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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-12-10

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, 10/12/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Central bank cuts key rates,commercial banks follow suit
  • Stocks drop after discounting rate cuts
  • Conference to be held on Greek-Polish business ties
  • EU slaps fine on Greek, Italian ferry operators in Adriatic
  • Finnish tourists to Greece seen rising 20 pct in 1999
  • Gov't sees Dr 200 bln revenue surplus in 1998 budget
  • Court sentences Roussel to five years in jail
  • Gov't vows to keep education reforms despite strong protests
  • Russian communist chief calls for change, warns of chaos
  • Greek navy chief visits Egypt
  • Olympiakos qualifies first in its group for Euro-Cup quarter-finals
  • Journalists receive Botsis awards
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Central bank cuts key rates,commercial banks follow suit

The Bank of Greece yesterday lowered three key interest rates in a move long awaited by markets, signalling that rates across the board are entering a new decline.

The central bank, which is following a cautious policy of rate cuts in line with a drop in underlying inflation, expects to accelerate the rate of decline in the second half of 1999 as consumer price inflation drops to 2.0 percent.

The government and central bank are working to lower inflation, and therefore interest rates, in order to join European economic and monetary union by January 1, 2001.

Yesterday the central bank cut its Lombard rate, which shows a longer-term trend, to 15.50 percent from 16.00 percent.

It also lowered two working rates in the domestic money market, indicating that rates on a day-to-day basis will decline.

The rate on two-week interbank deposits, which the central bank often uses as an intervention in Wednesday tenders and signals the level for rates, dropped by 50 basis points to 12.25 percent from 12.75 percent.

The overnight rate, which is a gauge of liquidity in the interbank system and may also be used as an intervention, fell to 11.60 percent from 11.90 percent.

Commercial banks were swift to respond to the central bank's rate cuts, in turn announcing declines in loan and deposit rates for their retail customers.

State-run National Bank of Greece, the country's largest commercial bank, is to reduce its lending rates between 0.50-3.55 percentage points, and deposit rates by 25 basis points.

National Bank, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, also announced the launch of new drachma and euro products in home loans and financing for development plans.

"The declines confirm progress made in the Greek economy towards macro- economic stability and economic and monetary convergence," National Bank of Greece said in a statement.

Stocks drop after discounting rate cuts

Equities finished lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday despite interest rates cuts announced by the central bank, which the market had already discounted.

The general index ended 0.98 percent lower at 2,541.59 points after gaining 1.10 percent in early trade. The index again managed to hold above formerly tough resistance at 2,500 points, showing signs of consolidation.

Trade was heavy with turnover slightly down at 86.6 billion drachmas from 87.9 billion drachmas a day earlier, and 16,441,000 shares changed hands.

The market in December is traditionally oriented towards window dressing with investors rearranging their portfolios to enhance their end-of-year books.

The FTSE/ASE-20 blue chip index lost 1.42 percent to finish at 1,571.28 points.

The parallel market for smaller cap stocks closed 0.57 percent lower.

Sector indices mostly recorded losses.

Conference to be held on Greek-Polish business ties

The Polish embassy in Athens is to hold a conference on how to do business with Poland on December 18 in conjunction with the Athens Light Industry Chamber.

The aim of the conference is to boost business ties between companies of the two countries.

Poland wishes to attract Greek investors, especially to the country's free zones, where tax is exempted.

Delegates to the conference will also examine how to enter Greek-Polish investment plans into European Union funded programmes.

Presented will be roadbuilding projects of interest to Greek engineering contractors.

EU slaps fine on Greek, Italian ferry operators in Adriatic

The European Commission yesterday announced it had fined six Greek passenger shippers and one Italian ferry operator for forming a cartel from 1987-1993 that rigged fares across the Adriatic for travel between the Greek port of Patras and the Italian ports of Brindisi and Ancona.

The ECU 9.2 million fine was imposed on Minoan Lines, ANEK, Strintzis Lines, Ventouris, Karagiorgis, Marlines and Adriatica of Italy.

The commission said that an investigation began in 1994 following a complaint by a tourist.

Greek coastal shipping companies appear determined to use judicial means to contest the Commission's decision fining them for violating article 85 of the European Union's treaty on the protection of free competition.

In a statement, Minoan Lines said it would use all legal means to contest the decision at the European Court, adding that the fine was not definitive, and the decision contained legal vacuums.

Strintzis Lines announced that it disagreed with the European Commission because in 1987-1993 the company and its competitors in the Adriatic were operating under a status of control by the Greek government over fares and routes, which ultimately led to similar fares being charged by the route's operators.

According to a statement by ANEK, the company will take recourse to the European Court to have the fine lifted, adding that it hoped an examination of the issue in purely legal terms would be in its favour.

Finnish tourists to Greece seen rising 20 pct in 1999

The number of Finnish tourists to Greece is expected to increase by 20% next year, according to data given to the Athens News Agency by tourism organisations.

Greece is traditionally the favourite vacation spot for Finnish tourists, who are expected to total 174,000 in April-October 1999 versus 137,000 this year, with the islands of Rhodes and Crete sharing 50% of the whole.

Cyprus is also a popular year-round destination among Finnish vacationers, and, according to data provided by tour-operators, the tourist flow from Finland to the island republic is expected to increase by 5% in 1999.

Gov't sees Dr 200 bln revenue surplus in 1998 budget

The 1998 budget will show a revenue surplus of more than 200 billion drachmas, Deputy Finance Minister George Drys told a news conference yesterday.

In January-November revenue increased by 14.46 percent compared to a target of 10.74 percent for the same period, Mr. Drys said.

An increase in witholding tax on income contributed considerably to the rise, which, together with a natural increase in tax from higher income, resulted in revenue from income tax increasing by 28.13 percent.

Revenue from value added tax increased by 14.24 percent, and remaining revenue from tax offices increased by 13.14 percent.

Public revenue increased by 10.94 percent in November. Customs revenue decreased by 5.74 percent due to a recent customs officers' strike.

Regular budget expenditure increased by 5.8 percent in January-November, below a 6.0 percent increase recorded during the first 10 months of the year.

Court sentences Roussel to five years in jail

An Athens misdemeanour court yesterday sentenced to five years imprisonment French national Thierry Roussel, the father of 14-year-old Athina, heir to the Onassis shipping fortune, on charges of slander, perjury and wrongful legal action.

Mr. Roussel appealed the decision and was released.

The president of the Onassis Foundation and the board of trustees had filed the lawsuit against Mr. Roussel, who had previously sued the board for mismanagement, a charge dismissed by Greek courts. Following yesterday's court verdict, Mr. Roussel's attorneys said that their client had not intended to defame the board members,.

But he was, and is, worried about the future of his daughter and her fortune, the lawyers said.

The prosecutor on Tuesday sought Mr. Roussel's conviction stressing that the accused had knowingly slandered the board members, and that his behaviour had created problems in the relationship between Athina and the foundation. Earlier during the trial, board members testified that the late Christina Onassis, Athina's mother, did not trust her husband, Mr. Roussel to manage her estate.

For that reason she had charged the Onassis Foundation's board of trustees with the management of her estate, they claimed.

They added that Mr. Roussel had been handsomely compensated for not challenging Christina Onassis' will. He had signed a protocol with the foundation under which he received $2 million a year, more than her will stated, the board members said.

Gov't vows to keep education reforms despite strong protests

The government said yesterday it would not retract its decision to carry out educational reforms underway following a nationwide protest by high- school pupils and teachers.

But it said it was ready for talks over any problems arising from implementation of the reforms.

"We are willing to have a dialogue with teachers and pupils whenever it is ascertained that a problem will occur from implementation of the educational reforms," Prime Minister Costas Simitis told Parliament last night.

Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis told reporters after a meeting with the prime minister that there should be no doubt that reforms planned by the ministry would go ahead without any changes.

Mr. Arsenis said that aspects of the changes would be explained and ways to implement them examined in talks with teachers.

The minister alleged a "strong dose of disinformation" being fed to students.

Riot police yesterday used tear gas to disperse groups of youths who took advantage of a protest march by high-school students to burn three cars in the centre of Athens. The violence broke out when the students were prohibited from reaching the ed ucation ministry building in central Athens after a march through the capital to protest the government's education sector reforms.

More than 9,000 high-school students marched through Athens to protest an education reform law which they say attempts to turn schools into "examination sweat-shops" and students into "docile robots", while abolishing every concept of free, public education.

When riot police prevented the students from reaching the education ministry, small groups of masked youths smashed shop windows. Three cars were also burned in the incidents which brought traffic to a standstill throughout the centre.

Student representatives told the ANA that protests including marches, the occupation of schools and road blockades would continue until after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

They said a protest rally of students from all schools in Athens and Piraeus currently under occupation would be held on December 15.

High-school teachers yesterday held a 24-hour strike while primary school teachers staged a two-hour walkout also in protest at the government's reforms.

Russian communist chief calls for change, warns of chaos

The leader of Russia's Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov, said yesterday that the call for early presidential elections in Russia had now ripened, but before they could be held, a number of reforms had to be introduced to the electoral law and constitution.

Mr. Zyuganov was speaking to reporters after talks with Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General, Aleka Papariga, and honorary president Harilaos Florakis.

The wide-ranging talks covered relations between the two parties, the situation in the Balkans, developments in Russia and international issues.

Mr. Zyuganov, who is visiting Greece for the first time, expressed concern about the situation in Russia, maintaining that President Boris Yeltsin's "experiment" in establishing "mafia-like capitalism" had led to disaster.

"Now, the new government is trying to tackle the problems," Mr. Zyuganov said, stressing that the Communist Party had restructured and was at the present time the best organised party in Russia.

Mr. Zyuganov indicated that he was optimistic about the result of the presidential elections, regardless of when they were held. He stressed though that they must be honest, "which was not the case in 1996".

For this reason, he added, his party was cooperating with the new government of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

The communist leader also criticised the United States, charging that Washington's influence during the past few years on President Yeltsin and his associates had been disastrous for Russia.

He added though that it was clear from his talks with US President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that Washington now realised that Mr. Yeltsin's policy had led to an impasse.

Mr. Zyuganov said that the European leaders with whom he had had talks better understood the need for assistance to be given to Russia so that the situation does not lead to instability.

"If chaos is allowed to prevail in Russia, it will swallow up not only Europe but the whole world," Mr. Zyuganov warned.

Greek navy chief visits Egypt

Navy Chief of Staff Vice-Admiral George Ioannidis yesterday began a five- day official visit to Egypt at the invitation of his Egyptian counterpart Vice-Admiral Ahmet Sali.

The two men will discuss issues regarding closer ties between the naval forces of Egypt and Greece as well as the promotion of their operational cooperation level.

The Greek and Egyptian naval forces recently held their first joint exercise in Alexandria.

Olympiakos qualifies first in its group for Euro-Cup quarter-finals

In the European Cup qualifying matches for the quarter-finals yesterday, Olympiakos Piraeus tied with Croatia Zagreb 1-1, in Zagreb, qualifying in top position in the Champions' League Group A.

Panathinaikos Athens was defeated 3-1 in Athens by Arsenal.

Winners after yesterday's final round Chamions' League matches are Juventus (Italy) Group B, Inter Milan (Italy) Group C, Bayern Munich (Germany) Group D, Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) Group E, Kaiserslautern (Germany) Group F, Real Madrid Group C as runners-up and Manchester United Group D as runners- up.

Journalists receive Botsis awards

The Athanasios Botsis Institute for the Promotion of Journalism yesterday gave awards to nine journalists for their excellent work and professional conduct in a ceremony attended by President of the Republic Kostis Stefanopoulos, Parliament President Apos tolos Kaklamanis, former prime ministers Constantine Mitsotakis and George Rallis, and many deputies.

Awards were given to Petros Kassimatis, Stathis Karras, Sylvana Rapti, Mihalis Katsigeras, Vassilis Kanellopoulos, Dimitris Devetzis, Serafeim Constantinidis, Fotis Kalliangopoulos and Giorgos Kastrinakis.

Distinctions were awarded to Dimitris Theophilopoulos, Christos Passalaris and Grigoris Mihalopoulos for years of service, and to Petros Linardos for sports coverage.

Athens Journalists' Union (ESHEA) secretary Giorgos Leontaritis spoke of the Botsis Institute's contribution to supporting journalism.

WEATHER

Clouds with rain or sleet are forecast on Thursday for the eastern Aegean islands, Crete and the Dodecanese with improvement expected later in the day. Few clouds in the rest of the country expected to gradually increase with rain and light snow on the mountains. Winds will be variable, strong to very strong. Athens will be partly cloudy with temperatures ranging from 2C to 10C. Thessaloniki will also be partly cloudy with temperatures ranging from -4C to 5C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 277.899 British pound 460.328 Japanese yen (100) 235.144 French franc 49.642 German mark 166.458 Italian lira (100) 16.810 Irish Punt 413.565 Belgian franc 8.070 Finnish mark 54.748 Dutch guilder 147.699 Danish kr. 43.767 Austrian sch. 23.658 Spanish peseta 1.957 Swedish kr. 34.541 Norwegian kr. 36.704 Swiss franc 203.980 Port. Escudo 1.623 Aus. dollar 171.393 Can. dollar 179.750

(L.G.)


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