|Tuesday, 20 February 2018|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-12-19
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Reppas on the closed Tempi Valley national motorway sectionInfrastructure, Transports and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas stated on Friday that the Tempi Valley section of the Athens-Thessaloniki national motorway will be closed for at least a month as a result of the major landslide on Thursday that virtually cut Greece in half and killed one person.
Reppas in statements he made in the city of Larissa, central Greece, stressed that a clearer picture of the situation will be available on Monday, when the extent of the problem will be fully assessed by Greek and foreign experts who will suggest solutions.
The minister referred to the use of alternate routes namely, the Larissa-Elassona-Kozani road, the Larissa-Elassona-Katerini road and the Larissa Prefecture coastal road, all of which will have to undergo improvements to cope with the increased traffic due to the holiday season.
 PASOK proposes further Parliamentary probe into Vatopedi caseRuling PASOK's Parliamentary group on Friday submitted a proposal for a Parliamentary investigation of the Vatopedi Monastery land swaps affair to Parliament's President.
The proposal notes that the previous Parliamentary probe had devoted little more than a month to the issue because the then Parliamentary majority was seeking a cover-up and that this had not allowed crucial aspects of the case to be explored.
 New prices for 6,000 pharmaceuticalsThe government on Saturday announced plans to revise the prices of 6,000 pharmaceutical drugs as of February, most of them downward, and to reintroduce a list of approved prescription drugs for social insurance funds. The planned measures were announced by Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping Minister Louka Katseli, Health Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou and Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos during a joint appearance before Parliament's Production and Trade Committee.
The ministers also unveiled plans for a system to review drug prices three times a year and the launch of a pilot scheme to check prescriptions electronically on March 1, designed to go into full operation from May 1, 2010.
The discussion was held in view of the tabling of an amendment by the finance ministry to reintroduce the approved pharmaceuticals list.
In statements to the committee, Katseli emphasised what she called a "tragic state" with respect to spending on medical drugs, noting that this had increased 120 percent in the last three years, while prices for pharmaceuticals were higher in relation to other countries and prescriptions were completely unmonitored.
Xenoyiannakopoulou pointed that hospital debts to pharmaceuticals suppliers had ballooned to 6.3 billion euros, of which the money owed to hospitals by social insurance funds came to 2.5 billion euros. While conceding that there had been several problems in applying the approved list of drugs when this had existed before, with several loopholes that had been abused at will, she promised that steps would be taken to avoid these mistakes in the legislation to be tabled in January.
She also pointed out that the previous government had taken absolutely no action to seek the 4 percent rebate on turnover from pharmaceutical industries foreseen under the bill that had abolished this list and allowed doctors to prescribe freely in 2005.
"The situation has reached its limit, it is at check mate. Total spending in private pharmacies exceeds 4.5 billion euros when in Belgium, with just 500,000 fewer residents, it is less than 2.5 billion. The increases in the last four years have been 10 percent, 10 percent, 13 percent and 25 percent when in Germany they were 5.5 percent and in the United States 6.5 percent," she pointed out.
 Ministers meet migrant groupsMembers of the government on Friday met representatives of migrant organisations in order to mark International Migrants Day.
The meeting with migrant organisations was attended by Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis, Deputy Interior Minister Theodora Tzakri, and migrant policy general secretary Andreas Takis. They were briefed on the views and problems faced by migrants in Greece, while the minister promised that migrants will have the right to vote at the next municipal elections of November 2010, as well as a solution to the nationality issues for second-generation immigrant children.
Meanwhile, a special government working group on illegal migration issues convened for the first time at the Citizens' Protection Ministry, under Deputy Citizens Protection Minister Spyros Vougias.
According to Vougias, the government's aim was to completely transform the regime governing the stay of illegal migrants in Greece during 2010. He noted that the current state of affairs embarrassed the country abroad, had turned the centre of Athens into a ghetto and caused rising crime levels by immigrants lacking any means of livelihood or a way to return to their own country.
Vougias particularly stressed the need to improve conditions at reception centres where illegal migrants were detained when caught, which he said offended human dignity.
The government working team, which includes representatives of the citizens' protection, interior and health ministries, will examine plans to set up Migrant Management and Registration centres in Evros, islands of the Aegean and other areas of the country where the migrant problem was most acute. Also participating are representatives of 14 independent and non-governmental bodies dealing with immigrant issues, including the UN High Commission for Refugees, the Ombudsman, Red Cross and others.
He said such centres would gradually begin operating in 2010 and migrants caught attempting to enter Greece illegally would be registered, their identity ascertained, be subjected to medical examinations. Unaccompanied minors and those applying for political asylum would then be forwarded to the interior of the country, while the rest would be deported.
Caption: Interior Minister Yiannis Ragoussis during a meeting with migrant organisations on Friday. ANA-MPA
 Traffic diverted around TempiRoad travel between northern and southern Greece remained problematic on Saturday, following the landslide at the Tempi Valley that cut off the main north-south axis.
Announcements by the Greek traffic police said that private cars and small trucks up to 3.5 tonnes using the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway heading south would be diverted at the junction near the city of Katerini and led to Agios Dimitrios and from there to the Katerini-Elassonas-Tyrnavos-Ambelonas-Gyrtoni national highway to the old Larisa-Thessaloniki national highway and then onto the Sykourio-Larisa rural road, where they would rejoin the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway at the Sykourio junction.
Larger vehicles and coaches will be directed off the national highway at Kleidi, Imathia toward the Egnatia Highway between Veria and Kozani, from which they would join the Kozani-Elassonas national highway and then follow the same route as cars and smaller goods vehicles.
Vehicles moving north, likewise, will be directed off the national highway at the Sykourio junction and follow the reverse routes toward Thessaloniki.
 Tsipras: no trust in politicsCoalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (SYN) leader Alexis Tsipras addressed a meeting of his party's Executive Secretariat on Saturday, stressing that the key feature of the current political situation in Greece was a crisis of confidence in the political life of the country.
This he blamed on Prime Minister George Papandreou, saying that PASOK's leader had used the pressures exerted by the European Union as an excuse for shelving all his pre-election promises.
A second key factor identified by Tsipras during the current period was the way in which democracy appeared to have been sidelined by the intervention of markets operating outside the institutions and he raised questions about "who is actually running the country".
In a scathing attack on the conduct of European leaders at the Copenhagen climate talks, meanwhile, Tsipras charged that their "only goal was to be photographed next to Obama" and noted that it was impossible to seek solutions using the specific model for growth, just as it was impossible for this model to give the planet any prospects.
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