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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-06-27
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM eyes Siemens probe, political money committeePrime minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday announced his intention to propose a cross-party committee on "political money", while clarifying that his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's parliamentary group would request that a Parliamentary fact-finding commission look into the Siemens affair "as soon as Justice completes its inquiry". He was speaking in parliament during an off-the-agenda discussion on the high cost of living.
Addressing an open invitation to all the parties in Parliament, Karamanlis said he would ask the parliament president to immediately proceed with setting up a cross-party committee that would draft a comprehensive proposal for enhancing transparency in party affairs, "particularly on matters that concern the operation of political parties, their operational and electoral expenditures, and for their funding, to the greatest possible degree, by the state budget".
On the same issue in his rejoinder to main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, meanwhile, the premier ruled out early elections but left open the possibility of convening a special session of the Parliament plenum ?if and when this was needed? to discuss the Siemens affair.
He also dismissed Papandreouās call for extending the present Parliamentary session in order to rule out any possibility that offences might become statute-barred, accusing Papandreou of trying to ?spread the blame? at a time when officials within his own party were being called before examining magistrates to provide explanations concerning their role in the Siemens affair.
Karamanlis accused PASOKās leader of affecting concern that offences would be statute-barred for others when he knew that this more nearly concerned his own party and of ?playing a hypocritical, opportunist and irresponsible game,? when he was ?perfectly well aware that offences were not statute-barred after the end of the first but after the end of the second session of Parliament?.
?We are now at the end of the first, so no such issue arises,? he added, while pointing out that the Constitution allowed a special session to be convened if this was judged necessary.
During the debate, which took place at the instigation of main opposition PASOK party, Karamanlis severely criticised "those pretending to be censors? in the effort to shield the political system, who voted against all the laws for promoting transparency, undermined the institutional shielding of the parties and the consolidation of transparency by way of the revision of the Constitution.
Karamanlis said that ND had tabled a series of proposals which, today, could have served as "constitutional mandates". This, however, did not happen, "due to the negative stance of the opposition".
The premier further said that he was open to every productive proposal.
"I once again ask that we proceed ahead together. If there is rejection yet again, the governmental majority (in parliament) is prepared, and determined, to forge ahead. It is my decision to not give anyone the opportunity to create shadows at the expense of the political world, to attempt to transfer the responsibilities, to engage in exercises of disinformation," Karamanlis stressed.
The premier also spoke of an "attempt to downgrade Justice and to diffuse the responsibilities in the Siemens case", and described as "hypocritical" PASOK leader George Papandreou's call for the immediate setting up of a fact-finding commission.
"Let no one have the slightest doubt. I have been saying this since February. A fact-finding commission will be set up at our own initiative. It is our commitment. It will be set up, however, immediately after Justice completes its inquiry," Karamanlis stressed, and assured that the judicial inquiry will proceed, and will be completed, adding that "we will not allow anything to delay the judicial investigation".
He further explained that the establishment of a fact-finding commission at the present stage would only "create obstacles to the judicial investigation and obstruct Justice, which is already effectively tracking the evidence, which was covered up in the past."
He added that a fact-finding commission at this point "would only serve those who want to hinder the work of justice, it would serve only those who are afraid, who want a cover-up", warning: "There will be no cover-up. That was the practice of other eras, other times, and other governments".
The premier further called on the main opposition to stop attacking judicial officials: ?It is not their fault if some people are taken before justice, if some people broke the law and in some people are the focus of a in-depth investigation,? he stressed.
In his rejoinder, Karamanlis again stressed that it was now the government that itself found and referred every case that appeared suspicious to justice.
?The citizens can now be certain that the investigation will be completed and those responsible, in every case, will be sternly be called to account, whoever they are and wherever they might be,? he emphasized.
In comments on the high cost of living, Karamanlis said that the current 'explosion' in prices was primarily due to a sharp deterioration in the global environment, while for the most part in Greece it was due to chronic weaknesses of the domestic market.
"We cannot hide this reality. Neither dressing it up nor exaggerating it serve any purpose," Karamanlis added, noting that these matters required continuing reforms in the state and the process of development, changing the distortions of the market, and strengthening of the inspection mechanisms against the phenomena of profiteering, while they also require the more active mobilisation of the citizens".
Caption: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in parliament on Friday 27 June 2008. ANA-MPA/ALEXANDROS BELTES
 Papandreou lashes out at gov't in Parliament debateMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou passed off as an "exposition of ideas, and confession of failure", Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' statements in Parliament during an off-the-agenda discussion on the high cost of living on Friday, and placed blame on the government for the high prices as well as the issue of corruption.
Papandreou accused Karamanlis of missing the opportunity to clash with corruption and the manipulation of the political world by the vested interests, at a time when he had received assurances of support in such an effort by PASOK and Papandreou personally.
"We saw, today, an effort at postponement and avoidance, rather than adoption of the proposals that have been tabled by PASOK on transparency," Papandreou said.
Addressing the prime minister specifically, Papandreou said: "I never doubted your integrity. But you are judged for your courage, for assuming your own responsibilities before the Greek people. Isn't it being a hostage when you want to cover-up the big scandals? I heard the talk about referral to justice with respect also to the abductions, the 'relatives', the phone tappings, the sell-off of OTE (Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation) to the Germans, the structured bonds. Could it be that you are unable to clash (with corruption) because the 'black' party monies are behind those? Are you prepared to assure that the 'circle of the lost stockbrokers' -- the same ones in 1999, the same ones in the structured bonds affair -- have nothing to do with ND?".
Papandreou continued that he, on the other hand, was "prepared to clash".
"I am already clashing with mentalities and practices that do not allow Greece to move forward. And I will be even more absolute on proven illegalities of our own cadres. Because thousands of known and anonymous cadres, with good work, ethos and contribution, are obliged to give account for them," Papandreou said.
He said that his party was calling for fact-finding commissions so that everything will be brought to light, regardless of whether they implicated PASOK or ND or whatever other cadres. "Whoever is accountable must be named and must pay. Not selective 'leaks' from law offices, but extension of the parliament plenary session so as to avoid the risk of write-off (expiration of the statute of limitations)," Papandreou said.
And, he continued, after all that had been completed, there must be»recourse to the people's verdict" (general elections).
"You fear this process, because what ND truly is will be revealed," Papandreou added.
Regarding the high cost of living, Papandreou rejected Karamanlis' statement that the main factor was the international rise in fuel and food prices, and wondered "why in Greece, where we have the same currency, we have the highest cost of living?".
He said that in May, oil prices had risen twice as much as in France. "Is Brussels to blame for this,?" he asked.
On the same note, Papandreou noted the increases in public utility rates and in the rates of other state services over the past four years -- 24 percent by the Public Power Corp. (PPC), 50 percent in the standard minimum fee by the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), 48 percent in the Postal Service (EL.TA) rates, 96 percent in the Athens-Thessaloniki toll post fees, among others -- as well as the 'tax exemptions benefitting the few', which Papandreou said the government was exclusively to blame for.
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