|Saturday, 24 March 2018|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-02-18
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 PM meets US senatorPrime Minister Costas Karamanlis met on Wednesday at his Maximos Mansion government headquarters with visiting US Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
Karamanlis welcomed the two US lawmakers, the first official US delegation to visit Greece following the inauguration of new US President Barack Obama, stressing that the US president's commitment to closely cooperate with friends and allies on all major issues of mutual interest and concern is warmly welcomed.
The Greek prime minister added that, as he has told the US president in the telephone conversation they had, he is looking forward to close cooperation with him, focusing on forging closer bilateral relations, which are already on excellent as well as on issues of mutual interest, both international and regional.
"This reception is not of a symbolic nature, but constitutes a very sincere and substantive commitment," Karamanlis concluded.
On his part, US Sen. Durbin underlined that he is not in Greece as an official representative of the Obama administration adding, however, that he and Giannoulias come as "official friends of the President" and will convey to him the message that the friendship with Greece is strong and will become even stronger.
"Greece has inspired our democracy, and our alliance today is inspiring. We have many challenges that need to be faced globally and regionally. We have cooperated in the past to solve many problems and will do the same in the future as well," he stressed.
Meanwhile, the US lawmakers were later received by main opposition PASOK and Socialist International (SI) president George Papandreou, for talks on the international economic crisis and ways to combat its repercussions via the Obama administration's massive stimulus plan.
The two US officials queried Papandreou regarding the economic crisis in Greece and Europe, taking under consideration Papandreou's initiative to establish a Stieglitz Committee with the participation of representatives from all major countries.
Referring to the economy, discussion also touched on Papandreou's "green" growth proposals. They also referred to Middle East situation SI arbitration efforts in the Israel-Palestinians conflict and Iran.
Cyprus was also amongst the issues discussed in the meeting, as Papandreou cited PASOK's firm positions and his proposal for a new national strategy, adding that when PASOK returns to government, Athens' policy vis-?-vis Turkey will again become a top foreign policy priority.
 Papariga at KKE CongressThe Communist Party of Greece's (KKE) 18th Congress opened on Wednesday in Athens, with party leader Aleka Papariga opening the procedures with a review of the international and domestic situation, the global financial crisis and its causes, political developments, and prospects in light of the KKE's ideological/political positions, while she also placed the KKE on "full alert" for the upcoming European Parliament elections and the prospect of general elections, which she said were also on the horizon.
In her policy statement to the Congress, Papariga rang the bell for the party's counter-attack "on all fronts", at a time when major economic, social and political problems at global, regional and also national level were being "put on the table".
As such, socialism was "both timely and historically necessary", the KKE secretary general said, at the same time launching an attack on all the other opposition parties.
Expressing conviction that the Congress "will contribute to opening up a new page in the action and prospect of the labor, popular movement and in the KKE's contribution to the international communist, anti-imperialism movement", Papariga expressed gratification with the big majority with which the texts of the party's positions and the positions on socialism were ratified (72 percent and 73 percent respectively), which she said meant that the "agreement with both the texts of Positions has a solid foundation", adding that the ideological/political unity of the party was stronger today, consolidated by experience, struggles and the ideological/political confrontation.
However, the fact that the Congress was taking place in the midst of a crisis meant that "we all have cognizance of the fact that the demands are growing, as the first signs of the crisis have made their appearance in our country", she said, predicting that the crisis would break out in Greece as well, and would be "aggravated and relatively long-term".
"We have only one choice, to rise to the circumstances so that the labour movement will find itself in a position of counter-attack, and the social alliance will take steps forward".
On the two mainstream parties, Papariga said that both the New Democracy (ND) government and main opposition PASOK party, albeit with different phraseology and slogans, were essentially saying the dame thing, that the maximum cooperation among the social partners, all the "productive forces", must be ensured so that the crisis will pass as smoothly as possible. At the same time, however, their choices and proposals had two basic interlinking characteristics: Measures to safeguard profit, to the degree possible, and 'aspirin' measures for extreme poverty, she added.
On the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA, the SYN-led parliamentary alliance), Papariga said that it had "exceeded all boundaries of opportunism and anti-communism", making use of the opportunistic leaders who had headed the effort to transmute the KKE with the division of 1968.
As for the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party, she said that it has "shown its aversion to the mass popular action and struggles, rendering itself an apologist of police violence".
EU and NATO
Regarding Greece's membership in the European Union and NATO, the text of Positions said that it was time for planning for raising the issue of insubordination, as well as the country's disengagement, as a response to the positions endorsing "change from within".
In that respect, a discussion must commence on why Greece, in different conditions of political authority, is able to stand on its own feet, and under what conditions it should participate in international collaborations, and a systematic de-mythification of the "one-way paths" and the danger-mongering.
An effort could begin, according to the text, to reveal what the "balance of participation" was. The meaning of "balance" replies to the propaganda that Community monies have been and are forthcoming, and also to the argument that a country that cuts itself loose will face dangers. In that area, it was necessary to project the terms of conformation, the asymmetricality, the relations of interdependence and dependence. Thus, the position is de-mythified that Greece is a small, dependent country and cannot enter a developmental orbit to the benefit of the social needs that is counter to capitalistic growth and the service of the monopolies.
Papariga noted that the first major political battle after the KKE's 18th Congress would be the European Parliament elections, noting that the outgoing Central Committee has drafted a Policy Statement on the political framework and guidelines of that battle.
In one respect, the Euro-elections had significant similarities with national elections, with the difference that in the latter a government is elected while in the former a group of MEPs is elected, but nevertheless their common identity is the responsibility of the EU and the ruling parties regarding the everyday and more general problems faced by the working people in the country, the negative consequences from Greece's incorporation in the EU market and more generally in the "regional imperialistic union", the KKE leader said.
Papariga further said that in the national elections, ND and PASOK -- the parties that alternately (as government) signed all the anti-labor and anti-popular decisions of the EU, took part in its imperialistic interventions and wars it backed or actively took part in -- will be judged.
She said that the "imperialistic European Union policy" does not have only the two mainstream parties as allies in Greece, but also other political forces which, in their own way, supported and support it, considering it a "one-way' path. It was a fact, she said, that recently SYRIZA appeared to be strongly critical towards the EU, while at the same time cultivating the delusion that the EU could change into a more human union "in the same way that it (SYRIZA) frequently adopts the humanization of capitalism at national level".
Papariga opined that national elections were near at hand since, under the present circumstances, it was not at all certain that the ND government would complete its four-year term, and as such the KKE needed to be prepared both ideologically and politically for such a battle, which would essentially be a showdown between the two paths of development.
 Hatzidakis meets NGOsDevelopment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis on Wednesday announced a programme of incentives and disincentives aimed at lowering power consumption, after a meeting with environmental groups. He clarified, in response to questions, that the government's aim was not to increase electricity bills charged by the Public Power Corporation but to reduce the use of power.
"We agreed in discussion with the PPC that we must, without delay, adopt a programme of incentives and disincentives in order to conserve electrical power. In other words, the idea is that when you use less power you will pay less, whereas if you are wasteful you run the risk of paying more. With this policy, we hope to restrict power consumption so that, as is the case in all European countries, we have more reasonable consumption levels. It is a positive policy for the country and positive for consumers' pockets," he said.
Among planned measures cited by the minister were subsidies to replace boilers, upgrade the energy efficiency of buildings and a coupon system for owners of residences and households in order to scrap older, energy-hungry domestic appliances. He also mentioned plans to introduce a telemetry system that again led to reduction in power consumption levels.
Commenting on the results of Wednesday's meeting with environmental NGOs, he stressed the government's desire to have them as key partners in a dialogue on energy issues.
"At the end, we agreed that environmental organisations will discuss amongst themselves and submit to the government a proposal that is the common denominator of their positions for the future energy mix of the country," he added.
"We said in the meeting that it is not enough to agree that we say 'no' to nuclear energy or coal, we must also agree on what we say 'yes' to," Hatzidakis noted.
For a start, he added, all sides had agreed to renewable energy sources in principle and that the country must more quickly expand the RES share of Greece's energy consumption, while they also stressed the issue of energy conservation, where several important steps could be taken.
In this area, the government was already preparing two individual programmes, the minister said, which focused on energy conservation by households.
"Here I must stress the following: money from the Community Support Framework will come and we will be, I assume, able in a very short space of time to present specific proposals in order to subsidise the replacement of boilers and energy upgrades for buildings in general, so that there is energy conservation. The State will contribute money to apartment buildings and houses so that there is such a programme, which will also benefit the country's construction industry, among others, especially during this difficult year," he said.
The second programme, also funded by the CSF, would be a programme by which households will receive coupons in order to scrap older domestic appliances that used more power.
Hatzidakis said the talks had also covered sustainable consumption by households in terms of waste management.
"We do not want to leave things on the level of promotional campaigns. We want there to be, also, a network of policy, a network of measures in the specific area, so that on this level also we follow other European countries that emphasise not just the final link of the chain in terms of waste management but the reduction of waste produced by households themselves," he said.
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