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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-01-19

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] EU Commission endorses Greek economic convergence plan
  • [02] Dutch PM hails Greek progress in meeting EMU criteria
  • [03] Greek, UK defense ministers call for intensification of EU efforts for stability in Balkans
  • [04] Papandreou and British Defense Secretary meet
  • [05] Papandreou arrives in Ankara on Wednesday
  • [06] Greek train to travel to Istanbul
  • [07] Apostolakis in Bucharest for talks on security issues
  • [08] Bond prices stay high despite profit-taking
  • [09] Greek stocks change direction, end lower
  • [10] Drachma rises vs euro on demand
  • [11] Bond yields fall on strong demand
  • [12] Greece's EMU entry to be finalized in June
  • [13] Northern Greece exporters welcome drachma's revaluation
  • [14] Unions reject revaluation as pretext for tight wage policy
  • [15] Opposition party sees party politics behind drachma revaluation
  • [16] Greek, Italian deputies discuss 'new world order'
  • [17] Greek-Italian business symposium lauds investment opportunities in Greece
  • [18] Church of Greece mulls investment possibilities
  • [19] Galaxy Airways buys new Boeing aircraft
  • [20] Government says open to penalty rate reform suggestions
  • [21] Urban railway workers call walk off next week
  • [22] Gov't, consortium say new Athens airport to open on March 1, 2001
  • [23] Roman emperor's poem set to music to premiere revival of ancient instrument
  • [24] Wreckage of missing F-4, pilots' bodies spotted
  • [25] Rubbish begins piling up on Thessaloniki streets
  • [26] Rhodes to host Interpol world conference
  • [27] Weak tremor in Athens
  • [28] Rain expected for Wednesday
  • [29] Kasoulides tells EU counterparts Turkish Cypriots violating resolutions
  • [30] Clerides receives Portuguese EU representative for Cyprus
  • [31] Cyprus says working on CBMs
  • [32] Tuesday's newspaper headlines

  • [01] EU Commission endorses Greek economic convergence plan

    STRASBOURG, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    The European Union's executive Commission on Tuesday endorsed Greece's plan to align its economy with other members of the 15-nation block in order to secure euro zone entry.

    Meeting in Strasbourg, the Commission said it had recommended adoption of the 1999-2002 plan by the EU's finance ministers, who are due to meet on January 31.

    Fiscal and structural reforms contained in the convergence plan, which aims to take Greece into the 11-member euro zone on January 1, 2001, were in line with EU economic policy guidelines, the Commission said in a statement.

    Under the programme, the government wants to convert the fiscal deficit into a surplus of 0.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2002. It also intends to lower the public debt to below 100 percent of GDP from 2001.

    According to the Commission, the government's current economic policy was on the right track to achieve the targets.

    Pedro Solbes, the EU's Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, said the Greek alignment plan was viable and, if implemented, would take Greece into the euro zone.

    The EU's upward revaluation of the drachma by 3.5 percent at the weekend would help to lower Greek inflation, the country's most stubborn obstacle to joining the euro, but a tight incomes policy also was needed to achieve price stability, Solbes said. Inflation would have to show it could permanently hold its new lower levels after declining, he added.

    The Commission statement said that according to estimates, national consumer price inflation in Greece would rise by 2.0 percent on an average annual basis in 2000-2002, down from 2.5 percent in 1999. Another weapon at the government's disposal in the counter-inflationary battle was structural reform, the Commissioner added.

    Finally, he said he was aware of the government's intention to apply on March 10-12 for euro zone membership.

    If current economic targets were met, then Greece's entry into the euro zone would be endorsed at an EU summit in Portugal on June 19, Solbes said.

    [02] Dutch PM hails Greek progress in meeting EMU criteria

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Dutch Prime Minister Whim Kok, in Athens on an official visit, on Tuesday congratulated the country and its people on their efforts to converge with the European Union.

    Kok was speaking after meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis on a range of issues, including those touching on the future of the European Union and relations between the Netherlands and Greece.

    "...Greece finds itself very close to submitting its application for participation in the euro zone," Kok told a joint news conference after the talks.

    Greece hopes to enter the 11-member euro zone on January 1, 2001. The drachma received a 3.5 percent revaluation against the euro over the weekend, in what was widely seen as a further indication of that Greece's application to join EMU will be accepted.

    Prime Minister Simitis said he and Kok had conferred on the results of the recent EU summit in Helsinki, on the course of Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue as well as on economic relations between Greece and the Netherlands, which, he said, could be widened.

    He said Greece and the Netherlands, both 'medium-size countries', sought reforms at the European Union which would allow their voices to be heard. More urgent work was needed on finding solutions to the thorny issue of growing unemployment in the European Union, he said.

    Kok said he and Simitis had discussed issues of the flexibility of EU institutions, technological advances, economic cooperation and social cohesion. "Europe is a free trade zone but it is also a space for the prosperity and social cohesion of citizens and we will have a heavy agenda in 2000, full of challenges in relation to these issues," he said.

    The Dutch premier also pointed to the "particularly positive results" of the Helsinki summit, attributing these to the stance taken by the Greek prime minister as well as by the Greek foreign minister.

    "At Helsinki there were only winners and what has come about is an indivisible and integrated Europe; now we must continue down that road because Europe is now taking on a different form," Kok said.

    The EU Helsinki summit decided to confer candidacy status on Turkey while effectively dissociating progress on Cyprus' bid to join the EU from resolving the island's political problem. Outstanding bilateral differences, the summit said, should be referred to arbitrary bodies of international standing, such as the International Court of Justice at The Hague.

    Kok specifically mentioned Turkey's prospects for entering the EU, adding that the EU Copenhagen summit criteria remained prerequisites.

    The Europeans' decision on Turkey, in any case, he said, was dependent on the evaluation of a number of related factors. Turning to the Cyprus issue, Kok said that the Helsinki conclusions had been unanimously adopted and that particular emphasis had been placed on proximity talks, with the aim of finding an outcome.

    "There is an opportunity for all to build on this positive ground," he said. "Turkey and (Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf) Denktash must participate in the efforts to find a viable solution."

  • Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis visited Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, in a central Athens hotel used by the Dutch delegation.

    The two men held talks for half an hour but did not comment on the content of their discussion. Kok was also received by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

    [03] Greek, UK defense ministers call for intensification of EU efforts for stability in Balkans

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greek Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his British counterpart Geoffrey Hoon on Tuesday stressed the need for an intensification of European Union, United Nations and NATO initiatives to accelerate the stability and development programs aimed at the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

    Speaking after their meeting in Athens, Tsohatzopoulos also underlined the particular significance that Cyprus' accession to the European Union will have for the region's security.

    On his part, Hoon praised Greek leadership for what he called its "sensible and mature" method of dealing with Turkey at last month's EU summit in Helsinki -- where Turkey was given EU candidate state status.

    In regards to the strife-riddled province of Kosovo, Hoon said a great deal of work is needed in order to achieve the alliance's goal, namely, a "multinational Kosovo." He also reiterated that the international community's intervention in Kosovo occurred in order to "maintain its (Kosovo's) multinational character and to prevent 'ethnic cleansing'."

    In other discussions, both ministers focused on Greece's possible participation in the production of the fourth-generation "Eurofighter", as well as the transfer of know-how from Britain to Greece for the better organization and staffing of a professional armed forces corps - a development long-envisioned for Greece's military. Britain is one of four countries, along with Germany, Italy and Spain, participating in a consortium designing and producing the fighter plane.

    Talks also touched on the Hellenic Army's pending selection of a new main battle tank (MBT), as the British-made "Challenger II" is one of six contenders for the multi-billion-drachmas contract, along with British interest in ELVO and EAB firms' - two state-owned defense industries, the first producing vehicles and the second active in aviation support and maintenance -- privatization programs.

    [04] Papandreou and British Defense Secretary meet

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou and visiting British Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon discussed on Tuesday issues concerning Turkey's European prospects, in the wake of decisions taken at the recent European Union summit in Helsinki, and developments over the Cyprus issue in light of the second round of proximity talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities in Geneva on January 31.

    The situation in Kosovo was also discussed, as well as developments in Serbia in the light of a recent initiative by Serbian opposition parties for early elections to be held in the country.

    In a brief statement later, Papandreou thanked Britain for its "considerable contribution" towards shaping the finalized text on Cyprus reached at the Helsinki EU summit, as well as for its overall cooperation in seeking a mutually acceptable decision on Turkey's EU candidacy.

    Hoon congratulated the Greek government, and Papandreou personally, for its important contribution to the summit's outcome.

    Diplomatic sources said that Hoon showed great interest in Papandreou's proposal for Greece to assist Turkey's European vocation by providing it with EU know-how.

    On the question of Cyprus, the sources said that Britain agrees with the evaluation that intransigence exists from Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. However, it considers the resumption of the proximity talks in Geneva as a positive development.

    Hoon also noted Britain's interest in the Hellenic Weaponry Industry's (EVO) possible privatization and expressed the hope that Greece will choose the "Challenger-2" as its main battle tank.

    [05] Papandreou arrives in Ankara on Wednesday

    ISTANBUL 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou is due to arrive in Ankara on Wednesday, an official visit to Turkey.

    Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem are expected to sign several cooperation agreements.

    The Turkish press has given extensive coverage to the visit, calling it of "historic importance".

    "Papandreou visit of historic importance" writes daily Milliyet which underlines that the historic nature of Papandreou's visit "becomes more important due to developments in Greek-Turkish relations expected to be made during the Greek minister's visit." "Historic visit by Mr. Papandreou," writes daily Radikal.

    "Start of a new era in Greek-Turkish relations," Radikal added, noting that during his visit to Turkey "Mr. Papandreou will propose the reactivation of the "Committee of the Wise".

    "Papandreou in Turkey", writes daily Turkiye which stresses that during the Greek foreign minister's visit to Ankara also to be discussed will be "Turkey's benefits from the Greek experience in the European Union."

    [06] Greek train to travel to Istanbul

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    The Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) will schedule a special train departure from Alexandroupolis to Istanbul, Turkey, on Friday as part of the Greek initiative to strengthen and further develop Greek-Turkish relations in the sector of economic cooperation in railway communications and transport.

    The Intercity train travelling to Istanbul will be boarded by a large delegation of senior OSE officials, businessmen from the private sector involved with railways and reporters.

    OSE's initiative will be carried out under the auspices of the Transport and Communications Ministry in the framework of the national effort to boost economic relations between the two countries. The trip is also part of Foreign Minister George Papandreou's official visit to Istanbul.

    [07] Apostolakis in Bucharest for talks on security issues

    BUCHAREST, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Deputy National Defense Minister Dimitris Apostolakis arrived in Bucharest on Tuesday and was expected to hold talks with Romanian officials on bilateral defense cooperation, as well as cooperation within regional security institutions.

    Romania has shown interest in participating in peacekeeping missions, while it has applied for NATO membership and according to previews statements be Greek officials, it enjoys Greece's support in its bid to participate in the next stage of the alliance's enlargement.

    The Balkan nation is also, reportedly, interested in maintaining its C-130 transport aircraft it has obtained from Greece, as well as in the joint production of military equipment.

    [08] Bond prices stay high despite profit-taking

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Trade was brisk in the domestic secondary market bond market on Tuesday with prices ending mixed on profit-taking but holding their current higher levels.

    The market had dropped in the previous session after an early jump but still maintained price levels resulting from a surge on Friday. Also aiding trade was the climate in markets abroad.

    Fuelling enthusiasm for a second straight session was an upward revaluation on Saturday of the drachma versus the euro in the European exchange rate mechanism.

    The benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 6.59 percent from roughly 6.51 percent in the two previous sessions and 6.63 percent on Thursday.

    The yield spread over German bunds was 96 basis points from 93-96 basis points in the last two trading days and 111 basis points on Thursday. On Monday, the 10-year bond yield spread over German bunds had narrowed to below the psychological 100 basis point barrier for the first time, and has since remained below that level.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic trading system was 226 billion drachmas from over 300 billion drachmas a day earlier and 320 billion drachmas on Friday. Buy and sell orders were roughly equal.

    The drachma revaluation in the exchange rate mechanism was approved by the European Union's monetary committee in Brussels following a Greek request.

    The parity shift will aid a reduction in interest rates across the board, but the market has already priced in a 0.75 basis point cut in the central bank's key rates, analysts said.

    A deeper rate cut would be needed to give the secondary bond market more impetus, and the time was now ripe for profit-taking, the analysts said.

    Players have retained their interest in long-term paper that recently had been dumped in favor of mid-term securities.

    Analysts have forecast an overall decline in domestic paper due to uncertainty over price levels in markets abroad and the fact that players have already discounted Greece's entry into the euro zone, which means the expectation is unlikely to drive prices up any further, especially after Saturday's revaluation, which was anticipated.

    [09] Greek stocks change direction, end lower

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Equity prices dramatically change direction to end sharply lower on Tuesday as investors preferred to take early profits following Monday's sharp advance.

    Traders said the market remained cautious awaiting developments in the inflation front and a new round of interest rates cuts by domestic commercial banks.

    The general index ended 2.31 percent lower at 5,238.23 points, at the day's lows, with turnover a moderate 216.25 billion drachmas.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 1.86 percent to 2,732.91 points, while the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index dropped 2.70 percent to 972.27.

    [10] Drachma rises vs euro on demand

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Demand drove up the drachma against the euro in the domestic foreign exchange market for the second straight session on Tuesday with sentiment still robust after the European Union approved a 3.5 percent upward drachma revaluation in the exchange rate mechanism.

    The demand again was met by commercial banks, and the central bank did not need to step into the market.

    Under the weekend revaluation, the drachma's central parity was set at 340.750 to the euro from 353.109. Its trading band remains at 15 percent either way, bucking fears of a reduction to 2.5 percent, following the example of Denmark when it revalued its currency in the ERM.

    On Monday, the European Central Bank and Bank of Greece announced new intervention points for the drachma following the revaluation. They are 391.863 drachmas to the euro (ceiling) and 289,638 drachmas to the euro (floor).

    At the central bank's daily fixing on Tuesday, the euro was set at 330.650 drachmas from 330.770 drachmas a day earlier and 331.800 drachmas on Friday.

    Also at the fix, the rampant US dollar jumped versus the drachma in line with its surge in markets abroad.

    The greenback was set at 327.820 from 326.990 drachmas in the previous session and 323.590 drachmas on Friday.

    [11] Bond yields fall on strong demand

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Long-term yields fell during Tuesday's regular weekly bond auction by the Public Debt Management Organization.

    The average weighed interest rate of a five-year bond, worth 250 billion drachmas and paying an annual coupon of 6.6 percent, fell to 6.36 percent from 6.43 percent in the previous auction of same securities on December 7, 1999.

    Bids submitted totaled 1.17 trillion drachmas, 4.68 times more than the asked sum, reflecting strong demand for Greek state bonds in the aftermath of a government's decision to revalue the drachma's central parity against the euro. Finally, the organization accepted bids totaling 291 billion drachmas.

    The average weighed price of the bond was 100.809 points with an minimum accepted price at 100.710.

    [12] Greece's EMU entry to be finalized in June

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greece's accession to the European Monetary Union (EMU) zone will be finalized during the European Council summit in Port, Portugal, in June, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said on Tuesday.

    Speaking at a "Flash" radio station broadcast, Papantoniou also said that a pre-approval of Greece's entry into the euro-zone might be granted following the country's application in March.

    He stressed that Greece at this time fulfilled all five basic criteria for entry, adding that the drachma upward revaluation approved by the European Monetary Committee, last weekend, was an important step toward fulfilling the criteria.

    "The EMU does not lock once and for all," the minister said, concluding that there are several phases within different institutional bodies of the Union until the final goal is to be achieved.

    [13] Northern Greece exporters welcome drachma's revaluation

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    The drachma's revaluation against the euro will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the economy, the Federation of Northern Greece Exporters (SEBE) said on Tuesday.

    Conversely, the Federation acknowledged that there would be a negative impact focusing mainly on exports and on lowering the competitiveness of Greek products and its tourism sector.

    They predicted, though, that an expected improvement in the country's economic climate would counterbalance some of the negative impact in the long term.

    "The competitiveness of Greek products (and tourism), undoubtedly, does not depend entirely on the price factor. The latest development, however, signals that the time has come for all those involved in the economy (government, agencies and businesses) to take on their responsibilities for the final battle leading to an improvement of competitiveness of Greek products, exports and the country's trade balance," SEBE said in a statement.

    SEBE noted that for the "battle" to be victorious it would need measures to support Greek exports through a Third Community Support Framework programme, the drafting of a national strategy on exports and marketing, financing of export-oriented companies, transport costs subsidies, technological development, restructuring of businesses and strengthened cooperation in the business sector.

    [14] Unions reject revaluation as pretext for tight wage policy

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) Secretary General Christos Polyzogopoulos warned on Tuesday that trade unions will not accept the recent revaluation of the drachma against the euro as a pretext for a tight incomes policy aimed at boosting competitiveness.

    Polyzogopoulos, who held talks with Labor Minister Miltiades Papaioannou and Deputy Labor Minister Christos Protopapas, said the government's economic convergence programme had already burdened working people, primarily low wage earners.

    The union leader said that GSEE wanted wage increases to take inflation into account along with part of an increase in gross domestic product. A corrective amount linked to end-year inflation should also be awarded. GSEE sought special treatment for low wage earners, measures against unemployment, and the enactment of a 35-hour working week. Papaioannou said GSEE's proposals were positive.

    [15] Opposition party sees party politics behind drachma revaluation

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy party said on Tuesday that the weekend's 3.5 percent revaluation of the drachma against the euro was a government ploy to boost sentiment on the Athens bourse and clear the way for a fall in interest rates.

    The comments were made by New Democracy spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos following leader Costas Karamanlis's chairing of the party's shadow cabinet.

    "The government's political ambitions are behind the revaluation of the drachma," he said. The climate that has been created has led the government to the inability to reduce interest rates, he said.

    Spiliotopoulos said that markets had already discounted the drachma's revaluation.

    The European Union's monetary committee on Saturday gave the drachma a new central parity of 340.750 to the euro in the exchange rate mechanism. Greece is expected to enter the 11-member euro zone on January 1, 2001, with the drachma at its newly-set central parity.

    "Effectively, (this revaluation) is about a partial correction of the major devaluation of the national currency (last year)," Spiliotopoulos said.

    He added that the revaluation actually harmed the competitiveness of the Greek economy and increased unemployment, which was on an upward trend.

    [16] Greek, Italian deputies discuss 'new world order'

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greek and Italian deputies voiced their concern, hopes and optimism over Europe's new role in a global scene at an annual symposium in Athens on Tuesday regarding "The New World Order" -- organized by the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Greece.

    Nikos Sifounakis, a ruling PASOK deputy, inaugurated the symposium by saying that it was Europe's big chance to take a leading role in ensuring a stable international environment, limiting crisis spots and to act effectively to promote respect for international law as well as to expand democracy in former communist countries.

    Another PASOK deputy, A. Chrysanthopoulos, urged the creation of "a pool of interests" -- including Greece and Italy -- to ensure stability and development in the Balkans. For this aim it needed closer communication between involved countries, he said.

    Main opposition New Democracy deputies Theodore Kassimis and Fani Palli-Petralia expressed their concerns over the loss of what they called the "humanistic" nature of society and the demographic problems facing Europe and Greece, in particular, a phenomenon likely to increase in the coming years. Palli-Petralia, however, expressed her optimism over the future of a new Europe.

    Coalition of the Left deputy S. Danellis said there were three major imbalances in the contemporary world, namely, the one between the developed north and underdeveloped south, between poor and rich and between man and nature.

    Italian Senator C. Marini referred to the need of closer cooperation between Greece and Italy to promote stability and security in the wider Balkan region. He stressed that criminal groups acting in the region should be effectively combated in order to promote development in the Balkans.

    Finally, Italian deputy G. La Malfa said the adoption of the euro currency would have a positive impact on the European economy, focusing on the liberalization of certain sectors, such as the banking sector.

    The symposium was video-recorded and it would be launched on the Italian Chamber of Commerce's website address.

    [17] Greek-Italian business symposium lauds investment opportunities in Greece

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    The tourism, transport and service sectors were the best investment fields of Greece, while Thessaloniki was the best staging point for investments in the Balkans, according to speakers at the Greek-Italian business symposium organized by the Italian Chamber of Commerce for Greece.

    On Tuesday, the second day of the symposium, Italian chamber official U. Vezza said that the business environment in Greece has changed, adding that all economic and social indicators were improving.

    "Greece can become the Florida of international tourism ... 10 years ago the dominant preconception was that Greeks are great merchants but lousy industrialists, this has changed now," he said.

    On his part, Greek Investment Centre (ELKE) Director E. Mouratidis said that two Italian investment plans for the tourism and manufacturing sectors were submitted to ELKE.

    [18] Church of Greece mulls investment possibilities

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos on Tuesday led a discussion at the Church of Greece's Holy Synod on how best to manage the church's finances, stressing that investment in the Athens Stock Exchange is not the way to manage church property.

    According to sources, the discussion focussed on ways the church could use to invest its funds in the newly shaping market environment.

    The church leaders mulled over the possibilities of investments in mutual funds, real estate or through the creation of companies, the same sources said.

    The director of the Church of Greece' Financial Services reportedly told the archbishop that he was not recommending investments in the stock exchange, adding however that final decision rests with the church leadership.

    [19] Galaxy Airways buys new Boeing aircraft

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Galaxy Airways, a fledgling Greek airline, announced it had acquired a new Boeing 737-500 aircraft while it expects two more similar aircraft to its fleet this year.

    The 128-seat aircraft has a flight range of six hours offering the company the opportunity to expand its flight schedule to new destinations.

    Galaxy Airways said it would add three new routes to its schedule, one from Thessaloniki to Berlin and Nurnberg, from Preveza to Stuttgart, Cologne and Munich and from Kavala to Cologne and Munich.

    The airline plans to expand its flights to other European countries beyond Germany and also include Athens in its flight program.

    [20] Government says open to penalty rate reform suggestions

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    The government on Tuesday remained open on whether it would accept any changes to its controversial reform of how banks calculate penalty rates on overdue loans.

    "We don't want to pre-empt the parliamentary procedure," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, adding that the specific amendment - due to be submitted to Parliament on Tuesday- was more than satisfactory.

    "The government wants to help those who, for objective reasons, can not meet their obligations," the spokesman said.

    In early December, Prime Minister Costas Simitis announced changes to how banks calculated penalty rates on overdue loans, saying the measures were imperative for the survival of many firms, especially small and medium sized companies.

    The problem emerged from borrowers' lack of ability to repay loans taken out at interest rates as high as 18-25 percent, coupled with a reluctance by banks to refinance loans.

    Thousands of light industries, small businesses and farmers, as well as those taking out housing loans, have been affected by excessive compound interest.

    Under the new measures, total interest due on existing loans may not exceed double, triple or quadruple the capital owed, depending on the period of overdue payment, effectively placing a ceiling on the debt owed.

    For loans being contracted now, interest will be calculated on a six-monthly basis, in line with regulations introduced last year. The government says its measures will create the conditions for healthy business growth in the future, as many debtors will be relieved of pressure from the high loan rates of the past. However, borrowers and opposition political parties have expressed opposition to the amendment, criticizing the government's plan for "timidity".

    Main opposition party New Democracy (ND), meanwhile, has tabled its own proposals in parliament.

    [21] Urban railway workers call walk off next week

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Workers on the Athens-Piraeus railway line (HSAP) announced on Tuesday that they would walk off the job for four hours next Thursday.

    The workers are demanding the creation of a new body which will include the membership of all HSAP workers and all workers on the Athens Metro - which is slated to go into operation soon.

    The transport ministry has said that for the first three years of its operation, Metro workers will be subject to a different body.

    [22] Gov't, consortium say new Athens airport to open on March 1, 2001

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    The government and officials from the consortium constructing the new Athens international airport on Tuesday promised that the new facility east of the Greek capital would open on March 1, 2001.

    According to Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis and representatives of the Hochtief-led consortium -- which will manage the airport for 30 years after its completion -- 90 percent of the work was completed as of December 1999, with a period of field tests scheduled in the near future before the facility opens to travelers. Flight tests are expected to begin in May or June.

    Two "thorns" amid the euphoria of the pending opening were also cited by the Greek minister, namely, the transfer of state-run national carrier Olympic Airways - the biggest client at the Spata airport -- and a dispute between the government and the consortium over who will pay for the construction of an underground car park at the airport.

    Regarding debt-laden Olympic, Laliotis said the national carrier has its own "plan and timetable" for transferring to Spata, stressing that it will abide by the March 1, 2001 deadline as the current Athens airport, located in a coastal suburb, will close. Concerning the underground car park, both the government and the consortium agreed to refer the matter to arbitration.

    In a related matter, Laliotis said a portion of a highway linking western Attica prefecture with the airport will be ready by February 2001, specifically, the segment connecting Spata with the Stavros juncture in northern Athens. In addition, he said a proposal is being considered to link the airport, named the "Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport" with a rail line connected to Athens' new metro network.

    According to figures released at a news conference held at the Spata airport's central passenger terminal, the entire project's budget totals 658 billion drachmas. The new facility will have a capacity of 16 billion travelers in its initial phase and 600 landings and take-offs daily. The company managing the new airport currently employs 300 people, expected to double this year. Some 7,000 individuals are expected to work at the new airport when it begins operation.

    [23] Roman emperor's poem set to music to premiere revival of ancient instrument

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Setting an ancient poem, by a Roman emperor no less, to music is an arduous artistic accomplishment in itself -- using that composition to present an ancient musical instrument to contemporary audiences, though, ranks as a unique exercise in blending ancient history and archaeology with modern musicology.

    The ambitious work has been underway for quite some time by Greek composer Giorgos Kouroupas, who plans on premiering his musical score based on a poem written some 1,600 years ago by Roman emperor Julian the Apostate using the "Hydraulis", an instrument resembling a crude form of today's church organ and comprised of wooden keys and vertically arranged pipes.

    Fittingly, Julian's poem is a hymn to the musical instrument in general, not that the controversial late Roman era emperor's artistic achievements did much to endear him to ecclesiastical leaders in the centuries to come. Julian, dubbed the "Apostate", was bent on restricting Christianity in the empire's realm. He was a vehement proponent of the ancient Greco-Roman pantheon, literature and civilization, although he's been given more compassionate treatment by contemporary historians.

    "It's a primitive organ in relation to today's (instruments). It has a relatively weak sound, it's very cumbersome, it can't rapidly perform pieces in a virtuoso manner. Additionally, it features a continuous sound produced from the pipe. Its abilities, therefore, are rather limited," Kouroupas says of the harpsichord-like instrument in a feature story published in the Tuesday edition of the Athens daily "Ta Nea".

    "On the other hand, the beauty of the sound and its emotional weight create a lovely aura...making this difficulty an interesting undertaking, where you can exhaust the limits of your imagination," he adds from his Athens studio.

    The European Cultural Centre at Delphi will organize the ancient "Hydraulis" presentation during events in Greece and western Europe. In early March, it will premier at Amsterdam's Persson museum as part of an exhibition on ancient musical instruments, followed by a mid March appearance at Oxford. On June 25 the instrument and the musical score will be unveiled at the Hanover Expo 2000, part of the "Greece Day" series of events. The next stop is Stockholm in the autumn.

    The genesis of the revival of the ancient instrument began in August 1992 with the discovery of the upper half of a "Hydraulis", dated to the 1st century BC, at the Dion archaeological site in northern Greece. In early 1995, the Delphi center, supported by the Greek culture ministry, commenced a research project aimed at building a replica of the Dion "Hydraulis" - which sported bronze pipes instead of cane ones. The efforts paid off in May 1999 with the creation of the third and final model of the "Hydraulis".

    [24] Wreckage of missing F-4, pilots' bodies spotted

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    The bodies of the two pilots and wreckage of a Hellenic Airforce jetfighter that went missing while on a training flight were spotted Tuesday southeast of Mt. Parnassos in the second day of a massive search and rescue operation by land, sea and air.

    The wreckage of the twin-seater F-4 jet was spotted Tuesday morning in a ravine at an altitude of 1,400 meters near Aghios Georgios, Xerovouni area southeast of Mt. Parnassos.

    A team of special forces that rushed to the area later spotted the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot nearby.

    National defense minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said the F-4's crash, which cost the life of the two pilots, was a blow for the Hellenic Airforce and expressed his deep grief to the deceased's families.

    The F-4 fighter plane went missing Monday morning between Tanagra and Skyros island with two pilots on board. The F-4 jetfighter took off Monday morning from Andravida airbase on a training flight and was due to land at 10:00 a.m. at Skyros airport, but never reached its destination. The jet disappeared from radars as it was flying between Tanagra and Skyros.

    A search by land, sea and air was launched immediately, but was hindered by adverse weather conditions prevailing in the area Monday.

    Taking part in the operation were four helicopters, a personnel transport plane, an aerial photography RF4 plane, and special forces teams.

    [25] Rubbish begins piling up on Thessaloniki streets

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Residents of three municipalities bordering the Tagaradon landfill in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki continued to block access on Tuesday, as garbage began piling up on city streets.

    The residents, who say the landfill is responsible for serious environment pollution and poses a risk to their health, have blocked access to the landfill for the past three days.

    There was no result from hours of talks between prefectural and local authorities on Monday. Negotiations are to resume again on Wednesday.

    The residents of the three municipalities are calling for the landfill to be shut down and an alternative site found.

    The municipality of the northern Greek port city has urged residents to not bring their household rubbish down to street skips until a solution to the problem is found and garbage collection begins again.

    [26] Rhodes to host Interpol world conference

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    The island of Rhodes will play host to the world conference to be held by Interpol, the head of the Greek Police Force announced on Tuesday.

    Yiannis Georgakopoulos told a news conference that the conference would be held October 30 to November 4 at the Rhodes Pallas Hotel. An estimated 2000 high-ranking Interpol officers from 180 countries are expected to attend.

    [27] Weak tremor in Athens

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    A weak tremor measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale jolted Athens Monday morning, and no damage was reported.

    The Athens Observatory's Geodynamic Institute said the tremor was recorded at 10:03 a.m. with its epicenter in Parnitha, which produced the devastating September 7, 1999 earthquake that killed more than 120 people and left thousands homeless.

    Seismologists said the tremor was part of the normal post-quake activity of the September trembler.

    [28] Rain expected for Wednesday

    Athens, 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    Most parts of the country will start cloudy on Wednesday, turning to rain or sleet on low ground and snow on high ground. Northern Greece can expect cloud with sleet or snow throughout the day. Winds westerly turning northerly, moderate to very strong. Temperatures will range from -4C to 6C in the north; -1C to 11C in the rest of mainland Greece and Ionian Sea; and 5C to 12C in the Aegean islands. Showery, overcast weather in Athens with snow on Parnitha. Cloudy in Thessaloniki with the possibility of light snow in the morning. The high in Athens will be 10C and 6 for Thessaloniki.

    [29] Kasoulides tells EU counterparts Turkish Cypriots violating resolutions

    NICOSIA 19/01/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides has sent letters to his European Union counterparts, pointing out that following the Helsinki summit the Turkish Cypriot side is trying to approach the EU, violating EU decisions and resolutions, including the Luxembourg European Council conclusions.

    Cyprus government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said here Tuesday the "Foreign Minister and his ministry are engaged in a continuous effort to promote" the Cyprus policy "and are taking measures to avoid the danger of recognition of the illegal regime".

    "It is within this framework which Kasoulides has sent the letter to his EU counterparts," Papapetrou added, declining to refer to the contents of the letter sent Monday.

    He rejected reports that the government has indications that some countries favor recognition of the illegal regime.

    According to press reports, in his three-page letter, Kasoulides reminds the EU Foreign Ministers about President Glafcos Clerides' proposal to appoint representatives in the official team which is negotiating Cyprus' accession to the EU.

    He refers to the government's intention to promote measures to inform Turkish Cypriots about the accession procedure, including translating the acquis communautaire.

    Kasoulides quotes the Luxembourg European Council decision whereby accession negotiations are conducted by the Cyprus Republic, which is obliged to inform the Turkish Cypriots about the procedure and the benefits that arise.

    The Helsinki European Council conclusions "underline that a political settlement will facilitate the accession of Cyprus to the EU", and note that if no settlement has been reached by the completion of the negotiations , the Council's decision on accession will be made without the above being a precondition.

    Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of the island's territory.

    [30] Clerides receives Portuguese EU representative for Cyprus

    NICOSIA 19/01/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    The representative for Cyprus of the Portuguese European Union presidency, Leonardo Mathias, continued his contacts on the island here Tuesday.

    Mathias was received by President Glafcos Clerides while Monday he met Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides.

    Mathias also held contacts in the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus where he met Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, among others.

    The visit is taking place away from the limelight. No contacts were announced beforehand.

    The Portuguese presidency is represented in Cyprus by the French Embassy in Nicosia since Lisbon does not have an embassy in Cyprus.

    In its EU presidency programme, Portugal said it "will closely follow developments on the Cyprus issue and will continue to support the UN Secretary-General's efforts in this area".

    [31] Cyprus says working on CBMs

    NICOSIA 19/01/2000 (ANA)

    The Cypriot government said on Tuesday it was working on confidence building measures to put into effect between the divided Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

    Government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said CBMs were desirable, provided they did not, either directly or indirectly, lead to a recognition of the regime in the Turkish-occupied areas of the island.

    Papapetrou refused to be drawn further on the details of the CBMs, saying they would be announced when they were ready.

    Last week, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou underlined the power of 'people's diplomacy' in contributing to progress to resolve the intractable Cyprus division.

    He cited the effect of informal contacts on a community- and NGO- level in smoothing Greek-Turkish relations and said that this could be a model for Cyprus.

    He said one way to facilitate progress in "bringing down the last Berlin wall" on divided Cyprus was a more active role for the European Union in intercommunal contacts. Papandreou said he believed both communities on the island were ready for this type of contact.

    In the same vein, Papapetrou also greeted the UN Secretary General's intention to repair damage to a monastery in the occupied territories and to a mosque in Larnaca. The work on both monuments will be conducted under the supervision and on the initiative of the relevant UN committee to restore monuments and protect cultural heritage, and with the support and financing of the United States.

    The work on the monastery will be undertaken by Turkish Cypriots in the occupied territories, while the mosque will be repaired by Greek Cypriots. Both the Church of Cyprus and Turkish Cypriot Moslem authorities have agreed to letting the work go ahead.

    Cyprus proximity talks are set to resume in Geneva at the end of the month.

    [32] Tuesday's newspaper headlines

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS (Mitsis): "The market frigid - Simitis did not convince with the change of the drachma-euro parity - Hesitant rise on Athens bourse", and "Phantom F-4 jetfighter crashes - We lost two pilots - The Airforce mourns".

    ADESMEFTOS TYPOS (Rizos): "Exclusive: Corruption industry - Embassy, consulate and para-embassy in Albania - Charges of illegal visas industry - They're sending criminals to Greece as 'tourists'".

    ACROPOLIS: "More lunches are necessary - Avramopoulos keeps his cards closed, understanding from Karamanlis".

    APOGEVMATINI: "Archbishop Christodoulos launches crusade against state corruption", and "Decisive meeting Tuesday between Karamanlis and Avramopoulos".

    ATHINAIKI: "Christodoulos blasted the government - The Archbishop, in the role of political leader, blasted Simitis' policy", and "The lunch is today - Karamanlis' concern over Avramopoulos' 'yes'".

    AVGHI: "Before the pre-electoral boasting stops - The revaluation of austerity comes later - The European Commission discusses the new Greek convergence programme, suggests austerity, denationalisations, interventions in the social security and tax regimes".

    AVRIANI: "Thunder and lightning from Christodoulos - A blow against the politicians and mandarins over the corruption and graft that inconveniences the people", and "Karamanlis-Avramopoulos meeting on neutral territory".

    ELEFTHERI ORA: "Karamanlis official proposal to Avramopoulos today for political match-making".

    ELEFTHEROS: "Openings to the Right and Left - Simitis repeating the experiment of democratic rallying made by Andreas Papandreou in 1989".

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "Two keys to success in the examination for bank hiring", and "The first lunar eclipse of 2000 on Friday".

    ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Today the first test for EMU - The European Commission approves all our commitments - Predictions for the new convergence programme".

    ESTIA: "Avramopoulos the regulator - He is besieged by both ND and PASOK".

    ETHNOS: "The 'map' of hirings by prefecture", and "Christodoulos outburst against mandarins".

    EXOUSIA: "Difference of opinion between national economy minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos over the interest rates".

    KATHIMERINI: "The new drachma parity carries three thorns".

    LOGOS: "General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE): 130,000 new jobs if it is applied - 35-hour workweek with subsidization for private enterprises".

    NIKI: "Poker for two beneath the Acropolis (at the tavern where Karamanlis and Avramopoulos will hold their meeting) - From Mayor to gofer for ND?".

    RIZOSPASTIS: "The new drachma parity another anti-popular step - The government underestimates the Greek people's intelligence".

    STO KARFI: "After the lunch, Karamanlis points to his leader..." beneath a picture of the two men in which the ND leader appears to be pointing to the Athens Mayor.

    TA NEA: "National Bank of Greece governor Theodore Karatzas accusations with insinuations - Everyone pressuring in the battle over the penalty interest rates".

    TO VIMA: "The market reacted positively to the drachma revaluation".

    VRADYNI: "Will Avramopoulos return to the 'fold' (ND)? - Critical rendezvous today"

    Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article
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