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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-12-05

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Government defends handling of OA issues
  • [02] City of Athens Christmas programme

  • [01] Government defends handling of OA issues

    Alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Wednesday defended the government's handling of a court case related to Olympic Airlines (OA) at the European Union, as well as its decision to finally close the debt-ridden airline. He also dismissed suggestions that the prime minister was displeased with Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, stressing that the minister was acting on the prime minister's instructions and enjoyed his full confidence.

    "The Hellenic Republic, under the coordination of the transport ministry and via its legal advisors at the European Court of Justice, stated officially during the hearing of November 28, 2007, that it has already fully collected the sums defined as illegal state subsidies in Commission rulings against Greece in 2002 and 2005," Antonaros said, stressing that the government had battled to defend OA's interests and disputed claims made by the EU Commission.

    According to the spokesman, the Commission's legal position was that the return of the funds took place through arbitration and it therefore disputed Greece's assertion and opened an illegal state subsidies file.

    "The Greek side has not adopted the European Commission's position - as some have mistakenly or perhaps deliberately claimed - but has on the contrary given its own legal battle," he added.

    Responding to questions about the new airline "Pantheon" that is earmarked to succeed OA, Antonaros said that the cost of OA to Greek tax-payers was a more pertinent issue.

    Antonaros claimed that the company's overall annual debt was 2.4 billion euros, pointing out that this was 1.5 times the cost of the Thessaloniki Metro, and four times the cost of extending the Athens metro to Piraeus. He also listed a series of other major public works projects and social spending, such as the planned metropolitan park at Elliniko, compensation to the previous summer's fire victims and the reforestation of Parnitha, noting that each would cost only a fraction of the airline's annual losses.

    "It is not possible to talk about perpetuating a situation that costs money to all Greek citizens. What the government is doing is finding a solution that will serve all goals. Eliminating the huge deficits, preserving communications within Greece and preserving jobs," Antonaros stressed.

    Asked whether any private party had expressed interest in acquiring the airline, the spokesman said he had no information to that effect and, in reply to other questions, stressed that the comanyhad been generating deficits for several years because of the way that it operated and this could not continue.

    OA reports normal booking levels for this time of year

    In an announcement on Wednesday that came in the wake of widespread media speculation of imminent changes that included declaring the airline bankrupt, OA's management said that bookings were at normal levels for the time of year and had increased as one might expect during the holidays.

    It also reassured the travelling public that it would continue to offer its services without problems during the Christmas period, adding that it was in constant contact with the transport ministry in order to ensure the best result for OA's future.

    [02] City of Athens Christmas programme

    Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Wednesday announced the events and entertainment programme laid on by the City of Athens for the Christmas holiday period. This is due to begin on December 13 with the unveiling of the city's Christmas lights and decorations on Athens' main high streets and squares created by EMMY-award winning lighting designer Eleftheria Deko.

    The events will span a period from December 13 until January 6, with Syntagma Square opposite Parliament as their main focal point.

    This is where municipal authorities will set up the city's 14.5-metre Christmas tree and a carousel offering free rides to young and old. There will also be free concerts of classical music, jazz, Christmas carols from around the world, Byzantine hymns and world music.

    This will also be the first year that the Christmas programme will make use of the National Gardens, where the municipality will set up a "fairy-tale village" offering entertainment, games and activities for young children.

    In Kotzia Square opposite the Athens City Hall, the city will set up four covered pavilions between December 19-January 6 that will house 17 charities and non-governmental organisations based in Athens in order to highlight the humanitarian message of the holidays.

    At the Technopolis art centre in Gazi, there will be a big Christmas party on December 24 that will feature five well-known djs and radio producers, while a series of gigs by pop, rock and reggae bands will be held in central Athens squares from December 20.

    The organisation of the events programme has been undertaken by the 'Athens 9.84' municipal enterprise, the Athens Municipality Cultural Organisation and the municipality's 'Musical Ensembles'.


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