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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-11-08

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Athens welcomes EU deadline to Turkey over Ankara Protocol
  • [02] Government sticks to four-year plan, FinMin says
  • [03] Greece, Romania discuss cooperation in EU
  • [04] KKE to attend Lisbon meeting of Communist parties
  • [05] Restoration works at Mt. Athos monasteries

  • [01] Athens welcomes EU deadline to Turkey over Ankara Protocol

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA) -- Athens on Wednesday appeared wholly satisfied with a same-day decision by the European Commission giving candidate-state Turkey a mid-December deadline to, among others, open its ports and airports to Cypriot carriers by extending the Ankara protocol -- part of the country's standing commitments to the Union.

    "Europe needs a stable, democratic and increasingly prosperous Turkey, in peace with its neighbours, firmly on track towards modernisation and the adoption of European values. This is why we started accession negotiations with Turkey," Commission President Jos? Manuel Barroso said after the EU executive's meeting.

    "However, the key to the success of this process is for Turkey to continue the reforms with full determination and to fulfil its obligations. Today we decided to give a chance for the diplomatic efforts to find a solution. Turkey needs to meet its obligations related to the implementation of the Ankara Protocol. Failure to implement its obligations in full will affect the overall progress in the negotiations. The Commission will make relevant recommendations ahead of the December European Council if Turkey has not fulfilled its commitments," he added.

    In a brief comment to a press question in Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said the "report contains all the elements necessary to judge Turkey's course towards the European Union ... I believe that it is a report that refers to specific developments; a report that will serve as the basis for upcoming decisions by the Union."

    Deputy FM Yiannis Valinakis echoed Bakoyannis' statement, calling the report "positive" for issues of particular Greek interest.

    "The Commission stresses a lack of substantive progress on the part of Turkey, whose response towards its European commitments has been feeble. We are not happy about this, quite the opposite, it concerns us. We want to see a truly European Turkey being included in the EU at the conclusion of a successful adaptation with the European acquis," Valinakis said, adding:

    "We must not take away, however, the neighbouring country's incentive and vision for full membership."

    According to reports from the Belgian capital, Greek diplomacy was pleased with the fact that the EU executive's report directly referred to a threat of war (casus belli) issued in 1995 by Turkish lawmakers and still kept alive by Ankara in case EU member-state Greece exercises its right to extend territorial waters.

    The peculiar threat -- a remaining thorn in the course of normalising otherwise improved Greek-Turkish relations -- is for the first time linked with Ankara's stated obligations regarding good-neighborly relations and solving disputes with peaceful means.

    "...As regards Greece, relations have continued to develop positively. Turkey should however address any sources of friction with its neighbours and refrain from any action which could negatively affect the peaceful settlement of border disputes. Turkey should be unequivocally committed to good neighbourly relations, and to the other requirements against which progress will be measured..." the report states.

    Additionally, the report on Turkey's accession progress cites a handful of problems also of particularly interest to Athens, including the reopening of the Halki School of Theology, the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, ethnic Greeks' property rights in Turkey as well as provisions governing charitable foundations and schools belonging to the minority.

    "Furthermore, restrictions on the training of clergy and on foreign clergy to work in Turkey remain. Turkish legislation does not provide for private higher religious education for these communities. The Greek Orthodox Halki (Heybeliada) seminary remains closed. The public use of the ecclesiastical title of Ecumenical Patriarch is still banned," the report read.

    Cypriot reaction

    Cyprus' foreign minister, George Lillikas, also expressed Nicosia's satisfaction with the content of the report, calling it "objective".

    More importantly, the Cypriot FM said the report clearly records Turkey's refusal to meet its obligations vis-?-vis the 25-nation bloc.

    "Cyprus will not compromise with a simple caressing of Turkey's ears on the issue of sanctions that must be imposed for its refusal to implement its obligations to the European Union and Cyprus," Lillikas told the state-run broadcaster on the island republic.

    Commission statement

    Immediately after the meeting, the Commission issued a statement stating:

    "As regards Turkey's obligation to fully implement the Ankara Protocol, the Commission will make relevant recommendations ahead of the European Council in December, if Turkey has not fulfilled its obligations ... Significant efforts on the part of Turkey are needed in particular on freedom of expression. Further improvements are also needed on the rights of non-Muslim religious communities, women's rights, trade union rights and on civilian control of the military."

    On his part, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said "enlargement is the essence of the EU's soft power to gradually extend peace, democracy and prosperity in Europe. This project needs broad support by the peoples of Europe. This is why we need to build a renewed consensus on enlargement, which recognises the strategic value of enlargement while ensuring the Union's capacity to function."

    The entire report can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2006/Nov/tr_sec_1390_en.pdf

    [02] Government sticks to four-year plan, FinMin says

    The government has a four-year plan that is implemented with consistency and credibility, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday. He was replying to reporters' questions over the possibility of early elections in the country.

    Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister stressed that the European Commission would publish its spring economic forecasts for Greece on May 7, 2007 and added that the EU's executive could not recommend the lifting of supervision measures on the Greek economy in an earlier date.

    Commenting on the results of a Eurogroup and an ECOFIN meetings in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday, Alogoskoufis said he was satisfied because the European Commission's report acknowledged the dynamism of the Greek economy and the efficiency of fiscal efforts made by the government. He added that fiscal efforts would continue in the coming years, although at slower rates. "We must reach a point of slightly surplus or balanced budgets and that means we must cut our fiscal deficit by 0.5 percent annually. It is also important that reforms -in the framework of the Lisbon Strategy- were continued," he noted.

    The European Commission's autumn economic forecasts report said that Greek economic growth exceeded 4.0 pct in the first and second quarters of 2006, with annual growth rate expected to reach 3.6 pct for the year. Investments are expected to increase by more than 6.0 pct, employment to rise by 1.25 percent and the country's harmonised inflation rate to end at 3.25 percent.

    The Commission expects the Greek economy to slowdown slightly in 2007 and 2008 with economic activity led almost exclusively by domestic demand. Greek GDP is forecast to grow slightly less than 3.8 percent in 2006, the unemployment rate to fell below 9.0 pct for the time in several years and the inflation rate to fall further.

    [03] Greece, Romania discuss cooperation in EU

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and her Romanian counterpart Mihai Razvan Ungureanu met in Athens on Wednesday for talks on Greek-Romanian bilateral cooperation within the European Union and regional affairs.

    Among these were developments in Kosovo and the European prospects of the western Balkan states.

    Ungureanu was also received by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    Bakoyannis expressed satisfaction with Romania's successful accession process - which culminates with the country's joining the EU on January 1, 2007 - and noted Greece's steadfast support for the European prospects of southeastern European countries.

    Regarding the negotiations for Kosovo, Bakoyannis repeated Greece's position calling for a multi-cultural Kosovo and a solution that was not externally imposed but was the product of dialogue and agreement of the sides involved, thus guaranteeing security and stability in the region. She also noted her satisfaction that the Greek and Romanian positions on this issue were largely identical.

    Ungureanu thanked Greece for supporting Romania during the processes that led to its entry into the EU and NATO, stressing the excellent cooperation between the two countries on both a political and economic level.

    Regarding Kosovo, he called for a solution that arose from within the region and not outside it, while noting that all neighbouring countries must contribute to the effort to find a just solution.

    Asked about restrictions that Britain and Ireland intend to impose on the number of workers they will accept from Romania once it joins the EU, Ungureanu stressed that he understands the reasons that make some member-states adopt such a position. At the same time, he clarified that it was his duty to insist on the full opening of labour markets in all the EU.

    "I have reasons to believe that there are no longer many Romanians that will abandon their country to work abroad since the rate of joblessness in Romania is low. Therefore, there is no risk from opening labour markets. It would not surprise us if it were Germany or Austria that imposed such restrictions; these countries have such a tradition. But for Britain and Ireland, we had the impression that they were satisfied with the specialised workers that come from Romania. All those that have another image about those coming from Romania are not politicians, they are captives of stereotypes from another era," the Romanian minister stated.

    Bakoyannis said that the Greek government was examining the situation and Greece's capacity to absorb more workers given the high rate of unemployment, while expressing understanding for the Romanian demand.

    [04] KKE to attend Lisbon meeting of Communist parties

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga was in Lisbon on Wednesday, at the head of a delegation of KKE's central committee to the 8th International Meeting of Communist and Worker Parties taking place on November 10-12.

    The meeting is on the theme "Danger and potentialities of the international situation. The imperialist strategy and the energy issue, the peoples struggle and the experience of Latin America, the prospect of socialism."

    According to the Portuguese Communist Party, which is hosting the meeting, it will be attended by 70 communist and worker parties from all the continents. They are expected to assess recent international developments and the struggles of the Communist and peoples' movements, as well as the results of international actions they have undertaken, such as the campaign against the anti-Communist memorandum, the ban on the Czech Communist Youth or joint initiatives against the wars in Lebanon and Iraq, among others.

    The KKE delegation will also take part in a mass demonstration of international solidarity organised by the Portuguese communist Party in Lisbon to coincide with the meeting.

    [05] Restoration works at Mt. Athos monasteries

    Significant restoration works will take place at the Monasteries of Xenophontos and Philotheou in the all-male monastic community of Mount Athos within the framework of the Central Macedonia Regional Operational Programmes (PEP).

    The project is budgeted at 1,833,772 euros and aims at projecting the unique Mount Athos religious monuments while at the same time providing improved accommodations to the thousands of people visiting the Athos Peninsula in Halkidiki, northern Greece, one of the main tourist destinations in the Region of Central Macedonia.


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