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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-12-05

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 05/12/1996 (ANA)


  • Prime minister calls on farmers to end blockade
  • Farmers demand meeting with prime minister
  • Port employees get promise of productivity bonus
  • Athens takes issue with US State dept spokesman's comments
  • US official calls on Greece to enforce copyright laws
  • Quake hits Patras
  • Egypt releases Greek seaman on death row
  • Simitis stresses Greece`s interest in EU`s territorial integrity, external borders
  • Balkan news agency directors arrive in Greece
  • Greece, Bulgaria sign military cooperation agreement


    Simitis urges farmers to end blockade for the sake of the economy

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis today called on protesting farmers to immediately end their eight-day blockade of roads throughout the country, saying it was badly hurting the national economy.

    Simitis said the farmers' action harmed the vital interests of other branches, trampled on citizens' rights and posed a threat to the employment and income of other workers.

    If this type of labour action continues, he warned, it will cause a chain reaction which will be ''paid'' by all taxpayers.

    Stressing that the farmers' resorting to road blockades reflected ''the anti-democratic attitude of a few who believe that with take-overs and anti- social actions they can coerce (the government) into giving them benefits''.

    ''Under no circumstances will the government accept such behaviour,'' Simitis said.

    The farmers' nationwide roadblocks have caused widespread disruption to road and rail traffic throughout the country.

    Farmers' demands include higher produce prices and increased subsidies, favourable debt settlements, cheaper fuel to cut the cost of production and lower prices for fertilizers.

    The government has said that to give in to farmers' demands would cost the state one trillion drachmas.

    By immediately unblocking the national and regional road network, Simitis said, farmers would be serving the common interest and the interests of the country ''for the time has come for all of us to assume our responsibilities''.

    Simitis said the government had responded to farmers' demands with a policy aimed at boosting competitiveness and modernizing Greek agriculture.

    The premier rejected many of the farmers demands as being ''excessive'', underlining that the government could not agree to measures which either nullify its economic policy, create an enormous cost or fail to strengthen development.

    Greece, he said, was waging a battle to participate in European developments so as to avoid being left on the fringes.

    ''The aim of the government's economic policy is precisely this, which is why it will implement it unswervingly and without back-pedalling,'' Simitis said, adding that there was no margin for further expenditures, benefits or assistance.

    ''Decisions which curtail the necessary adjustment may prove to be deadly traps for the country's position and future... which is why social sensitivity necessitates insistence on a policy which is in the interests of the vast majority of the Greek people,'' Simitis said.

    The government, he continued, was given a mandate by the Greek people just two months ago ''and anyone who thinks that their professional aspirations constitute a stronger form of legitimization are challenging the operation of democracy''.

    Simitis concluded by saying that the state must operate with social responsibility, respect for the citizen, with the criterion of safeguarding democratic institutions and the rule that ''nobody is exempt''.

    Farmers demand meeting with prime minister

    Meanwhile, farmers' representatives in Larissa said they wanted a meeting with Simitis to explain the problems in the agricultural sector and rejected any suggestion that their protests were politically motivated.

    Representatives of the farmers' coordinating committee called on farmers to increase the roadblocks, a call apparently heard in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace where all road connections between Greece and Bulgaria and Greece and Turkey have been severed.

    Scores of international transport trucks are now stranded in lines stretching for kilometres on the road to Promachonas on the border with Bulgaria.

    Heated exchanges between stranded truck drivers, unable to go forwards or backwards, and protesting farmers in several instances threatened to develop into violence which was averted with the intervention of the police.

    In a related development, three major industrial units in the prefecture of Larissa have been forced to shut down temporarily due to shortages of fuel or raw materials caused by the farmers' blockades.

    At the same time, a further seven industrial firms which operate on a 24- hour basis are on the verge of shutting down because they have enough fuel for only two more days.

    The problems caused by the farmers' blockades have been particularly felt by big processing enterprises, glassworks and the dairy industry ''Olympos'' which has fuel only until the end of the week.

    Ready-to-wear clothing manufacturers in the prefecture are also facing the threat of closure, while the Larissa long-distance bus company (KTEL) has already incurred losses running into millions of drachmas due to the disruption of services resulting from the farmers' protest action.

    Dockers get promise of productivity bonus

    Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis today conveyed to representatives of striking port employees the assurance of Prime Minister Costas Simitis that they would be given a productivity bonus, one of their main demands.

    Soumakis conveyed the assurance to the board of administration of the Federation of Greek Port Employees (OMYLE), clarifying that the relevant draft law containing the bonus provision was tabled in Parliament today.

    According to informed sources, port workers who have been on strike for the past eight days, welcomed the prime minister's assurance but refused to commit themselves as to whether they would end their action.

    They said the relevant decision would be taken by the OMYLE board which was scheduled to convene later today.

    After talks with Soumakis yesterday, OMYLE members threatened to extend their action to Piraeus' passenger port.

    Athens takes issue with Burns's statements on air space

    The government said today that it totally disagreed with the US position that Greek airspace was only six rather than ten miles, in response to a statement by State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns.

    In a written reply to a Greek reporter in the United States, Burns said the State Department's position on the extent of Greek airspace was identical to that of the Pentagon, which recognizes only six miles.

    ''Greek airspace has, since 1931, been fixed at 10 miles,'' government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, adding that ''Greece protects its sovereign rights within this airspace''.

    ''The Greek position on the issue of airspace remains unchanged,'' Reppas stressed.

    Replying to a question on Burns' statement that the ''Voice of America'' would broadcast from installations in Kavala, northern Greece, the programmes of Serbian radio stations banned by President Slobodan Milosevic, Reppas said:

    ''It is not possible for Greece to be used for unilateral propaganda concerning any issue, let alone if such an action would harm Greek national interests.''

    US official urges Greece to enforce copyright laws

    A U.S. government official today urged enforcement of Greece's 1993 copyright laws and enforcement of the 1995 Media Law to effectively combat piracy of intellectual property rights in Greece.

    Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Joe Papovich, who is currently holding talks in Athens with the Greek government on intellectual property rights piracy, told a press conference that theft of intellectual property products was equally serious as theft of physical properties, as it caused financial loss.

    He said piracy of U.S. intellectual property in Greece was estimated at 66 million dollars last year for the motion picture (TV 60 million dollars and videos 1 million dollars) and music (compositions) industry, another 31 million dollars in losses for the computer programmes industry (10 million dollars in business software, 21 million dollars in entertainment software), and a futher 5 million dollars to the publishing industry (books).

    Piracy, which is the unauthorised broadcasting or distribution of intellectual properties, means no royalties are paid to the owners of the intellectual property rights, causing financial losses.

    Papovich said lax intellectual property rights protection also hurt Greece, as it deterred prospective foreign investors who felt their intellectual property rights would not be adequately protected, as well as the Greek cinemas and video rental shops.

    He noted that small rural television stations were the main culprits, rather than the large stations broadcasting nationwide and the the Athens- based stations.

    Greece was first placed on a ''watch list'' of transgressor countries in 1990, and upped to the ''priority watch list'' at the end of 1994.

    Papovich, who was in Greece two years ago for similar talks with the government, said that since then a major step forward had been taken with the enactment of the August 1995 Media Law, which he said provided a solid basis and effective provisions for protection of intellectual property rights, which included patents and trademarks.

    However, he added, enforcement of that law was negligible, and the problem still remained. Papovich attributed inability to enforce the Media Law to a ''severely understaffed'' National Radio and Television Council.

    Greece, which is a member of the World Trade Organistion (WTO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPOI), the European patent Organisation and a signatory to the more recent TRIPS (Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) agreement among all the developed countries that went into effect at the beginning of the year had obligations to deal effectively with the problem, Papovich said.

    Progress in combatting piracy in Greece would be reviewed by the U.S. administration in mid-December after Papovich reported back to Washington on his talks here, at which time it would be decided whether further steps needed to be taken.

    'Elevation' to what is called a ''Priority Foreign Country'' list -- a list of countries which ''have the most onerous and egregious acts, policies and practives which have the greatest adverse impact on the relevent U.S. products -- could entail trade sanctions such as increased tariffs or quantity restrictions on exports.

    Replying to questions, Papovich said the message he brought was ''We leave it up to the Greek government to act, but we don't want just proclamations, we want action''.

    Quake hits Patras

    An earthquake measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale today shook the prefectures of Achaia and Aetoloakarnania in western Greece but there have been no reports of injuries or structural damage.

    The Seismology Centre of the University of Patras pinpointed the quake, recorded at 09:40 local time, in the sea area of Antirio.

    Egypt releases Greek seaman on death row

    The Egyptian authorities have released, for health reasons, one of three Greek seamen sentenced to death in Egypt on drug smuggling charges, the Greek Ministry of Justice announced today.

    Justice Minister Evangelos Yannopoulos was informed Wednesday of the release of Nikolaos Zekelidis by Egyptian Ambassador in Athens Samir Seif Yazal.

    A Ministry announcement said that Zekelidis' release was ''the result of repeated Greek government and Justice Ministry appeals to the Egyptian government'' and termed it ''an indication of the good relations and close cooperation between the two countries''.

    Zekelidis, Kostas Kastanias and Tassos Kontoyannis were sentenced to death in 1992 convicted of smuggling 7.5 tons of hashish aboard the motorship ''Thanassis'' as it crossed the Suez Canal in October 1989 en route to India.

    Three other crew members, two of them Cypriots, were sentenced to death in absentia, while the ship's captain, Achilleas Badounas, is serving a life sentence in Greece.

    Execution of the death sentence, scheduled for May 1992, was put off after Greek government and Athens Bar Association appeals to Egyptian authorities and their EU counterparts.

    Premier calls for E.U. territorial integrity

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday assured his European Union counterparts of Greece's readiness to contribute to the solution of problems concerning other European peoples, but stressed that solidarity, joint action and cooperation were required towards consolidating the 15- member Union's territorial integrity and the building of a new Europe.

    "I wish to stress the importance attributed by Greek public opinion to the need for our joint action and cooperation to be aimed towards the consolidation of security and the safeguarding of the Union's territorial integrity and its external borders," he said in a letter addressed to the leaders of the other 14 member-states in view of the Dublin summit scheduled for Dec. 12-14.

    He emphasised the burden of the country's foreign affairs problems on its ability to follow the course towards integration.

    "Unfortunately, Greece is facing great difficulties in responding to certain issues of integration. One of the basic causes of these diffculties is the continuing aggressive behaviour of our neighbouring country, Turkey, which remains a factor of desta bilisation in the broader region and threat to Greece`s sovereign rights.

    "This situation inescapably affects Greece's positions and options in a series of other issues. For instance, our obligation to adopt a new armaments programme, which constitutes an additional annual burden exceeding 1 per cent of GDP on a medium-term basis, renders almost impossible the attainment of Maastricht criteria in time. This same cause affects our positions regarding the Inter-Governmental Conference, e.g., on issues of external policy and defence," the prime minister continued.

    He also stated Greece's support for the enlargement of the Union.

    Mr. Simitis stressed that attention must be given to the employment problem, environmental protection, internal security and democracy, as well as equality of member-states in the institutional sector.

    Balkan news agency directors arrive in Thessaloniki

    Directors and representatives of the Balkan news agencies began arriving in Thessaloniki this morning to attend a symposium organised by the Macedonian Press Agency on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the death of Balkan cooperation proponents Alexandros Papanastasiou and Eleftherios Venizelos.

    A number of representatives however arrived late due to problems caused by the roadblocks set up by protesting farmers.

    The director of the Bulgarian news agency arrived in Thessaloniki via Skopje, having been forced to make the detour because of the farmers' roadblock just after the Promachonas border crossing.

    The symposium, which begins officially at 18:00 hours local time today, is on the subject ''Sixty years since the death of Alexandros Papanastasiou - Eleftherios Venizelos. The concept of inter-Balkan cooperation''.

    Greece, Bulgaria sign military cooperation agreement

    The military chiefs of Greece and Bulgaria yesterday signed a bilateral defence cooperation programmes agreement for 1997.

    The agreement was signed by the Chief of the National Defence General Staff, Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis, and his Bulgarian counterpart, Gen. Tsvetan Bladenov Totomirov.

    Gen. Totomirov described the new programme as a continuation of the beneficial cooperation between the armed forces of Greece and Bulgaria, underlining that for the first time it provided for joint exercises with the participation of all military branches.


    Further weather improvement is forecast as of today in most parts of the country with rising temperatures. Strong winds in the Aegean sea will die down. Athens will be partly cloudy with temperatures ranging from 8-16C. Thessaloniki will also be partly cloudy and rainy with temperatures ranging from 6-12C. The rest of the country will be sunny to partly cloudy.


    Closing rates (buying) U.S. dlr 243.159, Can. dlr.179.850, Australian dlr. 194.020, Pound sterling 401.185, Irish punt 402.137, Cyprus pd 516.832, French franc 45.096, Swiss franc 183.852 Belgian franc 7.559, German mark 155.813, Finnish mark 52.219, Dutch guilder 138.880, Danish Kr. 40.716, Swedish Kr. 35.781, Norwegian Kr. 37.359, Austrian Sh. 22.143, Italian lira (100) 15.844, Yen (100) 214.718, Spanish Peseta 1.851, Portuguese Escudo 1.545.


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