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The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English, 05-09-29

The Hellenic Radio (ERA): News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Hellenic Radio (ERA) <www.ert.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Changes in Working Hours
  • [02] Disputes over Turkey
  • [03] Bloody Attacks in Iraq
  • [04] Green Light for 42%
  • [05] Public Opinion on Public Sector
  • [06] Sewage Sludge in Parliament
  • [07] Deadlock over Turkey
  • [08] GSEE's Lists
  • [09] Landmark Decision on Interest Rates
  • [10] Hepatitis B and C Cases
  • [11] Fulfilling our Pledges

  • [01] In Public Sector Changes in Working Hours

    29 Sep 2005 18:34:00

    By Dimitris Alexopoulos

    Following his meeting with Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis at the Maximos Mansion on Thursday, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos suggested changes in civil servants working hours. As per Mr Pavlopoulos, civil servants will be arriving at work an hour later, in relation to the existing working hours. From now on employees will either work from 8am to 3:30pm or from 8:30am to 4pm, with a flexibility of half an hour in arrival and departure time. The Minister for the Interior clarified that the matter would be discussed with ADEDY (Supreme Administration of Greek Civil Servants Trade Unions) and concluded saying the aim of this change is the better operation of public services, the facilitation of parents-employees, the better service of citizens and the better cooperation with the relevant services in the other EU Member-States and Brussels. As for ADEDY, it hold a positive stance towards this new measure, but its executive committee will thoroughly discuss it this Tuesday.

    Implementation in Public Sector

    So far employees in the Public Sector were going to work at 7am in the winter and left at 2:30pm, while in the summer months working hours shifted by half an hour, ie 7:30am to 3pm.

    As of now, summer and winter timetables are abolished and there will be uniform working hours all year long.

    The new working hours will be first introduced to civil servants in ministries, legal entities of public law, local government organisations and prefectures.

    However, there are public agencies, such as hospitals or tax offices, where working hours are extended based on the needs of each agency and always in the context of the 8-hour working day.

    Public agencies in the other European countries follow different working hours, based on the needs of serving the public.

    In Germany, working timetables are flexible, in Italy each agency has their own, while there are countries such as Spain, where public agencies are open in the afternoon, twice a week. However, in all countries working hours are the same around the year.

    Athanasakis: "Diversions Are Good"

    "Diversions are good, when you're not caught. They need to provide answers to specific issues," said PASOK Press spokesperson Nikos Athanasakis, who criticised Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos for "opening two new subjects today, apparently so that we have something to go over, postponing the discussion."

    Mr Athanasakis said Mr Pavlopoulos brought back the Bill for the election of Mayors and Prefects from the first round, provided they have gathered over 42%, and the uniform working hours for civil servants, at a time when we were expecting answers for the notorious contest for hiring security guards.

    The PASOK spokesperson also said that Mr Pavlopoulos "degrades words when he talks about dialogue."

    Translated by Sofia Soulioti

    [02] In Athens and Brussels Disputes over Turkey

    29 Sep 2005 15:45:00 (Last updated: 29 Sep 2005 23:33:21)

    By Vagelis Theodorou

    Just a few days before the opening of accession talks between Turkey and the EU, Ankaras European prospect continues to trigger disputes. In Athens, Turkeys accession was at the focus of the National Council for Foreign Policy meeting, under the shadow of the European Parliaments resolution, whereby Ankara was asked to recognise Cyprus and the Armenian genocide. As per Greek FM Petros Molyviatis, the Council agreed on the strategic objectives, however, "differences, reservations and disagreements" were voiced over the actions followed, while "voices were raised, that do not befit the solemnity of the institution." PASOKs representative, Christos Papoutsis, stressed that his party supports Ankaras European prospect, while he accused the Government of giving up its weapons, reducing its claims and missing opportunities. SYNs representative, Nikos Konstantopoulos, appeared in favour of Turkeys accession, asking for respect for human rights, while KKE had declared right from the start that it would not be participating in the Council. In the meantime, the negotiating framework in view of the 3 October talks will be discussed on Sunday in Luxemburg, during an emergency meeting between the 25 EU Foreign Ministers, as COREPER failed to reach an agreement. Ankara voiced its discontent over the developments.

    Negotiating Framework Pending

    On Wednesday morning in Brussels, the EUs Permanent Representatives failed to agree on a negotiating framework for Turkeys accession talks, in view of the 3 October Summit.

    According to information, the 24 Member-States were close to reaching an agreement, however, Austria insisted that the draft included a condition whereby Turkey be offered an explicit alternative to full membership. On its part, the British presidency told the Representatives that any change to the wording aiming at commencing accession talks would demand a political decision.

    The emergency meeting between the 25 EU Foreign Ministers, scheduled for Sunday 2 October in Luxemburg, looms as a lifesaver, since striking a compromise is of paramount importance, as a negotiating framework is necessary for opening accession talks.

    Ankara Annoyed

    At the same time, Turkey, which had stressed that it would only be accepting full membership, voiced its disappointment over the European Parliaments resolution, whereby, apart from recognising Cyprus, the country is also obligated to recognise the Armenian genocide. According to an announcement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry, the latter issue has to be settled by historians, while the countrys official archives are already at the disposal of researchers from all the countries. It also mentioned that a discussion of the matter on a political level would not be serving anyones interests.

    In the meantime, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said the postponement of the negotiating framework ratification is "natural," while he underlined the eventuality of not opening negotiation talks on October 3.

    "Naturally, there is that risk, but the other side is making intense efforts" to overcome the obstacles, he stressed, adding, "We are not going in Luxemburg, before having gone over the negotiating framework."

    In fact, he stressed there is still time to find a golden medium for the thorny issue of their dispute.

    Commenting on the latest developments, Turkeys parliament speaker Bulent Arinc declared that the EU is testing the countrys patience by imposing different regulations.

    Speaking on Turkeys NTV television, Mr Arinc claimed that Turkey was being provoked to walk away from the talks. "It seems as if our patience is being tested. Looking at what is being done to Turkey one sees that there are some quarters that hope to get rid of us by forcing us to walk away from the [negotiating] table," he stated. Meanwhile, he spoke of preferential treatment towards Romania, Bulgaria and Malta, while he urged the Turks to demonstrate patience, saying he remained optimistic that the country will be overcoming the various obstacles.

    Finally, the parliament speaker pointed out that he understood the reservations against a large Muslim country, however, he asked the European leaders to remain objective and avoid being prejudiced.

    In Cyprus, the Government and the political parties welcomed the European parliaments decision. "Yesterday, the European Parliament sent clear political messages to Turkey," declared Cyprus government spokesperson Kypros Chsrisostomidis, while parliament speaker Dimitris Chsristofias described it as a harsh and intense warning.

    At the same time, a public television poll in the Netherlands shows that 55% of the Dutch are against Turkey's accession to the EU, while 32% are in favour.

    Translated by Vicky Ghionis

    Related News:

    Harsh Message to Turkey

    [03] Death Toll Exceeds 50 Bloody Attacks in Iraq

    29 Sep 2005 20:17:00

    By Vicky Keleri

    Sources: Reuters - ANA

    At least 50 people lost their lives and another 100 were injured by the coordinated explosion of bombs in Balad, north of Baghdad, where Shia and Sunni Arabs live. As per the announcement of the Iraqi Police, the bombs had been placed in three different places. The first one exploded in a crowded market in a Shia district, the second near a bank and the third one next to a police station. Earlier, five Americans lost their lives when their car was hit by a bomb, which had been placed on the side of a road. The incident was reported in Ramadi, some 110km west of Baghdad. In the meantime, General George Casey, commander of US troops in Iraq, admitted today that if the new Iraqi constitution was rejected in a referendum in two weeks time, the situation could deteriorate.

    Unfavourable Prospects

    Casey clarified that his estimation on the ratification of the Constitution is based on counter-intelligence information, while he added there could be a negative vote from the Sunni minority. In fact, he stressed this negative vote could trigger the deterioration of the political situation.

    General Casey said he would not speculate on any withdrawal of US troops from Iraq until after that period.

    His colleague, General John Abizaid, told a congressional hearing that al-Qaeda was the main enemy of peace and stability in the Middle East and the threat it posed should not be underestimated.

    Translated by Sofia Soulioti

    [04] Pavlopoulos-Karamanlis Meeting Green Light for 42%

    29 Sep 2005 13:57:00 (Last updated: 29 Sep 2005 19:10:40)

    By Vagelis Theodorou

    The Government appears determined to promote changes to the electoral legislation for Local Self-Governments. As declared by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who met with PM Kostas Karamanlis today, the Bill for the election of Mayors and Prefects from the first round, provided they have gathered over 42%, will be announced by the end of the week. Mr Pavlopoulos also pointed out that talks will be held with all the relevant bodies and the parties for the changes in question, however, as he added, the percentage is not negotiable.

    "All the details and the regulations will be discussed by the relevant Parliamentary Committee, where the Bill will be submitted," commented government spokesperson Thodoris Roussopoulos. On his part, NDs secretary, Vangelis Meimarakis, who met with Mr Karamanlis, declared that the Government is fulfilling its pledges and the programme that had been approved by the Greek people. He further added it was blessing in disguise that the Government announced it was proceeding with a new electoral system in Self-Government. The Opposition parties reacted harshly to Pavlopoulos announcements.

    Reactions

    PASOKs spokesperson Nikos Athanasakis described the announcement regarding 42% as a diversion by the Government, in order to avoid discussing other more serious matters. He also stressed that Mr Pavlopoulos "degrades words when he talks about dialogue," while called on the Interior Ministry to respond to the notorious contest for hiring security guards.

    "Pavlopoulos arrogant declaration stripped the Government of the pretences it had been using until today, demonstrating once again its lack of respect for democratic principles," declared the member of SYNs Political Secretariat, Vangelis Apostolou, who also spoke of overturning the will of local societies.

    Translated by Vicky Ghionis

    [05] ADEDY's Revealing Poll Public Opinion on Public Sector

    29 Sep 2005 16:39:00

    By Dimitris Alexopoulos

    On Thursday, ADEDY (Supreme Administration of Greek Civil Servants Trade Unions) presented a revealing poll on the citizens' view of public agencies. The opinion poll was conducted from 15 to 19 September among 1,200 people and indicated that only 37.1% of those asked were content with the operation of public agencies. 89.6% think the phenomenon of corruption is generalised, while 71.7% believe that employees in the Public Sector are hired after political interventions. What is more, 75% feel ADEDY is right to demand a minimum salary of 1,200 euros, while 53.6% think the permanent working status should not be abolished. What is more, 55.9% consider that the working status for the newly hired personnel should be the same as for all the others.

    Papaspyrou: "Reversal of Opinions"

    61.2% of citizens asked have a negative opinion on privatisations of public agencies (ministries, hospitals, public schools, Self-Government, etc).

    Lastly, ADEDY's stance in the overall representation of civil servants is viewed as positive at a percentage of 56.1%.

    Presenting the results of the opinion poll on Thursday, ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros spoke of a reversal of the public opinion's views in crucial aspects of the government policy in favour of the trade unions' stands.

    Mr Papaspyros underlined that the poll shows the public opinion is in favour of a steady employment and fair reward. Society, as he said, demands solutions towards a radical, democratic and plural direction.

    Translated by Sofia Soulioti

    [06] Alternatives by the End of 2005 Sewage Sludge in Parliament

    29 Sep 2005 12:28:00

    By Athina Saloustrou

    Speaking in Parliament today, Deputy Public Works Minister Themistoklis Xanthopoulos reassured the citizens of Western Attica that an alternative solution over the matter of the Psitallia sewage sludge will have been found by the end of 2005, while he advised them to demonstrate patience. The Deputy Minister also added that the sewage sludge is being transferred in sealed, waterproof trucks, while he explained that Ano Liossia is the only Hygienic Refuse Burial Area able to secure non-spreading to the underearth, describing the land application process of the sewage sludge in the specific refuse dump as a one-way street. However, he repeated the pledge that, provided the citizens do not accept the land application solution, the transfer of the sewage sludge will be halted in December. On his part, PASOK MP Apostolos Kaklamanis pointed out that the citizens of Western Attica have reached their limits, while he urged the Deputy Minister to present the alternatives. In the meantime, the Ano Liossia refuse dump remains closed for the third day running, while the employees will be deciding on their future actions tomorrow.

    Translated by Vicky Ghionis

    [07] No Agreement at COREPER Deadlock over Turkey

    29 Sep 2005 13:36:00

    By Vagelis Theodorou

    The EUs Permanent Representatives failed yet again to agree on a negotiating mandate to open accession talks between Turkey and the European Union. According to diplomatic sources, Austria stuck to demands that Turkey be offered an explicit alternative to full membership. The matter will be discussed anew during an emergency meeting between the EUs Foreign Misters scheduled for Sunday night in Luxemburg, since a negotiating framework is necessary for accession talks to commence on 3 October. In the meantime, in Athens, intense disputes erupted between the Government and the Opposition during the National Council for Foreign Policy meeting, which lasted for three hours and where Turkeys accession prospect was discussed in detail. Furthermore, the Greek Foreign Ministrys, spokesperson, Giorgos Koumoutsakos, stressed that the Greek stance can be summed up as, "full implementation of the criteria, full membership in the EU." At the same time, the tension in Ankara continues, especially after the European Parliaments decision last night, whereby it asked Turkey to recognise Cyprus and the Armenian genocide. In an announcement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry voiced its disappointment over the demand to recognise the Armenian genocide, claiming that the matter has to be settled by historians. In the meantime, the citizens of Turkey appear less enthusiastic over the prospect of their country acceding in the EU. As per a survey conducted by German Marshall Fund, the percentage of Turks who considered Turkeys accession as a positive development was 63%, dropping by ten percentile units compared to last year.

    Translated by Vicky Ghionis

    Related News:

    Crucial Meeting

    Harsh Message to Turkey

    [08] Lists on Employment Market GSEE's Lists

    29 Sep 2005 13:09:00 (Last updated: 29 Sep 2005 19:34:57)

    By Athina Saloustrou

    GSEE (Greek General Confederation of Labour) drew up lists on the entire employment market. As per the first data given to publicity, over the past 18 months 110 large and 8,000 small and medium sized businesses have closed down, transferred their headquarters in neighbouring countries or downsized their personnel and as a result 16.445 people lost their jobs. The number of unemployed has rapidly increased, taking into consideration the small businesses employing up to 20 people. As per the GSEE, the small and medium sized businesses in its lists amount to 8,000, thus increasing the number of unemployed to 80,000. The above data have caused SYNs reaction, which spoke of reports based on political interests, stressing than none of the businesses in question was asked to return the subsidies. ND honorary president Miltiadis Evert and Employment Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos accused the former PASOK governments on the matter.

    Thousands of Employees Fired

    Speaking on NET radio 105.8, Mr Panagiotopoulos said that the overwhelming majority of these businesses operated prior to 2004.

    Issuing an announcement, Mr Evert accused GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos of selective reference to data, stressing, "At times he is wearing the humble hat of GSEE's president and at others the tall hat of PASOK's Central Committee member." He also added that during Simitis' rule "important investment motives were given to Greek businessmen to establish investing units in the other Balkan countries."

    Many of these businesses received huge amounts of money from state subsidies or the stock market for their development and then their owners either shut them down or transferred their offices in other countries, leading thousands of employees to unemployment. The problem is more intense in the prefectures of Florina and Kozani, where some 5 thousand people lost their jobs over the past 18 months, mainly when textile industries closed down.

    Unionists have asked Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis to release the names of businesses that received state and community subsidies and grants and the government has not ruled out the possibility.

    What is more, as per the GSEE, unemployment exceeds 25% in younger ages, 35% in women, while the unemployed that are not recorded reach 3.5%. At the same time, in the context of the new development law, the Greek General Confederation of Labour presented 15 investment proposals, through which 569 new job openings will be created.

    Translated by Sofia Soulioti

    [09] Larissa Appellate Court Ruled As Unconstitutional Landmark Decision on Interest Rates

    29 Sep 2005 13:23:00

    By Athina Saloustrou

    The Larissa Appellate Court passed a landmark decision on the issue of banks collecting compounded interest on loans. It ruled the legislative provisions on compounded interest favouring credit institutions at the expense of debtors, as unconstitutional and contradictory to the European Human Rights Act, thus laying new foundations for the resolution of this major social issue. In particular, the Appellate Court ruled in favour of a Larissa company, and ordered the bank to return the amount of 37,663 euros with interest. The company had received 17,000-euro loan from the bank, and with the default interests and court expenses it exceeded 56,000. Furthermore, the company paid 95,000 euros in order to avoid its assets being impounded. The difference of around 38,000 euros was considered "paid, though not due," given the fact that it constituted interests on interest, which was not provided for a contract.

    The Appellate Court overruled the banks appeal on a decision of the One-Member First Instance Court, which also ordered the return of the amount. In particular, the specific decision referred to provisions of the controversial legislation on compounded interests Laws 2789/2000 and 2912/ 2001. As per the provisions, the amounts due, for which a payment order was issued, are exempt of favourable adjustments, thus the credit institutions do not have to return the added amounts paid. This is one of the few irreversible cases that have been settled, while other first-degree cases, against credit institutions and for clients, are still pending. The specific decision is expected to pave the way for other companies facing similar problems.

    Translated by Eirene Nisiriou

    [10] In Greece Hepatitis B and C Cases

    29 Sep 2005 11:34:00

    By Anna Kourti

    Sources: ANA

    As per data made public by Papanikolaou Hospital, Thessaloniki, cases of hepatitis B and C have increased. In particular, 550 persons, 25 among whom are from former Soviet Union countries, 30 from Albania and the rest Greeks, were infected by hepatitis B, while 250 patients, 100 from former Soviet Union countries, 10 from Albania and the rest Greeks, are suffering from chronic hepatitis C. The Head of the Papanikolaou Gastroenteric Clinic and President of the Hellenic Liver Research Institute Giorgos Kitis described the hepatitis B treatment and prevention measures, with a vaccine, as satisfactory, adding, "Our demand to the Health Ministry is the description of the two hepatitis types as chronic illnesses." It is noted that both types of hepatitis are contracted through blood, while hepatitis C appears in a lower rate in relation with hepatitis B, which is more easily contracted. The data was made public on the occasion of World Hepatitis C Awareness Day, which is October 1.

    Translated by Eirene Nisiriou

    [11] Karamanlis Meimarakis Meeting Fulfilling our Pledges

    29 Sep 2005 15:30:00

    By Dimitris Alexopoulos

    Greek PM Kostas Karamanlis and ND Central Committee Secretary Evangelos Meimarakis discussed matters regarding the governments policies and the course of the party. Upon exiting the meeting, Mr Meimarakis declared that the Government is fulfilling its pledges and the programme approved by the Greek people, while he described the latest incidents recorded at a party and government level as individual cases, noting that they cannot ruin the whole picture. He also stressed that the PM has announced that he will demonstrate zero tolerance against incidents of corruption.

    Setting the Bar High

    The Central Committee Secretary also stressed that every incident is being dealt with individually, while answers and reactions exist in each case.

    Referring to Mr Polyzos and him being stricken from the party, he described the action as harsh, stating that the bar has been set high, demanding higher expectations. He also added that it is impossible to keep striking members on simple slips of the tongue.

    Finally, mentioning the Regouzas incident, Mr Meimarakis declared, "Neither PASOK nor the Media can tell us when and whether we should strike someone from the party."

    Asked to comment on Mr Meimarakis statements, government spokesperson Thodoris Roussopoulos noted, "The need to change mentalities and behaviours awakens high expectations in the people."

    In addition, asked whether the Government feels it is being pressured by the reporters, Mr Roussopoulos responded, "Each Government respects the Media, the reporters and their work. Each democratic Government knows that it will be criticised. It is not the opportune moment to start a discussion on the content of the criticism. Any criticism is accepted, just as long as it is in good faith."

    Translated by Vicky Ghionis


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