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Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-09-14
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 First protest rally by OA staff greets Commission ruling over illegal subsidiesOA employees staged a protest rally at the departure terminal of the Athens International Airport on Wednesday, warning that they will step-up mobilisations against "scenarios" over the future of the ailing national carrier.
Around 2,500 employees took part in the protest accompanied by Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga, GSEE - Greece's largest trade union umbrella - president Christos Polyzogopoulos and representatives of the Coalition of the Left party.
OA, in a press announcement, publicly thanked passengers for their "massive support" of the company, saying that after an initial reluctance and some reservation cancellations in the previous days, an astonishing number of reservations throughout its sales network, particularly abroad, has emerged.
Olympic Air Services SA said it was continuing normal operations in ground services, cargo and technical maintenance of aircraft.
EU Commissioner Jacques Barrot, speaking to reporters in Brussels, said the Commission's decision on Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines "was clearing the landscape of air transport in the Greek market".
The Commissioner sounded optimistic over future developments saying "there is room for one or more airline companies in the Greek skies" adding that Greece was one of the significant spots in international air transport.
He expressed his belief that the Greek government has the will to deal with long-term problems, saying that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis recently referred to the need of reforming Olympic Airways' operations.
The Commissioner stressed that the final amount, to be repaid by Olympic Airways to the Greek State would be determined after consultations between Greek and community agencies.
"What I can say is that there is an amount of some several hundred million euros and nothing more," Barrot told reporters.
He was adamant that the Commission would not allow the Greek state to continue offering financial aid to Olympic Airways in a way contrary to community legislation. Replying to questions over whether a new state airline company could begin operating in Greece, the Commissioner said it was a matter for the European Commission. The EU' executive's responsibility was to ensure that healthy competition rules were followed in member-states, both by state or private enterprises in the airline sector.
 EU fails to finalise counter-declaration to TurkeyThe European Union's Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) made progress during its Wednesday meeting in formulating a counter-reply to Turkey over the latter's refusal to recognise the Cyprus Republic but did not adopt a final version, Foreign Ministry Spokesman George Koumoutsakos said.
The next COREPER meeting will most likely be held on September 21, he said, at which time negotiations regarding the counter-statement will resume.
The counter-statement will be made in response to Ankara's unilateral declaration on July 29 that it refuses to recognise the Cyprus Republic, an EU member-state, and that its ports and airports will remain closed to Cypriot ships and planes.
The European Commission found that Olympic Airlines is the successor company to Olympic Airways and has therefore received substantial state aid. Olympic Airlines was created in December 2003 as part of a restructuring programme for the national carrier and took over all flight operations that were previously carried out within the Olympic Airways Group by Olympic Airways, Olympic Aviation and Olympic Macedonian, as well as taking over the slots, traffic rights and public service obligations of Olympic Airways. All other activities - principally groundhandling, maintenance and engineering - remained within Olympic Airways (which has been renamed Olympic Air Services). The latter retained ownership of a number of majority shareholdings in other aviation-related companies in Greece, such as catering, information technology and fuel services.
 Govt to discuss Olympic Airways' future on ThursdayAn inter-ministerial commission, including Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, Transport Minister Mihalis Liapis, Labour Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos, with Lazards, the foreign consultant in privatisations, on Thursday will discuss developments in Olympic Airways following Wednesday's decision by the EU Commission giving Greece a two month period to resolve the issue, government spokesman Theodore Rousopoulos said. Speaking to reporters, Rousopoulos reiterated that the Greek state is loosing 1.5 million euros daily from the operation of Olympic Airways, while replying to questions over the alleged interest by foreign investors to buy the national airline said "I don't think anyone considers Olympic Airways to be a profitable company. A general interest is one thing and the problems facing the airline company are another. I don't think anyone has expressed interest to buy Olympic Airways as it is, with its thousands workers and its financial burdens".
The government spokesman noted that the government faced the problem as soon as it took over in March 2004 but it decided to smoothly complete the Athens 2004 Olympic Games before taking any drastic moves to deal with the situation.
 UN must strengthen its role as peacekeeper, PM saysNEW YORK (ANA/P. Panagiotou) - The United Nations must play a stronger role in managing, solving and preventing conflicts, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told the UN Security Council, meeting within the framework of the 2005 World Summit that opened here on Wednesday. In addition to preventing conflict from breaking out in the world, it is necessary that the UN adopt comprehensive and long-term strategies that will deal with the root of the problems before they result in conflict and war, Karamanlis noted. To this end, Greece firmly supports the creation of a peace-building committee and the adoption of a UN resolution aimed at preventing conflict in Africa, the continent devastated most by strife and war, he added.
According to Karamanlis, virtuous governance, a just state, solid democratic institutions, respect of human rights, development aid, reform and democratisation of the security sector are the key elements in addressing existing conflicts.
As for the fight against terrorism, the premier said that human rights and basic civil liberties cannot be undermined in the process.
Karamanlis stressed that poverty, epidemics, environmental pollution, weapons of mass destruction, and organised crime are emerging as the new threat to world peace and security. These, he said, demand a stronger UN and comprehensive strategies.
He called on regional organisations to operate effectively and emphasised the need for international treaties to be respected.
The premier had the opportunity to attend the meeting since Greece is a non-permanent Security Council member for the period 2005-2006.
 Commission says Greece granted illegal aid to Olympic AirwaysThe European Commission on Wednesday declared illegal a number of measures taken by the Greek state which gave an unfair advantage to Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines. This decision closes an investigation, which started on 16 March 2004, into the state aid granted since December 2002, when the airline was ordered to repay 160 million euros in illegal aid. The Commission, in its long-awaiting decision said that between 1994 and 2000 the EU's executive took a number of decisions authorising public aid for the restructuring of Olympic Airways. In December 2002, however, the Commission found that further aid had been granted to the airline which was incompatible with the common market, and demanded that 160 million euros be repaid. That aid has still not been repaid. Following a detailed analysis of the finances of both Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines, the Commission today found that Greece has continued to grant further aid to these companies, which is incompatible with the common market and therefore illegal.
Illegal aid includes:
‚¨40 million from the Greek State and Olympic Airways to cover part of the costs to Olympic Airlines of leasing aircraft;
an unjustified payment of some ‚¨90 million from the Greek State to Olympic Airways when Olympic Airlines was set up and transferred to the State, achieved by overvaluing the assets transferred to the State;
the Greek State‚s toleration of Olympic Airways‚ failure to pay more than ‚¨350 million in tax and social security liabilities due between December 2002 and December 2004;
the assumption by the Greek State of a number of Olympic Airways‚ financial obligations, e.g. in connection with aircraft leasing contracts and the repayment of a bank loan, amounting to up to ‚¨60 million.
The exact amount to be recovered by the Greek state will be defined during the execution of today's decision.
By granting this aid, Greece has given Olympic Airways and Olympic Airlines an advantage not available to their competitors. The Commission therefore asked Greece to recover the illegal aid payments. Greece has two months in which to inform the Commission of the measures it intends to take to comply with the decision.
On 11 December 2002 the Commission took a final decision ruling that aid granted to Olympic Airways was illegal, and asked Greece to recover ‚¨160 million. At the end of 2003 Greece adopted a specific law setting up a new company, Olympic Airlines, which took over the flight operations and most of the assets of Olympic Airways, leaving behind almost all of its debts. The creation of this new company, contrary to standard economic and accounting practice, would have had the effect of circumventing the obligation to recover the aid, as the Court found in its judgment of 12 May 2005.
When it opened its investigation in March 2004, the Commission expressed doubts about the compatibility with the Treaty of the continuing non-payment by Olympic Airways of tax and social security liabilities and about the way in which Olympic Airlines was established in late 2003.
In effect, what appears to have happened in December 2003 is that all flight operations that were previously carried out within the Olympic Airways Group by Olympic Airways, Olympic Aviation and Olympic Macedonian were concentrated in a new entity renamed Olympic Airlines. Olympic Airlines also took over the slots, traffic rights and public service obligations of Olympic Airways. All other activities - principally groundhandling, maintenance and engineering - remained within Olympic Airways (which has been renamed Olympic Air Services). The latter retained ownership of a number of majority shareholdings in other aviation-related companies in Greece such as catering, information technology and fuel services.
The Commission has therefore found that Olympic Airlines is a successor company to Olympic Airways and that since its creation it has received substantial State aid. Olympic Airlines leases aircraft either from Olympic Airways or directly from the Greek State and pays significantly less than the head-lease payments, the resultant losses being borne by the State or by Olympic Airways at the State‚s behest. The Commission has also found that by overvaluing the assets transferred to Olympic Airlines and by using this valuation as the basis of a ‚cash pre-payment‚ to Olympic Airways, Greece has granted illegal and incompatible aid.
The Commission has found that the Greek State has also granted State aid to Olympic Airways. The most important part of this aid has been its continued forbearance in relation to the company‚s tax and social security liabilities.
These new aid payments constitute a violation of the ?one time, last time? principle, as the company had already benefited from restructuring aid in the past, the EU Commission said.
 Greek FinMin presents National Reform Programme for 2005-08Restoring fiscal balance, boosting productivity, improving a business environment, raising employment and promoting actions to support social cohesion are the five policy priorities set by the government in a National Reform Programme aimed for the period 2005-2008. Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis, presenting the programme's draft plan, said "these priorities were an answer to those saying we move one without a plan, with compass and with no targets". The Greek minister stressed the government had specific targets aimed to achieve economic growth and improving living standards in the country. Alogoskoufis said he expected political parties, and the main opposition in particular, to present the positions on the programme, adding: "We do not deserve to be at the rear due to failed past policies". He underlined that a National Reform Programme reflected the determination and commitment of the Greek government, together with restoring fiscal discipline, to accelerate a process of structural reforms and speed up implementation of Lisbon targets, adding that all reform initiatives and actions were focusing towards the same direction.
The draft plan was presented to the public so that all interested parties would express their reaction and after a debate in parliament to be submitted by October 15 with the European Commission.
The programme includes all actions needed to achieve Lisbon targets, aimed to transform the EU into the most competitive economy in the world.
Analytically, the draft plan envisages the deregulation of energy markets, improving the country's business environment, telecommunications market, transportation, deepening of internal market, knowledge society, investing in human capital, protecting the environment and others.
The draft plan of a National Reform Programme is the compass to the future, Alogoskoufis said. "It guarantees that Greek economy is changing course and efficiently uses opportunities lying ahead," the Greek minister said.
 Mikis Theodorakis to receive int'l music prizeWorld-famous music composer Mikis Theodorakis will be awarded the 2005 IMC UNESCO International Music Prize, Greece's Permanent Representative to UNESCO Yiorgos Anastasopoulos announced in Paris on Wednesday. Theodorakis was chosen among some 40 nominees of world-class standing for the prize, which acknowledged his worth on a global basis. Nominations were made by members of the International Music Council as well as by Permanent Delegations and National Commissions of UNESCO member states. "In an age when the need to underline the ecumenical language of culture is more urgent than ever before, the decsion of the IMC and UNESCO to grant the 2005 Music Prize to Mikis Theodorakis acquires particular content and symbolism," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a statement congratulating the composer.
"His constant struggles for freedom, social justice and human dignity rise above national boundaries and become a legacy for all humanity," Karamanlis concluded.
Theodorakis, who turned 80 this year, will receive his prize during a special ceremony on November 4, in Aachen, Germany.
The prize includes a diploma, a cash award and a UNESCO medal.
Past recipients of the IMC Music Prize inlcude Dimitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Menuhin, Herbert von Karajan, Cesaria Evora, Benny Goodman and Mercedes Sosa, among others.
The IMC UNESCO International Music Prize was initiated in 1975 by Menuhin. It honours musicians or musical institutions whose activities have contributed to the enrichment and development of music and have served peace, understanding between peoples, international cooperation and other purposes proclaimed by the United Nations Charter and UNESCO's Constitution.
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