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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-03-21
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM: Gov't producing lasting public benefitThe government was not pursuing ephemeral impressions, and did not fear temporary political cost when it was certain that it was producing lasting public benefit, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said Friday in parliament, during an off-the-agenda discussion on the youth's rights to education and culture, initiated by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga.
"We don't bow down to populism when the citizens, as always, need relations of trust that are vindicated over the course of time," he added.
In a clear reference to the social security system, Karamanlis stressed that the reforms being advanced by the government "produce results" in the long-standing problems and "open up new roads and prospects of hope", and, referring to "the pessimistic view that the youth are headed towards a worse future", Karamanlis stressed that "the future would be grim if we had not proceeded with the reforms necessary".
The premier rejected criticism that unemployment was growing, noting that he was not doing this to glamorize situations; "On the contrary, we look upon the concealment of problems, inertia in the face of impasses, and phobia towards solutions, as a huge mistake".
An even bigger mistake was the attempt to distort the reality, the attempt to dispute the policies that produce measurable results, the attempted reaction to reforms that produce solid solutions, he continued, adding that "such practices do not contribute to the country moving forward", and stressing that "the future demands assumption of responsibilities by everyone, and bold decisions that are far removed from dogmatism".
Specifically regarding the claims of increased unemployment, Karamanlis said that "the reality belies the razing criticism", given that unemployment was running at 8.3 percent, "which is the lowest annual rate in the last 15 years".
Noting that unemployment remained the biggest social problem in the country, he said that it also remained in the target sight of the policy of his New Democracy (ND) government, which will "continue to finance human potential development programmes with increased national and Community funds".
On Education and charges of "Greece's global record in export of (university) students", Karamanlis said that if the situation was perpetuated, all those who persistently and irrationally refused the revision of Article 16 of the Constitution (which would allow the establishment of private universities in Greece) would be to blame.
He announced that the national plan for combatting narcotics, with the emphasis on prevention, the development of new therapeutic structures and the advancement of new regulations for the social and productive reintegration of former users, would be tabled in the coming days in the authoritative parliamentary committee, while also planned were an organisational upgrade of OKANA (Organisation Against Drugs, the national coordinator and services and programs provider in the fields of prevention, treatment and reintegration) and the introduction of methadone units in public hospitals.
Karamanlis reiterated that his government has opted for "changes and reforms" to avert perpetuation of the problems, and policies that look out for the young people's needs and open up new paths of opportunities and security.
Modern-day policy needs to be selected with the future as the criterion, and must serve, in action, the values of solidarity ad social justice, Karamanlis said, adding that policies with tangible results and policies that produce benefit for the many, for the present and the future, must be applied: "That is what we have said, and that is what we are doing. Our choices and positions prove it," he concluded.
In taking the podium for a second time, Karamanlis charged that "petty populism has short legs", in paraphrasing a Greek parable. "The opposition has lost another opportunity to present trustworthy solution that society needs, because they became trapped in a competition of populism".
Speaking in turn, Papariga said that "one important difference between us and other parties is that we don't speak about 'opportunities', but about 'rights'. The term 'opportunities' means that a large section of youth is chasing after chimeras -- and whoever succeeds, succeeds. We say 'rights', and that, in the framework of the collective rights there should be the ability for personal evolution".
Papariga criticised the existing system in education, beginning from pre-school all the way up to secondary and higher education, calling it "outdated" and aiming at producing "cheap labour". She said that "no youths under 18 years of age should work, but should be getting an education...in the framework of a 12-year general, mandatory education, with professional training beginning after 18 years of age", while artistic education "must become an inseparable element of the education process, from kindergarten all the way to university".
The reality, however, was different, she said: Not only were youths abandoning school, but many were working during their working at jobs during their years of education -- "30 percent of the AEI (university) students and 60 percent of the TEI (technical college) students, according to statistics, frequently in 'black' labour, resulting in the downgrading of their studies".
She charged that no measures have been taken to eliminate the phenomenon, and called for reinforcement of the family, with truly free education, and, in the case of working students, steps should be taken so that they would be working 6-hour days with 8-hour wages and time off for exams.
In taking the podium for a second time, Papariga dismissed criticism of catering to the basest form of populism, saying that her party considers the workers as capital and not "big capital".
"You cannot criticise us for populism, when we support permanent work, the seven-hour work day, and later the six-hour work day. This is not populism, this is our belief," she concluded.
Caption: Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday, 21 March 2008, in Parliament. ANA-MPA/P. SAITAS
 'Name issue' talks resume Tues.Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis met in New York City on Friday with her counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Antonio Milososki, part of ongoing negotiations between Athens and Skopje to finally resolve the nagging "name issue" separating the two Balkan neighbours.
"It (meeting) was a useful and sincere exchange of views; several thoughts and ideas were tabled, we will study these and relevant directions will be given to our negotiators, who will meet (with diplomats representing the FYROM side) in New York City next Tuesday," Bakoyannis said.
The Greek FM again reiterated that the Greek side attended Friday's meeting -- which was hosted by a top US diplomat -- with a sincere volition to find a mutually acceptable solution, "with clear-cut positions, strong arguments and a determined stance."
In response to press questions, Bakoyannis said no agreement or memorandum was signed during Friday's meeting.
Asked about Athens' positions over a possible solution, Bakoyannis noted that "our position is quite clear ... we desire a name that will describe a difference between the wider geographical region of Macedonia and the area covered today by the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). I believe that this is fair and unambiguous, as well as significant for the region's stability."
Finally, she said that the ongoing negotiating process, under UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, is neither being replaced. "Meetings taking place with the initiative of the United States are supportive vis-a-vis this process."
Caption: Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.
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