|Saturday, 17 August 2019|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 05-09-15
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Gov't counters criticism over OA, notes Barrot reference to 1994-2004The government on Thursday offered harsh criticism of previous PASOK governments' actions vis-a-vis ailing national carrier Olympic Airways/Airlines (OA), less than 24 hours after the European Commission ordered OA to return upwards of 500 million euros to the Greek state.
Briefing reporters during his regular press conference, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos dismissed questions referring to the government's "haste" in resolving the OA quagmire and of "indirectly benefiting" the state-run company's competitors.
In reply, Roussopoulos cited a statement by then prime minister Costas Simitis in September 2004 during his address at the Thessaloniki International Fair, namely, that conditions were ripe for resolving the situation at OA.
The spokesman also pointed directly at statements, made a day earlier, by EU Commissioner Jacques Barrot, who spoke of "problems that began in 1994 and lasted until 2004".
"If, therefore, 10 years are not enough for a political decision to be taken, then obviously we have differing opinions over the concept of haste," Roussopoulos said.
He added that the entire OA issue could be debated in Parliament if one of the four parties in the legislature made such a request.
Furthermore, he echoed Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' pledge over the weekend that OA employees will not be left without jobs.
Finally, Roussopoulos offered a detailed account of OA's losses in 2003, noting that Olympic Airways recorded damages of 388 million euros; a debt-free spin-off, Olympic Airlines, posted losses of 23 million euros within a span of 18 days, whereas Olympic's domestic arm recorded a 30-million-euro loss.
"In total, OA posted 441 million euros in damages in 2003. In other words, that figure translates into 1.5 million euros per day," Roussopoulos emphasised, while noting that cost-cutting management policies in 2004 cut losses by 100 million.
 Communist party leader visits 70th TIF, criticises other partiesVisiting the 70th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Thursday, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) General Secretary Aleka Papariga was critical of all the other parties in Parliament, while she described the promise made by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis that Greece will make an economic recovery in 2008 after two years of sacrifices as 'a great lie'.
She also dismissed main opposition PASOK as "not worth a penny", pointing out that the present government was simply taking the policies of Simitis' government one step further.
Regarding the other left-wing party in Parliament, the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology, Papariga said it was equally responsible because it took the same tack as the two major parties and had greatly lowered its standards.
She called on voters to detach themselves from two main parties and lend strength to KKE, while noting that new political formations were likely and that KKE would look on these favourably and be ready to open talks with them.
She also blamed the other parties in Parliament for the problems of the national carrier Olympic Airlines, formerly Olympic Airways, and said she was in favour of keeping OA as the only airline in Greece.
 OA labour unionist denies that OA employees aim to shut down airportsThe head of an umbrella group representing Olympic Airways/Airlines (OA) employees on Thursday denied that labour unions have threatened to "close down" airports across Greece if the ailing national carrier is closed.
The European Commission on Wednesday issued a more-or-less expected ruling ordering OA to return upwards of 500 million euros back to Greek taxpayers -- money considered by the Commission as illegal direct and indirect subsidies granted to the company by successive Greek governments between 1994-2004.
OA union leader Manolis Patestos made the comment after meeting with main opposition PASOK secretary Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou.
Instead airport mobilisations, the unionist said OA employees want to "struggle together with passengers so that the company remains open ... we will support the passengers that support us..."
Among others, Patestos claimed that debt-ridden OA was being led to bankruptcy in order to "serve private interests" and that a "political decision" has already sealed the state-owned company's fate.
Finally, he said union reps will seek meetings with political party leaders.
On her part, the PASOK secretary blamed the government for the turn of events, citing "major responsibilities on the part of the ND government, 18 months now, due to its inaction and its lack of any substantive presence or negotiations in Brussels on this subject..."
She also said the government abandoned an operation plan for OA developed after 2003 by the then Simitis government.
Along those lines, she called on the government to take recourse to the European Court against the Commission ruling and "head to Brussels to discuss the matter with the Commission".
Pressed for details over her call for a "viable solution" to the OA issue, Xenogiannakopoulou said "it's not the time to discuss what this solution will entail, what's important is that this solution is viable, that it ensures the company's prospects and has a long-term prospect in tandem with safeguarding the rights of employees."
 Trikala man prosecuted for severely abusing five-year-old childA 39-year-old man from Trikala was brought before a public prosecutor in Lasithi on Thursday to hear criminal charges against him of severely abusing the five-year-old son of his Romanian partner in Ierapetra, Crete and deliberately causing him grievous bodily harm.
The man was taken to hear the charges against him under heavy police guard as a hostile crowd gathered outside.
The suspect admitted to severely beating the child but denied an additional charge of sexual abuse, while he claimed to have repented and said he wanted the boy to recover. He asked and received a 48-hour extension to make his plea and will be held at the Lasithi police station until that time.
Police say that charges may also be made against the child's mother, who originally claimed to have been absent when the abuse took place. She brought the boy into hospital on Saturday with severe and life-threatening bruising all over his body and he was admitted into a children's ICU, where doctors described him as being in critical condition.
 Maria Callas gala to kick off Thessaloniki Concert Hall winter programmeThe customary gala in the memory of Maria Callas - who died on September 16 some 28 years ago - will kick off the winter programme of the Thessaloniki Concert Hall on Friday. The annual gala in Callas' memory has inaugurated the concert hall's programme for the past four years. The lead during Friday's performance will be Italian soprano Mariella Devia, one of the foremost opera singers in the world, especially in the role of Lucia di Lammermoor that will close the evening. In statements to the ANA, Devia said that singing in a gala was a way of paying homage and showing respect to a great performer like Callas. Performing without the accompanying props and costumes for each play was more difficult but also more interesting and a challenge, she added.
She will be accompanied by the Thessaloniki Municipal Symphony Orchestra conducted by Miltos Logiadis. The gala programme will include arias from Vincenzo Bellini's 'Puritani', Gioacchino Rossini's "Tancredi", Jules Massenet's "Tha?s", Gaetano Donizetti's "Lucretia Borgia" and Bellini's "Lucia di Lammermoor".
The next scheduled performance at the Thessaloniki Concert Hall will be the premiere of the opera "Turandot" by Giacomo Puccini on November 11, with American soprano Jennifer Wilson as the Chinese princess.
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