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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-04-10

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


Athens, Greece, 10/04/1998 (ANA)


  • Greece's Archbishop Serapheim dies after 23 years at the helm
  • Santer praises Greece's convergence with its EU partners
  • Greece making the final push for EMU, says Santer
  • Washington condemns rocket attack on Citibank branch
  • Tripartite Balkan meeting on Santorini
  • Elder Karamanlis' condition improves
  • Presidential decrees issued for Acropolis, Mount Athos
  • Programme for protection of Mediterranean seal
  • Olympic Airways restructuring bill ratified
  • Tourism professionals urged to cater more to local tourists
  • Greek state telecom to focus on Balkans
  • Greek shares get a lift from Olympic Airways restructuring bill
  • Papantoniou: taxation will fall when tax evasion is curbed
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


Greece's Archbishop Serapheim dies after 23 years at the helm

Archbishop Serapheim of Athens and primate of all Greece died early today after 23 years at the helm of the Orthodox church of Greece. He was 85.

His death was announced at 3 am. by the president of the Laikon hospital, who told reporters: "The Archbishop slept in peace".

Soon after, the Government and the country's political leaders expressed their "deep grief" and described the archbishop as a "strong personality whose term of duty at the helm of the Church of Greece was "fruitful".

Santer praises Greece's convergence with its EU partners

Greece has made considerable efforts towards convergence with other European Union economies, EU Commission President Jacques Santer said yesterday on the first day of his official two-day visit.

Speaking to Greek and foreign reporters, Mr. Santer said he is very satisfied over Greece's incorporation into the European Monetary System's Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) and optimistic over Greece's development in connection with Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

Replying to questions, Mr. Santer said that Greece had covered a great deal of ground over the past two or three years, and that results have been produced now both in the fiscal sector and on inflation, while there is convergence in the direction of implementing European policy.

On the question of Cyprus, he said "we support all the envoys of the UN. We believe that the start to bilateral negotiations with the Republic of Cyprus might be able to cause some kind of a rapprochement of views in connection with the issue of Cyprus,which always continues to be a delicate matter.

"For the time being, I can say no more.

We have the mandate to continue these negotiations and we will do this. Every solution which could put an end to this division of the island would satisfy us, because we are working for a political solution to be found," he said.

Referring to the issue of Greece's veto against a financial protocol between the EU and Turkey, he said that "in the long run we must find a solution so that the financial protocol will be able to be released.

Replying to another question, Mr. Santer said that Greece will remain within "target No. 1" for structural funds and will continue to benefit from them, as well as from the Union's cohesion funds. He added that Greece received 17.6 billion Ecu over the 1994-1999 period.

Mr. Santer held talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis at the Maximos Mansion last night, in which an identity of views on major European issues was ascertained.

The meeting lasted for about three quarters of an hour and focused on major European policy issues. In statements after the meeting Mr. Simitis pointed out that he had an extensive discussion with Mr. Santer concerning the main issues which will preoccupy the EU.

Greece making the final push for EMU, says Santer

The Greek government has participated in the great collective effort of making the euro a reality. Unfortunately, the distance it has had to cover to meet the criteria has proved too long. However, the effort has been impressive, the progress indisputable and the pace fast, Mr. Santer said yesterday in an address that concluded "The Economist" roundtable conference with the Greek government.

"Greece can and must push on with modernising its structures resolutely, seizing all opportunities offered by the new world coming into being.

"For years, Europe has been the target your country has aimed at. Your full incorporation into Economic and Monetary Union will be the hallmark of your success.

Turning to the convergence report issued by the Commission on March 25, Mr. Santer said the Union stresses the effort made over the last few years.

"Greece's economy is deemed to be progressing satisfactorily and the progress is plain to see. These endeavours have already started to bring Greece some solid advantages such as:

"Lower deficits, an inflation rate close to being brought under control, a curb of the public debt which is starting to turn downward...and unlike what one hears in certain countries, this does not seem to me to be happening at the expense of growth and employment.

"Lower inflation has not gone hand in hand with recession; on the contrary, growth was higher in Greece in 1997 than it has been on average every year for the previous 10 years. In 1998 and 1999 it will reach levels not achieved for decades. The economy stands on sounder foundations with a freer and more dynamic market, and most important of all, there are signs of rising employment on the horizon.

"You must go further, the hard work of going into battle must be a success. The euro is within your grasp.' Now is the time when you must show the greatest possible determination, to consolidate the budget and make further structural reforms," Mr. Santer stressed.

"In this context it would be a serious omission on my part if I were to forget to welcome the entry of the drachma into the Exchange Rate Mechanism. This is important for two reasons:

" - It reaffirms Greece's desire to become a member of the euro zone.

" - It improves confidence in the drachma among money markets.

" - The entry of the drachma can be considered as the culmination of the macroeconomic policy applied in the last few years. I heard with satisfaction that the government is resolved to speed up its structural reforms," he said.

"Here there are two factors which I think will play right into the hands of Greece.

"First, the new forms of communication and information came in they have made the single market more homogeneous.

"Secondly, I have been very gratified to see that Greek businesses and banks are going right ahead and investing in the Balkans,seizing the opportunities which geographical proximity and ties of history and culture now place within your grasp," he added.

Washington condemns rocket attack on Citibank branch

The US yesterday strongly condemned a bomb attack against a Citibank branch in Athens on Tuesday evening.

"Let me say that the United States condemns in the strongest possible term the rocket attack against Citibank offices in Athens," US State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters.

"This is the seventh such attack on an American firm since November. Our embassy is working closely with the Greek authorities in the hope that the perpetrators of this attack will be apprehended," he added.

"The suggestion that this attack is a response to claims made by Ambassador Burns about the danger to American companies creating a dangerous business climate that needed to be addressed - not that it is a dangerous business climate, but that this points it in that direction - is twisted and outrageous logic which cannot possibly reflect the views of decent people," Mr. Rubin said.

Mr. Rubin was referring to a speech by US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns during a business forum in Thessaloniki late last month, in which he said that bomb attacks against foreign firms were a restraining factor for US investments in Greece.

Tripartite Balkan meeting on Santorini

Tighter relations between Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, developments in the Balkans and particularly in Kosovo and European Union and NATO expansion plans are all on the agenda of the tripartite meeting between the three countries, beginning today on the island of Santorini.

The Santorini meeting is the fourth tripartite meeting being held by the countries, following similar meetings in Ioannina (1995), Varna (1996) and Sinaia (1997).

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos will represent Greece at the meeting. Bulgaria is represented by its foreign minister Nadhezda Mihailova and Romania by Andrei Plesu.

Elder Karamanlis' condition improvies

Former president of the republic Constantine Karamanlis, currently being treated for a respiratory infection at the Ygeia hospital in Athens, was reported in good condition yesterday after having spent a quiet night.

Attending physicians told reporters that the condition of the veteran Greek stateman's health is continuously improving.

A medical bulletin stated that Mr. Karamanlis, 91, is showing a continuous improvement, while his response to treatment is considered very satisfactory.

Presidential decrees issued for Acropolis, Mount Athos

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday announced two presidential decrees dealing with the Mount Athos monastic community and major projects on the Acropolis.

The minister announced that the presidential decree for the all-male monastic community will set conservation workers' wages, while funds allocated for monasteries on Mount Athos will be funneled through relevant archaeological services.

Mr. Venizelos said that the second decree will create a new service - the Acropolis Monuments Conservation Service (YSMA) - which will include the Acropolis Conservation Projects Committee (ESMA), where the ministry's antiquities conservation directorate will be represented for the first time.

Mr. Venizelos added that the conservation projects on the Acropolis need unique research and support.

Programme for protection of Mediterranean seal

The "MOM" society for the study and protection of the Mediterranean seal is working on public information programmes for the eighth consecutive year.

The volunteer programme aims to involve the public in efforts to protect the general marine environment, and specifically, the Mediterranean seal (monachus monachus).

The "LIFE" programme has three information stations on Alonissos and one each on the island of Skopelos and Skiathos, while two new stations will be set up on the islands of Milos and Karpathos.

Anyone over 18 years of age can become a volunteer by becoming a MOM member and volunteering for two weeks every summer.

For more information, call 52.22.888 or visit the society's offices at 18, Solomou St.

Olympic Airways restructuring bill ratified

Parliament yesterday ratified in principle and by article a controversial bill to restructure Olympic Airways, Greece's ailing state-run national carrier

The vote was 158 in favour and 124 against. Former New Democracy deputy and minister George Souflias, recently expelled from the main opposition party, voted "present", while 17 other deputies were absent from the 300-member Parliament, in which the rul ing PASOK party controls 159 seats.

Four other former ND deputies, also recently expelled, voted against the bill.

"The scourge of Olympic Airways and other public sector organisations has been the lack of cooperation between management and trade unions," National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said during the debate.

Tourism professionals urged to cater more to local tourists

Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) Secretary General Nikos Skoulas called on tourism-related professionals and entrepreneurs to create even more holiday "packages", particularly for local tourists.

He said Greece tops the list of European countries regarding the development of domestic tourism, according to research conducted by Eurobarometre.

Mr. Skoulas was addressing a conference yesterday on the issue of "Domestic Tourism: An Insurance Valve for the National Economy, Tourism and Employment", held in the framework of the exhibition "Tourist Panorama '98" which was inaugurated at Peace and Friendship indoor stadium on Wednesday.

Mr. Skoulas said that this situation is underestimated by the National Statistical Service's (ESYE) available data, which shows Greeks as accounting for 26 per cent (1996) of overnight stays in the country's hotels.

However, he said this figure is clearly higher since ESYE does not register overnight stays in rented rooms and furnished apartments, which account for 40 per cent of the local supply of beds.

Overnight stays by foreign tourists increased by 8.8 per cent in 1997 compared to 1996, while those of Greeks increased by 21 per cent.

Greek state telecom to focus on Balkans

Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) is focusing its strategy on modernising Greece's national telecoms network and investing in foreign markets, particularly in the Balkans, its managing director said yesterday.

Speaking at a conference held in Athens by The Economist magazine, George Chrissolouris said that the organisation's subsidiaries were cooperating closely with suppliers and banks to facilitate the company's expansion in the Balkans and reduce investment risk.

He forecast that by the end of the year more than 70 percent of the Greek telecoms network would be digitally operated and announced the installment of 1.4 million new digital lines.

Greek shares get a lift from Olympic Airways restructuring bill

Greek parliamentary approval for a government bill to restructure Olympic Airways yesterday boosted sentiment on the Athens Stock Exchange and sent share prices to record levels again.

Traders said the market translated parliament's first vote in favour of the bill as a move paving the way for the restructuring of all other public sector firms and utilities.

The general index closed 1.54 percent higher at 2,175.39 points.

Sector indices scored gains. Banks soared 2.03 percent, Insurance rose 0.47 percent, Investment ended 0.39 percent, Leasing was unchanged, Industrials ended 0.81 percent up, Construction rose 0.95 percent, Miscellaneous increased 0.42 percent and Holdi ng jumped 3.95 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 0.73 percent while the FTSE/ASE-20 index ended 1.84 percent up at 1,284.25.

Trading was heavy with turnover at 53.9 billion drachmas.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 148 to 95 with another 17 issues unchanged.

Alte, Altec, Pouliades, Halcor, Mouzakis, Strintzis, Macedonia-Thrace Bank and Shelman scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent limit up. Hadzioannou, Macedonian Plastics, Halyps Cement and Balkan Export suffered the heaviest loss es at the day's 8.0 percent limit down.

National Bank of Greece ended at 37,700 drachmas, Ergobank at 26,200, Alpha Credit Bank at 25,200, Delta Dairy at 3,650, Titan Cement at 23,350, Intracom at 20,020 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8, 090.

In the domestic money market, the drachma was substantially higher against the US dollar, the DMark and the Ecu.

Papantoniou: taxation will fall when tax evasion is curbed

National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday announced that taxation rates will be decreased when the TAXIS programme for cross- checking tax figures and measures against tax evasion begin to produce results.

Mr. Papantoniou said that the government's target is for tax relief to be brought about since, as he said,taxation is at a "maximum level" at present. However, he clarified that this will occur when the measures aimed at cracking down on tax evasion start to produce results and increased revenues are received.

Mr. Papantoniou made his statement at an event organised on the occasion of the first anniversary of the founding of the Economic Crime Squad (SDOE).

He said that as a result of SDOE's activities and of other measures aimed at intensifying controls by tax authorities, revenues increased by 16 per cent over the first quarter of the year.


Scattered clouds and sporadic rain is forecast in most parts of Greece today. Winds southerly, moderate to strong. Possibility of light rain from the afternoon in Athens with temperatures ranging between 13-27C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 12-24C.


Thursday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 314.523 British pound 525.204 Japanese Yen(100) 235.600 French franc 51.403 German mark 172.380 Italian lira (100) 17.451 Irish Punt 434.496 Belgian franc 8.354 Finnish mark 56.772 Dutch guilder 152.966 Danish kr. 45.180 Austrian sch. 24.495 Spanish peseta 2.031 Swedish kr. 39.728 Norwegian kr. 41.535 Swiss franc 207.239 Port. Escudo 1.682 AUS dollar 205.746 Can. dollar 220.819 Cyprus pound 587.641


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