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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-11-25

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, 25/11/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Economy well on the way to convergence, EMU
  • Gov't stands firm in face of civil servants' strike
  • British journalist calls for return of Parthenon Marbles
  • Beijing backs Greece's non-permanent UN Security Council bid
  • V. Papandreou discusses joint Greek-Chinese enterprises
  • Kranidiotis-Miller discuss Cyprus, proposed Euroconference
  • EIB sets up ECU technology facililty
  • National Theatre of Greece stages 'Medea' in Istanbul
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Economy well on the way to convergence, EMU

The Greek economy had made gigantic strides over the past four years towards convergence with the economies of the other EU member states, and participation in Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the primary target of the government's economic policy, National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou said today.

Inflation and the fiscal deficit had fallen from 12.3 and 13.8% of GDP in 1993-1994 to 4.7 and 4.2% respectively today, Papantoniou told the opening session of the annual "Hour of the Greek Economy" conference, organised by the Hellenic- American Chamber of Commerce.

Papantoniou said that growth was currently running at 3.0%, with prospects of reaching 3.5 in 1998, from -1.0% under previous New Democracy governments, replying to main opposition ND leader Costas Karamanlis's criticism on Monday.

Turning to the recent crisis on international financial markets and its repercussions on Greece, Papantoniou said Greece had moved out of the "high risk country" category and would soon belong to the "low-risk country" catgegory.

"The policy of fortifying the drachma, through raising interest rates, will be applied again if necessary to protect our national currency," he said, adding that the recent increase in interbank and deposits and loans rates was temporary and the rates would soon return to their pre-crisis levels.

Papantoniou outlined the taxation policy contained in the 1998 state budget, assuring that it would not harm lower-income earners.

By end 1999, he continued, the system of taxation on the basis of objective criteria would be abolished with the introduction of the integrated informatics programme TAXIS being developed at the Finance Ministry.

Papantoniou said the public expenditure containment policy was founded mainly on limiting public sector hiring and the decision to merge and abolish public sector agencies, which he said would be completed next year.

Also, the flotation of 10 more public utilities and organisations and the "cautious" privatisation of state- controlled banks would contribute to streamlining public sector expenditures.

Turning to the government's incomes policy, Papantoniou said there had been a substantial increase in civil servants' real incomes the last two years following stagnation in the period 1990-94.

Questioned on the course of the Athens Stock Exchange, Papantoniou predicted a rise in the general index in the medium-term, while any fluctuations would be temporary.

To other questions, he said that the new developmental law would be tabled for vote in Parliament by May 1998, while abolition of the monopolies in the energy and telecommunications sectors would be completed by the year 2000 in accordance with the EU directives.

Gov't stands firm in face of civil servants' strike

The government stood firm on its incomes policy today during a meeting between National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and the leadership of the civil service union, ADEDY, which held a 24-hour strike today.

"The budget is as stands," Papantoniou told an ADEDY delegation headed by its president Yiannis Koutsoukos, although he did agree to discuss civil servants' demands in more detail next week.

Several ADEDY officials warned later that if the government did not change its stance, industrial action would continue.

Koutsoukos accused the goverment of a lack of credibility and accused the government of trying to deceive public servants, referring to a promise he said had been made by Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis a month ago for pay rises of 4.5%.

He dismissed the government's proposed rise of 2.5%, adding that the budget was not clear as to whether this increase would be on gross or net pay and whether it would apply from January.

With regard to the government's claim to have increased spending on wages by 13% during 1996, Koutsoukos charged that none of that money ever reached the pockets of civil servants. He asked the government to release the salary scales of the judiciary, military and police in order to clarify just where the money had gone.

The ADEDY leadership was later received by Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, who urged them to make full use of all established avenues open to them for resolving differences, following the ratification of the international agreement on collective wage negotiations between the union and the state.

British journalist calls for return of Parthenon Marbles

A British journalist spoke out in favour of the return of the Parthenon marbles, also known as the Elgin marbles after Lord Elgin who removed them from the Acropolis early last century, although she warned there was a risk that these ancient monuments could be used by ultra-nationalists.

Isabel Hilton, a columnist with the Guardian, was addressing the final day of a conference on "Europe and the Media: Our cultural heritage", being held in Thessaloniki by the Macedonian Press Agency and the Thessaloniki Cultural Capital Organisation.

She characterised the removal of the frieze as a "personal act" on the part of Lord Elgin and also blamed him for the destruction of important architectural monuments in Beijing.

Indigent populations of countries under the British Empire had been subject to similar acts, she said.

Beijing backs Greece's non-permanent UN Security Council bid

The People's Republic of China has committed itself to supporting Greece's candidacy at a vote next year for the latter's election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council over the 1999-2000 period.

Chinese Defence Minister Chi Haotian gave these assurances to National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, who is currently on a four-day official visit to the People's Republic of China.

The two ministers also discussed the promotion of defence cooperation between the two countries in both the sectors of defence industries and armaments programmes.

The event is of particular importance for both countries, since Athens is apparently widening its defence horizons with a major power which, apart from being a permanent member of the Security Council, constitutes a substantial factor in the world's status quo. On the other hand, China is proceeding with overtures towards the west through countries such as Greece which is a permanent member of NATO and the European Union.

In a statement afterwards, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said "China, just as Greece does for the Balkans, constitutes a power of peace, security and cooperation for the entire Asian region, while serving a similar role at a world level, " he said.

The two ministers agreed to promote a defence cooperation agreement as soon as possible and for this reason Mr. Tsohatzopoulos invited his Chinese counterpart to pay an official visit to Greece.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also had the opportunity to underline Turkey's stance as a destabilising force in the region and to brief the Chinese defence minister on the course of the Cyprus issue.

On the sidelines of official talks, the Chinese minister thanked Mr. Tsohatzopoulos for Greece's position and assistance during the Albanian crisis by evacuating scores of Chinese citizens from the port of Durres last spring.

Tomorrow, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos will be received by Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng.

V. Papandreou discusses joint Greek-Chinese enterprises

Interest on the part of the People's Republic of China for the establishment of joint Greek-Chinese enterprises in major industrial and commercial sectors was among the initial focus of contacts Development Minister Vasso Papandreou had here.

The further development of economic and commercial relations between Greece and China is the purpose of the official visit being paid to Beijing by Ms Papandreou at the invitation of professor San Zenu, the Deputy Prime Minister of the Chinese government and president of one of the most important government committees, the Science, Research and Technology Committee (SSTC).

Ms Papandreou held two-hour talks yesterday with Ms. Zu Lilan, SSTC Vide- President, focusing on issues concerning cooperation in the technology sector.

Ms Papandreou said later that possibilities of activating Greek enterprises in China were great since it is a huge market developing at a speedy rate.

Ms Papandreou also discussed the prospect of developing cooperation in the tourism sector, where Greece can provide China with know-how for the creation of tourism infrastructure in the country.

China has already shown interest in specialising cooperation in the air transport sector with a proposal to establish flights to Athens or through Athens to other countries by the state-run Air China company.

Another possibility being examined is that of creating an industrial marble processing unit based on a proposal by the Latsis group.

Kranidiotis-Miller discuss Cyprus, proposed Euroconference

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis met yesterday with US State Department special coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Miller, focusing on the island republic and the proposed European Conference, which Turkey hopes to join. Mr. Kranidiotis reiterated Greece's known positions, namely, that Ankara must respond to preconditions set by the EU and contained in the documents drawn up on July 15, 1996 and April 29, 1997.

According to reports, both the EU presidency, with a visit to Turkey by Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker on Nov. 27, as well as Washington, are expected to push strongly to secure a positive gesture by Ankara, allowing for a compromise formula to be found at the December summit, where a decision on the European Conference will be taken.

The US official, according to reports, denied reports claiming the creation of a trizonal federation on Cyprus.

Replying to a question on whether the US is satisfied with the results of the meeting between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his Turkish counterpart Mesut Yilmaz on Crete, Mr. Miller said "it is not up to us to say whether we are satisfied or not."

EIB sets up ECU technology facility

The European Investmnent Bank (EIB) has set up a new 125 million ECU European Technology Facility to invest in venture capital funds supporting high growth and technology-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises in the European Union.

EIB is providing the money to set up the Luxembourg-based fund, which is to be managed by the European Investment Fund.

The EIF management agreement was signed last week by EIB President Sir Brian Unwin and EIF's Financial Committee Chairman Gerbrand Hop on the eve of the Special European Employment Council meeting in Luxembourg.

EIF will invest the 125 million ECU drawn from the EIB's annual surpluses over the next three years in specialized venture capital funds that support the creation and development of SMEs.

EIF will take minority positions to a maximum of 25 percent of the capital of any venture capital fund with a maximum in ECU of 12.5 million per investment. The main target will be funds managed by independent management companies in the European Union.

Direct investments in SMEs are not authorised.

Eligible SMEs should, at the time of the initial investment, have net assets not exceeding 75 million ECU and employ fewer than 500 people.

However, high priority will be given to funds investing in smaller SMEs to improve their competitiveness and innovative capacity and their ability to create jobs.

National Theatre of Greece stages 'Medea' in Istanbul

Euripides' "Medea" will be staged here and in Ankara next Friday by the National Theater of Greece as part of a cultural exchange programme agreed to by the Unions of Theatrical Writers of Greece and Turkey.

The play premieres tonight at the cultural centre "Kemal Ataturk".

The National Theater of Turkey will reciprocate on Jan. 21 and 22 with Demetris Psathas' play "Liar Wanted" and on Jan. 24 and 25 with 'Master Class' at the Agios Konstantinos' central stage.

WEATHER

Cloudiness and rain is forecast throughout Greece today, particularly in the southeast. Winds moderate to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Athens overcast with possible rain and temperatures between 10-17C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 6-14C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 269.447 Pound sterling 456.419 Cyprus pd 530.026 French franc 46.439 Swiss franc 192.101 German mark 155.506 Italian lira (100) 15.852 Yen (100) 212.030 Canadian dlr. 189.710 Australian dlr. 186.873 Irish Punt 405.133 Belgian franc 7.540 Finnish mark 51.505 Dutch guilder 137.908 Danish kr. 40.845 Swedish kr. 35.716 Norwegian kr. 38.250 Austrian sch. 22.094 Spanish peseta 1.840 Port. Escudo 1.522

(M.P.)


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