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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-05-05
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Papandreou: Victory in EuroParliament electionsIn a scathing attack on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his government, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Tuesday termed the previous night's vote in Parliament (on whether to indict former minister Aristotelis Pavlidis) a "major defeat" for the ruling party. Addressing PASOK's Political Council, Papandreou said that the premier was personally responsible for the outcome.
"The prime minister and his government, through their stance, are completely hostage to the interests that they serve," he stressed. The proposal to indict was rejected after it failed to obtain the 151 votes required under the Constitution, with 146 votes in favour, 144 against and five blank votes cast in the ballot box.
Referring to the Siemens slush funds investigation, in which both members of PASOK and ND have been implicated, and in view of PASOK's proposal for a Parliamentary probe into the case that will be discussed on Wednesday, Papandreou said that Karamanlis had "missed a great opportunity to investigate the case and lay down rules for transparency".
"ND did not dare because it is not interested in transparency but only in remaining in power so that it can serve interests," he added.
PASOK's leader also stressed that corruption was only the "tip of the iceberg" and that the underlying problem was a "specific attitude of government" that had to be changed.
Referring to ND's years in power, he accused the ruling party of squandering the country's developmental and social reserves and cited the latest figures from the European Commission "that show a complete fiscal failure for which the international crisis is not chiefly to blame but the fact that the country is in a dire economic situation."
This had forced the government to impose spending cuts, Papandreou added, which were "the worst possible thing in a time of recession".
Regarding the upcoming European elections and the next general elections, PASOK's leader said the party's goal was to win the first and achieve a majority government in the second. He stressed that the battle would be a tough one, against powerful interests and a government using state mechanisms, but was optimistic that PASOK will prevail "without having made compromises".
"The Euro-elections are not just a national battle but a battle for the direction of Europe. The answer to the attacks that PASOK is getting and will continue to get is the loud and strong presence of the Movement, its rallying, unanimity and unity," he concluded.
Caption: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou speaking at an ISTAME event on Europe held in Athens on Monday night. ANA-MPA - Alexandros Beltes.
 New social security numbers for all by July, minister saysEmployment and Social Protection Minister Fani Palli-Petralia on Tuesday said that the issue of social security numbers to all eligible recipients in Greece will be completed by July when they become mandatory, helping to promote and reinforce the reforms to the country's social insurance system.
Launching a public information campaign about the new social security numbers, the minister said that from July 2009 all citizens would have their own, unique and mandatory social insurance number that would serve to identify them in all transactions related to employment and social insurance, laying the foundations for a modern and simplified system of benefits.
The new numbers, with the acronym AMKA in Greek, will be given to those eligible by Citizens' Service Bureaus throughout the country and 125 AMKA bureaus created in social insurance funds. So far, the company in charge of organising the issue of the numbers to some seven million people has sent out two million cards to eligible parties.
Information regarding the new numbers is also available on the phone line 11131.
 Vote on new probe for PavlidisA main opposition PASOK party proposal for a second special parliamentary investigation committee to probe the actions of ruling New Democracy (ND) MP Aristotelis Pavlidis when he was Aegean minister, relating to the allocation of a subsidized route to the remote island of Tilos, will be discussed in Parliament on Thursday night.
PASOK wants the second Parliamentary probe to determine if there is evidence to indict Pavlidis on charges of breach of duty.
After the proposal was initially tabled on April 28, government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros had stated that this is an "orchestrated effort to ridicule justice and politics in the country," adding that "the government will not take part." The spokesman repeated this statement on Tuesday, when asked about the government's stance on the second case involving the former minister.
Caption: New Democracy MP and former Aegean minister Aristotelis Pavlidis addressing Parliament on Monday night, just before a vote that failed to obtain the required majority needed to indict him on charges of bribery and extortion. ANA-MPA - Katerina Mavrona
 Papoulias meets Finnish PresidentHelsinki (ANA-MPA / N. Megadoukas) -- Greek President Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday had a cordial meeting with his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonen here, within the framework of his four-day state visit to Finland.
Presidents Papoulias and Halonen, old acquaintances and friends since their terms as foreign ministers, discussed the global economic crisis, bilateral, international and European issues and according to Papoulias they "shared the same positions".
The Finnish President commented that the two peoples are close, referring to the large number of Greek and Finnish tourists visiting the two countries, and underlined that the "business communities in Greece and Finland should do more for bilateral relations."
Both Papoulias and Halonen referred to issues concerning the Baltic and the greater Mediterranean region, with Halonen stating that "both countries have very interesting neighbours," stressing the need for a solution to the Cyprus issue.
She pointed out that it is "unacceptable for a European capital like Nicosia to be under the occupation of another country like Turkey that wishes to be part of the European family," adding that "we should make every effort to find a solution to the specific problem."
President Halonen added that Finland is in favor of a process within the framework of the UN "to see how the Cyprus issue will be solved".
She backed Turkey's accession into the European Union, adding that if Turkey works hard it can meet the necessary criteria for membership. "We know that some of the pending issues concern Cyprus but the country has a lot of work to do as regards its domestic issues, as well," Halonen said, referring to Turkey.
Halonen expressed hope that she and President Papoulias will witness the solution of the Cyprus problem, pointing out that "this will not happen in one day and the solution will not come from the EU. It is in the hands of the UN. However, the EU can clearly do something and help toward reaching a solution."
Responding to relevant questions, Halonen backed the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece and the return to their countries of origin of all antiquities that are being kept in third countries. On his part, President Papoulias invited his Finnish counterpart to formally visit Greece and thanked both Finland and the Finnish Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles for their efforts. The Greek President will address a special event on Wednesday hosted by the committee.
The Greek President also visited the Helsinki Town Hall and was awarded the city's Medal of Honour before laying a wreath at the Heroes Monument. Later in the evening, he will attend a formal dinner hosted in his honor by the Finnish President.
Deputy Foreign Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, who accompanied the President, will meet in the afternoon with the foreign trade and development minister while on Wednesday he will address a Greece-Finland Business Forum held in the Finnish capital in the presence of President Papoulias.
Caption: Greek President Karolos Papoulias (left) and Finland's President Tarja Halonen (right) during a joint press conference after their meeting in Helsinki on Tuesday. ANA-MPA - Vangelis Vardoulakis
 SYRIZA letter to partiesCoalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) leader Alekos Alavanos on Tuesday proposed a revision of article 86 of the Constitution and the law for prosecuting ministers on criminal charges, in a letter to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the heads of the opposition parties in Parliament.
In the letter, Alavanos points out that the current laws have led "to Parliament and political life, on the one hand, being locked in a perpetual discussion of scandals that shift the centre of political attention away from the big problems of society, while no minister, on the other hand, whether current or former, is ever indicted to face justice".
The head of the SYRIZA Parliamentary group therefore proposed a revision of the relevant article of the Constitution whenever the next Constitutional revision occurs and that the task of prosecuting and indicting ministers for criminal offences be turned over to justice, as takes place in nearly all other European countries.
In the meantime, Alavanos suggested that any cases referred to Parliament by prosecutors be automatically returned for investigation by judicial officials, after going through a process that all parties will promise to keep a formality, without wasting Parliamentary resources or time in examining the case.
Stressing that Parliament cannot be converted into a courtroom, Alavanos urged the other parties in Parliament to match SYRIZA's pledge with similar pledges of their own, saying that this would help "restore the deeply injured credibility of the Parliament and the parties and will have the united support of all citizens, regardless of their political preferences".
Caption: SYRIZA leader Alekos Alavanos addressing Parliament on Monday night, during the debate on a proposal to indict former Aegean minister Aristotelis Pavlidis to stand trial on a charge of bribery and extortion that was eventually rejected by Parliament. ANA-MPA - Katerina Mavrona
 Stocks soar 3.06 pctGreek stocks continued their rally for one more session in the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday, pushing the composite index of the market above the 2,100 level. The index jumped 3.06 pct to end at 2,160.47 points, with turnover rising to 392.8 million euros, of which 16.6 million euros were block trades.
Most sectors moved upwards, with the Technology (9.08 pct), Banks (8.17 pct) and Insurance (4.36 pct) scoring the biggest percentage gains of the day, while Utilities (1.87 pct), Telecoms (1.44 pct) and Food/Beverage (1.08 pct) suffered losses.
The FTSE 20 index rose 3.98 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 3.57 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index jumped 6.60 pct. Broadly, advancers led decliners by 149 to 94 with another 34 issues unchanged.
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