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ECOFIN: Greek Budgetary Measures Found Satisfactory

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Commenting the results of the July 7th Economic and Financial Meeting in Brussels, Finance Minister Yannis Papathanassiou said that budgetary measures taken by the government in June were considered satisfactory by the European Union.  “We explained the reasons we could not adopt structural measures in 2009. In the 2010 budget, we can pursue structural measures which will help Greece lower its budget deficit”, the minister said.  An extension to the 2010 deadline, if necessary, is possible, the minister added, especially given the increasing number of EU member states entering into excessive deficit procedures.  As of this month, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Latvia and Rumania have join the list of countries with excessive deficits (France, Greece, Spain, Ireland, UK), while another 9 countries including Italy and Germany are to join the list in November.  Council of the European Union: Main Results of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting  Ministry of Economy and Finance: Tables on the 2009 Budget progress & Press conference on the 2009 Budget execution progress (June 25)

Greek FINMIN in Brussels

papathanasiouECOFIN1(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   The explosion of the unemployment rate in the European Union is the biggest social problem facing EU member-states, Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanasiou said on Tuesday, adding that employment in Greece remained at better levels compared with other EU states. Speaking an Economy and Financial Affairs Council meeting, the Greek minister said the government was determined to combating unemployment with specific measures, such as programs for the construction sector.  Papathanasiou said the Council meeting also discussed changes in the taxation of tobacco products. “Our interest is to support Greek production, the Greek tobacco industry and job positions,” he said, adding that the Council leaned towards a compromise proposal in favour of Greek interests, although it failed to reach a decision. An increasing number of EU member states entering into excessive deficit procedures facilitates Greece task in requesting a one year extension to 2011, if necessary, to bring the deficit down to 3%. Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Latvia and Rumania join the list of countries with excessive deficits (France, Greece, Spain, Ireland, UK) as of today, while another 9 countries including Italy and Germany are to join the list in November.  Greek News Agenda: Tax Package to Curb Budget Deficit

Socialists’ Meetings in the Balkans

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  President of Socialist International and leader of the main opposition PASOK Party, George Papandreou will address the Socialist International Council Meeting in the Republic of Montenegro (June 29-30).  The meeting will focus on ways to deal with the economic meltdown, climate change, regional conflicts, recent developments in Iran and illegal migration.  Visiting Balkan countries ahead of the Council’s works, Papandreou first arrived in Albania where he held talks with Edi Rama, head of the Socialist Party of Albania and current Mayor of Tirana, as well as with his Beatitude, Archbishop Anastasios of the Orthodox Church of Albania.  Next stop for SI president was Serbia, where he met with President Boris Tadic. Both in Albania and in Serbia, Papandreou endorsed the countries’ European perspective. Especially in the case of Serbia, Papandreou acknowledged that the country has taken important steps in terms of reforms suitable to an EU candidacy.”

EPP Group Convenes

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Recent European election results, the forthcoming challenges of the newly-elected European Parliament, the Swedish Presidency’s priorities and the European Parliament’s relations with the national parliaments constitute the focus of the EPP Group Study Days which is taking place in Athens from June 29 to July 2. The meeting will be attended by Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, the Presidents of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Poettering and the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, several Commissioners, as well as by many MEPs and politicians from EU countries. EU Commission Vice President for Justice, Freedom and Security Jacques Barrot will also be in Athens and will have meetings with Greek officials to discuss ways to tackle illegal migration.

Greece / Corfu High-Level Meetings

oscehellas(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) The Greek Chairmanship of the OSCE is hosting an informal meeting of OSCE foreign ministers on June 27 and June 28, on the Greek island of Corfu.  The Corfu ministerial meeting will bring together all 56 participating states to the same table for a dialogue related to security in Europe and OSCE’s role. Corfu will also play host to the NATO-Russia Council meeting -the first one since the crisis in Georgia last summer- scheduled to take place on June 27. The meeting will focus on revitalizing the Council with the objective of developing its activities and improving NATO-Russian relations.  Among those attending the meetings will be the Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, Javier Solana, the EU Commissioner on External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Secretaries General of  NATO and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The US delegation will be headed by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and the Russian by FM Sergey Lavrov.

EU Support for Tacling Immigration

council2(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) At the end of the two-day European Union summit (June 18-19), Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis took the opportunity to express satisfaction over the course of the leaders’ deliberations on a series of issues which are important to Greece’s national security.  Regarding the thorny issue of illegal migration, Karamanlis stressed that Greece’s diplomatic demarche to convince the EU over the perplexity of the issue, the ramifications of which go beyond Greece’s reach, have started to bear fruits.  Together with Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus, Greece sought the European Union’s support to cope with the rising tide of illegal immigration.  The Council agreed that the European Union shall seek new repatriation agreements with the migrants’ countries of origin and with transit countries such as Turkey and Libya. Existing bilateral repatriation agreements such as the one signed by Greece and Turkey in 2003, should be honoured, EU leaders agreed. According to the summit’s communiqué, the Council decided to reinforce its border monitoring agency Frontex The global economic crisis once again topped the agenda, with deliberations resulting in a number of decisions towards building a new financial supervisory architecture and taking measures to tackle unemployment. Climate change, a matter of increasing importance was also discussed, in view of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference at the end of the year. Finally, Karamanlis welcomed Jose Manuel Barroso’s appointment to serve a second five-year term as president of the European Commission, pointing out that the incumbent president has given Greece valuable support on a number of issues.

Illegal Immigration: A Commmon EU Issue

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis stressed the need for immediate joint action by European countries to combat illegal immigration as he emerged from a European People’s Party (EPP) summit held in Brussels on Thursday: “It is an issue of European dimensions, which doesn’t concern only those countries that are directly affected and are now having to shoulder the greatest burden,” he emphasised. The two-day works of the European Council meeting under Czech Presidency in Brussels (18 – 19 June), attended by Prime Minister Karamanlis, center on Barroso’s second term as President of the European Commission, the global financial crisis, global warming and illegal immigration. The European Council has agreed to examine illegal immigration following the requests of Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta. According to the last outcome of the European Council , the 27 leaders have underlined that an effective European response based on solidarity and distribution of responsibilities are necessary to combat illegal immigration.

Greece on Illegal Migration

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)   Greece received support from many countries, both from the Mediterranean region and from central and northern Europe, for its position that the issue of illegal migration and its handling requires European solidarity that must be shown in practice.  This is what Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said following an EU General Affairs Council held in Luxembourg yesterday, ahead of the EU summit in Brussels on June 18-19.  According to the minister, this display of European solidarity could be shown through upgrading Frontex to manage the external borders of the EU – which in the case of Greece would mean greater presence of patrol boats in the Aegean – and the financial support to deal with the plight of illegal migrants.  Bakoyannis stressed  that immigrants are people with rights, desperate and lacking financially, who place all their hopes on a boat.  Bakoyannis also stressed that Greece’s intention is for specific references to be made in the final communiqué of the EU summit regarding the repatriation conditions, with the agreements that the EU must sign with the countries of origin. 

European Parliament Elections 2009

» JUNE 4-7: EUROPEANS VOTE
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(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  In Greece, the European Parliament elections will take place on June 7.  In the member-states of the EU, where Greek citizens reside permanently or happen to be during the election period, the election will take place on June 6.  The Greek diplomatic authorities in those member-states must provide information regarding the precise election day, Greek citizens’ voting rights, as well as the electoral procedure to be followed. For the EU Election, the Greek Territory constitutes a united electoral region (22 seats).  In the other member-states, the elections will take place from June 4 to 7. The elections will be carried out with general, direct, secret voting, as stipulated.

» WHY VOTE
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By voting in the European elections, the citizens choose who influences the future and the daily life of close to 500 million fellow Europeans.  The citizens’ participation in the decision-making process, at both local and European level, is set as a permanent and constant priority by the European Union.   Fully adopting the principles of equality and not discrimination, the Greek Ministry of Interior invites all EU citizens residing in Greece to exercise their right of vote.  European Parliament: Why Vote 

 
» DISTRIBUTION OF SEATS
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The members of the European Parliament are elected under a pure proportional electoral system.Voting results from all over the country are processed and published by the Supreme Election Committee of the Ministry of Interior.  This Committee sets the final electoral vote chart and distributes the seats of the European Parliament to all the political groups, after incorporating the vote of Greek citizens residing in other EU member states into the general voting results achieved in the Greek State.

» THE RIGHT TO CANDIDACY
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Greek citizens who have reached the age of 25 on the day of the election and have the ability to vote have the right to be elected to the European Parliament.  Every person who falls under the provisions of the article 56 § 1 and 4 of the Greek Constitution or is a member of the Greek Parliament is barred from the right to be nominated for candidacy.
  
» ELECTORAL BODY
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According to the Ministry of Interior, 9,866,913 Greek citizens reside in Greece and have the right to vote on the June 7, while 110,562 young people will vote for the first time.  The Greek citizens who reside in other EU member states and have the right to vote on the June 6 total 36,758, according to the number of petitions filed at the Greek Consulates. The number of European citizens who reside in Greece and will vote in June amounts to 6,530.  For further information click here.

 
» ELECTION CAMPAIGN
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The election campaign begins at least 30 days before the election date.  Political parties represented in the Greek Parliament or in the European Parliament and parties which obtained more than 1.5% of the national vote in the last parliamentary elections receive funding. Media access: All parties represented in the Greek Parliament or the European Parliament have proportional access to state-owned media. During the election campaign, opinion polls will be conducted and published until June 5. After that date, no transmission of political advertising messages and broadcasted pre-election dialogue is allowed.

» FACILITATING CITIZENS & THE MEDIA _________________________________________

As of May 15, the Ministry of Interior has launched an advertising campaign to be completed one day before the elections date i.e. June 6, 2009.   The campaign’s slogan is “Vote in Euroelections. Defy indifference.” According to the Minister of the Interior, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the main objective of this slogan is to inform citizens and encourage them to participate in the voting procedure.   Information on where to cast ballots can be easily acquired by calling the 4-digit number 1500, or visiting the ministry’s website at www.ypes.gr, or the public administration’s national portal: www.ermis.gov.gr/portal/page/portal/ermis/    A special television spot for Greek citizens and Hellenic media abroad, as well as the diaspora, is now posted on the websites of Greece’s communication & Press Offices in the rest of EU member states.   Furthermore, the Secretariat General of Information-Communication will set up a special EU Elections Press Centre at Zappeion Hall, in order to facilitate journalists and media covering the event. 
 
 
» EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS 2004 _____________________________________________
 

Previous European Parliament elections took place on June 13, 2004.  For more information about 2004 Euro-elections’ results, visit the website of Interior Ministry or the website of the European Parliament or the website of the Press and Communication Office in Paris http://www.amb-grece.fr/grece/europeennes.htm .

» PARTIES PARTICIPATING
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 1. New Democracy   2. Panhellinic Socialist Movement     3. Greek Communist party   4. Coalition of the Radical left   5. Popular Orthodox Rally    6. Party of the Liberals   7. Fighting Socialist Party of Greece  8. Dimosthenis Vergis- Greek Ecologists   9. Working revolutionary party    10. Liberal alliance    11. Union of Centrists  12. Popular Nationalist Movement-Chrysi Avgi  13. Panhellenic Macedonian Front  14. Society 15. Popular Unions of Bipartisan Social Groups  16. M-L Greek Communist Party 17. European Alliance – Rainbow   18. Party of Greek Hunters    19. Left anticapitalist cooperation  20. Patriotic Humanitarian Movement  21. Youth Party    22. Green Ecologists  23. Action  24. OAKKE – Organisation for the Reconstruction of Communist Party of Greece  25. Greek Ecologists  26. Greek Unit   27. Greek Movement of Direct Democracy

EU Cooperation on Immigration

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  “The problem is not a Greek problem, it is a European problem, because if one illegally enters Greece one also illegally enters the EU and the Netherlands,” said the Netherlands’ Deputy Justice Minister, responsible for immigration issues, Nebahat Albayrak, on Wednesday (May 27) after visiting an illegal immigrants’ reception centre on the eastern Aegean island of Samos.  “Certainly many problems exist, but we also have many possibilities for cooperation, not only on a bilateral basis, but also within the framework of the European Union between member-states,” added the Dutch official who earlier this week had talks in Athens with Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis.

Greek President Papoulias Meets Romanian Counterpart

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias met on Wednesday with his Romanian counterpart Traian Basescu, who is on a state visit to Greece. The two leaders discussed matters of bilateral well as of particular Balkan interest, confirming there is common ground regarding the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries, provided that “good neighbour” policies are enshrined in the actions of the aspiring members.  The Romanian president made clear that this principle applies to all countries wishing to join the EU, including FYROM and Turkey. Regarding the latter and its relations to Cyprus, Basescu was pronounced in favour of EU’s “code of conduct,” stressing that is thus unacceptable that Turkey continues to occupy a section of an EU member country and that Nicosia continues to be a divided European capital.

Farewell to Greek PM Michalis Papagiannakis

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Member of Parliament for the wider Athens constituency and former MEP Michalis Papagiannakis passed away on Tuesday at the age of 69. Papagiannakis was first elected to the European Parliament on the Synaspismos ticket in 1989, and was re-elected in 1994 and 1999. He served as vice-president of the European Parliament’s Social Committee, vice-president of the United European Left group and of the inter-party committee for the protection of animals. In January 1992 he was elected vice-president of the Europarliament’s Social Affairs and Employment committee. He also served as vice-president of the Hellenic Committee for the European Union,, which was the Greek branch of the Brussels-based supra-party European Movement.

Greece: 30 Years in EU

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)    May 28, 1979 was an historic day for Greece, as it was the day Greece’s accession treaty to the European Union was signed.  30 years have elapsed since, and to commemorate the landmark date, a ceremony took place yesterday at the Zappeion Hall, the same venue where the inaugural treaty was signed.    To honour the event, a special guest who had attended the historic signing, attended the celebration yesterday: Former French President and European Convention on the Future of Europe President Valery Giscard D’Estaing (see photo, on the left) was an ardent supporter of the European vision and a close friend of then Prime Minister Konstantinos  Karamanlis, who also shared his vision of a united EuropeDuring these thirty years of Greek-European relations, adherence to the European institutions has been unequivocally endorsed by both the political elite and the people.  Despite conflicting interests among member states, Greece enters the European dialogue with a clear pro-European, pro-integrationist frame of mind.  It has already backed cooperation within the EU and has expressed its support for the Lisbon Treaty, a closer cooperation in the Common Foreign and Security Policy and future enlargement towards the Balkans.

Baghdad-Athens Flight Take-0ff Soon

iraqi_air3( www.minpress.grGreek and Iraqi transport authorities signed a pact that could open the way for direct flights between Baghdad and the European Union.  The accord gives Iraqi Airways the option of opening a route between Baghdad and Athens, which would be the first European Union destination for flights from Iraq’s capital. 
No date was announced to begin the flights. Read more…

Anti-Doping Conference in Athens

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The city of Athens will host the first EU conference on anti-doping from May 13 to 15, organised by the European Commission and the Commission’s Sport Unit. The initiative is part of the “White Paper” on sport, passed by the European Parliament.  The World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Olympic Committee, representatives of international sporting bodies such as FIFA, UEFA, FIBA and IAAF, scientists, athletes and sports instructors from Greece and abroad as well as the EU’s 27 sports ministers have been invited to participate in the inaugural conference in the Greek capital.  

Greek PM Karamanlis in Sweden

karsou3(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis arrived in Stockholm on Monday for talks with his Swedish counterpart Fredrik Reinfeldt in light of the Sweden’s assumption of the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of 2009. Dealing with the ongoing international economic crisis, EU enlargement, combating climate change, and implementation of the Lisbon Treaty were the main subjects of discussion between the two leaders. Karamanlis briefed the Swedish side over Greece’s positions on Cyprus, Greece’s interest in Balkan development and the region’s Euro-Atlantic prospects. Regarding Turkey’s accession prospect, the premier reiterated that Athens supports it, as long as Turkey completely and effectively fulfils  the commitments it has undertaken vis-à-vis the EU. Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Bilateral Relations Greece-Sweden

Greek Prime Minister: Let’s go for Energy

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  The 27 members of the European Union have agreed that the time is ripe for the EU to inaugurate a new framework of cooperation with its Eastern Partners, engaging in dialogue with 6 countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus.   On May 7, the Czech presidency held the Prague Summit, which officially launched the “Eastern Partnership,” with the participation of EU’s 27 members and representatives from the 6 countries.   Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis addressed the inaugural session of the Eastern Partnership Summit, emphasising the importance of energy interdependence between the European Union and its partners in Eastern Europe, noting that energy security must be safeguarded at all times by all EU members, regardless of their level of dependence and that this constitutes a perception that needs to be endorsed widely by all Europeans.  Lastly, Karamanlis stressed that the importance of the EU’s strategy for the Eastern Partnership Summit lies in the possibilities that the strategy provides for strengthening regional stability. Greece supports the economic and social development of the 6 countries without this being associated to accession to the EU. In particular, Greece’s chairmanship at the OSCE is already in cooperation with all six EU’s Eastern Partners within the Organisation’s structure. Moreover, pledging to deliver tangible results in troubled region such as Georgia, the Greek chairmanship has assumed the responsibility to act as a broker to promote peaceful settlement of conflicts.

9 May: Europe Day

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA)  Europe Day is celebrated annually on May 9, and this year’s events will take place in Thessaloniki, beginning today until May 10. The theme is “A Social Europe at its Citizens’ Service.” European Parliament – Office for Greece: www.europarl.gr (in Greek)

 

EU Heads in Athens

» International Biodiversity Conference

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was welcomed  in Athens in order to attend a two-day international conference on “Biodiversity Protection Beyond 2010” hosted by Greece (April 27-28). Some 230 representatives of EU member states, NGOs, European enterprises and UN agencies discussed EU policy on biodiversity, as 2010 will be a major milestone for biodiversity policy both in the EU and globally. Addressing the event, Barroso underlined the significance of protecting biodiversity, shifting from “business as usual,” to a new model, hopefully shaped by this new “message emitting from Athens.” 

Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis praised Greece for its high quality biodiversity amongst Mediterranean and European countries, but stressed that environmental protection ought to know no geographic boundaries. Taking the floor, Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas warned that the world cannot turn its back on climate change and on any pressing matters of environmental protection. European Commission: Follow the Conference on-line & Dimas on biodiversity

» Remarks on Greek Economy

Meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, Barroso welcomed Greece’s plans to tackle microeconomic imbalances and deliver on structural reforms. The Greek government has pledged to rein in the country’s deficit by 2010 (a fall to less than 3% of GDP), in keeping with EU’s proposed measures on fiscal policy.

» Honours Bestowed

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso received  (April 27) distinction from the Hellenic Parliament and the City of Athens. Hellenic Parliament Speaker Dimitris Sioufas decorated Barroso with the Gold Medal of the Hellenic Parliament, while Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis awarded Barroso the Medal of Honour and Benefaction of the City of Athens.

Greece: Migration, a Top Priority

(GREEK NEWS AGENDA) Being a border region of Europe, Greece has being experiencing a migration influx from both land and sea. The figures speak for themselves: 150,000 immigrants were arrested in Greece in 2008, while arrests of traffickers in illegal immigration increased by more than 40% within the last two years. Faced with the intricacy of the situation and in accordance with its 2009 national programme on migration, Greece first accelerates absorption rates of EU funds earmarked for relevant purposes. In addition, red tape on residence permits is cut down, while in 2008, some 9,000 individuals were granted Greek nationality. Moreover, through a special programme (“Aeneas”), Greece creates comprehensive partnerships with the countries of origin and of transit to ensure the return of the illegal immigrants and progressively establish synergies between migration and development.

» Collaborating with the EU

The guidelines for all the above actions are provided by the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, to which Greece adheres fully. Asylum tops the list of issues to be considered. A European legislative framework of reference is imperative. Greece abides by international law and secures the right of every foreign immigrant individually to apply for asylum. (Some 25,000 applied in 2007). Creating a favourable environment for those granted access is equally important, always in measure of each country’s reception capacity. However, before facing the necessity to deal with immigration, it is in every member state’s interest to contain the phenomenon altogether. External boarders should be policed at all times and trafficking cracked down. Countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus should be endowed with supplementary resources. The European Union must intensify its cooperation with non EU transit countries implicated and prove more decisive when the latter do not cooperate despite the subsidy received with EU funds.