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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-12-31

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, 31/12/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • CAA awaits response from Turkey on military exercises
  • Tsohatzopoulos calls for collective security body for Balkans
  • 'Foreign Affairs' article on Greece
  • Athens Academy awards
  • Ten major ancient, Byzantine shipwrecks located
  • Natural gas flow to begin next week through Athens
  • Greek stocks rebound on technical factors
  • National Bank nine months pre-tax profits up 71 pct
  • Economic fundamentals on convergence track, report says
  • EU cohesion slower than expected
  • Christodoulakis says interest rates on downward trend
  • Sale of bourse shares completed
  • Quality label for locally made handicrafts
  • Int'l indoor athletics tournament in Athens in February
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

CAA awaits response from Turkey on military exercises

Greece's Civil Aviation Authority is still awaiting a response from its Turkish counterpart on the areas where a Turkish military exercise is scheduled between Jan. 2-25.

Greece has objected to three of the eight areas choosen by the Turkish military.

Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis said that he does not consider the matter important, adding that it was a "game" expected by Turkey, which has played for the past 25 years.

Tsohatzopoulos calls for collective security body for Balkans

Neighbouring countries have accepted Greece's active role in efforts to resolve problems in Bosnia as well as Athens' role in bridging the gap between the region and the European Union.

These were some conclusions drawn following National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos' official visit in Bosnia recently.

The Greek defence minister on Monday arrived in Tirana immediately after leaving Sarajevo.

In Albania, he met yesterday with the President Rexhep Mejdani, Prime Minister Fatos Nano and his counterpart Sabit Brokaj.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also met with Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania Anastasios and Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, while on Monday evening he visited the 204 troops of the Greek military contingent stationed outside Tirana.

He also inaugurated the Tirana military hospital, since its new wing was built and equipped by the Hellenic Air Force general staff.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos told a press conference that Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) should form a "collective body" as a force of security in the Balkans.

"Greece, as well as Albania, Bulgaria and FYROM should take the initiative for the establishment of such a regional body for collective security".

He added that on the basis of that initiative, Greece will go ahead with organising new meetings, similar to the summit of Balkan leaders last November on Crete.

Commenting on his contacts with his Albanian counterpart Brokaj, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said discussion focused on the successful cooperation between the two countries' armed forces, which as he said was not of an opportunistic nature.

'Foreign Affairs' article on Greece

The Greek government under Prime Minister Costas Simitis has adopted a more international attitude, while Turkey must follow the same path if it wants to become a member of the European Union, according to an article in the US- based magazine "Foreign Affairs".

"For the first time, Greece realised that it is a part of the European Union and that its successes both in the political and financial field depend on the relations Greece cultivates with Europe and its Balkan neighbours," the article mentioned.

Bylined by Marcia Christoff Kurop, the article noted that Greek-Turkish tension, mostly in the Aegean, is an obstacle to the financial and political convergance with Europe, since Greece spends some three billion US dollars a year for defence, the highest per capita in NATO.

Ms Kurop also noted that the recent escalation of tension in Cyprus is due to the purchase of the Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missile system by the Cypriot government, the Greece-Cyprus joint defence doctrine and the upcoming commencement of access ion talks between the island republic and the European Union.

Finally, Ms Kurop wrote that Greece was concerned by the Turkish-Israeli military pact, although it looks at the EU for its political future and the US for military assistance.

Athens Academy awards

The Athens Academy last night handed out its annual awards presented to both individuals and collective works by noted scientists and associations.

The gold medal for natural and political sciences was given to Prordomos Emfietzoglou, president of the construction company Mechaniki, for his national, social and cultural contibution.

In the same category, prizes were awarded to the National Archaeological Museum Society, the children's cancer support group "Hope", on behalf of which the award was received by its president Marianna Vardinoyianni, and the Union of Greek Actors.

Prizes of 800,000 drachmas were granted to Kiki Dimoula for her poetic collection "Oblivion's adolescence" and Costas Stergiopoulos for his essay "Strolling".

Another award of 800,000 drachmas in the natural sciences category was given to surgeon Vassilis Goletatis and his team.

Ten major ancient, Byzantine shipwrecks located

The Underwater Antiquities Department has located a further 10 shipwrecks believed to be of major historical and archaeological significance in the Saronic Gulf and the Myrtoo Sea.

According to a report sent by the culture ministry, a three-man team for 10 days monitored the work of two professional divers to record the sites.

The discoveries will shed more light on the history of shipping routes off the coasts of Attica and the eastern Peloponnese.

Near the island of Aegina, two Byzantine wrecks were found, the first with part of its cargo of 8th and 9th century amphorae intact.

The second was carrying 10th century tiles and it is hoped that parts of the vessel would be found intact, since it is buried in the sand.

During the same 10-day mission, two wrecks of the Roman period were discovered, one with more than 50 amphorae, used to carry salty water for preserving food. The second, lying at a greater depth, is most probably undisturbed. Its cargo consists again of amphorae and common household utensils. It has been dated between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD.

Perhaps the most important find is an ancient wreck with a cargo of large tiles and cross-beams of the Laconian type. It is believed that the vessel was sailing to the city of Alies (present-day Porto Heli) with its cargo of construction materials for some type of public building. From the shape and size of the tiles, archaeologists have dated the shipwreck between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.

It is the first time that a wreck has been found in the Mediterranean carrying a cargo of building materials from a tile works. Due to the fact that the vessel is submerged in mud, it is hoped that part of the hull will be intact.

Two more wrecks from historic times were also found - a warship off Hydra with 21 cannons, and a trader carrying slabs of grey limestone. Divers also discovered two lead anchors dating from the Roman period, one bearing the letters ANA.

Natural gas flow to begin next week through Athens

Natural gas will flow through the Athens municipality network next week as the Athens Municipal Natural Gas Enterprise (DEFA) yesterday transferred its rights on the network to the Public Natural Gas Enterprise (DEPA).

DEPA's network now extends to some 550 kilometres, mostly within the greater Athens region.

On his part, DEPA president Christos Voudouris said that there are possibilities of increasing its clients.

DEPA managing director Savvas Papaphilipou said that natural gas will be used by residential, commercial and industrial clients in Athens, Volos, Thessaloniki and by the Keratsini power plant.

Greek stocks rebound on technical factors

Greek equities recovered substantial ground helped by technical factors and bargain hunting buying on the Athens Stock Exchange, reversing the previous day's sharp decline.

The general index closed 1.24 percent higher at 1,469.14 points. Sector indices were mixed. Banks rose 1.46 percent, Insurance eased 0.70 percent, Leasing increased 0.92 percent, Investment rose 0.88 percent, Constructions fell 0.26 percent, Industrials ended 1.48 percent up, Miscellaneous rose 1.22 percent and Holding was 1.35 percent higher.

The parallel market index for small cap companies fell 0.17 percent, while the FTSE/ASE index ended 1.37 percent higher at 840.46 points.

Trading was heavy with turnover at 24.1 billion drachmas.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 139 to 69 with another 30 issues unchanged.

Elfico, Alysida, Mochlos, Olympiaki Contractors scored the biggest percentage gains, while Nematemboriki, Klaoudatos, Mouriades and Dane suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 24,700 drachmas, Ergobank at 14,460, Alpha Credit Bank at 16,460, Delta Dairy at 3,355, Titan Cement at 12,810, Intracom at 13,055 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 5, 845.

National Bank nine months pre-tax profits up 71 pct

National Bank of Greece, the country's largest bank, reported a 71 percent rise in pre-tax profits in the period January-September this year to 36.4 billion drachmas compared with 21.3 billion in the corresponding period in 1996.

The bank said in a statement that a sharp rise in profits was the outcome of higher provisions, at 50 billion drachmas, aimed at restructuring the bank's loan portfolio based on international standards.

National Bank said however that dividend payment would not be affected by this high provisions.

The state bank reported a slower rate of operational spending to an annual 8.1 percent in the first nine months of 1997, compared to a 10.9 percent last year.

Economic fundamentals on convergence track, report says

Recent disturbances in international markets have had a perverse effect on Greek markets but higher real interest rates and spreads over bunds were expected to wane as economic fundamentals remain on the convergence track, Alpha Credit Bank said in its December economic report.

The report said that convergence has suffered a setback since the end of October due to the destabilising effects of the international markets on domestic money and capital markets, pushing higher domestic interest rates.

Although exchange rate policy has emerged intact and the loss of foreign exchange reserves was relatively small, higher rates had burdened the road to normalcy.

The Greek government responded to the crisis by announcing a bold 1998 budget, centered around raising new taxes and severely restricting wage awards in the public sector.

Alpha Credit Bank said that the Bank of Greece, the country's central bank, had successfully intervened to defend the drachma and predicted that Greece's foreign exchange reserves stood at about US$ 15.2 billion early December.

The report urged the government to speed up creation of a liquid secondary market for fixed income instruments and the establishment of a reliable benchmark long-term rate.

EU cohesion slower than expected

Hamburg, Brussels,Vienna,Bremen,Essen and Isle de France were among the richest regions in the European Union, while Epirus, several Greek Aegean islands, the Azores and French colonies were among the poorer regions, according to an EU report.

The same regions were among the richest and poorer regions in the European Union a decade ago, a sign that internal cohesion was not moving as satisfactory as the European Community had promised.

However, some wider regions, such as Greece and Portugal, were able to meet higher growth rates than other more developed regions in the EU.

Greece has reported growth rates of 2.03 percent and 2.38 percent in 1995 and 1996 respectively with a forecast of 3.0 percent growth rate this year.

On the other end, Epirus marked 43 points, the Azores 48 and the northern Aegean islands 49 points, all less than 50 percent of the EU average.

Christodoulakis says interest rates on downward trend

Speaking during a press conference yesterday, Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis referred to developments relating to interest rates, which as he predicted were de-escalating after a recent crisis.

The undersecretary said that the reduction in interests rates will be assisted by the state's increased borrowing needs, which in 1998 will be higher by two trillion drachmas.

In January, the finance ministry will borrow 300 billion drachmas, while in the first half of the year the state will need to borrow another 520 billion.

Mr. Christodoulakis further said that tax on treasury bills for the series to be issued on Jan. 2 will remain at 7.5 per cent, while the following series will be taxed at 10 per cent.

Sale of bourse shares completed

The sale of shares for the state-run Athens Stock Market - Chrimatistirio Axion Athinon S.A. - to various categories of investors has been completed.

According to figures, investors were provided with 1,983,270 of the company's shares (39.67 per cent of the total figure) for about 23 billion drachmas. Following this development, the share register of the company "Chrimatistirio Axion Athinon S.A." was shaped as follows:

Greek state 60.33 per cent; bourse companies 3.08 per cent; credit institutions 22.70 per cent; companies registered with the Athens Stock Exchange 5.55 per cent; insurance companies 1.58 per cent; mutual funds 2.36 per cent; insurance funds 3.04 per ce nt and investment companies 1.35 per cent.

Quality label for locally made handicrafts

A new measure for the protection of the local handicrafts market from imports will be taken next month, according to the president of the Association of Handicrafts Manufacturers (BLT).

BLT President Odysseas Koumatos, who was speaking during a press conference yesterday, said a quality label will be attached on all local products sold at handicrafts shops. The quality label will be supplied by EOMMEX.

He also charged that imported handicraft items and a 'self-styled' control of the market by tourist coaches stopping only at specific shops was a major blow to the sector.

Mr. Koumatos, who called on the state to intervene, said that unless the National Tourist Organisation (EOT) took proper measures to eliminate such phenomena, then local shopowners' assocaitions and the BLT will go ahead with industrial action.

The annual exhibition of the BLT Attica will be held Jan. 8-11 at the OLP building in Piraeus, with the participation of 400 handicrafts manufacturers across the country.

Int'l indoor athletics tournament in Athens in February

Leading athletes from all over the world will participate in the international athletics meet "Athina", due to take place at Peace and Friendship Stadium on Feb. 21, according to the Amateur Athletics Association (SEGAS). So far, 311 male and female athletes have declared participation in the event.

Among them is Charles Austin (US) who came first in high jump in the Atlanta Olympics; Michael Green (US) who came second in the 60 metres dash in the 1997 World Indoor Athletics Championships and Daniela Georgieva (Bulgaria) who came second in the 200 metres event in the 1995 World Indoor Athletics Championships.

WEATHER

Fine weather in most parts of Greece today with local clouds in the western regions. Winds moderate westerlies to northwesterlies, turning light to moderate later in the Ionian sea. Athens will be sunny with few clouds and temperatures between 6-15C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-13C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 280.716 Pound sterling 466.141 Cyprus pd 534.470 French franc 46.787 Swiss franc 193.013 German mark 156.513 Italian lira (100) 15.958 Yen (100) 216.921 Canadian dlr. 195.126 Australian dlr. 183.019 Irish Punt 402.157 Belgian franc 7.587 Finnish mark 51.747 Dutch guilder 138.885 Danish kr. 41.095 Swedish kr. 35.537 Norwegian kr. 38.192 Austrian sch. 22.252 Spanish peseta 1.850 Port. Escudo 1.530

(Y.B.)


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