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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-09-29

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Papandreou pledges 'strong and responsible' opposition
  • [02] Greece condemns use of violence in Myanmar

  • [01] Papandreou pledges 'strong and responsible' opposition

    Replying in Parliament on Saturday to the policy statements outlined by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou pledged to mount a strong and responsible opposition to the government, that was steadily oriented to the needs and demands of the citizens. He called for the creation of a "new social majority" that would stand up to the neo-conservative government and a neoliberal version of the globalisation.

    "We will seek to create, within and outside Parliament, a great alliance of the forces of the Left, a great political and social majority. To unite the forces that want to put an end to the one-way street of submission to the laws of unrestrained markets, who want to put an end to the spectrum of social exclusion and the degradation of labour relations and human capital," he said.

    He stressed that globalisation could not continue to be an alibi for a society that "subjugates everything to profit, with labels that show a price but cover up value" and underlined that markets should serve the needs of people rather than people the needs of markets.

    Papandreou also warned the government should to be lulled into a false sense of security by the internal upheaval within his own party following the September 16 elections and the challenges to his leadership.

    "You will not be able to duck beneath our radar. PASOK will fully meet the responsibility to mount an effective opposition. We will remain united," he stressed, noting that the party founded by his father Andreas Papandreou had gone through many crises in its 33 years and each had served as a new starting point from which it emerged stronger.

    In a speech that was scathingly critical of the ruling party's performance during its previous term as government, Papandreou also ruled out all prospect of a revision of the Constitution by the present Parliament. He stressed that responsibility for this lay with the government and was the result of its botched handling of the revision process in the previous Parliament.

    At another point, he accused the ruling party of opting for an "informal" cooperation with the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) in order to make up for its slim Parliamentary majority, adding that this was demonstrated by the decision to withdraw a controversial history text book for the last year of Greek primary schools.

    The government's privatisation's programme was also a target for criticism, with Papandreou talking of a "dehellenisation" of the Greek economy.

    "We are monitoring moves at Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), the preparations to reduce the State's share in the Public Power Corporation to less than 51 percent, the daily deterioration of Olympic Airways and preparations for its closure. For us the communications and energy networks are national infrastructure. We don't sell them off at bargain basement prices. We don't hand them over to foreign giants," he underlined.

    Regarding Olympic Airways, in particular, Papandreou stressed that PASOK would oppose plans to sell the airline off to private interests.

    In response to the prime minister's statements regarding investments in regional areas, Papandreou countered that the public investments' programme was essentially stalled, repeated a PASOK proposal for increasing this by 5 percent of GDP, and noted that Greece had failed to absorb one third of funds from the 3rd Community Support Framework for 2006.

    He suggested that Greece seek to lock the funds not already absorbed in view of the disastrous fires in the summer and negotiate a milder approach to the Maastricht criteria as France had done.

    Commenting on pension reform, he dismissed the prime minister's assurances that there would be no increase in the age of retirement and no reduction in pensions as "purely rhetorical" and "without content". He insisted that the government's policy was actually moving in a different direction and repeated a call for the creation of a Parliamentary investigative committee to look into the scandal with the structured bonds.

    "We have a comprehensive proposal [for pension reform]: three-way funding, the state fulfilling its obligations toward the pension funds, the creation of a new National Solidarity Fund to support the pension system for the next generations, the need to boost pensions through a revision of the EKAS system and the establishment of a minimum pension," the main opposition leader said.

    Regarding the government's proposal for a national pension, Papandreou said that this changed the nature of the Greek pension system:

    "The result will be a low pension for the vast majority of pensioners, without any incentive to workers to be insured and a greater burden for employees for private insurance," PASOK's leader stressed.

    The main opposition leader's criticism also took in health, underfunding for education and the government's lack of environmental sensitivity, its failure to participate in UN discussions on climate change and its failure to protect the areas ravaged by the fires in August, where he stressed the need to halt the processing of legislation that would encourage to the sale of land by fire-victims for the construction of tourism facilities.

    Finally, he listed areas of foreign policy where he said the government had failed to deliver the desired results and Greek positions had become weaker, listing among these the Cyprus problem, relations with Turkey, the issue over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and others, reiterating that his proposal for a 'New National Strategy' that would also be supported by him and PASOK remained on the table.

    Regarding the prime minister's proposal for a change in the law for the election system, he dismissed this as a "firework" and said that it would not be supported by PASOK.

    Among the proposals put forward by Papandreou, in response to Karamanlis' proposal to allow Greeks living abroad to vote in Greek elections, was that Greece should also give the vote to immigrants living permanently in Greece, stressing that they also were "a new working class that must be integrated into our society".

    Caption: Main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou addressed Parliament on Saturday, 29 September 2007 during the three-day debate on the new government's policy statement unveiled by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis the previous day. The debate will end at midnight on Sunday with a vote of confidence in the new government. ANA-MPA/Maria Marogianni

    [02] Greece condemns use of violence in Myanmar

    The Greek foreign ministry on Friday roundly criticised the Myanmar government for its use of violence against protesters in the SE Asian country over the past week.

    ?The use of violence by the government abominable; we express our great concern over the deterioration of the situation in Myanmar/Burma,? spokesman George Koumoutsakos said, adding:

    ?The use of violence never solves problems. It must stop immediately. Conversely, an open dialogue is needed, without exclusions. A peaceful and open process for national reconciliation is also needed,? he noted.

    The Greek foreign ministry also praised a decision by the country‚s leaders to allow a visit by United Nations SG representative Ibrahim Gambari, noting that Athens wholly supports the latter‚s efforts.

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