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

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM chairs Inner Cabinet session on economy, EU FMs' meeting
  • [02] Papandreou attacks gov't over EU-Turkey ties
  • [03] Gov't steadfast over OTE decision

  • [01] PM chairs Inner Cabinet session on economy, EU FMs' meeting

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday met Environment, Town Planning and Public Works minister George Souflias to discuss a planned amendment concerning the further privatisation of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) and ministry issues. The meeting was followed by an Inner Cabinet session that mainly focused on Monday's decision by the EU Council of Foreign Ministers' to suspend eight of the 35 chapters in the accession talks with Turkey and on economic issues, particularly the new developmental law that goes into effect in 2007.

    Souflias told reporters later that the ruling New Democracy party's (ND) programme was absolutely precise and specific with respect to OTE and plans to turn to privatise physical and also non-physical state monopolies. The programme stated that a strategic alliance may be set up with the State, and naturally with the proper management, in the sense that the State will not lose control of the management, he added.

    The strategic alliance, namely the State and the investor that will come in as a partner with the State, will together hold 34 percent of the organisation's share package, and the management will not exit the control of the State, he explained.

    Replying to questions, Souflias said that he had learned on Tuesday of the amendment, adding that it required clarifications and explanations in order to be in line with the programme. He also said that the programme provided the concession of the management, but added that the State in turn would continue to have control of the management.

    Souflias further said that the OTE issue was not discussed during the Inner Cabinet meeting, which was chaired by Karamanlis.

    According to national economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, meanwhile, the positions regarding OTE's privatisation in the government's programme were clear-cut, as were the announcements of the ministerial committee on privatisations on September 6 and the decisions taken on September 9 by the ministerial committee on the DEKO (public utilities and organisations) regarding the change of personnel regulations in loss-making state companies.

    Alogoskoufis stressed that the change in employment terms was necessary for OTE, regardless of the privatisation plan, to enable the former state telecom to hold its own in the new competitive environment and to be competitive -- as was its mobile telephony subsidiary CosmOTE -- and successfully meet the challenges of the future.

    On the OTE privatisation, Alogoskoufis said that the programme clearly provided for a strategic alliance, and that was the privatisation procedure being followed. He added that the strategic ally to be selected would have participation in the management.

    Asked whether the OTE management would be conceded, Alogoskoufis reiterated that the strategic partner "will have participation in the management".

    New developmental law

    The new (revised) developmental law that will be in effect for the period covering 2007-2013 was also discussed at the Inner Cabinet meeting.

    Alogoskoufis reported satisfactory results for the developmental law in its present form, which was currently winding up its course and entering a new stage with the new map of (EU) regional reinforcements. He noted that 2,660 investment schemes valued at 3.4 billion euros, which accounted for more than 10,000 new jobs and a large number of indirect new work positions, had been approved under the existing law.

    The minister added that the law had yielded results, and would continue to do so with the new map for the period 2007-2013, and will enter into effect on January 1, 2007 and the relevant regulation had already been tabled in parliament.

    In the 20 months since the 2004 law came into force, the economy and finance ministry had received a total of 4,236 applications for funding of investment plans valued at 10.7 billion euros, he added.

    Compared with its predecessor, that was in force from 1998-2004, the average annual rate of applications submitted had increased from 682 to 2,542 while the number of investment plans approved for funding increased from 468 a year to 1,356 a year, he said.

    The majority of the 2,260 investment plans approved concerned the manufacturing sector, which accounted 1,347 of their number, while 625 were tourism-related projects, 127 concerned the primary sector and 161 represented the service sector, Alogoskoufis reported.

    The areas in which the most projects were approved, according to the minister, were the region of Crete (529 projects budgeted at 378 million euros) and the Central Macedonia Region (216 projects budgeted at 271 million euros), followed by the Western Greece Region (189 investment projects budgeted at 125 million euros).

    Development minister Dimitris Sioufas said that the country has for the past 20 months had the best developmental law it ever had, and the same lines would be followed in the period 2007-2013.

    He said the tri-zonal system of distribution of the prefectures, with a proportion of 20-30-40 percent and in addition up to 20 percent, and also small and medium-size enterprises, would reach a subsidisation proportion of 60 percent.

    Sioufas further said that a large number of plans have been submitted, half of which were already being carried out, thus giving development to the country and the periphery. "And this is how we will continue," he added.

    Later, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said that a total of 4,236 applications for incorporation under the developmental law had been submitted, accounting for investments of 10.743 billion euros and subsidies of 4.990 billion euros. He explained that the recommendations committee, on the basis of developmental law 3299, had approved 2,260 of the investment plans, budgeted at 3.364 billion euros, while the subsidies approved totalled 1.399 billion euros. Those investments created 10,187 new jobs, he added.

    FM Bakoyannis

    Foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis told reporters after the Inner Cabinet meeting that the OTE issue had not been discussed, but added that she endorsed the reforms carried out by the government, stressing that they were absolutely necessary.

    Bakoyannis said she briefed the inner Cabinet on the decisions taken on Monday by the Council of EU Foreign Ministers -- which focussed on Turkey's EU accession course and decided to 'freeze' eight negotiation chapters -- and expressed her satisfaction over the fact that three goals that had been set out were achieved.

    She said there was a clear-cut message that Turkey is obliged to fulfil its obligations to the EU if it desired a smooth European course.

    "The door is open to Turkey, but on condition that it accepts and honours (abides by) the European acquis," Bakoyannis underlined.

    Replying to a press question, Bakoyannis said that with Monday's decision by the EU foreign ministers, a rift at the EU Summit later this month had been averted, given that the issue would not be discussed there. She also added that Monday had been a difficult day, with deliberations among the foreign ministers lasting for 10 hours, "but we finally achieved what we wanted".

    ANA-MPA file photo of PM Karamanlis.

    [02] Papandreou attacks gov't over EU-Turkey ties

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday attacked the government over EU-Turkey relations and its handling of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization's (OTE) privatisation, after a meeting of his party's Parliamentary group.

    Papandreou said the government's policies were leading the country into an impasse on all levels, while he accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of saying one thing and doing another.

    Commenting on Monday's decision by the EU General Affairs Council to suspend eight of the 35 chapters in accession talks with Turkey, the main opposition leader said the government had been forced to accept a compromise that resulted from a policy it had followed so far, and which deviated substantially from the result that it claimed to seek.

    According to PASOK's leader, the issue of recognition of the Republic of Cyprus by Turkey should have been settled in December 2004 or, at the latest by October 2005, when the EU decided to begin accession talks with Turkey.

    Instead of adopting a firm stance, the government allowed itself to slide to the level of an Eastern bazaar through a lack of initiatives and the absence of the prime minister, he added. This had led to a time frame of postponement rather than commitment for Turkey, Papandreou said.

    He also stressed that Greece needed a policy with clearcut goals and a government that protected its national interests.

    On domestic issues, Papandreou accused the government of secretly and without warning undermining the country's growth by bringing last-minute amendments on major bills, such as the developmental law, and of being in a hurry to sell off OTE, which he termed an asset that did not belong to the government, in contradiction to ruling New Democracy's pre-election promises.

    [03] Gov't steadfast over OTE decision

    The government on Tuesday again appeared steadfast in its intent to further privatise state-run and bourse-listed Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), with the government spokesman answering a barrage of press questions and emphasising that reforms will be implemented.

    In response to opposition, trade union and press criticism, in fact, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos read out an excerpt from New Democracy party's pre-election programme, and specifically the portion that refers to the party's objective of transferring state control of OTE so the telecoms utility can operate effectively in a new "liberalised market within the framework of a strategic alliance".

    Roussopoulos underscored that this is still ND's policy, stressing that the Greek state currently controls 38 percent of OTE's shares, with envisioned changes leaving the state and a strategic private investor with 34 percent of OTE and its management.

    Roussopoulos also reminded that since 2005 OTE's management and the government have proceeded with reforms that essentially saved OTE "from turning into another Olympic Airlines" -- a reference to the debt-ridden national carrier.

    He also stated that changes to the personnel code will only affect employees hired after July 2005, after the imminent changes were announced.

    Sharp criticism of PASOK

    Furthermore, Roussopoulos lashed out at main opposition party PASOK by stressing that when it took over in 1993 the state controlled 100 percent of OTE, a figure that dropped to 38 percent by 2004 following subsequent flotations of OTE shares on both the Athens and New York stock exchanges by order of successive PASOK governments.

    Additionally, he said PASOK introduced a more flexible labour regime for OTE mobile telephony subsidiary Cosmote - in comparison to the civil servant-like status enjoyed at OTE - only to now bemoan the government's decision to export this regime to OTE for new hirings.

    In winding up his counter-attack, Roussopoulos emphasised that PASOK at one point introduced legislation for Olympic Airlines changing the status of all employees overnight.


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