|Sunday, 18 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-08-01
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Weekend Bulletin
Monday, August 1 2016
 PM Tsipras in Sofia for Greek-Bulgaria High Level Cooperation Council on MondayGreece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is due in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Monday in order to attend the Greek-Bulgarian High-Level Cooperation Council.
The prime minister, who will be arriving at the head of a government delegation, will have meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov and Bulgaria's President Rosen Plevneliev. There will also be meetings between Greek ministers accompanying the premier and their Bulgarian counterparts, on the sidelines of the Cooperation Council, after which a series of bilateral agreements are to be signed.
The delegation arriving with the premier will include: Economy, Development and Tourism Minister George Stathakis, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Labour, Social Insurance and Social Solidarity Minister George Katrougalos, Energy and Environment Minister Panos Skourletis, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Christos Spirtzis, Alternate Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas, Alternate Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, Deputy Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Marina Chrysoveloni.
The prime minister's visit is to focus on four main areas of cooperation: energy, politics and diplomacy, defence cooperation, and also economic and infrastructure development. Government sources said that the visit to Bulgaria marks the launch of a series of contacts focusing on the Balkans, Arab countries and Persian Gulf.
Noting that Bulgaria was now one of Greece's closest and most reliable partners in the Balkans, the sources said that Bulgaria was also an important partner for the energy planning of the United States and European Union, especially through the TransAdriatic Pipeline (TAP) and Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline projects involving Greece and in connection with the planned Alexandroupolis Liquified Natural Gas station.
On a political and diplomatic level, the aim of the prime minister's visit is to upgrade political dialogue with Bulgaria, especially on cooperation issues, developments in the Black Sea and relations with Russia.
On the economic and infrastructure levels, areas of mutual interest are cross-border cooperation in transport, including a rail link to connect the Black Sea with the Aegean in Alexandroupolis that bypasses the Turkish straits and opens up prospects for trade with Russia. The two sides will also sign agreements on tourism and discuss management of the Evros River waters.
In defence cooperation, following a visit last week by Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, the focus will be on transferring expertise to help modernise the Bulgarian armed forces and defence industry.
The prime minister's complete itinerary during the visit is as follows:
10:00 PM and government delegation arrive in Sofia
10:30 Tsipras and Borisov have one-on-one meeting
10:30 - 11:30 Bilateral meetings between Greek and Bulgarian ministers
11:30 High-Level Cooperation Council session begins
12:40 Bilateral agreements are signed
13:00 Joint statements by Tsipras and Borisov
13:30 Working lunch for the two government delegations
15:15 Tsipras meets Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev
 Government sources counter criticism of new airport, hospital inaugurations as 'ridiculous'The opposition was engaging in a "communications war" that revealed its frustration and verged on the ridiculous, government sources said on Sunday in response to criticism targeting the recent inaugurations of a new hospital on the island of Santorini and a new airport on Paros.
It said the criticism was triggered by the fact that, in the space of a few months, the government had succeeded in completing projects that had remained mired for decades "due to negligence, wasteful spending or in service of private interests." Even more irritating for them, the sources added, the projects were being finished and delivered in spite of the fiscal constraints while fully protecting the public interest and that of local communities.
The main opposition and the "tabloid" press should prepare for more mud-slinging since the government intended to generate immediate solutions for more long-standing problems, the same sources added.
 Kammenos talks to ANA about the IMF, Turkey and Greece's rising geopolitical roleGreece's entry into the bailout mechanisms and the involvement of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should be investigated, the head of the junior party in Greece's ruling coalition, Independent Greeks (ANEL) party leader and Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, said in an interview with the ANA released on Sunday.
In a comment on the report and the mistakes made in the Greek programme by the IMF watchdog, the Independent Evaluation Office, Kammenos said this was a "vindication" for those that had always seen the decision to put Greece in the first memorandum programme in 2010 "as a political action on the part of George Papandreou."
The admission of the mistakes and their disastrous repercussions for Greece was an opportunity to seek reparations for the damage done, Kammenos said, while highlighting the possible role of the current U.S. administration in this effort.
"The forces in Europe have changed their stance in comparison with July last year and I am certain that our country will finally emerge from this tragic period for the citizens and the country," he said.
Kammenos also commented on the intervention of Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to "let off" Spain and Portugal from fines for missing deficit targets, noting that many decisions after 2015 were taken on the basis of political and not purely economic criteria.
On the recent events in Turkey, including their possible impact in relation to Cyprus, Kammenos noted that it was clearly "unpleasant" to have such events unfolding in a neighbouring country but that Greece's geopolitical signficance and stability was made stronger as a result, especially in the context of NATO and the European Union.
"Greece is now a pillar of stability in the broader region of the Mediterranean and an axis of stability with Greece at its centre is now formed, with Bulgaria and Romania to the north and to the south with Cyprus, Egypt and the Middle East countries, with which we have excellent relations, while at the same time having the capability to talk with and also have excellent relations with Israel," he pointed out.
This gave Greece the capability to undertake initiatives in order to resolve the refugee crisis with the return of the refugees to their countries of origin, he said.
"I consider that Greece's position is very important and recognisable by our allies in NATO but also countries outside NATO, such as Russia, Israel and the Middle East countries," Kammenos added.
On the Cyprus issue, the defence minister said the withdrawal of the Turkish occuption troops will be the key to resolving the Cyprus problem.
Asked about policy in NATO, Kammenos said weight should be given to the south and to fighting Islamic fundamentalism, which he described as "the real foe."
"The situation in North Africa and the Middle East, but also the terrorist attacks on European countries at this time, show all of us that the there must be a reinforcement of the Alliance focused on the south sector in order to deal with the issue of terrorism and to be able to normalise the situation in countries like Libya, to have the election of a democratic government and to stop the illegal funding of terrorism and ISIS that is taking place through the trafficking in oil, guns, drugs and people in the broader region of the southeastern Mediterranean," he said.
Kammenos also replied to questions regarding the revision of the constitution, noting that this should be a "new contract" with the citizens that would end a system where the constitution provided "special immunity" to politicians, such as the law on ministerial responsibility. He said the changes proposed by the government would help restore people's trust in politicians.
On the pay of the armed forces and the cuts to special wage scales, the minister said that Greece's armed forces were now on the smallest pay of any in NATO and had suffered cuts as high as 65 pct. "There are no margins any more," he added, noting that the prime minister and himself had promised that armed forces personnel wages and pensions will not be cut, regardless of the demands of Greece's creditors.
According to the minister, the money needed will be found by cuts in spending and by making more efficient use of armed forces resources and property to generate additional income.
 ND VP Georgiadis criticises gov't proposals for revising constitution in ANA interviewMain opposition New Democracy Vice President Adonis Georgiadis criticised the government's proposals for revising Greece's constitution in an interview with the ANA on Sunday, calling them "rushed, fragmentary and timid." According to the former minister, ND had submitted the only realistic proposal, which was that the two parties agree on the articles that they intend to open and to vote for each other's articles.
"Afterward, we can submit our proposals in a public debate so that in the pre-election campaign of the next elections, the Greek people can decide with their vote what kind of Constitution they want to have," he added.
While not adopting a position on how the president of Greece should be elected, he noted that this process must be separated from the possibility of disbanding Parliament and calling new elections.
He criticised the government's handling of the eight Turkish military personnel that sought asylum in Greece after the attempted coup in Turkey, noting that the constant references to the issue were "harming and not helping" the case.
 Refugee flows up but 'not enough to draw conclusions', Shipping minister tells ANAThere has been an increase in refugee flows in recent days but not one large enough to support conclusions, Shipping and Island Policy Minister Thodoris Dritsas said in an interview with the ANA on Sunday.
"We are on alert and planning our policy on the basis of all possibilities," he added, while pointing out that migrants and refugees wanted to go to Europe and not to stay in Greece.
He rejected opposition party criticism as "irresponsible, unfounded and unsupported," and said it was part of a strategy to "break down" the opponent.
"The government is currently making efforts to support Greek society, which has collapsed due to the six-year implementation of the memorandum," Dritsas said, noting that the memorandum signed by this government will be the final one and a "necessary compromise" in order to maintain a rudimentary stability until the "growth engine" kicked in again.
"We are not saying to the Greek people that everything will be solved as if by magic but that we really are on a course to revive the economy," he added.
 Greece aims to break 2015 record as tourist arrivals continue to rise, Kountoura saysThe government's aim is to break the record set in 2015, when there were more than 26 million arrivals from abroad and tourism revenue reached 14.1 billion euros, Alternate Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura said in an interview with the Greek newspaper 'Xoni' on Sunday.
"The figures for international airline arrivals at Athens airport are constantly touching new highs since the start of the year, with the first six months ending with an increase of 4.4 pct," she noted, while the figures were even more encouraging in regional airports, where the increase was 9 pct in July and 10 pct in August, and in Greek ports.
She pointed to a recent announcement by the British travel agencies union that bookings by UK tourists to Greece had increased 5 pct this summer, saying this was cause for optimism, while also noting a sharp increase in the number of Russian tourists.
"In the first five months of 2016 alone, arrivals [of Russians] increased by more than 47 pct compared with the same period in 2015," Kountoura reported, adding that most of Greece's major tourist markets were showing an increase, including last-minute bookings.
The minister said Greece was now seeking to promote the year-round options offered by the country, such as cultural, religious, sports, outdoors and city-break tourism, while expressing satisfaction with the growth of the cruise sector.
"The port of Piraeus has already received the largest number of cruise ships and visitors this year and has the option of becoming established as a popular homeport in the Mediterranean," she said.
Greece's aim was to retain its international appeal as an attractive destination offering unique, authentic experiences at a very good price-to-quality ratio and with a sense of safety and security for visitors, Kountoura added.
 Parliament must take action to clear up Siemens case, Voutsis tells RealNewsParliament must take action to clear up the Siemens case and find those responsible for the problems that this clearly perennial process of intertwined interests created in Greece's political system, Parliament President Nikos Voutsis noted in an interview with the newspaper "RealNews" published on Sunday.
He noted meaningfully that the trial of the colonels that organised the Greek junta in 1967-1974 had been concluded in a year, with the conditions prevailing in 1975.
Voutsis also commented on the report by the International Evaluation Office (IEO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) watchdog, saying this once again proved "the extent of international and domestic political hypocrisy" that had "trapped" Greece in a succession of memorandum programmes. The IMF's original advice calling for a generous haircut of Greek debt had not been followed to spare French and German banks, he said, and this position had then been served by a succession of right-wing and PASOK governments in Greece, who had insisted on the "sustainability" of the country's debt.
 New flare-up in northern Evia fire near LimniThere has been a new flare-up in the northern Evia fire, which rekindled on Sunday afternoon due to the strong winds blowing in the region and the inaccessible terrain, which is preventing fire fighters from reaching the flames. The blaze has partially re-ignited in forest east of the town of Limni, where all fire-fighting forces in the air and on the ground are now focusing their efforts.
In addition to the forces on the ground, there are six water-bombing aircraft and six helicopters participating in the battle to put out the blaze.
The wildfire that started at noon on Saturday in Farakla swept across northern Evia throughout the night, burning roughly 2,000 hectares of forest on the island and reaching the seaside resort of Katounia in the Limni area. It was under control all along its length on Sunday afternoon, though the fire brigade warned of the danger it might rekindle as wind speeds strengthened in the late afternoon.
The first light of day on Sunday revealed "incalculable damages" and severe ecological destruction in the Limni area, authorities said.
Rural Development Minister Vangelis Apostolou, who has been in the area since early on Sunday morning, noted in statements to the ANA that a number of factors are hampering fire-fighting efforts, including the dense forest and the strong and unpredictable winds blowing in the area, that led to the fire rekindling.
"I would like to believe that by tonight, when the winds will drop, if a major effort is made by all the means our country has, we will have a result tonight or tomorrow morning that shows that what we call a manageable situation is in a better phase," he said.
In earlier statements to the ANA, when the fire had appeared to be under control, Apostolou had predicted that the fire would be fully extinguished by the end of the day. Though the fire had done immense environmental damage, he said, it had not claimed any lives and he'd promised immediate action to compensate resin producers in the area.
 Limni not at risk from fire, Alternate Citizen Protection Minister saysAlternate Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas on Sunday offered assurances that the town of Limni in Evia was not at risk from the major wildfire that was continuing to burn in the area.
"With the great concentration of fire-fighting forces and winds assisting, the town of Limni is not in danger," Toskas said.
The minister said he was monitoring the progress in putting out the fire in northern Evia, which had rekindled due to strong winds, and that no inhabited areas faced any danger though the fire brigade will be on guard against further flare ups in the coming days.
 Riot police, strong reactions to anti-establishment activists disrupting church serviceRiot police were called in and took more than 20 individuals into custody on Sunday, after a group of anti-establishment activists barged into a church in Thessaloniki during the Sunday mass and attempted to interrupt the service. The 26 detained were later placed under arrest for disturbing a religious gathering.
The activists came in and threw flyers with slogans protesting against the clearing of abandoned buildings occupied by refugees and migrants in the Thessaloniki area, including the demolition of the former 'Alexander the Great' orphanage.
The Church service resumed as normal after the police intervened to remove them.
"Such things have never happened in Greece," said Thessaloniki Metropolitan Anthimos in a comment on the incident later on Sunday, after he was informed of what happened.
"Today it is proved that the government does not control anything. Certainly not its own party organisation, SYRIZA, which is playing dangerous games of tolerance at the expense of the protection of citizens," main opposition New Democracy spokesman George Koumoutsakos said.
"Let there be an end to this. The government's extended tolerance and SYRIZA's ideological-party coverage of the lawless behaviour of self-styled anti-establishment activists has made them brazen," he added, noting that the occupation and vandalism of public and private property was now followed by a brutal offence to the religious sentiments of Greeks.
 Arrests on Lesvos reveal existence of forged documents' ring on the islandThe arrests of 13 migrants and refugees attempting to leave the island of Lesvos using fake travel documents has revealed the existence of a major ring selling counterfeit documents, police on the island reported on Sunday.
Police at Mytilene airport on Saturday arrested one Iranian national, two Afghan nationals and 10 Pakistanis as they attempted to board flights to Athens.
 Fire in Rethymno on Crete now subsiding throughout, fire brigade reportsA fire that broke out in Rethymno on Crete is now fully subsiding all along its length and there are no new fronts to cause concern, the fire brigade reported late on Sunday. Fire-fighting forces will remain on hand to guard against a possible rekindling of the flames due to the winds still blowing in the area.
The fire has burned through an estimated 2,500-3,000 hectares of mainly agricultural land, causing damage to livestock facilities, water and irrigation networks and roads.
Interior Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis and Health Minister Andreas Xanthos contacted the local mayor Yiannis Tatarakis and promised to assist in restoring the damage to local infrastructure.
The fire had started at Sahtouria in the municipality of Agios Vasilios in Rethymno on Saturday afternoon, burning through the night. A force of 55 fire men, 27 fire engines, three EMAK teams on foot and local authority water-tankers, as well as private machinery, were deployed to put out the fire. Strong winds prevented fire-fighting planes and helicopters from assisting in the effort.
The police and coast guard were able to extricate 18 people trapped by the blaze, while the villages of Agios Pavlos and Ai Giannis were evacuated.
 Fire at Asprovalta junction near Egnatia Highway under controlA fire that broke out at 17:00 on Sunday at the Asprovalta junction of the Egnatia Highway is now under control, authorities reported. The fire broke out in an area of grassland, while the cause is not yet known.
A team of 10 fire men and four fire engines remain on the scene as a precaution, the duty officer told the ANA. Traffic police were also on hand earlier to help regulate traffic.
 Search on for missing Russian tourist on RhodesThe Rhodes coast guard on Sunday launched a search for a Russian tourist reported missing while diving in the sea on the west side of the island. The man's disappearance since Sunday afternoon was reported by his wife but the search, conducted with the assistance of the police, has not yet turned up anything.
 Undisturbed Byzantine grave discovered in Zagori villageA group of boys playing basketball in the Zagori village of Skamneli have discovered a previously undisturbed grave next to the basketball court that archaeologist have dated to the Byzantine era, according to reports on Sunday.
Heavy rains and harsh weather conditions over the winter had caused the ground to subside, revealing the ancient grave a short distance from the basketball court.
According to 18-year-old student Nikos Tsoumanis, the boys curiosity was aroused when they spotted a large stone slab and they tried to lift it. Revealed within were human bones but also grave goods and jewellery, such as rings and bracelets. The youths immediately notified the police at Kipi in Zagori, who called in a team of archaeologists to seal the grave.
36, TSOCHA ST. ATHENS 115 21 GREECE - TEL: 64.00.560-63 - FAX: 64.00.581-2 INTERNET ADDRESS: http://www.ana.gr - E-MAIL: anabul@ana gr - PRESIDENT & GENERAL DIRECTOR: MICHALIS PSILOS