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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-03-11

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PASOK prepares for party conference
  • [02] Rehn: Solve 'name issue'
  • [03] Alavanos blasts proposed reforms

  • [01] PASOK prepares for party conference

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday chaired the last meeting of the party's current Coordinating and Political Organ before PASOK's 8th Conference begins on Thursday, when its new membership will be elected.

    He thanked the members for their work and repeated that the Conference will be a "first good step" in the process of restructuring the party.

    Papandreou stressed the party's determination and conviction that it can inspire optimism in the Greek people and that the country, society and the party could together "turn over a new leaf", adding that this would be a message expressed by the Conference.

    The meeting also focused on the government's planned reforms to Greece's social insurance system, with the party concluding that the government measures were "anti-social" and counter to the spirit of social insurance while they essentially abolished rights without resolving the problems of Greece's ailing pension system.

    The government was also blamed for failing to implement existing legislation and of provoking the current wave of protest strikes through a brutal attack on the rights of women and other categories of employees while failing to engage in dialogue with the social partners.

    Commenting on a statement by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos about possibly forcing striking sanitation workers to return to work on health grounds, meanwhile, PASOK spokesman Yiannis Ragoussis urged the government to face up to its responsibilities and begin dialogue and also to carry out careful studies designed to resolve the problems.

    "There's been no dialogue, no studies, no effort to stamp put contribution evasion. After four years of inactivity by this government, the decision they took was to strike brutally at the social insurance rights of women, young people and the elderly," Ragoussis noted and called for the draft bill to be withdrawn.

    One of PASOK's first acts if it were elected into government would be to scrap the specific articles of law, he added, clarifying that this would mean a return to the laws drafted by former PASOK minister Dimitris Reppas rather than the more recent laws passed under New Democracy's government, while he expressed unequivocal support for the protest strikes.

    [02] Rehn: Solve 'name issue'

    European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn on Tuesday urged the political leadership of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to demonstrate the "political will" for finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name dispute with Greece.

    During a speech on the European prospects of the western Balkans, Rehn referred to his recent visit to Skopje and stressed that the country was capable of completing reforms needed to meet criteria for EU entry, provided that it acted decisively.

    He said the issue of the name currently absorbed a great portion of the country's "political energy" and he urged the country's political leaders to seize the current opportunity for finding a formula to the "name issue" that is acceptable to both sides.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of EU Commissioner Olli Rehn.

    [03] Alavanos blasts proposed reforms

    The head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group, Alekos Alavanos, on Tuesday called for the immediate withdrawal of the government's draft bill for reforming Greece's shaky pension system.

    Speaking during a press conference, Alavanos expressed support for strikes opposing the bill and said that the planned reforms would demolish the social insurance system and replace it with a system that was chaotic and unworkable. He also accused Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis of "acting like a salesman for private insurance" by trying to push through the government reforms.

    According to SYRIZA MP Yiannis Dragasakis, meanwhile, a doubling of the minimum social insurance stamps required to qualify for health coverage from 50 to 100 would greatly increase the number of Greek citizens that had no access to health care.

    The crux of the government's reforms targets the current system's labyrinthine complexity, with hundreds of separate social insurance funds provide very different levels of coverage to a population of roughly 11 million. The reforms seek to trim the number of social insurance funds to about 13 main bodies through the merger of social insurance funds covering related sectors, with the main benefits envisaged being a reduction in administrative costs.

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