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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-11-14
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM on defence spendingThe government was the first to want a reduction in defence expenditures, but not at the expense of security and peace, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis emphasised on Friday, replying in Parliament to a question tabled by a leftist opposition party leader.
During his address, the Greek premier added that spending for armaments has been curtailed, nevertheless, by 15 percent in the 2009 state budget.
"We are proving our determination for a reduction of (defence) expenditures in action," Karamanlis said, given that his government had opted for transparency, as opposed to "secret slushfunds and double ledgers" dating from the period of PASOK governance.
Moreover, Karamanlis told MPs that defence expenditures now amounted to less than 3 percentage points of GDP, while at the same time ensuring the alertness and readiness of Greece's armed forces; that an increase in the defence ministry's budget for 2009 was the smallest in relation to all the other ministries and that spending for weapons in 2009 was reduced by 15 percent in relation to 2008.
Karamanlis warned that there was "no room for populism in such matters", adding that the government was implementing the Greek people's desire for a secure and proud nation into a policy of peace and cooperation with all neighbours.
Such a policy, he explained, mandated a strong deterrent force amid a specific geo-strategic environment.
Karamanlis further underlined that "for all those who feign ignorance of the fact that our neighbouring countries maintain defence expenditures approaching 5 percentage points of GDP, this cannot be disregarded".
"Antagonism is not our choice. Involvement in recognising and intercepting aircraft -- warplanes violating Greek airspace and/or infringing on Athens FIR regulations -- is not our choice. But we will not abandon the required vigilance against such practices, which attempt to dispute of our country's sovereign rights ... Let that be clear. There is no room for second thoughts on this matter. Populism on such matters of vital importance is unthinkable," the prime minister stressed.
Regarding Athens' participation in an international military mission to Somalia, he stressed that Greece, which holds a pre-eminent position in world shipping, cannot be absent from international missions against the escalating dangers of piracy.
The premier further criticised those who, in the present critical economic conjuncture, "appear with 'packages' of promises of uncalculated cost and inapplicable", a direct swipe at a main opposition PASOK plan.
He added that "some quarters" pretend that they are providing "recommendations" and engage in wishful talk, while others claim that they have "magical solutions".
"They are chiefly (although not only) those who claim that the (global) financial crisis is supposedly nothing but an alibi for the government ... They are those who are not interested in solutions, but only in the impressions of the moment. They are the eternal demagogues, the expressers of reaction and stagnancy," the prime minister said.
He added that the government fully understood citizens who have troubles in making ends meet, and "we are going through this difficult period together with the citizens, step by step, but at the same time holding the helm of the country's course firmly ... We are forging ahead in a way that guarantees the maximum possible result, without, however, mortgaging the future".
In his response, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary leader Alekos Alavanos said that, instead of armaments, the government should proceed with a strong public investments programme, adding that it was not possible that Greece should be the fourth-ranked country in the world in terms of armaments acquisitions, in absolute figures, and the top country in the euro zone with respect to armaments spending, "yet the last country in the euro zone in social protection spending."
He said that every Greek will contribute 432.8 euros for the purchase of weaponry, based on the 2009 budget, and estimated that for every F-16 jetfighter acquired, to the tune of 45 million euros, the state could give a monthly unemployment benefit to 100,000 unemployed citizens and a low-pension benefit to 200,000 pensioners.
Alavanos proposed that half the money earmarked for armaments expenditures be channelled back to the economy.
 Greece gets Kyoto protocol OKGreece is set to rejoin the Kyoto Protocol's carbon-trading mechanisms after a unanimous decision of the United Nations Compliance Committee, the Greek town planning, public works, environment ministry announced on Friday. According to the announcement, the country was found to meet all requirements for participating in emissions trading during a meeting of the committee on Thursday.
Specifically, the committee found that Greece had established the necessary institutional, legal and procedural measures that would ensure the national system for measuring carbon dioxide emissions was fully functional and would continue to function efficiently in the future, while the country also had the necessary procedures for planning, preparing and handling inventories and submitting them promptly to the UN environment secretariat.
"This decision by the UN fully vindicates the positions expressed by the environment ministry ever since the issue of the UN's decision first arose in April 2008," the ministry said, referring to Greece's temporary suspension from Kyoto mechanisms at that time over problems with the accuracy of emissions estimates it had supplied for the base year of 1990.
It once again slammed critics who had treated the development as Greece's "expulsion" from the protocol, saying that the claim had been untrue and damaging for the country's image.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo.
 Greek stocks end 1.38% higherGreek stocks rebounded on Friday following a similar trend in other European markets. The composite index of the Athens Stock Exchange rose 1.38 pct to end at 2,007.09 points, with turnover remaining a low 166.6 million euros, of which 5.1 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved higher, with the Healthcare (6.40 pct), Constructions (3.94 pct), Personal/Home Products (2.87 pct) and Industrial Products (2.65 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Technology (0.92 pct) and Travel (0.26 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 1.28 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.86 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index was up 0.16 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 139 to 74 with another 60 issues unchanged.
 US official on visa waiverA wire service story on Friday quoting a top US official in Brussels as saying Washington wants to include more countries in the US visa waiver program before the upcoming Jan. 20 administration changeover generated increased scrutiny in Athens, given that Greece was prominently left out of the recent batch of inductees.
Speaking in the Greek capital, a US embassy spokesperson pointed to comments made this week by US envoy Daniel Speckhard, namely, that bilateral negotiations are continuing and that the process is proceeding.
The spokesperson said US diplomats again met with Greek foreign ministries officials this week on the specific matter -- EU member-state Greece's inclusion in the programme for visa-free travel to the United States.
According to the US side, three documents are still under discussion: a memorandum of understanding; an agreement on information-sharing regarding terrorists, and a similar text on information-sharing on convicted criminals.
"Talks are progressing, and substantial progress has been made," the spokesperson said in echoing previous embassy comments.
According to a Reuters dispatch from Brussels on Friday, US Dept. of Homeland Security official Jackie Bednarz said "...it is our objective to admit additional countries before the change in the US administration."
Beginning on Monday, citizens of six former eastern bloc countries and previous Soviet republics -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia -- along with long-time US ally South Korea, will be able to travel to the United States without a visa, provided they fill-out an electronic form via the Internet.
Asked about a "time frame" for completing talks with the Greek government, the US embassy spokesperson merely noted that a completion "cannot be ruled out before the end of the year, if not, then in 2009."
Caption: Two woman talk with a ticket agent at an American Airlines counter at LaGuardia Airport in New York, New York, USA, in a file photo dated 23 May 2008. ANA-MPA/EPA/JUSTIN LANE
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