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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-10-10

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Government to send 700,000 euros for emergency flood relief
  • [02] GDP revision necessary, FinMin says
  • [03] Human error caused Helios air crash, report finds
  • [04] Unions to join striking teachers on Wednesday

  • [01] Government to send 700,000 euros for emergency flood relief

    Issues affecting the public administration and interior ministry were on the agenda of an Inner Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Afterwards, Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos announced that urgent financial assistance totaling 700,000 euros has been sent to the prefectures of Thessaloniki, Magnesia and Halkidiki, following three days of severe rainstorms in the areas and subsequent flooding. Emergency funds to another 12 municipalities in northern Greece have also approved, he said.

    Meanwhile, in response to a barrage of opposition and press criticism this week following the flood damage in northern Greece - less than a week before local government elections - Public Works and Town Planning Minister George Souflias, himself a civil engineer, said the mountainous characteristics of the country necessitate "major anti-flooding projects, ones that cannot, however, be constructed overnight or even in two years, they need decades".

    Legalisation of migrants

    Finally, in an unrelated development, Pavlopoulos noted that provisions allowing for the legalisation of illegal immigrants in the country are being implemented, reminding that non-EU nationals who can prove, with documentation, they were in Greece before Dec. 31, 2004 are eligible for legalisation.

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis met Tuesday morning with merchant marine minister Manolis Kefaloyannis, after which he chaired a meeting of the Inner Cabinet.

    After the meeting, Kefaloyannis told reporters that the government would soon announce specific measures for the development of Greek ports, which, he stressed, was a priority policy of his ministry.

    Kefaloyannis further noted that the 3 billion euros financing protocol signed with the European Investment Bank had opened up immense prospects for the development of Greece's ports, adding that his discussion with Karamanlis also encompassed the development of the ports of Thessaloniki, Piraeus, Corfu and Patras, as well as a new port on the island of Crete. The development projects aim at increasing the container capacity of the ports and the construction of new marinas.

    [02] GDP revision necessary, FinMin says

    Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis on Tuesday underlined the favorable prospects for the European and the Greek economies despite international risks such as instability in oil prices.

    Addressing an ECOFIN meeting in Luxembourg, the Greek minister said the Greek real economy has grown with very satisfactory rates, the fiscal deficit was shrinking and, in general, the economic course was compatible with a Growth and Stability Pact.

    Referring to a government decision to revise upwards the country's Gross Domestic Product figures since 2000, Alogoskoufis said the extent of the revision was very significant since Greece delayed for many years to update its data and stressed the community services were asking for the updating of GDP data since 2004. He noted that due to technical inabilities, both in Athens and in Brussels, updating the data was not possible in an earlier date.

    The structure of the Greek economy has changed significantly in the last few years, focusing more on services, Alogoskoufis said, adding he had full confidence in analysis published by the National Statistics Service. He stressed, however, that verification of the data was now in the hands of Eurostat and noted that until then the European Commission would use non revised figures while Greece could use its national statistical data.

    The minister was adamant that a revision of GDP figures was not decided to end EU procedures against Greece over its excessive fiscal deficit, but it was necessary. "It is the last phase of an effort to fully print the country's economic conditions," Alogoskoufis said and noted that transparency in national accounting figures was a necessary precondition to draft the right economic policies.

    He said the country's fiscal deficit would fall below 3.0 pct both this year and in 2007, regardless of the statistical data used, while he stressed that the country's fiscal problem would not be resolved by reducing the deficit below 3.0 percent of GDP but a significant effort of fiscal adjustment was needed in order to present balanced or surplus budgets after 2010.

    [03] Human error caused Helios air crash, report finds

    A series of human errors in the air and on the ground were responsible for the fatal air crash in August 2005 of a Helios Airlines Boeing from Cyprus, in which all 121 passengers and crew were killed, according to a report presented by Greek air accident investigators to Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Tuesday.

    The head of the Greek Committee for the Investigation of Aircraft Accidents Akrivos Tsolakis said that a copy of the report will also be presented to Cyprus authorities later the same day.

    Investigators found that the crash was caused by a shortage of oxygen that rendered the pilots unconscious hours before the plane fell. They said that the aircraft's compression system, which regulates oxygen in the cabin, had mistakenly been left on manual by ground technicians. The pilots also failed to pick up on the problem and ignored cockpit warnings that prompted oxygen masks to fall during take-off, so that oxygen levels gradually dropped until the crew passed out and were unable to pilot the plane.

    The Boeing 737-300, bound for Prague via Athens, then flew on auto-pilot for about two hours until it ran out of fuel and crashed into a uninhabited valley just outside Athens.

    Indirect causes of the disaster identified by the report included the lack of proper organisation, quality control and lax flight safety by the Cypriot airline, long-term weaknesses in the day-to-day operation of Cyprus' civil aviation authority and the crew's own failure to make use of all "resources and available means".

    The aircraft manufacturer is also held responsible for taking inadequate measures to correct problems that had arisen previously with the compression system of the specific type of plane.

    The last contact with the plane was when the pilot contacted the airline for about eight minutes, reporting a warning signal on take-off and problems with cooling systems, when it was still at an altitude of about 16,000 feet. It continued to climb and oxygen masks fell at 18,200 feet, while radio contact with the ground stopped at 28,900 feet. The Boeing levelled off at 34,000 feet and continued its journey on auto-pilot.

    The aircraft's black boxes record that it flew over Kea at 10:21 and started circling over the Athens Airport but without making contact with the air-traffic control tower. Two F-16 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the plane on its 6th circle and saw that the pilot's seat was empty, while the co-pilot was slumped over the controls.

    A few minutes later, a man without an oxygen mask was seen entering the cockpit while both engines had stalled through lack of fuel at noon, when the plane was at a height of 7,100 feet. The aircraft then plummeted down, crashing into an uninhabited slope in Grammatikos, about 33 kilometres northeast of the airport.

    [04] Unions to join striking teachers on Wednesday

    The country's two largest trade unions - ADEDY, representing civil servants, and the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) representing workers throughout the private sector - on Tuesday announced that they will join a protest rally planned by striking teachers in Syntagma on Wednesday.

    Primary school teachers have now entered the fourth straight week of their strike, joined by their senior-school colleagues on selected days and most recently by a takeover of high schools by protesting students since Monday.

    The takeovers are just the latest twist in a saga of upheaval within Greece's education system since the academic year began in September, with primary teachers staying away from classrooms over demands for substantial pay rises and benefits, while protest rallies, marches and scuffles between teachers and police are an almost daily occurrence.

    ADEDY has also called a nationwide 24-hour strike in the public sector on Wednesday, while GSEE will hold a work stoppage from 11:00 until 15:00 in Attica and Thessaloniki so that its members can attend the rally.

    The Athens metro and Proastiako suburban railway will not run during the GSEE work stoppage, while the overground electric railway ISAP will stop running between 13:00-15:00 and buses will run normally.

    There will also be a 24-hour strike by university teachers and education ministry staff.

    Meanwhile, primary teacher unions are gravitating toward yet another extension of their nearly month-long strike, this time by three days on October 17, 18, and 19, to be decided in a meeting by union presidents on Thursday.

    The same days will also be proposed by the high-school teachers' union federation OLME, while another all-teacher-student rally is planned for next week.

    Apart from the base pay increase, which teachers' say is a demand shared with all public-sector staff, another bone of contention with the government is a 105 benefit that was promised to them and not paid. The government has so far offered to give the benefit incrementally, in six-month installments spread over three years that would cut the amount teachers' want by about two thirds. Teachers are adamant that they will not back down, while the government is equally adamant that it will not give in, stressing that it doesn't have the funds to meet the 47% pay rise teachers are demanding.

    School takeovers 'incited by others', government says

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Tuesday hinted broadly that unnamed 'others' were behind protests begun by high-school students this week, who took over schools and locked out teachers to press a series of demands.

    Among them, they want the government to revoke the minimum pass of 10 for university entrance, which last year barred thousands of school-leavers from occupying available places in university and technological institutes that were left empty.

    Reading out a text distributed by an organisation representing the student protestors, Roussopoulos stressed a reference to the school takeovers of 1998, particularly a phrase that "our struggles in previous years made their plans more difficult. In '98 we delayed them," and pointed out that even final year students now would have still been in primary school in 1998.

    "Can there be any doubt that there is someone behind this text," he stressed.

    Roussopoulos noted that the main demand raised by teachers in the past three weeks of strikes was that the base pay of newly-appointed teachers increase to 1,400 from 950 and he suggested that this was not a demand likely to inspire solidarity in students, while he questioned why the takeovers were necessary:

    "If someone can convince with their arguments and is in the majority, what is the need for takeovers? Why, therefore, do they need to take over classrooms?" he asked.

    The spokesman also asked who was defending the constitutional rights of the students that wanted to attend attend classes and found themselves barred at the door.

    Coalition (SYN) party leader urges PM to meet striking teachers

    Speaking from Thessaloniki and a tour of flood-striken districts in the prefecture, Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party leader Alekos Alavanos called on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to agree to a meeting with striking primary school teachers.

    He also expressed his party's support for the school takeovers by students, demanding the abolition of the minimum pass of 10 for university entrance exams and for the government to fulfill a pledge to increase spending on education up to 5% of GDP.

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