Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-02-11
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 11/02/1998 (ANA)
- Gov't agrees on timetable for public utilities reform
- G. Papandreou hails US announcement on Olympic truce
- Albanian defence minister says Greek force in Albania will stay
- Alleged assassination plot against Berisha dismissed
- World Assembly of Hellenism next year in Greece
- Archbishop Seraphim remains in hospital
- Evros river water level drops
- Thessaly farmers' reps meet with Tzoumakas tomorrow
- Tzoumakas sets out Greek requests in meeting with EU's Fischler
- Greek stocks end flat on profit-making
- Gov't mulls opening commodities exchange in Thessaloniki
- Tax squad finds growing evasion in heating oil market
- Unemployment rises slightly in December
- UNESCO conference on protection of private life
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Gov't agrees on timetable for public utilities reform
National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday
that the government would take specific decisions on the revitalisation of
public enterprises and corporations (DEKOs) during February and March,
after receiving relevant business plans from their administrations.
Mr. Papantoniou was speaking after a meeting focusing on DEKOs' revitalisation,
chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and attended by Transport Minister
Tassos Mantelis and Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou.
"We have agreed on the time schedule," Mr. Papantoniou said, adding that
"the revitalisation programme will be comprehensive, spherical and
consistent with what we have said in Parliament".
Declining to further elaborate on measures to be taken, Mr. Papantoniou
noted that government decisions would certainly be the subject of social
dialogue, while the government would also be holding talks with DEKO
administrations and employees.
According to sources, the prime minister stressed the need for substantial
dialogue with the unions and social organisations, and that the changes
should above all serve the citizen, who is the user of utilities' services
and is called upon to fork out the bill for them.
He called for speedy structural reforms, and asked the national economy
ministry to submit an accurate timeframe for the listing of profitable
utilities on the Athens Stock Exchange.
Setting out the basic points of the government's programme for utilities in
the next three years, Mr. Papantoniou said an increasing number of the
profitable ones would be listed, while efforts would be made to revitalise
the loss-making ones, such as Olympic Airways, the railways, urban
transport, the post office, the aircraft industry (EAB) and the heavy
vehicles concern (ELBO).
The revitalisation programme would include changes in the system of
granting state subsidies through introduction of the system of "closed
budget", which would establish efficiency and social contribution
indicators, stricter conditions for state guara ntees for loans and
reductions in staff through strict control of hiring.
It would also include certain restrictive provisions in their regulations,
and encouragement of "strategic cooperations" with other domestic and
foreign enterprises in sectors with international orientation, such as the
defence industry. Efforts would a lso be made to restrict utility rate
increases as a contribution to the anti-inflationary policy, while the
dividends policy of unlisted utilities would be revised and their mutual
debts would be offset.
Mr. Mantelis underlined the government's determination to take measures to
enable the national carrier, Olympic Airways, to survive strong international
Mr. Mantelis said there was a "category of personnel" at OA which was
"trying to impose the view" that seasonal workers should be employed,
noting that this was prohibited by law. "The government cannot give in to
irrational and unlawful decisions," he said.
G. Papandreou hails US announcement on Olympic truce
Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday described an
announcement by the US administration that it will respect an Olympic truce
during the Winter Games in Nagano as a positive step.
Commenting on the US commitment, Mr. Papandreou added: "I hope the period
of the Games will allow diplomatic activity to be stepped up, in accordance
with decisions by the United Nations, and aimed at achieving a peaceful
solution to the crisis in the ( Persian) Gulf."
"Such a development would prove that the Olympic truce is an effective tool
in averting violent clashes," he said.
Albanian defence minister says Greek force in Albania will stay
The presence of the Greek military unit in Tirana is lawful and the
decision for its stay in the country has been taken by the Albanian
government as a consequence of agreements between Athens and Tirana,
Albanian Defence Minister Sabit Brokaj said yesterday in Gjirokaster.
Mr. Brokaj was replying to opposition party criticism of the Greek military
presence in Albania.
Accompanied by the Greek consul and the US military attache, Mr. Brokaj was
inaugurating work on the reconstruction of installations of the "Liaberia"
army division in Gjirokaster which were destroyed at the height of the
crisis in Albania last year.
Mr. Brokaj said the presence of the Greek consul at a military ceremony was
"an indication of "Albania's good relations with Greece" and expressed
thanks for the "all-round" assistance provided by Athens to the Albanian
Alleged assassination plot against Berisha dismissed
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday said a press report out of
Albania alleging an Athens-based assassination plot against former Albanian
president Sali Berisha contained "shameless lies and defamatory attacks."
The Tirana newspaper "Albania" claimed that Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos
Kranidiotis and former New Democracy leader Miltiadis Evert were planning
Mr. Reppas stressed that the report was figments of imagination, having the
obvious expediency of turning a part of the Albanian people against Greece,
adding that it was absurd even to discuss such an issue.
World Assembly of Hellenism next year in Greece
The World Assembly of Hellenism will be held in Greece next year with the
participation of prominent Greeks and philhellenes, Alternate Foreign
Minister George Papandreou told a press conference yesterday.
Mr. Papandreou said four preparatory conferences would be held this year to
facilitate contact between Greeks from all over the world. One of the main
aims of these conferences will be to brief participants on the initiative
being promoted by Mr. Papandreou on the instructions of Prime Minister
Costas Simitis to have the concept of an Olympic truce accepted internationally.
Earlier, Mr. Papandreou had talks with World Council for Hellenes Abroad
President Andrew Athens, focusing on the foreign ministry's planning in
relation to expatriate Greeks.
Archbishop Seraphim remains in hospital
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Seraphim yesterday remained at an
Athens hospital to undergo routine medical tests.
The 84-year-old Archbishop has been undergoing kidney dialysis for the past
two years, while attending physicians said he was in no danger.
Evros River water level drops
The water level of Evros River was recorded at 5.5 metres at 10 a.m.
yesterday, down from a previous reading of 5.92 metres. Emergency measures
will be in force until the river's water level reach the 4.7-metre
Meanwhile, rail service between Soufli and Orestiada in Evros prefecture is
still not operating, and passengers are being transported by buses.
Thessaly farmers' reps meet with Tzoumakas tomorrow
In what has been described as a goodwill disposition to settle problems,
protesting farmers from the Thessaly region are to arrive in Athens
tomorrow to meet with Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas.
During a meeting of the Panthessaly Farmers Coordinating Committee last
night, protesting farmers focused on a series of issues they will bring up
for discussion with the minister.
The committee to meet Mr. Tzoumakas will be comprised of two representatives
from each Thessaly prefecture.
Farmers from the Thessaloniki area and farmers' associations from Pieria
prefecture have also decided to take part in tomorrow's meeting, while a
number of outdoors meetings will be held on Friday at the sites where
tractors are lined up on national hig hways in order to brief farmers on
the meeting's outcome.
Meanwhile, central Macedonia and Thrace farmers have requested a meeting to
be held in Thessaloniki with the leadership of the agriculture ministry and
a government delegation.
At the same time, they announced that they will block the national highway
from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every day until their demands are met.
Yesterday, protesting farmers whose tractors remain lined up alongside the
Athens-Thessaloniki national highway, set up occasional roadblocks,
although minimal disruptions to traffic were reported.
In Thessaloniki prefecture, groups of farmers set roadblocks for an hour on
the old national highway to Kilkis and to Kavala.
In Kilkis, tractors remained parked on both sides of the national highway,
at the Polykastro crossroads, with farmers planning to block the road every
day for two hours in the afternoon.
Tractors also remain lined up on main road arteries in many other areas,
such as Yiannitsa, Karyotisa, Krya Vrysi, Galatista and Triglia.
Support for the farmers' struggle has been voiced by the Coordinating
Committee of Thessaloniki Workers' Unions, which announced it is organising
a rally tomorrow afternoon in Aristotelous Square.
In Hania, Crete, the prefectural headquarters remained occupied by farmers
protesting against low prices for olive oil and oranges. They said they
were not going to leave unless their demads were met, but were to meet in
the evening to decide on further action.
Tzoumakas sets out Greek requests in meeting with EU's Fischler
Argiculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas yesterday met with EU Commissioner
Franz Fischler regarding the problems in Greece's agriculture sector
currently causing unrest among Greek farmers, particularly for cotton,
tobacco,olive oil and rice producers.
The minister announced later that the Commission had accepted Greek demands
that subsidies for cotton be submitted directly to producers rather than
shellers, and that in case of overtargetting of maximum quotas penalties
would be shared out to both th e responsible producers and areas.
Regarding olive oil, Mr. Tzoumakas asked for Commission approval for
creation of reserves by the few organisations of producers which have the
right, and which due to their limited facilities should be able to assign
the task to sub-contractors.
Mr. Fischler committed himself to submitting the request to the legal
service of the Commission.
During the hour-and-a-half meeting, Mr. Tzoumakas also set out Greek
positions on tobacco, which were contrary to the Commission's, on the
reduction of supports for varieties of poor quality tobacco, and distinctions
between bad and good varieties, which are threatening Greek tobacco-
In addition, he renewed a Greek demand for an increase in the quota for
milk production by 150,000 tonnes.
Greek stocks end flat on profit-taking
Greek equities ended mixed yesterday as profit-taking partly reversed the
previous session's sharp advance on the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index was unchanged at Monday's 1,509.21 points. Sector indices
Banks rose 1.19 percent on relief at lower domestic interbank rates.
Miscellaneous was 0.66 percent up and Holding increased 0.66 percent.
Insurance fell 0.33 percent, Leasing dropped 1.86 percent, Investment eased
0.20 percent, Construction was 1.61 pe rcent off and Industrials dropped
The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 1.37 percent down.
The FTSE/ASE blue chip index rose 0.44 percent to 846.82 points.
Trading was heavy with turnover at 18.4 billion drachmas.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 146 to 74 with another 17 issues
Bank of Athens, Attica Bank, Fourlis and Keranis scored the biggest
percentage gains, while Dane, Klonatex and Ergas suffered the heaviest
National Bank of Greece ended at 23,195 drachmas, Ergobank at 15,420, Alpha
Credit Bank at 16,700, Delta Dairy at 2,980, Titan Cement at 14,250,
Intracom at 15,550 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 5,
In the domestic foreign currency market, a source at the Bank of Greece
reported capital inflows of 70 million US dollars at the daily drachma
The Greek currency was slightly higher against the Ecu but fell against the
Gov't mulls opening commodities exchange in Thessaloniki
Greece's national economy ministry is considering the setting up of a
commodities exchange in Thessaloniki in cooperation with the Athens Stock
National Economy Undersecretary Alexandros Baltas said yesterday that the
new market would be based on financial products from commodities and expand
its operations to the Balkans and other east European countries.
A national economy ministry committee, chaired by the Athens Stock Exchange
president Manolis Xanthakis, has already completed a feasibility study on
the new scheme.
Mr. Xanthakis is currently visiting the Chicago Board of Trade, the biggest
commodities market in the US, to discuss the plan.
Tax squad finds growing evasion in heating oil market
Greece's financial crime squad yesterday reported a growing trend of tax
evasion and smuggling involving heating oil in the domestic market.
After inspections made in January, the financial crime squad revealed that
52 petrol stations and oil companies had illegally supplied the market with
1.4 million litres of heating oil.
The squad also reported 27 cases of businesses, such as hotels, industries,
bakeries and commercial trucks, using 1.4 million litres of heating oil
instead of a standard oil mix for their operations.
The finance ministry has published a list of all tax-evading businesses.
Unemployment rises slightly in December
The Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) yesterday announced that
unemployment rose by 0.38 per cent last December, reaching 7.85 per cent
compared to 7.47 in December 1996, while 207,502 jobs were created
throughout 1997 as opposed to 111,000 in 1996.
According to this information, both job creation and unemployment rose due
to the increasing number of people looking for a job.
UNESCO conference on protection of private life
The UNESCO branch in the Dodecanese will organise an international
conference regarding the issue of "Protection of Private Life" on Patmos
from Sept. 3-6.
The event will take place on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the
signing of the UN's Human Rights Charter.
Greek and foreign participants from Europe, the US and Canada will address
the conference, focusing on the question: "Does private life exist in our
Issues on the agenda will include research, morality and private life, the
legal and political framework for protecting personal information and
private life, private life and the workplace, informatics and Internet.
Cultural events will also be schedul ed during the conference.
Fair weather with rising temperatures is forecast for most parts of Greece.
Some cloud and possible rain in the western and southern regions. Winds
variable, moderate to strong, turning to gale force in the Aegean Sea.
Athens will be sunny with temperatures from 4-14C. Similar weather in
Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-12C.
Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 284.258
Pound sterling 461.677 Cyprus pd 534.688
French franc 46.836 Swiss franc 194.531
German mark 156.999 Italian lira (100) 15.890
Yen (100) 230.164 Canadian dlr. 198.638
Australian dlr. 193.390 Irish Punt 393.328
Belgian franc 7.607 Finnish mark 51.804
Dutch guilder 139.277 Danish kr. 41.194
Swedish kr. 34.984 Norwegian kr. 37.682
Austrian sch. 22.320 Spanish peseta 1.853
Port. Escudo 1.533