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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-11-11

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 11/11/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Athens: European Conference is not necessary
  • MPs seek return of death penalty for drug trafficking
  • Ministers oppose death for drugs proposal
  • Romeos condemns police excesses but says isolated incident
  • State hospital doctors to strike
  • Greek equities dip further
  • Government-brokered labour agreement accepted by GSEE
  • Pangalos begins official visit to Spain
  • Thessaloniki hosts UN conference on public administration
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Athens: European Conference is not necessary

Greece's firm position is that a proposed European Conference (to discuss European enlargement) is not necessary, a view that Prime Minister Costas Simitis will be reiterating at the next European Union summit, according to government spokesman Dimitris Reppas.

Greece maintains that pre-accession negotiations for all 11 candidate countries, including Cyprus, should start at once, but only with those countries.

Reppas indirectly criticised France, saying that its proposal promoted the participation of Turkey, a state which does not satisfy conditions set down by the European Union itself. However, he emphasised that it is not Greece's intention to put obstacles in the way of Turkey's course towards Europe.

MPs seek return of death penalty for drug trafficking

Sixty-one deputies from the ruling PASOK and main opposition New Democracy party have tabled a petition in Parliament seeking reinstatement of the death penalty for narcotics dealers.

In a letter to the Constitutional Revision Committee, the 55 ND and six PASOK parliamentarians cited a unanimous recommendation for the reinstatement of capital punishment to apply to narcotics traffickers, which was contained in a March 1992 report by an ad hoc inter-party parlimanetary committee on the narcotics problem.

"Since then, there has been a rapid spread of narcotics, while the drug dealers have grown increasingly insolent," the letter said.

Capital punishment was abolished de jure in Greece nearly five years ago, although the provision had not been applied for 20 years prior to its repeal. The last execution took place in the early 1970s, during the colonels' junta, when George Lymberis was put to death for the murder of his wife and two children.

Reinstatement of the death penalty would require amendment of the current Penal Code, as the Constitution sets capital punishment as the highest penalty that may be legislated.

The petitioners also said that "the unscrupulous drug traffickers are decimating the youth, destroying the backbone of the nation, debilitating thousands of familes, and corrupting society with their abundance of dirty money".

As such, the MPs, headed by ND parliamentarian George Sourlas, a former health minister, urge that, in the constitutional revision, a provision should be introduced under Article 7 allowing the death penalty specifically for drug traffickers.

A minimum of 50 signatures among the 300 MPs is required to instigate a Parliamentary debate.

Ministers oppose death for drugs proposal

Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos later came out against the proposal to restore the death penalty for drug traffickers, saying the move would be "anti-constitutional and anti-democratic".

Yiannopoulos, speaking to the parliamentary committee on constitutional revision, said: "When we say 'life' (sentence), we mean life".

Yiannopoulos said the European Community had agreed to abolish the death penalty in members in 1993.

His comments were echoed by main opposition New Democracy deputy and former opposition leader Miltiades Evert, who said he opposed the proposal but called on the justice minister to bring legislation to Parliament that would impose life sentences on major drug traffickers.

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, a former justice minister and professor of constitutional law, said he understood the motivation behind the proposal and the great public concern but that the abolition of the death penalty had been legislated on a national and international level, through a number of international agreements signed by Greece.

He added that the proposal created the impression internationally that the drug problem in Greece was far more acute than in other countries.

"What we need is systematic and persistent work (on the problem) and not fleeting or sporadic acts," he said.

Romeos condemns police excesses but says isolated incident

Public Order Minister George Romeos on Tuesday condemned a 1993 pro-junta 'fiesta' by some Thessaloniki police officers recently brought to light during which a prisoner was manhandled, but called it an isolated incident that gave no cause for concern.

He has also instructed Deputy Police Chief Dimitris Mitropoulos to investigate claims that riot squad officers in Thessaloniki had links with extreme right-wing organisations and were therefore wilfully lax in preventing violent demonstrations that marred a seminar between Greek and Turkish businessmen in the northern Greek capital.

Ruling PASOK party MP Paraskevas Paraskevopoulos claimed in Parliament that the riot squad officers instructed their men not to hinder or arrest any of the demonstrators during a seminar between Greek and Turkish businessmen in the northern Greek capital on October 30 dealing with the city and the most prominent Greek and Turkish leaders of the first part of the century -- Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos and the Thessaloniki-born founder of the modern Turkish state Kemal Ataturk, who established a Greek-Turkish friendship in the early 1930s after decades of wars between their two countries.

Paraskevopoulos also tabled in Parliament a videotape in which police officers who now hold senior positions were holding a pro-junta 'fiesta' in 1993 during which an illegal immigrant was manhandled.

The videotape showed a picnic in April 1993 during which police officers -- who allegedly included the present head of Thessaloniki's police operations, Col. Spyros Koutramanis and current senior Thessaloniki riot squad (MAT) officers George Anastassiadis and Nikos Kelidis -- singing and dancing to songs celebrating the 1967-74 colonels' junta, firing guns in the air, wearing junta insignia and manhandling a prisoner, most likely an illegal immigrant, by rolling him in mud dressed only in underpants.

Romeos said that the 1993 incident had been related to links with extreme right-wing organisations, but was "isolated" and did "not give rise to concern", adding that he would "mercilessly crush any remnants of the dictatorship".

He said that new evidence had arisen, which was being investigated by Mitropoulos, but added he could not make the evidence public at this time.

Romeos also conceded that there had indeed been a problem with the police's attitude during the demonstrations in Thessaloniki at the business seminar.

The government had been looking into the matter well before the press reports, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said later.

He said the government had used the intervening period to cross-check evidence.

However, he made a distinction between police officers who were carrying out orders and those who were acting alone. In the latter case, he said the state would take all the necessary action to deal with such phenomena.

Reppas added that any officers proved guilty of negligence at last week's Greek-Turkish business meeting in Thessaloniki would be punished.

State hospital doctors to strike

Doctors at state-run hospitals said today that they would continue industrial action until their wage demands were met.

Representatives of the Federation of Hospital Doctors of Greece told a news conference that they had planned a number of events for this Thursday, the day their new wage scale is discussed in Parliament.

These include 24-hour strikes in Iraklion and Thessaloniki tomorrow and skeleton staff at outpatients' clinics in hospitals in Athens and Piraeus up until Thursday.

Hospital doctors around the country will participate in a national 24-hour strike on Thursday, if a response from the government is not forthcoming, they said.

Doctors in provincial facilities began a five-day strike on November 4 while their colleagues in Athens and Piraeus began a series of rolling work stoppages on the same day.

Workers at state-run hospitals later also announced their intention to hold a three-hour work stoppage from midday on Thursday.

Representatives said that only emergency cases would be treated during the stoppage.

Hospital employees are pressing for the appointment of another 3,900 staff to their sector, increased health spending in the budget and wage demands.

Greek equities dip further

Greek equities remained on a free fall ending at their lowest levels in seven months.

Traders said the market looked vulnerable ahead of presentation of the 1998 budget by the end of the month with sentiment bearish because of rumours that commercial banks plan to raise interest rates.

The general index plunged 5.85 percent to close at 1,377.76 points.

Trading was heavy with turnover at 28.8 billion drachmas.

Banks once more came under heavy pressure reflecting market worries over the profitability of the sector following recent financial turmoil.

Sector indices ended sharply lower; Banks plunged 6.54 percent, Insurance eased 3.15 percent, Leasing dropped 4.56 percent, Investment ended 6.16 percent down, Construction eased 6.28 percent, Industrials fell 4.49 percent, Miscellaneous ended 5.21 percent off and Holding lost 6.40 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 5.09 percent lower.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 220 to 9 with another 7 issues unchanged.

Nematemboriki, Doudos, Etma, Warehouse and Halyps Cement scored the biggest percentage gains, while National Bank of Greece, Ionian Bank, Atemke, Titan Cement and Vis suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 25,070 drachmas, Ergobank at 14,180, Alpha Credit Bank at 15,905, Delta Dairy at 3,590, Titan Cement at 12,730, Intracom at 11,395 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 5, 300.

Government-brokered labour agreement accepted by GSEE

The government succeeded yesterday in obtaining trade unions' consent for a "confidence agreement" towards the year 2000, in a report on "social dialogue" with specific commitments on the insurance issue as well as pledges for positive interventions regar ding incomes.

However, merchants and handicraftsmen belonging to the General Confederation of Small Manufacturers and Professionals (GSEBE) did not ultimately sign the agreement, demanding abolition of objective criteria as a precondition.

Earlier, differences within the unions' ranks created a deadlock at the General Confederation of Workers of Greece's (GSEE) administration plenary, since the agreement was ratified with 22 votes in favour and 22 against, necessitating the use of the GSEE president's "double vote", something anticipated by the trade union organisation's charter.

The deadline was reached after the entire opposition, including main opposition-affiliated grouping DAKE, the Communist Party of Greece- affiliated ESAK and the grouping affiliated to the Coalition of the Left and Progress, opposed the agreement, while disagreements also surfaced in the PASOK-affiliated PASKE grouping, depriving it of a majority.

Labour and Social Insurances Minister Miltiades Papaioannou promised that clauses limiting auxiliary pensions to 20 per cent of pensionable income will not be applied as of Jan. 1, 1998. He also promised positive handling of GSEE's claim for pensioning after 35 years' of work or 10,500 daily work stamps, without the precondition of an age limit, but admitted that, unavoidably, there will be a certain age limit.

Consequently, the gradual increase in the age limit which would be effective as of Jan. 1 is abolished, while it is considered most possible that there will be settlements in age limits in accordance with conditions prevailing in each labour sector.

Moreover, the exemption of low-pension earners from the 1 per cent extraordinary contribution will be extended up to the amount of 120,000 drachmas. All these issues will be discussed in greater detail at today's meeting between Mr. Papaioannou and GSEE .

National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said the budget will offer taxation relief for low salary earners and pensioners which will "partially cover" GSEE's claims.

Addressing the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB), Mr. Papantoniou offered assurances that there would be no extraordinary taxation on the reserves of businesses, adding that he has rejected relevant proposals.

Pangalos begins official visit to Spain

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos begins a three-day official visit to Spain today.

Mr. Pangalos will hold talks with his Spanish counterpart Abel Matutes and the foreign affairs parliamentary committee.

He will also be received by King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Mr. Pangalos' talks in Madrid will cover European and bilateral issues. The Greek foreign minister will also visit Barcelona.

Thessaloniki hosts UN conference on public administration

Ministers from 26 eastern European countries will be participating in the UN-sponsored conference on public administration, to be held in Thessaloniki from November 17-20, Interior and Public Administration Minister Alekos Papadopoulos said yesterday.

Mr. Papadopoulos said the aim of the conference was to study the role of increased professionalism and ethics in public administration.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will speak at a dinner for the participants, which will include representatives of the European Commission, the OECD, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, on the opening day of the conference.

WEATHER

Rain and intermittent storms are expected in the west and northwest of the country today with the possibility of drizzle in central Greece. Rest of the country will be partly cloudy. Winds south- westerly, light to moderate, turning strong in the Ionian Sea. Athens will sunny with a few clouds and temperatures from 13-22C. Thessaloniki will be partly cloudy with temperatures from 12-16C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 267.642 Pound sterling 449.971 Cyprus pd 529.430 French franc 46.525 Swiss franc 191.297 German mark 155.729 Italian lira (100) 15.898 Yen (100) 215.433 Canadian dlr. 189.472 Australian dlr. 186.332 Irish Punt 405.629 Belgian franc 7.549 Finnish mark 51.725 Dutch guilder 138.166 Danish kr. 40.910 Swedish kr. 35.668 Norwegian kr. 38.371 Austrian sch. 22.128 Spanish peseta 1.843 Port. Escudo 1.526

(M.P.)


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