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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-10-11

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.forthnet.gr/ape>


NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 11/10/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Premier says Greece`s E.U. equitable participation top gov`t priority
  • W.E.U. officials reject claims on Turkey's readiness for full membership
  • General wholesale price indicator increases by 0.2% between July and August
  • Athens metro project back on track
  • Insurance sector decreases
  • Targets to make Greece a transit centre for energy sources

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Greece's equitable participation in European unification, defence of its sovereign rights, social and institutional modernisation as well as a leading role in the Balkans are the basic orientations of the government's policy over the next four years, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said last night in unveiling his government's policy statement in Parliament.

    "The basic axis, the central and uncompromising aim of our policy, is the country's equitable participation in European unification "Our successful response to convergence is not a need that arises from external compulsion...It is a national strategy, which renders Greece competitive in the international division of labour, which secures the development of the economy, which creates the healthy prerequisites for the exercise of effective social policy," he said.

    Mr. Simitis described Turkey as the main factor of destabilisation in the region, nurturing "historically baseless visions of reviving the Ottoman Empire."

    "The status of the Aegean is absolutely clear, and is defined with accuracy by the history of thousands of years and international treaties...Our policy is steady. There is no issue of dialogue with Turkey, which, if it so desires, can have recourse to in ternational adjudication...

    "We shall continue the strategy of diplomatic vigilance and deterrent capability of our armed forces, with their modernisation and upgrading, and the implementation of the joint defence doctrine involving Greece and Cyprus. The Cyprus problem constitutes the first priority of (our) foreign policy," he added.

    Economy

    Turning to the economy, the premier described the fiscal problem as a national issue, and 1997 as an especially crucial year.

    "The further de-escalation of inflation, the trimming of the state sector as a percentage of GDP, as envisaged in the Convergence Programme, the acceleration of the development process and the strengthening of social solidarity, constitute basic aims of our macro-economic policy in the coming years.

    "Fiscal adjustment will not be based on squeezing workers' incomes.

    "The budget and comprehensive macro-economic planning are especially crucial issues for 1997 and the years thereafter. Greece, as other countries, will be judged in the coming years for its participation in Economic and Monetary Union. Our options today will decisively determine when and under what terms we shall participate in EMU," the premier continued.

    Providing a reminder that only interest payments on the national debt represented a greater amount than all the expenses for defence, education, health and welfare together, he reiterated that fiscal rationalisation was the basic prerequisite for Greece 's participation in European decision- making centres.

    Measures call for increasing revenue, reducing waste

    There will be determined intervention in crucial aspects of public finance, he said.

    "First, a clampdown on waste and utilisation of state property. State expenses must correspond to the real needs of society. The functioning of the state must restrict itself to contemporary needs," he said, continuing: "Secondly, interventions in the field of tax exemptions, grants, and subsidies. We shall not accept the perpetuation of privileges and favouritist treatment, which increase social inequality and have no place in a modern and fair taxation system," he continued.

    He said a third intervention will be a fair distribution of the cost among all social classes.

    "The fight against tax evasion and the informal economy will be intesified. Social justice demands this," he stressed.

    Regarding employment, Mr. Simitis said that the development effort would produce 180,000 new jobs until the year 2000.

    Industrial policy would aim at improving competitiveness, and restructuring and strengthening the country's industrial base through support for the creation of new entrepreneurial activities, and modernisation of existing units, particularly small- and medium-size enterprises in high technology fields.

    He added that the policy of privatisation of enterprises would continue, based on the criteria of their viability, reliability of investors, and the safeguarding as many jobs as possible. Such enterprises included large public utilities, such as the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) , the Public Petroleum Corp. (DEP) and smaller state-controlled banks.

    The premier said that modernisation in agriculture, improved marketing, and supports to new farmers would be the main means of promoting dynamism and competitiveness in the sector.

    education, health and environment

    Regarding education, he reiterated that the government's basic principle was "support for state education at all levels, qualitatively upgraded and effective."

    Concerning the health care sector, Mr. Simitis said the National Health System (ESY) would continued to be the government's central option.

    With regard to the environment and the quality of life, measures would include a speeding up of the drafting of a National Land Register, energy- saving schemes and promotion of milder forms of energy, as well as the strengthening of international cooper ation.

    The prime minister said that the task the present government is undertaking is huge, adding that emphasis will be placed on effective administration.

    The debate will continue tomorrow and Saturday, with speeches by all opposition party leaders and several deputies. The session will conclude with a vote of confidence for the government on midnight Saturday.


    Western European Union officials yesterday rejected recent statements by WEU Parliamentary Assembly President Dudley Smith that Turkey should become a full member of the organisation.

    WEU sources said Mr. Smith's comments were "personal opinions" and that Turkey does not meet the most basic preconditions for full membership.

    While Turkey is a member of NATO, it is not a member of the European Union, a prerequisite for full WEU membership. It is currently an associate member of the WEU.

    Mr. Smith, a British Conservative party deputy, whose tenure as president ends in December has previously expressed pro-Turkish sentiments and maintains a home in the Turkish-occupied territory of Cyprus.


    Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos will make an official visit to Belgrade, Zagreb and Sarajevo from Oct. 16-19.

    Mr. Pangalos will be accompanied by a delegation.

    Prehistoric settlement, graveyard discovered

    An eighth millenium B.C. settlement and graveyard, touted as the most significant pre-Cycladic find in the Aegean, have been discovered in the Maroula region on the island of Kythnos.

    According to the 21st Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities Department, portions of a human skeleton were washed ashore last month at the site due to beach erosion.

    Five preneolithic graves were subsequently located in the same region along with the foundations of cyclically designed residences adorned with slate rock floors.

    Remains of habitation during the same period, according to archaelogists, have also been located at the Yioura site on the island of Alonnisos, in the Sporades chain.

    Papandreou inaugurates 'Greek Observatory' at London School of Economics

    Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday inaugurated the "Greek Observatory", the research arm of the new chair of Modern Greek studies at the London School of Economics.

    Speakers at yesterday's event stressed that the Observatory represents a major step in expanding the school's European studies programme, aimed at upgrading research and teaching on all aspects of modern Greece.

    Mr. Papandreou said in statements that it was the government's policy to support the creation of other such chairs of Greek studies abroad.

    "The creation of the Greek Observatory is of special significance, first of all, linking the Greek academic community in Britain with Greece, and providing updating on important developments in the social sciences. Secondly, contributing to a better kn owledge on the part of the British public, academic community and politicians on the problems of the region and Greek positions regarding the Balkans and the Mediterranean, and thirdly, contributing to a cultural bridge between British and Greek universities," he added.


    The general secretariat of the National Statistical Service (ESY) announced yesterday that the general wholesale price indicator for final products increased by 0.2 per cent in August 1996, compared to July 1996, against an increase of 0.4 per cent during the corresponding period in 1995.

    The general indicator increased by 6.2 per cent in August 1996, compared to the general indicator of 1995, against an increase of 6.6 per cent in comparison to the same indicator in 1995.


    Tunnel-drilling work on the Athens Metro will resume in a few days' time, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis announced yesterday, following the settlement of a dispute between the state and the consortium constructing the Athens Metro.

    Mr. Laliotis told a press conference that his meeting with representatives of the "Olympic Metro" consortium on Wednesday had discussed the problems that had arisen and that the two parties had agreed to meet again in a fortnight to evaluate progress.

    He said the suspension of work at four stations would soon be lifted and that he would speed up the process to solve technical problems plaguing work at one of the main stations, on Ermou street.

    The amicable agreement came after some tension between the state and the consortium, with Mr. Laliotis reportedly considering rescinding the contract with the consortium if problems were not ironed out.

    Attiko Metro, which represents the Greek state in the 520-billion-drachma project, issued an announcement last week saying that delays in the execution of the project were due to Olympic Metro, a joint Greek, German and French consortium.

    New Hyatt casino on a winning streak in its first month

    The newly opened Hyatt Regency casino in Thessaloniki posted a gross turnover exceeding the two billion drachmas mark in September, its first month of operation, company president Giorgos Galanakis said yesterday.

    Specifically, he said total revenue reached 2.217 billion drachmas, an average daily of 76.5 million, while average daily attendance was around 3, 600 - the highest in Europe.

    Mr. Galanakis said the state would receive 30 per cent of gross revenues, or about 650 million drachmas.


    Greece's insurance market has decreased by 15 per cent over the past year and, according to representatives of insurance firms, the drop is due to a slowing in the rate of increase for personal insurance policies, which cover about 50 per cent of the nation's insurance market.

    The turnover in the sector amounted to 500 billion drachmas in 1995, while the personal life insurance sector registered a 20 per cent decrease.

    By contrast, the automobile insurance sector increased slightly, while remaining policies remained stable.

    The above figures was announced yesterday by the president of the Union of Insurance Companies of Greece's International Relations Committee, Yiannis Delentes, on the sidelines of the Federation of Insurance Unions of European States' general assembly, which began in Thessaloniki yesterday.

    Mr. Delentes said recent activity in the market is making insurance agents sceptical, adding that insurance agents are concerned over a possible abolition of the tax exemption for insurance premiums.


    Development Minister Vasso Papandreou analysed the economic, diplomatic and political targets of making Greece a transit centre for energy sources transported between western Europe and the Balkans, Russia and Black Sea regions.

    She was speaking yesterday at the Balkan conference of the International Federation of Energy and Chemical Industry Unions.

    Ms Papandreou outlined the steps with which the government is approaching this crucial target, namely, a Greek proposal to the Community for inter- Balkan power networks and pipelines for the transport of petroleum and natural gas.

    In addition, other steps include the creation of an underwater cable linking Greece with Italy; an institutional framework urging the Public Power Corp. (DEH) to establish flexible subsidiaries operating in the Balkans and eastern Europe; completion of a pipeline carrying natural gas from Russia through Bulgaria to Greece with option to extend it to Albania and linkage to Italy; promotion of the proposed Burgas-Alexandroupolis petroleum pipeline as well as acceleration of programmes for utilising renew able sources.

    WEATHER

    Partly cloudy with occasional rainfalls in most parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 15-20C in Athens and 13-19C in Thessaloniki

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE (Buying)

    U.S. dlr 238.378 Can. dlr.176.437, Australian dlr. 187.929, Pound sterling 372.694, Irish punt 382.019, Cyprus pd 511.475, French franc 46.068, Swiss franc 190.266 Belgian franc 7.560, German mark 155.734 Finnish mark 52.114, Dutch guilder 138.835 Danish Kr. 40.654, Swedish Kr. 36.091, Norwegian Kr. 36.599, Austrian Sh. 22.142, Italian lira (100) 15.634 Yen (100) 213.895 Spanish Peseta 1.851, Portuguese Escudo 1.542.

    (C.E.)


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