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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-10-23

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Prime minister to meet with teachers' union representatives on Tuesday.
  • [02] Minister outlines positions on pension reform
  • [03] Gov't hails smooth running of local elections

  • [01] Prime minister to meet with teachers' union representatives on Tuesday.

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis himself will receive union leaders representing public school educators on Tuesday morning as a primary school teachers' strike was set to officially continue into a sixth week the same day.

    The development was announced to reporters by the government spokesman early Monday afternoon, with the latter clarifying that Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou will also participate in the highly anticipated meeting.

    "The government's positions are clear ... The prime minister will explain to teachers that the government, which absolutely respects their vocation, has taken specific decisions dictated by the country's economic situation," spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said, while stressing that the premier will again call on striking educators to return to their classes.

    "This call will be made at the highest possible level because the government believes in dialogue and wants to make it crystal clear to all that the economy's problems are not solved overnight and are not problems that someone can anticipate in order to become momentarily pleasant. Decisions weren't taken to harass teachers, but because that is what the economy can handle," Roussopoulos said.

    In response to a press question on whether the government will ask for main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou's assistance to resolve the impasse, Roussopoulos said the government does not need an "intermediary" to talk with professional sectors or with unions.

    The spokesman also dismissed a notion that the meeting will set a precedent for direct meetings between striking public sector unions and the head of government, saying that every instance will be judged on a "case by case basis", reminding that Karamanlis met last year with representatives of pensioners' groups.

    Finally, asked about a recent postponement in Parliament debate over a future revision of Article XVI in order to allow the establishment of non-state universities in the country, Roussopoulos repeated that "following a request by PASOK the government majority in Parliament had no qualms about accommodating the main opposition. The government, after all, has had a clear position for many years over (revising) Article XVI, and it is a happy coincidence that Mr. Papandreou's view today on the subject converges with ours."

    Meanwhile, parents of school children that have lost hundreds of teaching hours due to the ongoing teachers‚ strike gathered outside the education ministry building in Athens earlier on Monday to press the government to meet the strikers' demands so that schools can reopen.

    The news that the prime minister will meet with teacher unions on Tuesday came during the demonstration and most of the protesting parents characterized the government initiative as a first positive step toward easing the crisis.

    On Friday evening, after teacher unions decided to continue their strike for a sixth week, Primary School Teachers‚ Federation (DOE) President Dimitris Bratis appealed to the prime minister to undertake an initiative and meet with the teachers.

    The initiative was characterized as positive by high school teachers as well, who stressed that everything will depend on its outcome.

    [02] Minister outlines positions on pension reform

    The Greek government is not seeking to resolve the country's social security problem by raising retirement ages, reducing monthly pension payments or raising social security contributions, either in the current or in the next four-term period, Employment and Social Insurances Minister Savvas Tsitouridis said on Monday.

    Speaking to reporters during a presentation of the Social Security Foundation's (IKA) budget, Tsitouridis said the government did not intend to discuss these issues in a dialogue over reforming the pension system.

    He added that IKA's budget showed a surplus of 40 million euros and predicted even higher budgets in the future. The healthcare sector showed a deficit of 942 million euros, a sum overshadowed by surpluses in other activity sectors.

    Tsaousidis said Greece won't accept recommendations undermining the European social standard, such as longer weekly work hours that exceed health and safety standards. He noted that the ministry would table draft legislation in Parliament to promote reforms in the social security system, such as a rescheduling of debt to IKA and other pension funds.

    Finally, Tsitouridis noted that the government would unveil measures to combat social contribution evasion by the end of the year, while it will withstand pressure to equalize retirement ages between men and women in Greece.

    [03] Gov't hails smooth running of local elections

    Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Monday expressed satisfaction with the smooth running of local government elections throughout the country over the past two Sundays, while reporting higher levels of abstention compared with local elections in 2002.

    The spokesman said that 24,744 polling stations operated during the first round and were down to 9,740 in the second round.

    Participation in the first round of prefecture elections was 72.4% in the first round (down from 72.7 per cent during the prefecture elections of 2002) and 56.8% in the second round (down from 66.48% in 2002).

    In municipal and community elections, participation stood at 72.45% in the first round (up from 69.4% in 2002) and 64.6% in the second round (down from 72.6% in 2002).

    Elections were held in a total of 54 prefectures (including the three supra-prefectures), 914 municipalities and 120 communities, and were concluded in the first round in 43 prefectures and 787 municipalities and communities. Seven prefectures and 247 municipalities and communities went on to a second round last Sunday.

    Asked to comment on the final result, Roussopoulos cited statements made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Sunday, who said the choices of electorate were possibly governed chiefly by personal criteria, while noting that every election result "hides some popular wisdom".

    With final results in, the ruling New Democracy party (ND) maintained its lead, carrying a total of 30 prefectures throughout the country, against 22 prefectures carried by main opposition PASOK and another two prefectures carried by candidates jointly backed by PASOK and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN). In the 2002 elections, ND had carried 26 prefectures against 12 won by then ruling PASOK, while another eight had gone to candidates backed jointly by PASOK and the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) party.

    ND also won the two largest municipalities - Athens and Thessaloniki - and was victorious in the largest number of Attica municipalities among the political parties, though over half of these were carried by independents. It failed, however, to prevail against the ticket led by PASOK-backed Fofi Gennimata in the Attica supra-prefecture.


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