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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-07-08

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] KYSEA discusses illegal migration, NATO issues
  • [02] PASOK: new taxes 'suffocating' markets

  • [01] KYSEA discusses illegal migration, NATO issues

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday chaired a meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA), which focused on illegal migration and NATO issues - such as the new structure of the Alliance and Greece's participation in a peace-keeping mission in Somalia to curb piracy.

    In statements afterwards, Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis said that KYSEA had approved plans for NATO drawn up by the defence ministry in collaboration with the foreign ministry, asking that Greece follow the direction laid down in order to be more efficient within NATO and able to deal with issues that have arisen in the fight against pirates in Somalia.

    The minister said that the meeting had not examined the issue of overflights above the Aegean by Turkish military aircraft.

    In response to other questions, Meimarakis said that the number of Greek troops participating in peace-keeping missions abroad had not increased, adding that their number was still much lower than the upper limit set by KYSEA.

    Questioned about the commander of the Larisa Joint Sub-Regional Command in Larisa, the minister said that the commander of the JSRC had no authority over national airspace, regardless of his or her nationality, and that this was clearly state in the text regarding the new structure of NATO forces.

    Consequently, for anything that occurs in Greek airspace, the responsibility and authority lies with Hellenic Tactical Air Force Command with the Larissa Command," Meimarakis said.

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos referred to the issue of illegal migration, saying that there was increased pressure on Turkey to honour the re-admission agreements it has signed and to sign a treaty with the EU.

    EU interior ministers will have another meeting in Stockholm next week and the issue would be discussed again, he added.

    "We will repeat what was stressed by EU Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot," Pavlopoulos emphasised.

    "From now on, especially after the Pact on Migration and Asylum is signed, Turkey's failure to conform to its obligation and European regulations - which include that it implements the re-admission treaty - will have an impact on its accession process," he stressed.

    [02] PASOK: new taxes 'suffocating' markets

    The government's economic policy was further undermining the country's already grim economic prospects, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou charged in Parliament on Wednesday, confronting Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou.

    "The government, instead of boosting the market in the midst of an international crisis is doing the opposite: suffocating the middle-income family and drying up the market even more - thus undermining the country's developmental prospects," PASOK's leader stressed in a comment on the new taxes proposed by the finance ministry to make up for a shortfall in revenue due to the crisis.

    Papandreou was speaking during discussion of a bill on transactions within business groups, to which the new tax measures had been attached as amendments. These call for additional taxes on prepaid 'pay-as-you-go' mobiles, petrol, leisure craft, larger-engine vehicles and the winnings in lotteries and gambling games.

    According to the main opposition leader, the new taxations measures were "unrealistic" and a "direct admission that the government can no longer govern."

    "The economy's problems will not be solved by tax-raising measures but through a different approach to development, a plan that brings investments," Papandreou underlined.

    "Whatever tax the government imposes will go to waste because it is covering 'black holes' without anyone giving any guarantee that there will not be new ones," he observed, adding that the Greek economic crisis was caused by the government's handling of the economy not the global economic crisis.

    "From 2004 until today, [the government] has increased public debt by 100 billion euros. The money went into the pockets of a chosen few, into investments that lead nowhere, into jobbery. The black hole in the budget exceeds 3.5 billion euros," he charged.

    "Those who failed to manage the growth that we handed over to them cannot now manage the crisis that they have created. Therefore our country urgently needs a change of course and a new strong government that has the trust of the Greek people," Papandreou stressed.

    Replying to PASOK's leader, the finance minister rejected his arguments and stressed that, while painting a dire picture of the economy, Papandreou was at the same making promises that translated into some 11 billion euros in spending.

    The minister also denied that the new taxes were targeted lower incomes:

    "The measures concern large mobile phone bills, petrol, leisure boats, and big cars. Do these affect the low-paid and those on low pensions?" he demanded.

    Papathanasiou also pointed out that all countries were affected by the crisis and were taking specific measures to boost their economies.

    "There is not a single country, not one international organisation, that has not had to revise its estimates for the worst. We are taking specific measures based on a specific plan. I remember the prime minister saying three days before the elections: we will make a tally - and if necessary we will also impose taxes," Papathanassiou said.

    PASOK MP Evangelos Venizelos countered by pointing out that only 80 million euros of the one billion that the government hopes to raise through the additional taxes will come from luxury cars and leisure craft, with the remaining 900 million euros coming from extra taxes on mobile phones, prepaid mobiles, consumption tax on petrol and the taxation of lotteries.

    CAPTION: ANA-MPA file photograph of main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou.

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