Greece celebrates Oct. 28 national holiday (OXI Day; OXI means No).
President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias on Wednesday attended the annual military parade held in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki to mark the Oct. 28 national holiday - or Ochi (No) Day - which commemorates Greece's decision to defy the Axis powers and join World War II on the side of the Allies.
In statements immediately after the end of the parade, Papoulias referred to the present-day relevance of the messages of that time, the legacy of national resistance and the sacrifices of people that had laid down their lives to defend Greece's freedom.
"The struggle continues today on many levels for the defence of the country and its territorial integrity, for a better future, for better health, for better education, for a new social conscience, a sense of solidarity with the weak and persecuted, for the creation of a country that embraces all of us and especially the young people that live with the dream of a better life," he said.
Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the day was a reminder that "we must be united, responsible, optimistic and proud," while stressing that this demanded a nationwide effort.
"This is the effort the government is directing and it is in this effort that we invite all Greek men and women to participate, without any kind of political discrimination, in order to make our country stronger, more competitive and better for all of us," he said.
Main opposition New Democracy Parliamentary group secretary Yiannis Tragakis, who represented ND leader Costas Karamanlis, stressed that the "heart of Greece today beats in Macedonia, in Thessaloniki" and underlined ND's pride in "our uniformed youth". Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) George Karatzaferis noted that, 69 years after 1940, Greece "must again say no, but this time to an enemy that lies within the gates. We must defeat terrorism. We must defeat that which seriously harms democracy."
The parade in Thessaloniki was also attended by the four candidates for main opposition ND's leadership, Antonis Samaras, Dora Bakoyannis, Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis and Dimitris Avramopoulos, in addition to the usual military leadership and local government officials.
After the parade, Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgo-poulos held an official luncheon in honour of Papoulias, who expressed satisfaction that the Egnatia Highway now linked Thessaloniki directly with the northwestern Greek city of Ioannina, saying that this would greatly boost cooperation between the two cities.
In Athens, as in every other municipality of Greece, the day was marked by parades of school children throughout the country.
The parade in central Athens going past Syntagma Square was attended by Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and had been preceded by a celebratory mass and the laying of wreaths at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier by Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis, other local government officials and representatives of the political parties.
PM Papandreou addresses Swedish Social Democratic party congress
STOCKHOLM (ANA-MPA/G. Milionis)
Prime Minister and Socialist International President George Papandreou addressed the regular congress of Sweden's Social Democratic party on Wednesday evening, stressing his certainty that social democrats can give Eurpope and the world hope again.
Speaking in Swedish, the prime minister expressed his personal feelings about Sweden and referred to the outcome of the Oct. 4 elections in Greece, saying that the Greek people "opened a new chapter, giving us a mandate for changes and respect for democratic institutions."
Papandreou added that "our responsibility to place Greece in the new era is heavy, the challenges great, we shall succeed if we all work together."
He further said that progressive forces must have solidarity to enable progressive majorities to be created in Europe and the world and for a progressive political agenda to emerge with the citizen as its focal point.
Papandreou underlined that economic recovery and the exit from the crisis is the most important duty, while criticising conservative governments for taking advantage of the crisis, as he said, to decrease salaries and the rights of wage-earners.
Finally, he stressed the need for the protecion of public wealth and referred to "green development" that constitutes the "pylon" of his party's programme, saying that it constitutes a central option for the government.
"The crisis is an opportunity for change," he pointed out and, focusing on European social democracy, said that those who claim that it is in crisis are mistaken.
Papandreou to hold brief meeting in Brussels
with fYRoM's Gruevski on Thurs.
Prime Minister George Papandreou is scheduled to have brief and informal meeting with the prime minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), Nikola Gruevski, on the sidelines of a European Council in Brussels on Thursday.
The meeting was reportedly arranged following a proposal by the Greek prime minister during a telephone conversation between the leaders on Wednesday, when Gruevski congratulated Papandreou over his Oct. 4 election victory and his assumption of the prime minister's post.
PM to issue video message to OSCE on Thurs.
VIENNA (ANA-MPA/D. Dimitrakoudis)
Greek Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in his capacity as chairperson-in-office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), will address a message on Thursday to the organisation's 56 member-state delegations, via a tele-conference link at the Hofburg imperial palace here.
Greece currently holds the 2009 OSCE chairmanship.
Alternate FM on Cyprus talks, Turkey; Athens' position on fYRoM's EU course
Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on Wednesday was quoted in a wire service story from Athens as emphasising that "Greek and Turkish Cypriots need to negotiate a peace settlement with no interference from Turkey or threats ..." in comments carried by Reuters.
Droutsas, the "number 2" at the foreign ministry behind Prime Minister George Papandreou, who kept the top foreign policy portfolio, said Greece wanted to mend relations with neighbour and EU-candidate Turkey, but needed Ankara to let the Cypriots talk without pressure.
"Please let the two communities, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, negotiate freely about their own future and their own common interest. Let them find the solution that is best for the
interest of both communities," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
"Here we are again, we are reaching out, we want cooperation," Droutsas said, while adding that problems, including Turkish jets flying over Greek islands and illegal immigration, needed to be addressed.
"We have to find solutions for everything that might be regarded as an obstacle (to Turkey's EU talks)," he added.
fYRoM 'name issue'
Meanwhile, in relation to the thorny 'name issue' with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (fYRoM), Droutsas, a noted academic in the field of diplomacy, said the one-time Yugoslav state to Greece's immediate north cannot start talks to join the EU until the dispute over its name is solved.
"The name issue must be solved before we can even think of opening accession negotiations with Skopje ... This is a very clear and strict line Greece is taking ... We are calling this the national red line," he said, adding however, in relation to western Balkan countries' EU prospects:
"During the recent years, momentum was almost lost. Let's set a new target here ... the date by which we hope all these countries could become member of the EU. 2014 could be
such a date," he said.
Six shot in attack on police
Five police officers and one cadet were shot during an armed attack against a police station in the Athens suburb of Agia Paraskevi, authorities announced early on Wednesday. All six were admitted to Athens hospitals, two of them in serious but not critical condition, along with a civilian suffering from shock after witnessing the attack.
The attack occurred shortly before 10 p.m. on Tuesday night when a group of unidentified persons on motorbikes passed outside the police station in Pentelis street and fired several rounds using an automatic weapon before fleeing the scene.
The bullets hit five police men and a woman cadet training as a special guard, who also suffered the most serious injuries and was submitted to lengthy surgery. A police man that was shot in the belly and rushed to the 401 Military Hospital was reported to be out of the danger, though doctors are keeping him under close observation in case there are complications.
The other five injured in the attack are all at the "Erythros Stavros" state hospital in Athens, where they were visited by Health Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou and the head of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) party George Karatzaferis.
Police said they had found and were investigating three motorbikes to determine whether they were used during the attack, left outside the Halandri metro station.
Citizens' Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis visited both the site of the attack and the injured police officers in hospital, afterwards stressing that the attack against them had been "cowardly, murderous and 100 percent terrorist".
"Violence, especially murderous violence, is the worst enemy of society. Blind violence against 20-year-old youths is despicable and heinous," he underlined, calling on the public to "rally around democracy and protect it".
"I want to send a message tonight to these heinous terrorists and tell them that they will not get away with this. I want to send a message to all of Greek society that we are here and present. Greece will not be turned into the domain of terror. These murdering bullies will be arrested and turned over to justice," the minister underlined in statements after his visit to the injured.
Papandreou visits victims of Ag. Paraskevi attack
Prime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday briefly postponed his departure for Stockholm in order to visit Athens' Erythros Stavros hospital, where five of the six victims in Tuesday night's terrorist attack on a police station in Agia Paraskevi were being treated.
The premier spoke with four of the injured officers that suffered lighter injuries and one civilian admitted with symptoms of shock, then paid a visit to the hospital's ICU and spoke with the father of the female cadet who was more seriously injured and had to undergo extensive surgery. Immediately afterward, the premier left for Stockholm in order to attend a conference of the Swedish Socialist Party.
Greece's President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias also strongly condemned the attack as a "cowardly, terrorist action that put innocent lives in danger", during statements made on Wednesday in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, where he was attending the customary parade and events marking the October 28 national holiday.
Accompanying Papandreou on his visit was Citizens' Protection Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis, who once again stressed that he would not allow Greece to become "the domain of terror".
"Democracy is not terrorised and the government does not negotiate with terrorists," the minister underlined in statements to reporters.
According to the latest police update on the attack, given by Attica police chief Yiannis Rahovitsas, the terrorists had stolen the motorbikes used in the attack. The first was stolen in 2000, the second was stolen one month before the attack and the third just one day before.
"This preparation shows that the terrorists had not been reacting to Tuesday's announcement of the 600,000 euros reward for three wanted, convicted fugitives," police stated.
The minister promised to arrest the terrorists and bring them to justice, while stressing that police stations were areas for serving the public and could not be turned into "fortresses" by imposing emergency security measures.
"The victims [of this attack] were young people with identities and faces, unlike the terrorists. They mowed 20-year-old young people with a hundred bullets and it is only through luck that we do not have any dead. All our measures and initiatives aim to bring us closer to citizens and to serve them. For this reason, we will not accept the concept of escalation or adopt a stance of inaction toward our duty," Chrysohoidis said.
Police investigating the scene of the attack have so far recovered 99 gun shells, one cartridge, the pin of a hand grenade, flares and shrapnel.
All the above evidence, along with three motorbikes found abandoned at Halandri metro station, have been sent to police forensics laboratories for further examination.
The attack left five police officers and a woman cadet injured by gunfire, two of them in a serious condition, while one civilian suffered psychological shock after witnessing the attack.
Condemnation has also been voiced by members of main opposition New Democracy, among them MP and candidate for the party's leadership Dora Bakoyannis.
"Last night's horrific terrorist action must find us all united in a substantive answer. Greek society cannot and will not accept such actions," Bakoyannis underlined in a statement and stressed that she would support any effort that led to finally eradicating terrorism in Greece.
Main opposition MP and former minister for public order issues Christos Markoyiannakis, however, criticised the government for leaving the Greek Police essentially leaderless for over a week prior to Tuesday's attack, "with all that this entails in terms of discipline and alertness."
ND deliberations over leadership election
Deliberations over the election of a new leader continued within main opposition New Democracy on Wednesday, with candidate Dimitris Avramopoulos insisting that the vote should be extended beyond the party's membership to those "ideologically close to its values".
All four candidates for ND's leadership - Dora Bakoyannis, Antonis Samaras, Avramopoulos and Thessaloniki Prefect Panagiotis Psomiadis - were in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Wednesday to attend the annual military parade held for the Oct. 28 national holiday.
Speaking afterwards, Avramopoulos also stressed that ND would emerge united from this transitional period, soon recovering its prospects of once again taking charge of the country.
The move comes one day after the announcement on Tuesday by MP Dimitris Sioufas, chairman of the committee organising ND's extraordinary conference, that he had sent "a final draft" of the proposal originally agreed by all four candidates for ND's leadership - and which will have to be approved by the party's central committee - to ND President Costas Karamanlis and the four declared candidates.
The original agreement called for the election of a new president by ND's grass-roots supporters that had officially joined the party or were willing to join on the day of the vote.
Sioufas stressed that he had not included later suggestions made by Avramopoulos, citing a deadline and procedural obstacles regarding the necessary modifications to ND's charter.
Meanwhile, Bakoyannis, the former foreign minister, said that her target is the widening of ND to the right and the centre to enable it to become an expanded centre-right party, speaking later in the evening to ND supporters and cadres in the northern prefecture of Halkidiki.
"I decided to seek your confidence because I believe that we can build a big, reliable, democratic and well-organised party together again. To rebuild ND that we are dreaming of together, a New Democracy of the grand centre-right," she said.
Referring to the PASOK government, Bakoyannis said "its first steps are anything but encouraging. The first steps show that they have no planning, strategy and targets. ND must be ready to wage its battles in Parliament and in society to protect the citizens and at the same time to prepare its new governance proposal."
UNHCR on migrants drowning
The head of the UN’s High Commission for Refugees in Greece's information bureau on Thursday issued a statement regarding the drowning death of eight migrants a day earlier off the island of Lesvos, noting that "we express our deep sorrow and our condolences to the families of the people lost. We appreciate in particular the efforts of the (Greek) Harbour Corps."
"It is typical that people arriving in an irregular fashion in Lesvos and other islands of the Aegean -- with fatal accidents often occurring -- are so desperate, so fearful, that they risk everything, even their lives, as a large number of those coming from Turkey are trying to get away from war and persecution," Katy Kehagioglou said in a statement.
Police charge three for February killing
Police on Wednesday announced that they were charging three foreign nationals aged 26, 27 and 34 years old with the murder of a 30-year-old foreigner that took place in the Piraeus district of Nikaia in February, in addition to arms and drugs offences.
Of the three, two are currently in prison on charges of attempted homicide and robbery, while a third has been deported from Greece.
Man arrested for weapons possession
Border police on Wednesday announced the arrest of a 44-year-old man in the Athens district of Petralona after he was found in possession of two guns and a hand-grenade during a routine stop-and-search.
The 44-year-old will appear before an Athens misdemeanour courts prosecutor.
One killed, one injured in late-night brawl in Athens
One man was killed and a second injured during a brawl taking place outside a venue on Dekeleias Street in the west Athens district of Nea Philadelphia in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The dead man was a Greek national taking part in the fight and the injury was sustained by an off-duty special police guard serving at Filothei police station, who tried to intervene in order to end the fight.
The injured police guard was injured in the stomach and was admitted to the 401 military hospital.
Man shot by other driver
in motor accident
A 45-year-old motorist was rushed to hospital with gunshot wounds in the leg on Wednesday after he was involved in a collision with another car, whose enraged driver got out and shot him.
Police said the incident occurred in the west Athens district of Peristeri, at the junction of Pelasgias and Thivon streets.
A search to locate and arrest the driver responsible for the shooting has been launched.
Bomb set at Olympiakos supporters club
A makeshift bomb exploded outside the offices of an Olympiakos supporters' club in the Athens district of Pagrati early on Wednesday morning. The blast damaged the offices of the club and two cars parked outside. Police are now examining the debris left by the explosive device in the area.
Cloudy and wet on Thursday
Cloudy weather with a few light showers is forecast throughout the country on Thursday, with a marginal drop in temperatures. Winds will blow from mainly northerly directions, ranging from 3-6 Beaufort. Temperatures will range between 06C and 23C. Cloudy and wet in Athens, with temperatures from 12C to 20C. Cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures between 10C and 17C.
Greek Press Review
The terrorist attack on a police station in the Athens suburb of Agia Paraskevi, developments within main opposition New Democracy and reducing the deficit were the main front-page items in Athens' newspapers on the October 28 national holiday in Greece.
AVGHI: "The epic of flexicurity" [a reference to the entrenchment of flexible labour relations through a new Community directive on 'renting' employees].
KATHIMERINI: "The aim is to reduce the deficit to 9.5 percent of GDP. In the 2010 budget".
LOGOS: "Transparency and meritocracy...Papandreou promised".
NIKI: "Seven riddles demand a solution. The answers in the 'crossword' of the social package"
RIZOSPASTIS: "The people must show their strength by demanding their modern rights".
TO PONTIKI: "The danse macabre" [refers to the leadership race in ND]
TO VIMA: "Bloody terrorist attack on police station in Agia Paraskevi".