Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-12-17
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 17/12/1997 (ANA)
- PM challenges unruly MPs before budget debate
- Athens hosts Mideast peace process meeting
- Diplomatic staff call 48-hour strike
- Bregovic to perform in Thessaloniki
- Mount Athos exhibition extended
- No land issue in Greek-Albanian relations
- Snow begins falling in northern Greece
- Foreign Exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
PM challenges unruly MPs before budget debate
Prime Minister Costas Simitis today threw down the gauntlet to critics
within his ruling PASOK party just a few hours before a parliamentary
debate on the state budget, parts of which have been criticised by PASOK
"If somebody thinks they have a better proposal, the door is open for them
to express so publicly," Simitis said, adding, "They will be judged by the
Simitis was addressing PASOK's parliamentary group.
The passing of the budget by parliament, he said, was a key step in the
implementation of the (economic) programme approved by the Greek people.
Stressing that PASOK's policy was not "fragmentary", Simitis said one could
not select certain main points and reject others.
The premier called on all PASOK deputies to wholeheartedly support the
government's task and ensure a "fruitful discussion" of the budget in
"The implementation of the government's policy is identified, now more than
at any other time," with the vital, direct and long-term interests of the
country... Today we have a historic responsibility which goes far beyond
all party and political considerations, and most certainly beyond all
personal interests," he said.
Simitis also warned "all those retain privileges and promote their own
specific interests, draining the vital resources of the economy," that no
concessions would be made to them, irrespective of the political cost.
Asked by reporters later to clarify what Simitis meant by his reference to
the door being open, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said:
"The doors to PASOK are open for anyone wishing to enter or leave. Each
person chooses for himself the entrance or exit."
Reppas explained that Simitis' statement was in effect a reiteration of the
premier's position that "each person must assume his or her responsibilities".
If divisive views are expressed, he added, this will be an obstacle to the
implementation of collective decisions.
Athens hosts Mideast peace process meeting
The second meeting between Israeli and Palestinian delegations begins in
Athens tomorrow aimed at examining the course of the peace process and
exchanging views on the possibility of speeding up the process.
An initial meeting in Athens at the initiative of the Greek Foreign
Ministry was held in July. No joint communique was released after that
The Israeli delegation will include two parliamentary vice-presidents and
two deputies representing the governing coalition and the opposition.
The Palestinian side will consist of members of the Palestinian Authority
and of the Legislative Council.
The meeting will be opened by Greek Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos
A press conference will also be given tomorrow by Foreign Minster Theodoros
Pangalos, the European Union's special envoy for the Middle East peace
process Miguel Angel Muratino and representatives of the two delegations.
Diplomatic staff call 48-hour strike
Diplomatic staff of the foreign ministry will hold a 48-hour strike on
December 18-19 to protest the refusal of the finance ministry to revise
their salary scales.
The Union of Diplomatic Staff, in an announcement today, said although the
salary scales of all categories of senior state functionaries had been
reviewed in recent months, "with major pay increases being given in many
cases ...an impartial assessment of the needs of our branch has not been
The union said that the upgrading of Greek diplomacy being pursued by the
government was inconsistent with the present economic circumstances of the
The union pointed out that the present salaries of diplomatic staff was not
commensurate with their high qualifications, particularly in view of the
fact that spouses were very often unable to work due to relocations
Bregovic to perform in Thessaloniki
Yugoslav composer Goran Bregovic, who is to give a performance in
Thessaloniki on December 30 to mark the closure of the city's year as
Cultural Capital of Europe, has invited 200 performing artists from all
Balkans states except his own as he considers his compatriots "immature".
Speaking at a press conference today, Bregovic said nevertheless that the
programme included a song to be performed by three children from Sarajevo -
a Moslem, a Serb and a Croat.
The event will include te premiere of the work "Thessaloniki", commissioned
by the Cultural Capital Organisation, to be performed by Greek singer
George Dalaras, and a film entitled "The Silence of the Balkans", directed
by Boris Milikovic.
Mount Athos exhibition extended
Thessaloniki may cease being European Cultural Capital on December 31, but
the legacy of the city's year as the reference point for European cultural
events will live on, at least until April 30, when the Treasures of Mount
Athos exhibition ends.
The exhibition has been extended due to an enthusiastic public response and
the fact that the exhibition is unlikely to travel anywhere else but back
to the cloistered monastic community of Mount Athos, which women are
forbidden to enter.
"It may take several decades before the relics leave the monastic community
again," Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters in June when
the exhibition opened at the city's Byzantine Museum.
Sixteen of the 20 monasteries on the Athos peninsula have contributed to
the exhibition, which took two years to organise and cost four billion
drachmas. Among the items on show are icons by famous hagiographers, such
as Panselinos and Theophanis, priceless manuscripts and books, handwoven,
embroidered tapestries and cloth. Most of the 600 items had never before
left the peninsula.
The 2,000 drachma admission and proceeds from the sales of catalogues and
posters has brought in 1.5 billion drachmas, much of which will make its
way back to the autonomous community for restoration of monasteries. The
amount is thought to have been a major reason behind the decision to extend
Some 464,706 people have visited the exhibition since it opened on June 21
this year, but free admission on Sundays as of November 1 has increased the
number of Sunday visitors to some 6,000 daily. Organisers hope to reach the
one million visitor mark by the time the exhibition ends.
Although the majority of visitors are Greeks, organisers said at least
three tourist coaches a day pass into Greece from its border with the
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with Orthodox faithful from all over
former Yugoslavia. One of the monasteries participating in the exhibition
is the Serbian Monastery of Hilandariou.
The 30,000 catalogues of the exhibition have been sold out since September
and a second print run is expected to be ready for distribution by January
No land issue in Greek-Albanian relations
Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis told Parliament late last night
that the Greek government did not recognise any issue concerning the
property of "Tsamides" - an Albanian Moslem minority now living in the
Kranidiotis stressed that there was no property issue either from a
political or legal viewpoint.
Tsamides are an Albanian-speaking group which collaborated with Italian and
German occupation forces in Greece during the Second World War. They fled
to Albania together with retreating German forces.
The group has repeatedly raised claims against the Greek government for
property which it claims it lost during that period.
Kranidiotis was speaking in Parliament during a debate on the ratification
of a friendship, cooperation and security pact signed by Greece and Albania
on March 21, 1996.
"The issue was never raised by the Albanian side during talks prior to the
agreement. Why should we raise it?" Kranidiotis said in response to sharp
criticism from the main opposition New Democracy party.
According to ND deputies, Article 15 of the pact concerning the removal of
obstacles to the use of property in one country owned by citizens of the
other, paves the way for the Tsamides to have recourse to international
Kranidiotis told Parliament that there was no issue of an Albanian minority
He added also that, according to Tirana, Greece could establish Greek
schools throughout the neighbouring country.
"In reality," Kranidiotis said, there are no clearly defined (ethnic Greek)
minority zones in Albania and Athens would work to have this recognised
ND deputies claimed that the agreement did not secure the rights of ethnic
Greeks in southern Albania, nor the principle of reciprocity, while failing
to resolve the problems of education, religion, the establishment of Greek
banks, customs posts and illegal immigration.
Snow begins falling in northern Greece
Heavy snow continues to fall in Epirus, central and western Macedonia,
causing problems for traffic in the region. Temperatures have dropped to -
5C in the Katara Pass on the Ioannina-Trikala road, while snow is also
falling in the city of Thessaloniki.
Chains are required for all vehicles travelling on the Kozani-Kastoria road
via Vigla and on a section of the Thessaloniki-Kozani road as well on some
mountain roads in the region.
Authorities are on the alert in the prefecture of Evros, in Thrace, as it
is feared the river Arda is likely to break its banks due to the heavy rain
which has been falling as far north as the river's headwaters in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian authorities are briefing the Greek Embassy in Sofia on the
Light rain is forecast in most parts of Greece today with light snowfall in
the mountainous regions of central and northern Greece. Winds will be
variable, strong to gale force. Athens will be cloudy with light rain and
temperatures between 4-9C. Clouds and sleet in Thessaloniki with temperatures
Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 278.256
Pound sterling 454.058 Cyprus pd 533.696
French franc 46.697 Swiss franc 193.812
German mark 156.414 Italian lira (100) 15.960
Yen (100) 212.457 Canadian dlr. 195.960
Australian dlr. 180.643 Irish Punt 403.744
Belgian franc 7.580 Finnish mark 51.832
Dutch guilder 138.791 Danish kr. 41.053
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Austrian sch. 22.231 Spanish peseta 1.847
Port. Escudo 1.532