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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-12-20

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, 20/12/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Parliament readies for 1999 budget vote
  • Thessaloniki metro contract to inner cabinet early January
  • Greece wants to see peaceful Iraq solution
  • Metropolitan Bishop backs cremation for non-Orthodox
  • Court rules against airport strikes
  • Students blocks roads in major towns
  • Concern over Kosovo
  • Stocks end up, boosted by block trades
  • Equities end week lacklustre after early plunge
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Parliament readies for 1999 budget vote

Parliament prepares to vote on the government's budget for 1999 at midnight on Monday.

Over the weekend, debate continued on the budget with Labour and Social Security Minister Miltiades Papaioannou saying the government would spend 300 billion drachmas in the framework of its employment policy until the end of 1999, which would create 110,000 new jobs and would also include programs against social exclusion, and in favour of the elderly, the young, and women.

He said unemployment in Greece had been stabilised at 10.3 per cent while the rest of the European Union showed upward trends, and that only four percent of Greeks were engaged in part-time employment, compared to an average of 18 percent in the other partners.

Former New Democracy party minister Vasilis Kontoyiannopoulos, now an independent deputy, stated his intention to astain in the vote, expressing the view that the budget was indeed capable of attaining at least the target of nominal convergence with the other EU economies.

National economy deputy minister Christos Pachtas claimed Greece would have absorbed the sum total of Santer Package funds until the end of 2000, that is one year before EMU accession. He said statements by EU Commissioner Monica Wulf-Matthies, according to which the Greek rate of absorption was higher that the EU average lent support to his view, and that the completion of large projects would change the face of the country.

Agriculture minister Giorgos Anomeritis said in contrast to the rest of the EU, producers' nominal prices in Greece were rising, and that fiscal inflows from the Union were double the value of Greek produce.

Nevertheless, he claimed the funds were not enough for the modernisation of the Greek farm sector.

"We need an institutional re-orientation of the role of the state in the development of rural areas, and the provision of funds not only towards support for specific products," he said.

He added that the "cooperative movement has served its purpose and we now need new models and systems to improve competitiveness of products, and achieve sustainable development and conquer new markets".

On Sunday, PASOK deputy Alekos Voulgaris underlined that the 1999 budget would bring the country out of the quagmire of economic crisis and instability.

Greece has a future and prospects, Voulgaris said, adding that the budget provided for increased spending on the sectors of health, social security, education and unemployment.

From opposition New Democracy, MP Prokopis Pavlopoulos said the "national economy was being offered up as a sacrifice on the altar of 'nominal' convergence", compromising the country's future.

"You promise the paradise of EMU but you say nothing about the post- inclusion period," Left Coalition deputy Fotis Kouvelas said.

He queried whether production, administration and development policies would be enough to deal with the competition developing within EMU, saying this competition would lead to lower wages and to lay-offs.

"We do not reject a European direction for the country but the cohesion of the EU will depend on its social character," he said.

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos launched a stinging attack on the main opposition party's tactics in Parliament on Sunday, saying that the government was fighting to get Greece into economic and monetary union while New Democracy stood by and waited for it to fall "like a ripe fruit".

"New Democracy has to take a stand on issues, otherwise it lacks credibility, " Venizelos said.

Venizelos said inclusion in EMU would bring a better future for welfare, education and culture, adding that money saved from the fall in inflation and interest rates would be transferred to those sectors.

Thessaloniki metro contract to inner cabinet early January

A contract forged by the government with a French-Greek consortium to build a metro from scratch in Thessaloniki will be sent to the inner cabinet for approval early in January, Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis on Friday.

The document will then be signed and sent to parliament for approval in line with practice for major public works, allowing the co-financed project to begin.

Greece wants to see peaceful Iraq solution

Deputy Foreign Minister Yannos Kranidiotis on Friday expressed the government's concern over the developments in Iraq, telling reporters after a Cabinet meeting that the government was carefully monitoring the developments "because instability in the region is something that could have repercussions on Greece, too".

Kranidiotis expressed his conviction that the operations should be terminated as soon as possible and an effort should be made to find a political solution through peaceful means.

"The international community must exercise its influence so that international law and the international rules are always employed and avoid the phenomenon of double standards," he said.

Metropolitan Bishop backs cremation for non-Orthodox

Ioannina Metropolitan Theoklitos on Friday dissociated himself from a position taken by Archbishop of Athens Christodoulos on debate over whether to allow cremation in Greece.

In statements, Theoklitos maintained that the state had the right to go ahead with the introduction of legislation to allow cremation.

Cremation is currently not allowed in Greece as it runs counter to Orthodox Church dogma.

Last month, several parliament deputies tabled an amendment to allow persons not belonging to the Orthodox faith freedom to choose cremation instead of burial.

Court rules against airport strikes

An Athens court on Friday ruled that labour action called by civil aviation unions was illegal and an abuse of labour law.

The court ruling related to an air traffic controllers' four-hour walkout slated to begin at 11 a.m. on Friday, and a telecoms workers 12-4 p.m. walkout on the same day.

Civil aviation employees said earlier this week that they would hold a range of walkouts in the lead up to Christmas to press demands for more personnel and wage-related and other issues.

The walkouts are expected to have a serious effect on flight scheduling over the busy Christmas season.

Students blocks roads in major towns

High-school students took their protests literally to the roads on Friday when they held coordinated road blocks in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra and other major towns around the country.

Students blocked roads at four intersections in the wider Athens area, causing traffic jams in midday traffic.

At the education ministry in Athens, students from the Pallini Music High School strummed guitars, played violas and sang songs against the education ministy's reforms.

The approach of the Christmas and New Year holiday break appears to have had little effect on hundreds of students still occupying school premises in protest at the education ministry's reforms.

Nationwide the number of schools under occupation is estimated to be a thousand.

Concern over Kosovo

Greece and its Balkan neighbours are extremely concerned about the possibility of more tension in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo, Greece's Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis told new Yugoslav ambassador to Greece Dragomir Vucicevic on Friday.

Kaklamanis said every effort possible was needed to find a resolution to the problem.

Vucicevic briefed Kaklamanis on the course of the Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement and added that Belgrade wanted political dialogue with the leaders of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo to continue, but that they were not responding to the invitation.

Stocks end up, boosted by block trades

Equities finished higher on the Athens Stock Exchange on Friday with the market fluctuating around stubborn resistance at 2,500 points during the session.

The general index ended 0.68 percent up at 2,498.73 points in moderate trade bolstered by block trades. Turnover jumped to 71.4 billion drachmas from 49.2 billion drachmas in the previous session on 17,704,000 shares traded.

Around 20 billion drachmas of turnover represented block trades after the close.

The parallel market for smaller cap stocks underperformed the general index, closing 0.47 percent lower.

Sector indices finished mixed.

Banks rose 0.65 percent, Leasing slumped 1.39 percent, Insurance nosed down 0.12 percent, Investment sprinted 1.94 percent, Construction increased 0.52 percent, Industrials crept up 0.27 percent, Miscellaneous edged up 0.05 percent, and Holding gained 0.45 percent.

Of 280 shares traded advances led declines at 137 to 120 with 23 unchanged.

Equities end week lacklustre after early plunge

The Athens Stock Exchange ended the week calm after an initial slump, and investors shrugged off airstrikes by the US and UK on Iraq along with bourses abroad, analysts said on Friday.

The general index gained 1.54 percent, or 38.01 points on the week to end at 2,498.73 points against 2,460.72 points a week earlier.

The week's turnover was 301.438 billion drachmas to post a daily average of 60.3 billion drachmas, down from 76.2 billion drachmas a week earlier.

The market's early drop in the week was mainly due to domestic institutional investors indulging in window dressing to enhance their end-of-year books, the analysts said.

Investors abroad bought selectively into blue chips but most foreign capital went into bonds, not equities, they said.

The market tried to consolidate later in the week, also brushing off the Iraq crisis as its repercussions are believed to be minor and short- lived.

The bourse's industrial sector posted the highest gains at 1.54 percent, the same as the general index, and Leasing the biggest losses, shedding 3.26 percent.

From the start of the year the index has gained 68.88 percent. It stands 11.57 percent down on its all-time high of 2,825.52 points in July.

WEATHER

Clear weather is forecast for most parts of the country on Sunday, turning to cloud and rain in western Greece later in the day. Winds westerly, northwesterly, moderate to strong. Athens is to enjoy mostly sunny weather with temperatures ranging from 4C to 14C. Sunshine is forecast for Thessaloniki with temperatures ranging from 2C to 12C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 276.312 Pound sterling 464.911 Japanese yen (100) 239.965 French franc 49.652 German mark 166.557 Italian lira (100) 16.813 Irish Punt 413.565 Belgian franc 8.073 Finnish mark 54.808 Dutch guilder 147.763 Danish kr. 43.813 Austrian sch. 23.674 Spanish peseta 1.957 Swedish kr. 34.502 Norwegian kr. 35.910 Swiss franc 205.379 Port. Escudo 1.624 Aus. dollar 171.909 Can. dollar 179.155

(M.P.)


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