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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-04-17
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM: Reforms the answer to country's problems<!--ÔëòüìòñÞüìò
The only substantive response to the country's problems are reforms, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said on Thursday, and accused main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou of being unable to understand the real problems facing the country, recognise the true needs of the times, and stipulate his own proposal. Karamanlis was speaking in parliament during an off-the-agenda debate on the economy, held at the PASOK leader's initiative.
Reforms were the process that "leads from hopes to result", and "makes the desired, feasible", Karamanlis said, adding that this was the only way to ensure viable development, by increasing jobs, and the only way to increase the growth dividend, achieve an increase in incomes and reduction of poverty, and attain improvement of the lives of the citizens.
Responding in particular to an accusation by Papandreou that the government was using the current global financial crisis as an "alibi", Karamanlis said that the PASOK leader's statement was "not compromising the government, but his own party, and doing an injustice to himself".
The premier further criticised those who backed such a position, saying "it is incomprehensible that they are ignoring the international conjuncture, it is dangerous for them to believe that the modern economies develop in a void, it is irresponsible for them to claim that the conjuncture is nothing but the government's alibi".
"The government does not need an alibi. It is others who are in one place and say they are elsewhere," he added.
Karamanlis stressed that although the repercussions of the international crisis had reached Greece as well, they were nevertheless "milder" in relation to the eurozone, and would have been "even milder if we were not facing the deficits, the debts, the weaknesses left behind (by the preceding PASOK governments), and would have been even more adverse if we had not taken the road of changes".
The premier also described as "extreme" the PASOK leadership's stance of discouraging prospective investors from considering investments in Greece and urging them to not become involved in major infrastructures and DEKO (public utilities and organisations), and threatening them that they will find themselves face to face with PASOK.
"They (PASOK) went so far as to resort to Third World views, which have no place in European countries, and are of no value whatsoever. They say things that are not possible. It is an outburst of irresponsibility, hypocrisy and distortion of reality," Karamanlis charged.
On the reactions to the reforms being advanced by his government, Karamanlis said that they "express an easy populism that costs nothing, long-standing fears and pathogenies of the past and downward equalisation".
"We will not follow the path of misery, we will not bow to the conservatism of the accommodated, we will not compromise with inertia, stagnation, immobilisation of society and marginalisation of the country," the premier stressed, adding that "in politics, wishes are not sufficient, the real problems require effective solutions, bold policies, and substantive replies to crucial questions".
Concluding, Karamanlis highlighted the significance of the inter-state agreements signed by his government, which he said rendered Greece an international energy hub. "They contribute to peace and stability, and enhance our geo-political role," he said, referring to the Turkey-Greece natural gas pipeline, the under-water Greek-Italian pipeline, the southern European corridor, and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline.
And now, he added, "following the initial deliberations last June, we are entering a new substantive round of contacts on the South Stream system of pipelines".
"When PASOK was speaking of 'slaps' against Greece, we were opening up new roads for the future," Karamanlis said.
PASOK resists change, PM says in closing speech
Replying to the arguments of the main opposition leader in his rejoinder and closing remarks, Karamanlis said that PASOK appeared to be doing its utmost to prevent change. He also accused the party of extreme populism and confused messages, in which it denounced as the opposition all the measures and policies that it had itself been planning when in government.
In particular, he pointed out that PASOK governments had started privatisations of state-owned public utilities and the search for strategic partners, policies that it had then dubbed developmental policies and was now denouncing as a "discount sale". Among these were the largest Greek ports, Piraeus, for which the last government had drawn up a concession contract, the premier said, submitting a copy of the contract to be included in the minutes.
He also brought attention to PASOK's inconsistent stance toward the status of OTE, which shifted from insisting that there would only be a single state-owned share to floating the majority of its shares on the stock market a few years later, while the 2001 budget included a statement that "the final phase of concluding a strategic alliance with OTE with an international telecommunications body was entering its final phase".
"This is what you did as a government, this is what you planned, and this is what you said in your programme. Now you are posturing as rebels. Over what? The policies that you yourselves promoted, for the things that you voted unanimously in the budget, for what you say in your policy statement? We have not and do not take anyone by surprise. We do not say and unsay. The privilege of unreliability is exclusively yours," Karamanlis underlined.
In his closing remarks, meanwhile, the premier referred to "big financial interests" that had supported PASOK for "a quarter of a century" in exchange for public contracts handed out to five or six companies without proper tenders, while claiming that the main opposition's main concern was to maintain the status quo and prevent any change.
"Why did you run out of the revision of the Constitution? Is it not true that we declared all the articles of the Constitution concerning the protection of transparency to be up for revision...How is it that you doubt everything but then do everything possible to change nothing?" he asked.
Lastly, he focused on PASOK's unsuccessful attempts to privatise Olympic Airways, saying that had ended in a series of fiascos that had cost Greek tax-payers hundreds of millions of euros and underlined the incompetence of PASOK government.Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. -->
 Parties consider 'name issue'The National Council of Foreign Policy, chaired by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, convened in Athens on Thursday to discuss three issues dominating much of Greece's foreign policy attention of late, namely, the FYROM 'name issue', Kosovo and the latest developments over the long-standing Cyprus issue.
"Yet again it was ascertained that our country's strategic choices in foreign policy are not a field for clashes by political forces participating on the council," foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos said.
Most of the participants at the meeting referred to a 'consensus' regarding Athens' policy vis-a-vis the FYROM 'name issue', while expressing a view that the latest "mobility" in diplomatic efforts surrounding the Cyprus problem must be exploited.
Moreover, several participants expressed concerns over the most recent political developments in neighbouring Turkey.
Former foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos referred to "unanimity" when asked about Greece's policy over "name issue" with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), adding that Athens' positions were "clear, solid and well-founded".
All of the Parliament-represented parties -- sans the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) -- participate on the council.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos.
 PPC to sign MoC with RWEState-run Public Power Corp. (PPC) will sign a memorandum of cooperation with German multinational energy giant RWE aimed at boosting cooperation in the natural gas and windpower park sectors, along with construction of a coal-fired power station in Albania - in cooperation with the listed Titan group, PPC chairman and chief executive Panagiotis Athanassopoulos said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, Athanassopoulos said cooperation with RWE did not include construction of a coal-fired power station in Greece, following reactions by the utility's workers and local authorities, as he referred, however, to a "missed opportunity". PPC's chairman said the utility did not plan cuts in power supplies during the summer and noted that an increase in PPC's electricity rates has been absorbed, by two-thirds, from increasing fuel costs.
Caption: ANA-MPA file photo.
 NBG head on Greek eco outlookThe impact from an international credit crisis on the Greek economy will be limited, National Bank of Greece (NBG) chairman and chief executive Takis Arapoglou said on Thursday.
Addressing an annual general shareholders' meeting, Arapoglou also expressed optimism over the course of the Greek economy, the domestic banking system and of the bank itself.
"The Greek economy, from its position, remains less vulnerable to a negative international conjecture, since it maintains the characteristics of a relatively closed economy. One additional positive element is the fact that the Greek financial sector has a high capital adequacy and zero exposure to high-risk products, while credit expansion to enterprises and households continues to show significant growth outlook compared with European average levels," Arapoglou said. Commenting on international financial and economic developments, the Greek banker said a procedure of returning to more stable and sustainable economic fundamentals would take more time than original estimates.
Arapoglou said National Bank's results in the first quarter of the year were in line with the Group's business plan and underlined that National Bank group would enjoy one more year of positive results.
Commenting on National Bank's share price, Arapoglou said that despite a significant decline, losses were limited compared with other European banks.
National Bank's chairman said the bank continues examining investment opportunities in countries with significant growth prospects, focusing on banks with strong presence and strong management. "Our main target is that any future acquisition will offer additional value to our investors," he said.
Caption: File photo of NBG Chairman Takis Arapoglou. ANA-MPA/ PANTELIS SAITAS.
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