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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-02-03

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, 03/02/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Parliament approves controversial provision on public utilities
  • Tsohatzopoulos meets with top US officials
  • Gov't voices hope that farmers will not block highways
  • Companies to face olive oil fraud charges
  • Washington justifies termination of aid to Greece, Turkey
  • Albanian illegals sent back home
  • Greece's industrial production up by 0.4 pct Jan/Nov 1997
  • Greece to auction 250 billion dr. T-bills
  • Greek stocks end lower in reluctant trading
  • Greece attracts Spanish tourists
  • Singular awarded quality certificate ISO 9001
  • 'Mitilineos' plans to invest in Serbian mines
  • ETANE projects in Albania
  • Greek pasta sector aims at increasing sales abroad
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Parliament approves controversial provision on public utilities

Parliament approved early this morning the government's controversial amendment bringing about changes in labour relations in public utilities and enterprises (DEKO), in the face of strong objections by trade unions.

The amendment was carried by 142 votes in favour and 121 against. Two deputies -former New Democracy ministers Vasilis Kontoyiannopoulos and Giorgos Souflias- abstained, while 35 were absent -20 of them including prominent members of the ruling party.

The controversial amendment, whose debate in parliament was regarded as a test to the major parties' (PASOK, ND) inner cohesion, is actually a reformulation of Clause 31 in the taxation bill giving the government the power to intervene by legislative ar rangements in the personnel regulations of four ailing DEKO - Hellenic Post Offices (ELTA), Olympic Airways, Greek Railways Organisation (OSE) and the Urban Transport Organisation (OASA).

The roll-call vote in parliament was requested by all opposition parties.

Earlier, during the debate, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said publc utilities had a slim chance to survive unless they underwent restructuring.

The minister said the government was giving employees with ailing DEKO the chance for six months of dialogue and negotiations.

He stressed, however, that if these failed, then the state could not remain indifferent to "the self-destructive course" of public utilities.

Mr. Papantoniou said he agreed with a seven-point proposal made by the main opposition ND party, but invited ND leader Costas Karamanlis to expandout on whether his party would bring in legislation, as did the government, on changing labour relations.

He further described public utilities in pessimistic terms, explaining that some of them had huge debts, such as OASA with a deficit of 88 billion Dr., OSE with 116 billion Dr. and ELTA with 20 billion Dr.

Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis termed the controversial clause "sudden, hypocritical, improvised, unstudied and fragmentary which fails to touch the overall problem of DEKO."

He analysed his party's seven-point proposal, saying that it is a "programme for the real upgrading of an ailing public sector."

Mr. Karamanlis said his party is committed to tabling an integrated draft law on restructuring the public sector in a month's time and called on the government to respond, withdraw the amendment and attend an "explicit and sincere" dialogue.

Meanwhile, General Confederation of Workers of Greece, GSEE, President Christos Polyzogopoulos had said the ratification of the amendment will be considered a "hostile act" by trade unions.

Mr. Polyzogopoulos warned that the amendment is leading to a confrontation which will last for many months, adding that GSEE will not allow the running down of DEKO to make their privatisation easier. He stressed that no federation will be left to tackle consequences alone, adding that the possibility of generalised strike action is visible.

Tsohatzopoulos meets with top US officials

Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday met with US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Mark Grossman, the Vice-chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff Joseph Ralston and ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns. According to press reports, the minister and the US officials exchanged views and information on the recent crisis with Iraq, while the US government did not ask Greece for its support or to facilitate its actions.

The same press reports state that Mr. Grossman said that the US is awaiting for the diplomatic initiatives to defuse the crisis and Mr. Tsohatzopoulos pointed out to Mr. Grossman that all diplomatic efforts must be exhausted for a peaceful setlement of the crisis.

Gov't voices hope that farmers will not block highways

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday expressed the hope that protesting farmers would not eventually block main highways as in the past, "since then we have all become wiser".

Mr.Reppas also expressed regret that farmers' representatives had not entered into talks either with the Agriculture Ministry or the Agricultural Policy Council, adding that their protest action was aimed solely at harming the government.

The spokesman once again rejected farmers' calls for direct talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, saying there were specific bodies for this, while the Agriculture Ministry was "always open".

Compared to last year, Mr. Reppas said there were not more problems (in the agricultural sector) but simply the same restrictions imposed by the European Union "and therefore there is no justification for protest action".

Meanwhile, farmers protesting the government's agricultural policy yesterday blocked the road leading into Preveza for 30 minutes. They said yesterday's protest, without the use of tractors, was a warning and that further action would follow in the coming days. Columns of tractors from all over Thessaly began to appear yesterday afternoon on the outskirts of Larissa, central Greece, gathering at the "Viocarpet" junction on the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway.

According to the estimates of the farmers' Panthessaly Coordinating Committee, about 2,000 tractors were expected to take part in the protests.

The country's business world said it considered new mobilisations by farmers in their present form a mistaken tactic with serious consequences for the Greek economy and production.

An announcement issued yesterday by presidents of Chambers of Commerce, Federations and Confederations of Greek commerce stresses that "it is not permissible for the Greek economy to be used as a hostage by groups deciding to exert pressure on the state , violating laws and preventing citizens and enterprises from continuing their activities smoothly."

Companies to face olive oil fraud charges

"Styl T. Shipping Company SA," "Katerina T" and "Marral II" companies will face fraud charges at a Piraeus court.

All three are accused of allegedly importing olive oil from Tunisia, Gibraltar and Turkey, which they then "baptised" it into Greek and sold it in the European Community, thus receiving subsidies and avoiding taxation, damaging both the EU and Italy.

The alleged fraudulent gains are 7.3 billion drachmas.

Washington justifies termination of aid to Greece, Turkey

A decision by the Clinton administration to terminate foreign military aid to Greece and Turkey is actually a result of the maturing in relations between those two counties, according to the Director of the Office for Resources, Plans and Policy of the US State Department, Graig Johnstone during a press conference here yesterday given on the State Department's budget. The US official stressed there was now no "need for the same levels of assistance that we have had in the past in order for these countries to continue to play active roles in NATO". He added the US had had consultations with both countries on the issue. Mr. Johnstone further said that Greece and Turkey had now "graduated" away from an assistance relationship and were much more like the other NATO member-countries.

"I think it is part of a normal process", he said, adding that "this is the right moment to do it, and we have gone ahead and done it".

Albanian illegals sent back home

The number of Albanian illegal immigrants trying to cross the border into Greece illegally is increasing rapidly. Police in the Epirus region arrested 541 Albanians over the past three days and sent them back to their country through the Kakavia border post.

Greece's industrial production up by 0.4 pct Jan/Nov 1997

Greece's industrial output rose by 0.4 percent in the first 11 months of 1997 compared with the corresponding period in 1996, national statistics office said yesterday.

Industrial production was unchanged in November from the same month in 1996.

The statistics office said that total output in electricity, mines and manufacturing increased by 1.0 percent in the period January-November.

Greece to auction 250 billion dr. T-bills

The Bank of Greece will auction interest-bearing state bonds in electronic form today, with an issue date of February 5, 1998 and a one-year maturity.

Bonds valued at 250 billion dr. will be auctioned, while the interest earned on the bonds is subject to 10 percent tax.

Individuals and private-law legal entities may submit tenders via credit institutions, while public-law legal entities, social security funds and brokers may submit offers directly to the central bank.

Tenders will be accepted for a nominal value of at least 100 million dr., in multiples of one million dr., while each investor is allowed to submit up to two competitive offers.

Greek stocks end lower in reluctant trading

Greek equities moved lower yesterday on the Athens Stock Exchange with investors remaining on the sidelines ahead of a Treasury bills auction today and developments in a dispute between the government and trade unions over changes in the labour market.

The general index closed 0.21 percent down at 1,398.39 points. Sector indices were mixed. Banks rose 1.02 percent, Insurance eased 0.36 percent, Leasing increased 0.58 percent, Investments fell 0.22 percent, Constructions dropped 2.11 percent, Industria ls rose 0.36 percent, Miscellaneous was 0.59 percent off and Holding was 0.27 percent down.

The parallel market index for small cap companies surged 2.63 percent up, while the FTSE/ASE ended 0.67 percent higher at 766.51 points.

Trading was moderate with turnover at 13 billion drachmas.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 127 to 75 with another 19 issues unchanged.

Thrace Plastics, Sysware, Viokarpet, Allatini and Desmos scored the biggest percentage gains while Ippotour, Nafpaktos Mills, Bank of Athens and Elmec suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 19,370 drachmas, Ergobank at 13,800, Alpha Credit Bank at 14,750, Delta Dairy at 2,780, Titan Cement at 13,195, Intracom at 14,730 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 5, 260.

Greece attracts Spanish tourists

Tourist arrivals from Spain to Greece are expected to rise by 7-8 percent this year, repeating last year's performance, Hellenic Tourism Organisation president Giannis Stephanidis said yesterday.

Mr. Stephanidis represented Greece's tourism authorities at the Madrid International Tourism Fair.

More than 167 countries and 4,000 exhibitors participated in the fair, with visitors numbers totalling 95,000 (35,000 professionals and 60,000 consumers).

Singular awarded quality certificate ISO 9001

Informatics company Singular acquired a certificate of quality certificate ISO 9001-TickIT by Bureau Verltas Quality International (BVQI).

The certificate covers the entire range of Singular's activities, such as design and development of software products, installation and support service of computer systems, as well as its activity in the construction of major projects.

'Mitilineos' plans to invest in Serbian mines

"Mitilineos" industrial group has began efforts to invest on the Serbian "Bor" mines at the border of that country with Bulgaria, looking at a long term 2- billion-dollar plan. The Stasinopoulos group HALKOR also expressed interest in investing at the "Bor" mines, in effect re-starting the cooperation, which stopped due to the embargo against Serbia.

ETANE projects in Albania

Projects carried out in Albania by the construction company ETANE, through its subsidiary ETAN OVERSEAS SA amount to four million dollars. The company recently received approval from the National Economy Ministry to construct a unit for the production of concrete ingredients in Tirana. The investment amounts to 70 million drachmas and is subsidised by 35 per cent.

At the end of 1997, ETANE delivered the new Hieratic Academy to the Orthodox Autocephalus Church of Albania worth 400 million drachmas.

Greek pasta sector aims at increasing sales abroad

The pasta sector in Greece, given that the local market is relatively replete, is relying on the widening of sales through exports activities. The competitive presence of Greek products in the international market, having great prospects for development, can be achieved with the creation of big production plans and a decrease in production costs, as well as through the development of exports marketing by enterprises.

These comments on the pasta sector were made in the latest sector study by the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE).

The study points out that the consumption of pasta products in Greece amounts to about 90,000 tons, showing a small increase in the region of 2-3 per cent a year in past years. The value of this market approaches 45 billion drachmas and represents about one per cent of the total consumption of foodstuffs.

Consumption per capita is among the highest in the world and amounts to 8.5 kg a year, the highest being Italy's 27 kg.

In the supply sector, the local sector is composed of a group of eight big enterprises which cover 80-90 per cent of the market. The production of pasta products remained stable at around 80,000 tons throughout the 80s, while in 1996 it increased to 122 ,000 tons due to modernisation and expansion investments carried out by some of the enterprises.

Exports in 1996 amounted to 44,000 tons, showing an increase in the region of 28 per cent a year since 1988. The biggest quantities have been absorbed since 1995 by eastern European countries and primarily Albania and Russia, while the most traditional markets are located in European Union member- states and primarily The Netherlands and Britain.

WEATHER

Clouds and rainy weather will prevail throughout Greece today. Fog in the morning. Winds variable, light to moderate, turning into strong in the evening. Rain and storms in the Aegean and Dodecanese islands. Athens will be overcast with temperatures between 8-15C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-8C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 287.640 Pound sterling 469.097 Cyprus pd 536.156 French franc 46.888 Swiss franc 194.184 German mark 157.143 Italian lira (100) 15.930 Yen (100) 226.503 Canadian dlr. 196.983 Australian dlr. 197.081 Irish Punt 394.380 Belgian franc 7.615 Finnish mark 51.913 Dutch guilder 139.406 Danish kr. 41.235 Swedish kr. 35.422 Norwegian kr. 37.944 Austrian sch. 22.332 Spanish peseta 1.852 Port. Escudo 1.536

(C.E.)


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