Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-12-09
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 09/12/1998 (ANA)
- Simitis calls on business leaders to restrict prices
- Tsohatzopoulos details Athens' positions vis-a-vis nuclear weapons
- Holbrooke due here on Monday
- Pangalos focuses on Kosovo, Bosnia during address at NATO session
- Athens pleased with General Affairs Council decision on candidates
- Prosecutor recommends perjury, slander convictions for Roussel
- Poll: ND leads PASOK by 6.5%, Christodoulos the most popular
- State telecom gets acting managing director
- Rate plunges over 2.0 points in 6M treasury bill auction
- Greece able to meet any new global crisis, cenbank says
- US ambassador says Greece on verge of EMU entry
- Stocks nose down, hold 2,500-point barrier
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Simitis calls on business leaders to restrict prices
Prime Minister Costas Simitis called on business people and self-employed
professionals to voluntarily restrict price hikes, or reduce prices, in
order to show an overall responsible attitude within the framework of
cutting inflation. He was speaking at a dinner last night with which the
Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce's two-day conference at downtown
Athens hotel concluded.
"We can predict with certainty that Greece will be the 12th member of
Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in 2001," Mr. Simitis said.
However, he added "the positive omens must not mislead us" since "considerable
uncertainties are lurking on the international scene and world developments
are not under control."
In this context, he said that the government will always be vigilant and
will continue to decline the "easy way of compromises from which we would
obtain easy political gains at the expense, however, of the country's
"We have achieved a great deal. We are now a country which has regained its
self-confidence and faced two international crises in a period of a few
months, maintaining its basic course steady," he said and placed emphasis
on the fact "that despite the tediousness of the adjustment process, the
country succeeded in maintaining the cohesion of society."
Mr. Simitis further spoke of "delays and weaknesses" in the government's
work, mainly in the sectors of daily security, transport, health, relations
between the state and the citizen and the quality of day-to-day life, which
were areas in which "we want to speed up our efforts."
"Society which is judging us would desire more ambitious results," he
conceded and spoke of "a distance between reality and social expectation
which lies at present, and will lie for the period until the elections in
2000, at the focal point of the government's effort."
Mr. Simitis also referred to the country's progress in the field of social
policy, saying that there is "an unquestionable social convergence with the
European Union countries. The distance which existed has been drastically
He called on business people and the cadres of Greek companies to prepare
themselves in a multiple way for the upcoming introduction of the euro,
whose advantages he described analytically so that "the possibility will
not be given to your competitors to emerge comparatively stronger."
Mr. Simitis referred once again to the upcoming tough negotiations with the
European Union's powerful countries which desire a restriction of EU funds
concerning Common Agricultural Policy and the Structural Funds.
"It is not possible for such a thing to be accepted by our government," he
Lastly, Mr. Simitis referred to development policy in favour of small and
medium-size enterprises, giving as an example the strengthening of business
clusters by the state.
Tsohatzopoulos details Athens' positions vis-a-vis nuclear weapons
Greece, unlike other NATO and EU member-states, takes a clear position
against nuclear weapons, visiting National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos
said in New Delhi yesterday, adding that this was a matter of principle and
a polit ical stand.
Concluding his official visit to India, during which he met with the
country's prime minister and political leaders, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos told
reporters that an announcement by Turkey with regard to its next moves in
the nuclear arena was merely a matter of time, hinting at the construction
of a nuclear plant in Akkuyu, southeast Turkey.
"Greece says no to nuclear power and nuclear weapons,"he said, but added
that this was not a reason for complacency.
"We are aware, we monitor and we should be ready to deal with the
situation", Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said, recalling that Greece was the first
country to sound the alarm when Pakistan went ahead with nuclear tests.
Indian Defence minister George Fernandes said that his country indented to
endorse the treaty on a total ban of nuclear arms, while he assured his
Greek countrepart that India committed itself not to be the first to use
Talks between the two men centred on a memorandum of understanding on
defence matters, which sets the grounds for a bilateral military and
defence cooperation, as well as regular contacts on regional and world
Mr. Fernandes also discussed security needs that forced India to go ahead
with scheduled nuclear tests last May.
Holbrooke due here on Monday
Richard Holbrooke, the special US mediator on the Cyprus issue, will be in
Athens on Monday, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.
The visit to Athens is part of Mr. Holbrooke's tour of the region. He is
also expected to visit Ankara and Nicosia.
Mr. Reppas said it was positive that the international community was
showing a "lively interest" in the resolution of the Cypriot issue and
added that this should move in the framework defined by the United
Pangalos focuses on Kosovo, Bosnia during address at NATO session
NATO's winter session of foreign ministers opened in Brussels yesterday
with issues focusing on the situation in Bosnia, Kosovo and the shaping of
the alliance's internal and external structure.
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, speaking on the Kosovo issue,
reiterated Athens' standing positions, underlined that a solution should be
found based on expanded autonomy for the mainly Albanian-speaking Serbian
province but within the borders of Yugoslavia, while pressure should also
be put on the rebels' Kosovo Liberation Army.
Mr. Pangalos said he also referred in his address to problems Greece was
facing as a result of arms and drugs smuggling emanating from the "Albania-
Referring to the alliance's expansion, Mr. Pangalos made it clear that
Greece was strongly in favour of the inclusion in the next phase of
southeastern European states having strong ties with NATO, such as Bulgaria
He further stressed that expansion should be effected on the basis of the
alliance's principles, such as the democratic operation of government,
democratic control of the armed forces, respect for human rights and
solution of disputes by peaceful means.
Describing German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer's position on preventing
the proliferation of nuclear weapons as particularly important, Mr.
Pangalos underlined that Greece wanted NATO to examine the proliferation of
nuclear weapons by its own member -states.
Yesterday's session approved of a number of reports on the Partnership for
Peace programme, activation of the Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Council and
the promotion of Mediterranean dialogue.
Athens pleased with General Affairs Council decision on candidates
Athens yesterday welcomed a decision by the European Union's General
Affairs Council, namely, that Turkey will not join the 11 EU candidate-
countries invited to a two-day EU summit in Vienna on Friday.
Monday's decision by the European Union's General Affairs Council in
relation to the Union's relations with Turkey "is very close to the Greek
position," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.
Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel told a news conference that
the current lack of a government in Ankara made an invitation difficult.
Asked whether the issue would be raised again at the Vienna EU summit, Mr.
Reppas said the summit would show how the government defends national
Meanwhile, an Austrian foreign ministry spokesman officially announced
yesterday that Turkey will not be invited to the European Union's summit in
Vienna on Friday and Saturday.
The spokesman confirmed that apart from Greece, Italy and Germany were also
against an invitation towards Turkey by the Austrian EU presidency at the
upcoming Vienna summit during marathon consultations between the 15 FMs in
Brussels on Monday night.
In an interview with the Austrian News Agency APA yesterday, Austrian
Chancellor and EU President Viktor Klima said in relation to Turkey that
the European Council will analyse the European Commission's recent report
on Turkey. However, Mr. Klima does not believe that the issue of the
Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan will overshadow the
Prosecutor recommends perjury, slander convictions for Roussel
An Athens misdemeanor court prosecutor yesterday called for French national
Thierry Roussel to be found guilty of perjury, false accusations and
slander charges brought against him.
The father of 14-year-old Athina Onassis Roussel, heir to the vast Onassis
shipping fortune, is standing trial after he was sued by the president and
three members of the Onassis Foundation board of directors.
Prosecutor Ioannis Diotis said Mr. Roussel was aware he was making untrue
claims in a complaint he filed two years ago, accusing the Onassis
Foundation board of mismanagement. Another court dismissed Mr. Roussel's
complaint earlier this year.
If convicted of the misdemeanor charges, Mr. Roussel faces a maximum of up
to five years jail on each count.
However, it is unlikely that he would spend any time in jail as, under
Greek law, the sentence can be bought out.
The trial will end after the defence makes its closing arguments.
Poll: ND leads PASOK by 6.5%, Christodoulos the most popular
Another recently released poll yesterday had the main oposition New
Democracy (ND) with a 6.5-per cent lead over ruling PASOK, while both major
parties seem to have increased their strength.
According to the poll by the firm MRB, 25.3 per cent of respondents said
they would vote for PASOK; 31.8 per cent preferred ND; 5 per cent opted for
Communist Party of Greece (KKE); 4.8 per cent for the Coalition for the
Left and Progress (Synaspismos) ; 5.2 per cent the Democratic Social
Movement (DHKKI) and 1.5 per cent would vote for Political Spring
Some 8.5 per cent of respondents answered that they would cast blank or
The MRB poll also showed that the percentage of undecided voters stands at
13.8 per cent.
According to the poll, 28.6 per cent of respondents believe PASOK is better
suited to deal with the country's problems, while 26.3 per cent thought the
same of ND.
As for the political leaders, the poll indicated that positive opinion for
Prime Minister Costas Simitis stood at 31.4 per cent; ND leader Costas
Karamanlis at 39.7 per cent; KKE leader Aleka Papariga at 14 per cent;
DHKKI leader Dimitris Tsovolas at 46 .5 per cent and Synaspimos leader
Nikos Constantopoulos at 46.5 per cent.
The most popular public figures in Greece are Archbishop of Athens and All
Greece Christodoulos, with 76.4 per cent; Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos
with 71.3 per cent and President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos,
with 69.5 per cent.
State telecom gets acting managing director
Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) said yesterday that board
member George Skarpelis had been appointed as the state-run firm's acting
Listed OTE's previous managing director, George Chrysolouris, resigned on
Wednesday last week citing personal reasons.
The communications ministry has proposed George Symeonidis, vice-president
of London-based Inmarsat, as new managing director. The appointment has to
be endorsed by parliament.
OTE's policy of growth and investment at home and abroad remained unchanged,
the statement said.
In a related devolopment last night, Mr. Chrysolouris issued a statement
saying he remained at his post as managing director, citing his five-year
contract with OTE.
According to reports, the ministry of communications considers Mr.
Chrysolouris' resignation as given, as two cabinet decisions were signed on
Dec. 2 - one accepting his resignation and the other appointing Georgios
Skarpelis to OTE's board of directors .
Mr. Skarpelis was picked in order to assume the outgoing managing
director's duties, while the two decisions were published in the Government
Gazette on Dec. 3. OTE's board appointed Mr. Skarpelis as temporary
managing director yesterday.
Rate plunges over 2.0 points in 6M treasury bill auction
The average weighted rate on six-month treasury bills auctioned yesterday
plunged more than two percentage points to 10.46 percent from 12.58 percent
in the previous sale on October 6, the finance ministry said.
For sale were 60 billion drachmas' worth of paper with bids accepted
totalling 70.2 billion drachmas out of a total of 247 billion drachmas
offered in the heavily oversubscribed auction, the ministry said in a
The abrupt fall in rates indicated the market's eagerness for a decline
with expectations fuelled by National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos
Papantoniou's statement on Monday that the central bank would slightly
lower its intervention rates this week.
Greece able to meet any new global crisis, cenbank says
Greece is in a position to meet any fresh financial crisis that might erupt
globally in 1999, central bank governor Lucas Papademos said yesterday.
"The appearance of a new world financial crisis cannot be ruled out. But
the Greek economy can successfully meet such an adverse development," Mr.
Papademos told an economy conference held by the Hellenic American
At the same time, handling any crisis abroad entailed maintaining a tight
fiscal policy, and a monetary policy whose safety margins would still allow
the attainment of targets to lower inflation, he said.
No country was invulnerable to crisis, but the right policy mix would
minimise the repercussions.
Greece, no longer an emerging market, would also achieve entry into
European economic and monetary union as a result of the policy mix, Mr.
The economy's vulnerability to any crisis lay in the public debt, much of
which lay in the portfolios of institutional investors abroad.
Any major portfolio restructuring stemming from market turmoil could lead
to pressure on domestic capital and foreign currency markets, Mr. Papademos
The greater the economy's alignment with the European Union's economy, the
smaller the damage, he added.
Helping to buffer the economy would be improvements to the state securities
market through technology and achieving greater depth and breadth for
An acceleration in the decline of the inflation rate would fuel expectations
of future interest rate cuts, in turn sharply boosting demand for fixed-
income state paper, Mr. Papademos said.
US ambassador says Greece on verge of EMU entry
US Ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns was optimistic yesterday about
progress in the domestic economy, saying the country was on the verge of
entering European economic and monetary union.
"There are very positive changes taking place in Greece and the country is
about to qualify for EMU," Mr. Burns told an economy conference held by the
Hellenic American Chamber.
He also said that the opportunity had come for a "rebirth" of Greek-
American trade ties.
"Trade and investment relations between the two countries are currently at
a low ebb, although there has been especially positive growth in the
current year," Mr. Burns said.
Replying to a reporter's question, he said that the government was making
every possible effort to attract American investments by creating a healthy
business climate, and it had sent the right message to international
"The news is good for the Greek and American economies. Opportunities exist,
and, with the contribution of all parties concerned, economic relations
between the two countries will grow further," Mr. Burns said.
Stocks nose down, hold 2,500-point barrier
Equities finished slightly down on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday in
the wake of a surge in the previous session when the market discounted a
drop in the central bank's money market intervention rate this week.
The general index ended 0.16 percent lower at 2,566.73 points after
Monday's 4.12 percent jump, still holding former resistance at 2,500
points. Monday's close was the highest since August 26.
The market shed 1.0 percent early in the session only to recoup its losses
later in trade with demand soaking up supply in an attempt to consolidate
above 2,500 points.
Trade was heavy with turnover slightly higher at 87.9 billion drachmas from
83.9 billion drachmas a day earlier, with 16,706,000 shares changing
Much of trade was window dressing for end of year books, traders said.
The FTSE/ASE-20 blue chip index lost 0.80 percent to finish at 1,593.87
The parallel market for smaller cap stocks closed 1.12 percent lower.
Sector indices mostly recorded losses.
Clouds with rain or sleet are forecast early on Wednesday throughout the
country, with storms in the Aegean and snow in central and northern Greece,
with slight improvement expected later in the day. Winds will be variable,
strong to very strong. Athens will be overcast with rainfall or sleet with
slight improvement later in the day with temperatures ranging from 3C to
8C. Thessaloniki will also be cloudy with possible snowfall, and temperatures
ranging from -1C to 4C.
Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 278.732
British pound 460.387 Japanese yen (100) 233.527
French franc 49.719 German mark 166.706
Italian lira (100) 16.839 Irish Punt 414.259
Belgian franc 8.084 Finnish mark 54.897
Dutch guilder 147.947 Danish kr. 43.819
Austrian sch. 23.699 Spanish peseta 1.940
Swedish kr. 34.196 Norwegian kr. 36.853
Swiss franc 203.975 Port. Escudo 1.626
Aus. dollar 172.410 Can. dollar 181.536