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24 March, 2001
Prime Minister Costas Simitis, speaking to reporters at the end of the European Union summit's first session on Friday, said the speeding up of growth, improving competitiveness and promoting social cohesion in the EU are the three major challenges preoccupying the Stockholm summit.
Simitis said the EU's target is the creation of a model in social cohesion and social solidarity policies, adding that this prospect is feasible since data on the EU's economic prospects are positive and do not justify pessimistic views in future developments.
He said good economic prospects should not result in necessary economic reforms and structural changes not being carried out, such as the development of competition in markets, the creation of a unified fiscal services market in the EU, as well as policies facilitating the transition to the society of knowledge.
Referring in particular to the strengthening of employment and social solidarity in the EU, Simitis said the "15" have already agreed, since the Lisbon summit, on the creation of a "social agenda" including 70 specific activities over the next five years.
They include modernizing the labor market, safeguarding workers' rights, upgrading health and safety conditions in workplaces and handling problems faced by people with special needs.
On the question of Greece, Simitis underlined the special role of the plan of action on combatting poverty and social exclusion, which Greece, as well as other member-states on their own behalf, will be tabling until June.
Simitis went on to say that there would be special programs on various issues such as social justice, discriminations in the labor market and strengthening employment for women.
He further stressed the need to upgrade the quality of labor, not only meaning new jobs but also those creating better conditions, providing higher income and giving more possibilities to working people.
Commenting on the issue of energy market and postal services deregulation in the EU, Simitis said Greece has gone ahead with energy market deregulation, adding that "deregulation does not mean privatization."
He said that in the case of Greece energy market deregulation means that private businesses producing electric power can also exist and that "a progressive and controlled opening" is necessary for postal and rail services.
He said that in the government's view "the opening of the market should always be accompanied by efforts for better monitoring and regulatory intervention to safeguard both the consumer and a high quality of services."
Source: Athens News Agency