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Greek report Greek report
by Euro Reporter
2012-03-21 07:29:57
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Socialist party changes leaders

Greece’s finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, formally assumed the leadership of the beleaguered Socialist Party on Monday, saying he would strive to put the country back on the path to economic recovery and restore the faith of austerity-weary citizens. “We must rebuild our country, we must provide citizens with the certainty that they will not go through what they have been through again, that the same mistakes will not be made,” Mr. Venizelos said after a meeting with George A. Papandreou, the former prime minister and departing chief of the party, which is known as Pasok.

Mr. Venizelos, 55, who resigned as finance minister earlier in the day, defended Greece’s place in Europe — a region he described as “colourless, conservative and slow to react” — but added that “only within the context of Europe can Greece find the framework to make progress.” It was unclear who would succeed Mr. Venizelos as finance minister. Greek news media reported that the post was more likely to be assumed by one of his deputies or by the interior minister, Tassos Yiannitsis, than by the Prime Minister, Lucas D. Papademos. Mr. Papandreou, who remains president of the Socialist International, a worldwide organization of social democratic, socialist and labour parties, said he would continue to support Pasok. Andreas G. Papandreou, Mr. Papandreou’s father, founded the party after the collapse of Greece’s military dictatorship in 1974.

“As a simple citizen and always as a member of the movement, I will stand beside the efforts of the new leadership,” Mr. Papandreou said. Greece’s political parties are preparing to face voters in a general election that is expected in late April or early May. Support for Pasok, for decades the largest political party in Greece with 40 percent of the vote or more in most elections, has plummeted since the financial crisis took hold. Mr. Papandreou’s government fell last November at the height of the crisis, and the party took most of the blame for the painful rounds of austerity measures enacted in exchange for aid and debt relief from foreign creditors.


Greece mulled buying Acropolis marbles from Britain

Greece's Bavarian-born King Otto considered offering Britain cash or antiquities in the 19th century in exchange for marbles removed from the Acropolis, previously unpublished historical files have shown. "There is a document to the foreign ministry, subsequently forwarded to Otto's minister in London, with instructions on how to request the marbles back," Acropolis Museum director Demetrios Pantermalis told a conference on Monday.

"There was a discussion on what should be offered in exchange, and the throne asked how much the marbles would cost on the European art market, possibly with the notion of purchasing them," Pantermalis said, according to the semi-state Athens News Agency. The talks involved the return of architectural elements from the Parthenon and Athena Nike temples dedicated to Athens' protecting goddess, which had been removed some four decades earlier on the orders of British ambassador Lord Elgin.

"There was a royal proposal for Greece to offer some antiquities of secondary importance in return for the Athena Nike sculptures," Pantermalis said. The official documents, dating from between 1834 and 1842, were penned two years after Otto ascended the Greek throne under supervision of Britain, France and Russia, who had earlier helped liberate the country from the Ottoman Empire. The marbles were shipped to London and were eventually put on display at the British Museum where they remain to this day. The British Museum has turned down successive Greek calls for their return, arguing that the sculptures are part of a world heritage and are more accessible to visitors in London.


Football fans trash Greece's Olympic stadium

Athens' Olympic stadium suffered heavy damage during violent clashes between soccer fans and police, authorities said. The clashes left 20 police wounded two seriously, police said. Fifty-seven people were detained and another 23 arrested on charges of violence against police and possession of Molotov cocktails. Police said they were provoked by "a large group" throwing sticks, stones, and bits of metal, Molotov cocktails and flares.

The clashes began two hours before a Sunday night match between Greece's two main football clubs, Panathinaikos and Olympiakos, was due to begin. "Before the match, individuals who had already gained entry made a sortie from their stands, breaking stadium doors, attacking police and allowing others to enter without security checks," a police statement said. One Panathinaikos fan who was present said that "there was a large group of fans that tried to get into the stadium through the basketball courts without tickets."

The match to get under way, but the violence resumed inside the stadium at half time, when dozens of Panathinaikos fans stormed police lines, authorities said. The second half of the match started almost an hour late, and was cut short by several minutes when fans started raining Molotov cocktails on the stadium. They ripped up seats and partly burned one of the stadium's two giant display boards. Police later displayed pictures of seized Molotov cocktails and flares. They also seized three, 16-liter canisters of inflammable fluid that had been placed outside the stadium doors, presumably to resupply the troublemakers. The stadium is a symbol of a Modern Greek moment of glory. It hosted track and field events during the highly successful 2004 Athens Olympic Games. But it was never built to host soccer matches. It lacks turnstiles and heavy-duty security doors.

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