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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-03-18

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM chairs Inner Cabinet meeting
  • [02] Poll: 71 % against pension reforms

  • [01] PM chairs Inner Cabinet meeting

    The Inner Cabinet, chaired by Prime minister Costas Karamanlis, convened on Tuesday to discuss issues falling under the authority of the transport and communications ministry.

    After the meeting, transport and communications minister Costis Hatzidakis told reporters that the discussion focused on the changes and reforms being advanced in the sector.

    He said the Inner Cabinet had decided that the government should proceed in finding a strategic ally in the Hellenic Posts' (ELTA) courier services, adding that the government's investment consultants would proceed soon in the direction of that target, so that results would be forthcoming in 2008.

    Hatzidakis also said that a new governmental program on the country's airports was discussed, and that public and private sector collaborations (SDIT) were being advanced regarding the provincial airports.

    "We don't want our airports to be just landing runways, but also hubs of local development, with activities surrounding the airports," he said, adding that the hiring of consultants to deal with the matter would be announced soon.

    Also discussed was the issue of the Hellenic Railway Organisation (OSE), which Hatzidakis said was chronically facing major financial problems, and added that the new OSE management would be announced shortly, with efforts focused on tackling the organisation's deficits "in a manner compatible with EU law".

    He explained that the effort would focus on OSE's real estate holdings, and on shoring up TrenoOSE (trainOSE), the organisation's company that carries out the transport activities, to prevent it from running into the same problems as Olympic Airways (OA), given that as of this year OSE was open to competition.

    Regarding OA, which was also discussed by the Inner Cabinet, Hatzidakis stressed "both to those who urgently want a solution and to those who may be complacent with the present situation", that a solution would be given by the end of the year.

    "We want the solution that we are seeking to be legally secure for the investor, and at the same time, regarding its financial aspect, to be attractive, and we are working systematically in that direction both with the European Commission and with our investment advisors," the minister said.

    The Inner Cabinet was further briefed on the Hellenic Telecommunications (OTE) developments by Hatzidakis and by economy and finance minister George Alogoskoufis, following Marfin Investment Group's (MIG) announced on Monday of an agreement to sell its 19 percent equity stake in OTE to Deutsche Telekom AG.

    "We believe that this is a welcome development, and so does the entire market," Hatzidakis said.

    Asked whether the OTE management would also be turned over to the new strategic investor, Hatzidakis said that it was too early to discuss such a matter, particularly given that the MIG-Deutsche Telekom agreement was subject to approval by various competent bodies, adding that in order for such a possibility to be discussed, relevant requests would have to be submitted. "Everything will be discussed in its time, and following the submission of relevant requests, taking all the parameters into consideration.We cannot enter into such discussions at this time," he said.

    Asked whether he agreed that toll booths should be placed in the center of Athens, Hatzidakis said that the transport ministry and the environment ministry had sent its relevant replies to the European Commission, which replies stipulated that "this is something that cannot be rejected, as a thought". But before we reach that point, study and boosting and modernisation of the "fixed rail" transportation fleet will be required, he added.

    Hatzidakis noted that, according to transport exports, in Europe there are approximately 150 fixed rail transport stations in cities such as Athens, while in the Greek capital there were currently 58 such stations, and consequently extensive study and discussion among the authoritative ministries would be needed but, first of all, it was necessary to modernise and boost the fixed rail and mass transport means.

    Caption:ANA-MPA file photo of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis

    [02] Poll: 71 % against pension reforms

    Up to 71 percent of the public disagree with the government proposals for reforming Greece's pension and social security system, according to a survey carried out by the opinion poll firm VPRC and commissioned by the Hellenic Federation of Bank Employee Unions (OTOE). The results of the survey were released on Tuesday in a press conference.

    More specifically, 71 percent of those asked disagreed with the government reforms against 23 percent who were in favour, while the level of opposition was even higher among wage earners and the unemployed, where 80 percent disagreed with the draft bill.

    Social insurance reform, meanwhile, was ranked as the most important problem faced by the country by 27 percent of those asked, followed by high prices (according to 20 percent), unemployment (according to 17 percent) and poverty, in the sense of low wages and pensions (according to 13 percent).

    The proposed reforms are seen as having a negative impact on young employees by 44 percent of public opinion, on women by 19 percent, on those in the midst of their working life by 16 percent, on all categories of employee by 15 percent and on pensioners by 4 percent.

    Those benefiting most as a result of the proposed measures are seen to be the government, according to 42 percent, employers (according to 31 percent), workers (according to 7 percent) and pensioners (4 percent).

    With respect to the planned mergers of social insurance funds, 63 percent of those asked said that this would equalise employee social insurance rights downwards.

    Another 69 percent consider that the strikes to protest against the pension system reforms measures are justified, while 29 percent considers them unjustified. About three quarters of those asked, or 74 percent, considers that the draft bill for social insurance reform should be withdrawn and that jointly acceptable solutions should be sought with employees and unions. The opposite view - that the government should insist on passing the draft bill - is held by 18 percent.

    Regarding the best strategy for trade unions, 51 percent said that these should seek changes and adjustments to the draft bill, 27 percent said trade unions should insist that the draft bill be thrown out and 11 percent believes it should be accepted as it stands.

    In presenting the survey's findings, OTOE stressed that the government proposals had failed to convince Greek society, especially workers and pensioners, and that the struggle against the bill by bank workers was objectively linked to that of other social groups defending their social insurance and pension rights. They stressed that the struggle would continue as long as necessary, taking different forms, until the government's policy was overturned.

    Caption: A protest march to Parliament by strikers - including local authority workers and Bank of Greece staff - that oppose to the government's draft bill for social security reform was met by a contingent of riot police stationed outside the Greek Parliament on Tuesday, March 18 in Athens. ANA-MPA - Pantelis Saitas.

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