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Athens News Agency: News in English, 97-02-18

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, 18/02/1997 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece confident of meeting Maastricht criteria
  • Defence Minister discusses arms issues in Germany
  • EU Commissioner in Athens today
  • Athens to host WEU security seminar
  • Cyprus problem discussed in Brussels and Bonn
  • Greece: Ankara has no say in Cyprus' EU accession
  • Museums remain closed
  • EU assistance for SMEs announced

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Greece confident of meeting Maastricht criteria

    The European Union Council of National Economy Ministers (ECOFIN) convened in Brussels yesterday to examine the course of European economiy issues such as economic growth, Economic and Mone-tary Union and unemployment.

    Greece was represented by National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou.

    National delegations, including Athens', stressed that the "15" should take specific measures to strengthen employment through backing investment initiatives by small- and medium-size enterprises; promotion of inter- European networks and implementation of a more flexible monetary policy by member-states.

    Addressing the session, Mr. Papantoniou outlined the positive performance of the Greek economy which, he said, was recognised by the European Commission in its recent economic report.

    He said that from 14.4 per cent in 1993 the Greek public deficit will decrease to 4.2 per cent of GDP in 1997. Inflation from 12 per cent will drop to 4.5 per cent at the end of the year, while the country's growth rate, negative until recently, will re ach 3.3 per cent of GDP at the end of the year, he noted.

    Mr. Papantoniou said Greece expects to meet the terms and conditions set out in the Maastricht Treaty in 1998 for participation in the single currency, adding that in 1999 the country will claim its equal participation in economic and monetary union.

    Defence Minister discusses arms issues in Germany

    National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos met yesterday with his German counterpart Volker Ruhe, with both stressing afterwards the good bilateral relations enjoyed by Greece and Germany and cooperation between the two countries in the military sector.

    The two men agreed to begin negotiations on a memorandum of understanding on armament issues to be signed within the year, concerning cooperation between the two defence ministries and between Greek and German companies.

    The German side appeared interested in participating in Greece's armaments programme, particularly with regards the modernisation of a number of F-4 "Phantom" fighters by the DASA company and the provision of four submarines from the Howald shipyards.

    The Greek side is also interested in the purchase of a number of previous- generation Leopard I tanks, which has ground to a halt as Bonn has imposed an informal embargo on their sale in areas where tensions have allegedly risen.

    EU Commissioner Wulf-Mathies to begin official visit here today

    European Union Commissioner Monika Wulf-Mathies begins a four-day visit to Athens and Crete today, where she is expected to convey her satisfaction to Athens over the course of implementation of the Delors II package.

    Ms Wulf-Mathies will hold talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, Development Minister Vasso Papandreou, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis and Transport and Communications Minister Haris Kastanidis.

    According to European Commission sources, she is expected to call on the government to speed up its efforts to further improve awarding contracts in the public works sector. The same sources said Ms Wulf-Mathies believes that awarding terms should become more attractive for the private sector, primarily in cases of joint funding for major projects.

    Athens to host WEU security seminar

    The Assembly of the Western European Union is holding a colloquy entitled "Enlarged security: the security problems posed by the enlargement of NATO and the European institutions" in Athens on March 11-12. The programme is expected to include addresses by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Defence Minster Akis Tsohatzopoulos and presentations by representatives of member states as well as of Central European countries.

    Cyprus problem discussed in Brussels, Bonn

    Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis met yesterday with European Commissioner responsible for foreign relations Hans van den Broek.

    The discussion centred on finding a solution to the Cyprus problem and various obstacles which must be overcome in order for this to be achieved as soon as possible.

    Both agreed that a joint effort is required on the part of the European Union, the United States and the United Nations in order for a satisfactory solution to be found.

    In Bonn

    Speaking at a joint press conference in Bonn with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel yesterday, newly sworn-in US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said "the Cyprus issue was discussed and we agreed to the need of an overall solution."

    Ms Albright also said she did not consider it appropriate to go into details on the issue.

    Talks between Ms Albright and Mr. Kinkel focused, among other subjects, on the Cyprus issue, tensions in the southeastern Mediterranean and the role played by Turkey.

    Athens willing to discuss deployment of multinational peacekeeping force on Cyprus

    The Greek government is in favour of the demilitarisation of Cyprus and within this framework could listen to proposals such as the possibility of stationing a multinational peacekeeping force on the divided island, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

    Asked to comment on statements at the weekend by National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos concerning Greece's inalienable right to extend its territorial waters from six to 12 miles, Mr. Reppas said that "this is the steadfast position of the Greek government".

    Greece: Ankara has no say in Cyprus' EU accession

    Greece reiterated yesterday that Cyprus' accession to the European Union did not depend on Turkey's will nor was it subject to a settlement of its political problem.

    "We have repeatedly underlined that Cyprus' accession to the EU, as this stems from the Cyprus-EU agreement on March 6, does not depend on Turkey's will nor is it subject to a settlement of the Cyprus issue," Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantine Bikas said in an answer to earlier statements by his Turkish counterpart Omer Akbel.

    According to an ANA dispatch from Istanbul, Mr. Akbel said that Cyprus can become an EU member only after a settlement has been found and when Turkey also joins the Union.

    "Turkey has an obligation, stemming from international law, to put an end to its occupation of the island and react positively to proposals by the Cyprus government. But this obligation certainly does not give Turkey the right to impose its conditions on the EU and on Cyprus," Mr. Bikas added.

    Museums remain closed

    Major museums in Athens and Thessaloniki continue to remain closed due to a strike by culture ministry employees and antiquity sites' guards.

    Representatives of the Federation of Culture Ministry Unions were informed yesterday that an extrajudicial summons was expected to be delivered to its offices later in the day, declaring the strike illegal and abusive.

    Tourism exhibition in Moscow

    A tourism delegation has arrived in Moscow to participate in a major tourist exhibition being organised in the Russian capital from Feb. 18- 22.

    Kavala Mayor Lefteris Athanasiadis said ``the target of Kavala`s presence in this international tourist exhibition is arrival of a large number of Russian tourists in Kavala and Thasos this summer``.

    EBEA economic report notes bright spots in economy

    The government's economic policy is headed in the right direction and a firm improvement has been achieved in important indicators of the national economy, according to the president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) George Papathanasiou.

    Presenting EBEA's six-month report on the Greek economy yesterday, Mr. Papathanasiou said, however, that growth rates have not increased enough to enable the country to participate immediately in the third phase of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

    Mr. Papathanasiou said that in no way should the government bow to pressure by various social groups for more benefits if it wants the country's economic conditions to improve.

    According to the report, the unemployment rate in Greece also shows a better performance than the European Union average.

    The report further stated that the Greek economy's greatest weakness lies in containing public expenditures, restructuring public enterprises, modernising public administration and the welfare state, privatisations as well as delays in investments throu gh the Delors II programmes.

    EU assistance for SMEs announced

    Small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in Greece will receive 100 billion drachmas of economic assistance from European Union funds up until the end of 1999, National Economy Undersecretary Christos Pachtas announced yesterday.

    He added that the intermediaries which will administer the funds had already been selected for the seven biggest geographical departments of the country.

    Within the framework of the Regional Operational Programme (PEP), SMEs operating for at least three years will have the right to submit proposals. In the case of Athens and Thessaloniki, they must employ between 5-30 persons and have recorded a turnover of at least 120 million drachmas in one of the last three years.

    In other regions of the country, the corresponding limits are 3-30 employees and 70 million drachmas.

    Enterprises will receive grants equal to 50 per cent of the investment cost for projects costing 5-60 million drachmas. Investments costing over 60 million drachmas will be accepted but the maximum grant will not exceed 30 million drachmas.

    FAGE bond issue

    Citibank has mediated the successful issuance of a US$120 million (31.5 billion drachmas) bonds loan for the giant Greece-based dairy products producer FAGE, according to a bank announcement. The loan will have a 10- year duration without an intermediate p ay off and a stable interest rate of 9 per cent.

    The bond issue in the US market is the first carried out by a wholly Greece- based company and is the result of a collective effort by FAGE, Citibank Greece and its international network.

    Four people face trial over Motor Oil pollution

    Four people were charged with causing extensive sea pollution as a result of an oil spill at the Motor Oil installations in Corinth last August.

    The 300-ton crude oil spill occurred after poor weather caused a breaking in an off-shore transport pipe during off-loading of the tanker "Kriti Sea".

    The ship's captain and first officer, Iosif Rousopoulos and Vangelis Domatas, respectively, the general director of Motor Oil, Costas Vasilakis, and Motor Oil official Yiannis Thalassinos, are to appear in court following a ruling issued by the Corinth Misdemeanours Court yesterday.

    According to the ruling, the pollution was caused by a pipe's rupture after the tanker moved eight metres from its original position as its mooring ropes were loosened.

    WEATHER

    Locally cloudy with possible rain in most parts of the country, especially in central east Greece, the Peloponnese, the Cyclades islands, Crete and southeastern Aegean Sea, where gale force winds will prevail, but will subside in the afternoon. Athens will be cold and overcast with temperatures between 7-12C. Thessaloniki will be partly cloudy with moderate northeastern winds and temperatures between 2-7C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 262.949 Pound sterling 426.282 Cyprus pd 519.808 French franc 45.979 Swiss franc 178.064 German mark 155.179 Italian lira (100) 15.735 Yen (100) 211.881 Canadian dlr. 194.630 Australian dlr. 201.237 Irish Punt 416.382 Belgian franc 7.521 Finnish mark 52.449 Dutch guilder 138.245 Danish kr. 40.716 Swedish kr. 35.500 Norwegian kr. 39.041 Austrian sch. 22.056 Spanish peseta 1.835 Portuguese escudo 1.548

    (C.E.)


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