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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-02-11

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, 11/02/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • 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
  • Weather
  • 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 competition.

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 army.

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 the assassination.

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 mark.

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- producing areas.

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 were mixed.

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 1.02 percent.

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 unchanged.

Bank of Athens, Attica Bank, Fourlis and Keranis scored the biggest percentage gains, while Dane, Klonatex and Ergas suffered the heaviest losses.

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, 895.

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 fixing.

The Greek currency was slightly higher against the Ecu but fell against the US dollar.

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 Exchange.

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 times?"

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.

WEATHER

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.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

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

(C.E.)


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