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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-07-12

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Fires a 'consequence of climate change,' PM says; grief for fire-fighter deaths
  • [02] Wildfire on Skiathos; funeral for dead firemen

  • [01] Fires a 'consequence of climate change,' PM says; grief for fire-fighter deaths

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Thursday expressed his deep sorrow for the tragic deaths of three seasonal fire-fighters killed on Wednesday in the line of duty, while noting that the destructive fires of the current summer were a result of global warming.

    "The weather phenomena this year favoured as never before the outbreak of destructive fires, peaking with that of Parnitha. We are already living with the consequences of climate change,? the prime minister said.

    The prime minister made the statements while addressing a meeting of the full Cabinet that took place on Thursday.

    Noting that the country would henceforth have to deal with with new conditions that demanded even greater alertness and efficiency, he underlined that Greece had no choice but to rise to the challenge.

    ?It is a difficult, uneven battle but we have only one choice: to constantly wage this battle with all our strength," he said.

    The prime minister stressed that the government is rapidly carrying out all measures needed to restore the forest that was burnt. For Parnitha, especially, he said that the government, with Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias as coordinator, ?is proceeding very rapidly with reforestation, so that wherever there was forest there will be forest again?.

    Karamanlis also underlined that the government remained steadfast and unswerving in its commitment to initiate and complete reforms:

    ?This is the commitment we have undertaken toward the citizens; this is the demand of society and the central principle of our action,? he said, noting that much had already been achieved but much still remained to be done.

    ?We are in the midst of a hard and uphill journey. We continue with seriousness and responsibility,? the prime minister said, stressing that the government ?will allow no siren to deflect us from this path?.

    ?In reply to all those who have chosen to become the political representatives of reaction, conservatism, nihilism and denial we present the truth of our work, the effectiveness of our actions,? he emphasized.

    At the same time, the prime minister also stressed the need to solve the day-to-day problems of ordinary people, in addition to looking at the big political picture, noting that the government was judged on these also.

    EU hopes for Turkey, western Balkans must remain, Bakoyannis tells cabinet

    Addressing the cabinet meeting after Karamanlis, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said Athens was against any binding decisions on EU enlargement that would bar the EU perspectives of Turkey or the western Balkans.

    "We do not agree to taking binding decisions today that would deprive countries with ambitions to one day become members of the EU of the vision and the motives to adapt to the European status quo," she stressed.

    The foreign minister clarified that European 'enlargement-fatigue' and the discussion underway regarding Europe's outer borders could not affect enlargement policies that had already been agreed, as in the case of Turkey and Croatia, and neither could nor should concern the countries of the western Balkans.

    She particularly emphasised Greece's support for Turkey's European course, noting that this was a fundamental element of the country's overall policy for Greek-Turkish bilateral relations, since nearly all Greek-Turkish differences had now been converted to Euro-Turkish issues.

    As an example, she pointed to an EU decision last December to freeze eight chapters of the accession negotiations with Turkey, while the rest of the chapters would open but not close until Turkey fully implemented the Ankara Protocol, requiring it to open its ports and airports to traffic from EU-member Cyprus, among other new EU members.

    "We have sent Turkey a clear-cut message that we support its accession to the EU, when and if it fulfills all the requirements and provided it meets the commitments it has made," Bakoyannis stressed.

    At the same time, she conceded that the climate in Europe was becoming increasingly hostile to Turkey's bid and said that the Greek foreign ministry was examining contingency plans to prepare for the event of a EU-Turkey "special relationship", while noting that this could not be decided with Greece's agreement since it would require unanimity.

    "I don't have to say, of course, that if we can we will try to avert the conversion of the present process to the special relationship, because we consider that the present process is much more complete, with greater possibilities," she added.

    Regarding the latest developments concerning the Euro-Constitution and the compromise reached with the EU Reform Treaty, Bakoyannis said this was a positive step though it did not fully satisfy Greek goals but stressed that the agreements had to be upheld both in substance and with respect to timing. The Greek minister welcomed moves by the Portuguese EU presidency to speed up the process, so that the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) might complete its work by the end of October, noting that Greece would support this effort.

    "We are doomed to, sooner or later, move on to the formation of reinforced partnerships. And in this case, the wager for Greece will be to remain in the inner core of European integration," she stressed.

    Regarding the country's international position and image overall, she said that this was strong and constantly improving, while Greece was being dealt with by all as a serious, reliable country with strong prospects.

    "We are carrying out a truly multi-dimensional foreign policy with many levels, which we have enriched with new fields of action, such as the economic, developmental and public diplomacy," she said.

    In spite of this, she added, the country continued to face serious foreign policy problems that were still outstanding and did not allow light-hearted manoeuvres and petty party political sparring of the kind that main opposition PASOK "has lately appeared to be sliding toward".

    In a reference to the Cyprus problem, Bakoyannis said that no particular activity surrounding this issue was expected in 2007 but that "a window of opportunity" was expected to arise in 2008 for its solution. Stressing Greece's steadfast support and cooperation with the Cyprus government, she blamed the Turkish-Cypriot side for the lack of anticipated results from the preparation process that was currently underway.

    The Greek foreign minister also referred to the dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), where she reiterated that there was absolutely no possibility that the neighbouring country might join NATO with the name of 'Republic of Macedonia'.

    "The message is strong and clear and known to our partners and allies," she stressed.

    She said that Athens was following a "determined and realistic policy for achieving a mutually acceptable solution to the issue of the name," pointing out that such a solution would normalise and strengthen bilateral relations, establish cooperation and stability in the region and ensure that FYROM's unobstructed course toward fulfilling its ambitions to join the EU and NATO.

    Bakoyannis underlined that Greece will serve this policy without being deprived of any of its options as an EU and NATO member-state and that Athens would not agree to a selective implementation of the interim agreement between Athens and Skopje, nor to violations of its letter or its spirit.

    Greece objects to FYROM's use of the name 'Macedonia' on the grounds that it is shared by a northern Greek province that has a common border with the tiny republic and might give rise to future territorial claims and disputes.

    The Greek foreign minister's address also covered the latest developments in Kosovo, noting that the situation was extremely difficult since Pristina and Belgrade seemed to have entirely different aims and starting positions. She stressed that a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo would be a negative development since it might trigger unilateral recognitions, lead to division among EU member-states and unpredictable reactions by Kosovo's Serbs.

    A balancing factor in this environment of uncertainty and flux was the progress that had been made after intense Greek mobilisation regarding Serbia's European course, she added.

    Justice minister Papaligouras' statement

    In a statement after the Cabinet meeting, Justice Minister Anastasios Papaligouras said the ministers had approved his proposals for the new leadership of Greece's higher courts and justice system, stressing that the choices were based on "merit, respect for the seniority list and with the aim of continuing the work of cleaning up, modernising and improving Justice".

    Caption: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis (L) with Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis (R) during a meeting of the Greek cabinet to discuss foreign policy and justice issues on Thursday, 12 July 2007. ANA/MPA Maria Marogianni

    [02] Wildfire on Skiathos; funeral for dead firemen

    A fire that broke out in scrubland at 7.30 am on Thursday on the central Aegean island of Skiathos had spread to a hotel unit near the Troulos region by midday, part of which was in flames. Another two large hotels in the regions of Troulos and Aghia Paraskevi that are also at risk were evacuated as a precaution. According to fire-fighters, who earlier reported that the fire was under partial control, strong and changeable winds were greatly hampering their efforts against the blaze. The fire started out in the region of Panagia Kounistra and, fanned by the strong winds blowing in the region, burned its way to the village of Aghia Paraskevi threatening a number of houses. Firemen are making every possible effort to keep the blaze away from populated regions, assisted by a large number of fire-fighting aircraft and helicopters dropping water from above. A firefighting force of 28 firemen operating 7 fire engines and 17 firemen on foot were initially sent out to tackle the fire, assisted by two helicopters and three firefighting aircraft from above. Their numbers have been reinforced by an additional 50 members of the fire department's Special Disaster Response Unit has been dispatched from Larisa, central Greece in an army C-130 transport plane. According to the National Defence General Staff, meanwhile, 40 marines from Volos are expected to land on the island at around 19:00 to help the fire-fighting effort.

    Funeral of the firemen killed in Crete fire to be held at state's expense Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras visited Iraklion on the island of Crete accompanied by Fire Brigade Commander Andreas Kois in the aftermath of the tragic deaths of three seasonal firemen who were burned alive and the serious injury of a fourth, who is hospitalized with serious burns fighting for his life. The public order minister visited the hospital where the injured fireman is being treated to be briefed by his attending doctors on his condition, and expressed his sympathy to his family. He also met with local authorities and visited the Iraklion Fire Brigade command to further assess the situation. The funerals of the three firemen, characterized as tragic heroes by the Fire Brigade, will be held on Thursday at the state's expense and all four families will have the state's full support. The tragic victims, members of a firefighting force that was combating a fire in a gorge in the region of Doxaro, near the city of Rethymno on the island of Crete on Wednesday, were trapped by the blaze after a sudden change in the wind direction.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of fire-fighters at work putting out a blaze.

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