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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-07-02

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Amendment for illegal building conversions tabled Thursday
  • [02] Gazi district offers free, hi-speed wireless Net
  • [03] Grevena archaeological finds emerge from highway project
  • [04] Barrot: Migration threatens Greece
  • [05] FM visit to Azerbaijan
  • [06] Stocks end 0.87% down

  • [01] Amendment for illegal building conversions tabled Thursday

    In a bid to boost state revenues and to end decades-old building code violations, the government on Thursday will table an amendment allowing home owners to avoid annual fines for illegally converted or enclosed "add-on" spaces - such as balconies, basements and store-rooms turned into extra rooms without planning permission - through a one-off payment paid within a year of the amendment becoming law.

    The amount paid is calculated at 10 percent of the value of the 'illegal' additions, based on the price zone of the property for tax purposes.

    Presenting the amendment on Wednesday, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister George Souflias stressed that the measure was a "settlement" that allowed owners to avoid annual fines and not a legalisation of the illegal conversions. He also clarified that the measure would only apply to spaces within the boundaries of the buildings' approved outlines, not separate structures.

    The measure will apply to all properties built on the basis of licences issued by July 2, 2009.

    With an estimated 1.5 million such illegal conversions thought to exist throughout the country, the government expects to raise substantial sums and greatly ease public finances at a time when the fiscal deficit was a serious problem, Souflias told reporters.

    The measure was expected to bring in more than two billion euros in 2009 and a similar amount in 2010, he said.

    Until now, the owners of property that was found to violate planning permission were liable to pay fines for the violation itself and yearly "maintenance" fines that allowed them to retain the illegal structure or the conversion of use.

    In addition to the one-off payment, the amendment introduces measures designed to discourage future abuses of planning regulations, such as restricting the size of semi-outdoor spaces (e.g. porches and balconies), or lowering the maximum ceiling height above ground level for basements, as well as including ground-level structures like garages in the overall coverage allowed on a plot of land.

    The minister said that anyone failing to take advantage of the measures would be liable to pay fines for illegal buildings, adding that there would be extensive drive to inspect all undeclared spaces of this type.

    In a new announcement on Thursday, meanwhile, the environment ministry clarified that the new measures would only apply for buildings that were legally constructed, not for those lacking planning permission altogether.

    The announcement also underlined that the amendment included measures designed to discourage similar abuses in the future, so as not to create the impression that people could break the laws at will and would later find their actions legalised.

    It also clarified that those who paid the one-off sum could then retain the conversion for the duration of the building's life and would not be liable to any future fines.

    PASOK criticises proposed measures

    Commenting on the measures unveiled by the government, main opposition PASOK's spokeswoman for economic issues Louka Katseli strongly criticised both the measures and the message being given to Greek people.

    "On the altar of correcting fiscal irregularity, purely for the purpose of raising revenues as the environment minister has himself admitted, the government is consolidating Greek society's view of the state as completely untrustworthy and arbitrary," she stressed.

    Instead of taking bold measures to curb wasteful public-sector spending or taking action to prevent tax evasion, instead of asking everyone to contribute based on their ability to pay tax, the government was resorting to indirect taxes and the 'settlement' for illegally enclosed spaces and basements, she said.

    According to Katseli, the government was essentially demanding that people pay something that most had already paid for by threatening them with higher fines in the future.

    [02] Gazi district offers free, hi-speed wireless Net

    Athens residents and visitors as of Thursday will enjoy free high-speed wireless Internet in the Soho-like Gazi district of the Greek capital, an initiative coming within the framework of the Information Society Operational Programme.

    Installation of hi-tech equipment at the municipality's Technopolis complex ensures coverage of all of its outdoor areas as well as nearby Kerameikos square and a recently developed green space. The specific area is one of the largest in Greece in terms of provision of free wireless internet access by a state body.

    A similar network has already been installed in three public areas within the city of Athens, via the Operational Programme, namely, Syntagma Square, Kotzia Square and the Thissio commons.

    [03] Grevena archaeological finds emerge from highway project

    Archaeological excavations conducted since 2004 in the prefecture of Grevena, northwest Greece, and the finds unearthed have provided valuable information on the region's archaeological identity, including proof of a Mycenaean presence. The findings were unveiled during a special event hosted by the local municipality.

    Ancient Timfea was located south of Orestis (Kastoria prefecture) and west of Elimiotis (Aeani, Kozani prefecture). Its southern boundaries were Mt. Chasia (or far more south to the springs of Pineios River), while the Pindus Mountain Range was at its western borders. The site was part of ancient Upper Macedonia, in modern Greece's western Macedonia region.

    This is the first time a Mycenaean presence was proven in the region through archaeological excavations, while the ancient Macedonian ceramic art also identified is represented mainly by the Macedonians and Dorians. The ancient tombs, with the rich offerings, point to the existence of settlements with characteristics of permanent urban life, high living and cultural standards and frequent contact with southern Greek states and kingdoms.

    Earlier, excavations in Aeani and the rest of the Kozani prefecture showed the existence of active and well-organised settlements in the ancient upper Macedonia geographical area, long before the major expansion of the ancient Macedonian kingdom under Philip II.

    Intensive archaeological excavations were conducted in the regions of Prionia and Knidi since 2004 as a result of the construction of the Egnatia motorway and the operation of an argil extraction plant, respectively, while additional excavations are currently underway in the Aliakmonas riverbed, at the construction site of the Hilarion Dam project.

    Caption: A portion of the closed Egnatia motorway, which spans the breadth of northern Greece, is shown in Grevena prefecture, in a file photo dated Saturday, May 30, 2009. ANA-MPA / A. BELTES

    [04] Barrot: Migration threatens Greece

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA) -- European Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot warned here on Thursday that Greece could be threatened by social unrest from the huge flow of illegal migrants arriving on its shores via Turkey.

    "There is a major threat to the equilibrium of Greek democracy because of the uncontrollable flow of migration," Barrot told a press conference in the Belgian capital, days after he met with Greek leadership to discussed, among others, the increasingly urgent issue of illegal immigration.

    Barrot, who also holds the justice and home affairs portfolio on the Commission, was briefed on Greece's displeasure at the fact that Turkish authorities are doing little to stop the clandestine flow of mostly Third World migrants through the EU candidate-state and onto Greek and EU territory. While in Greece and following a tour of several migrant reception centres, Barrot also called on Ankara to do more to prevent illegal immigration from its territory.

    "Turkey has to help us fight the facilitators and traffickers who push people to make risky journeys ... We can't simply remain motionless. We have to get much firmer control from the Turkish government. We would also encourage the Turks to sign a readmission agreement," the French Commissioner stressed, adding that similar protocols with Pakistan and other South Asian nations, the home countries of many would-be migrants, is necessary.

    Barrot said he intends to jumpstart debate on the issue of migration and its effects on the Union during an informal meeting of EU interior and justice ministers next month in Stockholm.

    [05] FM visit to Azerbaijan

    BAKU (ANA-MPA / N. Melissova) -- Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Thursday began a tour of the Caucasus, and specifically to Azerbaijan and Armenia, under her dual capacity as chairperson of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and as Athens top diplomatic representative.

    In statements she made after a number of meetings in the Azerbaijan capita of Baku, the first stop of her tour, she underlined that her visit was aimed at "strengthening bilateral relations and contributing to a settlement of the long-lasting problem Nagorno-Karabakh problem, by intensifying efforts made for many years by OSCE."

    Bakoyannis met with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, Parliament Speaker Ogtay Asadov and representatives of opposition parties.

    The meeting with Aliyev lasted for an hour and fifteen minutes, twice the time originally scheduled. Initially they held a private meeting that was later attended by the two delegations.

    "The contacts were very important and I had the opportunity to hold talks under my dual capacity," Bakoyannis said, adding that they focused on energy cooperation and pipelines. "Our goal is to bring Azeri natural gas to Europe via the TGI pipeline," the Greek foreign minister stressed.

    Referring to the currently "frozen" Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that has a direct impact on stability in southern Caucasus, Bakoyannis stressed that the Greek OSCE chairmanship is intensifying efforts that are underway for years for the solution of the thorny issue.

    Referring to her meeting with Aliyev, Bakoyannis stated that "it was held in a very good atmosphere following a very successful cooperation between PM Costas Karamanlis and the Azeri President during latter's visit to Athens four months ago."

    "Our goal is to further strengthen relations with Azerbaijan through frequent bilateral contacts," she underlined.

    The next stop of her tour will be Armenia.

    [06] Stocks end 0.87% down

    Greek stocks ended their mini-rally in the Athens Stock Exchange on Thursday, as investors took profits pushing the composite index of the market down 0.87 pct to end at 2,217.58 points. Turnover was a moderate 151.6 million euros, of which 12.3 million euros were block trades.

    Most sectors moved down, with the Technology (2.25 pct), Insurance (2.5 pct) and Banks (2.02 pct) suffering the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Personal/Home Products (1.90 pct), Industrial Products (1.06 pct) and Food/Beverage (0.85 pct) scored gains.

    The FTSE 20 index fell 1.43 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 0.79 pct higher and the FTSE 80 index fell 0.97 pct. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 127 to 88 with another 46 issues unchanged.


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