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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-12-20

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, 20/12/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Farmers march to Athens, gov`t unwavering
  • Simitis says he would never bow to blackmail
  • Stephanopoulos visit to Egypt
  • Wrapping paper furor hits Thessaloniki
  • Transport, Environment projects for Greece approved
  • Bourse approves bonds loan
  • OECD forecasts 3% growth in '97

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Farmers march to Athens

    The government stood its ground as thousands of farmers from all over the country converged on Athens' city centre yesterday in support of their demands, although Prime Minister Costas Simitis again refused to meet them as long as they continued to block roads and rail links.

    More than 100 coaches arrived in Athens at noon with farmers and their families scheduled to attend the rally. Some 5,000 farmers massed outside the agriculture ministry building, shouting slogans and expressing their determination to continue their protests until they are vindicated.

    Farmers want lower fuel prices, higher price supports and US$1.3 billion in debts rescheduled, however, the government has maintained that it has no money to give.

    The rally began with speeches by members of the farmers' coordinating committee of Thessaly, who attacked the government for its handling of the situation, accusing it of intransigence.

    Thousands of farmers have blocked national roads for 23 days with tractors, causing a transportation chaos and inflicting more than $100 million in damages on the economy.

    Many barricades have come down in recent days and farmers in some regions have lost heart, but blockades on the north-south motorway in the Thessaly region have stayed in place, virtually cutting the country in two.

    Meeting with Tzoumakas

    Farmers' representatives said later that a two-hour meeting with Agriculture minister Stephanos Tzoumakas had been fruitless. They claimed none of the six demands they had put forward had been accepted, adding that the only thing which the government promised them was 12 billion drachmas from the European Union as compensation for farmers whose crops or installations were damaged by recent bad weather.

    In contrast, the minister described the meeting as substantive, adding that farmers had been fully briefed on the 12 million drachma compensation sum approved by the European Commision.

    Simitis says he would never bow to `blackmail`

    The government is not opposed to Greece's farmers but only to a few of them, Prime Minister Costas Simitis was quoted yesterday as stating during an interview with the popular monthly magazine "Nitro". He said that he would rather "go home" instead of bowing to protesting farmers' demands.

    "There are millions of farmers in Greece but only 3,000 farmers have taken the streets," Mr. Simitis said, sending a clear message to farmers blockading the country's roads for 22 days, demanding higher subsidies, lower taxes and cheaper fuel.

    "My job is to spread the available money in a socially just way and that is why we must struggle not to succumb to blackmail," he said.

    Mr. Simitis has rejected all demands, saying Greece had no money to give and must catch up with its European Union partners.

    Stephanopoulos visit to Egypt

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos begins a four-day official visit to Egypt today, at the invitation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

    The Greek president will meet Mr. Mubarak in Cairo at noon tomorrow for talks expected to focus on bilateral relations between Athens and Cairo, the Middle East and Greek national issues.

    President Stephanopoulos, who will visit Luxor and Alexandria, as well will also have contacts with members of the ethnic Greek community in Egypt.

    The PNO's executive committee later decided to extend the strike for a further 24 hours.

    It is now scheduled to end at 6 a.m. local time on Saturday, although a further extension of strike action cannot be ruled out.

    Meanwhile, scuffles in Piraeus yesterday between striking seamen and truck drivers resulted in one man's death.

    The scuffles broke out when drivers tried to board the "Vicenzos Kornaros" ferry boat with their vehicles and were opposed by striking seamen.

    Wrapping paper furor hits Thessaloniki

    A design for paper used for wrapping meat and fish has divided the world of arts and letters in Thessaloniki just days before the northern port city officially assumes its one-year term as Cultural Capital of Europe.

    The furor has been caused by plans of the art department of the city's Cultural Capital Organisation to print and distribute wrapping paper with lines from the works of celebrated Greek poets alongside catch-phrases commonly used by contemporary Greek youth such as "... don't bug me."

    Proponents of the paper, which has lines from the poetry of Nobel laureates George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis, describe the concept as a "public, literary rave or happening" which brings the popular masses closer to literature.

    However, a number of prominent literary figures in Thessaloniki have expressed strong opposition, saying literature and its creators should be treated with greater respect.

    EU approves transport, environment projects for Greece

    The European Commission has approved the sums of Ecu324.1 and 88.9 million for projects in Greece in the transport and environmental sectors, respectively.

    The funds are to be provided through the EU's Cohesion Fund, and will cover in most cases between 85 and 90 per cent of the total cost of such projects.

    The transport sector projects include two plans aiming to improve transportation from various outlying areas to the centre of Athens with the contruction of a new railway line to Corinth (Ecu140 million), and of a railway carriage sorting station west of the capital. The projects are estimated to significantly reduce the journey time between Athens to Patra, and from Patra to Thessaloniki.

    The transport projects also include the Patra- Athens - Thessaloniki highway, which is to be funded with Ecu74.4 million.

    The environmental projects concern drainage, biological waste treatment plants and the Evinos River dam.

    Bourse approves bonds loan

    The board of the Athens Stock Exchange has approved the entry into the bourse of a bonds loan amounting to 20 billion drachmas by the International Reconstruction and Development Bank at its board meeting yesterday.

    The board also approved the papers concerning an increase in the share capital of the insurance company "European Reliance AEGA", to enable it to join the main market of the bourse.

    Another issue examined was the prolonged rise in the ELBIEMEK company's shares. The company was called on to explain possible substantive events justifying the continuous rise.

    OECD forecasts 3 per cent growth in '97

    Greece will have a growth rate near 3 per cent in 1997 but is in danger of maintaining an increased public deficit, high inflation and unemployment as well as a drop in competitiveness, an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report stated.

    The report said growth reached 2.5 per cent in 1996, which is higher than the European Union average, following salary increases which precipitated an increase in household consumption, as well as to an increase in public investments supported by EU funds.

    The report noted that inflation stood at 8.5 per cent, higher than the government's convergence target, while efforts to limit the public deficit to 7.6 per cent of GDP in 1996 will be "difficult to attain." Consequently, the target of 4.2 per cent for 1997 is in danger of being missed, according to the OECD, which estimates that the deficit is not expected to be reduced by more than 1.5 per cent next year.

    The report also refers to "uncertainties" which exist concerning a reduction in interest rates and the rate of de-escalation of inflation, despite the declared intention of the government to persist with its "hard drachma" policy.

    Bendit urges radical chane in anti-drug policies

    Green Eurodeputy and former leftist firebrand Daniel con Bendit urged adoption of a European Union anti-prohibition policy in relation to drug substances and legalisation of so-called "soft" drugs, as well as the free provision of "hard" ones or their sub stitutes under strict medical control.

    Mr. Bendit made his proposal in a speech at the Athens Economic University (ASOEE) yesterday.

    Mr. Bendit referred to official figures outlining the magnitude of the development of the illegal drugs trade. Its annual turnover amounts to $US500 billion, with the price of substances being 1,700 times greater than their purchae value from Third World farmers.

    "Mobilise as many armies as you like. Only 10 per cent of drug trafficking is seized and the sole thing further prosecution will achieve is some sort of an increase in the above percentage with, however, a parallel increase in the price of drugs in the illegal trade as well," he said.

    "The legalisation of 'soft' drugs and implementation of methadone programmes is the sole solution for handling the problem," he said.

    WEATHER

    Rainfall from the western regions will gradually spread to the rest of the country and the northern Aegean later in the day. Athens will be sunny getting cloudy with possible rain at night with temperatures ranging from 10-16C. Thessaloniki will be partly cloudy with temperatures between 8- 13C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    (Closing rates - buying) U.S. dlr. 244.945 Can. dlr. 178.799 Australian dlr. 194.462 Pound sterling 409.398 Irish punt 407.355 Cyprus pd 519.411, French franc 46.598 Swiss franc 183.589 Belgian franc 7.641 German mark 157.460 Finnish mark 52.786 Dutch guilder 140.313 Danish Kr. 41.168 Swedish Kr. 35.702 Norwegian Kr. 37.863 Austrian Sh. 22.380 Italian lira (100) 16.017 Yen (100) 214.867 Spanish Peseta 1.871 Portuguese Escudo 1.560

    (C.E.)


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