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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-02-06

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, 06/02/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Papantoniou promotes Greece's investment potential in London
  • Gov't: Turkey's worsening position behind latest false claim
  • Tsohatzopoulos calls for peaceful coexistence with Turkey
  • Kaklamanis meets with Russian MPs
  • Stoyanov invites Greece's president to Bulgaria
  • US calls for better protection of Orthodox churches in Turkey
  • Deliberations continue over New Democracy developments
  • Protesting farmers urged to discuss problems with minister
  • Scuffles as pensioners march for tax, medical benefits
  • Corruption charges against SDOE staff
  • Thessaloniki-Skopje rail connection decided
  • Greek stocks end higher on bargain-hunting
  • Most state tourism units post losses in 1997
  • Greek shipowners blast gov't measures to aid competitiveness
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Papantoniou promotes Greece's investment potential in London

National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday began an official visit to London with a speech at a conference on the topic of "Greece in the next millenium," sponsored by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Afterwards, Mr. Papantoniou held talks with his British counterpart Gordon Brown, who told him that the positive course of the Greek economy was expected to attract the interest of British investors.

According to a statement by Mr. Papantoniou, Mr. Brown expressed his government's intention to play a more active economic role in the Balkans, utilising possibilities offered by Greece. He also spoke of the possibilities of establishing joint enterprises and developing common initiatives in the wider region.

Earlier, the Greek minister's speech was attended by several top executives from multinational companies and banking institutions, as well as members of London's Greek Shipping Committee.

Mr. Papantoniou, heading a group of high-ranking Greek officials and business leaders, spoke on "Business Opportunities in Greece: Rediscovering Southeastern Europe".

He stressed that the Athens government today enjoyed a broad political consensus for measures aimed to promote Greece's participation in Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

"Greece is the only stable factor, a member of the EU and NATO and other international organisations in southeastern Europe. It is the only country which combines the advantages of a developed economy, adequate infrastructure, and political stability. It is in an excellent geographical position, and possesses the potential to expand even more its economic access to the Balkans, the Black Sea, CIS countries and the Middle East. It is thus a bridge between east and west, ready to accept foreign investment," he added.

Setting out the Greek economy's present positive picture, Mr. Papantoniou said the country would be ready to meet Maastricht criteria in 1998-99, so as to participate in the third phase of EMU on Jan. 1, 2001.

He referred to the programme for the privatisation of public enterprises and the efforts for reducing public expenses, as well as the restructuring and modernisation of ailing utilities, particularly in the transport sector.

"Foreign investors also have every reason to invest in Greece, which is the country with some of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe today in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors," he added.

He went on to point out the considerable improvements in the Greek banking sector, which now meets international specifications, and that the Athens Stock Exchange is becoming the centre of economic activity in the broader region.

"The Greek government is tryring to assist foreign investors to promote their programmes without bureaucratic impediments, and has abandoned old habits and practices that caused problems. The economic situation in Greece today is very different from th at prevailing a few years ago," he said.

Gov't: Turkey's worsening position behind latest false claim

The foreign ministry yesterday denied a Turkish government claim that a club in Thrace frequented by a predominately Moslem crowd was attacked last Tuesday.

"The event is entirely non-existent," foreign ministry spokesman Costas Bikas said, attributing the claim to Turkey's difficult position over continuing criminal attacks against the few remaining ethnic Greeks and Greek cultural heritage in the neighbou ring country.

Specifically, he was referring to the burglary of an Orthodox church two days ago on the northeastern Aegean island of Imvros, as well as to the inertia and inability of Turkish authorities to apprehend the culprits.

"Greece is a European country and respects the human rights of all its citizens, in contrast to Turkey," Mr. Bikas said in his statement.

He provided figures recording the mass violations of ethnic Greeks' rights in Turkey, and the shrinking of their numbers in contrast to the growing Moslem minority in Thrace.

Tsohatzopoulos calls for peaceful coexistence with Turkey

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday called on Turkey to cooperate for a peaceful coexistence between Athens and Ankara.

Speaking at the end of military manoeuvers on Rhodes, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that "the cooperation of both sides is necessary..."

"We hope this fact becomes understood by the other side. It is, by our estimate, a matter of time," he added.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the "continued presence of the armed forces (on the islands) constitutes a barrier (to expansionist designs) and provides security for residents..."

The defence minister visited military outposts on Rhodes.

Kaklamanis meets with Russian MPs

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis yesterday received the members of the Russian parliament's Russian-Greek Friendship Group, to whom he stressed the need for a security system that would include the whole of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.

The planning and implementation of such a system, he added, was solely up to the governments and peoples of Europe.

Stressing the "close, friendly relations" between the Russian and Greek peoples, Mr. Kaklamanis also expressed his appreciation for Russia's assurances regarding the recent agreement signed with Cyprus for the purchase of Russian S-300 missiles.

The Russian delegation conveyed an invitation to Mr. Kaklamanis from his Russian counterpart to pay an official visit to Moscow.

Stoyanov invites Greece's president to Bulgaria

Bulgarian President Peter Stoyanov invited his Greek counterpart Kostis Stephanopoulos to visit Bulgaria, during a meeting with members of the Greek Parliament's Committee on Defence and Foreign Policy on Wednesday.

Mr. Stoyanov said that he highly valued relations with Greece and that bilateral relations would improve with the prompt realization of the infrastructure projects in the region.

In an interview in the Sofia newspaper "Continent" yesterday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov emphasised his country's smooth relations and cooperation with Greece, particularly regarding the construction and operation of three new cus toms posts at the Greek-Bulgarian border.

US calls for better protection of Orthodox churches in Turkey

The US yesterday called on Turkey to improve security for Greek Orthodox Christian churches in that country - and religious institutions in general - also urging Ankara to fully probe the causes of recent attacks and to apprehend the culprits.

Replying to a question by ANA, US State Department spokesman James Rubin referred to "criminal actions" which were to be condemned.

"We regard attacks of this kind as cowardly and we condemn them in the most categorical way. The most recent attack against the Church of Agios Therapon in Istanbul is criminal," he stressed.

He acknowledged that Turkish officials had condemned these attacks and had adopted measures improving security for such sites.

Deliberations continue over New Democracy developments

Intense deliberations were reported yesterday in the aftermath of dramatic developments in the main opposition New Democracy party, which witnessed the expulsion of three senior ND members and the suspension of three others earlier this week.

Former minister George Souflias held successive contacts with the other expelled or suspended deputies, while his political office was inundated with messages of support for the idea of establishing a new political party.

Sources said, however, that Mr Souflias has not reached any final decisions and will not make any hasty moves.

Replying to a question on reports claiming contacts with the Political Spring party, Mr Souflias said: "they are (political) parties, so anything is possible," although he refused further comment.

Meanwhile, ND leader Costas Karamanlis was reported to have told aides that a period of introversion in ND is definitely at an end. Party headquarters sources were saying the situation was developing normally, and believed the expelled deputies would not set up a new party or cooperate with the Political Spring party.

Former foreign minister Michalis Papaconstantinou said he believed that former PM Constantine Mitsotakis was being squeezed out of the party, and expressed support for the idea of a new political formation.

Former minister Stephanos Manos was said to be rather negative on the idea of a new party, expressing reluctance to cut off ties with his constituents.

Protesting farmers urged to discuss problems with minister

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday urged protesting farmers to discuss their problems with the agriculture ministry, rejecting their demand to meet with the prime minister.

Mr. Reppas stressed that farmers should seek a solution to their problems after talks with the ministers involved, and avoid confrontation.

He acknowledged, however, that olive and citrus producers were facing a crisis.

Scuffles as pensioners march for tax, medical benefits

Minor scuffles broke out yesterday as demonstrating pensioners were prevented from marching towards the prime minister's office to press their demands for taxation and medical benefits.

Marchers who had set off from Kaningos Square, after holding a rally in the pouring rain, were stopped by a police cordon at the corner of Irodou Attikou Street, where several demonstrators clashed with police officers.

A delegation representing all pension funds was received instead by Minister to the Prime Minister George Paschalidis, who decided to hold an inter-ministerial meeting this coming Wednesday to discuss the issues.

Mr. Christos Triantis, president of the pension fund for the self-employed (TEBE) warned that the protests would continue if the government did not find solutions to the chronic problems faced by 1,350,000 pensioners around the country.

The minister said the prime minister would be briefed on all aspects of the pensioners' demands prior to meeting with their representatives.

Corruption charges against SDOE staff

The finance ministry yesterday decided to dismiss three members of its "untouchables" Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) for... corruption.

Following an investigation carried out by an Athens public prosecutor, the ministry is alleging that the three are guilty of accepting bribes.

In an announcement, the ministry said it was determined to impose the stiffest possible penalties on any employees found to be guilty of corruption.

Thessaloniki-Skopje rail connection decided

The Greek Railways Organisation (OSE) and its Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) counterpart yesterday decided to inaugurate a Thessaloniki to Skopje route with high-speed trains.

The decision was announced during the 12th conference of Balkan railroad organisations' managing directors, taking place in Thessaloniki.

The rail connection is expected to commence sometime in 1998, while the possibility of an express rail connection from Thessaloniki to Istanbul was also examined.

OSE Managing Director Yiannis Mourmouris said that while these connections can begin immediately as far as necessary equipment and technical ability goes, there are problems with European Union regulations and customs controls, which must first be irone d out.

He added that Greece was interested in reopening the land corridor to the north connecting Greece with central Europe.

Greek stocks end higher on bargain-hunting

Greek equities changed direction yesterday for the fourth consecutive session this week to end substantially higher helped by bargain-hunting and other speculative buying.

The general index ended 1.10 percent up at 1,429.07 points reflecting a 3.74 percent surge in the Miscellaneous index.

Other sector indices were mixed. Banks rose 0.85 percent, Insurance increased 1.82 percent, Leasing fell 0.99 percent, Investment ended 0.07 percent up, Construction eased 0.66 percent, Industrials rose 1.17 percent and Holding ended 1.08 percent higher .

The parallel market index soared 3.08 percent extending January's rally. The FTSE/ASE index rose 0.96 percent to end at 789.41 points.

Trading was subdued with turnover at 11.4 billion drachmas.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 141 to 82 with another 22 issues unchanged.

Eskimo, Faliro Medical, Viokarpet, Singular, Nireas and Agrinion Metalplastic scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent upper limit.

Mouriades, Klaoudatos, Ionian Investments and Elfico suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,105 drachmas, Ergobank at 14,310, Alpha Credit Bank at 15,150, Delta Dairy at 2,980, Titan Cement at 13,450, Intracom at 14,770 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 5, 640.

Most state tourism units post losses in 1997

The Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) yesterday reported that sixty nine units it owns around the country posted profits of 1.074 billion drachmas in 1997 against an estimated 688 million drachmas a year earlier.

Of the sixty nine units, which include the Xenia hotel chain, spas, casinos, marinas, skiing centres and caves, only nine posted profits, EOT said in a statement.

The profitable units were five marinas, two casinos and two spas.

The highest profits were posted by the casinos at Rhodes and Parnitha, which reported gains of 2.38 billion drachmas between them.

The government is implementing a policy of selling off EOT's assets.

Nudging up profits were sharp cutbacks in seasonal staff effected in the last few months of 1997, tighter procurements and better control systems, EOT said.

Also aiding profits were a policy of collecting long-term debts, worth billions of drachmas overall, it said.

This is the first year EOT has published a comprehensive balance sheet.

EOT Secretary-General Nikos Skoulas has ordered the organisation's units to produce their 1998 cost-cutting budgets as soon as possible. They are being worked out on a zero basis.

Greek shipowners blast gov't measures to aid competitiveness

The Greek Shipowners Union criticised the merchant marine ministry's measures to help improve the Greek flag's competitiveness as timid and inefficient, despite the government's good intentions.

The union's chairman Yiannis Lyras said that the merchant marine under Greek ownership was facing problems in maintaining its current status due to negative domestic and international factors.

As a result the Greek shipping register suffered a loss of more than 120 ships in 1997, he said.

Greek shipowners had warned the government and the merchant marine ministry of hardships facing the industry, but the response was the announcement of inefficient measures likely to hurt rather than benefit Greece's maritime sector.

The government should have taken into account the fact that the Greek maritime operates in one of the world's most liberalised and globalised sectors.

Any state intervention or protection measures were destined to fail, and to inflict damage, Mr. Lyras said.

WEATHER

Clouds and scattered showers in most parts of Greece today with light snowfall in the mountainous regions. The weather will improve in the west and north from the afternoon. Winds variable, moderate to strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures between 7-13C. Snow in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-5C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 282.333 Pound sterling 467.311 Cyprus pd 534.033 French franc 46.880 Swiss franc 195.017 German mark 157.078 Italian lira (100) 15.917 Yen (100) 229.450 Canadian dlr. 195.642 Australian dlr. 192.349 Irish Punt 395.808 Belgian franc 7.612 Finnish mark 51.870 Dutch guilder 139.381 Danish kr. 41.237 Swedish kr. 35.154 Norwegian kr. 37.787 Austrian sch. 22.332 Spanish peseta 1.854 Port. Escudo 1.536

(C.E.)


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