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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-01-27
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM chairs Cabinet meeting on energyPrime minister Costas Karamanlis on Tuesday chaired an Inner Cabinet meeting that focused on energy issues.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said that energy was a very important issue as it concerned our everyday lives and investments and the creation of new jobs, but also the country's geo-strategic position and the environment.
He noted that the latest natural gas crisis had proven that Greece was protected, adding that this was the result of the government's planning.
"However, we are not complacent and are continuing to proceed on the basis of that plan," the minister continued, elaborating that the plans for the South Stream and the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipelines were progressing smoothly, enhancing Greece's geo-strategic position.
Regarding Greece's energy sufficiency, he said there was no cause for worry, noting that new units have been placed in operation this year by both the Public Power Corporation and private investors.
The issue occupying the government was the smooth operation of the market with respect to competition, particularly in the field of petrol products, Hatzidakis said.
Regarding a recent decision by the Competition Committee, Hatzidakis said that the government was in contact with all involved in the oil products sector, adding that it was prepared, in a short time, to take specific measures for the smooth operation of the market, competition and the protection of consumers.
Hatzidakis further stressed that the government attributed great importance to renewable energy sources, noting that the capacity of installed renewable energy sources had been forecast to triple by 2008. The fact that the country had currently exceeded 1,400 megawatt from an initial 450 megawatt reflected the importance placed on this by his predecessors at the ministry, he added, promising to continue in the same direction and try to accelerate the pace.
He said that the government wanted 2009 to be the year of renewable energy sources, adding that "this is our duty to the younger generations of Greece, as it has to do directly with protection of the environment as well".
Caption: ANA-MPA file photograph of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis
 PASOK accuses gov't of 'secret' borrowingMain opposition PASOK on Tuesday called on the government to "stop handling the economic crisis by using communications terms and announcing fragmentary measures," and accused it of sabotaging the country's developmental reserves by resorting to secret and hugely expensive borrowing.
During a Tuesday press conference, the party's spokesperson for economic issues, Louka Katseli, called for greater transparency in the management of state funds and said the government had an obligation to Greek voters to submit the Stability and Development Plan to Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee before it was sent to the European Commission.
According to Katseli, the government should also revise the 2009 budget and release information on planned borrowing requirements of the Greek State.
Commenting on road blocks set up by protesting farmers, PASOK spokesman George Papaconstantinou said that the main opposition was not in favour of blocking roads but noted that there was "a democracy" in the action taken by farmers over the past weeks.
"There are farmers who make decisions through their collective representation. We respect this autonomy," he said, adding that farmers "had nothing to expect from this government".
"They cannot expect a solution to their short-term problems and they cannot expect any vision or programme about where Greek agriculture is going," he said.
Questioned about PASOK's stance on an issue raised by ruling New Democracy, which called for the support of current President Karolos Papoulias for a second term in office, Papaconstantinou noted that "this was not an issue at present".
"Our position is known and clear: respect for the person of the president and decisions based on the interests of the country. And I will leave it at that," he told reporters, suggesting that the government was raising this issue for obvious reasons.
"Let the government do its work and be judged by the Greek people. We are sure that general elections will be held long before the presidential election takes place," he added.
 Ecumenical Patriarch appears on Turkish TV show on GazaIstanbul (ANA-MPA / A. Kourkoulas) -- "What happened in Gaza is upsetting and embarrassing for the human race," Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I stressed, speaking on Turkish television channel TRT1 during a relief campaign programme for the victims of the Israeli attack. "The fact that most of the dead were children, women and old people is incomprehensible," he stressed, adding that "we are saddened because fellow human beings suffer such pains" while pointing out that "only love can eliminate wars from the surface of the earth". The Ecumenical Patriarch stressed that Jews, Christians and Muslims should help the suffering Palestinian people by offering them material and spiritual assistance.
 New meetings as roadblocks continueIn the first signs that the deadlock between the government and farmers was finally easing, Agriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis on Tuesday afternoon retracted an earlier decision to cancel meetings with farmer representatives. After earlier announcing that he had cancelled meetings with the farmer union PASEGES and the farmers manning the road blocks at the Isthmus in Corinth, Hatzigakis eventually agreed that the meetings should take place at around 19:00 on Tuesday evening. At the same time, farmers at the Corinth road block decided to open the road to traffic as a sign of good will. In statements on Tuesday, the agriculture minister had stressed that the issue of the government's proposed 500-million-euro aid package to farmers was "closed" and that dialogue on the problems of the farming sector would begin only after the roads had been opened. Farmers had initially rejected the aid package offered by the government on Monday, and thousands of tractors had ensured that road blocks remained in place at dozens of key junctions on the national road network, as well as several border crossings, throughout most of Tuesday. These included the Athens-Thessaloniki national motorway at Tempi and Nikaia, central Greece, while tractors were parked along the Egnatia Odos national motorway, in northwest Greece, as well as at the Malgara toll gate, outside Thessaloniki. In addition, farmers from Xanthi, in the northeast, had set up roadblocks on the Strimona Bridge and motorists were using provincial roads to reach their destination. The border crossings at Exochi, Kipi and Promachonas were entirely blocked off while those at Evzoni and Doirani are being opened sporadically. In the Peloponnese, southern Greece, scores of tractors had blocked the bridge over the Isthmus of Corinth and forced all traffic onto the old Athens-Corinth national motorway, while several access roads and highways remain closed. Meanwhile, farmers on the southern Aegean island of Crete blocked the Heraklion-Chania national motorway. Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros on Tuesday stressed that the government had already done the best it could to meet their demands and that it was now the farmers' turn to respond to the government initiatives. "They have no reason to keep the roads closed," he said. Meanwhile, the Panhellenic Exporters Association, PEA, underlined in a letter addressed to Rural Development and Foods Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis that the continuing farmer roadblocks will lead to the collapse of production and exporting enterprises in the country, considering that border access is blocked by farmer tractors. Their complaints were echoed by retailers and other groups around the country. The problem was not confined to Greece's border either, with the farmers' protests dominating headlines in neighbouring Bulgaria and noting its impact on the local tourism and haulage sectors, in particular. Caption: ANA-MPA file photograph of a farmer manning a tractor road block.
 Reactions to farmer protestsCommunist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga on Tuesday called on the protesting farmers to react to the government's effort to break the roadblocks, underlining that the next few hours will be crucial for their mobilizations. Papariga accused main opposition PASOK of playing a leading role in the effort to put an end to the blockades and warned the farmers not to trust Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA). She also warned that if the farmers give way now, developments will be even more unfavourable for them after 2013. The KKE general secretary also stressed that the current situation is difficult, being marked by a considerable drop in production and a big increase in imports. SYRIZA
Arriving in Crete on Tuesday, Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group leader Alekos Alavanos expressed his support for protesting farmers manning road blocks throughout the country, noting that Monday's statements by Agriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis were "a proclamation for the mobilisations to continue".
He said the measures announced by the government were deliberately divisive and arbitrary, failing to address the problems based on their merit and adding that the farmers' protests were supported by the rest of society. Alavanos repeated his party's position regarding the need for long-term measures to support farming and stock breeding, and sharply criticised the government's measures for seeking to address the problems only for this year, predicting that many farmers would be led to bankruptcy in the years to come and calling for an increase in support for farm production.<font color="#FFFFFF" size="3" face="Verdana"> Caption: ANA-MPA file photograph of Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga.
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