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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-11-19

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Karamanlis: Economy a national cause
  • [02] PASOK responds to PM's speech
  • [03] FM spokesman on continental shelf
  • [04] Athens on FYROM ICJ case
  • [05] Greek stocks end 1.46% down
  • [06] Recovered icon on display
  • [07] Kitano win at Thessaloniki film fest

  • [01] Karamanlis: Economy a national cause

    "What is at stake today is responsibility, and the clash between responsibility and irresponsibility would be the judge of society's choices," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis underlined on Wednesday, adding the political leader who can guide the country out of the explosive global financial crisis, and not those who mete out promises, is "useful".

    Addressing a meeting of his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's Parliamentary group in the senate chamber on the international financial crisis, Karamanlis accused the opposition of handing out improbable promises that have not even been calculated for cost, as well as of engaging in demagogy, toying with public opinion and verbosity.

    Some quarters, he said, refused to realise the criticality of the situation, obeying self-serving and petty political expediencies and engaging in demagogy and reactionism. Those quarters, he continued, claim that there is no financial crisis and that it was "an alibi" used by the government for political reasons, proving only that they cannot see what is going on in the world.

    In times of difficulty, everyone is judged by the cost he dares to assume, Karamanlis said.

    The premier stressed that there were no "ready recipes and solutions", adding that the crisis cannot be tackled with populism, but rather with a plan, a sense of responsibility and constant flexibility.

    Karamanlis further stressed that those who claimed that billions of euros were being "given away" to the banks, through the government's 28-billion-euro plan for fortification of the credit system were simply "lying", engaging in disinformation, and fighting the truth for self-serving petty political expediencies.

    Turning specifically to the international credit crisis, Karamanlis said that it was beyond every forecast, given that the conditions were changing day to day. The developments, intensity and duration of the crisis cannot be predicted, Karamanlis added.

    He stressed that, as recession was crossing the threshold into the eurozone, the economy has become a major national cause that concerns not only the government but also the political forces and the social partners in their entirety.

    The government, he continued, was confronting the crisis with realism and responsibility, while the government's plan focused on five aspects: Action for boosting liquidity and for reduction of the credit risks, support of the social strata with the greater need, shielding of employment, strengthening of the social protection network, and continuation of the reforms.

    Among the measures being taken by the government, Karamanlis particularly noted the tabling of the draft law for boosting the liquidity of the business concerns, and on its interventions for eliminating the fine print in bank transactions.

    The government was also reinforcing farmers and small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMEs), he said, and stressed the activation of the loan guarantee fund for SMEs, the subsidisation of new farmers and the reduction of interest on farm loans.

    He also categorically stated that there would be no tax hikes, but rather a roll-back of expenditures, while adding that a heating oil subsidy would soon begin being given through the social solidarity fund.

    The government, Karamanlis said, had a comprehensive, realistic and responsible plan and was determined to take every necessary and feasible measure, but warned that it would not 'blow everything sky-high' for the sake of impressions.

    He called on the political forces, but also the social partners, to shoulder their share of the responsibility.

    Regarding the credit system, Karamanlis said that it must increase its cash flow to business concerns and reduce interest rates and its own profit margin, while the businesses, in turn, must accept a reduction in profits, in order to protect employment and avoid dismissals.

    Addressing himself to the opposition, Karamanlis warned that irresponsibility and populism, in the shadow of the global crisis, were assuming the dimensions of a severe threat to the country's course.

    In closing, Karamanlis stressed that the government was working to reduce the repercussions of the international crisis and for a better tomorrow, and was determined to convert this international challenge into a national opportunity.

    [02] PASOK responds to PM's speech

    In reply to the prime minister's address on Wednesday before ruling New Democracy party's Parliament group, a main opposition PASOK spokesman later in the afternoon charged that the "premier used social partners as a backdrop for yet another attack on PASOK."

    Spokesman George Papaconstantinou also called PM Costas Karamanlis a "weak leader, whose role appears to be exhausted in invitations," while also saying that the prime minister is responsible for the internal crisis.

    PASOK official on prices

    PASOK party development issues rapporteur Mihalis Chrysohoidis said on Wednesday that at a time when the producer price for basic products, grain, rice, maize, olive oil and dairy products are decreasing in 2008 by up to 50 percent, the prices of final products are showing increases of up to 18.5 percent in 2008, such as for pasta products.

    "It is evident that a decrease in prices is an 'unknown word' both for the Greek food market and the leadership of the Development ministry," he said.

    Chrysohoidis also presented evidence concerning the development of prices in the fuel market, stressing that although from November 2007 to November 2008 international Brent prices have eased by 40 percent, the local prices of unleaded oil have only decreased by 13 percent.

    "The last time that the barrel of Brent oil cost 55 dollars, as it costs today, was on 27/1/2007 and then oil in the pump cost 0.88 euros per litre, while today it costs 0.94/litre. We have, in other words, again a considerable difference in profiteering between the international oil price and the local oil price that renders whatever decrease in prices inadequate if not completely fictitious," Chrysohoidis added.

    CAPTION: File photo of PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou. (ANA-MPA photo)

    [03] FM spokesman on continental shelf

    A foreign ministry spokesman on Wednesday responded to press questions related to a Norwegian vessel that conducted research within Greece's continental shelf, stressing that the ship's owners were fully briefed on which section of the region, ostensibly designated by Turkey as an "exploration site", lies within Greek limits. Spokesman George Koumoutsakos again reiterated, during a regular press briefing, that Greece continuously exercises its sovereign rights, therefore, no surveying or studies of any kind can take place without Athens' permission. Koumoutsakos stated that the vessel in question is now sailing outside the Greek continental shelf. Asked whether data provided by Greece regarding its continental shelf will be binding in the future, Koumoutsakos said this was based on the International Convention on the Law of the Sea and concerns only the section where the illegal exploration was being conducted. Koumoutsakos referred to research carried out by the Norwegian vessel "Malene Ostervold", spotted south and east of the SE Aegean islet of Kastellorizo on Nov. 14. The vessel reportedly conducted geophysical surveying for Turkish interests, and was shadowed, interestingly enough, by a Turkish warship.

    [04] Athens on FYROM ICJ case

    The Greek government on Wednesday underlined that Skopje's complaint against Athens at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was an entirely separate process from the ongoing UN-mediated negotiations to settle the "name dispute" between the two neighbours.

    Foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos also again dismissed Skopje's claim that Greece had violated the 1995 Interim Accord, adding that Athens considered the agreement to be still in force.

    "These are two separate processes. In any case, the Interim Accord prevents holding a discussion or resolving the name issue at the International Court at The Hague. The dispute over the name cannot be an object for the Court. The negotiation process exists," Koumoutsakos said.

    The spokesman did not fail to point to a "paradox" of the case brought before the ICJ by the Gruevski government in Skopje, however.

    "The neighbouring country is resorting to the International Court at The Hague, which is an institution of the United Nations, using its so-called constitutional name in an effort to protect a temporary name [Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)] that it has at no time utilised in international organisations as it was obliged," he pointed out.

    Turning to the substance of Skopje's claim, namely, that Greece had violated Article 11 of the Interim Accord by objecting to FYROM's bid to join NATO under its provisional name, the spokesman flatly denied that the Accord had been violated by Greece and charged that, on the contrary, it has been repeatedly violated by FYROM.

    He also stressed that the agreement had at no point been denounced and was, therefore, still in force.

    Briefing foreign ministry correspondents, Koumoutsakos said the UN special envoy for the name dispute, Matthew Nimetz, had a mandate and would continue the talks in the way that he saw fit.

    "Of course, for some time now the process has been in a peculiar hiatus due to the fact that one party, Skopje, has not appointed a negotiator to participate in the process. For some months now, Skopje has either more negotiators than it needs or none at all. For Greece, however, the negotiation is ongoing," he underlined.

    Questioned about the arguments Greece intends to use, Koumoutsakos said these would be unfolded before the ICJ at the proper time and in a proper way, adding that Athens had already worked out the main elements of its strategy.

    "Greece is neither stalling nor hurrying. It is absolutely in control of the timing of its movements and in this framework it has and retains all options in order to best present its position and protect its interests," he said.

    "The Greek side at no time considered denouncing the Interim Accord. Our main priority has always been to make progress with the negotiating process in order to find a mutually acceptable solution of the name issue," he told reporters.

    Regarding whether it was possible to find a solution while the court case was underway and whether it might affect the negotiations, Koumoutsakos pointed out that the proceedings at The Hague were likely to last several years and were also focused on a specific article of the Interim Accord.

    "I do not think Mr. Nimetz will allow [the talks] to be influenced by a process that is underway for a completely different issue. It is not part of his mandate. The main and only concern of Mr. Nimetz is for the negotiations to progress as fast as possible and produce a result. I do not believe, therefore, that any negotiator in a negotiation would himself adopt reasons and excuses that would delay carrying out his mission," Koumoutsakos said.

    Asked why Greece had not itself taken recourse of the ICJ over the cited violations of the Interim Accord by Skopje, Koumoutsakos said that Athens had tried to avoid action that would further complicate and delay the UN talks.

    "A series of specific, tangible violations of several articles of the Interim Accord, as well as of the principle of ensuring good-neighbour relations, by Skopje was real. Greece had and has a specific purpose. To use all the options given to it by the negotiations in the framework of the UN for the name, in order to soon arrive at a settlement of the issue that was mutually acceptable. We consciously avoided actions that would have made a difficult negotiation even more complex, by initiating parallel events that would have created additional reasons for stalling the process," he pointed out.

    He strenuously denied, once again, that Greece had itself violating the Interim Accord, adding that Athens would be ready to conduct its case before the ICJ using the ample ammunition provided over the years by the opposing side.

    Finally, commenting on the latest package of ideas for a solution presented by UN envoy Matthew Nimetz, Koumoutsakos said that some key Greek positions had been taken on board but several other points required changes or clarifications, while others were rejected outright.

    "With the necessary changes and adaptations, this proposal could acquire the potential for resolving the problem. Greece has not rejected the package of ideas and has responded with a series of points. This package is for Greece a basis for discussion, but it requires all these things to become a basis for a solution," he said.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos.

    [05] Greek stocks end 1.46% down

    Greek stocks ended significantly lower in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday, following a negative trend in other European markets. The composite index fell 1.46 pct to end at 1,897.07 points, with turnover shrinking to 148.6 million euros, of which 6.8 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved lower, with the Healthcare (4.76 pct), Financial Services (3.17 pct), Telecommunications (2.17 pct), Constructions (1.93 pct) and Utilities (1.79 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Commerce (1.53 pct), Media (1.26 pct) and Insurance (1.0 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 1.52 pct, the FTSE 40 index fell 1.57 pct and the FTSE 80 index eased 1.54 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 129 to 83 with another 52 issues remaining unchanged.

    [06] Recovered icon on display

    A priceless 14th-century Byzantine icon stolen from a Greek monastery in 1978 and returned to Greece this month was unveiled in Athens on Wednesday. The icon, which turned up in London five years ago, will be kept at the Byzantine and Christian Museum in downtown Athens to undergo preservation work before it is returned to the northern prefecture of Serres, from where it was stolen.

    Presenting the religious icon, Culture Minister Mihalis Liapis said it was proof of the coordinated efforts of all those striving to preserve Greece's cultural heritage. The icon would be returned to its place of origin, he added, because the ministry was determined not to encourage a form of "domestic Elginism", where displaced artifacts were retained by central authorities.

    The icon would be returned after the monastery from which it was stolen was equipped with an adequate security system, he added.

    The stolen icon, originally painted using the "Serres technique", had been cut in two by the thieves so that it could be taken out of the country and painted over before it was sold on the market. It is also considered to be two-sided, meaning that one side may still be in the hands of antiquities smugglers.

    Information on the specific icon was given in November 2002 by the curator of the Benaki Museum in Athens Angelos Delivorias, after he was informed that it was up for sale by Ioannis Petsopoulos, acting as an agent for a "private collector" who had the icon in his possession.

    The Greek embassy in London had then asked the trader to assist in the investigation by sending any evidence at his disposal that would enable Greek authorities to apply for its return using legal and diplomatic channels.

    The affair led to the conviction of those responsible for stealing the icon and it was finally returned on Nov. 16, 2008.

    Caption: Officials unveil a previously missing 14th century Byzantine icon on Monday in Athens. ANA-MPA / STR.

    [07] Kitano win at Thessaloniki film fest

    Acclaimed Japanese director Takeshi Kitano came away with the Golden Alexander, the top prize at the annual Thessaloniki Film Festival, during an awards ceremony at the port city's landmark Olympion Theatre on Tuesday night.

    Afterwards, there was a screening of Kitano's winning entry in the festival, the film "Achilles and the Tortoise", before a highly appreciative Thessaloniki audience.

    The film records the doomed struggle of its central hero to succeed as an artist and find his own personal style in a hostile and disorienting environment, forming part of a trilogy that Kitano has called "Artistic Suicide".

    According to the director, the film trilogy explores the ever-increasing difficulties faced by artists trying to promote their work in an environment of rampant consumerism dominated by the media, art dealers and the like.

    "This is why I talk of artistic suicide," he said, recounting an anecdote about how some wealthy people that saw "Achilles and the Tortoise" in Japan had approached him and asked to buy the paintings that he had painted himself to use in film.

    "And I assure you that I am an untalented and unsuccessful painter," Kitano added laughing.

    Not always fully accepted as a director in Japan, where he started his career as a comedian and a TV personality, 60-year-old Kitano said he would always be grateful to the West, audiences and critics, for treating him as a serious director from the start of his film-making career.

    Caption: A view of Japanese film director Takeshi Kitano in Thessaloniki on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008. ANA-MPA / N. ARVANITIDIS

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