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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-07-08
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 'Reforms are our duty to the country and younger generations', PM tells closing session of ND Congress"The reforms are our duty to the country and the younger generations, and cannot be discontinued or stopped," prime minister Costas Karamanlis stressed on Sunday, addressing the closing session of his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's three-day 7th Congress, and unveiled the outline for "the reforms in the second four-year term in office."
"The reforms are our duty to the country and the younger generations. They cannot be discontinued, suspended or stopped," Karamanlis said, adding: "The reforms will continue in the new four-year term, with the completion of the revision of the Constitution, and particularly of Article 16 (of the Constitution, which covers the education sector at all levels of learning) that had been proposed by the main opposition party (PASOK). This is where each and every one will prove his credibility".
The second area of reforms will be the resolution of the social insurance issue, while the third will be the continuation of the education sector reforms, and the fourth area of focus will be completion of the administrative reform and and the formulation of the state's new administrative structure, the prime minister explained.
"We are the political party of the major choices, changes and reforms," Karamanlis said, adding that "we have made important reforms in the past years, and have created the groundwork for their continuation".
Karamanlis said that his government has placed the country in the "cycle of changes".
"We are serving the vision of a strong homeland at the crux of Europe. We are serving the vision of a society of cohesion, solidarity and humanity that wins the future," Karamanlis said, adding that "we are moving firmly ahead, faster, stronger, more determined, for a strong and prospering Greece".
The prime minister said the government was fully aware that weaknesses existed, particularly in the state mechanism, stressing that it was not complacent, but was proceeding with even greater determination on its reform strategy, backed by the Greek society, and far removed from dogmas and discriminations.
"The changes and reforms are imperative necessities because that is the only way to increase the product procuded and widen the social dividend," he said.
In an indirect reference to the opposition, Karamanlis said that "political weakness cannot manufacture accusations and insults and lead to polarisation and fanaticism", which he said harmed democracy.
"We are not playing the game of those who, in their desperation and isolation, sacrifice the future of the country. The destruction-mongering, slander and insults will not come to pass," the premier stressed, adding that "we are in a new era that seeks new ideas, in which there is no room for fanaticism".
In his address, Karamanlis referred to the work accomplished by his government to date.
Regarding the Greeks abroad, he noted that the government gave dual citizenship to the Northern Epirotes (Greeks of Albania), while a bill has been tabled in parliament -- slated for vote in October when parliament resumes its plenary session after the summer recess sessions - to give the overseas Greeks the ability of absentee voting. "There can be no delay, nor rejection. We know very well what uprooting and migration means. We are applying a policy of equality before the law and the state."
Karamanlis also thanked the party's youth for ther "decisive" contribution to the educational reforms. "You fought and proved that the youth do not compromise with the established interests. Together, we drafted policies for education, together we are continuing the reform in higher education. For an Educatin that ensures the right to employment, that will ensure equal opportunities in a homeland of great prospects".
Regarding the government's policy on the priphery, he said that "we left behind the perception of a 'one and another Greece' and are applying a national strategy of regional development", adding that "the largest programme of public works that the country has ever known is being implemented, the largest part of which concerns the periphery".
The government's agricultural policy, he continued, reinforced the farmer so as to become a modern-day businessman on his land, and applied a strategy for dynamic agricultural growth in an attractive periphery.
Karamanlis also said that the biggest problem the country faced was unemployment, caused by the state-dependent development of the past, and stagnation in investments. "We are serving the triphtych edication-development-employment, with targeted reforms," the premier said, noting that "70 percent more businesses were created in 2006 over 2003, employment exceeded 8.1 percent, unemployment fell to below 9.0 percent", and adding that "Greece is changing, it is creating for all its citizens".
Other accomplishments of the government were the acceleration of the procedures for retirement, modernisation of the urban bus fleet, the tram in Athens and also the Athens Metro, while the Thessaloniki Metro would soon begin, the lowest inflation rate in recent years, and teh government's extrovert, aggressive energy policy "that is making our country an international (energy) hug", while the environment has been rendered a national cause.
Karamanlis explained that the people are at the crux of his government's policy, with the state being the servant of the citizen. "Greece is moving forward," he said.
ND Central Committee secretary Lefteris Zagoritis said that the Congress was the culmination of a particularly productive, substantive and fruitful dialogue carried out with the participation of not only the party's cadres and members but also thousands of active citizens throughout the country.
Addressing the Congress shortly before it closed, with the election of the ruling party's new Central Committee, Zagoritis said that "we are the party that can create political events and put forward new cadres", and was operating in all areas with prudence, measure and responsibility, noting that the three-day discussions had covered all areas, with new ideas and pioneering proposals put forward for the future.
ND parliamentary group secretary Apostolos Stavrou instructed all party members holding positions in the state machine to be cautious, following prime minister Karamanlis' example with his clear-cut values and principles, noting that ND was working to consolidate a stronger and wider state, with social sensitivity that embraces the financially weaker citizens.
Deputy education minister George Kalos said that "we are in the middle of the upward road of reforms", adding that the educational reforms were the testing ground for the government's durability, determination and effectiveness, and stressing that education, without quality in all three levels, would only be a failure.
ND deputy Katerina Papacosta proposed that the governmental term in office be increased to five years from the current four, and called for a change of the electoral law in agreement with the main opposition party.
Public order minister Vyron Polydoras, in turn, said that the government would not bow down to violence and fascism by any minority that provokes the lawful order and democracy.
Employment and social protection minister Vassilis Magginas criticised the preceding PASOK governments and current PASOK leader George Papandreou, saying those governments had left behind immense economic and social problems, as well as pathogenies that required bold decisions, as mismanagement and the lack of reforms had undermined the economy's competitiveness.
Interior minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that ND was the party of the great national choices, major public works and support of the public interest, which the people had placed their trust in in the difficult times to take Greece out of the quagmire it was in.
Health minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that ND's victory in the next elections would inaugurate a new road of development, adding that the majority of the Greek people backed ND. He also said that the government wanted a social state deserving of the people's efforts and sacrifices.
Culture minister George Voulgarakis said that main opposition PASOK was in a difficult position, and under pressure both ideologically and politically.
Addressing the Congress on Saturday evening, justice minister Anastasis Papaligouras said the government had waged and was continuing to wage a tough battle to halt the "trafficking of justice" and corruption in the justice sector, so as to restore the injured credibility of the large majority of honest judicial functionairies.
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