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Athens News Agency: News in English, 97-02-26

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, 26/02/1997 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Athens, Nicosia regret cancellation of EU-Cyprus dialogue meeting
  • Low interest rates signals changes for Greek economy
  • Greece submits its initiative on EU aid to the Balkans
  • Greek businessmen encouraged to invest in Lithuania
  • Protesting fishermen block Thessaloniki port
  • Mad Cow disease reports in Greece denied
  • Turkish immigrant smugglers sentenced

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Athens, Nicosia regret cancellation of EU-Cyprus dialogue meeting

    Greece and Cyprus expressed regret over the cancellation of a scheduled EU- Cyprus structured dialogue meeting in Brussels yesterday, as a result of the failure of the '15' to arrive at a common political position following an attempt by Britain, France and Germany on Monday to involve the Turkish Cypriot community in the accession process.

    "It is regrettable that eventually the political dialogue between the European Union and Cyprus did not take place due to a lack of a common position, but there was no other option," Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Cypriot Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides told reporters in a joint press conference.

    Athens on Monday stood its ground in the face of strong pressure from Germany, Britain and France during an EU General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels, which aimed to overcome objections to the involvement of the Turkish Cypriots in the island republic's accession negotiations.

    Mr. Michaelides said that both Greece and Cyprus agreed that it was preferable, under the present circumstances, for the structured dialogue to be postponed, and for the Association Council to deal only with the economic and trade aspects of EU- Cyprus relations.

    Meanwhile, EU External Affairs Commissioner Hans Van den Broek, who is arriving on Cyprus today, indirectly indicated after the end of the Association Council session that Cyprus' full membership is not feasible if the political problem is not solved beforehand. Other Community diplomats were saying they "could not imagine a country on whose soil there were 30, 000 Turkish soldiers joining the European Union".

    However, Dutch European Affairs Minister Michiel Patijn said the "EU certainly recognises only the legitimate government of Cyprus, with which it will continue pre-accession negotiations".

    Nicosia reaction

    In Nicosia, the Cypriot government yesterday criticised the attitude of Britain, France and Germany, with government spokesman Yiannakis Cassoulides describing the joint attempt as "unsatisfactory" and "not helpful", and Greece's refusal to accept the proposed text as "correct".

    He said the proposed text could have multiple interpretations, some of which were contrarty to the EU decision of March 6, 1995, providing for Cyprus' membership negotiations to begin six months after the end of the Intergovernmental Conference.

    Mr. Cassoulides also noted that it could complicate Cyprus accession process and make efforts for a Cyprus solution more difficult, adding it could complicate EU enlargement as well.

    Low interest rates signals changes for Greek economy

    The rapid decline in interest rates is apparently signalling important implications for the Greek economy.

    For depositors, the decrease means a lower net return on capital, at 9 per cent, which, after the deduction of the inflation rate, comes down to a real return of around 2 per cent. It is considered that such rates of return, comparatively low for Greece , will induce banks to differentiate the range of their saving products, with deposit rates varying according to sum and duration. Also, the closing of the gap between rates for deposits in drachmas and foreign currencies is considered likely to induce monetary authorities t o lift restrictions on the opening of accounts in foreign currencies by Greek residents.

    The downward trend is also estimated to lead to cheaper consumer and housing loans, thereby contributing to a recovery of the economy through the real estate and building sectors.

    The development will also mean a lower cost of borrowing for businesses and a consequent boost in the competitiveness of Greek firms.

    Finally, the beneficial effects of lower interest rates have already been apparent in the stock market, which has enjoyed a boom for the last two months. Company dividends have reached the level of the net return of a savings account.

    Rifkind: solution to Cyprus problem a condition for EU accession

    Britain's Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind reportedly told an Athens daily newspaper that a solution to the Cyprus problem was a condition for the island republic's accession to the European Union.

    "Accession of a partitioned island would create considerable problems to the European Union and this is a course that neither we nor our EU partners are willing to follow," Mr. Rifkind was quoted as saying in an interview with the Athens daily "Ta Nea."

    In the interview, which was published in yesterday's edition of the newspaper, Mr. Rifkind said Cyprus had the right to purchase Russian-made S- 300 anti-aircraft missiles, but expressed the view that "this purchase would be imprudent in view of the existing conditions."

    Mr. Rifkind also said that a British-proposed 10 point action plan -a three- page document focusing on a settlement based on a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation - to work out of a solution to the Cyprus problem constituted the best basis for making progress.

    Greece submits its initiative on EU aid to the Balkans

    Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday submitted Greece's initiative regarding the Balkans to the European Union Council of Ministers me eting, and called on the EU to provide funds to aid Balkan countries.

    Mr. Papandreou told his EU counterparts that "the recent phenomena of acute crisis in the economies of certain Balkan countries in transition are causing serious concern in Greece...I am certain that you share our concern.

    "The Balkans should not be left, at this crucial time, at the mercy of an uncontrolled economic crisis, which, as is seen in the cases of Bulgaria and Albania, can easily be converted into a very acute social crisis with direct destabilising effects," Mr. Papandreou said.

    He said that "the financial aid decided on for Bulgaria, amounting to 20 MECU, must be sent as soon as possible, as all delays will render it ineffective." Mr. Papandreou visited Bulgaria last week.

    Greek businessmen encouraged to invest in Lithuania

    Lithuania's President Algirdas Brazauskas yesterday encouraged Greek businessmen to invest in Lithuania during his talks at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    "Lithuania's advantageous position, the improvement of all the country's economic indicators and its relations of close friendship with all the neighbouring countries constitute strong incentives for the development of investment initiatives by Greek businessmen," he said.

    Mr. Brazauskas referred to the privatisation programme currently under way in Lithuania, particularly in the sectors of communications, transport, services and construction. He also pointed out investment opportunities in Lithuania's growing tourism market, suggesting that Greek companies in the sector could develop cooperation in areas such as providing equipment and organising hotel complexes.

    Mr. Brazauskas also held talks with Transport and Communications Minister Haris Kastanidis, who submitted a request by on behalf of Greece's Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) to participate in the privatisation procedure of the Lithuanian Telecommunications Organisation.

    Protesting fishermen block Thessaloniki port

    Fishermen blocked the eastern entrance to the port of Thessaloniki yesterday evening to demand that the untaxed transit fuel provision not be abolished.

    A delegation of the protesting fishermen met with Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philippos Petsalnikos yesterday afternoon, who arranged a telephone communication with Finance Undersecretary George Drys.

    Mr. Drys reiterated that the system of tax-free transit fuel has not been abolished by the ministry, and that they could continue to purchase fuel, paying a special consumer's tax which will be returned by customs following a procedure to be determined by the finance ministry.

    He added that the time lag between the purchase of the fuel and the return of the tax would not exceed 30 days.

    IOBE study on construction sector notes high growth

    The large number of Greek construction and technical companies, approximately 2,200, and the fast rate of growth of some in recent years have led to strong competition in the sector and a decrease in their tender prices - not always with benefitial results - an Institute of Economic and Industrial Studies (IOBE) report on the sector points out.

    The particularly high growth rates of the sector in recent years are mainly attributable to increased construction activity related to infrastructure projects under the two Community Support Frameworks (CSF) of the European Union, and less to the buildi ng sector as such, whose volume of activity has been in continuous decline. The study describes the second CSF as the engine of the Greek construction industry at present.

    The sector employs about 7 per cent of the workforce and contributes to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at a rate varying from 10.8 to 15.2 per cent in the last decade.

    On the other hand, intensification of competition has led many large companies to the Athens Stock Exchange in the last three years in the search for capital funds, thereby creating new dynamics in the sector.

    Mount Athos community reacts against Schengen Accord

    The all-male monastic community of Mount Athos called on the government yesterday to withdraw from Parliament proposed legislation set by the European Union as a condition for ratification of the Schengen Accord.

    The monastic community cited "protection of individuals from the use of personal data" as the main reason for eliminating the proposed bill.

    An announcement issued by the monastic community's supreme administrative board said the voting of such a bill "creates the danger of an institutionalised and general electronic filing (system) with all the negative consequences for the human individual 's God-given freedom and his saviour through Christ."

    "In practice, it unfortunately appears to legalise the electronic storing, use and distribution of personal information," the Mount Athos community stated.

    The monks warned that "the possible voting of (the bill) by the Greek Parliament will constitute the last step for the ratification of the Schengen Accord and the permanent loss of personal confidentiality and the respect of our freedom."

    'Mad cow'-related reports in Greece denied

    Following press reports of three people in northern Greece displaying symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob's Disease (CJD), the human equivalent of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow's disease, Agriculture Undersecretary Vassilis Geranidis respond ed that BSE has never appeared in cattle in Greece.

    He added that Creutzfeldt-Jakob's Disease has been known since 1927 and is not connected epidemiologically with BSE.

    Mr. Geranidis also stressed that occasional isolated incidents of CJD in people of middle or old age in Greece are not caused by BSE as there has been no hint of a BSE outbreak in the country and no live animals are imported from countries with high ins tances of the disease, while the results of clinical, epidemiological and histological investigations over the past 12 years have all been negative.

    Meanwhile, the director of the AHEPA Hospital in Thessaloniki, Marios Pyrpasopoulos, said no patients with CJD have been hospitalised in AHEPA's neurological clinic, and refuted a report in a daily newspaper yesterday.

    Turkish immigrant smugglers receive jail sentence

    Two Turks arrested by the coast guard early yesterday off the coast of Lesbos as they were trying to set ashore 19 illegal immigrants were sentenced to 9.5 years' imprisonment and a fine of 10 million drachmas.

    The illegal immigrants -citizens of Rwanda, Iraq and Bangladesh- are being held by police, with the exception of the three women and a child who have been taken to hospital suffering from breathing difficulties. In a separate incident early yesterday morning, 33 Iraqi Kurds, including nine women and children, were apprehended near Karlovasi on the island of Samos, for illegally entering the country.

    WEATHER

    Fine weather continues in most parts of Greece with strong northerly winds across southeastern Greece and the Aegean Sea which will gradually subside. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 5-18C. Same for Thessaloniki with temperatures between 1-15C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 259.745 Pound sterling 425.370 Cyprus pd 518.320 French franc 45.959 Swiss franc 177.895 German mark 155.040 Italian lira (100) 15.587 Yen (100) 212.933 Canadian dlr. 190.643 Australian dlr. 201.555 Irish Punt 413.366 Belgian franc 7.513 Finnish mark 51.981 Dutch guilder 137.918 Danish kr. 40.662 Swedish kr. 35.147 Norwegian kr. 39.035 Austrian sch. 22.035 Spanish peseta 1.831 Portuguese escudo 1.545

    (C.E.)


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