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Athens News Agency: News in English, 10-09-12

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Messages to Turkey, Albania from Papandreou
  • [02] Memorandum will not dominate local elections, opinion poll shows
  • [03] PM: 'No new measures as long as we are doing well'
  • [04] Parties strongly criticise PM
  • [05] Schools opening on Monday

  • [01] Messages to Turkey, Albania from Papandreou

    Messages to Turkey to help in the progress of talks on the Cyprus issue but also to neighbouring Albania to protect the rights of its Greek minority were sent by Prime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday in his replies to questions during a press conference at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).

    "The Cyprus issue is, I repeat, an issue of occupation. Invasion and occupation. And this is the basic issue that must be resolved," Papandreou stressed.

    He called on Turkey to contribute to a constructive dialogue and negotiations process that would lead to a successful result "within the known parameters, which are the decisions of the United Nations and, of course, European rules".

    Referring to the initiatives taken by Cyprus President Demetris Christofias, Papandreou noted that he had supported these in order to break through the deadlock and boost mobility around the Cyprus issue. He stressed that these initiatives were important and that they "could be supported by Europe and the international community in order that we might have clear progress on the Cyprus issue."

    Concerning the recent murder of a member of the Greek minority in Himare, southern Albania, Papandreou said that the incident was not "merely coincidence".

    "Unfortunately, we are seeing similar phenomena of a rise in nationalism by extremist groups that, sadly, seem to have political ramifications. These have targeted the Greek minority in Albania with, of course, the tragic incident of the murder of Aristotelis Goumas and other actions that show a hostile stance," he said.

    Papandreou stressed that Greece was treating this as a very serious issue that also affected bilateral relations, which Athens wanted to support positively, and one that would have an impact on Albania's European course.

    "Nationalism does not help the Balkans, it does not help neighbouring countries. And I would like to send a message to the Albanian side that nationalisms have always created huge problems, not just between countries but also between citizens," he added.

    Noting that the Greek government had made serious efforts to integrate many Albanians in Greek society, Papandreou underlined that the rights of the Greek minority in Albania had to be protected by the Albanian government.

    Concerning Greece's stance on Kosovo following the latest UN resolution on the issue, Papandreou said that Athens' position remained unchanged for the time being but noted that "our effort is to promote a solution in our region that will create a framework of calm, stability and the avoidance of conflicts and nationalism. Consequently, to ensure a European course."

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    [02] Memorandum will not dominate local elections, opinion poll shows

    Public opinion does not want local government elections dominated by the issue of the memorandum signed with the EU, ECB and IMF, according to a nationwide opinion poll conducted by Kappa Research and published in the Sunday newspaper "To Vima".

    Despite opposition party campaigns criticising the policies of the memorandum, the poll shows that 50.9 percent disagree with the stance adopted by main opposition New Democracy on this issue, compared with 39.1 percent that agrees. The poll also reveals widespread pessimism about whether Greece will be able to avoid defaulting on its debts, with 46 percent believing that it can't and 43.2 percent believing it can.

    Ruling PASOK is shown to retain a lead of 7.8 points over New Democracy in voter preferences, with 29.1 percent backing PASOK against 21.3 percent backing ND. Next in line is the Communist Party of Greece with 7.7 percent, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) with 4.55 percent and Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) with 2.6 percent.

    Fifty-three percent of those asked had doubts that the new cabinet resulting from a recent government reshuffle would tackle the crisis efficiently, with 51.3 percent agreeing that the prime minister had shown a tendency to compromise and 65.6 percent agreeing that his main guideline was to preserve internal balances within PASOK.

    On individual ministers, six out of 10 believed that Mihalis Chrysohoidis would be capable of boosting the country's growth as development minister and that Andreas Loverdos would be able to tackle the problems in the health sector as health minister.

    Asked how they will decide where to cast their vote during local government elections on November 2, 46.7 percent said that they would vote based on whether they agreed with the measures of the Kallikratis plan or not and only 25.5 percent said they would base their vote on whether they agreed with the memorandum or not. A further 13.3 percent said that their vote would be based on their position on both issues.

    Asked whether they will support a candidate based on their personal abilities or based on their stance toward the memorandum, 71.7 percent said they would vote based on a candidate's abilities.

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    [03] PM: 'No new measures as long as we are doing well'

    There will be no new austerity measures as long as Greece was "doing well" with regard to the targets of the memorandum for the European financial support package, Prime Minister George Papandreou assured reporters during a press conference on the sidelines of the annual Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Sunday.

    "We either change Greece or condemn it," he repeated in statements to reporters, while stressing the need to stop constant speculation in the media about probable additional measures and thus generating fear and panic.

    The process foreseen by the memorandum comes to an end in 2013 and the sooner the changes were made, the sooner Greece would be free of the restrictions of the Memorandum and possibly even before 2013, he said at another point.

    The prime minister stressed that his government had successfully changed the country's course and averted a disaster during its 11 months in power, saying that Greece had been saved from defaulting on its debts. At the same time, he stressed that the alert was not yet over.

    Noting that there were still problems with the size of state revenues, Papandreou claimed that these were not insuperable and that the government was still on track to meet its target of reducing the deficit by 40 percent by the end of the year.

    The prime minister denied reports that the shortfall in revenue was around 3.5 billion euros, saying that the actual figure was closer to 1.5 billion euros.

    On the reaction of international markets, where spreads for Greek bonds were still steadily increasing, he appeared confident that the measures taken by the government would soon result in a positive response and that spreads will fall since Greece had shown itself "capable of tackling problems" and "generated confidence, that is rising".

    He also underlined, once again, that there was no question of Greece defaulting on its debts, stressing that such a course of action would be disastrous for the economy and the country's future. Avoiding this outcome was the reason for everything the government had done over the past 11 months, he added.

    Another point emphasised by the prime minister was the need for all Greeks to pay their taxes and contributions in order for the country to thrive. He noted that the government was doing its utmost to expand the tax base and ensure that those who should pay actually did so, pointing out that if people had been honest about paying their taxes, the austerity measures would not have been necessary.

    Papandreou described tax evasion as a "chronic illness faced by the state" that had to finally be tackled through major changes.

    "It is important to change the taxation mechanism and this is one of our priorities," he said, stressing that it was time for the rich to start paying. He said the government had launched a "relentless hunt" of major tax evaders that had taken refuge in tax havens abroad, initiating proceedings to obtain information from foreign banks as well.

    Concerning the tax breaks for businesses announced by the government, with a reduction of their tax from 24 percent to 20 percent, he was careful to clarify that the reductions were for funds that were re-invested and used to create new jobs rather than those that "went into company owners' pockets".

    "The money is there, the question is where it goes," Papandreou said, echoing his much-criticised statements in the run-up to the 2009 general elections that "there is money". Pointing out that more than one million Greeks currently had tax issues that were still open, he said the government would ensure that all the cases were "closed cleanly and fairly" with the aim of expanding the tax base and ensuring that everyone paid their dues.

    In another appeal to the media, he asked that journalists be careful not to present proposals or ideas under discussion as impending decisions and in this way "demonising" ideas and the exchange of opinions.

    With a call for "collective effort and responsibility," Papandreou underlined that the work of reforming the country had begun and stressed that the challenge before Greece was "patriotic and not party politics".

    "We either win together or we sink," he emphasised, adding that if all Greeks worked together the country would prevail.

    On fuel taxes, new cabinet

    Answering questions on more specific topics, Papandreou said that a system for equating taxes for heating oil and diesel used by vehicles would not go into effect until a redistribution mechanism was ready.

    Concerning the much larger cabinet created under the new reshuffle - in contrast to the much "leaner" cabinet appointed when PASOK was first elected to power - Papandreou said that the previous government had done well but that there was still room for improvement. He said the extra ministers were necessary in order to speed up control and supervision of the government's priorities.

    The prime minister denied any plans to "relocate" to some official position in the European Union or United Nations, stressing that he did not intend to "stand down".

    "I have taken charge in tough times and I will not shy away. This is where I have promised to be and this is where I will stay," he stressed.

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    [04] Parties strongly criticise PM

    The prime minister's appearances at Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) had only served to increase concern and confusion about the fate of Greece, main opposition New Democracy spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos said on Sunday in comments on the prime minister's speech and press conference.

    "One year after his false claims that 'the money is there', the prime minister has succeeded, in spite of his attempts to reassure us, to make us even more worried through the confusion, contradictions, inaccuracies and gaps in his statements," the spokesman said.

    According to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the prime minister's claims concerning "necessary" and "patriotic" changes were lies since the same barbaric measures were being imposed on peoples throughout the EU, with the same tragic results for people and "no cure for over-aged capitalism".

    Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) spokesman Kostis Aivaliotis was stinging in his criticism, saying the prime minister's press conference was "without substance, verve or result" and that it made "obvious the prime minister's inability to answer the questions that concern the country".

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    [05] Schools opening on Monday

    The new school year will begin on Monday for 1.3 million pupils and 160,000 teachers at 15,500 schools in all parts of the country that open for the 2010-2011 academic year.

    Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou stressed that the ministry can cover shortages at any moment with substitutes, adding that the new measure of the "school card" will be activated by Christmas, through which it will be shown, among other things, where and which are the educational shortages and how many teachers and of which specialties are serving at each school.

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