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Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-01-12

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Gov't outlines main foreign policy directions
  • [02] Zakynthos police chief found dead with gunshot wound in head
  • [03] Athens, Sofia boost ties
  • [04] Regulation for 'green' buildings
  • [05] Athens Newspaper Headlines

  • [01] Gov't outlines main foreign policy directions

    Presenting Greece's main foreign policy goals and directions on Monday, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas stressed that the key aim for Athens is to occupy its rightful position on the international scene.

    "The aim and promise of the new government is for Greece to once again win its place on the international stage, to put an end to the inertia of the past and protect our sovereign rights, expand our horizons, enhance our relations with friendly countries and develop new, mutually beneficial relations where today we find a vacuum," the minister said.

    Droutsas said the government had a "difficult start" when, just 10 days after it was elected, the European Commission unveiled progress reports for Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM) containing several references that undermined Greek interests or were "positively dangerous", such as a position about not allowing "bilateral differences" to affect the progress of candidate countries.

    In this context, he stressed the importance of the "2014 agenda" for the western Balkans, saying that through this "ambitious plan" Greece was seeking to once more play a leading role in the region.

    Questioned about the likelihood of a visit by Prime Minister George Papandreou to the United States, Droutsas said that following a verbal invitation extended by U.S. President Barack Obama during a brief meeting with Papandreou on the sidelines of the Copenhagen climate summit, a process was underway to find a convenient date.

    'Name dispute'

    Athens was adopting a policy of aggressive diplomacy, in which it undertook initiatives and clearly indicated a constructive and open-minded stance during negotiations, Droutsas said. At the same time, it had a clear-cut and uncompromising "national red line" that insisted on a composite name with a geographic qualifier for all uses.

    The minister said Greece had succeeded in "restoring reality" in conclusions of the European Council in December, making it clear that a solution to the "name issue" was a condition for the start of EU accession talks and also giving Skopje a message that a solution was possible if it was backed by a clear political will.

    "Unfortunately, the initial reactions of [by the fYRoM side] do not inspire optimism," he added, stressing that Greece would continue with negotiations at the United Nations until the desired solution was found.

    Relations with Turkey

    In terms of relations with neighbouring Turkey, the minister repeated Athens' support for Turkey's full accession to the European Union, but underlined that this was not unconditional and that Turkey must comply fully with the terms of the EU and certain self-evident conditions, such as fully respecting international law, good neighbour relations and Greece's territorial integrity.

    He underlined that this was also reflected in the conclusions of the European Council in December, with phrasing that was "firm and objective and for the first time recorded important factors, such as the reference to respecting maritime law".

    In response to questions, he said that no meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was currently on the cards but indicated willingness to meet the Turkish minister at the first opportunity.

    The minister added that a policy of supporting Turkey's European course remained a "useful tool" for foreign policy provided that it was effectively used.

    He also referred to the issue of delineating the Aegean continental shelf, saying that this was still outstanding because the previous government's policy had not made it possible to resolve this issue, in line with goals set at the time of Cyprus' accession to the EU, adding that Greece was prepared to go to the International Court of Justice at The Hague if necessary.

    Droutsas clarified that there were several fields in which Greece was seeking close cooperation with Turkey, such as climate change and environmental issues affecting the entire region, where piecemeal and isolated actions could not bring results. He also pointed to the Middle East as another area for joint action, reminding reporters of initiatives such as the joint visit to the Palestinian Territories by Papandreou and then Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem.

    Cyprus issue

    Droutsas underlined the government's commitment to actively helping Cyprus with actions rather than words, pointing out that the first foreign visit carried out by Prime Minister George Papandreou had been to Cyprus. He stressed that Cyprus President Demetris Christofias and his government had Athens' full support and confidence, adding that complete cooperation and coordination of action between the two governments, on both the Cyprus issue and all other sectors where the two countries might cooperate as EU member states, was continuing.

    The minister repeated that Turkey must contribute to a solution of the Cyprus problem and repeated, in response to questions, that the current proposals of the Turkish-Cypriot side could not be a basis for negotiations.

    Droutsas noted that the proposals of the Turkish-Cypriot and Turkish sides had led to a "certain disappointment" because they did not lead in a direction that might guarantee constructive negotiations.

    International relations

    The minister referred to the results of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit held in Athens, saying that this had led to the adoption of a political proclamation urging member-states to adhere to the Corfu Process and that Greece would thus be at the centre of the dialogue on creating a new security architecture within the organisation. He also pledged that as part of the OSCE Troika, Greece would make even better use of its position in the OSCE.

    He referred to a series of planned changes in the organisation and working methods of the foreign ministry and Greek diplomacy, in order to better use the country's "added value".

    The minister also announced that the focus will be shifted more to economic and energy diplomacy through the support of Greek businesses abroad, secondly to cultural diplomacy and promoting Greece as a tourism destination through closer cooperation with the culture ministry. Thirdly, he emphasised developmental diplomacy, with a shift toward green development.

    Droutsas particularly mentioned Greece's relations with so-called "emerging powers" such as Brazil, India, South Africa and China, combined with a strengthening ties with existing allies such as the United States and striving to give Greece the influence it should have in the Middle East, through its position as the EU's easternmost border in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean.

    Kouvelis

    On his part, Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis referred to development cooperation issues, during the presentation of main foreign policy axes, and expressed support on behalf of Greece for development programmes in countries in need of it.

    Kouvelis said that the effort concerns the strengthening of the effectiveness of programmes in our neighbourhood, the Black Sea countries, the Black Sea, the Balkans and the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean, without relations being disregarded with the major partners, the European Union, the United States, Russia and such countries as Japan, the Asian countries or the countries of Latin America.

    The target is "in each region and each topic to map and target the comparative advantages that Greece will seek in each region," the deputy minister stressed, so that our missions will become effective and productive.

    [02] Zakynthos police chief found dead with gunshot wound in head

    The local police chief on the island of Zakynthos was found dead on Monday with a bullet wound through the head.

    The body of 50-year-old chief Vassilis Patsouris was found on the coast of 'Porto Banana' beach, with a bullet entry and exit wound in the head.

    Harbor Corps officers and divers are scouring the area on land and in the sea for evidence related to Patsouris' death.

    Investigating officers are leaning towards suicide as the most likely explanation for the victim's death so far, though the search for the dead man's firearm is continuing. The body was found by a local resident on the beach, dressed in civilian clothes. According to the victim's colleagues, he was a very quiet man and his conduct at work had given no cause for concern.

    [03] Athens, Sofia boost ties

    Án agreement for the operation of the Thermes-Zlatograd border crossing at the Greek-Bulgarian frontier was signed Monday by Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas and visiting Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Marin Raikov.

    The border crossing, which is expected to boost economic and tourism ties even further between the two neighbouring EU and NATO member-states, will be formally inaugurated on Jan.15 by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and his Bulgarian counterpart Boiko Borissov.

    In statements after the signing of the agreement, Droutsas underlined that this is a decision that "meets the wish of the local populations on both sides of the border for unhindered and speedy communication, one that will have obvious benefits for tourism and regional development.

    "The agreement marks the progress made by Greece and Bulgaria in cross-border cooperation as well as their excellent cooperation in general, particularly after Bulgaria's accession into Euro-Atlantic institutions," he added.

    Referring to bilateral cooperation in the energy sector, Droutsas underlined that it has been upgraded through the under-construction Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline and the Komotini-Haskovo natural gas pipeline. He said that "the dynamic role the two countries can play in the energy market was highlighted, while their strategic location in SE Europe was utilized by promoting the EU policy on the diversification of energy sources and energy security."

    A meeting of Greek and Bulgarian officials is scheduled to take place in early March focusing on bilateral cooperation in the sector of energy.

    Droutsas also stated that both sides confirmed their support for the integration of western Balkan countries into the Euro-Atlantic institutions through the recently announced "Agenda 2014" initiative, in tandem with good-neighbourly relations, while backing the consolidation of stability in the region through a resolution of all pending problems.

    Referring to the fYRoM "name issue", Droutsas reiterated Athens' standing position over a name for all uses (erga omnes), and one that will include a geographic qualifier, adding that the solution of the name issue is a precondition for the opening of the EU accession negotiations for fYRoM.

    Issues like, the management of river waters and an upcoming trilateral meeting with Romania, were also discussed in the meeting.

    On his part, Raikov stated that the opening of the Thermes-Zlatograd border crossing will lead the way to the opening of other border crossings like the Kurdjali-Komotini post.

    Raikov stated that the leaders of the two countries, both members of the EU, promoted the long-expressed demand for the opening of new border crossings, "sending a European message to the two peoples".

    He also stated that "considering the number of Bulgarians who visit Athens for shopping and the Greeks who head for the Pamporovo ski resort, economic and tourist exchanges will be given a great boost by the agreement signed."

    Caption: Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas (L) and Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Marin Raikov(R) at the Greek Foreign Ministry in Athens on Monday 11 January 2010. ANA-MPA/MARGARITA KIAOU

    [04] Regulation for 'green' buildings

    Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili presented the new Regulation for Energy Efficient Buildings in a press conference on Monday.

    The regulation, effective after a debate that will last 20 days, provides for energy efficiency inspections in all new buildings and in old ones (if they are on the market), energy efficiency studies (as a prerequisite for the issuance of building permits), as well as financial and taxation incentives for energy efficient buildings.

    Birbili stressed that the estimated annual energy consumption for buildings is 156-375 kWh per square meter, three times the EU average.

    Investments aimed at cutting energy consumption in buildings are estimated to pay off in a period of 5-8 years.

    Caption:Energy and Climate Change Minister Tina Birbili at a press conference on Monday 11 January in Athens. ANA-MPA/KATERINA MAVRONA

    [05] Athens Newspaper Headlines

    The Tuesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    A major reform and merger plan for local governments, proposed by the central government, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras' categorical opposition to a government's draft law granting citizenship to certain eligible categories of non-EU migrants as well as the economic crisis mostly dominated the headlines on Tuesday in Athens' dailies.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "They (government) say one thing, then take it back - Announcement for hikes in VAT annulled".

    APOGEVMATINI: "MPs agitated over Kallikratis (merger) plan - It totally changes structure of and form of governance".

    AVGHI: "Ruling PASOK opposed to Environment Minister Birbili's agenda".

    AVRIANI: "Samaras launches sound attack against draft law that gives migrants Greek citizenship and right to vote".

    CHORA: "Samaras letter to Interior Minister Yannis Ragoussis: "No to Greek citizenship to all migrants".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Samaras against citizenship to migrants".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos revokes 2,584 preferential hirings".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Tax Bureau targets those hiding incomes".

    ESTIA: "Dangerous experiments - Repercussions on economy huge".

    ETHNOS: "Vague announcements on real estate".

    IMERISSIA: "Green tax for buildings".

    KATHIMERINI: "Government in chaos over economy and Kallikratis plan".

    LOGOS: "Government appears determined to proceed with Kallikratis".

    NAFTEMPORIKI: "Inflation hike and climate in economy worsens".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "Escalation of struggle with strike against PASOK, ND, EU and big capital's anti-labour storm".

    TA NEA: "Green test to all buildings'.

    VIMA: "They don't believe us - EU document report on Greece".

    VRADYNI: "Employment Minister Andreas Loverdos confession: No money to pay unemployment benefit".


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