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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-09-25

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

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


  • [01] PM chairs meeting on recovery of fire-ravaged areas
  • [02] Top PASOK cadres on leadership race
  • [03] Burns: Time for progress on FYROM name issue
  • [04] Controversial school history book withdrawn

  • [01] PM chairs meeting on recovery of fire-ravaged areas

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday chaired a high-level meeting focusing on planning for the recovery of areas ravaged by August's massive wildfires. According to ministers attending, priority in the coming months will be given to the rebuilding of destroyed homes and farm buildings, protection against flooding and soil erosion and preparing environmental studies for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the burnt areas.

    Taking part in the meeting were the interior, economy, defence, development, environment and agriculture ministers, all of whom will be involved in various aspects of the recovery effort, as well as the head of the newly established solidarity fund for the areas' reconstruction, former foreign minister Petros Molyviatis.

    Molyviatis later announced that 149.6 million euros have so far been collected by the fund, which would give priority to the free rebuilding of destroyed homes, as per the prime minister's instructions.

    This was confirmed by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias, whose ministry will be involved in all areas of reconstruction and rehabilitation, who said that "The state, also via the Solidarity Fund, will provide everything needed to rebuild the houses that have been recorded [as damaged] for free."

    "In total there are about 1,100 houses that have been completely destroyed and about 800 that have suffered partial destruction in the Peloponnese, in Evia and Attica," the minister said.

    He also noted that the fires had claimed a large number of storage sheds and buildings for other uses, such as stables and sheep pens. According to Molyviatis, these would also be rebuilt for free.

    Outlining the results of the meeting, Souflias said there had been an overview of the "several and complex problems involved" and stressed that the government had "a long road ahead of it".

    According to Souflias, all the immediate measures that were necessary had been carried out at once but there was still a great deal to do for the implementation of medium-term measures and for the overall economic and environmental reconstruction of the fire-ravaged regions.

    Among such medium-term measures, he listed the construction of works to protect against flooding and soil erosion, that were currently underway in all prefectures.

    Souflias reported that the government had already begun to carry out environmental studies and reforestation studies and also announced that the army's geographical service would begin taking aerial photographs of the burnt areas on Wednesday, after fixing an earlier malfunction in the relevant systems.

    According to the minister, environmental studies could begin once a record of the areas due for reforestation had been made and were expected to be completed by November at the latest. He said these would deal with broader plans that included all the measures needed in order to boost the area's economy and construct necessary infrastructure.

    He also stressed that the two major highways destined to be built through the areas will create much better conditions in the future for the region's development.

    Noting that achieving the above targets would require a constant effort by all levels of government, Souflias announced that Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos will be visiting fire-ravaged areas in order to arrange cooperation with prefecture and municipal authorities toward this end.

    Rebuilding work to go to local firms, minister says

    In response to questions, Souflias clarified that money for the rebuilding of destroyed homes would be given directly to the fire victims themselves, rather than awarding a contract to a big construction firm through tenders, so that local construction firms would get the jobs.

    He said the amounts given would be based on the size of the owner's previous home and the size of their family. If a family with four children were living in a small home, for example, they would receive additional money to build a larger home than their previous one, the minister clarified.

    The money will be paid out as the building work progresses, while the government would also establish construction and aesthetic criteria, such as having tile roofs or preventing solar water heaters from jutting out above the roof. Home owners will also be able to choose between three-four different house designs prepared by the ministry for each size of home, he added.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photograph of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    [02] Top PASOK cadres on leadership race

    The need for a united, tight and collective PASOK was stressed by the main opposition party's high-profile MP Evangelos Venizelos, a contender for the party's leadership following PASOK's stinging defeat in elections last week, in an interview appearing in an Athens daily.

    Venizelos said he was seeking the party leadership "in the name of ideals, convictions, values and policy positions" of the party, as formulated by the recent political developments.

    Explaining his decision to announce his candidacy on the very night of the election defeat, which generated heated criticism by a section of party supporters, Venizelos said he had waged a battle for current party leader George Papandreou to become prime minister, "but I could not watch the sky falling down on our heads and allow us to think that we had gotten taller and were touching the clouds".

    Venizelos cited his aspiration for PASOK to once again become a "majority trend" and to also once again "express the ... centre-left majority that deserves to govern (the country) and to penetrate New Democracy's electoral field".

    His interview was carried in the Athens daily "Vima".

    In a separate interview appearing in the Sunday edition of the "Eleftherotypia" newspaper, PASOK MP and former European Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou referred, in general terms, to a possible candidacy for the party leadership.

    "We need a leadership that has political adequacy, dynamism, positions, and eagerness for work; one that responds to the common sentiment, is a pioneer, and actively respects the citizens; a leadership that deserves and can win the people's confidence. PASOK deserves such a leadership in its new beginning. It is my duty to the citizens and the party to move in that direction," she said.

    Meanwhile, opinion polls were published in the Sunday editions of "Eleftheros Typos" and "Proto Thema" newspapers regarding preferences for PASOK's leadership.

    A Metron Analysis poll appearing in the former indicated that 30.2 percent of respondents preferred current leader George Papandreou, while 42.8 percent preferred Venizelos. Of those respondents who are also PASOK voters, Papandreou was preferred by 38.5 percent against 46.2 percent for Venizelos.

    In an ALKO opinion poll appearing in the latter paper, 21.8 percent of respondents said they want Papandreou for PASOK leader, against 38 percent for Venizelos. Of those respondents who are also PASOK voters, 22.9 percent said want Papandreou, while 52.8 percent said they preferred Venizelos.

    The new party leader will be elected during a special session of the party's national council session on Nov. 11.

    Caption: PASOK leader George Papandreou. ANA-MPA photo

    [03] Burns: Time for progress on FYROM name issue

    Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met in New York on Monday evening (Greek time) with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns, a former American ambassador to Greece, with talks focusing on developments in the Balkans, especially on Kosovo issue and the Cyprus problem. They also discussed the Middle East, Greek-Turkish relations, and EU-Turkey relations.

    "The time has come for progress on the FYROM 'name issue'," Burns said, adding that, for this purpose, the two countries (Greece and FYROM) must devote themselves to constructive and productive negotiations.

    "This is our message to Skopje, and the spirit of our meeting today with the (Greek) foreign minister," Burns said in statements after his 70-minute talks with Buoyancies.

    On the FYROM name issue, Burns noted that the United States has always backed negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations, adding that the two countries must devote themselves to constructive and productive negotiations, while stressing that "this is our message to Skopje and the spirit of our meeting today with the foreign minister".

    "We wish to exercise our influence and urge Skopje, as we do with Athens, that the time has come for progress, and I believe that Ambassador (Matthew) Nimetz (the UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue) is an effective negotiator and that the process will progress," Burns said.

    The US official said he and Bakoyannis also discussed Kosovo, "where the US and Greece are working towards finding a solution that will be good for the Balkans and for Europe", stressing that Greece is a strong ally and that "we are very good friends, and have a relationship of trust with the Greek government".

    On the Cyprus issue, Bakoyannis said that she outlined Greece's positions in favour of the Gambari process and its speedy advancement.

    "We had a very good discussion on the Cyprus issue. I look forward to my meeting with (Cyprus) President (Tassos) Papadopoulos on Wednesday (on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly), and I very carefully listened to the foreign minister's (Bakoyannis') advice. The United States hope that progress will be made and that the UN will restart the process," Burns said.

    On the Middle East, he said advancement of the peace process, with the holding of an international conference, was in the common interest of all, and that Washington was working in that direction.

    Burns and Bakoyannis further discussed the prospect of Greece's inclusion in the all-important US visa waiver programme, on which the Greek foreign minister said "substantial progress" has been made.

    Caption: Greek FM Dora Bakoyannis (L) meets with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns on the sidelines of the 62nd UN General Assembly in New York City, on Monday, 24 September 2007. ANA-MPA / D. PANAGOS.

    [04] Controversial school history book withdrawn

    A controversial history book for the sixth year of Greek primary schools is to be withdrawn and replaced by the old history book, recently appointed Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis announced on Tuesday.

    The minister said the decision was reached after the Educational Institute expressed grave reservations regarding the content of the amended version of the much-criticised school text book.

    In the meantime, Stylianidis has given orders to reprint the old history text book and hand it out to this year's classes, while at the same time arranging for a tender to choose the authors of a new history book for 11-year-olds.

    Clarifying his decision, he also stressed that the younger generation could not become guinea-pigs for any kind of experiment.

    The minister added that he intended to examine all outstanding issues at the ministry one at a time in order to give immediate solutions, while the appointments and transfers of teachers were expected to be complete by October 5.

    Stylianidis' predecessor Marietta Yiannakou had steadfastly resisted demands for the withdrawal of the book but had finally agreed that it should be revised based on the recommendations of the Athens Academy. The revised version of the book was originally scheduled to be distributed in Greek schools at the start of the academic year but was never handed out, with the ministry claiming that it had been delayed by printers preparing election material.

    The book in question was first distributed to classes in 2006 and was much criticised for the way it presented the role of the Church in the years when Greece was under Ottoman rule and during the 1821 war of independence, as well as its toned-down description of events like the Turkish attack on Smyrna - present-day Izmir - in which tens of thousands of Greeks were forced to flee and thousands were killed.

    Party reactions

    Reacting to the decision for the book's withdrawal, the opposition parties in Parliament accused the government of courting the extreme right expressed by the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party and stressed that it had deliberately misled Greek voters in the run-up to the elections regarding its intentions.

    According to main opposition PASOK spokesman Yiannis Raggousis, the decision just a few days after the elections fully confirmed that the statements made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis at the Thessaloniki International Fair regarding the fate of the book had been untrue.

    "This is the same Karamanlis government that is not just incapable of 'printing' a book but on an issue of particular importance operates on the basis of political cost rather than its responsibility toward the younger generation and the future of the country," Raggousis added.

    He also noted that Stylianidis and the government appeared to be "hostages of a political viewpoint that leads to the past and has been repeatedly expressed by LAOS".

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said the withdrawal of the book would not end efforts to alter the contents of books at all levels of education in an unscientific, anti-educational and pro-imperialist direction.

    For the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), the decision signaled the government's desire "in its first steps to give an appearance of New Democracy-LAOS co-government" and the desire of the new education minister to "present credentials of extreme right-wing orthodoxy in comparison with his predecessor".

    It said the decision to withdraw the book was not based on the observations made by the academic community but taken under pressure from nationalist and religious fundamentalist circles and inspired by political expediency.

    According to the party, the rejected book would join other history books that, through their withdrawal, had over the years confirmed the imposition of a establishment, conservative attitude toward the way history was written but also toward history itself.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photograph of new Education Minister Evripidis Stylianidis.

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