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Athens News Agency: News in English, 08-01-07

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

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

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM seeks off-the-agenda debate on pension reform
  • [02] Papandreou criticises government in interview
  • [03] Interview: Supreme court chief
  • [04] No aftershocks reported
  • [05] Alavanos, ministry employees meet
  • [06] Landscape of the Year candidacy
  • [07] Athens Newspaper Headlines

  • [01] PM seeks off-the-agenda debate on pension reform

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis called for an off-the-agenda debate in parliament on the topic "Reform for a modern, socially just and viable Social Security System", in a letter submitted on Monday to parliament president Dimitris Sioufas in which the premier noted that reform of the social security system was "imperative" and a matter of responsibility for all the political and social bodies.

    In his letter, Karamanlis noted that his government, in its preceding term in office, had committed itself, immediately after the general elections, to setting in motion a broad political and social dialogue for a moderate and just reform that would rid the social security system of the distortions, inequalities and injustices of the past. "Reform for a modern, socially just and viable social security system, without increasing the general retirement ages, without increasing contributions, without reducing pensions. Reform, over a period of time that will guarantee social security benefits and pensions for everyone."

    Karamanlis, in the letter, said that his government had succinctly developed the fundamental axes of its positions and targets, both before the elections and in the government's Policy Statement afterwards, adding that it had inaugurated, and was continuing with, a broad parliamentary and public dialogue, in that context, precisely in line with its commitment.

    "We aspired to, and continue to aspire to dialogue of substance with all the political forces and all the social partners, without conditions and prerequisites, without dogmatisms, without previously taken decisions. We are discussing frankly and responsibly, without fixations, excesses and rigidness. We were and are open to every fruitful proposal, view and idea, aiming at their synthesis and the formulation of the largest common denominator," the letter continued.

    It said that this process was a democratic and progressive process of political and social responsibility, and was being carried on, consistent with the commitments and devotion to the targets that have been agreed with the citizens. "It is, furthermore, the common conviction that the reform of the social security system is exigently necessary and socially imperative. It is an obligation to the many, to the financially weaker, to our youth, to the present and the coming generations."

    "Given the above, and because the reform of the social security system is a matter of responsibility of all the political and social bodies, the government seeks the holding of an off-the-agenda discussion on the topic 'Reform for a modern, socially just and viable Social Security System', in accordance with Article 143 of the Rules of Parliament," the prime minister's letter concluded.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    [02] Papandreou criticises government in interview

    PASOK party leader George Papandreou, speaking in an interview with the Sunday newspaper "Eleftherotypia", accused the government of serving a system that is enjoying power as being its sole aim and of not preoccupying itself with the problems of the people.

    "The government is functioning as the servant of the few and powerful, it is settling interests and producing new scandals continuously," the PASOK leader said.

    Papandreou further mentioned that the prime minister is part of the system of corruption, while calling on the parties of the Left to listen to the real problems of the Greek people who "want solutions and results."

    Asked why he is attacking Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis personally, Papandreou said that he is trying to highlight the prime minister's responsibilities, whom he accused of presiding over and managing the system.

    "He is heading a government that the only thing that it has done is a sackful of scandals, a deadlocked economy and an impassive Greece in the face of provocations that are unacceptable for our national interests," Papandreou added.

    CAPTION: ANA-MPA file photo of PASOK party leader George Papandreou.

    [03] Interview: Supreme court chief

    Only the justice sector, of all the public sectors, had the power and the courage to proceed with such deep reform, stated Greek supreme court (Areios Paghos) President Vasilis Nikopoulos in an interview with ANA-MPA.

    Referring to the trial-fixing ring affair, he stated characteristically that no judge in Greece wants the judiciary to be made up of officials who violate their oath of office, and everybody demands their expulsion, adding that the constitutionally guaranteed Judicial Councils operate as independent mechanisms dealing with corruption incidents. Referring to disputed court decisions on Crete linked with the Zoniana village "drug lords", he stated that an internal investigation is underway to determine if there were irregularities in the administration of justice. The Areios Paghos president stated that, since he took over the post, he has demanded that sessions be attended by the Supreme Court plenum to avoid instances of absent judges who vote on a case by phone. However, he pointed out that it is very difficult to hold a Supreme Court plenary session when the body comprises 40 to 57 members, and thus called for an amendment to the relative regulation. On his request to have a chapel built in the Areios Pagos courtyard, he stated that it was a majority decision and the chapel will be dedicated to St Dionysios Areopagitis, the patron Saint of Judges in Greece. He pointed out that the construction of the chapel will not harm minority rights, stressing that nobody is forced to observe their religious duties at the chapel in question.

    [04] No aftershocks reported

    Greek seismologists appeared on Monday reassuring about the possibilities of aftershocks from a powerful earthquake that rattled most of southern Greece on Sunday morning.

    "We had a calm night. Our predictions that the danger has passed were verified," the director of the Geodynamic Institute in Athens, George Stavrakakis, said on Monday morning in reference to the 6.5 on the Richter scale quake that jolted most of Greece on Sunday morning.

    According to the University of Athens' Geodynamic Institute, the quake, recorded at 7:14 a.m. local time, was pinpointed in the southeastern Peloponnese, roughly between the towns of Sparta and Kyparissia, with its epicentre in the coastal area south of the town of Leonidio in Arcadia prefecture, about 150 km south-southwest of Athens. The quake's epicentral depth was recorded at some 70 kilometres below the earth's surface.

    The quake was felt throughout most of the Greek mainland all the way up to the northwestern city of Ioannina; in the Ionian islands, as well as on Crete in the south.

    No injuries or serious damage were reported.

    "If the quake had been close the surface, with a depth of 15 to 20 kilometres, then an aftershock would have followed, measuring 6 on the Richter scale, and there would have been consequences," Stavrakakis said, echoing an assessment by other noted Greek seismologists.

    He explained that earthquakes with such an epicentral depth, regardless of their magnitude and the fact that they are widely felt, produce insignificant post-quake activity and do not result in substantial damage, concurring with statements by other seismologists.

    Stavrakakis further said that the quake emanated from the Myrtoon Sea off the eastern Peloponnese, which occasionally generates tremblers of such a magnitude.

    Leonidio mayor Dimitris Tsigounis told ANA-MPA that there appeared to be no damage resulting from the quake, which he described as "unprecedented for the region".

    [05] Alavanos, ministry employees meet

    The leader of the Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) Alekos Alavanos will meet on Monday with the federation of culture ministry employees' unions.

    Meanwhile, the Synaspismos MP responsible of the economic and social policy, Panagiotis Lafazanis, on Monday referred to a high-cost of living "tsunami" sweeping across most markets in the first days of the new year, "increasing the price of oil, heating oil and household goods to maximum limits."

    He also called on the government to take drastic measures in checking prices.

    In an unrelated development on Saturday, Alavanos expressed regret over "the repeated attacks by the president of PASOK against the Radical Left Coalition," as he claimed, referring to comments made by PASOK leader George Papandreou in an interview with the Sunday newspaper "Eleftherotypia."

    "If the leadership of the main opposition party is concerned over the fact that our initiatives are becoming a point of reference of hope for a large sector of its supporters, then it should not deal with us. Let it deal with the convergence of the policy of PASOK and of New Democracy on the issues of privatisations, social security, the curbing of the labour rights of young people and Article 16. Let it realise at last that the citizens are experiencing the end of the era of two-party rule and are changing the political scene in depth," Alavanos added.

    CAPTION: ANA-MPA file photo of SYRIZA leader Alekos Alavanos.

    [06] Landscape of the Year candidacy

    Mount Kissavos (Ossa) in Thessaly, central Greece, a mountain of unique natural beauty, is a candidate for the international award "Landscape of the Year". Local municipalities and environmentalist groups decided to participate in the competition, which will be held within the framework of a major European conference scheduled to be held in Vienna in May 2008. The contest is being funded by the EU's 11th Directorate for the Environment, and a total of 160 candidacies have been submitted for the award, which is accompanied by a monetary prize of 100,000-300,000 euro. The Mt Kissavos bid is aimed at blocking harmful human intervention, given that the prize money will be used exclusively for interventions for upgrading and protecting the winning region.

    [07] Athens Newspaper Headlines

    The Monday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    The 6.5 Richter magnitude earthquake that jolted most of Greece on Sunday morning, with its epicentre near Leonidio, southeastern Greece, and the developments in the Zachopoulos affair after the injury of one of his lawyers on Friday by a passing truck dominated the front pages of Athens' newspapers on Monday.

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Miracle! The strongest earthquake without consequences (damages or casualties)".

    APOGEVMATINI: "We were saved from a tremendous disaster - People terrified by strong earthquake near Leonidio"

    AVRIANI: The paper refers to the Zachopoulos affair and an 'extortion ring' under 'ultra-right protection'.

    CHORA: "Application of new real estate tax"

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Individuals 'above suspicion' involved in a sex-politics-financial thriller (Zachopoulos affair)"

    ELEFTHEROS: "They (Education Ministry) print books in the Turkish language - Government gives up to Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan's 'blackmail' "

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Zachopoulos lawyer's 15-page delirium -He left 4 letters before his suicide attempt"

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Zachopoulos affair turns into thriller - Maximos Mansion (government headquarters) in a tight corner"

    ESTIA: "Moral decline phenomena - Shocking revelations brought to light over Zachopoulos affair"

    ETHNOS: "Government's alibi in Zachopoulos affair falls to pieces"

    TA NEA: "A letter raises new questions"

    VRADYNI: "New 'fall', new questions - Second suicide attempt in Zachopoulos affair"


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