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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-09-08
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM at TIF: Economy's gains, successes will be safeguardedThe government's economic policy will focus on safeguarding Greece's gains and successes, such as the drastic reduction of the fiscal deficit from 7.5 percent to 2.5 percent and unemployment from 11 percent to approximately 7 percent, prime minister Costas Karamanlis stressed during his press conference at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
Asked whether the government would succeed in reducing the deficit to below 3 percentage points of GDP this year and if it could rule out the country being placed under new economic supervision by the EU, Karamanlis stressed that first of all, the significant successes need to be ensured. This, he continued, meant that the fiscal balance achieved needs to be ensured, and the following steps, but with great care so as not to harm the financially weak brackets, salary and pension earners, adding that Greece had faced and was facing new circunstances that had to do with the international crisis.
The goal, he noted, was a further reduction of the deficit, gradually, "year by year", adding that the government will not back down on its commitments for introducting a Minimum National Salary, while he also announced that in the next fes weeks the government's economic staff would be ready to introduce legislation for the relief of Greek borrowers following the international credit crisis.
Karamanlis said it was "very important" that the level of the real economy, the growth rates, had remained above 4 percent for four years. "The fact that even today, at least up to the second quarter of 2008, we have a growth that approaches 3.5 percent while other countries, such as France and Germany, have negative growth, proves the truth of this," he added.
To a question on the Minimum National Pension, Karamanlis noted that amidst difficult fiscal conditions, the government had fulfilled all its commitments, such as increasing the farmers' pensions, the EKAS low pension benefit and the unemployment benefit, while social remittances had exceeded 17 percentage points of GDO last year, compared with 15.5 percent in 2005.
He said the government has not backed down one iota on the Minimum National Pension, explaining that "we had said that it would be established after the passing and commencement of implementation of the new social security regime". Now, he continued, the government was in the stage of efforts so that the social remittances will be as targeted as possible, adding that this would become visible with the full activation of the Social Cohesion Fund, on which he has placed get priority for the immediate future.
Questioned on the Public Power Corporation (PPC) rates and a prospective restructuring of the utility, Karamanlis clarified that the intervention plan has alrady been announced and that there is no doubt that internal restructuring and modernization needs to begin. He pointed out that the PPC had the lowest rates in Europe-wide, and possibly the lowest rate in the eurozone, adding that any increases made did not concern small households.
Asked to comment on the loss of job positions, in conjuncture with the profits of the large enterprises, Karamanlis noted that the government was not affecting the interests of the working people, but was trying in every way to transform the Greek economy into a robust, growing economy that generates income and new jobs.
"I'm not saying that we've attained the goal, because so long as even a single unemployed person remains, it means that we have not reached full success. On the other hand, though, the results of this policy are tangible and positive, and indicate that we are heading in the right direction," the prime minister stressed.
Karamanlis also ruled out the prospect of calling early general elections or a government reshuffle.
Replying to press questions about disagreement with government policy voiced by ruling party MPs, Karamanlis stressed that every MP has the right to his own opinion, but added that there was a commitment to support the government's program and, "from there onwards, everyone assumes his responsibilities".
To a relevant question, Karamanlis ruled out early general electins being called, stressing that the government had received a year ago a "strong mandate" by the Greek people, and has "much work ahead", referring to the September 2007 general elections in which ND was re-elected to government, while on a question of whether a government reshuffle could be expected, Karamanlis replied that "there is no such issue".
Prime minister Karamanlis said on Sunday that he saw no disposition on the part of Skopje for finding a FYROM name solution soon, replying to questions during his press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair.
He reiterated Athens' "absolutely clear" position of an international name for the northern neighbor that would contain a geographical determinant and would be in effect for everyone.
"The attitude and statements by the Skopje government, in this phase, do not make me optimistic. I see no move in positions, nor even the desire for a mutually acceptable name to be found," Karamanlis said in reply to press questions.
Karamanlis stressed, however, that Greece supports the European prospect of the Balkan countries, including FYROM "provided that the (name) issue is resolved in the manner I said earlier", and added that the Athens government has a "clear, strong and specific position", from which it will not back down.
To another question on whether Athens planned to recognise Kosovo as an independent state, Karamanlis replied that "we are weighing all the facts", adding that "at the present time, there is no reason to change our policy on this matter".
Karamanlis further said that Greece would be taking more initiatives for further improvement of its relations and cooperation with the Arab countries.
Greece's position on the recent crisis in the Caucasus will be in line with that of the European Union, prime minister Costas Karamanlis clarified on Sunday, duriing his press conference at the TIF.
Replying to a question by ANA-MPA, Karamanlis warned that energy issues should not be confused with the violence that took place in South Ossetia.
"Greek policy, at all levles, is a policy of consistency, based on our specific principles, but also on our commitments in alliances and partnerships, such as the EU," Karamanlis said, asked to comment on statements by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Mat Bryza regarding Athens' energy choices and the South Stream natural gas pipeline at a time when NATO and the EU were condemning the Russian intervention in S. Ossetia.
Asked if Greece will revise or 'freeze' some of its plans in the energy sector, in the aftermath of the Bryza statement, Karamanlis responded: "There are two different things. One is the government's responsible policy of dealing with the country's energy issue, for the present and the future, and we have done this with consistency, prudence and with relative success: with the Greek-Turkish pipeline and its extension, with our cooperation with other countries of the Mediterranean, such as Egypt, and also with the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, and more recently with the South Stream pipeline. Besides, very many European countries have such cooperations, and it is only natural that this is so".
Second, he stressed, "there should be no confusion with the crisis that occured, to the regret and worry of all, in the Caucasus area recently".
"On that, too, our position is crystal clear," Karamanlis said, adding that it is a "position of principles", since a fundamental principle of Greek foreign policy is that it does not recognize the solution of international disputes with violence, and places respect of territorial integrity as a matter of principle.
The premier stressed that of course Greece's position and policy will remain aligned with that of the EU, and particularly at this stage, in which France was presiding over the EU, in full cooperation with France, which he said had been made quite clear last Monday during the extraordinary EU Summit meeting.
Caption: Prime minister Costas Karamanlis during his press conference on Sunday at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF). (ANA-MPA)
 Athens Newspaper HeadlinesThe Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
Prime minister Costas Karamanlis' press conference at the 73rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) dominated the front pages of Athens' dailies on Monday.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Everyone awaiting bold decisions - The prime minister succinct in Thessaloniki".
APOGEVMATINI: "Fortunately, there is Karamanlis - The premier uncovered and blasted the bad-faith and gaffes of the opposition, left the media exposed over its verbalism and blunders, and proved that he is the only hope".
AVRIANI: "The scandal-mongering and attempt to shake the government failied - Karamanlis launched counter-attack, fully backed the top governmental members who have been targeted by the para-centers of authority, ruled out the prospect of a reshuffle, is carrying on with the reforms, and preparing for elections".
CHORA: "I will not leave with early retirement - Karamanlis message to the 'chieftains' and the in-party dissidents".
ELEFTHERI ORA: "During his press conference yesterday (Sunday), the prime minister took even his close associates by surprise - He was succinct and determined".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Shield of reforms against the morose climate - The prime minister backed the ministers who have come under fire and transferred the dilemmas to the economy field".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Karamanlis livng on another planet, blamed everything on the international state of affairs".
ESTIA: "Reforms to be accelerated - Explicit assurances by Karamanlis in Thessaloniki".
ETHNOS: "He 'blessed the sins' of his ministers - Karamanlis hostage to the scandals, the rebels and the '152' (slim majority of MPs in the 300-member parliament)".
TA NEA: "Scandals and ministers put through the washer - Karamanlis living on a different planet".
VRADYNI: "Karamanlis moving ahead with the reforms, assumes the political cost himself".
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