SOURCE: AMNA

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BRUSSELS (ANA/ C. Vasilaki) The Greek prime minister's initiative in support of labour rights and the protection of Europe's workers has the support of both European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European officials told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Saturday.

The European sources pointed to Tusk's statement during Saturday's press conference and Juncker's letter replying to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, which both confirmed the European leadership's resolve to make the social acquis a priority for Europe in the coming decade, especially with respect to labour relations.

Despite the fact that there was no change to the text of the Rome Declaration after last Monday, sources close to the European Council presidency noted that Tusk had been in "close contact" with the Greek prime minister in order to respond to his call for support. Tsipras and Tusk had spoken on the phone on Tuesday, they said, at which time Tsipras raised the issue of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) delays in completing the second review of the Greek programme, which were focused on labour issues and specifically the return of collective bargaining. This was then followed up by the Greek prime minister's letter and Tusk's reply on Saturday that Europe will continue to work with the social partners to implement a high level of social protection and "best practices in labour relations throughout Europe, including Greece."

According to the same sources, meanwhile, the final text of the Rome Declaration had very strong references to the social acquis and to specific points that concern the European South, such as fighting unemployment and protecting the role of the social partners. These references were included as a result of the process that began in Bratislava last September and the political discussion that followed, the sources noted.

They also told the ANA that a more specific commitment in the Rome Declaration was not possible due to "legal constraints" - namely, because social policy is not an EU competence in certain countries. In any case, they added, the Greek prime minister's initiative did not concern the Declaration itself so much as the delays in completing the second review and the pressures exerted by the IMF against the return of collective bargaining in Greece. This, they noted, was covered by Tusk's statement on Saturday.

Regarding Juncker's response, a community source said that the European Commission president's letter sent a clear message to the heads of the institutions and especially the IMF to speed up the completion of the review, officially setting April 7 as the new milestone.

NICOSIA (ANA/ A. Viketos) Representing Greece at the Nicosia schools and veterans parade marking the March 25 anniversary of the 1821 Greek revolution against Ottoman rule, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias on Saturday said that he deeply moved to be there.

Cyprus is "emotion, love and hope," the Greek foreign minister said, adding that "we must all protect Cyprus, support and embrace its people."

"Together we can solve the problems that exist," Kotzias said.

Also among the officials that attended the parade before the Greek Embassy in Nicosia were Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, Cyprus Archbishop Chrysostomos, the Greek ambassador in Nicosia and Cyprus' political and military leadership.

ROME (ANA/ N. Lionakis) "There can be no doubt that this Europe is not the Europe we dreamed of, is not the Europe we want. There is also no doubt, however, that no other path is open other than to fight from within to change it," Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Saturday, after the 27 European leaders concluded an anniversary summit by signing a declaration of unity.

Tsipras said that he had put the crucial issue of the EU's social acquis and whether this was equally accessible to all EU member-states at the centre of the discussion. "Obviously, the answer I was given was positive but it remains to be seen whether rhetoric and the action continue to diverge. We will see this very soon," he added.

Regardless, he said, the reply given by the heads of European institutional bodies, saying that Greece was no exception to Europe's social acquis, "encourages us to continue in a struggle that concerns the workers and people of Greece as much as the workers and all the peoples of Europe."

Tsipras was also critical of trade unions in Greece, which he said were "in the rear guard and not on the front lines, as in other countries in Europe."

Return to Daylight Saving Time, or Summer Time, means one hour less sleep for everyone on Sunday morning, March 26, as clocks go forward one hour. The time will change at 3:00 in the early hours of Sunday, when clocks go forward one hour to read 4:00. The return to Winter or Standard Time in 2017 will be in the last Sunday of October, when clocks will go back one hour.

Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos on Friday said predicted the start of a new era in Greek-U.S. relations in defence, in statements after his meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Washington.

According to Kammenos, the new Trump administration understood the special role of the nation-state and the ability of states "with history and special ties to develop relations."

"They are well aware that Greece's close and historic cooperation with Israel and its ability to 'speak the same language' as the Arab countries will help us work for peace and democracy, not just for ourselves but for the wider region," he added, while something similar was true in the Balkans.

Regarding Turkish provocations in the Aegean, Kammenos said there was agreement that "no new fronts" should be opened in the region. "We already have open fronts in Libya and Syria. Care must be taken so as not to create issues where there are none," he said, while noting that the U.S. side was aware of the Turkish activity.

Kammenos said that he had invited Mattis to visit Greece and that he had accepted the invitation.

The meeting focused on bilateral cooperation, NATO and the base in Souda and initiatives Greece can undertake in the broader Mediterranean region with third countries to create a "shield of stability and cooperation" with Israel, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to the south and east and with Bulgaria and Romania in the north.

Meeting Greece's prime minister in the Vatican on Friday, Pope Francis thanked Alexis Tsipras for all that he has done to support society's poor and weak. In a brief conversation with Tsipras, Pope Francis spoke about his own but also the government's efforts for social justice, thanking Tsipras for all that his government had done and the stance adopted by Greece in the refugee crisis.

Pope Francis on Friday received all the EU heads of state and government that are currently in Rome for the European summit on Saturday, which marks the 60th anniversary since the Rome Declaration and the founding of the EU. The Pope had brief meetings and conversations will all the EU leaders.

ROME (ANA/N. Lionakis) Following statements by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday, government sources said that more European leaders were expected to make statements supporting the need to protect Europe's "social acquis" in response to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' letter, before the adoption of the Rome Declaration.

Following Athens' intervention, the sources added, the section of the Rome Declaration referring to social Europe was retained in spite of objections from many countries, while a reference to fighting unemployment that was not in the first draft had been added.

The government sources also welcomed Juncker's acknowledgement that Greece was not excluded from the European social model as a "positive step" and a "vindication of Greece's efforts."

In a letter sent to Gentiloni, Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk, the current chair of the rotating EU Council presidency Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the heads of the other 27 EU member-states apart from Greece, Tsipras asked them to clarify whether "the European acquis applies to all countries without exception or whether it applies to everyone except Greece."

Gentiloni: EU's social acquis must be protected, without exceptions

Speaking during a meeting with the social partners (trade unions and employer associations) on Friday, in the run-up to the Rome Summit, Gentiloni noted that the European Union's "social acquis" must be protected without exceptions.

The Italian prime minister noted that the EU was a system of values and rules that included the so-called "social acquis" - and that this was one of the most important achievements in its 60 years of integration.

"And I believe we must do whatever is in our power to protect this social acquis in all the member-states, without exception, as my friend the Greek prime minister quite rightly noted in his letter," Gentiloni added.

Juncker: I supported the return of collective bargaining with the Greek prime minister

In a statement after receiving Tsipras' letter, the European Commission's president pointed out that he had joined with Tsipras in publicly expressing his support for fair and effective collective bargaining systems since May 2015, while also noting that Greece's creditors must give it the necessary and desirable room to manoeuvre, in order to create its own future. He further underlined his respect for the social acquis, "of which we are the guardians."

Juncker then referred to the ongoing negotiations for the second review of the Greek programme, noting that all sides must work toward achieving a staff-level agreement as fast as possible.

The next deadline was the Eurogroup of April 7, he added, and noted that "ideally, we must be in a position to present a staff-level agreement by then and we will continue to support you for this purpose."

Bright and sunny weather is forecast in most parts of the country on Saturday, with some cloud gathering at higher altitudes from the afternoon. Winds variable, from 3-4 Beaufort. Temperatures will range from 7C to 24C in the north and northeast, 9C to 25C in the Ionian islands and the west, 10C to 25C on the eastern mainland and Evia and 12C to 22C in the islands of the Aegean and Crete. Sunny in Attica, with temperatures between 10C and 24C. Same in Thessaloniki, with some cloud from the afternoon, temperatures between 9C and 23C.

For Greece to be outside Europe is inconceivable, while Europe cannot be what it was founded to be without Greece," President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos said on Friday, in a message for the March 25 anniversary of Greece's 1821 war of independence against Ottoman rule.

"We progress, with the overwhelming majority of democratic political forces united in this direction, on our European path, without doubts or scepticism, leading in the common struggle for the European Union to again find the roots on which it can support itself," Pavlopoulos said.

The president's message also touched on the refugee and migration crisis, noting that this was an existential problem for Europe. He urged the EU to "once again remember its values" and isolate the extreme voices possessed by anti-humanitarian and anti-democratic phobic syndromes.

In this context, he warned the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that countries "claiming names that brutally misrepresent history and smack of irredentism" but also those that "display barbarity toward refugees" have "no European future".

Pavlopoulos stressed that Greece will not hesitate to protect its sovereignty, territorial integrity and its borders and - since Greece was an inseparable part of the EU - by extension, the sovereignty, territorial integrity and borders of the EU.

The Greek president underlined the need for a solution to the Cyprus issue that ensures, finally and irreversibly, that a member-state of the EU and the Eurozone will have a single international personally and full sovereignty, free of the outdated and undermining intervention of third-party "guarantors".

Pavlopoulos also referred to the recent terror attack in London, stressing that Europe must deal with it sternly "and in the manner fitting to those that commit crimes against humanity."

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is to visit Cyprus from Saturday until March 28, representing the Greek government at the March 25 anniversary parade celebrating Greece's 1821 war of independence against Ottoman rule.

Kotzias is to be received by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades on Monday and have meetings with Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and Cyprus Parliament Speaker Demetris Syllouris, as well as the heads of the Cypriot political parties.

On Tuesday, at the invitation of Archbishop Chrysostomos II of Cyprus, Kotzias will deliver a speech at an event being organised by the Makarios III Foundation, at the Holy Archbishopric of Cyprus, to mark the anniversaries of 25 March 1821 and 1 April 1955.

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