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Athens Macedonian News Agency: News in English, 16-05-08

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Tax and pension reform bill to be voted late on Sunday
  • [02] Trade unions out in force against planned pension, tax reforms on Sunday
  • [03] Juncker: Greece has virtually met its targets and won't need new aid package

  • [01] Tax and pension reform bill to be voted late on Sunday

    The second and last day of the debate on a draft pensions and tax reforms bill began in the Greek Parliament at 10:00 on Sunday morning, and will continue throughout the day until the plenum votes late on Sunday night, in a roll-call vote requested by main opposition New Democracy and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). The draft bill is expected to pass with the support of the ruling majority only, with all the opposition parties declaring that they will vote against.

    Labour and Social Insurance Minister George Katrougalos submitted a number of significant amendments to the draft bill during the course of the debate, including a transitional period until August 1 before the abolition of an advertising duty that currently finances journalists' social security and pension funds - to give them time to adjust to the new system - and two transitional months, until July 1, before new retirement rules for the armed and security forces go into effect.

    He also agreed to a request that armed forces and security forces personnel be given pensions in the case of death, in the same way that disability pensions are currently given, due to their greater exposure to life-threatening situations in the course of their work.

    Sunday's debate began with a heated exchange between Parliament President Nikos Voutsis and opposition MP Evi Christofilopoulou regarding an incident in the Parliament cafeteria between trade unionists and SYRIZA MPs, echoing the tone from the previous day. It is expected to conclude with the speeches of the political party leaders and the prime minister late on Sunday, after which the vote will take place.

    Defending the bill on Saturday, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said that it delivered "what we promised, with solutions that are feasible and will create a clear path for citizens and investors to come and invest, so that we can finally exit the vicious cycle that ND and PASOK put us in and enter a virtuous cycle."

    Regard the tax-free allowance, in particular, he noted that "this was and remains one of the highest in all of Europe" and denied that the tax burden would increase for the majority of tax-payers.

    Similarly, Katrougalos said the pension reform was a radical change that "the country had needed for decades," and cited claims that financing pension fund deficits was responsible for "800 pct increase in debt".

    "We are reducing the deficits as we promised not by cutting pensions but through the architecture of the system and the correspondence of contributions and benefits. We are establishing full parity before the law and the divergences that exist are there to protect the weak. We differentiate between welfare and social insurance benefits," he said.

    The measures were universally blasted by the opposition parties, however, which were united in their decision not to back the bill.

    [02] Trade unions out in force against planned pension, tax reforms on Sunday

    Trade unions came out in force throughout the country on Sunday, with labour rallies held in every Greek city to protest against the draft tax and pension reform bill due to be voted on late on Sunday night, as well as to mark Labour Day. Protest action in Athens began early on Sunday morning, with the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) holding a rally in Klafthmonos Square and the Communist Party of Greece (KKE)-affiliated trade union faction PAME holding a rally in Syntagma Square opposite Parliament, together with Greek farmers.

    The day's action will culminate in a rally and concert organised by the civil servants union federation ADEDY, starting at 18:00 in Syntagma Square as lawmakers continue the debate on the controversial bill, leading up to the late-night vote.

    Earlier, representatives of ADEDY, pensioners and other trade unions, political parties and organisations attended the GSEE rally and took part in a march to Parliament.

    PAME is also planning three "pre-rallies" later on Sunday at 19:00, at Omonia Square, the Old Parliament building and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, while it will hold a solidarity concert during events in Syntagma called "A song for the refugee".

    Journalists also joined in the action, with their union federation POESY calling rally outside the Athens Journalists Union (ESHEA) at noon, followed by a march to Parliament. POESY and ESHEA were protesting against the abolition of an advertising duty that currently finances the journalists' social security and pension funds.

    PAME's rally in Syntagma was addressed by KKE General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumbas, who said that "capital and the governments were now trying to take back all the entitlements that the workers in our country and throughout the world had shed their blood to win. We must not do them the favour. The working class, the labour movement, in our country and in Europe, worldwide, must regroup, rally its forces and pass to a counter-attack."

    Rallies were also held throughout Greece in Thessaloniki, the prefecture capitals in the Peloponnese, the port city of Patras, Agrinio, Mesologgi, Nafpaktos in western Greece, and the cities of Hania and Iraklio in Crete, among others.

    [03] Juncker: Greece has virtually met its targets and won't need new aid package

    Greece is very close to achieving its targets, returning better-than-expected economic results, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told journalists from the German media group Funke on Sunday. There was no issue of a new aid package and definitely not of the country's exit from the Eurozone, while Monday's Eurogroup will focus on how Greece's debt can be made sustainable, he added.

    "At this time we are at the stage of the first review of the programme and the targets have almost been achieved," Juncker said, noting that there would be a "first discussion" on how to make the Greek debt sustainable on Monday and ruling out a third aid programme.

    He said the Commission expected a return to growth in the second half of 2016: "With the programme that Greece began last summer, it acquired the foundation for a return to permanent and stable economic growth," while adding that Greece's exit from the Euro was not an acceptable choice in the previous year "and is obviously not one today".

    The Funke group includes the newspapers Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Berliner Morgenpost, Hamburger Abendblatt, Westfalische Rundschau and others.


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