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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-10-12

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM, developmenmt minister debate use of EU growth funds
  • [02] Party leaders tour flood-stricken Thessaloniki
  • [03] Gov't: Teachers offered what economy can afford
  • [04] Greece on Turkey's EU obligations
  • [05] Alavanos seeks Parliament debate on Education

  • [01] PM, developmenmt minister debate use of EU growth funds

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday held talks with Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on the allocation of 3.2 billion euros of sector funds under the European Union's 4th Community Support Framework.

    "Discussed in particular were the allocation of funds for energy and industry. Energy infrastructure and the energy network to Italy will also be supported, as well as in the framework of networks to southeastern Europe," Sioufas told reporters after the meeting.

    Also discussed were were private investment in electricity, natural gas and renewable energy, which Karamanlis wants to see entering the country's energy balance as soon as possible.

    In addition, especial attention would be paid to popular programmes of the ministry, including women and youth enterprise, commerce, vocations and services.

    "The main point is to attain all-round growth and growth for all," Sioufas noted.

    Finally, construction of a pipeline to carry Russian oil to Greece through Bulgaria was discussed, and the creation of new light industry parks.

    [02] Party leaders tour flood-stricken Thessaloniki

    Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis came under fire from political party leaders visiting Thessaloniki on Thursday, for the flooding that destroyed homes and livelihoods throughout the prefecture during the past week's heavy rains.

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou held Psomiadis responsible for the lack of flood protection while touring Vrasna and Stavros, two areas hard-hit by flooding, while Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga claimed that he had not fought for flood protection measures, otherwise he would know who was responsible for what and be able to navigate the "skein of bureaucracy" involved.

    According to Papandreou, the prefecture had spent the tax-payers' money on advertising instead of anti-flooding works, while Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was also to blame for allowing his ministers "to go around cutting ribbons on major infrastructure projects, such as the Egnatia motorway, before these are finished, with the result that we have this major flood."

    PASOK's leader expressed his support for flood victims and called for immediate payment of compensation, as well as advances that would help them get through the coming winter.

    Papandreou was accompanied on his tour of the flooded districts by the PASOK-backed candidate for Thessaloniki Prefect in the elections this weekend, Olympic gold medallist track athlete Voula Patoulidou, expressing his personal conviction that she would be able to transform the prefecture from its present "pervasive impressions of untransparency, client politics, degradation and indifference".

    Among his stops was a newly-delivered section of the Egnatia Highway just outside Rendina where the road surface had given way as a result of the rains.

    Papariga was also accompanied by the candidate backed by her party for Thessaloniki prefect, Yiannis Ziogas, and a team of local KKE officials.

    She visited Melissourgo, Olympiada, Stavros and Modi, speaking with flood victims and stressing that compensation should be paid out immediately, while funds should be allocated not only for lost household effects but also for destroyed infrastructure in a short space of time.

    "A land register should have been created 30 years ago to chart the ground and the streams and torrents, so that the works could be carried out at public expense with specialisation per area," she said.

    "Instead of having those 'Roman' Olympic Games, or vying for the EXPO, why shouldn't we carry out flood and earthquake protection works, which may not be as visible but are felt by people in their daily lives," she added.

    [03] Gov't: Teachers offered what economy can afford

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Thursday asked striking teachers to return to classrooms, stressing that the government had already offered as much as the economy could afford.

    Regarding a ‚¨105 benefit that formed part of the teachers' demands, Roussopoulos conceded that teachers were right to strive for something that the government promised they would receive but noted that the government, on its part, was trying to fulfill its pledges to the extent that the economy could afford:

    "The government notes that the capabilities offered by the budget have been exhausted and repeated that from January 1, 2007 the sum of ‚¨17.5 will be added to the salary of teachers, while from July 1 in that same year this sum will increase to ‚¨35, from January 1, 2008 the increase will be ‚¨52.5, from July 1, 2008 the increase will be ‚¨70 a month, from January 1, 2009 the increase will be ‚¨87.5 and from July 1, 2009 it will be ‚¨105 a month," the spokesman clarified.

    Primary school teachers, apart from a substantial increase in base pay for those entering the profession, are also demanding that the ‚¨105 benefit be paid immediately in full. Under the government's counter-offer the overall sum they receive over the three years is reduced by just over half, while in the first year they will only get an additional ‚¨315 to their present annual salaries.

    The spokesman also pointed out that an additional ‚¨215 million had already been allocated to education in the budget and listed the sums spent on education in past years, comparing the amounts allocated under PASOK governments and the present New Democracy government:

    According to these figures, the annual budget for education had risen from ‚¨3,915 million paid out in 1999 to ‚¨5,183 million paid out in 2003. In 2004, the year in which New Democracy was elected and executed the budget prepared by the previous PASOK government, the amount originally allocated to education came to ‚¨5,550 million and the government paid out ‚¨5,939 million. The amount spent rose to ‚¨6,375 million in 2005, while the amount allocated to education in the 2006 budget was ‚¨6,911 million.

    "In other words, in the past two and a half years the New Democracy government has increased funds for education by ‚¨1,411 million, while in the past six years the increase was ‚¨1,635 million. This shows in absolute numbers who is truly interested in giving more money for education.

    Countering accusations of intransigency levelled against the government over the crisis with teachers, the spokesman stressed that the government was now entering the 24th month of dialogue and consultation on education issues and could hardly be called intransigent, while he again denied that the government was considering a civil mobilisation to force teachers to return to classes.

    Roussopoulos also denied that the government had changed its stance toward the protests of highschool students since the days when New Democracy was in the opposition, in reference to his assertion that high school takeovers by students had been 'incited by others' and not by students themselves.

    Repeating previous statements, the spokesman said that students should be given the freedom to decide for themselves whether they wanted to attend classes or not.

    "Classrooms should not be padlocked so that we could see whether those who want to attend class are a majority or a minority," he said.

    Primary school and kindergarten teachers are now in the midst of the fourth straight week of strike action, begun just days after the school term started. Apart from a base pay increase of some 47 percent for newly-appointed educators, which teachers' say is a demand shared with all public-sector staff, another bone of contention is the ‚¨105 benefit that was promised to them and not paid. They also want the government to fulfill a pre-election pledge to increase spending on education to 5 percent of GDP.

    The labour mobilisation, interspersed by eventful rallies, pickets and marches, has latterly been joined by high-school teachers, who held 48-hour strikes in the past weeks, and was this week complicated by high school takeovers that raise a new set of demands over university entrance examinations and the curriculum.

    [04] Greece on Turkey's EU obligations

    Greece on Thursday reiterated that European Union hopeful Turkey must recognise EU member-state Cyprus as soon as possible.

    In a regular weekly press briefing, foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos referred to a paradox, as he said, in Turkey's quest for EU membership, namely, the fact that it continues to not recognise a country that is a member in an organisation it wants to join, something he termed "paradoxical and irrational".

    Conversely, the spokesman said the upcoming period will allow for opportunities to "lift this paradox".

    Asked about the screening of Turkey's ongoing EU accession process, Koumoutsakos said the chapter on "business and industrial policy" was discussed at a work group level within the EU recently, and that the Greek side had aired certain "substantive concerns" over technical issues. He added that the Cypriot side had expressed a negative opinion, leading to the tabling of relevant discussions for the future.

    Meanwhile, the foreign ministry spokesman declined to comment on the substance of a recent initiative by the Finnish EU presidency vis-?-vis the Cyprus issue and Turkey's stance, merely noting that the action aims to seek input by all interested sides. He also said that Athens has a standing position over the matter and does not wish to enter a reasoning of 'trade-offs'.

    Finally, Koumoutsakos was again asked about Wednesday's somewhat eyebrow-raising quip by his counterpart at the Turkish foreign ministry, Namik Tan, who reportedly responded to Koumoutsakos' allusion to the ubiquitous "train crash" metaphor - a leitmotif in press reports and European leaders' comments about EU-Turkey relations over the recent period - by saying that "Greece's specialty are airplane accidents. I would advice him (Koumoutsakos) to stick with those instead of train accidents".

    "I must tell you, because I know him, that Mr. Tan is a gentleman, and for this reason his statement surprised me," Koumoutsakos said, while declining to comment further. The spokesman's exact statement in Athens was: "Turkey will not derail if it follows the tracks..."

    In an ANA-MPA dispatch from Istanbul later on Thursday, Tan told an ANA-MPA correspondent that his comments were misinterpreted.

    "My statements had absolutely no intention of provoking or irritating," he said, while adding that he has repeatedly in the past highlighted the positive side of Greek-Turkish relations and has made systematic efforts to clear-up possible misunderstandings between Athens and Ankara.

    Comment on French decision

    Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, Koumoutsakos was asked about Thursday's decision by the French National Assembly to pass a law making it a crime to deny that ethnic Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I.

    "It is well known that the Greek parliament adopted a 1996 resolution condemning the Armenian genocide. At the same time, we believe that in the modern world the past must not be an obstacle for the future."

    [05] Alavanos seeks Parliament debate on Education

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) president Alekos Alavanos called for an off-the-agenda debate in Parliament on Education at political party leaders‚ level in a letter addressed to Parliament president Anna Benaki-Psarouda.

    Alavanos mentioned that the sector of education is in an unprecedented state of disorder, while the main demands of the strikers call for public, free and quality education, dignified work conditions, real wage increases and the allocation of 5 percent of GDP for education.

    Alavanos blamed the government for the situation in the education sector, accusing it of refusing to enter into a meaningful dialogue with the striking teachers.

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