|Monday, 27 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-05-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 EU Commission recommends Greece as euro-zone's 12th member
BRUSSELS, 04/05/2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)The European Commission on Wednesday announced that it was recommending Greece as eligible to join the 'euro-zone' as its 12th member.
Pedro Mira Solbes, the EU Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, presented the Commission's assessment report on the Greek economy to the European Parliament's committee of economic and monetary affairs.
In his address, the Spanish commissioner underlined the progress made by the Greek economy and noted that Greece now fulfilled all EMU convergence criteria, adding that membership should begin by January 1, 2001.
European Central Bank vice-president Christian Noyer, filling in for president Wim Duisenberg, also emphasized Greece's economic progress although he stressed the need for measures to limit public debt and to promote structural changes in the economy.
Commission's report positive, Papantoniou says:
The European Commission's recommendation to the European Council and the EU Finance Ministers' Council is positive and includes no calls for structural changes or anything else, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said on Wednesday in Athens.
Papantoniou said the Greek government "has announced its economic program, period".
"Our program will benefit all consumers, as the liberalization of the power, energy and telecommunication markets will lead to lower prices," he said.
Commenting on the pressures faced by the single European currency in international foreign exchange markets, Papantoniou said that its current weakness could facilitate the Union's policies, namely, those aimed at speedier economic growth and social cohesion.
Papantoniou said he was "very satisfied" with the European Commission's recommendation and insisted that it included no calls for further measures.
Commenting on the European Central Bank's assessment report on the Greek economy, he said it resembled other international institutions' reports and that it included notifications.
"We, however, have given our responses, even on the issue of privatizations, through our policy statement," Papantoniou said.
He stressed that Greece was entering EMU on its own merits, fulfilling all convergence criteria, with the inflation rate in March at 2.0 percent, down from a criterion of 2.4 percent; the fiscal deficit at 1.6 percent of GDP, compared with a criterion of 3.0 percent; and long-term interest rates at 6.4 percent, against a criterion of 7.2.
Papantoniou stressed that the European Commission's report underlined that Greece has achieved a high rate of sustainability in macro-economic figures.
"Our country has covered four times more distance than the 11 founding members of the euro in the last six years, and Greece will participate simultaneously in the official circulation of the euro currency on January 1, 2002," he said.
 ECB questions sustainability of Greek economic progress
BRUSSELS, 04/05/2000 (ANA-B.Demiris)The Greek economy's performance has improved but doubts remain about the sustainability of progress made, European Central Bank (ECB) Vice-Chairman Christian Noyer said on Wednesday.
Outlining the ECB's report on the domestic economy in terms of the country's bid for euro-zone entry on January 1, 2001, Noyer said Greece met the Maastricht Treaty's five criteria for membership.
At the same time, he told the European parliament's financial and monetary committee, the ECB had qualms about sustainability and urged strict fiscal discipline, a tight incomes policy and the implementation of structural reform.
The country's harmonized inflation rate was 2.0 percent, lower than the EU's 2.4 percent reference point, inflation had shown a declining trend, and price stability had so far been attained.
But inflationary pressures were feared due to an anticipated slackening of monetary policy linked to declining interest rates, and wage rises should therefore be contained, Noyer said.
In addition, the budget's primary surplus needed to rise in coming years, he added.
Commission's OK for Greek euro entry gets mixed response: European Union Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou on Wednesday welcomed the Commission's decision to back Greek entry into the 11-member euro zone.
She said the recommendation followed a detailed and objective analysis of Greece's economy, which concluded that the country had attained a high level of sustainable convergence with the EU's other members.
The main opposition New Democracy party said it welcomed the Commission's report on the economy, as its content confirmed the party's view that the government had attained merely nominal alignment through artificial means of raising taxation and keeping lending rates high.
According to the Communist Party of Greece, the Commission's report embellished the real state of the economy and concealed the fact that the brunt of membership of the euro zone would be borne by working people.
The Coalition of the Left and Progress charged that real economic convergence -as opposed to nominal - had not been attained and should become the government's priority, along with social equity.
 Cyprus dominates NY talks between Papandreou, Albright, Cem
NEW YORK, 04/05/2000 (ANA - M. Georgiadou)The long-standing Cyprus problem apparently dominated a half-hour trilateral meeting Greek Foreign Minister held here Tuesday evening with his US and Turkish counterparts, Madeleine Albright and Ismail Cem.
While Cyprus and the recent improvement in Greek-Turkish relations were discussed, Papandreou also told reporters afterwards that he brought up the issue of a recent US State Department report on terrorism and its accompanying negative portrayal of Greek anti-terrorist efforts in earlier talks he held separately with Albright.
"I touched on the issue by saying that I consider the image painted by the (State Department) report, even though it attempts to be descriptive, as unfairly portraying reality; the reality of our country, a country with security, which makes efforts to combat the problem (of terrorism)," he said, adding that both he and
Albright agreed, however, over the need for further cooperation on the issue.
Papandreou met with Albright for approximately 25 minutes before Cem joined the two top officials.
Returning to the Cyprus issue, Papandreou said afterwards that "I consider that it (meeting) was a very significant opportunity for our country to showcase the Cyprus problem in light of developments, not just the two rounds of proximity talks that have preceded, but the third round as well, which is expected to start in a few weeks ... It (Cyprus issue) is a significant issue for us, whose positive outcome will definitely contribute to furthering Greek-Turkish rapprochement."
Asked whether any sign of a change in Ankara's stance vis-a-vis Cyprus was noted, or whether Washington offered to mediate in any of the differences separating Greece and Turkey regarding the island republic, the Greek minister said:
"Indeed, there is interest on the part of the US side for a solution to the Cyprus problem," he said, adding that Albright conveyed what she called US President Bill Clinton's "personal interest" to follow and "contribute in any way possible to a resolution of the matter".
"I can't gauge Turkey's stance, in a few days, though, we'll have the third round (of proximity talks); we'll see Mr. (Rauf) Denktash's (the Turkish Cypriot leader) position and we'll draw our conclusions," Papandreou added.
Among others, the Greek FM said he also discussed developments in the Balkans, and especially Kosovo, with his Turkish counterpart, stressing that the opinions of countries in the region "must be reckoned in any decisions taken."
Meanwhile, diplomatic circles in New York offered an opinion late Tuesday evening over the trilateral meeting, saying that a continuing impasse in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem will have a negative impact on the recently improved level of Greek-Turkish relations.
The same sources said Washington is aware of Athens' concerns over a lack of progress to solve the 26-year problem and shares the Greek side's view on possible repercussions from yet another unproductive round of proximity talks. The next round of proximity talks is scheduled for May 23.
Finally, diplomatic sources said Albright emphasized the need for interested parties to begin dealing with the substance of the problem, while Cem reportedly said that "Turkey is seriously preparing for the third round of proximity talks," without however, going into details.
 Greek, Turkish FMs receive award in New York
NEW YORK, 04/05/2000 (ANA - M. Georgiadou)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem were awarded the East-West Institute's "Statesman of the Year Award" late Tuesday, local time.
The institute decided to award Papandreou and Cem for their "courageous and exemplary cooperation in the building of peace", as the two men led the Greek-Turkish rapprochement, since the Aug. 17 earthquake in Istanbul and the Sept. 7 earthquake in Athens.
The award ceremony took place during the investment conference "Moving towards an integrated Europe: Investment opportunities in Southeastern Europe", organized by the East-West Institute on that same day.
Along with the two foreign ministers, Greece's EKAM and Turkey's AKUT, search and rescue units, were also awarded for their efforts to rescue survivors in both neighboring countries.
Former Finnish president Marti Ahtisaari delivered the opening address, as one of the institute's presidents, recognising the efforts of the two foreign ministers in promoting peace, stability and cooperation in southeastern Europe and the Balkans.
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright addressed the agreements signed between Greece and Turkey and the respect the two countries have shown for neighboring peoples.
She also recognized the contribution of Greece and Turkey in the Kosovo crisis, while addressing the Cyprus problem she said "the US will continue to make every effort for a substantive solution of the problem".
On his part, European Union high representative on foreign and security affairs Javier Solana called Papandreou and Cem "two great Europeans", and calling attention to his personal experiences with the two men he recognized them as "model political leaders of the century".
In his acceptance speech, Papandreou stressed the "new spirit" that has developed between Greece and Turkey, expressing the hope that it will aid the resolution of the Cyprus problem.
He underlined the decisiveness of the Greek government and personally that of Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis to continue toward improving the relations between the two countries and thanked the institute for the award in the "name of the Greek people".
He dedicated the award to the peoples of the two countries and hailed the effectiveness of what he called the "diplomacy of citizens."
Cem, on his part, addressed "the enormous solidarity shown during the earthquakes by both sides" and the effect of this solidarity in formulating a new relationship.
"We have translated verbatim the hopes of our people (and turned them) into action, having stopped the cold war between us and creating a climate of detente," Cem said.
The event was attended by American academics, politicians, businessmen and Greek American Church leaders, while outside the building several tens of Greek ex-patriates protested against the illegal occupation of Cyprus' north by Turkey, calling the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from the island republic as a necessary precondition for consolidating Greek-Turkish friendship.
 Papandreou says rapprochement between Greece and Turkey constitutes cornerstone for security in Balkans
NEW YORK, 04/05/2000 (ANA - M. Georgiadou)Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Tuesday evening that rapprochement between Greece and Turkey constitutes a cornerstone for security in the Balkans and a guarantee for the security of investments.
Addressing an event organized by the East-West Institute on SE Europe, Papandreou expressed satisfaction because, as he said, for the first time in centuries political leaders from all of southeastern Europe appear united.
He said this fact showed that the leaderships of countries in the region have understood the need to overcome the negative past and are heading for a future of prosperity and peace at full speed.
"I believe we are entering a period of radical changes. Democratic institutions are being strengthened with the assumption of power by governments elected by peoples, while regional cooperation is proceeding with leaps and the international community unreservedly supports the Stability Pact's new strategy which will lead the region to the path towards its accession to the European Union's wider family. Hard work, long-term investments and the improvement of infrastructures will certainly provide considerable and concrete results," he said, adding that the Stability Pact "is a sincere effort to handle the region's problems with unified and integrated methods, without bias, creating the preconditions for the region's incorporation in the EU."
Papandreou said "I notice new self-confidence in the region" and referred to the example of Greece, which, from a developing economy, now has a developed economy, which is considerable success for the Greek government and an important investment for the generations to come.
"Greece is enjoying the longest period of democratic stability in its recent history while, being a member of the EU and NATO, it is on the threshold of its accession to Economic and Monetary Union," he said.
"At present, our relations with our neighbors are different. Instead of the confrontations and wars of the past, we have now realized that our national interest dictates cooperation and the offering of aid to our neighboring countries. Over 3,500 Greek companies are investing and functioning in the Balkans at present and our government is also cooperating very closely with our neighboring countries, offering its experience in their effort to join the EU," he said and referred as an example to its cooperation with Bulgaria, Romania and recently Turkey.
Albright outlines US interest in SE Europe, cites recent Greek-Turkish cooperation: In a speech at the same event, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reiterated Washington's interest in SE Europe noting that "Europe will always be in danger as long as its southeastern portion is in a belligerent state".
The US official also referred to the highly touted Stability Pact for the Balkans, emphasizing that Greece and Turkey have decisively contributed to stability in the region and SE Europe's prospects.
Along these lines, she made specific reference to the efforts of the Greek and Turkish foreign ministers, George Papandreou and Ismail Cem, respectively.
Referring to Serbia, Albright simply conveyed what she called Washington's hope that Belgrade will "follow the path" towards democratization, thereby becoming eligible for participation in the Stability Pact.
At one point she also referred to NATO's military operations in the Balkans, saying that with "NATO's assistance the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo ceased, and the regional leaders signed an official pact ... in order to exchange the region's chronic instability with full membership in the Euro-Atlantic community.
"The United States welcomes this development, because the last century has taught us that America cannot feel safe as long as Europe is in danger; and Europe will always be in danger as long as its southeastern portion is in a belligerent state," she added in her address.
Cem remarks: Speaking at the same venue, Cem stressed what he called the latest business initiatives in the Balkans as well as their role in promoting optimistic prospects for the region, "even more than political", as he noted.
In touching on Turkey's "Ottoman connection", Cem said his countrymen share six centuries of history with the rest of the Balkan nations, before noting that Turkish investments in the region stand at $1.2 billion and projected to top the $1.5 billion mark by the end of the year. He added that trade with Greece totalled $700 million in 1999, while forwarding an ambitious forecast of $5 billion in bilateral trade between Athens and Ankara by the year 2005.
Finally, the Turkish foreign minister said recent political contacts between Greece and Turkey contributed to a more secure environment for investments in the Balkans, "as we've left a period of political conflicts and entered one of cooperation, which offers both countries and the Balkans, in general, huge economic opportunities."
 Cyprus problem should be seen independent of Aegean, Turkish PM says
ANKARA, 04/05/2000 (ANA - A. Ambatzis)Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said on Wednesday that "for the time being there has been no encouraging step on the part of Greece for peaceful dialogue on the issues of the Aegean."
In a statement in Ankara and referring to "the issues of the Aegean", Ecevit spoke of the continental shelf, territorial waters and "other rights concerning the sea" and claimed that problems should be resolved through dialogue and not by resorting to law courts.
Ecevit expressed satisfaction over "the climate of dialogue between Turkey and Greece", adding that "no step has been taken on the problem of the Aegean which is the most sensitive."
"The problem of the Aegean is multidimensional. On the one hand (there are the issues of) the continental shelf, territorial waters and other rights concerning the seas and on the other the issue of security, the demilitarization of the islands and other things," he said, adding that "there has been no step on the part of Greece" and that "they are issues of vital importance."
Ecevit said that "the great majority of coastal countries have resolved problems between them concerning territorial waters and airspace, not through courts of law, but through dialogue."
He referred to talks he had in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1978 with the then Greek Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis, saying that "we had agreed then that the problem of the Aegean should not be resolved through a law court but through a dialogue."
Ecevit said he has hopes on the issue of the Aegean, but added that "we should be reserved and careful."
On the question of Cyprus, Ecevit said "it should be examined independently from the problem of the Aegean" and reiterated the view that "there are two communities and a solution can only be found through dialogue between the two communities."
 Slovakian president due
Athens, 04/05/2000 (ANA)The President of the Republic of Slovakia, Rudolf Schuster arrives here on May 8 for a two-day official visit, following an invitation from his Greek counterpart Costis Stephanopoulos, the presidential office announced on Wednesday.
He will be accompanied by Mrs. Schuster.
 Government says freedom of the press is tantamount to democracy
Athens, 04/05/2000 (ANA)Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said on Wednesday, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, that freedom of the press is tantamount to democracy and respect for the citizen.
Reppas said that Greece defends the independent, objective and unimpeded functioning of the mass media and is proud that it has achieved an enviable level of press freedom.
"We honor journalists for the function they are exercising," he said.
Main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos, on the same occasion, said in an announcement that protecting and strengthening freedom of the press, and safeguarding and supporting objectivity, impartiality and fullness in broadcasting information and news from radio and TV even more so, constitute a constitutional commitment of all for the qualitative upgrading of the functions of public life and the shielding and substantive strengthening of the quality of democracy.
Spiliotopoulos further said that the Greek constitution safeguards freedom of the press and imposes objectivity, impartiality and quality in radio and TV broadcasts. He added that the greatest possible response to constitutional mandates is a claim of public opinion and the journalistic world and an imperative obligation of the state.
Spiliotopoulos said that the invasion by TV of the sector of information and the promotion of views, positions and ideas has substantively changed factors created during the period of printed journalism, adding that new wider possibilities exist at present but new problems have also appeared.
 Greek stocks remain rangebound
Athens, 04/05/2000 (ANA)Equity prices ended Wednesday's highly volatile session slightly higher on the Athens Stock Exchange with the general index unable to break the 4,400 level for the second time this week.
Traders said the market ignored a positive recommendation by the European Commission on Greece's bid to join the euro zone.
The general index ended at 4,381.14 points, up 0.30 percent, off the day's highs of 4,431.90 and the day's lows of 4,330.75 points. Turnover was an improved 110 billion drachmas. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended at 2,465.21 points, up 0.17 percent and the FTSE/ASE 40 index fell 0.14 percent to 581.40 points.
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended at 740.27 points, off 1.26 percent.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 231 to 102 with another 15 issues unchanged.
Altec, Hellenic Telecoms, National Bank and Techniki Olympiaki were the most heavily traded stocks.
Derivatives prices end lower on ADEX: Derivatives prices ended lower in subdued trade on Wednesday reflecting a mixed appearance in the two benchmark indices, FTSE/ASE 20 and FTSE/ASE 40.
A total of 1,648 futures contracts were traded, worth 6.0 billion drachmas, of which 938 contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 index, with a turnover of 4.4 billion drachmas. The May expiring contract ended at 2,427.50 points, the June at 2,435.50, the July at 2,457 and the September contract at 2,500 points.
A total of 710 futures contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 40 index, worth 1.6 billion drachmas. The May expiring contract ended at 557.75 points, the June at 556 and the July contract at 570 points.
Bonds drop, overshadowed by euro's decline: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market fell in moderate trade on Wednesday, tracking a decline in German bonds fuelled by the euro's decline.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 6.21 percent from 6.15 percent a day earlier and 6.01 percent on Thursday, the last trading session before the Greek Orthodox Easter holiday.
The paper's yield spread over German bunds was 82 basis points from 80-82 basis points in the previous session and 81 basis points on Thursday.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 98 billion drachmas from 48 billion drachmas a day earlier and 83 billion drachmas before Easter.
Of Wednesday's total, sell orders accounted for the whole of turnover.
Drachma creeps up vs. euro, dives vs. dollar: The drachma on Wednesday edged up against the euro and dropped sharply against the rampant US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market.
At the central bank's daily fixing, the euro was set at 336.030 drachmas from 336.240 drachmas a day earlier and 336.100 drachmas on Thursday, the last trading session before Easter.
Also at the fixing, the US dollar was set at 373.830 drachmas from 369.450 drachmas in the previous session and 365.400 drachmas on Thursday.
Mutual funds' assets fell 3.0 percent in April: Greece's mutual funds' assets totalled 11.527 trillion drachmas in April, down 3.0 percent from the previous month and 3.12 percent lower compared with a total of 11.933 trillion at the start of the year, Institutional Investors Union figures showed on Wednesday.
A Union report attributed this negative development to a turmoil on the Athens Stock Exchange in the period before and after the general elections.
April's lower figures reflected a 832 billion drachmas decline in domestic equity mutual funds' assets, or a 17.41 percent fall in the month.
The sector's assets, however, remained 5.73 percent higher from January 1, 2000.
International equity mutual funds' assets also fell while bonds mutual funds' assets rose substantially over the same period.
Equity mutual funds' share of the market shrunk to 31.77 percent, while money market mutual funds raised their share to 45.11 percent.
Three new mutual funds were launched in April to a total of 224 in the country.
The report said that with the exception of all equity and combined asset mutual funds, which showed a negative performance so far this year, all other mutual funds' categories were showing net average gains.
Liquidity noses up in March but still below target: Liquidity in the economy measured by the M4N gauge edged up in March against the same period of last year, the Bank of Greece said on Wednesday.
The M4N index rose in March by 4.9 percent year on year against the same month of 1999. Its year-on-year rise was 4.7 percent in February, the central bank said in a statement.
March's increase was below a target range of 5.0-7.0 percent for 2000, the statement added.
Dollar rise brings new fuel price increases: The increasing strength of the US dollar has brought new increases in fuel prices this week.
As of midnight Wednesday and for a week, prices of super and unleaded gasoline will increase by 3.5 drachmas per litre, while the price of heating oil will increase by 1.5 drachmas per litre. On the other hand, the price of diesel will decrease by one drachma per litre.
Following Wednesday's new price adjustments, and compared to the corresponding period last year, super gasoline is 20.4 percent more expensive, unleaded 21.8 percent, diesel 28.1 percent and heating oil 28.9 percent more expensive.
 Crete Plastics launches joint venture in China
Athens, 04/05/2000 (ANA)Crete Plastics announced on Wednesday that it had signed an agreement with Shanghai San Hua Film Plant to set up a joint venture in China.
Crete Plastics said that under terms of the deal, signed in Shanghai, the Greek firm and its Taiwan associates would hold 80 percent of the joint venture and the Chinese company the remaining 20 percent.
The joint venture named Shanghai HiTeC Plastics Co. Ltd planned to invest 10 million US dollars in order to produce plastic sheeting for greenhouses and other agricultural applications using the Greek firm's know-how. The plant is to be located in China.
 Car & motor exhibition to open its doors in Thessaloniki
Athens, 04/05/2000 (ANA)The three-day Car & Motor Accessories & Hi-Fi Show 2000 is set to begin on May 12 at the Thessaloniki International Fair grounds, according to a press release.
More than 80 exhibitors are expected to participate in this three-part event, which is expected to include, a car and motorcycle show, an accessories show and car sound systems' show.
 Prince Charles temporarily stranded on Mount Athos due to rough seas
Athens, 04/05/2000 (ANA)Britain's Prince Charles is expected to extend his stay on the autonomous Orthodox monastic community of Mount Athos as inclement weather in the area on Wednesday prevented his departure by speedboat.
Charles had arrived on the northern Greece peninsula Tuesday for a brief visit, deciding however, to remain overnight at the renowned Monastery of Vatopedi.
According to reports, winds in the northern Aegean reached the 8 Beaufort mark on Wednesday, leading the local port authority station to ban the sailing of vessels in the vicinity.
Rough seas also forced a luxury yacht owned by Greek shipping tycoon Yannis Latsis to seek shelter elsewhere on the peninsula. The vessel, reportedly carrying Charles' long-time companion Camilla Parker Bowles, had been anchored about 500 meters off Mount Athos' coast, as females are traditionally forbidden from visiting the peninsula -- dedicated for centuries by the Orthodox faith to the Virgin Mary. Charles is on a tour of the Aegean aboard the elderly shipping magnate's yacht.
Although reports on Charles' itinerary remain sketchy, the fact that the Prince of Wales began a tour of other monasteries on Mount Athos in the morning could spell a more extended stay on the peninsula