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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-05-23
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece, Australia sign all-important bilateral social security agreementGreece and Australia signed a long-awaited bilateral social security agreement here on Wednesday, providing for recognition of Greek-Australians' pension and healthcare rights, during Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' official visit to Australia and following talks with Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
The significant accord, which was signed by Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on behalf of Greece, was completed after lengthy negotiations and will benefit the Greeks of Australia, Karamanlis said.
"We are resolving a matter that has been outstanding for decades, and which will enable our Greek-Australian fellow citizens to enjoy their pension rights and their healthcare rights," he said.
Howard, in turn, stressed that the accord concerned thousands of Greeks of Australia, who would benefit, and expressed satisfaction that the signing of the agreement was made possible after many years of negotiations.
Replying to press questions, Karamanlis said the agreement would be in force in four months' time, and anticipated that at least 60,000 Greek-Australians would benefit immediately.
Karamanlis noted, in reply to another question, that the accord was founded on the principle of equal treatment of the citizens of both countries in matters of social insurance and security. Consequently, he clarified, as foreseen under Australian legislation, the Greek Australian beneficiaries in Australia were required to declare their properties and assets, stressing that in no instance was the Greek state responsible for doing this on their behalf. "Nothing is changing (in that respect) for the Greek Australians," he said.
The agreement is founded on the principles of equal treatment with respect to social security; co-calculation of the periods of social insurance and residence in the two contracting countries for establishing pension rights; proportional apportionment of pension benefits and of the unhindered transfer of benefits to the beneficiary's country of residence. The accord covers only age-related retirement pensions.
Greek-Australians returning to Greece after the agreement enters into force will receive a retirement pension calculated on a formula in which the numerator is the number of years of residence in Australia and the denominator is 25 years.
For former residents of Australia who have already returned to Greece or will return to Greece prior to the enforcement of the agreement, the pension will be calculated on a different formula in which the numerator will again be the number of years of residence while the denominator will be 44 years.
Also, Greece will grant pension benefits even with only one year of insurance. For example, if a beneficiary has 300 days of social insurance in Greece and has 14 years of residence and social security in Australia, then he has a pension right in both Greece and Australia. In accordance with the above regulation, the pension beneficiary and the members of his family are entitled to full healthcare coverage by the Greek system.
In addition, the agreement further guarantees the acquired rights of the beneficiaries who already receive any category of pension benefits (not only age pensions) from Australia. The payment of the pension from Australia will in no instance be dependent on the right of a pension benefit from Greece.
Furthermore, on the Australian side, Greek benefits, such as the low pension stipend (EKAS), the OGA farmers' pension and certain benefits for large families (four children or more) will not be taken into consideration during the calculation of income for determining pension.
Talks with Howard
During talks between Karamanlis and Howard, special mention was made of the dynamic presence of the ethnic Greek community in Australia and the central role it plays in preserving and strengthening the bonds between the two countries, while emphasis was also placed on progress in bilateral relations in the economy, trade and the educational sector.
The two prime ministers further discussed European Union enlargement, Turkey's EU accession course, Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue.
Karamanlis stressed that Greece appreciated Australia's stance on Greek foreign policy issues of priority, and particularly on the FYROM name issue.
Howard called Karamanlis a "personal friend", and expressed satisfaction over their discussion.
To a question on Greece's campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum and Australia's stance, Howard noted that for many years he has repeatedly taken up this matter with the British prime minister, but added that, "in the final analysis, it is an issue that concerns Greece and Britain".
Karamanlis added that the issue "is not only a Greek demand". He explained that it was an "issue of reunification of a very important monument of global import", adding that "we must continue our efforts with all our friends and with all the governments".
"We must all unite our voices for the return of the cultural inheritance of the Parthenon," Karamanlis said.
Champions League final in Athens
Regarding a question on the Champions League final to be held on Wednesday night at Athens' main Olympic stadium (OAKA) and whether he was concerned with the country's international image, Karamanlis that the final was a "celebration of football (soccer), a sport event with world-wide radiance, as the eyes of millions of people were turned to it.
"It was Greece's duty, therefore, as it had done during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, to pass the test and prove that we have the experience, the know-how, the determination to host such major events with absolute success and safety".
He said that preparation carried out for the final was very good and expressed certainty that the game would take place smoothly, adding that "I hope that all fans will enjoy an excellent, quality spectacle worthy of the history of these two great teams".
Meeting with opposition leader
After the statements to the press, Karamanlis met with opposition Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd, who spoke warmly of the Greek community in Australia and also on Greece's course in the EU and the country's economic growth.
Later, at a luncheon in Karamanlis' honour at the Australian parliament, Premier Howard spoke of the long-standing bonds of friendship between the two countries, which he said were also forged by their common struggles against Nazism.
In his remarks, Karamanlis stressed that Greece and Australia had a common perspective on most of the important issues of the times and the corresponding challenges faced by the globalise society.
On the Cyprus issue, he said that Greece placed great weight on a just solution of the Cyprus problem that must conform with all the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.
Greece, as a member of the EU, will continue to contribute to the global effort to meet the challenges, he said, adding that it also remained dedicated to its commitment to win the fight against terrorism, and was further determined to secure a peaceful resolution of all the issues being faced today.
Turning to bilateral trade between Greece and Australia, he said that it remained at a relatively low level, and expressed hope that his visit will led to broadening and development of their commercial relations.
Karamanlis later visited the Hellenic Australian Monument, where he laid a wreath and presented medals to Greek and Australian veterans of WWII, and later laid another wreath at the Australian National Cenotaph (tomb of the Unknown Soldier).
On Thursday morning, Karamanlis will travel to Adelaide, where he will meet with South Australia State Premier Mike Rann and Adelaide Lord Mayor Michael Harbison, followed by a reception with the local Greek community before leaving for Melbourne, where he will address members of the ethnic Greek community at a dinner.
Karamanlis will meet with Victoria State Premier Steve Bracks and opposition members on Friday, while that same night he will address a large gathering of Greek Australians at the Rod Laver Arena.
On Saturday, Karamanlis will leave for Darwin, where he will meet with Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin, followed by a reception hosted by Martin.
At noon on Saturday, the Greek prime minister will depart Darwin for Hanoi, Vietnam, on the last leg of his tour of Oceania, where he will have talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet.
Caption: Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis (R) with Australian Prime Minister John Howard during a press conference in Canberra on Wednesday, May 23, 2007. (ANA-MPA / EPA/ALAN PORRITT)
 Plaque for fallen pilot unveiled on KarpathosMain opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou was among those attending the unveiling of a plaque bearing the name of fallen Greek Air Force pilot Costas Iliakis on the Greek island of Karpathos by National Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis on Wednesday.
Iliakis died a year ago in a mid-air collision with a Turkish warplane above the Aegean, about 15 miles southeast of Karpathos. The Greek pilot had been attempting to intercept a formation of Turkish fighter jets that had entered Greece's flight information region without submitting flight plans - a regular occurrence in skies above the Aegean Sea.
Also present during the ceremony were main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, Aegean and Island Policy Minister Aristotelis Pavlidis, Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis and the family of the fallen pilot.
In his address, Meimarakis underlined that Greece "works for peace, stability and the reduction of tension in the Aegean, something that Turkey should do as well".
He asked Turkey to put a stop to its practice of regularly violating air traffic regulations above the Aegean and to work for the region's security and the prospect of its accession to the EU.
Tension in the Aegean helped no one, while intransigency and threats brought no benefits, the minister underlined.
Papandreou's remarks at the ceremony underlined the need to provide material and moral support to the Greek Armed Forces and to forge a national strategy that brought peace and security but also guaranteed Greece's territorial rights and its just national causes.
In comments on Iliakis, meanwhile, Papandreou quoted a phrase by the early 20th-century Greek politician Eleftherios Venizelos, who had said that "freedom is not offered but won".
There followed the unveiling of a plaque at the head of a central road of the island's capital, while a pair of Greek Air Force fighter jets flew over the island in formation during the ceremony.
Caption: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou (left), Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis (centre) and Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis (Right) at the memorial for fallen pilot Costas Iliakis. ANA-MPA/Valinakis press office/Kyriaki Nikolaidou.
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