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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-06-27

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Papandreou calls for cleanup of political system
  • [02] Bakoyannis, Nimetz meeting
  • [03] FinMin visits Zaragoza
  • [04] Development of cruise tourism
  • [05] Wildfire in Athens suburb

  • [01] Papandreou calls for cleanup of political system

    Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou on Thursday gave an across-the-board press conference in Athens amid the ongoing Siemens campaign donation furor rocking his party, as he reiterated his demand for a Parliamentary committee of inquiry eventually followed by early elections, while at the same time lashing out against the rival New Democracy (ND) government.

    Papandreou, who began the press conference to present a coming Socialist International (SI) conference at an Athens seaside resort, later answered a bevy of questions linked directly to a former top PASOK cadre's admission that multinational Siemens donated one million deutschmarks in late 1999 for PASOK's upcoming election campaign, money that PASOK treasury officials at the time claim never reached the party's coffers.

    In expanding his criticism on account of the heated Siemens affair, Papandreou also requested Parliament committees of inquiries for a handful of other cases, including the recent OTE management transfer, the structured bonds purchases, the Vodafone phone tapping affair and the case involving a so-called "milk cartel" in the country.

    In reference to the Siemens "contribution" in late 1999, he charged that "PASOK showed immediate reflexes, whereas ND hears nothing". He also said the prime minister and government spokesman are not being truthful when they say an ongoing judicial investigation and Parliament probe cannot occur at the same time.

    Moreover, Papandreou accused noted Athens attorney Alexandros Lykourezos, "a friend of (PM Costas) Mr. Karamanlis," as behind a recent spate of press leaks, "based on what expediencies is Mr. Lykourezos providing these (press) leaks."

    In qualifying his call for early elections, a little more than nine months after the last election in the country, Papandreou said they should be conducted with a new election law and with smaller election districts, while also calling for more transparency in the country's mass media. Along those lines, he charged that the government is "manipulating" provincial mass media by using advertising revenue by state agencies.

    In answer to another question during the almost two-and-a-half hour press conference, he said he was "proud" of his past participation in PASOK governments and of the movement's work, as he called the party, while adding that PASOK "didn't always stand at its stature ... we didn't feel proud when wealth was produced during the (PASOK) governance but wasn't properly distributed, while creating new inequities."

    He also ruled out the prospect of changing the opposition party's name and symbols, while announcing a "major renewal".

    Finally, asked whether former prime minister Costas Simitis will be on the party's ballot in any upcoming general election, he said it was not the time at present to discuss ballots.

    Gov't response

    "Mr. Papandreou today asks for what he and his party, a few days ago, rejected in the constitutional revision, where we clearly proposed the monitoring of parties' finances by an independent judicial authority," government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos later said.

    "He (Papandreou) obviously forgets. Those who seriously and responsibly participate in public life don't, however. PASOK's hypocrisy is obvious once again."

    Finally, lawyer Alexandros Lykourezos, a former ND deputy, flatly rejected Papandreou's claims that he is behind any press leaks regarding the Siemens-PASOK case, saying that reporters who wrote the articles can attest to this.

    He also said he is not a defendant in any case, disputing a remark by the PASOK leader.

    "As Siemens' attorney I am fulfilling my debt, contributing to the work of the Greek justice system."

    Caption: Main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou at a press conference held in Athens on Thursday 26 June 2008. ANA-MPA /KATERINA MAVRONA

    [02] Bakoyannis, Nimetz meeting

    In statements after her meeting in Athens with UN mediator Matthew Nimetz regarding the name dispute between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said they had had a first exchange of views in light of the changed political framework after the NATO summit in Bucharest and the conclusions of the latest European Council meeting.

    "We had a very useful discussion, during which there was a in-depth review and assessment of the political and diplomatic environment that arose after Bucharest, the elections in FYROM and the European Council," Bakoyannis said.

    The foreign minister reaffirmed Greece's "steadfast and sincere desire to achieve a mutually accepted solution" but stressed that Athens considered that any agreement should be final and conclusive, without exceptions and not open to confusion or doubts about the need to fully adhere to the agreed terms.

    Questioned about whether neighbouring FYROM should put the issue of the name to a national referendum, Bakoyannis clarified that Greece was not concerned about the internal procedures followed its northern neighbour but insisted that the final solution be sanctioned by a decision of the UN Security Council that would be "binding without exceptions".

    She said the discussion with Nimetz concerned the issues that fell under his remit, which were finding a mutually acceptable solution the name issue and its implementation, and denied the existence of a July 9 deadline for finding a solution, as Nimetz had done beforehand, while at the same time repeating that Greece would like a solution to be found as quickly as possible.

    Asked whether the two sides were any closer to such a solution, she only said that the negotiations were continuing and "going into substantial issues".

    Nimetz says no July 9 deadline in name issue negotiations

    Speaking before Bakoyannis, Nimetz said that he did not see the negotiations ending by a specific deadline at the present time.

    "I don't consider July 9 or any other date significant in these discussions," he told reporters, answering questions after his meeting with the Greek foreign minister.

    He had been asked whether this date was being aimed for so that FYROM could join NATO with Croatia and Albania.

    "We wish these issues to proceed at a rapid pace," he said but stressed that "these are complex issues," and that he did not see any major developments in the next few days.

    Nimetz, who is next due to visit Skopje and hold talks with FYROM's leadership on Friday, said that he had did not present any new proposals but only "some ideas" that might lead to a solution and that the central topic of the talks was the name issue.

    While confirming that the use of an "adjective" in the name for Greece's northern neighbour that would make it acceptable to the Greek side was among the issues that figured prominently in the discussions, he declined to give more details or specifics about which proposals had dominated the talks.

    In response to other questions, Nimetz said that he had heard the views of the Greek side from Mrs. Bakoyannis and did not consider that direct talks between the Greek and FYROM foreign minister would help promote a solution at the present stage. He also clarified that issues of "identity" or language were not part of the negotiations.

    Greece objects to the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia" by FYROM on the grounds that it is shared by a northern Greek province that shares a common border with FYROM and may conceal or give rise to expansionist designs on Greek territory. There is also tension between the two countries over claims by FYROM's Slav majority to be direct descendants of the ancient Macedonian king and general Alexander the Great, who was born and ruled in a kingdom roughly coinciding with the present-day Greek province, and to adopt the symbols of the ancient Macedonian royal family as its own.

    Commission spokesperson on European Council conclusions for FYROM

    The conclusions reached by the latest European Council referring to FYROM were "balanced and fair" said a spokeswoman for European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn in Brussels.

    According to spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy the specific paragraph reflected the policy followed by the European Commission since the previous March, when it adopted an announcement on the European perspective of western Balkan countries. She also pointed out that FYROM had the possibility of coming one step closer to the EU, on condition that it fulfilled certain terms by the autumn.

    Quoting the relevant paragraph in the summit conclusions, Nagy noted that the European Council had stressed that FYROM could come closer to the EU by the end of the current year if it "met the terms of the conclusions of the European Council of December 2005, the political criteria of Copenhagen and the fundamental priorities of the accession partnership of February 2008."

    She also pointed out that the European Council takes note of the conclusions of the EU General Affairs Council of June 16, 2008, which said that preserving good neighbour relations remained fundamental, and that these included finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue based on negotiations.

    The spokeswoman further reminded reporters of the EU's condemnation of the violent incidents and irregularities recorded during FYROM's recent elections and said that the European Commission was monitoring the situation in FYROM and the measures taken by its authorities and that these would be included in the next annual progress report on the country.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and UN mediator Matthew Nimetz

    [03] FinMin visits Zaragoza

    Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis will depart for Zaragoza on Friday, heading up a Greek delegation, to tour the World Expo 2008 Exhibition. The visit is part of "Greece Day" at the Expo 2008 on Saturday. The minister will inaugurate the Greek pavilion. "Greece Day" will be marked by various events in Expo's facilities in the presence of Spanish government officials.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis

    [04] Development of cruise tourism

    Tourist Development Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos, addressing a conference on cruises on Thursday, stressed the need for the country to take advantage of opportunities appearing for the further robust development of tourism through cruises.

    Well-known companies have already activated themselves in the Mediterranean with buyouts of European companies, however, they are using ports in Italy and Spain as hubs.

    Most big companies prefer circular access to the Eastern Mediterranean from Greece or a quick passage through Greek territory, Spiliotopoulos said, pointing out that "we must take advantage of this fact, also imposing our country dynamically on the map of international reputation cruises."

    The minister further said that "in 2006 we saw about 1.2 million cruise passengers in Piraeus, mainly from ordinary transit arrivals."

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo

    [05] Wildfire in Athens suburb

    A wildfire which broke out at 7:10 on Thursday evening in the region of Patima in the northern Athens suburb of Halandri, in a forested area close to houses, was placed under control later in the night.

    Ten vehicles and 30 firemen had arrived at the scene of the fire, while five firefighting aircraft and two helicopters had also been sent to help in extinguishing the blaze.

    According to an announcement by the Fire Brigade, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday 51 wildfires broke out all over Greece, 22 of which in the Attica prefecture. All the wildfires have been placed under control, with the exception of one in the village of Tzara in the western prefecture of Preveza.

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