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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-06-06

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Sarkozy arrives in Athens, addresses Parliament
  • [02] PM's message at EETT conf'

  • [01] Sarkozy arrives in Athens, addresses Parliament

    French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Athens shortly after noon on Friday, and was greeted at the airport by foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis, while French Prime Minister Francois Fillon is due to arrive in the Greek capital in the evening.

    Shortly after his arrival, Sarkozy laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in central Syntagma Square, before heading to Parliament, where he was met by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and parliament president Dimitris Sioufas. Sarkozy is currently addressing Parliament.

    Afterwards, Sarkozy will head to the Presidential Mansion for talks with his Greek counterpart, followed by a luncheon in his honor to be hosted by Papoulias.

    In the afternoon, Sarkozy will have a private meeting with Karamanlis at the Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) before being joined by the Greek and French delegations, after which two texts will be signed: a joint declaration by Sarkozy and Karamanlis on defence and security, and a joint declaration by the Greek and French defence ministers in the area of flight training.

    Karamanlis and Sarkozy are due to make statements after their meeting, while the foreign dignitary will later attend a reception in his honor hosted by the French community in Athens at the French embassy.

    Bakoyannis is scheduled to meet with her French counterpart Bernard Kuchner, shortly after his arrival in the afternoon, during which they will sign an additional protocol to the Greek-French agreement on intellectual and cultural relations.

    President Sarkozy and the French delegation are due to depart from Athens early on Saturday morning, headed for Lebanon.

    [02] PM's message at EETT conf'

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis underlined his government's determination to speedily advance the transport and communications ministry's 2008-2012 Strategic Plan on e-communication and new technologies, through the creation of next-generation networks such as fiber optics, in a message read out on Friday at the 3rd International Conference of the country's independent national regulatory authority (EETT, the independent telecoms watchdog) on the topic of broadband internet.

    Karamanlis added that the target was to exceed 2 million Greek households with broadband connection by the year 2013.

    Noting that telecoms was a sector of rapid growth globally, the prime minister said that a systematic effort has been taking place in Greece in recent years, which has resulted in broadband penetration jumping to 10 percent at present from 1.0 percent in 2004, while prices have also declined considerably, with the average cost of a high-speed package having fallen to just 25.3 euros (monthly) from 217 euros in 2004.

    "Greece is moving dynamically ahead, increasing speed, changing era," Karamanlis' message concluded.

    The conference opened with an address by EETT chairman Prof. Nikitas Alexandridis, who reviewed the watchdog's contribution to the smooth operation of competition in the telecoms sector, and estimated that, based on the present rates, broadband connections would increase by at least 50 percent in 2008.

    EU Commissioner for information society and media Viviane Reding, addressing the conference, said that Greece has achieved substantial progress in the past few years, with broadband penetration more than doubling from 4 percent in early 2007 to 9 percent in early 2008, thus achieving the fastest growth in all of Europe.

    However, the effort needed to continue, she added, given that the EU average was 20 percent, which meant that Greece would need to double its penetration rate every year to reach the European mean, from its current position of 25th place.

    Reding noted that 93 percent of the European population had internet access, whereas in Greece it was at just 14 percent. Also, only 13 percent of schools in Greece have access to broadband services, and consequently, over the next two years, Greece will have to attain an increase of over 80 percent.

    The Commissioner predicted that Europe would no longer have internet addresses in a few years' time, as it will have entered the era of the "new internet", and urged that investments be made in new technologies in order for Europe to "take off".

    Transport and communications minister Costis Hatzidakis outlined the 2008-2012 Strategic Plan for new technologies, stressing that Greece had achieved a 108 percent increase in broadband penetration in record time.

    "In Greece, we operate like the syrtaki dance. We start out slowly, and then speed up," he said, and assured Reding that Greece will cover the remaining ground and reach the Europe average soon.

    Hatzidakis also announced that due to the country's geographical terrain structure, Greece will promote alternative forms of internet access, such as satellite internet and Wimax and Wifi technologies.

    He further described the agreement with Deutsche Telekom on the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) as a "major reform" and an "alliance of strategic importance", which will give new impetus to OTE while also securing the rights of the telecom's employees.

    OTE managing director Panaghis Vourloumis also attended the opening of the conference, but walked out "for reasons of sensitivity" after indirect criticism of the state telecom by the EETT chairman. In the address Vourloumis had been scheduled to deliver to the conference, which was, however, distributed to the press covering the event, Vourloumis describes OTE as a "guinea pig on which the regulatory authority (EETT) is experimenting". His undelivered address, in a reference to the period before 2004 (when the ND government took office), also spoke of a crime against the economy and the country by suppliers which had been "dicated" to OTE.

    Asked to comment on the clash between the OTE chief and the EETT chairman, transport and communications minister Hatzidakis declined to take a position, but noted however that the OTE managing director was an "excellent manager" who was "doing his job very well".


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