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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-05-30

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Papandreou: 'We need new Helsinki'
  • [02] NBG chief: Turkey unique opportunity for expansion
  • [03] Gov't on policy vis-a-vis Turkey

  • [01] Papandreou: 'We need new Helsinki'

    Main opposition leader George Papandreou on Tuesday slammed the government's handling of foreign policy issues, saying that it lacked any kind of plan or strategy, and stressed that the country needed a new path.

    "A new strategy is needed. We will call it a new 'Helsinki'. We cannot continue the dogma of inactivity," he emphasised.

    Addressing a meeting of PASOK's Parliamentary group, Papandreou told main opposition MPs that the present government was "dangerous" and was following a "policy of incoherence", while he backed a proposal by Greece's former president Kostis Stephanopoulos for a change in Greece's policy toward Turkey.

    "PASOK continues to seek Turkey's referral to the [International Court of Justice] at The Hague for the issue of delineating the continental shelf [in the Aegean Sea]," he said.

    In an article appearing in a Sunday newspaper, Stephanopoulos had said that Greece should now take recourse to the International Court at The Hague for all outstanding differences with Turkey - and not just that of delineating the Aegean continental shelf - in accordance with the Helsinki decisions, noting that attempts to reach a solution with Turkey via other means had failed.

    He also accused the government of missing two great historic opportunities, in 2004 and in 2005, to send a clear message to Turkey that it must establish a framework of principles and values that it would respect both within its own borders and in its dealings with its neighbours and to link this with Turkey's European course.

    Papandreou criticised the stance adopted in 2004 by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the premier's failure to pressure Turkey into going to the international court over the Aegean continental shelf issue, saying that Greece had effectively "put down its arms before the battle" by not setting any terms or demanding any commitments from Turkey at that time.

    PASOK's leader defended the original Helsinki agreement, saying that it had succeeded in getting Cyprus into the EU without a single incident in the Aegean, and dismissed Karamanlis' arguments that the Helsinki agreement could be interpreted in different ways.

    "Even our Constitution can be interpreted in different ways. The question is whether you can use diplomacy to impose the interpretation that you want," Papandreou stressed, calling on Karamanlis to adopt a clear position regarding the International Court of The Hague and "make use of a new national strategy".

    During his address, Papandreou also criticised the purchase of Turkey's Finansbank by the National Bank of Greece (NBG), saying that "we are giving our vote to the Turkish economy but not to the Greek economy". He suggested that the acquisition of the Turkish bank may form part of a hidden foreign policy agenda and demanded that Greek interests be fully protected.

    Government reaction to Papandreou

    Responding to Papandreou's criticism, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Tuesday said that PASOK's leader was not hesitating to use sensitive foreign policy issues to promote petty party-political ends and choosing the "dead-end path of confrontation and polarisation".

    The government would not follow him down this road but would remain steadfast in the principles and values that serve the nation, the spokesman added.

    [02] NBG chief: Turkey unique opportunity for expansion

    National Bank of Greece (NBG) chairman Takis Arapoglou on Tuesday stoutly defended an eyebrow-raising decision to purchase Turkey-based Finansbank, the seventh largest financial institution in the neighbouring country, telling a relevant Parliament committee that such deals will ensure NBG's dominant position in the entire SE Europe region.

    In beginning his statement, and in response to heated criticism domestically, particularly from opposition political parties and the press, Arapoglou said decisions by the bank's leadership aimed to ensure National Bank's independence, to maintain its control by Greek interests and its dominance in the local banking market.

    Moreover, he again defended his decision not to brief Parliament's economy committee before addressing a NBG general shareholders' meeting, saying this was a legal obligation.

    "We need new dynamic markets in order to compete with major European competitor (banks), especially in our region, as there are very limited prospects in mature West European markets," he said, before the question-&-answer portion of the briefing.

    "Turkey offers a unique opportunity for us to expand ... it has a population of 70 million and a high growth rate ... as well as improved macro-economic conditions after 2000," Arapoglou said, before repeating that the deal aimed to directly strengthen NBG's position throughout SE Europe and its leading position in Greece.

    National Bank in early April announced the purchase of 46 percent in Istanbul-based FinansBank's common shares and 100 percent of its preferred shares from Fiba Holding group for 2.774 billion US dollars.

    Arapoglou's appearance before the Greek Parliament's economy committee comes a day after the International Finance Corp. (IFC), a member of the World Bank group, announced on Monday that it will acquire a minority stake in Finansbank upon completion of the deal.

    ANA-MPA photo / M. Marogianni.

    [03] Gov't on policy vis-a-vis Turkey

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Tuesday reiterated the government's position regarding a proposal made by former president Kostis Stephanopoulos for a change in Athens' policy toward Turkey, referring reporters to the statements made on the issue by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis the previous day.

    Bakoyannis on Monday underlined that Athens had a steady policy toward Turkey and had refused to be drawn into an answer on what she called "simplistic lines of black-and-white" regarding Greece's policy toward the neighbouring country.

    The spokesman also repeated that there was no differentiation between the views expressed by Bakoyannis and Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis regarding Stephanopoulos' proposals, noting that their statements had been "in the same spirit" and that Greece's strategy toward Turkey remained "steadily the same for many years now".

    Regarding last week's mid-air collision between Greek and Turkish fighter jets over the Aegean, Roussopoulos said the possibility of a joint Greek-Turkish fact-finding committee to look into the causes of the incident was not under consideration.

    In response to other questions, meanwhile, he noted that it was standing Greek policy to recognise only one outstanding difference with Ankara, namely, that of delineating the extent of the Aegean's continental shelf.

    He also echoed Bakoyannis' view on Monday regarding the Stephanopoulos proposal, saying that the former president's intervention was "interesting as an event in itself and as a result of the discussion that had arisen from it", while noting that the government "was keeping its ears open".

    In an article appearing in a Sunday newspaper, Stephanopoulos had said Greece should now take recourse to the International Court at The Hague for all outstanding claims put forth by Turkey -- and not just that of delineating the Aegean continental shelf -- in accordance with Helsinki decisions, noting that attempts to reach a solution with Turkey via other means have failed.

    ANA-MPA file photo of Stephanopoulos.


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