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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-06-21

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] Premier Karamanlis stresses need to move forward on EU Constitution
  • [02] Greek FinMin hails strong economic performance
  • [03] Fragment of ancient marble returned

  • [01] Premier Karamanlis stresses need to move forward on EU Constitution

    Addressing the European Peoples Party (EPP) summit in Brussels on Thursday, Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis stressed the need to move forward with the European Constitutional Treaty, which 18 of the member-states had already ratified, while underlining that "we all have an obligation to honour our signatures".

    "Who said that all 18 of us that have already ratified the Treaty are fully satisfied with the text that we decided on? We in Greece, for example, would like institutionally more Europe," he said.

    The Greek premier reminded those present that a series of compromises had been made "so that we could arrive at a text on which we all finally agreed".

    He also said that the two countries that had rejected the European Constitutional Treaty in referendums, France and the Netherlands, must be assisted in accepting it but not by making fundamental changes to the treaty negotiated:

    "There must be some minor changes but on no account should those changes touch on the substance," he stressed, while underlining that no one stood to gain by raising "individual demands".

    "This must not happen, to the extent that it may disrupt the general principle of the EU's operation, since this is what we are seeking with the Constitutional Treaty," he added.

    If no agreement was achieved, Greece was "ready to proceed with those countries that also desire more Europe," Karamanlis concluded.

    Earlier in the day, Premier Karamanlis inaugurated the new building of Greece's permanent delegation at the EU.

    Karamanlis pointed out that the aim is "for our diplomatic authorities to reflect the image of a Greece that is modern, self-confident and has ambitious goals."

    The prime minister said that the permanent delegation at the EU is the spearhead of the country's presence at the most important decision-making centre internationally and added that "Brussels is now the field where we are making daily struggles to defend our interests in all sectors."

    Karamanlis reminded that Greece is one of the oldest member-states of the European family and noted that "we belong to the hard nucleus of the group of countries that actively support the European idea and it is an active partner, contributing decisively to the shaping of a common European course."

    He further said that "our country, always in the front line, is participating from the beginning in all the leading policies on closer cooperation, but we are also shaping policies and undertaking considerable initiatives."

    Karamanlis underlined that Greece is playing a leading role in the effort to adopt the Constitutional Treaty, saying that "we support the substantive upgrading of the European fabric, that will coincide with its enlargement, we want a Europe with a strong international presence and a role that will guarantee the prosperity of its citizens at the same time."

    The prime minister referred to the positive influence and the reformist force that the EU can exercise, as he said, not only for its member-states but also for its neighbours and focused on the Balkan countries in particular and the upgrading of Euro-Mediterranean cooperation.

    Karamanlis made an account of the government's work in his address and underlined that it is following a wide reformist programme based also on the mandates of the Lisbon strategy and it is utilising, as he added, all EU tools in full with the aim of regional and social cohesion.

    Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said in a brief address during the inauguration ceremony that the new building is Greece's showcase in the heart of Europe.

    Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos was also present at the inauguration ceremony, whom Karamanlis congratulated for Cyprus' accession to the EMU, that is expected to be announced officially on Thursday, as of January 1, 2008.

    Before attending the inauguration ceremony, Karamanlis visited the new offices of the Constantine Karamanlis Democracy Institute.

    Caption: Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis (L) talks with Romanian President Traian Basescu at the European Peoples Party (EPP) summit in Brussels on Thursday. (Photo: ANA-MPA/Pantelis Saitas)

    [02] Greek FinMin hails strong economic performance

    Greece, Ireland, Finland and Luxembourg are the most rapidly growing economies in the EU-15, Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said on Thursday.

    Presenting the ministry's report on current developments and prospects of the Greek economy, Alogoskoufis noted that Greek economy's performance has proved wrong all pessimistic forecasts over an economic slowdown after the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. The Greek minister stressed that GDP grew by 4.3 pct in 2006, up from a 2.7 pct growth rate in the Eurozone, while GDP grew by 4.6 pct in the first quarter of 2007 in Greece compared with a 3.0 pct growth rate in the Eurozone.

    Alogoskoufis said the country's fiscal deficit was expected to fall to 2.4 pct of GDP this year, from 7.9 pct of GDP in 2004. Commenting on strong economic growth rates, the minister said they reflected a significant increase in investments and exports and not an expansive fiscal policy as in past.

    Exports grew by 13.7 pct in 2005 and by 18.2 pct in 2006, while investments rose 12.7 pct last year contributing by 77 pct to Greek economic growth rate. Investments grew by 15 pct in the first three months of 2007, from 9.4 pct last year.

    Alogoskoufis said fiscal consolidation was achieved without cutting social spending or reducing households' incomes. Greek households' real available income grew by 3.4 pct in 2005 and by 4.0 pct in 2006, leading to a 3.7 pct increase in private consumption over the two-year period.

    Average inflation eased to 3.2 pct in 2006 from 3.5 pct in 2005, while unemployment dropped to 8.8 pct in the fourth quarter of 2006, from 11.3 pct in the first quarter of 2004. The Greek minister, however, acknowledged that unemployment remained high compared with the EU average and noted that one of the most significant problems facing the economy was that it did not create enough job positions.

    Another big problem was social security, Alogoskoufis said, adding the problem would be addressed gradually over the next years.

    He announced that the government would table to Parliament draft legislation to combating tax evasion, envisaging strict punishment of tax evaders and offering incentives to taxpayers. Another priority was promotion of a Social Cohesion fund aimed to support people living in poverty. Around 2.0 million people are considered poor currently in Greece and the fund will offer financial support totaling 2.0 billion euros. The government aims to cut poverty levels from 20 pct currently to 15 pct of the EU average, Alogoskoufis said.

    He noted that Eurostat officials were currently in Greece to examine Greek GDP revised figures.

    Political party reactions to FinMin

    Responding to Alogoskoufis‚ statements, main opposition PASOK MP Vasso Papandreou, responsible for economic affairs on the party‚s Parliamentary Council, accused of painting a false picture of the economy.

    ?A false picture of the economy and covering up the bonds scandal are the two basic axes of the government‚s policy, which Alogoskoufis faithfully serves,? she said, adding that Greek society was aware of this, as was evident in the ?displeasure expressed by 82 percent of the citizens?.

    According to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the finance minister had once again concealed that those who benefited from the increase in wealth generated where the rich, whereas the lives of the workers that generated the wealth had deteriorated.

    ?ND‚s pre-election pledge to reduce poverty from 20 percent to 15 percent is a big lie. Real poverty in Greece and in the EU is much greater and is constantly increasing,? the party said.

    [03] Fragment of ancient marble returned

    A fragment of an ancient Greek marble relief was returned to Greece on Thursday by a Danish family that had owned it for over a century.

    Carsten Dahl had contacted the Greek Ambassador in Denmark last April on his own initiative, informing him of the fragment's existence, because he believed that "antiquities should return to their country of origin."

    The fragment was from a 4th century B.C. Attica carved relief shaped like a small temple that portrayed the goddess Athena. It had been given to the Dahl family in 1897 by a Danish writer and war correspondent working in Greece at the time.

    It was officially received on Thursday by Culture Minister George Voulgarakis in a special ceremony at the culture ministry, though Carsten Dahl was unable to attend due to ill health and was represented by his nephew.

    Voulgarakis thanked and publicly congratulated Mr. Dahl, stressing the "huge symbolic importance" of his decision to transfer ownership of the fragment to the Greek culture ministry.

    "It vindicates our efforts and points to similar actions and initiatives," the minister said, repeating that the antiquities taken out of Greece were "lost pieces of our history".

    "The culture ministry of Greece will serve in every possible way the building of the policy that will result in the reunification of the Parthenon Marbles," he added.


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