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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-01-27

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Papantoniou says Greece will meet all EMU criteria after central bank cut rates
  • [02] Tsohatzopoulos says existing accord sufficient for Greece and Turkey
  • [03] Simitis pledges Greece's readiness for just solution to Cyprus problem
  • [04] Government says elections likely after summer
  • [05] Papandreou on Greeks' efforts to save Jews during W.W.II
  • [06] Stephanopoulos, Kaklamanis discuss upcoming presidential election
  • [07] German transport minister says tram the best solution for 2004 Athens Olympics
  • [08] Simitis says Athens Metro is a dream come true
  • [09] Karamanlis says Greece lagging behind EU in electronic computer development
  • [10] Cyprus gov't: Nicosia will use UN-recognized name in commencing diplomatic ties with FYROM
  • [11] Government terms EU effort to involve Turkish Cypriots in accession talks 'a positive move'
  • [12] EU chief negotiator for Cyprus holds talks with island's accession team
  • [13] Bank of Greece reduces key intervention rates
  • [14] IOBE forecasts 3.7% growth rate for Greek economy this year
  • [15] Greek equities shrug off rate cut, remain under pressure
  • [16] Agricultural Bank to announce bourse entry plan Feb.2
  • [17] Bonds shrug off rate cut
  • [18] French-Greek consortium bid for Egyptian cement company
  • [19] Olympics 2004 committee seeks Australian investors
  • [20] Trade mission from Quebec to visit Greece
  • [21] Plovdiv business delegation meets with Thessaloniki counterparts
  • [22] Gov't to introduce minimum guaranteed income
  • [23] Balkan premiers to declare trans-border reserve
  • [24] Simitis announces bill on training for handicapped people
  • [25] Social benefits not enough to meet demographic problem, Simitis says
  • [26] Program for upgrading quality of life for Gypsies
  • [27] Group claims responsibility for security van torching
  • [28] President Stephanopoulos awards metals
  • [29] Optimism voiced over Greek distinctions in Sydney Olympics

  • [01] Papantoniou says Greece will meet all EMU criteria after central bank cut rates

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou was confident on Wednesday that Greece would meet all the criteria it needed to join economic and monetary union (EMU), following an eagerly-awaited move from the central bank to cut its intervention rate.

    "The rate cut by the Bank of Greece signals a new cycle of rate cuts by commercial banks and will be to the advantage of businessmen and consumers...The banking system in our country is entering a better period," he said.

    Papantoniou was speaking after meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis. Earlier on Wednesday, the central bank slashed intervention rates by up to one percentage point. It was the bank's third reduction in about as many months, bringing domestic short-term loan rates closer to their euro-zone equivalents.

    Papantoniou told reporters after the meeting that he was confident Greece would meet all the criteria necessary to join the final stage of economic and monetary union, including inflation.

    Asked whether he was concerned about the effect of the rising price of fuel on inflation, he said that Greek inflation continued to fall despite rising fuel prices and this was an indicator of how resilient the Greek economy had become.

    He and the Prime Minister, he said, had discussed the issue of bringing down interest rates - which must fall into line with European standards by the end of the year - following the Bank of Greece's move.

    He said restraint was needed in the drive to keep inflation down but that inflation meeting EMU convergence levels was at hand.

    "Next Monday's ECOFIN meeting, which will discuss the approval of the Greek economy's convergence program, will see a very important step in Greeces accession course," he said.

    Turning to the disappointing performance of the Athens Stock Exchange in recent weeks, Papantoniou said the bourse followed its own course but intimated that the low levels of the general price index were in part due to investors and markets already discounting interest rate cuts and Greece's entry into economic and monetary union.

    On Wednesday, the market appeared to ignore the rate cut from the central bank to bring the Athens Stock Exchange's general price index to end below the 5,000-point mark at 4,936.69 points, a loss of 1.71 percent.

    Papantoniou predicted however that Greece's actual go-ahead to join economic and monetary union - expected in June - and interest rate cuts would create new prospects for the bourse.

    It is only a matter of time before major institutional investors make their presence felt, he said, adding that they had yet to invest in Greece because it continued to be a developing market.

    Turning to the abiding question of when the government - which must face the polls some time this year - would call elections, he said the issue had not been discussed with the Prime Minister.

    [02] Tsohatzopoulos says existing accord sufficient for Greece and Turkey

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greece and Turkey have nothing to settle in the Aegean and adherence to the 1988 Papoulias - Yilmaz accord, which is an acceptable framework for both sides' movements in the airspace and sea, would suffice, Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said on Wednesday.

    Speaking during a press briefing, he refused to be drawn on recent progress in reducing tension between the two countries, saying he had not yet been briefed in detail by Foreign Minister George Papandreou on the results of his trip to Ankara last week.

    Tsohatzopoulos set out the factors dictating a readjustment in the country's defense policy in the next decade.

    These include changes in its international security environment, developments in the European Union's defense policy, rapid technological developments, and a continuing real threat from Turkey, which is acquiring new dimensions.

    "We cannot overlook the neighboring country's continuing efforts at armaments level. The principle of coexistence with a neighbor who possesses a very significant superiority in arms dictates that you promote the qualitative upgrading of the armed forces so that you can guarantee the country's defense," Tsohatzopoulos said.

    Nevertheless, he noted a relative stabilization of relations with Turkey in the last three years, saying that this continuing threat was not overtly expressed.

    He again called on Turkey to contribute to a solution of the Cyprus problem.

    Other positive developments during this period, Tsohatzopoulos added, were the avoidance of Greece's involvement in Balkan conflicts, the relative stabilization of relations with its northern neighbors, and the development of defense diplomacy in the broader area including the Balkans, the Black Sea and the Middle East.

    Tsohatzopoulos also forecast that the hiring of 15,000 professional soldiers in the Greek army within the next three years would allow a reduction in the length of military service by up to six months, making it 12 months in the Army, 14 months in the Airforce and 15 months for the Navy.

    [03] Simitis pledges Greece's readiness for just solution to Cyprus problem

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday pledged Greece's readiness to work for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem, based on UN Security Council decisions.

    Speaking during a gathering in Athens where two Cypriot ministers presented cheques in aid of the victims of the Athens earthquake last September, Simitis referred to the second round of the UN-proximity talks scheduled to resume on January 31 in Geneva.

    "During these talks Greece will continue to maintain the same line with the Cypriot government," Simitis said.

    "We want a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem. We want a solution to the Cyprus problem, which will be in accordance with the decisions of the UN Security Council. And we will work for such a solution," the Greek premier assured.

    Efforts to reunite Cyprus, divided since the 1974 Turkish invasion, have so far failed to yield any results. A fresh attempt began last December in New York through UN-led proximity talks, which continue on Monday in Geneva.

    Cyprus and Greece share common goals and continuous bilateral cooperation leads to joint efforts, Simitis said, accepting two cheques worth over one million US dollars for earthquake victims.

    The cheques were presented by Cypriot ministers of Finance and Education and Culture, Takis Clerides and Ouranios Ioannides respectively, to Simitis who said Cypriots showed their support from the first day of the earthquake last September.

    "Their help has been very significant," Simitis said, adding that "there are many words which can describe the relationship between Cyprus and Greece but action has proved it: that we are the same people, we have mutual objectives, and we work with each other and are constantly in touch," Simitis said, thanking the ministers for their assistance.

    Clerides offered a cheque for one million US dollars and Ioannides a cheque for 50 million Greek Drachmas (about 200,000 dollars), of which 25 million will be used for the reconstruction of a children's day care center at Menidi area, one of the areas which were hardest hit during the earthquake.

    The Cypriot finance minister said the assistance is the culmination of "an excellent relationship between the two governments...and reflects the close relationship of the two countries."

    He added that the total assistance Cyprus will offer to Greece to the quake victims would exceed three million US dollars.

    [04] Government says elections likely after summer

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    The government on Wednesday reiterated that general elections were likely to be held in the autumn of 2000, when the government's four-year mandate comes up for renewal.

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters that the government would continue doing its work.

    His answer came in response to calls from the leader of the conservative opposition, New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis, to "clear the air" vis a vis when elections would be held.

    "There is no issue of elections being held now," Reppas said. He counseled Karamanlis to "not worry".

    "There's plenty of time before New Democracy's defeat," he said.

    Reppas also denied that Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos had asked the prime minister to ensure that elections not be held on Palm Sunday - April 23 - as reported in some press.

    "There was no such discussion. I reiterate categorically that the archbishop did not broach such an issue," Reppas said.

    [05] Papandreou on Greeks' efforts to save Jews during W.W.II

    STOCKHOLM, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou said in Stockholm on Wednesday that Greece has historically upheld human rights and values, and referred at length to efforts made by the Greeks during World War Two to save Jews from Nazi troops.

    Papandreou, who was addressing an international conference on the Jewish holocaust during WW2, attended by representatives from 45 countries and several heads of state and government, said that since May 1999, the Greek Foreign Ministry had signed an agreement with the Washington-based Holocaust Museum to enrich it with archives and exhibits concerning the lives, action and sufferings of Jews who lived in Greece.

    Papandreou, representing Prime Minister Costas Simitis at the conference, said Greece had entered into negotiations with the Russian government for the return of archives and files of the pre-war Jewish community of Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city.

    On the sidelines of the conference, Papandreou held talks with Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema, Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Liedl and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matvienko.

    The conference will end on Thursday with special reference to issues concerning racism and xenophobia and to what mankind can learn on these issues from the Holocaust tragedy.

    [06] Stephanopoulos, Kaklamanis discuss upcoming presidential election

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos received Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis in his office on Wednesday for talks regarding issues concerning the upcoming presidential election.

    According to Kaklamanis afterwards, the first round of voting by Parliament is scheduled for Feb. 8, using a roll call procedure, as both ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy have backed the current incumbent's re-election.

    As such, Stephanopoulos' re-election by the 300-member Parliament is expected to be achieved by a hefty margin.

    A swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for March 11.

    Additionally, when asked by reporters about the issue of general elections, Kaklamanis responded that "neither the president of the republic nor I are responsible, under the Constitution, to decide on the holding of elections."

    Finally, when asked if he will visit veteran leftist politician Leonidas Kyrkos, who has been proposed by the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) for the president's post, Kaklamanis said he met with Stephanopoulos "not as the candidate expected to be elected for the position...

    "Despite all of that, it would be my pleasure to see my friend Leonidas Kyrkos, but that's not the institutional procedure (that's followed)," he added.

    [07] German transport minister says tram the best solution for 2004 Athens Olympics

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    German Transport Minister Reinhard Klimmt said on Wednesday the tram was the best solution for transport in Athens in view of the 2004 Athens Olympics. Klimmt is visiting Athens at the invitation of Transport and Communications Minister Tasos Mantelis to jointly consider ways of cooperation in promoting the Athens tram network and the railway link between the Athens airport at Spata and the district of Menidi.

    Referring to the tram network, Mantelis said it was already under consideration and construction of the network was anticipated in three phases. The first would have a length of 32 kilometers and would link Ano Patisia with the center of Athens and would be extended to the Phaleron Delta. The cost of this phase would amount to 185 billion drachmas at current prices.

    Mantelis said the first phase of the tram network's implementation had been designed in a way enabling it to be delivered in three independent operational stages in the framework of the 3rd Community Support Framework.

    Klimmt said a joint committee existed at bilateral level, which was preparing all issues of interest to the two countries, processing them and forwarding them to the European Union. He also said that specific proposals would be made on improving infrastructure works through private investments and noted the experience acquired through the Munich Olympics in the past.

    Klimmt was accompanied by representatives of the Siemens company, German railways and communications systems, both during talks with his Greek counterpart and at displays made at the Athens Metro and the airport at Spata.

    [08] Simitis says Athens Metro is a dream come true

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis, accompanied by his wife Daphne, were among the first passengers to board the Athens Metro on Wednesday, noting that the metro was a dream come true.

    Along with Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis and his wife Marina, Deputy Minister Christos Verelis and advisers Nikos Themelis and Georgios Pantagias, Simitis boarded at Syntagma station which headed for Ethniki Amina station.

    In addition to stopovers in several metro stations, Simitis visited the control center at Syntagma station where he was given a briefing on the networks operations. Speaking to the workers, the prime minister spoke of "the dream becoming a reality, the largest project which has ever been undertaken in the Attica Basin and which will give a breather to the millions of the area's inhabitants."

    [09] Karamanlis says Greece lagging behind EU in electronic computer development

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis said on Wednesday that Greece was lagging behind the European Union considerably in new technologies and the use and development of electronic computers.

    Karamanlis, who was addressing a conference organized by the Greek federation of informatics companies, presented data and statistics to substantiate his positions and said that "this lag shows the government's inability to undertake necessary preparation initiatives to enable the country to meet the challenges posed by the new economic and social environment.

    "The regular budget's expenditures for informatics systems in public administration amount to only 35 per thousand compared to the European average of one percent," he said, adding that citizens were prepared to spend more money on new technologies.

    [10] Cyprus gov't: Nicosia will use UN-recognized name in commencing diplomatic ties with FYROM

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    The Republic of Cyprus will commence diplomatic relations with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) using as the name for the latter the one recognized by the United Nations, namely, the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".

    Cypriot government spokesman Mihalis Papapetrou made the statement in Nicosia in response to certain reports claiming that the Skopje government has tabled the name issue as a precondition for the beginning of diplomatic ties.

    [11] Government terms EU effort to involve Turkish Cypriots in accession talks 'a positive move'

    NICOSIA, 27/01/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    Efforts by the European Union (EU) to convince the Turkish Cypriot leader of the necessity to involve Turkish Cypriots in the accession negotiations are positive moves, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said here Wednesday.

    He also noted the only way Turkish Cypriots can get involved in membership talks is to accept President Glafcos Clerides' invitation and participate in the Cyprus negotiating team.

    The spokesman's comments come after the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community Rauf Denktash rejected a proposal for a meeting in Nicosia between a top EU negotiator for Cyprus and Turkish Cypriots.

    Nevertheless, EU Commissioner responsible for enlargement Guenter Verheugen is likely to visit Cyprus in mid-March.

    "The government believes the EU effort to persuade Denktash for the need to get the Turkish Cypriots involved in membership talks is a positive move," Papapetrou said.

    The spokesman pointed out that the "only way Turkish Cypriots can get involved in accession negotiations is to accept the President's invitation and be part of the Cypriot negotiating team."

    EU officials described the president's invitation, extended in March 1998 through the then EU British presidency, as fair and courageous. Denktash has so far dismissed the invitation, which calls on the Turkish Cypriot leader to appoint representatives to the Cypriot team.

    Replying to questions, the spokesman said the EU and others have contacts with Turkey on all levels regarding this specific issue.

    [12] EU chief negotiator for Cyprus holds talks with island's accession team

    Nicosia, 27/01/2000 (CNA/ANA)

    Leopold Maurer, the European Union (EU) chief negotiator for Cyprus, said the Union "has been ready from the very beginning of the negotiations" with Cyprus to accept Turkish Cypriot participation.

    Speaking here Wednesday, Maurer said that all outstanding "difficult" issues between the EU and Cyprus "are opening now during the Portuguese EU presidency".

    These issues concern agriculture, justice and home affairs, regional policy, financial and budgetary affairs.

    Maurer said that at "the end of the presidency in June we will have all the chapters already open", adding that "this is a big step forward in the negotiation process."

    He noted however that this "does not mean that we have already finished, but we are really very far advanced".

    The EU official further repeated that Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides' invitation to the Turkish Cypriots for participation is still on the table. "We are ready from the very beginning of the negotiations that the Turkish Cypriots could participate in the negotiations", he added.

    Cyprus began membership talks in November 1998. The president extended an invitation to the Turkish Cypriots in March 1998, through the then British EU presidency, asking them to appoint their own representatives to the Cypriot negotiating team. So far the invitation has not been accepted.

    Maurer began his meetings with the Cyprus team negotiating the island's accession to the EU and relevant services to discuss the chapters to be negotiated under the Portuguese Presidency.

    In a related development government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou expressed regret at the refusal of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to allow a meeting between Maurer and Turkish Cypriots to take place.

    Describing the move as "anachronistic", Papapetrou said this kind of attitude is contrary to the climate created after the EU gave Turkey candidate status at its Helsinki summit last December.

    [13] Bank of Greece reduces key intervention rates

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    The Bank of Greece on Wednesday lowered its main intervention rates by up to 1.0 percentage point, effective immediately, in the third reduction in less than three months, bringing domestic short-term loan rates closer to their euro-zone equivalents.

    After a meeting of its Monetary Policy Council, the central bank announced a 1.0 percent reduction in the weekly intervention rate for two-week funds to 9.75 percent from 10.75 percent.

    The Bank of Greece uses the rate in a tender most Wednesdays to help regulate liquidity in the interbank market. It also slashed the primary overnight lending rate by 0.75 percentage point to 9.50 percent from 10.25 percent; and the secondary overnight rate by 0.50 percentage point to 8.5 percent from 9.0 percent.

    In addition, the central bank reduced the Lombard rate by 0.50 percentage point to 11 percent from 11.5 percent.

    On October 21, the Bank of Greece lowered key intervention rates by half a percentage point across the board and again on December 15 by an average 0.75 percentage point.

    The Monetary Policy Council said in a statement that its decision to go ahead with the rate cuts took into account the developments on the inflation front and the containment of credit expansion in the entire economy.

    National Bank announces rate cuts: National Bank of Greece, the country's largest commercial bank, on Wednesday was first to take up the challenge and announce reductions in its interest rates, following the central bank's intervention rate cut earlier.

    State-run National announced cuts in its deposit and lending rates, effective as of the end of the month. Most deposit accounts were cut by 0.50 percentage point and lending rates by up to 0.85 percentage points.

    Operating capital loan rates will carry a 10.90 percent rate, down from 11.75 percent.

    Interest rates for consumer and personal loans will be cut by 0.50 percentage point to come to 15.0 and 15.75 percent, respectively.

    Bank of Piraeus to cut rates: The Bank of Piraeus Group on Wednesday announced it would lower its deposit and loan rates, effective on February 1.

    The Bank of Piraeus is to cut its deposit rates by 50 basis points and its lending rates by up to 110 basis points.

    Piraeus' savings rate will fall to 7.0 percent from 7.5 percent and its base short-term loan rate to 12.9 percent from 13.5 percent.

    Personal and consumer loans will drop to 17.5 percent from 18.0 percent, and the floating home loan rate to 11.9 percent from 12.25 percent.

    Popular Bank to lower rates: Popular Bank announced on Wednesday that it would cut its savings rate and rates on business and housing loans.

    The savings rate is to drop by 25 basis points to 7.75 percent for deposits of up to one million drachmas.

    The bank's industrial and commercial loan rates are to drop by 75 basis points, Popular Bank said in a statement.

    [14] IOBE forecasts 3.7% growth rate for Greek economy this year

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    The latest three-month report by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) on the Greek economy forecasts a growth rate of 3.7 percent for 2000, up from a projected 3.5 percent in 1999.

    IOBE, in the report released on Wednesday, noted that prospects for the Greek economy "remain very good, buffered by the continuous improvement in economic conditions within the European Union and throughout the world".

    IOBE also stressed that the Greek economy has made greater progress towards sustainable convergence that is usually acknowledged.

    "If structural changes hadn't been delayed, progress would have been more rapid. Dangers lurking in the course towards Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), as well as within it, would have been lessened," the IOBE report states.

    The Athens-based foundation notes that the Greek economy overcame difficulties emanating from the conflict in Kosovo and the destructive earthquake that hit the greater Athens area in early September 1999, mainly through continuing investments - primarily public, but also private sector - combined with stable consumption.

    Another noteworthy conclusion detailed in the IOBE report states that industrial production rose in 1999 by 1 percent, the fifth year in a row that Greek industrial production has increased. However, IOBE stated that the 1-percent increase needs closer "inspection".

    In other developments, IOBE said the recent drachma revaluation against the euro will only marginally ease inflationary pressures related to the drachma's slide in light of the currency's central exchange rate, as well as drachma rates vis-a-vis euro interest rates, all amid Greece's expected EMU entry in early January 2001. Revaluation is even less of a benefit if the fact that Greece has essentially satisfied Maastricht Treaty criteria is taken into consideration - Greece at present has about the same rate of inflation as Spain and Portugal and similar rates of economic growth.

    Finally, despite inflation's increase over the last three months of 1999, IOBE forecasts a decrease during the first months of 2000, allowing Greece to fully satisfy the Maastricht Treaty criterion in regards to inflation.

    [15] Greek equities shrug off rate cut, remain under pressure

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    The market ignored a rate cut from the central bank on Wednesday to continue wallowing in the doldrums for the third consecutive session. The Athens Stock Exchange's general price index ended below the 5,000-point mark at 4,936.69 points, a loss of 1.71 percent. At the start of trade, the index moved upwards to its highest intra-day level of 5,083 points, up 1.20 percent.

    Turnover was once again low, at 172.02 billion drachmas, while most sector indices recorded losses. Hardest hit were shares on the small-cap parallel market and the construction sector.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks fell 1.37 percent to 2,593.02 points, while the FTSE/ASE MID 40 ended at 897.36, off 2.51 percent.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 9.039,88 -1,38% Leasing: 1.295,89 -1,43% Insurance: 3.304,44 -0,74% Investment: 2.504,89 -0,88% Construction: 3.169,64 -3,49% Industrials: 3.014,73

    -1,68% Miscellaneous: 6.302,47 -3,31% Holding: 6.030,44 -1,73%

    The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended at 1,470.47 points, off 3.71 percent.

    A total of 328 shares were traded, with 34 ending up, 290 ending with losses and four ending stable.

    The highest percentage gains were scored by Plastika Macedonia +8%, Macedonia Mills +8%, Doudos +7.8%, Microland +5.0% and Technodomi +4.8%.

    The highest losses were scored by Athina -8.0%, Eskimo (c) -7.8%, Themeliodomi -7.6%, Remek -7.5%, Etane -7.4%, Daring -7.3% and Epiphanis -7.2%.

    Leading shares' closing prices (in Drs): National Bank: 21.330 Alpha Credit: 22.900 Commercial Bank: 22.120 Eurobank: 13.300 Titan Cement (c): 16.500 Hellenic Petroleum: 4.140 Intracom: 13.800

    Minoan Lines: 8.180 Panafon: 4,250 Hellenic Telecoms: 7.550

    [16] Agricultural Bank to announce bourse entry plan Feb.2

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    The Agricultural Bank of Greece is to announce on February 2 a plan to seek bourse entry, Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis said on Wednesday.

    Anomeritis also said that the finance ministry would announce by February 15 the allocation of 160 billion drachmas to the bank in the form of shares of state firms currently held by the Public Securities Agency.

    The allocation would be used to settle the debts of agricultural cooperatives, he said.

    Under an existing agreement, the state would also issue convertible bonds worth 200 billion drachmas in coming months. The proceeds would be used to boost Agricultural Bank of Greece's share capital, the minister said.

    The paper would be convertible into the bank's shares when it entered the bourse, probably towards the end of the year, he added.

    [17] Bonds shrug off rate cut

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Players in the secondary bond market on Wednesday brushed off a cut earlier in the day in key central bank intervention rates, traders said.

    The market was unmoved after already discounting the decline with sellers more prominent than buyers in parts of the session. Turnover nosed up.

    The benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 6.59 percent, taking the yield spread over German bunds to between 105 and 108 basis points, unchanged from the previous session.

    Turnover through the central bank's electronic system was 110 billion drachmas, slightly up on the previous day. Of the total, sell orders were roughly equal to buy orders.

    Drachma gains vs. euro, dollar: The drachma gained momentum against the euro and the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market on Wednesday.

    At the central bank's daily fixing, the euro was set at 331.480 drachmas from 331.660 drachmas a day earlier.

    Also at the fixing, the dollar ended at 330.700 drachmas from 330.810 drachmas in the previous session.

    [18] French-Greek consortium bid for Egyptian cement company

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greece's Titan and France's Lafarge cement companies have jointly bid for a stake of between 40 and 76 percent in the Egyptian Ameriyah Cement company, offering from $177 million to $335 million through the Cairo Stock Exchange, Titan officials said during a presentation at the Union of Institutional Investors on Wednesday.

    Each company offered half the amount in the bid, submitted on Tuesday.

    Ameriyah Cement's newly constructed factory in the Alexandria area has an annual production capacity of 2.3 million tones. The company recorded a turnover of more than $130 million in 1999 and after-tax profits of $42 million. The deadline for submission of bids is February 1.

    Titan and Lafarge jointly acquired Egypt's Beni Suef Cement Co., of an annual capacity of 1.4 million tones, in 1999. They recently announced the doubling of the factory's capacity within two years.

    If successful in the Ameriyah bid, the consortium will become Egypt's largest cement producer, with an annual capacity of 5.7 million tones.

    [19] Olympics 2004 committee seeks Australian investors

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    The committee managing the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens on Wednesday called on Australian investors to plough their cash into Greece. At a meeting on the Olympics to be hosted by Athens in 2004 and Sydney in 2000, delegates debated investment opportunities for businesses from both countries and the transfer of Australian know-how on the Games to Greece.

    The Australian Ambassador in Athens, Ross Austin Burns, said the two countries' organizing committees would work to promote bilateral business ties.

    The Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Sports Institute and the Australian Embassy in Athens organized the meeting.

    The Chamber has already set up a department called "Bureau 2004" to act as a link and information provider among companies from the two countries. A similar bureau exists in Sydney.

    [20] Trade mission from Quebec to visit Greece

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    A trade mission from Quebec, Canada, will visit Greece Feb. 7 to 11 for discussions with officials of government and public enterprises, and private business firms. The purpose of the mission is to promote investments and to strengthen commercial ties between the two countries, a Canadian Embassy press release said on Wednesday.

    The mission will be led by Minister for Industry and International Trade for Quebec Guy Julien. Participants of this mission are senior executives of Quebec's companies specializing in a variety of sectors including high technology and telecommunications, multimedia, food products, shipping, environment, lumber, furniture, construction, engineering, marketing, services and legal affairs.

    Mission members will discuss possibilities of high technology transfers, joint ventures and sales of their products and services with members of government, public enterprises and the private sector, both in Athens and in Thessaloniki.

    Many of the participants have expressed an interest in working with Greek firms in view of the Athens Olympics in 2004, as well as on other upcoming infrastructure projects.

    Further information is available from the Canadian Embassy, Commercial Division, Tel: 727-3353 or the office of the Honorary Consul for Canada in Thessaloniki, Tel: (031) 256350.

    [21] Plovdiv business delegation meets with Thessaloniki counterparts

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    A business delegation from Plovdiv, Bulgaria, headed by President of the Trade and Industrial Chamber of the city Dobrina Prodanova, visited Thessaloniki on Wednesday.

    The delegation met with officials of the Thessaloniki Trade and Industrial Chamber (EBETH) and discussed venues for cooperation of the two chambers.

    Prodanova requested the support of EBETH in the increase of border crossings between the two countries and facilitation in visa issuing for business visits to Greece, adding that they are two important elements to facilitate exchanges between the two countries.

    On his part, EBETH President Haralampos Gountoulakis noted that "Greek and Bulgarian businessmen have the preconditions for cooperation ready supplementing each other for their common benefit".

    [22] Gov't to introduce minimum guaranteed income

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Labor and Social Security Minister Miltiades Papaioannou said on Wednesday that a minimum guaranteed income would be introduced as part of the government's policy of combatting poverty.

    The new minimum income will be defined as the lowest amount needed to ensure survival, Papaioannou told a new year celebration at the National Labor Institute. Eligible to receive support will be workers, the unemployed and pensioners who fall below the minimum income level to be set, he said.

    Payments will be funded from the budget: Minimum income is a supplementary measure to reduce poverty, and will not replace the minimum wage, unemployment benefit and minimum pensions, Papaioannou said.

    The National Labor Institute will carry out a study on implementing the measure that is due for completion by the end of May at the soonest, he added.

    [23] Balkan premiers to declare trans-border reserve

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    The prime ministers of Greece, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will declare a 'Balkans Park' in the area of Lake Prespes on February 2, it was announced on Wednesday.

    The park will extend into the territory of the three countries and will constitute a large, integrated natural reserve, Deputy Environment Minister Theodoros Koliopanos told a news conference.

    February 2 has been chosen as the date of the declaration of the 'Balkan Prespes Park' because it is also the international day for wetlands.

    The three premiers will issue a joint proclamation on the day which will set out a series of activities aimed at maintaining the quality of the waters of the lakes, protecting wildlife and bio-diversity, the need to develop an integrated and sensitive approach to tourism in the area and the improvement, maintenance and promotion of traditional architecture and Byzantine and post-Byzantine monuments in the region.

    The environment, town planning and public works ministry has spent months on getting agreement to declare the Lake Prespes area, one of the most important wetlands in Greece and the surrounding area, a nature reserve.

    [24] Simitis announces bill on training for handicapped people

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis announced on Wednesday that the Education Ministry would table a bill in parliament soon, which will be providing training for handicapped people.

    Speaking in parliament in response to a relevant question by ruling socialist PASOK party Deputy Lambros Kanellopoulos, Simitis said the bill promoted modern tutorial and social conceptions regarding equal opportunities, accession and the right to be different.

    The bill anticipated the enactment of diagnosis, evaluation and support centers for handicapped people in prefectures all over the country, which will be manned by specialized staff.

    A scientific special training body will also be created at the ministry and emphasis will be placed on vocational training, while new technologies will be made available.

    [25] Social benefits not enough to meet demographic problem, Simitis says

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Social benefit policies are not enough to confront the demographic problem of the country, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Wednesday, addressing Parliament.

    Greek families have fewer children not because of lack of money, but because of lack of time to provide care for them since both parents work, Simitis said in answer to a relevant question by a main opposition New Democracy deputy.

    Simitis stressed that the government aims at providing incentives to couples to bear children by facilitating the conditions of family life.

    Social benefits are not a cure, he said, adding that the government is promoting policies to support working mothers which include, for instance, longer hours for kindergarten schools and the creation of new ones.

    Specifically, he said that 77 new such schools are presently under construction, 15 more are planned and the construction of another 130 was included in the 3rd Community Support Framework of the European Union.

    [26] Program for upgrading quality of life for Gypsies

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    The Ministry of the Interior announced on Wednesday that it would allocate this year the sum of one billion drachmas in a program for upgrading the quality of life for Gypsies throughout the country. The issue was discussed at a meeting held at a central Athens hotel by the Panhellenic Network for the Support of Greek Gypsies and attended by ministry officials and network members from 49 municipalities throughout the country.

    The aim of the ministry and the municipalities is to create spaces for cultural activities for Gypsies living in urban areas and the creation of an organized infrastructure for housing, water supply, drainage and hygiene for Gypsies living in rural areas.

    The Ministry of the Interior has already spent two billion drachmas over the past two years for the program to improve the quality of life for Gypsies in Greece.

    [27] Group claims responsibility for security van torching

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    The "Anarchist Faction" group on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the torching of a private security company van earlier in the day.

    An unidentified caller telephoned private FLASH radio station and claimed, on behalf of the group, the 1: 00 a.m. torching of a van belonging to the private security company ADT as it was parked in the Brahami suburb of Athens.

    Police said unknown persons doused the van with a flammable liquid and then set fire to it, causing some 500,000 dr. in damage to the vehicle.

    [28] President Stephanopoulos awards metals

    Athens, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Wednesday awarded medals to bankers, academics, artists and philanthropists for their contribution to Greek society and culture. Those honored were: Bank of Greece governor Loukas Papademos, National Bank of Greece governor Theodoros Karatzas, Philosophy professor Evangelos Moustopoulos, President of the Oncologist Society Ioannis Garas, painter Alexandros Fasianos, NATO International Secretariat employee Spyros Filippas and philanthropist Angeliki Anagnostopoulou.

    [29] Optimism voiced over Greek distinctions in Sydney Olympics

    MELBOURNE, 27/01/2000 (ANA)

    Greek athletes will produce impressive performances at the Olympic Games in Sydney this year and will attempt to win a record number of medals, Athletics General Secretary Yiannis Sgouros said on Wednesday.

    Sgouros, who was in Sydney with the Greek Olympic Weightlifting team, believes that the Greek successes will surpass all previous Olympiads.

    He underlined that the athletes will give their very best, to honor Greece and make proud the members of the Greek community in Australia.

    "It is imperative that we succeed for another reason: the next Olympiad, in 2004, will be held in Athens and the better we do in Sydney, the more so Greeks will be interested to be present at the Games in Athens," Sgouros underlined.

    Christos Iakovou, coach of the weightlifting team who said that the eight-member team would strive for medals, also expressed optimism. Iakovou added that there were realistic chances of the Greek weightlifters winning four gold medals.

    Iakovou said that the athletes were training in Sydney and this will help them to distinguish themselves at the Olympiad in September.

    Speaking on behalf of the weightlifters, Pyrros Dimas, who also won gold medals in the Weightlifting World Championships in Melbourne some years ago, said: "We all have the best memories from the welcome we received by the Hellenism of Melbourne. I believe we were worthy of their support. This time, in Sydney, we will strive to have better performances and I hope that again the Greek community will be at our side."

    Dimas said he felt well and his aim was another two gold medals in Olympiads, this year in Sydney and in 2004 in Athens.

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