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Athens News Agency: News in English, 97-02-20

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, 20/02/1997 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Papantoniou: stability, consistency characterise Greek economy
  • Austrian FM comments on excellent Greek-Austrian relations
  • Greek-Bulgarian road network project discussed
  • Greece warm to idea of Athens-Ankara-NATO hot line
  • Rifkind cites lack of progress in Greek-Turkish relations
  • Iranian official holds talks with Tsohatzopoulos
  • Greek, Hungarian defence counterparts discuss NATO enlargement
  • Primary teachers suspend strike

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Papantoniou: stability, consistency characterise Greek economy

    Greece's economic policy since 1994 has been characterised by stability and consistency within the framework of efforts to attain the targets of a revised economic convergence programme, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

    Speaking at an event marking the presentation of the European Commission's first report on Economic and Social Cohesion, Mr. Papantoniou underlined that cohesion policies should contribute to the development of the less developed EU countries.

    The report was presented by European Commissioner for Regional Policy and the Cohesion Fund, Monika Wulf-Mathies, who began an official visit to Greece on Tuesday.

    "This report clearly shows that the EU's structural policies are indeed effective in bridging the gap between the rich and poor member-states," Ms Wulf-Mathies said.

    The commissioner said that the four less developed EU countries - Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland - had managed to increase their per capita income by 65-75 per cent in relation to the Community average, resulting in a closing of the gap separating them from the wealthier member-states by one-fifth since the 1980s.

    On employment, Ms Wulf-Mathies said that although seven million new jobs had been created in the EU in the last decade, including one million in less developed countries, "unemployment remains the Community's most serious problem, which is why in addition to national measures a coordinated approach at EU level is also needed."

    Austrian FM comments on excellent Greek-Austrian relations

    Austrian Foreign Minister and Deputy Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel yesterday spoke of his country's excellent relations with Greece, during an interview here with the Athens News Agency.

    Mr. Schussel is due to arrive in Athens on a two-day official visit this afternoon.

    He said both countries are particularly interested in common issues of regional foreign policy and the situation in central and eastern Europe, particularly in the Balkans, where the Greek government has repeatedly mediated at crucial moments.

    The Austrian foreign minister said his country was avidly following Greece's efforts, similar to those by Austria, for achieving stable criteria for the Euro, and is particularly interested in Athens' estimates regarding tension in the Aegean and Cyprus, within the framework of political dialogue with Turkey.

    Mr. Schussel said he considers international presence in Cyprus as being very important for the island republic's accession negotiations with the EU, which he said must begin according to a schedule decided on by the European Commission, namely, six mon ths after the end of the Intergovernmental Conference.

    He also expressed his belief that the continuation of dialogue with Ankara is the only chance for a defusion of tension in the Aegean and a finding of a logical solution.

    Mr. Schussel said that at present, there is no issue of Turkey's entry into the EU "for many various reasons," adding that Ankara is already well aware of this.

    Greek-Bulgarian road network project discussed

    A meeting between Greek and Bulgarian technical experts was held in Nevrokopi, Drama prefecture yesterday in order to discuss technical details of a road network to connect the two countries through the Exohi border post.

    Road experts said that if relevant procedures are carried out uninterrupted, the Exohi border post will be operational by the end of 1998, which is within the time limits set in a Greek-Bulgarian agreement.

    They added that the two countries' governments must be pressured in order for funding and tendering procedures to be accelerated for essential infrastructure works.

    A joint committee cooperation protocol was signed after the meeting.

    Greece warm to idea of Athens-Ankara-NATO hot line

    A direct telephone link between NATO headquarters in Brussels and Athens and Ankara could play "a positive role", government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

    The idea of a "hot line" was put forward by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, who briefed Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis on the initiative at Tuesday's informal session of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

    "Greece has acknowledged that in order to confront crisis situations, there could be mechanisms which do not prejudice our right to take the major decisions concerning the protection of our interests, while at the same time participating in procedures w hich are beneficial and lead to the defusing of crises," Mr. Reppas said.

    Rifkind cites lack of progress in Greek-Turkish relations

    British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind yesterday avoided a repeat of his assessment on the possibility of conflict between Greece and Turkey, but said relations between the two countries are "very poor" and that "both Greece and Turkey have not achieved any progress."

    Mr. Rifkind, currently in Bonn within the framework of a campaign to brief the Union on British positions concerning European Union prospects, spoke at a press conference.

    Replying to a question by the Athens News Agency on whether he continues to insist on this assessment of the situation, Mr. Rifkind replied:

    "What I'm saying is that there are some areas of tension in Europe, such as the conflict between Turkey and Greece in the eastern Mediterranean.Relations between the two countries are very bad. It is a problem which we must tackle. We must achieve an improvement," he added.

    Iranian official holds talks with Tsohatzopoulos

    National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday briefed visiting Iranian First Vice-President Hassan Habibi on Greece's efforts to promote its role as a peace and stabilisation force in the region.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos further informed the high-ranking Iranian official of what he called the destabilisation factors in the region, citing "Turkish aggressiveness" and the the fact that a solution to the Cyprus issue has yet to be found.

    He added that the promotion of peace should depend on conditions of international law, international conventions and agreements.

    The meeting also focused on ways to broaden cooperation between the two countries beyond the energy sector.

    Mr. Habibi stressed that Iran considered Greece to be an important friend and a "bridge of communication" between his country and Europe.

    Costas Karamanlis latest entry into ND leadership race

    Main opposition New Democracy deputy Costas Karamanlis yesterday accepted a proposal by ND 30 party deputies nominating him for the party's leadership during the forthcoming ND congress.

    "I'm honoured by the proposal of my colleagues and will do my duty in the interest of the party and with a sense of responsibility," Mr. Karamanlis said in a public statement after the meeting of the 30 deputies, which was held at the initiative of party vice-president Ioannis Varvitsiotis on Tuesday night.

    "We're reversing Greece's political scene..." Mr. Varvitsiotis said in describing Tuesday as "a historic day."

    Greek, Hungagrian defence counterparts discuss NATO enlargement

    National Defence Undersecretary Dimitris Apostolakis held talks here yesterday with his Hungarian counterpart, Istvan Yarmadi, on the political situation in Europe, bilateral relations and cooperation in technical and political sectors.

    The two officials also discussed NATO enlargement after which Mr. Apostolakis said the positions of the two countries were identical. " Replying to questions on a proposal by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana for the establishment of a "hot line" link between NATO headquarters in Brussels, Athens and Ankara, for the avoidance of incident, Mr. Apostolakis said:

    "Greece is willing to cooperate in anything which results in a defusion of tension in the region."

    He added, however, that the setting up of such a link entailed certain prerequisites, the most important of which was for Ankara to cease its aggressive policy.

    On Greece's stated intention to expand its territorial waters from six to 12 nautical miles as a response to any fresh Turkish provocation, Mr. Apostolakis said it was a "major political decision." Speaking to reporters, Mr. Yarmadi said Hungary understood Russian reservations about NATO enlargement eastwards "without this meaning that we adopt them."

    The best solution, Mr. Yarmadi said, is cooperation between Russia and NATO so that Moscow will be able to lift its reservations."

    Primary teachers suspend strike

    Primary school and kindergarten teachers yesterday decided to put an end to their three-week-old strike, while high school teachers' representatives voted to continue their five-week-old strike.

    The decision to end the primary school strike was reached during a meeting of teachers' local associations, who put the issue to vote. A total of 214 teachers voted in favour of ending the strike, 147 voted against and 29 cast blank votes. At the same time, teachers last night held a rally outside Parliament, which met to discuss the unrest in the educational sector.

    Inside Parliament and during the debate, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said "the government has shown, is showing and will show particular sensitivity on salary-related problems faced by teachers, but within the framework of a fiscal policy.

    Analysing economic issues dominating the professors' strike, and recently that of elementary school and kindergarten teachers, Mr. Simitis said a newly appointed teacher will receive, after an escalating increase in the year, 297,000 drachmas, namely an increase in the region of 9 per cent, which actually is an average increase of 11.5 per cent for all teachers. The salary of a newly appointed professor is set at 307,000 drachmas with the new salary scale effective as of Jan. 1 and will ultimately reach 317, 000 drachmas in the year, an increase of 11 per cent, which means an average increase of 13 per cent.

    Local self-administration employees announce strikes

    The Panhellenic Federation of Local Self-Administration Organisation Employees (POP-OTA) yesterday announced 48-hour rolling strikes to begin next Tuesday.

    Part-time municipal employees' demands include for their contracts to be converted to contracts of unspecified duration and the rehiring of certain employees.

    OA contradicts press reports that restructuring programme has failed

    In a report to the European Union concerning Olympic Airways, an EU auditor stresses that "Olympic Airways will steadfastly maintain its economic course in the future without state interventions", adding that "the company is presenting considerable result s, both in its restructuring and the economic sector."

    The airline's administration used that excerpt yesterday in reply to press reports claiming that "the restructuring programme of Olympic is being delayed or has failed" or that "the EU is reacting to the closure of the company's file."

    OA's administration expressed displeasure over these reports and, replying to press questions, stressed that both the state-run company's passenger turnover and profits are following a steady upward trend.

    Specifically, in 1996 (January to December compared to the corresponding period in 1995) the total number of passengers travelling on both domestic and overseas flights increased by 7 per cent.

    The company's budgeted revenues for 1996 increased by 13 per cent (domestic and overseas).

    WEATHER

    Gale force northerly winds and low temperatures are forecast for most parts of Greece including the Aegean. But the weather will gradually improve as of tonight starting from the west and north. Snowfall in the mountainous regions. Athens will be partly cloudy, cold, windy with drizzle and temperatures between 5-10C. Same for Thessaloniki with temperatures between -3 to 5C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 263.445 Pound sterling 426.481 Cyprus pd 519.808 French franc 46.051 Swiss franc 178.039 German mark 155.575 Italian lira (100) 15.623 Yen (100) 212.328 Canadian dlr. 194.214 Australian dlr. 201.634 Irish Punt 414.755 Belgian franc 7.539 Finnish mark 52.191 Dutch guilder 138.548 Danish kr. 40.785 Swedish kr. 35.315 Norwegian kr. 39.001 Austrian sch. 22.116 Spanish peseta 1.836 Portuguese escudo 1.550

    (C.E.)


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