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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-02-14

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM addresses debate on revising Constitution, sharply criticising PASOK's absence
  • [02] Papoulias on Turkey, FYROM's Euro prospects
  • [03] Justice minister briefs PM

  • [01] PM addresses debate on revising Constitution, sharply criticising PASOK's absence

    Addressing Parliament on Wednesday shortly after the start of the debate on revising the Constitution, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis sharply criticised the withdrawal of main opposition PASOK from the process and said that it had folded in the face of its internal problems.

    "The empty seats express the most cynical attempt to undermine a course that had been agreed upon," Karamanlis underlined.

    "It is a shame for the citizens, who are represented by the absence, the lack and the flight of their representatives. It is a shame for PASOK's leader," he added.

    "We all know that those now absent had agreed on the need for a revision, had submitted their proposals, some of which met a positive reception. Top PASOK officials, shortly before their departure, were stating that the dialogue had been carried out positively. But when the time came for Parliament, they proved unable to withstand their internal party problems. They enlisted bizarre, pointless and contradictory claims, which only succeeded in stripping the last remnant of credibility they had," Karamanlis said.

    According to the prime minister, PASOK's commitment to revising the Constitution had been overturned by "personal ambitions, insecurities and expediency".

    Outlining ruling New Democracy's main proposals for the revision, Karamanlis put special emphasis on the government's controversial decision to revise article 16 and open the way to private-sector universities in Greece.

    "The main opposition leader himself has outlined a series of reasons why it is imperative to revise article 16. He proclaims that it is outmoded and autocratic and that it is suffocating state universities. I hope that PASOK, overcoming the confusion and internal party weakness, will find its way back to responsibility," the prime minister noted.

    Addressing critics in the left-wing parties in Parliament, Karamanlis underlined his disagreement with their assessment of the situation. In particular, he stressed the need to bring currently unregulated private universities and colleges operating in the country under state control. Dubbed 'Laboratories of Free Studies', these private institutes offer degrees or foundation courses, often endorsed by universities abroad, whose qualifications are not recognised by the Greek State.

    "You know the trends that exist in the unified European educational scene. It is our responsibility not to allow, through timidity and inertia, de facto situations to prevail in tertiary education without state control. It is necessary to give the next Parliament the possibility to create a strong framework that will deter every attempt at anarchic activity. Strict rules must be put into place, strict standards, both in terms of the quality of the services provided and for the qualifications of those providing teaching, which must not be inferior to those of state universities," he said.

    Regarding article 24, which triggered PASOK's departure from the revision process, the prime minister underlined that the government's goal was to protect Greece's forests while at the same time ensuring sustainable regional development. He also noted that the government was open to suggestions for improving its proposals.

    Again highly controversial, the government proposes declassifying large tracts of land currently protected as forest or forested land. The key to ND's proposals is that current designations of forest and forested land be revised on the basis of aerial photographs taken in the '70s, rather than those of 1945 on which the present system is based. It justifies the move by noting that the change in land use for many of these areas goes back several decades, making enforcement unrealistic and unenforceable.

    Karamanlis also underlined that the next Parliament should have the capability to revise the Constitution, as the Constitution itself provided and accused the main opposition of announcing its intention to violate the Constitution in advance, which it had no right to do.

    He was referring to PASOK's announcement that it intends to start the process of revising the Constitution from scratch if voted into government in the next elections, so that the actual revision of the Constitution will be deferred until the subsequent Parliament.

    Caption: ANA-MPA photo of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis addressing Parliament on Wednesday, before the conspicuously empty benches occupied by main opposition PASOK MPs.

    [02] Papoulias on Turkey, FYROM's Euro prospects

    Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday sent indirectly sent messages to the leaderships of EU hopefuls and neighbours Turkey and FYROM, reiterating his position vis-à-vis the two countries' European prospects by noting that &quot;democracy and growth not centred on the individual cannot co-exist&quot;.

    Papoulias made the statement from the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, while speaking at the St. Clement of Ohrid University law school, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate.

    The Greek president, who is on a state visit to Bulgaria, delivering an address entitled &quot;Bulgaria in the EU and Greek-Bulgarian friendship&quot;.

    He also that &quot;Europe believes that the world order of the 21st century cannot but be founded on the democratisation of international relations and absolute respect of International Law and the United Nations Charter.

    &quot;Consequently, we consider that our relations with candidate-states are obliged to be relations of principles, in which divisions of states, the falsifying of history or selective acceptance of the European acquis are not acceptable approaches,&quot; Papoulias warned, in a reference to Turkey and FYROM.

    Referring to Europe's institutional problem, Papoulias noted that &quot;what we all want is a dynamic Europe capable of taking decisions, but without forgetting that the legitimisation of the community venture is founded on the volition of its peoples&quot;.

    &quot;The most fundamental issue, for the European citizen and, therefore, our main political goal, remains that which we aptly call the European social model,&quot; Papoulias said.

    In other words, he explained &quot;development with social cohesion, macroeconomic stability, respect for the environment, and realist prospects for the vulnerable social groups&quot;, adding that &quot;those of us who have lived through dark periods in Europe's history perhaps more easily comprehend that democracy and non people-centred development cannot coexist&quot;.

    Turning to Bulgaria's and Romania's EU accession, which he described as a &quot;historic development of strategic importance&quot; for the two countries and the Balkans, Papoulias noted that, since the time of his own term as foreign minister of Greece, he had considered EU enlargement encompassing SE Europe &quot;as a deterministic course for the Union&quot;.

    He said that Bulgaria &quot;accomplished a political, institutional and economic miracle&quot; in rendering its membership possible in &quot;a union of states that, despite whatever weaknesses, comprises a global example of growth, quality democracy and system of values&quot;.

    Referring to the main challenges faced by the European Union, he said: &quot;It is frequently written in the European press that the European peoples no longer like the EU: The citizens are distancing themselves, as indicated by the percentages of participation in the Europarliament elections. The causes are obvious: The bureaucracy in Brussels remains labyrinthine and incomprehensible for the average citizen, the decision-taking process is centralised, the community documents are not accessible; inequalities have not been remedied; unemployment remains the biggest social problem. The ecological crisis worries the European families, which wonder about the mistakes and omissions that have been made in the name of growth. The European citizens are worried about the impasse in the combating of international terrorism, and at the same time worry about the boundaries between security and freedom.&quot;

    The EU's greatest achievement, however, was the fact that &quot;it succeeded in rendering an internal European war inconceivable&quot;.

    Regarding developments in the Balkans, the Greek President stressed that Bulgaria's and Romania's accession to the EU &quot;is the first step for a new political reality in the Balkans, a reality that is foreign to ethnic conflicts and economic recession&quot;.

    He added that Greece's firm backing of the Balkans' European prospect &quot;did not and does not comprise a diplomatic automation&quot;, and reiterated Athens' conviction that &quot;the Balkans have paid, as only a few spots on the planet, ethnic exacerbations and antagonisms...&quot;

    He noted that the road to consolidating stability in the region &quot;remains long and difficult&quot;, adding that Greece was among the most fervent supporters of the Balkans' European prospect.

    In the context of that prospect, he stressed that &quot;all the candidate countries in our region must be treated under equal terms and based on the present, and not on the past&quot;.

    As for whatever problems have been inherited from the past and those that may arise, &quot;the basis for their resolution must be the rules of International Law and the provisions of the UN Charter&quot;.

    Besides, he said, &quot;the Balkan peoples have been sorely tried by the antagonisms for the creation of spheres of influence, by manufactured nationalism and civil strife&quot;, adding that the EU &quot;owes the Balkans, the Balkans due not owe the Union&quot;.

    Expressing satisfaction that the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline was nearing the commencement of actual construction, Papoulias said it was a project of &quot;strategic importance that will upgrade our country's energy presence and will give us diplomatic and economic benefits&quot;.

    Later, Papoulias met successively with party leaders Ivan Kostov, Petar Stoyanov and former Bulgarian president Zhelyu Zhelev.

    Papoulias leaves Sofia in the afternoon for Bucharest, for a two-day state visit to Romania.

    Caption: Greek President Karolos Papoulias speaks at the St. Clement of Ohrid University of Sofia on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007. ANA-MPA / M. Kiaou.

    [03] Justice minister briefs PM

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis onWednesday received Justice Minister Anastasis Papaligouras, who briefed him on progress regarding various major issues affecting his ministry.

    Replying to press questions regarding the course of a high-profile anti-corruption probe in the independent judicial system, which is one of the primary targets, Papaligouras said that approximately 90 judicial officials - judges, prosecutors, bailiffs etc. -- were facing either disciplinary or legal action at present.

    The second major target, according to Papaligouras, is to speed up the trial process, saying that significant results have already been achieved despite the delays. He added, however, that even greater efforts need to be made in that direction.

    Regarding the upgrading of the prison and correctional system, Papaligouras said substantial results have been achieved in this area as well. He said new correctional facilities were currently under construction, with the second of those facilities due for completion in a few weeks, to be followed by five more. The ministry was also quickly moving to lower prison overcrowding and upgrade living conditions in jails.

    Papaligouras further said that the ministry would also table in Parliament two new bills, the first on speeding up civil litigation and the second on combating corruption in the private sector.

    The minister added that the second bill would be submitted soon to the Inner Cabinet, particularly aimed at graft in the private sector as well as on the exercise of illegitimate influence in the private sector.

    As for the first bill, Papaligouras said it would be brought before parliament for debate and voting in about six weeks' time.

    Replying to another question on whether there would be a wide-ranging judicial probe into the reported ?crime of passion? murder of Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) governor Yiannis Vartholomeos, Papaligouras noted that "the case is in the hands of the police at this time ... Results of the police investigation will determine the ensuing judicial course".

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