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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-03-26
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM Karamanlis briefed on new Nimetz proposalPrime minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Wednesday on UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz's new proposal on the FYROM name issue unveiled to the Greek and FYROM negotiators during talks in New York the previous day.
Bakoyannis, who also briefed the Inner Cabinet on the proposal, said afterwards that the new proposal "is far from the goals sought by Greece".
She added that the negotiation would continue, and announced that in the next 48 hours she would brief President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and the leaders of the political parties on the new development.
Asked by reporters whether the prospect of Greece vetoing FYROM membership in NATO continued to stand, Bakoyannis replied: "Greece's position is clear, and I don't need to repeat it. However, I will say it again: If there is no mutually acceptable solution on the name, Greece cannot constent to allied relations with Skopje".
Asked whether Tuesday's proposal had been Nimetz's final proposal, Bakoyannis replied that "there are no final proposals in negotiations".
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis will chair a meeting of his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's Central Committee on Thursday morning.
The agenda for the meeting is "the course of the changes and reforms in the new four-year term" in government, according to an ND announcement
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis(L) and Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis(R).
 PASOK tables motion of censure against gov'tMain opposition PASOK on Wednesday tabled a motion of censure against prime minister Costas Karamanlis and his New Democracy government over the planned reforms in the social security system, just hours before a final debate on the relevant bill was due to begin in parliament that would have been concluded at midnight on Friday with a roll-call vote.
As such, all discussions are suspended in parliament until completion of the debate on the no-confidence motion and the ensuing vote of confidence in the House plenary, which will begin immediately, to be concluded at midnight Friday followed by a vote after the three-day discussion, in accordance with the Rules of Parliament.
Tabling the "no-confidence" motion in the parliament plenary on Wednesday, PASOK leader George Papandreou said that only six months after the general elections in which ND was re-elected to power, the government has "betrayed the trust of the Greek people", and criticised all aspects of government policy, with the "undermining" of the "fundamental right to dignified pensions" at the crux.
He charged that the government, "under the false title of reform, is selling off even the very last assets of the state, which are not just 'silverware', but vital corporations that ensure basic national tools of planning and which guarantee the basic commodietes in energy and telecoms".
"We say, simply: Enough is enough," Papandreou said, concluding: "I am tabling a motion of no-confidence against the prime minister and the government, under the provisions of Article 142 of the Rules of Parliament, which (proposal) is fully in line with the conviction of the citizens. I am tabling the motion of no-confidence on behalf of all of PASOK, in the certainty that we are thus expressing the overwhelming majority of the Greek people."
Speaking on behalf of the government, culture minister Michalis Liapis, who was in attenance at the time, said that the government wanted the relevant debate to commence "here and now".
He thanked PASOK for tabling the motion "because it provides the government with a unique opportunity to project its immense work accomplished and to highlight the major reforms".
Liapis also charged that expediency of PASOK's motion was to 'outdo the impressions' of the SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left parliamentary alliance) initiative calling for a referendum on the social security reforms.
"You are not protagonists in parliament. You come after the small parties of the minor opposition," Liapis said, addressing himself to PASOK.
Replying to Liapis, the PASOK leader charged that the government "does not realise the severity of the moment".
"We don't care if you consider us the 'tail' of anyone. The problem for the country is that Greece will not be the tail in the EU, regarding the economy and social policy," Papandreou added.
Parliament president Dimitris Sioufas announced that the debate on the motion will be conducted over a three-day period, concluding at midnight on Friday with a roll-call vote.
To be carried, an absolute majority of the parliament's 300 MPs (150+1) must vote in favor of the motion of no-confidence.
Caption:ANA-MPA file photo of main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou
 FM spokesman on FYROM issueA new proposal put forward on Tuesday by UN special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz to the Greek and FYROM negotiators during a crucial meeting in New York "is being asessed", Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said on Wednesday.
According to a Foreign Ministry announcement on the new round of UN-brokered talks aimed at finding a mutually acceptable solution to the FYROM name issue, Koumoutsakos made the following statement:
"Mr. Nimetz, in the framework of the ongoing efforts in the framework of the United Nations, has submitted another proposal. The proposal is being assessed. The initial conclusion is that we are far from a mutually acceptable solution. The effort is continuing."
Meanwhile, US White House spokeswoman Dana Perino replying to questions on Tuesday, during a press briefing, on whether US president George Bush had in mind "any other way" for Athens and Skopje to reach an agreement prior to the NATO summit (at the beginning of April in Bucharest), said: "We continue to encourage Greece and 'Macedonia' to reach an agreement before we get to Bucharest so that we can deal with this issue prior to getting there. But if it's going to take all the way -- take all the time up to the NATO conference, then that decision will be made there. But certainly the President believes that they should be able to work this out."
Asked whether NATO would be asked to "grant a kind of extension of three or six months" for FYROM's accession in the event of failure of the New York talks, Perino replied: "We should take first things first, before we get ahead of ourselves. Let's let them continue to work together. I think that the time factor is a forcing event, and that they should be coming together to work this out before we get to NATO."
Caption:UN special meditator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz (R) and Greek ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis in UN headquarters in New York on Tuesday 25 March 2008.ANA-MPA/GANP/DIMITRIS PANAGOS
 Demetrios asks Bush's backingGreek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios of America called on President Bush to use his influence to back "a faithful ally, as is Greece", on the FYROM name issue, and also on the Cyprus issue, in his address during a special ceremony held at the White House celebrating the March 25th Greek Independence Day, the 187th anniversary of the commencement of the 1821 Greek Revolution against Ottoman rule.
After outlining the values and principles that the Greek nation has stood and fought for since antiquity to the present, the Archbishop underlined that Greece in our days "constitutes a strong factor for stability, progress and peace in the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean basin".
He stressed, however, that this very same Greek nation, "in a series of sensitive national issues, receives by some nations treatment which is unjust, by any standards. The issues of the reunification of Cyprus, and of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, for instance, are two characteristic examples of this."
"Speaking rather boldly, on this solemn day, we express our firm conviction that you will certainly exercise your unique authority and leadership in order to facilitate a course of action that will treat sensitive issues related to Greece in a fair and dignified way," the Archbishop continued, stressing that "Greece is not seeking special favors or unreasonable deference".
"The Hellenic nation is a proud and honorable nation, a faithful ally of the USA for generations, which throughout its long history has established as a fact that it does not depend on favors, but on justice and respect," Demetrios said.
Expressing appreciation for the Bush administration's support on such matters as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Archbishop stressed that the same resoluteness was needed on the two outstanding issues of Cyprus and FYROM, which were "vital for the Greek nation and its beneficial role in promoting peace, justice and freedom in Southeastern Europe".
Caption: US President George W. Bush (R) shares a thought with Archbishop Demetrios (L), Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, during a performance by the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Youth Choir at Celebration of Greek Independence Day in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., USA, 25 March 2008.ANA-MPA/ EPA/RON SACHS - POOL
 Papoulias receives AlavanosGreek President Karolos Papoulias met on Wednesday with the parliamentary group leader of the Coalition of Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alekos Alavanos, following the latter's controversial demand for a referendum over the government's proposed social security reforms. Alavanos, accompanied by SYRIZA parliamentary spokesmen Yiannis Dragasakis and Fotis Kouvelis, called on Papoulias to examine the draft law's constitutionality within the framework of his authority -- a move that also came under severe criticism by the government over the past few days given the ceremonial nature of the post of president of the republic. The leftist leader claimed that the draft law targets established worker and pensioner rights, while he welcomed a main opposition PASOK party initiative to table a motion of censure against the government. SYRIZA on social security, referendum Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos called on the people to contribute to the collection of millions of signatures in support of holding a referendum on the government-sponsored social security reforms. During a press conference Wednesday, Alavanos referred to the motion of censure tabled earlier in the day by main opposition PASOK against the government, stressing that any initiative in line with the SYRIZA rationale is positive, allowing for a longer parliamentary debate and continuation of the workers' mobilizations.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Greek President Karolos Papoulias (R) and Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos (L).
 Greek economy in good shapeThe Greek economy was in a good position because of large infrastructure projects, joint ventures between public and private sector enterprises and a tax reform boosting households' incomes, Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, after an inner cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to discuss latest developments in global economy, Alogoskoufis said the impact from a credit crisis on the country's budget would be insignificant. The Greek minister noted that the US economy faced a serious problem from a credit crisis and prospects of a recession and stressed that the impact on Europe could be limited.
Alogoskoufis said rising international inflation was a major cause of concern but underlined that the Greek economy was in a very good shape to deal with any external impact. He acknowledged, however, there were inflationary pressures in the country and said that the government was making every effort to deal with this phenomenon. The Greek minister said the government would continue efforts to strengthen the economy, to boosting employment and supporting growth process.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis
 Unions, employers reach agreementGSEE, Greece's largest trade union umbrella, on Wednesday said it has reached an agreement with employers' union for a two-year national general collective labour agreement, covering the period 2008-2009.
Under the agreement, low wages and salaries will be raised by 3.45 pct from January 1, 2008, by 3.0 pct from September 1, 2008 and by 5.5 pct from May 1, 2009. The lowest wages in the country will be raise to 739 euros per month, from 679 euros currently.
Commenting on the deal, GSEE's president Yiannis Panagopoulos said it was a "good deal", noting the pay increases were above the inflation rate. Representatives of left parties in the labour unions disagreed with the content of the agreement, which is subject to approval by GSSE's assembly.
Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Federation of Hellenic Industries, said the agreement was a modern pact of labour peace over the next two years.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of GSEE's president Yiannis Panagopoulos
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