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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-04

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] No-confidence motion rejected by Parliament; PM says elections at 'their proper time'
  • [02] Yiannakou: rectors' meeting "exceptionally important"
  • [03] Bakoyannis in Rodopi, Xanthi
  • [04] Citizens in Kozani want visit by dev't minister
  • [05] Seven illegal immigrants drown in sea near Samos

  • [01] No-confidence motion rejected by Parliament; PM says elections at 'their proper time'

    Parliament rejected in the early hours of Monday a motion of no-confidence against the government tabled by the main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). The motion was rejected by 164 votes against 122 following a three-day debate.

    Closing the debate, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said that his government would force ahead with reforms reiterating that elections would take at "their proper time".

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

    164 deputies of the ruling New Democracy party and some independent MPs out of 286 deputies participating in the vote voted against the motion, PASOK deputies and the six Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology voted for, while the Communist Prty of Greece (KKE) abstained.

    Under the Rules of Parliament, a no-confidence motion must be ratified by an absolute majority of the 300-deputy legislature (150+1) in order to pass.

    Elections will take place at their proper time, PM says

    CXlosing the debate Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said that elections will take place at their proper time and stressed that "I do not place personal and party interest above the interests of the country."

    Karamanlis said that the demand by PASOK leader George Papabndreou is tempting "and would be even more tempting if you voted first for constitutional reform and for the article 16 in particular" and noted that "your demand coincides with suggestions I am receiving from many cadres of our party."

    The prime minister further said that "I suppose that this coincidence is due to the fact that you are making a common assessment of developments and, of course, an identical assessment of the result. And I do not change decisions. I do not place personal and party interest above the interests of the country. Elections will take place at their proper time."

    Karamanlis called on the Parliamentary plenum "to say a resounding no to populism and unconstitutional behaviour, no to conservatism and to old-partisanship, no to sterile reaction:I request a dynamic no to the attempt at polarisation, no to senseless tension, no to political retreat, no to political backtracking."

    He went on to say "I request a vote for the continuation of changes and of reforms, I request a vote of responsible governance and consistency, a vote of respect for institutions, a vote of confidence towards the citizens, a vote of confidence for the country, for its present and its future."

    Government the 'worst government of post-junta era', Papandreou says

    Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou said that the government "is the worst government of the post-junta era."

    "You achieved something very difficult, to become the worst government of the post-junta era, even surpassing the Mitsotakis government. For this reason, we say enough is enough," he said.

    Referring to the call for early elections, Papandreou said that "the economic issues, issues concerning education, or the national issues by themselves are enough for us to call for elections."

    The PASOK leader said that 1.5 trillion drachmas were paid to enable the Greek economy to exit from supervision, stressing that "for three years your (finance) minister has been decreasing the income of the Greek citizen. He is making the high cost of living to soar. In a serious government, this minister would have gone home, but in this one he remains."

    Commenting on the education minister, Papandreou said that "society has become polarised and an opportunity has been lost for consensual changes", adding that "in any case the question is one:who do the Greek people trust to handle the major issue of education, the law on universities, the article 16."

    Speaking in the same spirit, the PASOK leader accused the government of "favouritism for banks with huge profits, burdening the deficits of funds."

    On the question of foreign policy, Papandreou said "you are absent from European issues, tourists in Lucern, absent from developments in the Balkans and Kosovo. Without a strategy, you are obliged to watch the pendulum of Greek-Turkish issues between tension and retrogression."

    KKE leader criticises mainstream parties during vote of censure debate

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga criticised both the ruling New Democracy party and the main opposition PASOK party.

    Papariga added that her party would not participate in the voting concerning the censure motion against the government.

    She further said that Greece's political problem is specific and is the same antipopular policies of the two major parties.

    "The government is being judged for its policy, but PASOK is also being judged as a contestant for power. However, the two parties have no differences and the political problem remains," she further said.

    "The point of judgement for the small or big parties is their position towards capital, privatisations, pensions, farm policy, policy on health, education or the environment. In other words, all the policies which shape the citizen's day-to-day life. Therefore, we cannot separate our criticism for PASOK and ND. Because for us, there is a criterion in democracy which is not being heard and it is democracy in the sector of labour," Papariga stressed.

    The KKE leader criticised the government because "with all means it is promoting the policy of reforms, that only benefits big businessmen and harms the working people," while adding that it is using all means to slander the university and student movement.

    Lastly, Papariga spoke of considerable struggles that the people and the popular movement have to do to confront the harsh antipopular rival front.

    Coalition party leader speaks of shadow theatre during vote of censure debate

    Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Alekos alavanos spoke of a "shadow theatre and a staged setting".

    Alavanos said the debate on the vote of censure was a victory for the student movement and a defeat for bipartisan rule, while stating that his party will vote against the government, primarily on educational issues.

    "Today's discussion on the vote of censure against the government, the appeal by the main opposition party for elections and the replies by the government are a shadow theatre. However, there is something extremely positive behind it. That from the censure against the government other terms are coming in with relation to the revision of the constitution. It was also proved that the government sustained a defeat, the main opposition party was obliged to retreat and bipartisan rule is not unbeatable," he said.

    Alavanos also said that his party "will stay in the discussion in Parliament on the revision of the constitution because it is not afraid, it is not ashamed and does not hide."

    [02] Yiannakou: rectors' meeting "exceptionally important"

    Education minister Marietta Yiannakou described the meeting of the university rectors' council that took place in Kastri on Saturday as being of "exceptional importance", adding that the rectors would be given a frugal framework law, aimed at full self-administration, as well as four-year agreements between the universities and the education ministry.

    Speaking to the council, she pledged that financial ability, more freedoms, and the ability for the drafting of internal regulations by the universities themselves would be provided under the framework law, adding that the common decision was for open universities which, she continued, was a responsibility of the government.

    Yiannakou further appealed for all the rectors to set at the negotiations table, noting that disagreement was at the crux of demoracy, "but history has always charged those absent".

    Referring to Article 16 of the Constitution, which presently gives the state the exclusive right to set up universities and which the government has proposed to be amended, Yiannakou said that "our role is to support the public university, a good university that will also mean re-distribution of our income".

    Thessaly University rector Nikos Bayiatis, who chaired the council of rectors, expressed satisfaction with Yiannkous' responses, which he said were "exceptionally positive and exceeded our expectations".

    An overwhelming majority of a university rectors' council that began in Kastri, northern 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 addressed the meeting later on Saturday night.

    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.

    Minor scuffles broke out when the two groups reached the Kastri conference centre where the council meeting was in session when protestors attacked a police cordon, throwing stones and planks, in a bid to break through. They were finally dispersed by riot police using tear gas and set off in the direction of Kifissia Square.

    [03] 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.

    [04] Citizens in Kozani want visit by dev't minister

    Citizens in the municipal regions of Riaki and Agios Dimitrios, who are continuing the takeover at the hydroelectric electric power plant of Agios Dimitrios in Kozani, are requesting a visit by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Tuesday.

    The hydroelectric plant was visited earlier on Sunday by the Secretary General of the Region of Western Macedonia, Andreas Leoudis, who conveyed the request for the meeting with Sioufas to enable the problem to be discussed in a positive mood and in detail, as he said, provided that the takeover stops.

    "We want the meeting to take place here. We call on Mr. Sioufas to see how we are living, how eletric power is produced, to feel our problem," the president of the Society of Unemployed and Development of Riaki and Agios Dimitrios, Ilias Tetoglidis, said in a statement to the ANA-MPA.

    [05] Seven illegal immigrants drown in sea near Samos

    The bodies of seven illegal immigrant drowned over the weekend in the sea near the eastern Aegean island of Samos. In a resuce operation mounted late Friday authorities picked up a survivor of a wooden boat that sank shortly before it reached the shore.

    The survivor said that he had managed to swim ashore and that another 19 illegal immigrants and a Turkish immigrant-smuggler had been aboard the boat when it sank.

    A Super-Puma all-weather helicopter was immediately sent out to look for other survivors but the coast guard patrol boat was unable to join the search because of the gale-force winds blowing in the region.

    Search teams have been combing the shoreline to find any illegal immigrants that may have come ashore, while the helicopter continued to search the sea around the area.

    Twelve other illegal immigrants are still missing.


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