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Athens News Agency: News in English, 97-03-19

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 19/03/1997 (ANA)


  • Simitis: Greece's Balkan policy can contribute to regional stability
  • Pangalos discusses Albanian crisis in Skopje, Belgrade
  • Papantoniou: Greece entered a period of lower budget deficits
  • Kranidiotis holds talks with Albanian insurgents
  • Macedonia-Thrace Bank opens Balkan Trading Co.
  • Farm minister leaves for talks in Armenia
  • Greece and Tunisia sign tourism agreement
  • Greece rejects EU proposals for new farm prices


    Simitis: Greece's Balkan policy can contribute to regional stability

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in Thessaloniki last night that Athens' Balkan policy is the tool capable of contributing to stability, democracy, development and cooperation in the Balkans.

    Mr. Simitis was speaking at the closing session of a two-day conference entitled "Business Cooperation in Southeastern Europe" held in northern Greece for the fourth consecutive year.

    "We can defend our common future in the Balkans, we have a voice and influence in shaping developments," he noted.

    Mr. Simitis outlined initiatives which the government had taken and intends to take to handle the crisis in Albania, to prevent it from spreading and having unfavourable repercussions for the ethnic Greek minority as well as to prevent a wave of mass im migration to Greece.

    He referred to the inter-Balkan conference being prepared by the government at a foreign ministers' level in Thessaloniki on June 9-10 and recalled action taken by Athens from the time events began in Albania.

    "Greece has processed a structured and overall proposal aimed at the longterm handling of problems faced by Balkan states and this proposal was presented at the European Union's Council of Foreign Ministers on Feb. 24," he said.

    Mr. Simitis said the proposal is aimed at mobilising the EU in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and other international fiscal organisations.

    Mr. Simitis said that developments in Albania and the rest of the Balkans have shown that a more substantive and integrated policy is required by European organisations for the entire Balkan region.

    Pangalos discusses Albanian crisis in Skopje, Belgrade

    Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos left today by air for a lightning visit to Skopje and Belgrade to discuss the Albanian crisis, foreign ministry sources said.

    Papantoniou: Greece entered a period of lower budget deficits

    Last year was the first year of real convergence of the Greek economy with the rest in the European Union, according to National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou.

    Speaking during the same conference in Thessaloniki, Mr. Papantoniou said that the country has entered a period of low budget deficits, low inflation and comparatively higher growth rates, forecasting that lower lending interest rates would maintain the stabilisation of the economy and accelerate the pace of economic growth.

    Specifically, he said that the fiscal deficit will be reduced to 4.2 per cent of GDP, public debt to 109 from 111.8 per cent of GDP last year, and that a further substantial fall in interest rates will contribute to an improvement of the competitiveness of businesses, despite a strict exchange policy.

    The recovery in investment, public and private, is expected to accelerate the rate of growth, bringing it to 3.5 per cent. Inflation is expected to fall to 4.5 per cent with the appropriate combination of fiscal, monetary and exchange policy, he stated.

    Mr. Papantoniou said 1996 was the first year of real convergence of the Greek economy to Maastricht Treaty targets, inaugurating a period of low fiscal deficits, low inflation and comparatively higher growth rates.

    He described the overall record of the Greek economy in the last 3.5 years as satisfactory, given that fiscal deficits came down by 7 percentage points, from 14.4 per cent in 1993 to 7.4 per cent last year, and inflation from 12.3 per cent in 1993 to 6. 6 per cent in February this year.

    "This rate is the lowest in the last 25 years, while the exchange parity of the drachma has been fully stabilised and constitutes a crucial factor of confidence in the Greek economy," he said.

    Kranidiotis holds talks with Albanian insurgents

    Meanwhile, Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis said after talks with representatives of the insurgents in southern Albania everyone demanded the resignation of Albanian President Sali Berisha, and that the insurgents support the government of Bashkim Fino.

    Mr. Kranidiotis reiterated Greece's steady position in favour of dialogue with the new government, and the need to avert violence, as well as its strong interest in the ethnic Greek minority, whom he urged not to desert their villages.

    At a meeting in prefecture headquarters later, Mr. Kranidiotis assured of Greece`s continued supply of humanitarian aid.

    He also visited Sarande late last night and met with the prefect, representatives of the insurgents and local authorities.

    Mr. Kranidiotis reiterated Greece's position for normalisation of the situation in Albania through dialogue, adding that the insurgents must hold talks with the government in order for a solution to be found soon.

    Inter-Balkan Medical Centre units announced for five Balkan capitals

    The Inter-Balkan Medical Centre and the Henri Dunant Institute of the Greek Red Cross yesterday announced cooperation in order to establish a network of diagnostic centres for five Balkan capitals.

    The president of the Inter-Balkan Medical Centre, Georgios Apostolopoulos, told a press conference that the venture would begin in Bucharest, where everything was ready for the operation of the first such diagnostic centre.

    Mr. Apostolopoulos said similar centres would also be set up in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, Skopje, Sofia and Belgrade.

    Out-patient clinics and first aid stations will operate at all five centres as well.

    The five centres will be linked on a permanent basis with the Inter-Balkan Medical Centre of the G. Apostolopoulos group and the Henri Dunant Institute by means of an advanced communications system.

    The system will enable an evaluation at any time of the seriousness of each case and, when necessary, patients will be transferred to the Inter-Balkan Centre in Thessaloniki or to the Henri Dunant Hospital in Athens.

    Participating in the US$15 million investment are the Apostolopoulos group with 50 percent, the Greek Red Cross - through the Henri Dunant Institute - with 30 percent and the Latsis group, via the Balkan Fund, with 20 percent.

    Macedonia-Thrace Bank opens Balkan Trading Company

    A Balkan trading company was set up yesterday in Thessaloniki on the sidelines of a four-day conference on business cooperation in southeast Europe for the purpose of facilitating its members in their commercial activities.

    The initiative for the establishment of the "Balkan Trading Company," which will be headquartered in Thessaloniki, belongs to the Bank of Macedonia- Thrace.

    The undertaking will have branch offices initially in Sofia and Bucharest and eventually in all Balkan capitals. The objective of the company is to facilitate and promote commercial transactions in the Balkans.

    It is hoped that the trading company will serve as an effective intermediary agency, through the creation of local infrastructures.

    The share capital of the new company totals 300 million drachmas, to which the Bank of Macedonia-Thrace will be contributing 9.3 per cent. The remainder will be put up by prominent Greek undertakings with activities in the Balkan countries.

    Farm minister leaves for talks in Armenia

    Agriculture Undersecretary Vassilis Geranidis will leave for Armenia today on an official visit, during which he will sign an agreement between the agriculture ministries of Greece and Armenia on cooperation in the sector.

    Cooperation concerns, among others, plant and animal production, the production of fodder crops, processing and transforming, agricultural research, mechanisation of agriculture and land improvement.

    Mr. Geranidis will meet the Armenian Agriculture Minister Movsisian and other high-ranking government officials.

    He will also have an important meeting with representatives of the Greek Community Federation, representing about 5,000 ethnic Greeks who live in Armenia.

    Laliotis: Athens metro project 55 percent ready

    Speaking during a briefing for some 40 Greek expatriate journalists concerning Athens' under construction metro yesterday, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis said the project is 55 per cent ready.

    The expatriate journalists are in Greece at the invitation of the press ministry.

    Mr. Laliotis told the group that his ministry is currently managing available national and European funds for major infrastructure projects in Greece amounting to 4.3 trillion drachmas.

    Architectural work has started at 12 of the 21 metro stations, while work is underway at the same stations to install ventilation systems as well as electrical and mechanical equipment. A total of 6,300 metres of double railway track has already been laid along the Pentagon-Katehaki route and the Sepolia section, while work has also begun for the installation of railway lines in the direction of the Panormou station.

    Greece and Tunisia sign tourism agreement

    A protocol agreement has been signed between the Greek Tourist Organisation (EOT) and the Tunisian Tourist Organisation during a visit paid to Tunisia by EOT President Yiannis Stephanidis, who was representing Greece at the second session of the joint Greek-Tunisian tourist cooperation committee.

    The session ascertained considerable possibilities to increase tourist movement in both countries.

    The protocol provides cooperation in tourist promotion, investments and cultural tourism sectors, a visit by Tunisian officials to Greece for an exchange of views on issues concerning marinas, golf courses and hotel management, the hold ing of a three- to four-week training seminar in Greece to train Tunisian tourist occupation academy educators, the issuing by both countries of a pamphlet containing Ulyses' sailings in the Mediterranean and the twinning of the cities of Ithaca and Jerba and the island of Kalymnos with the island of Kerkennah.

    HEPO participation at int'l jewellery exhibition

    The Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (OPE) has announced Greece's participation in the international jewellery exhibition "JA Show '97" in New York from July 19-22.

    High quality gold and silver jewellery, decorative silverware, watches and precious stones will be displayed at the exhibition.

    For more information call HEPO at 99.82.100 in Athens, 031-26.21.20 in Thessaloniki and 0651-32.763 in Ioannina.

    Greece rejects proposals for new farm prices

    Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas has rejected a European Commission package of proposals for new farm prices in 1997-98, saying they are limited to the restriction of the fiscal cost and ignore farmers' problems.

    "For a decade now, we have been preoccupied with only one of the aims of CAP, namely market balance, and we have been limiting ourselves to fighting surpluses and restricting fiscal cost," he told the farm ministersY council, which began deliberations o n Monday.

    He stressed that according to Community figures, farmers' incomes in Italy, Portugal, Ireland and Greece are below average, while in other member- states it had tripled.

    "Small producers in the less developed areas, such as Greece, are not responsible for the increases in production and agricultural expenses. In a final analysis, they are fighting against a deterioration in their incomes, " he said.

    Commission expected to write-off Skaramanga debts

    The European Commission today is expected to write off the debts of the Skaramanga shipyards, along with other similar concerns in Germany and Spain.

    The debt in question is a 54-billion-drachmas state support granted in 1991. The EU's executive is expected to accept the argument of the Greek grovernment that the initial state subsidy amount had increased due to delays in the partial privatisation of the company.

    Following an arrangement arrived at in 1995, the state controls a 51 per cent of equity capital with workers holding the rest.


    Cloudiness that will gradually become heavier in central and northern Greece with the possibility of rain in the evening is forecast for today. Winds will be moderate reaching gale force in the west at night. Athens will be cloudy with temperatures between 6-14C. Thessaloniki also cloudy with possible drizzle and temperatures between 1-13C.


    Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 264.160 Pound sterling 419.199 Cyprus pd 521.078 French franc 46.404 Swiss franc 181.834 German mark 156.577 Italian lira (100) 15.601 Yen (100) 215.234 Canadian dlr. 192.250 Australian dlr. 207.918 Irish Punt 411.184 Belgian franc 7.589 Finnish mark 51.961 Dutch guilder 139.113 Danish kr. 41.001 Swedish kr. 34.149 Norwegian kr. 38.553 Austrian sch. 22.260 Spanish peseta 1.844 Portuguese escudo 1.555


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