|Wednesday, 22 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-05-27
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Papandreou on competitivenessChairing a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that focused on ways to boost Greece's competitiveness, Prime Minister George Papandreou stressed that this was a key issue for Greece that Europe would be unable to tackle effectively.
According to Papandreou, the route to raising Greece's competitiveness would be to substantially improve the quality of Greek products, the quality of its human resources and to shift to a new model for growth. European Union officials, by contrast, considered the social state to be the central problem for the country's competitiveness, to be solved through cheaper labour and lower pensions.
While admitting that this might be a "necessary emergency balancing measure in a period of crisis," the prime minister stressed that the harsh measures taken by Greece had to be balanced by growth.
Other matters emphasised by the premier were the need to establish regard for the law, support for people on or near the poverty line and lowering prices.
On the latter issue, the prime minister said measures must be taken to boost local production and consumption of domestic products, as well as action to prevent practices such as under-pricing and over-pricing of goods.
During the meeting, the government's economic team outlined four main lines of action on the issue of prices, beginning with careful monitoring of the market to ensure transparency and efficiency. The next step will be to note and correct any distortions that are found, improve organisations for supervising markets and protecting consumers and improving the functioning of the Competition Commission.
Ministry officials said the monitoring will follow prices of goods from production to the shelf, as well as promotional activity such as special offers, either through legislation or market regulations.
The cabinet also held a general discussion on privatisations, which presages a substantial privatisation package involving infrastructure, the energy sector and tourism that is likely to be presented next week.
These privatisations will not all follow the same model since in some cases the state will retain a majority share, in others a strategic investor will be sought, while other concerns will be sold outright.
In addition to the above, they discussed legal aspects of cabotage, founding business enterprises, pricing of pharmaceuticals and developmental law.
Questioned about Tuesday's announcement that a number of tax office and finance ministry officials are being investigated for possible corruption, government sources said that all the cases will be examined but no names released at present, since the individuals involved may have amassed the properties they hold legally.
They noted that there was going to be a clean-up of tax offices around the country and a possible shift to a central system of control, with some tax offices closing or merging. In comments about upcoming pension reforms, the same sources said that the age of retirement for men and women in the public sector will start to be made the same by stages in 2011 and will be fully equalised by 2013.
 Samaras at disability conferenceMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Antonis Samaras, addressing the party's conference on disabled people on Wednesday, stressed the need for an "Overall National Action Programme for the Social Rehabilitation of People with special needs."
Samaras proposed the "establishment of a Special General Secretariat to the Prime Minister for the full and total handling of the problems of this big category of our fellow citizens."
He stressed the need for the continuous operation of the intraparty Committee for disabled people, explaining that "the social rehabilitation of people with special needs has no partisan 'colour'. And neither can it serve partisan expediencies."
Indicating his party's increased sensitivity, Samaras announced the "creation in New Democracy of our new Secretariat for our fellow citizens with special abilities, with a fighter of yours as a worthy Secretary, Mr. Spyros Stavrianopoulos," as he said.
Samaras referred to his party policy, saying that "as a party, New Democracy has a policy with two parts: firstly, to facilitate the life of these people, to restore their full rights in daily life, in social life and social contribution. Secondly, for us to give the opportunities to all the people with special abilities to promote them. Not merely to help them to become like the rest. To support them to become better than the rest."
The special abilities that people with special needs have "are an asset of society," Samaras said and added that "ND in the years of its governance ratified Law 3304 of 2005 on the 'Implementation of the Principle of equal treatment in combatting discriminations in the sector of employment. Moreover, we ratified the UN Treaty for Handicapped people and we promoted the Social Economy institution, while we included policies for the boosting of employment for disabled people, with priority on the Operational Programme 'Development of Human Potential of ESPA for the 2007-2013 period'."
 13 immigrants injured in clash in downtown AthensThirteen Bangladeshi nationals were injured, and will be arrested following their release from hospital, in a clash between two opposing groups of foreign nationals in downtown Athens late Wednesday night, police said on Thursday.
Police said that more than 200 migrants were involved in the violent incident at the corner of Menandrou and Sophocleous streets.
They said that two opposing groups, comprising chiefly Bangladeshi nationals as well as other foreign nationals, clashed with clubs, crowbars, stones and other objects, resulting in the injury of 13 Bangladeshi nationals, who are hospitalised in an Athens hospital. Police said that all 13 will be arrested and taken before a prosecutor.
A strong police contingent rushed to the scene, where six migrants -- from Bangladesh, Palestine and Algeria -- were detained and are being held at the Acropolis police station, and will possibly be arrested together with the other 13.
Police noted that this was not the first time that violence of such extent has taken place among migrants in the center of Athens.
 Former PASOK Minister admits receiving 200,000 marks from SiemensFormer Transport minister, in a PASOK government, Anastasios Mantelis, testifying on Wednesday before the Parliamentary factfinding committee that is probing the Siemens case, admitted receiving at least 200,000 marks from the German Siemens company in 1998, which he termed an "electoral sponsorship."
The former minister also indicated that "two years ago a person that really exists, known to some, he must have been German or a foreigner, leaked through the Greek press a news item that said that I received from SIEMENS ten million marks in January 1998."
The witness continued by saying that it was being attempted systematically "for me to appear as being bribed with a huge amount of money which indeed appeared as ministerial remuneration. Of course, one could say that 10 million marks are ministerial remuneration - in the way that they meant it - while it cannot be ruled out that part of it indeed went to the ruling party and was used in a side way in electoral or other expenditures. And this is also a lie, because this money never reached me."
The witness warned that the committee must investigate where these reports were leaked from, but the kickbacks of others must not pass over his back.
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party's press office subsequently issued a stinging condemnation of Mantelis' statements, underlining that:
"During a juncture when Mr. (Prime Minister George) Papandreou's party is acting as a prosecutor of public life, indicting everyone for everything, now, after Theodoros Tsoukatos, another major PASOK cadre, Mr. Tassos Mantelis, admits to having received money from Siemens.
"Note that both (men) are not isolated political figures, but prominent and powerful; figures who during PASOK's governments were in decision-making positions, and which operated within a breath of its (PASOK) leadership team."
 Alt. FM at EU-ASEAN meetingMADRID (ANA-MPA/Ch. Poulidou) - Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas referred during his address at the 18th EU-ASEAN ministerial session in Madrid on Wednesday to the "green growth" model, since the region of southeast Asia "is one of the regions of our world, that are harmed primarily by climatic change."
The Greek official reminding that "sustainable growth" is a major priority for the EU, observed that for "us to reach this goal we must improve information and sensitivity in consumer attitude and prefer those effective policy tools that will help us to change the stereotypes of a consumable consumption."
Referring to the economic crisis, Droutsas said that "in our view, green growth can be a reply to the present crisis" if it is promoted to a priority for the handling "of both the climatic change and the present crisis" since it can provide "substantive business opportunites, new markets and the creation of new jobs."
Lastly, the Greek Alternate Foreign Minister stressed that because "the international issues require international replies, the cooperation between the EU and the Organisation of the countries of Southeastern Asia is important - both in the course of reforming of the international economic and monetary architecture and the direction of an agreement that will refer to an ambitious policy on handling climatic changes."
 Papariga on social security"They threaten the people with destruction if they (people) do not accept self-destruction," Communist Party of Greece (KKE) general secretary Aleka Papariga charged Wednesday, while accusing the government of misleading the people, as she said in reference to the social insurance issue.
As regards the Vatopedi monastery-state land swap affair, Papariga said "we will not go easy on anyone."
Referring to speculation over a renegotiation of the country's debt and possible exit from the euro-zone, she said that "such proposals are made within the framework of the euro-zone, by the EU and by heads of states and come from all those who are responsible for the crisis."
 Athens Newspaper HeadlinesThe Thursday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance
The Siemens slush funds case and former Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis' admission that he received a 'campaign donation' from Siemens, an OECD report predicting an increase in unemployment and an economic development recession in Greece, the new social security system and the government's denationalisation plan, dominated the headlines on Thursday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Mantelis' shocking admission: Yes, I took money from Siemens".
APOGEVMATINI: "Mantelis answered prime minister George Papandreou's query 'Where did the money go...'."
AVGHI: "Mantelis admits and points at ruling PASOK on bribes - I took 200,000 DM as a campaign donation, but you must search for the 10 million DM in kickbacks to ministers".
AVRIANI: "Mantelis points at a secret treasurer appointed by (then) prime minister Costas Simitis' system to have received a 10 million DM bribe from Siemens".
ELEFTHEROS: "Mantelis: "I took the money...what about ministers? - Most of us 'sin' in order to meet our campaign expenses".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Mantelis' cynical admission: PASOK cadres shared 10 billion DM from kickbacks".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Mantelis' admission to parliamentary fact finding commission on Siemens kickbacks case".
ESTIA: "Eurozone's future at risk - European leaders have made historic mistakes".
ETHNOS: "Shocking admission on Siemens 'sponsoring'."
IMERISSIA: "The denationalisation list - The plans for Water Boards, Hellenic Railways, PPC and Casinos".
KATHIMERINI: "Mantelis' admission and implications - He characterized the 200,000 DM he received from Siemens a 'donation'."
LOGOS: "Mantelis admits his involvement ... in Siemens case".
NAFTEMPORIKI: "OECD foresees gloomy conditions for 2011".
NIKI: "When you hear of renegotiation of our debt we will be heading towards controlled bankruptcy".
RIZOSPASTIS: "The people's health at the mercy of the market".
TA NEA: "Government wages battle to reduce the required working years for pension from 40 to 37 years".
TO VIMA: "Three crimes without punishment - Former Minister's shocking admission".
VRADYNI: "High prices and unemployment are plunging society into chaos - Prices out of control, business shut-downs and lay-offs create an explosive mix'.
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