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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-03-20

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM stresses flexibility, fiscal balance
  • [02] Minister at foundation ceremony for digital driving test centre
  • [03] New evidence on bomb blast

  • [01] PM stresses flexibility, fiscal balance

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA) In a press conference after the European leaders' summit on Friday, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed the need to respond with flexibility to what he described as an "unprecedented" international economic crisis and, in Greece's case, to avoid further burdening the country's already very high public debt and fiscal deficit.

    Outlining the policy agreed by EU leaders, he said the emphasis would be on improving lending performance by banks, countering trends toward protectionism and maintaining free markets but also support for households and low incomes.

    The prime minister said that the Greek government's policies had a threefold aim, each of which had to be pursued simultaneously: boosting development, trying to maintain a fiscal balance and supporting the poorer, more vulnerable sections of society. He stressed that none of these could be focused on at the expense of the others.

    He defended the new revenue-raising measures announced by the government earlier this week, including the one-off levy on high incomes and a decision for a salary freeze in the public sector, denying that these constituted a U-turn on earlier pledges that the government would not impose new taxes.

    Karamanlis emphasised that these were 'emergency' measures taken in response to an emergency situation and constituted a responsible approach to the crisis.

    "I have chosen to tell the Greek people the truth," he said, adding that the rapidly deteriorating situation required the flexibility to take corrective measures in response to it.

    In response to questions regarding solidarity between EU countries, the prime minister said there was no need for solidarity to address fiscal deficit problems in the Eurozone and stressed that each member-state had to implement its own programme of fiscal consolidation.

    [02] Minister at foundation ceremony for digital driving test centre

    Transport and Communications Minister Evripidis Stylianidis on Friday laid the foundation stone for the first of 11 new "digitalised" testing centres for new drivers, in the municipality of Thermi in Thessaloniki. He stressed that the government intended to put a stop to incidents of corruption and bribery involving new driving licences, as well as the heavy toll in lives on Greek roads.

    The new driving test track will occupy 6.6-hectare site donated by the agriculture ministry and has a construction budget of 4.7 million euros.

    "The state is being re-founded in the transport sector," Stylianidis told those present, stressing that the new site would streamline the prefecture's transport and communications services, in which everything would be electronic and digital, with fully objective criteria for assessing those applying for a licence to drive.

    "With the digitalisation of the files and the creation of electronic [testing] parks, there will henceforth be no room for third parties in the process of certifying drivers," he underlined.

    The minister noted that another 10 such centres are scheduled to be built around the country, while that in Thessaloniki was expected to be completed by the autumn since roughly one third of the auxiliary facilities on the site were already complete.

    Macedonia-Thrace Minister Stavros Kalafatis described the centre as "a big small project" that would help cut back bureaucracy and promote decentralisation and transparency.

    [03] New evidence on bomb blast

    Police explosives experts on Friday confirmed that the bomb set off outside the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation (KED) building on Thursday night, at the corner of Koniari Street and Alexandras Avenue opposite the Supreme Court, was a remote-controlled device that they described as 'powerful'.

    From evidence collected at the scene of the explosion, they surmise that the device was detonated remotely from a fairly short distance away and that those responsible probably had visual contact with the site of the explosion and could thus ensure that no passers-by fell victim to the blast.

    Investigators also assume that this was the reason why there was no warning telephone call about the bomb to authorities.

    Among the findings at the scene is a plaque distorted by the explosion that experts suspect was used to receive the signal from a remote detonator that may have been similar to a car alarm system.

    Apart from this, police estimate that the device contained roughly two kilos of explosives but that the brunt of the blast was absorbed by the car parked next to the bomb, which suffered the most damage.

    The bomb had been placed in a blue plastic bag hung from the base of a railing along the side of the road, near the entrance to the KED building and between parked cars. In addition to the damage suffered by the car, the blast also caused minor damage to the entrance of the building and shattered windows in the surrounding neighbourhood.

    Two security guards had been on night-time guard duty within the KED building at the time of the explosion, but these were stationed at the back of the building so that they were neither in any danger but did not see anything suspicious that might help in the investigation.

    Police will examine footage recorded by CCTV traffic control cameras on Alexandras Avenue and outside the Supreme Court and other buildings in the area, hoping to identify the suspects. The likelihood of this is considered low, however, since experts believe that the culprits will be in disguise, as in the case of the car booby-trapped with a 125-kilo ANFO bomb outside the Citibank building in Kifissia.

    No group has so far claimed responsibility for the explosion, though the use of a device with a remote-control detonator bears the hallmarks of "Revolutionary Struggle", which had used the same method for the attack targeting former minister George Voulgarakis in May 2006 and another group named 'Popular Will'. The latter terror group had detonated a bomb using a cell phone at the Larissa court building on 29 May 2004, an explosive devices at the offices of the international firms Bayer, Siemens and Lufthansa in Maroussi in June 2008, and at the finance ministry's Economic Social Committee building in Neos Kosmos, Athens a month after that. The group had claimed responsibility for the above attacks with a proclamation sent 50 months after its first appearance.

    Anti-terrorist squad officers are now waiting for a proclamation that will explain the reasons for the attack on the specific building.

    The explosion occurred at 21:30 on Thursday night, causing damage but no injuries. A strong smell of natural gas that followed the explosion was found to be due to the fact that the lid of a natural gas pipe had been blown off by the explosion, while the bomb-disposal experts clarified that there had been no explosion of natural gas.

    Caption: Police cordon off the Hellenic Public Real Estate Corporation building and the surrounding area after a bomb explosion on Thursday 19 March 2009.ANA-MPA/ KATERINA MAVRONA

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