Over 100,000 attend Church anti-ID card rally
Following the four week-long rift between the government and the Greek Orthodox Church over the absence of a religious belief field on new police identification cards, the Church held an evening rally on Wednesday 14 June, in Thessaloniki.
Crowd estimates ranged from 100,000 to 120,000, making it considerably larger than pre-election rallies held by political parties, and a second demonstration is planned for Athens on 21 June.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos addressed the crowd in a highly political speech that was accorded wide television coverage. Christodoulos claimed that the Church had "the right to consultation with the government on important issues" but stressed that this did not represent a wish to govern in concert with the government.
His remarks on the notion that popular will held a position superior to the law were condemned by government spokespersons, who saw them as particularly dangerous and undemocratic and claimed that the rally and Christodoulos' speech contradicted the Church's proper spiritual and social role.
Although the government was alarmed by the size of the rally, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas maintained that the ID card crisis will not be discussed with the Church. Nevertheless, he said, the government is prepared to discuss certain "problems," among which he included the religious justice system, religious education and Church development projects.
The extent of public participation is suggestive of both the Church's ability to mobilise people and the respect it enjoys among the Greek population, raising potential problems in the implementation of government policies. The Church's local power, in combination with the Archbishop's personality, results in a political situation very different from other European nations.
GRD 1 billion reward offered for Saunders' assassins
In the wake of a memorial service for slain British defence attaché Stephen Saunders, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas announced a GRD 1 billion reward for anyone providing information that leads to the apprehension of those responsible for the assassination.
The Ministry of Public Order also noted that witnesses or informers would be provided with complete anonymity and protection.
The memorial service was held at St Dionysios Cathedral in Athens on Friday 16 June. Saunders was gunned down in traffic on 8 June by two assassins on a motorcycle. The terrorist group November 17 claimed responsibility for the killing.
Britain's Peter Hain met on Friday with Foreign Minister George Papandreou to discuss means of working together to combat terrorism. Hain later expressed his satisfaction with Greek co-operation at both the governmental and police levels.
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Meanwhile, Minister of Public Order Michalis Chrysohoidis confirmed that Athens would sign an anti-terrorist memorandum of co-operation with Washington by the end of the year. Earlier, on 5 June, the US Congress Committee on Terrorism designated Greece as among those countries "not fully co-operating" with the American counter-terrorism efforts.
Ex-King Constantine's claim at ECHR
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg opened hearings Wednesday into deposed King Constantine's demands to reclaim so-called "royal property," which includes the island of Corfu as well as property in Tatoi and Ploidendri in the Attica region.
Constantine lost his claim to the throne following a referendum held at the end of the Colonels' junta.
Constantine and eight members of his family filed a claim over the property three years after Greece's Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a 1994 law seizing the former monarch's estates. The law cleared the way for the properties to be reverted to the Greek state.
The hearing is expected to last for some six months.
Cost of 2004 Olympics to exceed GRD 2 trillion
Minister of National Economy and Finance Yiannos Papantoniou has estimated that the cost of the 2005 Athens Olympic Games will exceed GRD 2 trillion.
More specifically, the overall budget includes GRD 1150 billion for sport projects, security and hospitality, GRD 700 billion for organisational expenses and GRD 300 billion for peripheral projects.
The government was harshly criticised last month by International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch for delays in preparations.
Maria Vidali, 17 June 2000
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