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in Crete & Greece
March 2008
Greece lies high on EU list of poor
March 28th 2008 ekathimerini
One in three Greeks does not have access to basic food and clothing, as Greece is home to
the second-largest population of poor people in the European Union, on a relative basis.
Nearly 23 percent of Greeks live below the poverty line, ranking Greece in second place on
the EU’s list of poorest populations. Portugal has top spot.
The minimum monthly salary paid for unskilled work in Greece is 626 euros versus an EU
average of 1,160 euros.
Meanwhile, the sixth forum of the World Alliance of Cities against Poverty (WACAP), being
held in Athens, entered its second day yesterday.
“The forum... signals the transfer of responsibility for poverty eradication from central to
local government, establishing municipalities as determinant factors of development, on
both a local and national level,” said Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis.
Participants in the forum, which winds up today, exchanged views on the role of local
government and its increased responsibility in the development of initiatives for getting rid
of poverty.

Strong winds and snow reported
25th March 2008 ANA
Deteriorating weather conditions, with gale-force winds, low temperatures and even spring
snow, are expected to hamper the return of holiday-makers that took advantage of the
March 25 anniversary holiday for a brief spring break.
High winds up to 9 beaufort and heavy seas have also disrupted ferry connections to the
islands, with no ships sailing from Piraeus to Crete, Kythera and Anti-Kythera and ferry lines
down between Agia Marina-Nea Stira on Evia, Agios Georgios-Agios Konstantinos, Rio-
Antirrio and Aidipsos-Arkitsa.
In the villages of Raches and Achladi in the prefecture of Fthiotida, meanwhile, there were
reports of boats sinking in the harbour due to huge waves caused by the high winds.
Freak weather conditions were also reported in Larisa, central Greece on Monday evening,
where trees were torn up, shop windows smashed and roofs swept away by extremely
strong winds that caused extensive damage throughout the city.

Another unexpected side-effect of the strong winds were a spate of unseasonably early
wildfires that were fanned out of control, such as one that raged on the island of Skopelos
and in forests at Krystallopigi in Florina, northern Greece.
Unexpected late spring snow also caused widespread problems on Monday and Tuesday,
and continued to cover most of the mountainous areas of Ioannina on Tuesday

24th March 2007 ekathimerini
Firefighters in Hania had to quell four fires yesterday that broke out as a result of farmers
burning brush. No injuries or damage was reported. Meanwhile, a house was seriously
damaged on Saturday in the area of Lagadas, near Thessaloniki but nobody was injured

Armed robberies
22nd March 2008 ekathimerini
Two armed men  held up a tax office in Iraklion, Crete, and escaped with about 10,000
euros. Two armed robbers also held up a branch of Eurobank in Thessaloniki yesterday and
made off with some 33,000 euros, police said.  No arrests had been made by last night.

Pension bill passage hitch
2nd March 2008 ekathimerini
The controversial pension reform bill was voted through Parliament article by article late on
Wednesday night but, invoking a parliamentary technicality, PASOK prevented the draft law
being passed as a whole in the early hours yesterday, which means that MPs will have to
return to the House on Wednesday.
The bill was on the verge of being passed in total before PASOK’s intervention, which is
designed to prolong the debate on the reforms and appears to have given some unions an
opportunity to continue their strikes.
Employees at the Bank of Greece, for instance, announced yesterday that they will stay
away from work on Monday. The action by the central bank employees has already caused
difficulties in the country’s banking system with banks unable to pay pensions and wages.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis criticized the opposition for holding up what seems to be
the inevitable final step before the official promulgation of the law.
PASOK forced the delay of the final stage in passing the bill by invoking parliamentary
protocol that requires the vote on the draft law as a whole to take place 24 hours after the
vote on the individual articles.
Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) MP Alekos Alavanos demanded the government call a
referendum on the pension reforms. The country’s two main unions GSEE and ADEDY have
already begun collecting signatures in support of Alavanos’s demand ahead of next
Wednesday’s vote.
It remains to be seen if other unions also go on strike next week. Municipal workers
returned to work yesterday as refuse collectors began collecting the garbage that had piled
up in Athens over the course of more than two weeks. It is expected that the cleanup could
take more than a week.

Almost 7,000 firefighters are to be hired in the next few weeks
21st March 2008 ekathimerini
Some 5,500 seasonal firefighters will be hired on April 1 along with some 1,200 full-time
firemen as Greece beefs up its fire defenses ahead of the summer. Deputy Interior Minister
Panayiotis Hinofotis informed a parliamentary committee yesterday about the hirings as he
blamed the fire service’s poor performance during the wildfires last summer on a lack of
coordination. “What was to blame last summer was a lack of coordination and the
interventions by local officials that stemmed from ignorance or panic,” he said.

Lighthouse vandalized
19th March 2008 ekathimerini
Authorities in Hania yesterday called for intensified policing of the old port after vandals
wrecked a Venetian lighthouse. The vandals cut through the cables supplying power to the
lighthouse and caused widespread damage to the surrounding area. It was the latest in a
series of acts of vandalism upon the lighthouse, which had recently undergone renovation,
and the area of the old port in general.

Pension fraud
17th March 2008 ekathimerini
Checks by Finance Ministry officials have uncovered 220 cases of relatives collection pension
checks on behalf of dead relatives, authorities said yesterday. Some 1.5 million euros has
been returned to the ministry’s General Accounting Office with another 1 million euros
expected to returned soon. It was not immediately clear whether any penalties will be
imposed on the relatives.

Court set for Corfu hotel trial
17th March 2008 ekathimerini
A court on the Ionian island of Corfu has decided that 13 people will stand trial in
connection with the death of two young British children at the Louis Corcyra Beach hotel
more than a year ago, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini.
Christianne and Robert Shepherd, aged 7 and 6, died in October 2006 from suspected
carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty natural gas boiler next to their room.
The Corfu misdemeanors court has decided that among those that should stand trial are
the president of the company that owns the hotel, the hotel’s managing director, the head
of the hotel’s maintenance department, the engineers who installed the gas system and
two representatives of British tour operator Thomas Cook.
Hotel employees allegedly realized that there was a problem with the boiler the day before
the children died but did not fix it as the Shepherd family had already moved into the room.
If convicted, the suspects face a maximum of five years in jail on manslaughter charges.
Additional charges of causing bodily harm and violating building regulations carry lighter

Crete resort hearing suspended
15th March 2008 ekathimerini
The Council of State did not hear this week the appeal against the construction of a hotel
and golf complex on Crete. Protesters claim that the Cavo Sidero project, to comprise five
holiday villages, a string of luxury hotels and three golf courses, would damage the
environment and be a heavy drain on water resources. It was not clear when the court will
rule on the case.

More Strikes – 24-hour walk out planned for Wednesday 19th March
15th March 2008
Unions plan more strikes this week and a nationwide 24-hour strike on March 19, saying
the pension bill, which parliament started debating on Tuesday, increases retirement age
and reduces benefits, mainly to women and working mothers.
Most of the country is continuing to suffer hours-long power cuts as electricity utility unions
are striking.
Lawyers will abstain from their duties for five days from Monday.
Bank employees have been taking daily strike action and are set to continue with a 48 hour
strike on Monday and Tuesday, 16th & 17th March.
Public sector umbrella union chief Spyros Papaspyros says "We are determined to fight on,
even if the bill is voted into law because we are faced with a complete reversal of our social
security system and this is something we cannot accept,"

Authorities detain ship captain
15th March 2008 ekathimerini
Authorities have detained the captain of a tourist boat that ran aground off Poros, near
Athens, on Thursday with more than 300 people on board.
A rescue operation using boats, helicopters and a military plane successfully evacuated all
278 passengers Thursday night, most of them tourists from Japan, Russia and the USA. No
injuries were reported.
Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis admitted that it was lucky the accident took
place close to Piraeus. «There were many means available which immediately intervened,»
said the minister.
The boat, called the Giorgis and built in 1959, was also carrying 35 crew members. It is
unclear why the boat ran aground on a marked reef.
«The installation of an electronic monitoring system for all of Greece is in progress and this
will reduce the role of human error,» added the minister.
Although seas at the time were choppy, the weather was not stormy. The captain, who
remained on the Giorgis to aid the salvage effort, has testified to investigators.

Fake aristocrat conned monks
15th March 2008 ekathimerini
A 36-year-old man who pretended to be an English aristocrat to ingratiate himself with a
group of monks before attempting to blackmail them with recordings of their conversations
has been arrested, police said yesterday.
The man was put up at a monastery in Karditsa, central Greece, after telling the monks he
was interested in following a monastic path. The alleged blackmailer discussed a number of
Church figures, including late Archbishop Christodoulos, current Archbishop Ieronymos and
Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem.
After leaving the monastery, the 36-year-old contacted the monks to tell them he had
recorded their conversations and wanted 30,000 euros not to make them public.
The same suspect had pretended to be a Venezuelan when he tried to blackmail an estate
agent in the upmarket Athens district of Kolonaki in January, police said.

Cretan resort – Cavo Sidero - case to be heard
12th March 2008
Hundreds of Cretan residents and environmentalists protesting plans for the construction of
a huge tourism complex on the island’s unspoilt northwestern coast will have their joint
appeal against the project heard by the country’s highest administrative court tomorrow.
Protesters claim that the Cavo Sidero project – that would comprise five holiday villages, a
string of luxury hotels and three golf courses – would damage the environment and be a
heavy drain on water resources.
Campaigners had lobbied the government to boycott the project by British property
development company Minoan Group (formerly Loyalward Limited), writing letters to 11
different ministries, but authorities have encouraged the 1.2-billion-euro investment.
Residents of Crete, much of which already suffers periods of drought in summer, say the
plan would be devastating for the arid island. Even local farming cooperatives have joined
the protest, complaining that they already struggle with dwindling water resources.
“The more time goes by, the more people begin to realize what is actually being planned for
the area and start doubting the benefits of this initiative,” said Nikos Kyfonidis, president of
the Ierapetra Ecological Group.
Kyfonidis doubts the validity of an agreement that has allowed Minoan to lease some 2,600
hectares for 80 years, saying that “new evidence throws into doubt the credibility of this
controversial contract.”
The cause of local residents and environmentalists has been embraced by several foreign
academics. Oliver Rackham, a Cambridge University ecology professor, told Britain’s
Guardian newspaper that the project was “grotesquely unsuited to... one of the most arid
places in Europe.” “The development is unsustainable because of the huge amounts of
water that will be needed,” Rackham said.
Minoan Group’s chairman Christopher Egleton insists that the resort will be built on only 1
percent of the site, will be “fully sustainable” and will benefit the local community in the long

ATM explosion
11th March 2008 ekathimerini
Police are searching for unknown men who used an explosive device to open an ATM in
Iraklion, Crete, but left with a small amount of cash. The assailants managed to open the
cash machine, belonging to the Hania Cooperative Bank, which contained what authorities
said was a minimal amount of cash due to the long weekend and its remote position. The
blast caused serious damage to a nearby car rental office.

Consumers file complaints regarding PPC power cuts
11th March 2008
A growing number of people have been submitting complaints to the consumers’
Ombudsman about damage caused by the continuous power cuts. “Any union claims should
not be made at the expense of the Greek consumer,” said the office of the Ombudsman in a
statement issued yesterday.

Owing to the ongoing strike by Public Power Corporation unions on the social security
issue, since last Tuesday PPC has been scheduling power cuts ranging from one to four
hours per day, depending on the region, in order to avoid a general blackout.

All consumers suffering the consequences of power cuts are invited to contact the
Ombudsman so that, free of cost, they can have their case settled out of court.

Similarly, a major consumers’ association, EKPIZO, has called on the PPC union heads to
“consider their responsibilities toward society and stop using consumers as hostages for
their struggle about the social security rights of union members.”

“We understand the right to strike, but employees in social commodity sectors must
exercise this right with wisdom and responsibility,” EKPIZO said, asking consumers who
have suffered any damage to file written complaints to PPC, and also communicate them to
EKPIZO. The consumer association will gather all complaints and try to secure out-of-court
compensation for consumers.

Strike Causes Power Cuts
05 Mar 2008 NET / ANA  

Power supply throughout Greece and the islands has been seriously disrupted due to
power cuts by rotation caused by the ongoing strike of the PPC (Public Power Corporation)
personnel. Power cuts have been reported in western Attica, while PPC has started
importing energy from neighbouring nations. With 19 plant shut down, energy output has
been reduced by half. The PPC Board called on consumers to be rather cautious with
energy spending. Earlier, the PPC staff had decided to remain on strike up until coming
Wednesday. At the same time, it will be holding a rally on 12 March in central Athens. The
PPC employees have gone out on a strike due to the imminent pension reforms.

Nightclub bomb blast was act of ‘revenge’
5th March 2008 ekathimerini

A powerful bomb blast that tore through the facade of an Athens nightclub early yesterday,
but caused no injuries, appears to have been a revenge attack, police said.
The improvised explosive device, made with an estimated 5 kilos of dynamite, detonated
just before 3.30 a.m. outside the entrance of a strip club called Mousses on Syngrou
The explosion blew a hole through the entrance to the club, which was empty at the time,
and shattered windows in dozens of nearby offices and apartment blocks in Nea Smyrni,
prompting police to temporarily close off surrounding roads. The blast also left a large crater
in the ground in front of the club.
Police said the owner of Mousses had been charged in the past for plotting the contract
killing of one of his business rivals.

Road ads
5th March 2008 ekathimerini

A new series of TV spots will be aired over the next few weeks in a bid to heighten road
safety awareness, the Transport Ministry said yesterday. Greek roads are among the most
dangerous in the European Union, with some 1,500 people being killed in car crashes each
year. Accidents have dropped by 13 percent since a tougher highway code was introduced
last year but the ministry said that it hopes the advertisements will help Greek drivers
further change their attitudes.

Greek common-law rights gain momentum
4th March 2008 UPI

Support in Greece is growing for a proposal giving common-law partners the same rights as
married couples, the Ekathimerini news agency reported.

Nikos Alivizatos, a University of Athens professor who helped draft a similar proposal under
a previous government that never voted on it, told the agency that Greece was far behind
other EU countries in the rights area.

"Even though the number of married couples in Greece is, along with Ireland, one of the
highest in the EU, the number of couples living together out of wedlock is increasing," he

The current proposal basically ensures joint rights to property acquired while a common-law
couple is together and would require them to sign a legal declaration of their status, the
report said.

In 1993, federal statistics showed 10 percent of marriages in Greece ended in divorce but
by 2005 the figure had risen to 24 percent, the report said.

Bomb explodes outside Athens office
March 3, 2008  AP

A bomb exploded outside the offices of a forestry department in Athens early on Monday,
causing no injuries and only minor damage.
Police said the area had been cleared after an anonymous telephone call was made to a
daily newspaper, warning of the attack.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Details of the type of device used were not
immediately available.
The blast also followed two other warning telephone calls regarding other sites in Athens -
a hotel and bus depot - later determined to be hoaxes.
Government departments are frequently targeted in arson attacks in the capital by
anarchist groups who typically use petrol bombs or small devices made using camping gas
canisters. But authorities fear some those groups are becoming increasingly dangerous,
using conventional explosives.
On February 24, a bomb damaged the Ministry of Environment and Public Works. Police said
dynamite and a timer was used in that attack.

Assailants’ trial
1st March 2008 ekathimerini
Three youths accused of attacking National First Aid Center (EKAB) staff in Hania, Crete, on
Wednesday night, are to appear in court on Monday on charges of verbal abuse and
causing bodily harm. The youths claim to have reacted violently after an alleged delay by
ambulance services treating their friend, who was sick from too much alcohol.