through changes to article 88, meanwhile, it will also adjudicate on issues concerning the salaries of the judiciary.

    In article 90, proposed changes to the procedure for promotions among the top echelons of the judiciary will require that presidents are selected among the vice-presidents and these, in turn, from the longest-serving judges, while also establishing a maximum tenure of six years for vice-presidents.

    There are also modifications to article 95 that establish a special section of the Supreme Administrative Court (Council of State) in charge of judging disputes concerning public contracts and a special section of the Court of Audit that will check major contracts drawn up by the public sector.

    Local government and public administration

    Karamanlis proposed changes to two articles referring to local government, inserting a reference emphasising island areas in article 101 and changes related to the exercise by local authorities of competencies conceded by central government in article 102. In article 103, finally, he proposed that indefinite contracts to cover vital positions in the civil service and wider public sector be governed by an executing law.

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

    [02] Gov't eyes 2.0 bln euros for railway upgrades

    Transport and Communications Minister Mihalis Liapis on Thursday said in Sofia that the Greek government would earmark 10 percent, or 2.0 billion euros, of 4th Community Support Framework funds for works to upgrade the railway network in the east Mediterranean country.

    He clarified that the proposal, to be submitted by the end of June, was dependent on approval by the Commission.

    Speaking to reporters on his way to Sofia for a meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Peter Moutafchiev, the Greek minister stressed that the ministry's priorities regarding the railway system were: operating a double electric-powered high-speed rail line; expanding a suburban railway network in Athens and Thessaloniki; upgrading the rail link to the northeastern border city of Alexandroupoli and drafting a western Greece railway line.

    Liapis said the Greek Railways Organisation will announce, next week, new tenders for the supply of rolling stock, worth 750 million euros, over the next five years.

    "Our aim is to bring European standards to the country's railway system, since trains currently account for 4 percent of mass transportation in Greece, compared with 20 percent in Europe," Liapis said, adding that passenger traffic rose 8 percent last year, while international cargo transport jumped 40 percent and domestic cargo transport rose 12.5 percent, respectively.

    He also said train schedules grew 50 percent over the 2002-2005 period, while he announced the hiring of new train conductors and station personnel.

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

    [03] Greece, Egypt examine routes for nat-gas supply

    Athens and Cairo are examining three alternative routes for the transport of natural gas from Egypt to Greece, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Thursday.

    Speaking to reporters after completing an official visit to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt, the Greek minister said he saw increased interest for investments in Greece by Arab interests and major opportunities for Greek enterprises in the Arab world, currently in a phase of strong economic growth.

    Sioufas said a sea line between Alexandria with Crete and Piraeus would be announced in the next two weeks.

    The minister said the two countries were examining three alternative solutions for the transport of natural gas from Egypt to Greece: first, through a pipeline linking Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, currently under construction, second, using LNG vessels and third, building an undersea pipeline linking Egypt with Crete (the most remote solution).

    Sioufas said these discussions did not affect relations with other countries, such as Russia and Algeria which have long-term natural gas supply contracts. The Greek minister met with Egyptian businessman Sahim Sawiries, owner of Italian telecoms company Wind, which owns 50 percent plus one share and the management in Tellas, the telecommunications arm of the Public Power Corp.

    Sioufas said the Egyptian entrepreneur has unveiled "interesting plans" for Telllas and for investments in other business sectors.

    Commenting on a project to build an oil pipeline from Burgas, Bulgaria, to Alexandroupoli, Greece, Sioufas said both sides needed to speed up efforts, while he announced a meeting of a joint Greek-Russian commission in Athens, on June 9, to discuss energy relations between the two countries.

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


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