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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-12-08

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Papandreou sends message to Ankara over Cyprus
  • [02] Amendment for further privatisation of OTE

  • [01] Papandreou sends message to Ankara over Cyprus

    PORTO (ANA-MPA - G. Milionis) Main opposition PASOK party leader and Socialist International President George Papandreou on Friday sent a clear message to Ankara from the podium of the Party of European Socialists congress held in Porto, Portugal, stressing that Turkey must meet its obligations toward the European Union.

    Papandreou, referring to Cyprus, underlined the fact that Turkey is not simply an occupation force in the north part of the island but an occupation force on EU territory, stressing that this is unacceptable.

    ?Nobody in the world can believe that Cyprus constitutes a military threat for Turkey?, the Socialist International president pointed out and called for the withdrawal of the occupation troops, reiterating his proposal for the demilitarization of the island.

    These steps will promote dialogue for a lasting and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, he added.

    Socialists 'source of hope', Papandreou claims

    Continuing his speech at the PES congress, Papandreou said that socialists were a "source of hope" for many parts of the world, while predicting that socialists and progressive forces were making a comeback in Europe, also.

    "They bring new hope for a social and just Europe, that is near the citizens and their problems, a Europe of employment, development and social cohesion," he added.

    He underlined the differences between socialist and conservative political forces, saying that the letter cultivated policies of fear rather than socialist policies cultivating policies of security and self-confidence in peoples, while stressing the important steps taken by Socialist International to formulate policies for dealing with environmental issues.

    The SI's president also pointed to the Democrat victory in the United States Congress, saying it marked a step for a new approach to the Middle East and Iraq, while he emphasised the Baker report.

    He said that the Socialist International must help the Democrats in the U.S. - with the initial goal being that of achieving peace in the Middle East. He also urged support of leaders like Lebanon's Walid Jumblatt or Serbia's Boris Tadic, who faced difficult negotiations for Kosovo.

    He also referred to EU enlargement, expressing hope that the western Balkans would become part of the European family and stressing that the momentum must not be lost.

    On the sidelines of the congress, Papandreou had meetings with Tadic, Bulgarian prime minister Sergei Stanishev, Jumblatt, U.S. Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean and former Czech premier Jiri Paroubek.

    [02] Amendment for further privatisation of OTE

    With a series of amendments to the draft tax bill tabled in Parliament on Friday, the finance ministry has opened the way for reducing the state's share in the former state telecom Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) to less than 33%, increasing the OGA farmers' pension and shifting the ATEbank pension fund to the unified pension funds IKA-ETAM and ETAT.

    The bill also changes the OTE personnel code, making it similar to that of the mobile phone service provider Cosmote.

    The measures are preparation for the further privatization of OTE scheduled to take place within 2007.

    According to Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, the telecom's current personnel regulations preserved "all the rigidity and inflexibility of the organisation's mode of operation when it was a state monopoly, resulting in a very high operating cost, low productivity and shortcomings in the service to consumers".

    Among its failings was the inability to hire staff to executive positions from the job market, a lack of flexibility in internal movement and a lack of performance incentives, he said. The minister said that the new code would not affect the labour rights of those hired by OTE before July 14, 2005.

    According to Alogoskoufis, the government was forced to proceed with passing the amendment after a stalemate in negotiations between OTE's management and union representatives in talks lasting more than two years.

    The amendment for the OTE personnel code was roundly criticised by General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) President Giannis Panagopoulos, who said that it "completed the demolition begun by the government will the bill for the state utilities (DEKO)". He accused the government of "trampling over the results of collective agreements and collective bargaining" by passing a law that essentially abolished collective agreements and divided the workforce, in order to create insecurity and sell off OTE to private interests.

    The measures for the ATEbank pension fund include incorporating the ATEbank Staff Pension and Welfare Fund in the Unified Employees Insurance Fund (IKA-ETAM) and shifting pensioners and those insured by the ATEbank Staff Members Special Auxiliary Account (ELEM) to the Unified Bank Workers Insurance Fund (ETAT) from January 1, 2007.

    ATEbank will pay IKA-ETAM the sum of 28 million euros a year for 15 years, while it will pay ETAT and the bank workers unified auxiliary pension fund (ETEAM) 380 million euros in total. Of this sum, 280 million euros will be paid in January 2007 and the remaining 100 million euros in 10 equal annual installments.

    Finally, the amendment for the OGA farmer pensions provides for an increase in the basic pension to 277.75 euros a month from January 1, 2007 and to 330 euros from January 1, 2008, from 227.75 euros a month at present.

    In addition, the government will increase the EKAS low pension supplement to 195 euros a month from January 1, 2007 and then to 230 euros a month from 2008.

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