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Greek report Greek report
by Euro Reporter
2010-07-02 09:06:15
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Reforms face legal test

The government faced fresh opposition to its planned pension and labour reforms yesterday, from within its own ranks and beyond, as the Court of Audit said at least five provisions in the proposed changes violate the Constitution and several professional unions and associations said they were planning legal challenges against the changes.

The first appeals are expected to be made over the next few days by the Athens Bar Association (ABA), the civil servants’ union ADEDY and a union representing retired public servants, sources said. According to sources, there are fears that these suits could pave the way for similar challenges from other groups. The president of the ABA, Dimitris Paxinos, said the goal of the action was “to protect the fundamental rights of citizens and of social groups affected by the proposed reforms.” According to officials of the Court of Audit, who have been scouring the text of the proposed draft bill, at least five of the provisions violate the Constitution; these include the article foreseeing the merging of the civil servants’ pension fund with the Social Security Foundation (IKA) and another allowing the level of pensions to be determined by a ministerial decision rather than legislative reform.

The content of the controversial reforms – drafted on the basis of a memorandum co-signed by Greece and its international creditors – was the focus of vehement debate in Parliament yesterday. Prime Minister George Papandreou clashed with opposition leaders accusing his government of betraying the Greek public. Responding to charges of hypocrisy leveled against him by the leader of main opposition New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, Papandreou said, “You don’t want to erase the memorandum but your memories – of your responsibilities, your actions that have brought us to this deadlock.” Tensions also peaked behind the scenes during a session of ruling PASOK’s political council. Labour and Social Insurance Minister Andreas Loverdos and Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou came under fire from other council members over the planned reforms. Government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis responded saying the bill was a good opportunity for much-needed improvements in Greece. “We must be a government of change,” he said.


Migrants die crossing a river

Authorities in the northern port of Alexandroupoli said yesterday that they had recovered the bodies of 11 drowned immigrants from the banks of the Evros River since Saturday.

The bodies were discovered by local fishermen who reported the gruesome finds to police. The migrants, believed to have been of African origin and aged between 20 and 25, appear to have drowned in their attempt to cross the river from neighbouring Turkey in flimsy rowboats. The director of the Alexandroupoli general hospital, Nikos Raptopoulos, reported a sharp increase in the deaths of would-be migrants seeking to enter Greece illegally, noting that drowning had become “virtually a daily phenomenon.”

Raptopoulos said that the city’s morgue was full, currently accommodating the corpses of 17 migrants. According to migrants’ associations, hundreds of would-be immigrants have drowned in their attempt to cross the Evros River in recent years.


Athens queries Turk ship's role

The Foreign Ministry yesterday asked Turkish government officials to explain the «intentions» of a Turkish naval research ship in the northern Aegean. A ministry statement issued yesterday noted that the Cesme hydrographical and oceanographic vessel had been spotted southeast of Samothrace, a few kilometres off the coast of Thrace. According to the statement, the ship had been within Greece's continental shelf area, the stretch of seabed where Athens claims the rights for exploration and exploitation of potential mineral and fossil fuel deposits.


Cost of taxis and road tolls to increase

The change in value-added tax, which will apply as of today, means that the cost of road tolls and cab fares will increase. Taxi charges will include 11 percent VAT, meaning that the flag charge will now rise to 1.16 Euros, while the minimum fare will be 3.10 Euros. Calling a radio cab will cost 1.88 Euros. As of today, cabbies will also have to issue receipts to all their clients. The VAT rise will also see toll charges on the Attiki Odos ring road rise from 2.70 Euros to 2.80 for cars. There will be similar rises of between 5 and 10 cents at tolls on national roads.

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