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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-02-28

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, 28/02/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Tough negotiations under way over EU enlargement, Cyprus
  • Greece submits '98 economic forecasts to EU
  • Greek economy is stable, minister says
  • Unlucky gambler dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound
  • Floating exhibition to promote Crete in Europe
  • Greek stocks pick up steam after jittery week
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Tough negotiations under way over EU enlargement, Cyprus

Athens is reportedly experiencing strong diplomatic pressures over Greek- Turkish relations by many European Community countries and, according to all indications, these pressures are expected to heighten.

Pressures concern the issue of allowing for the normalisation of relations between the EU and Turkey, and more specifically, the issue of activating a financial protocol for Turkey, which Greece is blocking.

Many EU countries, including the British presidency, are using the Cyprus issue as a lever, believing that in this way they will oblige the Greek side to lift objections on the issue of financially aiding Turkey.

Such pressures became clear in Brussels yesterday during the discussion at a Council of Ministers group at the diplomatic and experts level, which is responsible for EU enlargement.

The British presidency presented the plans concerning the EU's opening positions during the meeting concerning the start to inter-governmental consultations with the five candidate-countries from central and eastern Europe and Cyprus, due to take place in Brussels on March 31.

The plan on Cyprus was not satisfactory for the Greek side since, in essence, it mentioned that the accession of Cyprus to the EU necessitates the creation of an bi-communal and bi-zonal federation.

The Greek side rejected the plan and expressed reservations over all the plans (even those concerning eastern countries). Greek diplomats believe that the opening position of the "15" on Cyprus must correspond to the spirit and letter of relevant decisi ons taken on Cyprus at the Luxembourg summit, saying the proposal by the British presidency lies outside this framework.

The issue is expected to be discussed at the Committee of Permanent EU Representatives, at the ambassadorial level, possibly at the informal session of EU foreign ministers in Edinburgh in three weeks' time.

If there are no developments by then, it might be the main issue at the Foreign Ministers' session which will precede the official start to accession negotiations at the end of March.

Pressures are also intensifying on the Greek side to consent to the activation of the fiscal mechanism for Turkey which is anticipated by the agreement concerning customs union between Turkey and the EU.

The European Commission is expected to discuss on Wednesday a report which, based on decisions taken at the Luxembourg summit, it must deliver to the Council of Ministers on strengthening the agreement on customs union between Turkey and the EU.

The Greek side, however, argues that for activation of the protocol procedure, based on previous Council decisions, Turkey is required to make steps of goodwill in the direction of normalising Greek-Turkish relations.

These steps have not been taken and, consequently, Greece does not have the possibility of consenting to the release of EU funds to Turkey, a Greek diplomatic source said in Brussels.

Greece submits '98 economic forecasts to EU

Greece yesterday submitted its econ omic forecasts for 1998 to the European Union ahead of a decision by the 15-nation bloc in May on which candidates are to participate in the single currency next year.

The general government deficit is forecast to fall to 855 billion drachmas this year from 1.3 trillion in 1997, representing 2.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product from 4.0 percent last year.

The public debt is forecast to rise to 37.9 trillion drachmas at the end of 1998 from 35.8 trillion last year, or 106.7 percent of GDP.

Germany, Italy, France and Finland announced better-than-expected 1997 deficit figures that should ensure a timely launch of EMU with 11 founding members.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the last surviving architect of the 1991 Maastricht Treaty still in office, said the news showed the euro would be as stable a currency as the deutschemark and would start on time on January 1, 1999.

Analysts say the figures announced by 10 countries this week showed a remarkable pattern of control of public borrowing and inflation, especially in southern European economies with a history of chronic deficits.

Even Greece, which will not qualify for the first wave of EMU, has slashed its deficit and inflation in a race to catch up with the founders by the time euro banknotes and coins come into circulation in 2002.

Perhaps the most impressive effort has been Italy's last-minute dash for fiscal rectitude, launched at a time when Rome was widely considered a non- starter for EMU. Rome has cut its deficit to gross domestic product ratio from 10 percent to 2.7 percent in just four years.

Greek economy is stable, minister says

A Greek international syndicated bond issued in the US market was an answer to recent negative surveys on the Greek economy, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

"Economic stability is an undisputed reality," he said.

Mr. Papantoniou was commenting on recently published surveys by international firms on the country's creditworthiness and other analysis suggesting that the Greek currency was overvalued.

He said the terms of the syndicated bond issue were extremely favourable, a proof of confidence felt by international capital markets in the Greek economy.

"There is a climate of confidence that cannot be undermined by any private surveys," Mr. Papantoniou said.

Mr. Papantoniou urged Greek investors to remain calm and maintain a positive attitude on the future of the economy.

Unlucky gambler dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound

A Thessaloniki businessman who shot himself in the stomach 10 days ago died in hospital yesterday.

Panayiotis Binomakis shot himself after incurring massive debts to allegedly finance a gambling habit, prompting an outcry over casinos and loan shark operations.

Official figures released last week showed that the amount spent by Greeks on legal gambling last year was up 23 per cent from 1995.

The lion's share went to casinos, which raked in 425.6 billion drachmas, up from 273.8 billion drachmas the previous year.

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou told Parliament on Wednesday that the government would be reviewing the operating regulations for casinos.

Floating exhibition to promote Crete in Europe

A floating exhibition promoting the island of Crete is to sail on March 16 for a 10-day cruise along the Rhine to ports in four European countries - France, Germany, Belgium and Holland.

The exhibition, organised by the Hotelier's Association of Crete will include daily presentations for travel agencies and receptions for local authorities and the press.

Greek stocks pick up steam after jittery week

Greek equities yesterday rebounded during the last trading session of a volatile week on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Traders said that renewed bargain-hunting and other speculative buying for shares in banks and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation led the market higher after its two-day decline.

Analysts noted that the market remained wary in the aftermath of Moody's decision to place Greece under surveillance for a possible downgrade of its credit rating, and talks of a widespread liquidation in bonds by foreign institutional investors.

However, a wave of robust 1997 results reported by commercial banks and higher profits by large industrial groups aided the market's recovery.

The general index closed 1.20 percent higher at 1,419.22 points to show a 0.63 percent fall on the week. Sector indices scored gains across the board. Banks rose 2.12 percent, Insurance was 0.16 percent up, Leasing increased 0.86 percent, Investment w as 0.59 percent higher, Construction rose 0.07 percent, Industrials edged 0.24 percent up, Miscellaneous increased 1.13 percent and Holding was 0.54 percent up.

The parallel market index for small cap companies fell 0.46 percent for a weekly gain of 6.61 percent. The FTSE/ASE blue chip index rose 1.73 percent to 788.41 points, down 0.22 percent from last Friday.

Trading was heavy with turnover at 32.7 billion drachmas including a block trade of 1.3 million shares in Mortgage Bank. The week's turnover totalled 99.5 billion drachmas for a daily average of 19.9 billion, up from 13.3 billion last week.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 132 to 84 with another 23 issues unchanged. Benrubi, Allatini, Papoutsanis and Ergas scored the biggest percentage gains at the daily 8.0 percent upper volatility limit, while Singular, Balkan Export, Doudos and Pairi s suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,500 drachmas, Ergobank at 14,350, Alpha Credit Bank at 15,400, Delta Dairy at 2,845, Titan Cement at 13,600, Intracom at 14,340 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 5, 700.

WEATHER

Mostly fine weather is forecast for most of the country today, with light to moderate northerly winds. The Dodecanese and Crete can expect some cloud. Mostly fine for Athens and Thessaloniki with temperature ranges 6-17 and 4-16C respectively.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 284.377 Pound sterling 467.926 Cyprus pd 535.283 French franc 46.858 Swiss franc 193.981 German mark 157.133 Italian lira (100) 15.944 Yen (100) 225.234 Canadian dlr. 199.392 Australian dlr. 192.076 Irish Punt 389.420 Belgian franc 7.616 Finnish mark 51.778 Dutch guilder 139.431 Danish kr. 41.237 Swedish kr. 35.561 Norwegian kr. 37.666 Austrian sch. 22.335 Spanish peseta 1.855 Port. Escudo 1.536

(Y.B.)


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