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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-04-07

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Contract to build long-delayed Thessaloniki metro signed
  • [02] Reforms will continue, PM tells ND conference
  • [03] Greece aims to become energy hub in Balkans

  • [01] Contract to build long-delayed Thessaloniki metro signed

    The government on Friday signed a long-awaited contract to finally begin construction of a metro line in Thessaloniki, a project repeatedly stalled over the past 15 years in red-tape and by up to 36 legal challenges.

    The 1.1-billion-euro agreement was signed by Public Works Minister George Souflias and representatives of the winning consortium (AEGEK, Impreglio, Ansando, TSF, Seli and Ansaldobreda), while Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos signed on behalf of the municipality, which is the second largest in the east Mediterranean country, behind Athens, and the capital of the Macedonia province of northern Greece.

    In brief statements to reporters, Souflias said funding for the project has been derived from the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF) programme and with a favorable loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

    The minister said the initial phase envisions a 9.6-kilometer metro axis with 13 stations, running across the breadth of Thessaloniki, a metropolis built mostly parallel to its seafront along the Thermaikos Gulf. Actual work is expected to begin in May, with construction expected to last 6.5 years.

    Supervision of the construction project, on the state's side, will be entrusted to Attiko Metro S.A., the semi-state firm that manages Athens metro system.

    In an unrelated development, Souflias also commented on another long-delayed but absolutely imperative major infrastructure project in Greece, namely, the creation of a land registry.

    "...The European Union has declined to fund it (land registry) because of past illegalities and mismanagement, and the only solution now is self-financing with a fair and proportional manner, along with state support. Everything else is just talk," Souflias told reporters, adding that a relevant draft bill will be tabled in Parliament over the next few days.

    Caption: A file photo shows the seawall and the landmark White Tower in the northern Greek port-city of Thessaloniki. . EPA / ANA-MPA / Megapress photo / P. Makridis.

    ANA-MPA Copyright © 2004-2005 All rights reserved.

    [02] Reforms will continue, PM tells ND conference

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis once again emphasised the government's determination to press on with necessary changes and reforms, as he kicked off a National Conference for Local Government organised by ruling New Democracy on Thursday.

    In an attack on main opposition PASOK, meanwhile, he underlined that Greeks did not want those proposing work without social insurance for the young, freedom to fire workers and more taxes.

    The conference began by observing a minute's silence in memory of the late premier George Rallis, who died recently.

    Referring to the upcoming local government elections, Karamanlis said that the ruling party will support prefecture and municipal tickets that best serve the interests of local societies, backing candidates that do not necessarily arise from within its own ranks but those that have a strong foothold in local societies.

    At the same time, indirectly addressing potential rebels, he stressed that everyone was obliged to go along with the candidates chosen and that "we must contribute with all our power so that the results and positive and hopeful for local communities".

    Karamanlis also stressed that the party intended to continue "opening itself to all society" and rejected divisive conflicts, entrenchment and polarising tension, saying that he would not do that favour for the "orchestrators and protagonists of polarisation".

    Regarding the government's policy for local government, the premier stressed that local authorities were now receiving all the funds that were due to them - unlike the situation under previous PASOK governments - that there debts were being settled and that a gradual return of the funds that had been withheld in past years was now beginning.

    The funding of local authorities was now carried out through a modern, completely transparent and objective system, geared to boosting regional development, Karamanlis said.

    He also noted that prefectures had for the first time acquired steady funds of their own, which were today three times higher than in 2004, while the five-year development programme Thiseas made 3.5 billion available to municipalities and communities on completely objective and transparent terms over five years, as opposed to the previous programme that provided 1.7 billion over seven years.

    According to Karamanlis, 6,500 projects had already been approved for funding under this programme, with another 2,500 now in the process of being tendered.

    The premier also stressed the importance of the new local government codes being introduced by the government, which would help upgrade their organisation and operation, their rights and obligations and introduce innovative institutions, such as the option of holding local referenda.

    He noted the government's introduction of first-round elections to local authorities with a 42 percent majority, saying the government had dared to make a radical change that had been demanded by the electorate.

    Interior minister points to government reforms

    The poor state of local authorities inherited by the government was stressed by Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos in his own address to the conference, who painted a picture of past omissions, party-politics, lack of foresight, and financial woes.

    According to the minister, the present government had in two years succeeded in doing all the things that previous PASOK governments had failed to achieve in 10 or more years in power, beginning with a series of emergency measures to help settle local government debts on favourable terms.

    Pavlopoulos stressed the central role of the Thiseas programme, noting that 45 per cent of the programme's funds had already been distributed, as well as a series of steps taken by the government to tackle the "pathogenies of the past", such as determining the amount of local authority funds that had been withheld in 1998-2003 and starting a process to pay these.

    Regarding local authority temporary workers, meanwhile, he pointed out that the government had promised to cover the conversion cost of making their contracts indefinite from the state budget.

    Noting that a draft bill for the local authorities code will be tabled in Parliament on Monday, the minister said this would set up guarantees for social control of local government, establish a charter of rights for municipal citizens, draw up the local resident's guide and require that municipal authorities give an annual report its finances in a public session.

    The bill also introduced a series of articles that limit supervision by the State, boost the social role of local authorities, modernise their financial management with transparent terms and reforms local authority enterprises, he said.

    Turning to prefecture authorities, Pavlopoulos noted the increase in their funds under a modern funding and distribution system, and that they were now able to initiate investments and road repairs. He also pointed to new legislation for a prefectures' code, which will be named after Theodoros Katrivanos.

    Photo: ANA/MPA

    ANA-MPA Copyright © 2004-2005 All rights reserved.

    [03] Greece aims to become energy hub in Balkans

    Finding new sources of supply of liquified natural gas (LNG), to make a more efficient use of an existing LNG terminal in Revithousa, is necessary for a more balanced development of the country's energy balance, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said on Friday.

    Addressing a meeting of the World Union of LNG Importing Companies in Athens, the Greek minister stressed that Greece has build a LNG terminal in Revithousa budgeted at 300 million euros. The unit has two storage tanks with a capacity of 130,000 cubic metres. The project is part of a strategy to diversify the country's energy sources and to meet increased demand for natural gas.

    The Revithousa terminal has the capacity to supply the country's National Transportation System with natural gas at 407 cubic metres of LNG per hour. It is one of the most advanced terminals in the world and can offer services to vessels with a tonnage of up to 130,000 cubic metres.

    Sioufas said Greece's Natural Gas Public Enterprise (DEPA) is currently implementing a upgrading of Revithousa's facilities with a project worth 46 million euros, of which 21.5 million euros will be paid by the Greek state. After completion of the project, Revithousa will have a supply capacity of 1,000 cubic metres of LNG per hour.

    Development Deputy Minister Anastasios Nerantzis said that liquified natural gas was contributing in improving the country's energy balance, enhancing the security of total energy supply and promoted competition in the domestic market. He underlined that Greece was promoting all necessary actions to become a significant energy hub in Southeastern Europe.

    The meeting was attended by representatives of: BG GROUP PLC (UK), DISTRIGAS (Belgium), GAS NATURAL SDG (Spain), GAZ DE FRANCE (France), KOREA GAS CORPORATION (South Korea), MITSUBISHI GAS CORPORATION (Japan), MITSUBISHI FRANCE SAS (France), OSAKA GAS CO (Japan), SUEZ GLOBAL LNG LTD (US), TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER COMPANY (Japan) TOKYO GAS LTD (Japan).

    Photo: ANA/MPA

    ANA-MPA Copyright © 2004-2005 All rights reserved.


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