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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-12-15

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 15/12/1997 (ANA)


  • Greece pleased with EU decision on Turkey
  • European Council decision historical, says Clerides
  • The EU is not a Christian club, Juncker says
  • Solution to Cyprus problem not a precondition to EU accession
  • Greek parties' reactions to EU summit
  • Be kind to the environment
  • President begins official visit to Ukraine
  • Taxi fares increase for holidays
  • PASOK delegation tours Albania
  • Millions of years old Cretan sponges found
  • Greek First Division soccer results
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


Greece pleased with EU decision on Turkey

Prime Minister Costas Simitis expressed his absolute satisfaction over the results of the European Union's summit in Luxembourg, shortly after the close of the two-day summit on Saturday, stressing that Greece had every reason to be satisfied.

Mr. Simitis said the summit took two decisions of historical importance. One concerns European Union enlargement and the other the agreement achieved on coordinating the macroeconomic policies of member-states and the terms of operation of the so-called informal council of euro-zone countries.

Referring to issues of Greek concern, Mr. Simitis said, in relation to the start of negotiations for the accession of Cyprus to the EU, that it was made clear it will get underway together with the negotiations of the five central and eastern European countries.

Mr. Simitis said this decision was considered a foregone conclusion by many. However, during the summit talks it became clear that quite a few countries, France in particular, had objections. The final decision is that negotiations for the accession of Cyprus will start with the process which had been agreed.

Another decision of Greek interest regards the EU's enlargement. Enlargement concerns all 10 central and eastern European countries and this is of particular importance for southeastern Europe and Greece which desires to maintain and develop close relations with these countries.

The third important decision concerns the European Conference, a meeting between EU member-states and countries aspiring to join the EU. Mr. Simitis reminded Greek objections to the initiation of this conference, but stressed that the final shaping of proposals on the European Conference is such which satisfies Greece.

"Every country, and Turkey as well, has the right to participate in the European Conference, provided it states and countersigns the above principles," Mr. Simitis said.

Referring to European strategy on Turkey, included in the summit's finalised conclusions, Mr. Simitis said its basic ingredient is for Turkey to resolve its differences with Greece, among others, by referring the differences which possibly exist to the International Court at The Hague and to back the efforts of the UN to find a viable solution to the Cyprus issue.

He went on to say that recent tensions with Turkey did not alarm him because these tensions are escalated when there were periods of crisis, such as the present one on Turkey's relations with the EU.

Mr. Simitis said Greece had a positive approach to the issue of Turkey's European prospect and that it desires the creation of a framework in relation to this prospect. However, Turkey must realise, Mr. Simitis added, that Greece is not the sole country having claims from Turkey, but many member-states share Greece's views on Turkey.

On the question of the start to negotiations for the accession of Cyprus to the EU, which is expected to start on March 30 according to the summit's decisions, Mr. Simitis appeared absolutely satisfied.

He said the negotiations for Cyprus' accession to the EU will take place with the internationally-recognised government of Cyprus and not with two separate delegations, as certain countries were pursuing and primarily France.

Referring to the issue of the participation of the Turkish Cypriots in the Cypriot delegation which will conduct negotiations for the accession of Cyprus to the EU, Mr. Simitis said that Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides had agreed to this proposal long ago.

European Council decision historical, says Clerides

The European Council decision to open membership negotiations with Cyprus and five central and eastern European countries is of historic importance for Cyprus, President Glafcos Clerides said on Saturday. "It's a decision of historic importance that will benefit the whole of the people of Cyprus, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, the Maronites, the Latins and Armenians," the president pointed out.

Noting that the decision "really opens the door for our accession to the European Union (EU)," the president said "I am fully satisfied with this development."

President Clerides publicly thanked the Greek government for its support in the handling of the issue and especially Greek Premier Costas Simitis.

President Clerides also pointed out it had always been the firm stance of the Cyprus government that the accession course into the European Union would be helpful and a catalyst towards reaching a solution to the protracted Cyprus problem.

The president estimated the duration of EU-Cyprus accession talks to be around two to three years.

The EU is not a Christian club, Juncker says

European Union summit President and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker retorted on Saturday that "The European Union is not a Christian club but it is a demanding club", when asked by a Turkish reporter whether Turkey's exclusion from 11 candidate countries for EU accession was due to the fact the EU is a Christian club.

On the issue of Turkey in particular, both Mr. Juncker and European Commission President Jacques Santer mentioned the following: The main result of the summit for Turkey is that the danger of a deadlock was averted and a clear message of European prospect was given to Turkey. The EU's proposal is a serious and constructive offer to Turkey and we hope we will receive a serious and constructive reply from Ankara.

The Luxembourg prime minister said that with the present decision, the EU set out a European strategy towards Turkey and clarified that this country was eligible for accession but at present it does not fulfil necessary preconditions.

Mr. Juncker further said that Europe needs Turkey as, in any case, Turkey needs Europe.

However, these relations must be made in an organised framework, on a basis of common principles and with respect for common conceptions.

Mr. Juncker said specifically that this framework demands from all the countries desiring to participate in the European Conference to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the other countries in the Conference and to resolve possible territorial differences with each other on the basis of the principles of international law and by resorting, if considered necessary, to the international court at The Hague.

Solution to Cyprus problem not a precondition to EU accession

British Prime Minister Tony Blair stated categorically that a solution to the Cyprus issue does not constitute a precondition for accession.

He added that Britain will do all it can to promote accession negotiations and the finding of a good, as he said, settlement.

Referring to the result of the Luxembourg summit, Mr. Blair distanced himself fully and publicly from the positions of French President Jacques Chirac against Cyprus.

Mr. Blair appealed to Turkey to accept the invitation to participate in the European Conference and said that the EU is not turning its back on Turkey.

On the part of Germany, Chancellor Helmut Kohl specifically said for the Cyprus issue that the start to negotiations for accession to the EU will contribute positively towards the UN's efforts to have the Cyprus issue resolved and that the participation of the Turkish Cypriots in the delegation of Cyprus which will negotiate accession would constitute an extremely positive factor, but not a necessary factor for the accession of Cyprus to the EU.

Greek parties' reactions to EU summit

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) reacting to the EU summit's results said in a statement yesterday that the decisions concerning Turkey "are due to Germany's inability to undertake the cost of enlargement and not to Greek pressures".

"The respect of borders which the 15 demanded from Turkey is a vague and hypocritical condition, as it is well known that NATO's new structure does not recognise any borders in the Aegean," the statement added.

On the Cyprus issue, the KKE statement said that "the problems are still unresolved while no decision whatsoever was taken towards securing the unity of Cyprus".

The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) party in its statement said the summit's decision on Cyprus was an "important development" for the island republic and the resolving of its problem.

Regarding decisions on economic and monetary union as well as enlargement, the statement said that they "institutionalise different speeds", accusing the Greek government of not having timely negotiated in political terms thus securing the country's participation in the EMU from the first phase.

Be kind to the environment

Respect for the environment and sustainable development requires tremendous coordination and radical changes in behaviours and lifestyles, including changes in production and consumption models, the conclusions of an environmental conference which ended here on Saturday say.

The five-day conference, entitled "Environment and Society: Education and Sensitisation of Citizens on Sustainability", was sponsored by UNESCO and the Greek government, and was attended by delegations from 90 countries.

The conclusions, issued in the form of a declaration, stress the inadequate progress noted on issues of environmental protection since the Rio Earth Summit five years ago. They also stress that the reorientation of all education towards sustainab ility includes all levels of formal and informal education in all countries, and that sustainability is a moral value in which cultural differences and traditional knowledge must be respected.

This reorientation also requires governments and leaders to recognise the commitments undertaken during United Nations conferences, and to provide the educational communities of their respective countries with the necessary means so that they may fulfil their role in achieving a sustainable future.

The Thessaloniki Declaration also recommends the setting up of a special prize, sponsored by UNESCO, to be awarded every two years to exemplary educational programmes for the environment and sustainability.

Finally, it recommends the convening of an international conference in 10 years' time to evaluate the application and progress of the recommendations included in the Declaration.

President begins official visit to Ukraine

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos left on an official three- day visit to Ukraine today, accompanied by Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou, to sign a series of bilateral agreements.

Mr. Stephanopoulos is scheduled to have private talks with his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kuchma and with the Ukrainian prime minister, as well as meetings with members of the Ukraine Greek community.

He is also scheduled to address the country's Parliament in Kiev and visit Odessa and other major cities.

This will be the first official visit by a Greek dignitary since November 1994, when then-Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias visited the former Soviet republic. Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos visited Ukraine in July this year to observe the multinational "Partnership for Peace" exercise. Greece and Ukraine signed a friendship and cooperation protocol and three agreements in the sectors of transport, tourism and culture in November 1996 when Mr. Kuchma visited Athens. A month earlier, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos had signed an agreement on defence cooperation between the two countries, when his Ukrainian counterpart visited Athens.

An increasing number of Greek concerns have expressed interest in investing or further developing business ties with Ukraine.

Greece has also expressed its support of Kiev's intention to join European and Atlantic organisations with Greece's defence minister saying last month that Athens intended to pursue improved relations between the Western European Union and Russia and Ukraine when it takes over the presidency in January next year.

Taxi fares increase for holidays

Taxi fares will increase by 150 drachmas all over the country over a period of 17 days by decision of the Transport and Communications Minister. The extra charge will go into effect as of December 22, 1997 and will end on January 7, 1998. In this way taxi drivers will receive additional income due to the upcoming holidays. Last year the extra charge was 100 drachmas and lasted for 26 days.

PASOK delegation tours Albania

A delegation of the ruling PASOK party, currently on an official visit to Tirana at the invitation of the Albanian Socialist Party, held contacts on Saturday with the secretary-generals of the Albanian Socialist Party's prefect ural organisations, as well as with Parliament President Skeder Gjinousi.

On Friday, the delegation visited Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano and held two-hour talks with him.

Mr. Nano expressed satisfaction over the level of relations between the two parties, referring to his party's priorities as well as those of the government which are relations of confidence, the creation of a positive climate between Balkan countries and the accession of Albania to the European Union.

Mr. Nano also referred to Greece's position towards Albanian immigrants and to the effort being made by Greece to support Albania at present to help create conditions for an exit to the crisis.

The delegation's head Theodoros Tsoukatos conveyed greetings by Greek Prime Minister and PASOK leader Costas Simitis, adding that the visit was aimed at upgrading relations between the two parties and the two countries.

The PASOK cadres further visited Archbishop of Albania Anastasios on Saturday who briefed them on the role played by the Orthodox Church and on conditions prevailing in Albania.

Millions of years old Cretan sponges found

Scientists have discovered sponges aged between 50 and 100 million years at a height of 1,800 metres on the island of Crete, providing support for a theory that Crete's highest mountain was once the southern coast of an ocean.

The discovery, coming after years of research, has encouraged the team of experts from the Crete Polytechnic and the University of Berlin and has bolstered a UNESCO programme to monitor and protect regions of palaeontological interest.

Greek First Division soccer results

Olympiakos-Panionios 2-0 Heraklis- Panathinaikos 0-1 Panahaiki-PAOK 1-4 Ethnikos-OFI O-1 Apollon-Proodeftiki 1-0 Veria-Xanthi 2-1 Kavala-Pyrgos 1-1 Ionikos-Kalamata play today Athinaikos-AEK play today standings-points: AEK, Olympiakos 34, Panathinaikos 33, Ionikos 30, PAOK 28, Heraklis, OFI 23


Rains and local storms will continue today in the east of the country with snow falling on central and northern mountain regions. Winds strong to very strong northerlies with local gales. Temperatures will range from 1-8C in the north, 5-13C in the Ionian Sea and 8-16C in the Aegean. Athens will be overcast with rains and local storms with temperatures from 8-11C. Thessaloniki will be rainy and windy with temperatures from 5-7C.


Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 274.982 Pound sterling 457.570 Cyprus pd 532.101 French franc 46.555 Swiss franc 192.775 German mark 155.893 Italian lira (100) 15.922 Yen (100) 211.782 Canadian dlr. 192.845 Australian dlr. 182.290 Irish Punt 405.212 Belgian franc 7.559 Finnish mark 51.663 Dutch guilder 138.399 Danish kr. 40.940 Swedish kr. 35.569 Norwegian kr. 38.043 Austrian sch. 22.170 Spanish peseta 1.845 Port. Escudo 1.525


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