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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-12-11

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, 11/12/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Crucial EU summit gets underway today
  • Tsohatzopoulos opens conference on weapons research, technology
  • Amnesty International protests executions in US
  • Russia's Zyuganov: S-300s pose no threat to any third country
  • Synaspismos-sponsored political forum
  • DEPA: Greece not obligated to receive Russian gas in '98
  • Verbal Testimonies of Thessaloniki Jews
  • PMs of Greece, FYROM to address Balkan economy conference in '99
  • Foreign currency shipping inflows rise 2.3 pct Jan-June
  • Stocks end flat, seen consolidating above 2,500 pts
  • Contract for customs service's computerisation with Bull, Intrasoft
  • Hellenic Bank branch opens in Athens
  • Commission to take recourse over dangerous substance directive
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Crucial EU summit gets underway today

The European Union summit gets underway today in Vienna with discussion focusing on the issues of unemployment and the 'Agenda 2000'.

The summit, where Greece will be represented by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, is expected to give rise to the juxtaposition of views, on one hand, that fiscal discipline is the Community's "No. 1" target in view of the euro, and on the other, that development and the increase in employment, through a boost in public investments, allows a "flexible" interpretation of the "iron" Stability Pact.

Southern European leaders are thought likely to press for the introduction of more progressive views on the issue of Community budget resources, meaning that the calculation of each country's contributions should be made on the basis of its relative prosperity and its per capita income. Also, the poorer southern countries are expected to stick to the position that all Community expenses must reach 1.27 per cent of GDP as the only official one submitted, and that all others have been informally submitted.

At a second level, they are seeking to secure that the funding of structural policies and the Cohesion Fund for the least developed countries once they join the euro does not suffer cuts.

Regarding Cyprus, which is part of the enlargement process, Greek diplomatic sources were not expecting any particular development, but rather a smooth continuation of accession negotiations which began two months ago.

Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides, who attended the European People's Party summit yesterday, along with main opposition leader Costas Karamanlis, said EU enlargement was "perhaps the most creative of challenges for the Union itself". He also stressed that it "emerges as a political necessity and becomes not a policy chosen, but a must."

Mr. Karamanlis said that for the real European unification to be achieved the magnitudes of the community budget should increase or at least remain on the same levels.

Mr. Karamanlis noted that "if we desire the real European unification, the magnitudes of the community budget should either be increased or at least remain on the same levels, because this concerns the unification of Europe and mostly Greece...because Greece should pursue not the nominal but the real convergence".

Mr. Karamanlis, referring to unemployment, said that "the European governments should take a serious look at the problem and develop joint effective action, because unemployment is posing a serious threat to social cohesion" adding that "this issue is of particular concern to Greece, if we take into consideration that, according to the European employment watch, unemployment in our country exceeds 13 per cent."

Concerning Turkey and its relations with the EU, several member-states are expected to press for an equation of Ankara's status (at least verbally) in the framework of enlargement with the status of the countries of central and eastern Europe and Cyprus .

Greek dimplomacy is certain to react to such possible proposals, and counter-propose as a basis for all references to Turkey, the conclusions of the Cardiff and Luxembourg summit and those of Monday's General Affairs Council, where Turkey's status is clearly separated from that of candidate countries.

Tsohatzopoulos opens conference on weapons research, technology

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday opened the third symposium on western European armaments research and technology, taking place in Athens.

He stressed to delegates at the two-day event the need for a common European defence industry, noting that European defence could not be founded only on private defence industries but needed the participation of the countries, too.

Referring to the coproduction of the Eurofire jetfighter by four countries, he said it was by no coincidence that the Eurofighter was becoming a "European prospect" as more countries would join the original four, intimating Greece's interest.

Amnesty International protests executions in US

The Greek section of the human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) yesterday staged a symbolic protest outside the US embassy in Athens to denounce the ongoing execution of convicted murderers in several of that country's 50 states.

During the protest, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of UN Human Rights Day, the president of AI's Greek section, Kostis Papaioannou, handed a letter of protest to an embassy employee which was addressed to US ambassador Nicholas Burns.

The protesters, dressed in black, hung an effigy of the Statue of Liberty to underline their charge that human rights are being "executed" in the United States.

Similar protests were meanwhile being held in other countries around the world to press for the abolition of the death penalty in the US.

According to AI, which in October launched a one-year campaign for penal reform in the United States, nearly 500 people have been executed in the US since the death penalty began to be re-enforced in 1977.

A US federal judge on Wednesday ordered a stay of execution for Canadian national Stan Faulder, who was scheduled to die by lethal injection yesterday, citing concerns about whether he received a fair trial.

Russia's Zyuganov: S-300s pose no threat to any third country

Russia's Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said yesterday that the contract between Moscow and Nicosia for the purchase and deployment on Cyprus of Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles must be implemented because the defensive weapons system posed no threat to any third country.

Mr. Zyuganov was speaking at a news conference during a two-day visit to Greece, which began yesterday at the invitation of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

Nicosia's plans to purchase and install the S-300 missiles on the island republic in an effort to bolster its defenses has drawn criticism from Washington and European countries, which claim the deployment will merely serve to increase tension.

Turkey has openly threatened to prevent the deployment.

Noting the "very good" relations between Cyprus and Russia, Mr. Zyuganov underlined Nicosia's right to choose the weapons systems which ensure its defence.

He expressed the hope that "our countries will withstand the pressure exerted by the US" in order for the contract to be executed.

Commenting on Russia's policy vis-a-vis arms sales, Mr. Zyuganov said his country had lost all the major markets which it had gained in the Soviet era.

In a clear reference to the US, Mr. Zyuganov said that if only one major arms seller is allowed to dominate the world market, the prices of weapons will be too high for many countries.

Regarding Turkey's role in the northern Caucasus and the Middle East, Mr. Zyuganov expressed displeasure, saying that Ankara was trying to increase its influence in the two regions without taking into consideration Russia's interests.

"This policy does not help towards the development of mutual trust. We have our own zone of geopolitical responsibility and Russia had always played a role, even before the creation of the USSR, in the region of Eurasia," Mr. Zyuganov said, indicating that he strongly opposed Turkey's policy of trying to penetrate the region.

Synaspismos-sponsored political forum

Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos yesterday inaugurated the 15th "Forum of the European New Left", organised by his party.

About 25 European Left-wing parties are represented at the Forum, including the French Communist Party, the German Democratic Socialism Party and the Italian Communist Renewal Party.

Outlining the main points of action for the European Left, Mr. Constantopoulos said that guarantees of social protection and social solidarity must be enlarged, democratic institutions of participation, representation and control must be enlarged and so should protection of individual, social and ecological rights, quality of life and the work environment.

DEPA: Greece not obligated to receive Russian gas in '98

Greece has not entered any conventional obligation to receive 1.5 million cubic metres of natural gas in 1998, Public Gas Corp. (DEPA) managing director Savvas Papaphilippou said yesterday, stressing that Russian gas currently being received was not meeting envisaged specifications.

He said that despite the cleaning of the gas pipeline in Bulgaria, the problem with the quality of the natural gas delivered remained.

A protocol on the issue is to be signed with a reprsentative of the Bulgarian company today.

Verbal Testimonies of Thessaloniki Jews

The "Verbal Testimonies of Thessaloniki Jews on the Holocaust", a collection of survivors' memories was presented yesterday in Thessaloniki, detailing some of the atrocities of Nazi concentration camps.

Some survivors detailed in the book their horrific experiences at the Auschwitz camp, where they became guinea pigs at the hands of Nazi doctors.

According to the book, compiled by Naar and Erica Kunio-Amarillo, the vast majority of female prisoners were sterilised through a series of experiments.

Nazi forces exterminated almost 50,000 of the 56,000 Greek Jews of the city, who initially came to Greece in the late 15th century, invited by the Ottoman sultan to escape the Spanish Catholic inquisition.

PMs of Greece, FYROM to address Balkan economy conference in '99

Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his counterpart from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Ljubco Georgievski, will speak at a Balkan economy conference to be held in Thessaloniki in May 1999.

Association of Northern Greek Industries (SBBE) president Vassilis Takas told a news conference yesterday that the association's annual conference would focus on conditions in the Balkans a decade after the opening of markets.

Mr. Georgievski is to speak on May 10, the first day of the conference, and Mr. Simitis on May 11.

Trade between Greece and FYROM is expected to exceed US$250 million in 1998.

Greece is the largest foreign investor in the neighbouring country at 50 million dollars.

Stormy ties between Athens and Skopje have improved in recent years.

Greece opposes the use of the name "Macedonia" by the landlocked republic, arguing it conceals expansionist designs against its northern province of Macedonia.

Under an interim agreement in September 1995, Greece and FYROM agreed to hold talks under UN auspices on finding a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue.

Foreign currency shipping inflows rise 2.3 pct Jan-June

Foreign currency inflows from shipping in January-June rose 2.3 percent to 1,056.9 million dollars from 1,033.5 million dollars a year earlier, the merchant marine ministry said yesterday.

In April-June inflows from shipping were 561.9 million dollars from 529.5 million dollars in the same period of 1997, up 6.1 percent, the ministry said in a statement.

Stocks end flat, seen consolidating above 2,500 pts

Equities finished slightly lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday, again showing signs of consolidating above previously stubborn resistance at 2,500 points despite volatility during trade.

The general index ended 0.19 percent lower at 2,536.88 points. Trade was moderate with turnover sharply down at 66.5 billion drachmas from 86.6 billion drachmas a day earlier. Volume was 15,558,000 shares.

Fuelling trade was heavy demand for state-run National Bank of Greece, which had announced sharp rate cuts on Wednesday after the central bank lowered three key rates. Yesterday it announced that it would seek shareholders' approval for a stock split.

Other commercial banks followed suit in the race to cut rates, including listed Ergobank, Xiosbank and Commercial Bank of Greece.

The FTSE/ASE-20 blue chip index nosed up 0.04 percent to finish at 1,571.85 points.

Outperforming the general index was the parallel market for smaller cap stocks, which closed 1.10 percent higher.

Sector indices finished mixed.

Banks rose 1.31 percent, Leasing dropped 0.47 percent, Insurance jumped 2.35 percent, Investment crept up 0.18 percent, Construction edged up 0.13 percent, Industrials slumped 1.33 percent, Miscellaneous increased 0.11 percent, and Holding dropped 1.36 percent.

Of 272 shares traded advances led declines at 122 to 120 with 30 unchanged.

Contract for customs service's computerisation with Bull, Intrasoft

The government yesterday signed a contract for upgrading the computerisation of Greece's customs services with the Bull and the Athens-based Intrasoft companies, which will provide the hardware and software products, respectively. The project is expected to be completed in about a year's time.

Customs officials said after a signing ceremony that the new system will enhance effectiveness by minimising tariff evasion and instituting better control of substances harmful to public health.

Finance Deputy Minister George Drys added that the tax bureau's "Taxis" system was already in operation in 100 taxation bureaus, and promised that it would cover the entire number by the end of 1999.

Hellenic Bank branch opens in Athens

Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos inaugurated the first branch office of the Cyprus-based Hellenic Bank in Athens yesterday.

Speaking at a ceremony, the president of Hellenic Bank Ltd., Panos Galanos, expressed optimism over the bank's successful course in Greece, underlining that the common language and culture and the unbreakable historical and cultural ties between Greece and Cyprus will contribute in this direction.

Commission to take recourse over dangerous substance directive

The European Commission announced that it has started the process of lodging a recourse, through an avis, against Greece, Belgium and Portugal for failing to implement two EU directives concerning dangerous substances.

The first is the European Commission's Directive 54 (1996) which has amended the Council of Ministers' directive 548 of 1957 and refers to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous chemical substances.

The second is the European Parliament's and Council of Ministers' Directive 56 of 1996 which also amends directive 548 of 1967.

Directive 548 is one of the first directives on the environment and is aimed at a rapprochement between national legislations on new chemical substances and to secure a high level of protection for human health and the environment.

The European Commission also sent an avis against Germany for failing to implement Directive 56 of 1996.

WEATHER

Clouds with possible light snowfall are forecast on Friday for Macedonia and Thrace, northern Greece. Few clouds with sporadic rainfall in the rest of the country and light snow on the mountains in central Greece. Winds will be variable, moderate to strong. Athens will be partly cloudy with possible showers and temperatures ranging from 5C to 12C. Thessaloniki will also be partly cloudy with temperatures ranging from 0C to 8C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 276.361 British pound 459.236 Japanese yen (100) 234.826 French franc 49.608 German mark 166.358 Italian lira (100) 16.794 Irish Punt 413.168 Belgian franc 8.065 Finnish mark 54.705 Dutch guilder 147.525 Danish kr. 43.680 Austrian sch. 23.633 Spanish peseta 1.954 Swedish kr. 34.313 Norwegian kr. 36.670 Swiss franc 204.416 Port. Escudo 1.621 Aus. dollar 171.418 Can. dollar 179.790

(L.G.)


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