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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-03

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Debate on PASOK's no-confidence motion continues in Parliament
  • [02] PM meets environment, development ministers
  • [03] University rectors stick to their guns
  • [04] Bakoyannis in Rodopi, Xanthi
  • [05] Proastiako railway to reach Xylokastro

  • [01] Debate on PASOK's no-confidence motion continues in Parliament

    A debate on a motion of no confidence tabled by the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) continued for a second day in Parliament on Saturday, with MPs on all sides jostling for a chance to address the house. It will end at midnight on Sunday with a roll-call vote.

    The debate began in began in Parliament on Friday, just hours after it was tabled by PASOK leader George Papandreou, who at the same time demanded early elections. He also announced that his party's MPs were withdrawing from the debate on revision of the Constitution.

    Leading the debate, speakers for PASOK accused the government of flouting the Constitution and Parliamentary procedure and hinted at involvement in financial scandals.

    PASOK MP for Thessaloniki Evangelos Venizelos accused the government of "demeaning and trivializing" democratic procedures and said there was an issue "Constitutional legality".

    He was referring, in particular, to an incident on Wednesday when the government's proposal for revising article 24 of the Constitution was nearly passed by a Parliamentary committee without the required number of votes when New Democracy Parliamentary group secretary Apostolos Stavrou was counted among the voters, even though he was not actually a committee member.

    The irregularity was pointed out by opposition MPs and a recount showed that the proposal did not have the required backing among ND deputies on the Committee. The Committee's vote is not binding, however, and the proposal can still be presented before the full Parliament.

    "The day before yesterday we witnessed a flagrant attempt to falsify an electoral result, blackmail and pressure against ND MPs that dared to vote according to their conscience," Venizelos said.

    PASOK MP Theodoros Pangalos slammed Parliament President Anna Psarouda-Benaki for saying that those in charge of the proceedings were "momentarily carried away" to descibe what he called an attempt to "falsify Parliament's verdict during a debate on revising the Constitution".

    He also hinted at major financial scandals that he said PASOK would "not allow to be buried".

    "A ring of your party officials, a ring that was extremely close to your ministers, were installed in the depths of the Competition Commission, from where control of the economy should be exercised. They were uncovered - and you hurried to either cover up or reward them," Pangalos said.

    The MP also accused the government of mis-spending state funds through moves like the purchase of Turkey's Finansbank at what he said was five times its actual value, or the acquisition of the retail electronic goods chain Germanos, hinting that certain quarters had received lavish kickbacks from the two deals.

    Pavlopoulos: PASOK 'no confidence' motion a 'cover' to avoid vote on Article 16

    Interior and Public Administration Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, as the government's chief rapporteur in the debate over the motion, lambasted Papandreou' move and charged that it was an attempt to solve his internal party problems.

    "Does anyone seriously believe the reasoning behind the tabling of PASOK's no confidence motion? ... Does anyone believe the reasons for its submission, other than to solve internal party problems?" Pavlopoulos underlined from Parliament's podium.

    According to Pavlopoulos, the reasons cited by PASOK absolutely do not justify such a motion -- which, if successful, will result in the calling of general elections.

    Moreover, Pavlopoulos directly charged that PASOK's motion is no more than "cover" for abstaining from the entire revision process in Parliament, thereby preventing the presence of its deputies from a vote allowing the possible revision of controversial Article 16 -- so as to lift current prohibitions on establishing non-state universities in the country -- and thus avoiding political fallout from a split PASOK vote.

    Papandreou has repeatedly voiced his support for revising Article 16, whereas a handful of PASOK MPs -- including one of the two PASOK rapporteurs on Friday, Evangelos Venizelos -- oppose attempts to allow non-state higher education institutions in the country.

    "PASOK is leaving because debate and a vote by Parliament's plenum would be painful for PASOK," Pavlopoulos said, while stressing that Papandreou has now crossed over to Venizelos' position.

    The minister, a noted constitutional law expert by training, also pointed to PASOK's overall history -- as he claimed -- of walking out of Parliament during crucial votes, pointing to its abstention from debate on the first post-dictatorship constitution of 1975; its exit from the chamber during a vote to ratify Greece's accession to the European Union before 1980 and a PASOK government's declaration of early elections in 1996, a decision he said scuttled constitutional revision at the time.

    As per Article 16, Pavlopoulos said PASOK cannot perpetually avoid its responsibilities. "If it avoids them now, it will not avoid them after the elections, because they may avoid internal friction for the time being, but won't they have to express their position after the election regarding Article 16?" he rhetorically asked.

    Finally, Pavlopoulos said PASOK has the temerity to demand early elections without having yet unveiled its own election programme.

    "The only thing Mr. Papandreou has achieved is to ruin his deputies' weekend," he concluded.

    No confidence motion leads to 'fiasco', KKE's Papariga says

    Taking the stand, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga said that PASOK's no confidence motion would be a "great fiasco".

    According to Papariga, it would result in a systematic effort to impose the 24-hour domination of forced dilemmas that called for either reforms or chaos, on the one hand, and elections or chaos, on the other.

    "It is an opportunity for thought by the people, farmers, pensioners, those who are engaged in struggle, to exert mass, dynamic pressure and to create situations of mass counterattack. In this process, when partisanship peaks, the element of hope is the people's intervention," she said.

    According to Papariga, ruling New Democracy was "fulfilling its pre-election pledges with very great consistency," while PASOK's opposition, in its attempt to slide out of its commitments, cover up its agreement with the government and serve the interests of big capital, was a "joke"

    "I cannot choose which one is the best representative of capital," Papariga concluded.

    SYN's Constantopoulos: No confidence motion a 'supreme Parliamentary act'

    Former Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos noted from Parliament's podium that Friday's ‚no confidence' motion, is a "supreme Parliamentary act.?

    "From our part, we will try to contribute to this process so that it remains on a proper level. We claim our right to state our opinions,? Constantopoulos said, speaking as his party's rapporteur during the debate on the no confidence motion.

    "We will not allow anyone to classify us with anyone else ... SY.RI.ZA (another name for Synaspismos) does not table its views to be judged by any other party; we're not interested in ND's or PASOK's assessment..." he said.

    Gov't, party comments on no confidence motion

    Reacting to Papandreou's tabling of the motion earlier on Friday, the government said that it was an effort to escape major internal party problems, for the sake of which PASOK's leader was sacrificing a revision of Constitution.

    Regarding Papandreou's call for early elections, alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros stressed that the government had yet to complete its work, while adding that the prime minister's statements on the timing of the elections still applied.

    In response to PASOK's threat to withdraw from the debate on revising the Constitution, Antonaros stressed that there was no way for Papandreou to justify resorting to such tactics.

    Papandreou

    Outlining the reasons for tabling the no confidence motion, Papandreou charged that the current government "has lied to the people" with its pre-election promises.

    He also repeated charges that ND had "taken from the many and weak (financially needy) to give to the few and powerful" as well as "selling off" state assets and causing state coffers to contribute an extra four billion euros towards the EU's budget following a "bogus" upwards revision of Greece's GDP.

    Moreover, the PASOK leader again underlined standing criticism over the government's policy in the sectors of education, health care, the capacious public administration and social security reform.

    Finally, he said the country was being "ridiculed" on a daily basis on several foreign policy fronts.

    "The government has fallen into the eddy of pre-election reasoning. It is not doing anything anymore. It is injurious for the country. We're saying: enough," the PASOK leader said from Parliament's podium.

    Synaspismos

    On his part, Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Alekos Alavanos noted that "only one no confidence motion has been passed and is bearing results: the movement in the education sector in favour of a public university".

    According to the Synaspismos leader, Papandreou's announcement that PASOK will walk out of the debate for constitutional revision means the "bipartisan (ND and PASOK) consensus" to allow revision of Article 16 (by the next Parliament) with 180 votes has been "broken".

    "We had said it: the movement for Article 16; the youth movement for Article 16 will turn into a river (of protest). And it has become just that. It will determine political developments?" he concluded.

    Procedure

    According to Article 142 of the Rules of Parliament, a no confidence motion should bear the signatures of at least 50 Parliament deputies.

    Parliament will interrupt its proceedings for two days, unless the government, as in this case, requests that the debate over the motion starts immediately.

    According to the bylaw, the debate concludes at midnight of the third day since its commencement with a roll call vote. For a no confidence motion to pass, it must be approved by an absolute majority of the 300-deputy legislature (150 + 1).

    The Hellenic Parliament has been called to discuss no confidence motions against governments or ministers seven times since the restoration of Democracy in 1974, all of which were rejected.

    Four no confidence motions were tabled against governments, three of them against governments led by Andreas Papandreou (June 1988, March 1989 and January 1996) and one against Constantine Mitsotakis‚ government (March 1993).

    A total of three motions of no confidence were tabled against government ministers. In January 1999 and in January 2001 against PASOK‚s Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis and Finance and Economy Minister Yannos Papantoniou respectively and in June 2005 against New Democracy‚s Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, which was turned by the government into a vote of confidence debate.

    The Hellenic Parliament was called to renew its vote of confidence in a government three times; for Andreas Papandreou's government in May 1987, Constantine Mitsotakis' government in April 1992 and Costas Simitis' government in November 1997.

    [02] PM meets environment, development ministers

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had separate meetings with Environment Minister George Souflias and Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Saturday, during which he discussed the no confidence motion tabled in Parliament by main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) leader Andreas Papandreou the previous day.

    "PASOK will get its answer from Parliament," Sioufas said after the meeting, noting that the government would emerge stronger from the debate on the motion that ends at midnight on Sunday.

    Souflias echoed earlier statements by the government, saying that Papandreou's move was an attempt to quell internal problems within his own party.

    He said it inaugurated a period of confrontational politics and intense political clashes that would benefit neither PASOK nor political life.

    According to the minister, it was also an attempt by PASOK to undermine important government initiatives linked to revising the Constitution and stressed that this process should go ahead as planned because there were articles in the Constitution that needed to change.

    Souflias ruled out early elections, stressing that the government was producing results and would continue to produce results.

    [03] University rectors stick to their guns

    An overwhelming majority of a university rectors' council that began in Kastri, north Athens on Saturday voted in favour of sticking with the decisions of the previous rectors' council in Mytilene and the existing proposals for changing the regulatory framework for universities.

    The resolution was signed by all present except the rectors of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the Panteion University of Athens and the University of Patras, who said that it should have been issued at the end of the council's session and after those attending had heard the positions of Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou, who is to address the meeting late on Saturday evening.

    The resolution adopted on Saturday asks the education ministry to adopt the rectors' proposals in the draft bill for education and to notify the council and universities in good time, so that the bill might be discussed by the academic community, while stressing that continued uncertainty can only damage higher education.

    It also roundly condemns acts of violence within university grounds, especially when these target university authorities but also students, stressing that these in practice negate the meaning of asylum and greatly harm universities' prestige.

    The Council additionally condemned efforts to discredit state universities and to lessen their social standing and contribution. Finally, it states its strong belief that universities must remain open and that rectors must work in this direction.

    During the rectors' meeting, a protest march staged by students got underway in Kifissia at 14:00, though turnout was smaller than expected due to the cold and bad weather. Some 600 protestors from the trade union group PAME set off from Kifissia square and another 400 from student groups from Kifissia train station.

    The marchers set off toward Kastri, carrying banners and shouting slogans against revising article 16 of the Constitution, which would allow the foundation of private universities in Greece.

    A protest march with the same demands was also held by students and teachers in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki shortly after noon.

    [04] Bakoyannis in Rodopi, Xanthi

    Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis will carry out a two-day tour of the northeastern Greek prefectures of Xanthi and Rodopi on Monday and Tuesday. She was invited to visit the area by local bodies representing producers in the region.

    Bakoyannis is scheduled to meet local government officials and the official heads of the Greek Orthodox and Moslem religious communities in the region, the Komotini metropolitan and mufti, on Monday morning. She will then go to the town of Organi for meetings with community organisations and then address a meeting of the Komotini Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the afternoon. Later the same day, she will give a press conference at the Eastern Macedonia-Thrace Regional authority.

    On Tuesday morning, the minister will travel to Xanthi for meetings with local authority and religious leaders in that prefecture, after which she will carry out a tour of villages and settlements in Xanthi's mountains. She is due to address the Xanthi Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday afternoon.

    [05] Proastiako railway to reach Xylokastro

    Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis on Friday announced that the Proastiako suburban railway will be extended to the coastal town of Xylokastro in the Peloponnese, predicting that the Kiato-Xylokastro line and station would be ready by the end of 2009.

    He also announced that the line to Kiato will be ready by June and a system to make the railway electrically powered is due to be delivered in 2008 and would greatly increase its speed.

    He made the statement during an event held in Xylokastro to mark his visit, during which he inspected the progress of work underway on the line extension.

    According to the minister, the journey from Xylokastro to Athens would take roughly an hour and a half, with trains running every half hour. He said the new service would greatly enhance the area's growth and offer residents of west Corinth a safe, cheap, fast and modern means of transport.

    The event was also attended by Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras, who thanked Liapis for his efforts to quickly resolve various problems and begin work on the extension to Xylokastro, stressing the many positive spin-offs that this would bring for the area.

    During his inspection, Liapis asked an ERGOSE work team to speed up the work as much as possible to ensure the greatest possible absorption of Community funds.


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