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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-09-19
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM Karamanlis outlines priorities, rules to newly sworn-in CabinetPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday told the first meeting of his newly sworn-in Cabinet that he would be closely monitoring the work of all areas of the government and would pay regular visits to the ministries, while he also stressed that deputy ministers were required to act strictly within the guidelines set out by their supervising ministers.
He also warned that deputy ministers should not make public statements without prior agreement with the ministers.
"Too much television, too many statements, too much public speaking is seriously harmful. Measure and much caution are necessary," he said.
Karamanlis noted that Cabinet members had the duty to support and back the government's work in a coordinated and collective manner, warning that "personal strategies" would not be tolerated by him, nor were they acceptable to citizens.
The premier instructed his ministers that all ministries must be in constant contact with MPs of the ruling New Democracy (ND) party and also with the members of standing Parliamentary groups, stressing that this was not "a formality", but rather "substance".
"I want to make it clear to everyone that all 152 (New Democracy MPs who emerged from Sunday's general elections) function as a solid fist against problems," the premier stressed, adding that this was society's demand "which the government must fully meet".
Karamanlis wished all Cabinet members a good beginning, urged intense and hard work, stressing that there was no time to lose. "Not a single day, not a single minute, can be lost, because the needs of the times are great, and the citizens demand tangible results".
But in order to achieve that goal, "absolute coordination, solid steps, and two-way communication with society and the wider social alliances" were necessary, the premier said, adding that "these are principles that apply to everyone".
Karamanlis further said that, in the framework of the restructuring of the new governmental scheme, changes would be made to the general secretariats and special secretariats in the ministries in order to streamline them, adding that among the fundamental governmental priorities was the creation of a more efficient state that would be at the side of the citizens, particularly in the difficult hours.
The prime minister also thanked the outgoing ministers and deputy ministers, acknowledging their substantial contribution and adding that they would continue to contribute from new posts.
Regarding the new Cabinet, Karamanlis said it expressed the collaboration between experience and dynamism, with its new faces and new momentum, aimed at maximum effectiveness.
He said the foundations had been set during the ND government's first term, and the conditions were ensured for more effective steps, "and now we are in the phase of producing speedier and more tangible results that will be absolutely visible to the citizens".
"We all function with strict devotion to the goals and timetables, which will be fully abided by. I am categorically absolute. We function with coordination, a team spirit and solidarity. I ask for competition in work, team spirit, collective work and results," Karamanlis said, adding that the governmental priorities created collective and personal responsibilities in each and every sector of governmental authority.
Concerning the structure of the new government, the premier said that a significant step is being made to restrict the number of ministries and their overlapping authorities aimed at upgrading civil protection.
He said that the strategy being followed by the government was a "given fact", and that regardless of what the political environment might be, "practices of polarisation and political acrimony are ruled out".
"We are firmly devoted to the principles of the new political culture that we serve. The problems have no (political) colour. Our rule of thumb is national unanimity. We listen to all the citizens who voted (in the elections). We are the government of all the Greeks. We hold dialogue oriented towards tackling problems," he said, noting that "no one is permanent in any seat, and everyone is judged on the results in their area of responsibility and compliance with the principles and values they serve".
Karamanlis said that the government's priorities were firm and well-known, noting the guarantee of fiscal adjustment, and calling the drafting of the new budget a critical step. he said the relative preparation has already been carried out, and called for drastic restriction of spending and any wasteful spending, and for optimal use of the public assets and more transparency.
On the restructuring of the state and the consolidation of a true state of social justice, the prime minister said that the arrangements that have already been tabled in parliament would be voted before the new budget, noting that a basic priority was the establishment of a national Social Cohesion Fund, while he also spoke of reform of the National Health System (ESY), aimed at providing quality health services.
The premier further placed emphasis on two priority targets: that of increasing jobs, on the basis of training, growth and employment; and that of resolving the social insurance issue, which he said was an issue of major importance that concerns the entire society.
With respect to the social insurance sector's reform, he said that the government's aspiration was to forge ahead in this endeavour together with the society. "For this purpose, we are opening up a responsible dialogue with all the political forces and all the social partners, without postponements and delays. We have the duty to ensure a modern, just and viable social insurance system," the premier said, and commited himself to the introduction of a minimum national pension, above the poverty level, as of 2009.
He further said that mergers of ministries and the strengthening of civil protection were part of the effort for a state that will be closer to the citizen, noting that when the citizens spoke of the state, they also meant the wider public sector and decentralisation, local government and the mechanisms of the various ministries, as well as the services in various sectors.
Karamanlis said that the next step would be the commencement of dialogue on reform of the administrative structure of the country as well, noting that other priorities were the upgrading of public education at all levels, the strategy for a digital Greece, research and technology.
Regarding the fire-ravaged areas of the country, he said reinforcement of fire-stricken citizens and restructuring of the devastated regions was a personal commitment on his part, adding that a structured plan has been drafted that will be continually improved at an intensive pace.
"What is needed tomorrow will be done today" was the rule of thumb, Karamanlis said, stressing that "I will personally oversee. I will be there at every step".
He noted that the results were already tangible for the residents of the fire-stricken regions and that regular assessment would be made. Karamanlis said that during the recent wildfires, the Minister of State (Theodoros Roussopoulos) had re-established the crises management information team that had successfully managed such matters in the run-up to and during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, adding that he considered expedient the continuation of the team's operation under Roussopoulos, with the participation also of representatives of the various ministries, and called on the ministers to designate a trusted and discreet representative, so that the team may begin holding regular meetings as of Monday.
On the revision of the Constitution, the premier said that the responsibility and authority lay with the entire parliament, and that it was his choice that everything possible would be done in order to achieve the broadest consensus.
Karamanlis said that he fully felt the responsibility for the government to continuously become better and more effective and to proceed with quicker steps.
"We are opening up political and social dialogue for a synthesis of views and ideas, but this cannot, however, become a cause of delays," he said.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Karamanlis.
 Land register, climate change top prioritiesSpeeding up completion of the land register -- still absent in EU member-state Greece -- policies vis-a-vis climate change as well as a series of major highway projects will top the agenda at the environment, town planning and public works ministry over the next four years, returning minister George Souflias said on Wednesday.
Returning to the ministry at the head of the same team of deputy ministers after he was sworn in, the veteran politician repeated his objections to establishing a separate ministry for the environment. According to Souflias, the present arrangement provided for more effective protection for the environment.
Outlining his intentions with respect to spatial planning, the minister said he intended to introduce new legislation for a General Spatial Plan, as well as specialised plans based on this framework, and to draw up regional spatial plans for fire-stricken regions as a priority.
Regarding the land register, he said the goal was to cover two thirds of all rights by 2010 while at the same time making progress on a forestry register.
In response to questions about Article 24 of the Constitution regarding the protection of forests, Souflias said he did not want the essence of this article to change but insisted that Greece's land and forestry registers could not be based on the aerial photographs taken in 1945. According to the minister, the country could not move forward unless it accepted reality, namely, that the present conditions in the Greek countryside were essentially created at end of the '60s.
Another priority was to change legislation regarding building permits, he added.
On measures for the environment, Souflias said he would focus on measures concerning climate change and the management of water resources as well as on absorbing some 4.3 billion euros in European Union funds available for environmental issues.
The minister also stressed that there was a "massive" public works agenda to build new infrastructure like roads and ports, with top priority given to the "Development Highways" programme and completion of the Egnatia Highway in 2008.
Asked about an announcement about the sale of public land in the fire-ravaged Zaharo municipality for development, Souflias said he could not intervene in the decision made by the Public Real Estate Co., which was attached to the finance ministry.
"My job is limited to ensuring that environmental rules are respected, and I now declare that I will not allow town planning laws to be flouted in the development of the region," Souflias underlined.
Caption: A file photo of Public Works, Town Planning and Environment Minister George Souflias. ANA-MPA / ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU
 Repatriated items displayed at handover ceremonyA pair of returned ancient artifacts was displayed on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007, at the culture ministry in Athens on the occasion of a handover ceremony, as George Voulgarakis handed the culture portfolio to Mihalis Liapis. The former leaves for the merchant marine ministry, while the latter transferred to the culture ministry from the transports and communications post. One of two artifacts included the Roman-era marble depiction of a lionās head. The item was returned to the Greek consulate in Boston, Mass., by Clay Atkinson, who stated that he was influenced by the repatriation of an ancient Greek sarcophagus -- the other item on display -- by the state's Gates family. ANA-MPA / STR
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