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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-12-22

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, 22/12/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • 1999 state budget approved,no surprises in voting
  • Deutsche Bank buys 10 per cent of Eurobank
  • Mark-to-market system adopted
  • EIB loan for Greek infrastructure projects
  • 20 Greek firms among Europe's most dynamic
  • Athens hospital physicians' work-stoppages over payments
  • Civil aviation employees suspend strikes
  • Gov't stresses interim agreement with FYROM
  • Gov't proceeds with education reforms, students prepare road blocks
  • Baseball the topic of Burns-Fouras meeting
  • Number of Greek patients seeking foreign medical care dropping
  • Larko workers decide mobilisations to protest lay-offs
  • Increased municipal budget for Athens
  • EOA: Renovation of stadium through private investors
  • Special telecoms for impaired hearing
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

1999 state budget approved,no surprises in voting

Parliament voted on the 1999 state budget early this morning, with the Greek government calling the budget a springboard for Economic and Monetary Union accession by Greece in 2001.

Specifically, 161 deputies voted in favour, 135 against, one MP was present, while there were three abstentions.

In addition, the eight Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) deputies voted in favour of defence expenditures.

Concluding a five-day debate, Prime Minister Costas Simitis expressed his conviction that the government will win the next general elections in 2000, thanks to its efforts for modernising the country and EMU accession, as he noted.

Referring to the "prosperity of figures" characterising the Greek economy, as he called them, Mr. Simitis criticised the main opposition New Democracy party of exposing itself by disputing macro-economic factors and also of speaking of "accounting tricks" at a time when figures are checked and ratified by the European Commission.

He criticised ND leader Costas Karamanlis in general to the effect that "he is distorting reality continuously and conscientiously" and that "he is cultivating false impressions...levelling everything in the name of political prevalence."

"We are joining Europe with our worth. Nobody is giving accession to us," he said, rejecting criticism from the opposition that the country will indeed join EMU, but this will take place following a harmful political transaction.

Deutsche Bank buys 10 per cent of Eurobank

Deutsche Bank, one of the world's largest financial institutions, and EFG Eurobank, part of the EFG Bank group, announced yesterday the commencement of their cooperation.

Deutsche Bank enters the Greek market by establishing a strategic partnership with the EFG Eurobank group in Greece. EFG is the second largest private sector banking group, with total assets of DM 10 billion (1.7 trillion drachmas).

As part of the deal, Deutsche Bank purchased a 10 percent stake in EFG Eurobank from the majority shareholder Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings SA Luxembourg, which now retails an 81 percent stake in Eurobank.

The alliance is a further step in the German bank's European expansion. After selective major acquisitions in Italy, Spain and recently in Belgium, the deal highlights Deutsche Bank's commitment to further improving its position in Europe.

Bernd A. von Maltzan, member of the divisional board of retail and private banking of Deutsche Bank said that cooperation with Eurobank was an important step in the bank's European strategy, which aims to be the leader in the distribution of financial s ervices and gathering assets in Europe.

"The Greek market has developed significantly in recent years. In addition, the microeconomic and political environment has improved considerably. Today Greece is in a position to become an EMU member in the foreseeable future," Mr. von Maltzan said.

The partnership is the first of this nature to enter into the Greek banking sector and is a consequence of the rapid convergence of the Greek economy with that of its European partners.

EFG Eurobank has 3,500 employees serving more than 600,000 customers. The bank expects pre-tax profits of 115 mln DM this year (19.5 billion drachmas) from 50 mln DMarks in 1997.

Eurobank acquired the majority of Bank of Athens with 23 branches and Cretabank with 89 branches to a total of 170 branches. Owners will be Latsis family interests (81 percent), Deutsche Bank (10 percent) and private investors (9 percent). Deutsche Bank is headquartered in Frankfurt. Total assets exceed 1.1 trillion DMarks. The Group has 2,300 offices in more than 50 countries and employs 75,900 people.

Mark-to-market system adopted

Greece's Capital Markets Committee yesterday announced a plan to adopt a mark-to-market system in evaluating floating-rate bonds included in mutual funds assets.

The change will be gradually implemented from February to June 1999, Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis said Monday, following a meeting with Capital Markets Committee chairman Stavros Thomadakis and Bank of Greece board member Panagiotis Thomopoulos.

The new system aims to improve transparency in Greece's mutual funds market and to strengthen the operation of a state bond secondary market in the country.

EIB loan for Greek infrastructure projects

The European Investment Bank (EIB) yesterday announced a 232 million Ecu loan (78.4 billion drachmas) to Greece to finance infrastructure projects, environmental works and protecting the country's cultural heritage.

The sum of 8.3 million Ecu will be used to finance infrastructure works in Heraklion Crete, and restoration of Mount Athos monasteries.

A sum of 200 million Ecus will be given in long-term loans to finance small infrastructure projects in Greece, included in a Second Community Support Framework programme.

They include roads, ports, airports, water and drainage networks, and environmental projects.

EIB has earmarked 510 million Ecus for investment projects in Greece since 1991.

20 Greek firms among Europe's most dynamic

Twenty Greek companies were recently selected among the most dynamic European companies, according to an announcement by the deputy president of Europe's 500 and managing director of ETANE, E. Zavliaris.

The 20 Greek firms, 11 of which are also listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, are: AEGEK, Athina, Aloumil Mylonas, Air Greece, Germanos, Delta, DIEKAT, Doral, ETANE, Lavifarm, Mailis, Masoutis, Mevgal, Moda Bagno, Nirefs, Nomiki Vivliothiki, Plastica Thrakis, Sarantis, Sklavos and Wackenhut.

Europe's "500" functions as an informal adviser for the European Union's 23rd department. Its next conference, at which these companies will be given awards, will take place in Edinburgh in March 1999.

Athens hospital physicians' work-stoppages over payments

Athens hospital physicians will only handle emergency cases today due to a work-stoppage protesting the non-payment of worked duty-time.

"Patission" and "Aghia Olga" hospital doctors continue their work-stoppages, while "Aghios Savvas" employees yesterday decided to hold a work-stop-page, demanding payment of due retroactive pay.

The Athens-Piraeus Hospital Doctors Union is meeting tonight to consider further actions to be taken regarding their demands for payment of duty- time.

Civil aviation employees suspend strikes

The Federation of Civil Aviation Employees Associations (OSYPA) on Sunday decided to suspend strikes it had announced for the last week of December.

In a related development, the management of Athens' trolley network is seeking recourse to the courts against the employees' union call for work stoppages.

Gov't stresses interim agreement with FYROM

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that the solution to the problem of name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was being sought within the framework of negotiations being conducted under UN auspices.

Mr. Reppas was speaking after comments by ruling PASOK MP for Thessaloniki and former minister Stelios Papathemelis that the government was ready to accept the name "Republic of Macedonia-Skopje" for the neighbouring former Yugoslav republic.

Replying to reporters' questions, Mr. Reppas said he was not aware of comments by Mr. Papathemelis in Parliament nor of the documents cited by the deputy.

Mr. Papathemelis said during a debate in the House on the 1999 budget that he was in possession of a document issued by the finance ministry's customs department showing that the alphabetical classification of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ( FYROM) would change as of the new year.

The document, dated Oct. 23, 1998, informs customs points that the code for FYROM remained XJ to the end of the year and would become MK as of Jan. 1.

Athens and Skopje have been at loggerheads over the country's name since the republic declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

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

Athens and Skopje's relations have improved markedly since they signed an interim agreement in New York in September 1995, under UN auspices.

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos pays a one-day visit to Skopje today, at the invitation of new prime minister Ljubco Geor-gievski.

Mr. Pangalos is expected to meet with FYROM government officials on developments in the Balkans and international affairs and will exchange views on the present state of bilateral relations and room for improvement, according to the foreign ministry.

Gov't proceeds with education reforms, students prepare road blocks

The government yesterday reiterated the need for education ministry reforms to be implemented, a day before protesting students hold road blocks on national roads.

"The government has chosen the path of force of persuasion and not the persuasiveness of force," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

"The reforms must be implemented because they are responsive to the needs of the times," he said.

Students protesting education ministry reforms said on Sunday they would hold road blocks on national highways and in major cities today to press their demand the ministry withdraw the controversial changes.

Student committees from around the country meeting in Athens vowed to continue their protests until the ministry withdrew the law.

They said they aimed to cut off circulation on the national highways "from the Peloponnese to Evros".

Summary road blocks and occupations of schools have been the major characteristics of the weeks-long movement by students at high schools to have the education ministry change its tack on the changes.

Students are protesting a number of issues, including teacher shortages, education ministry changes to grading and examinations at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, the introduction of open university type programmes, and changes to procedures for appointing new teachers.

Also sparking discontent are budget allocations for education, private schooling, and the prosecution of those occupying or vandalising school property.

Reports from Thessaloniki said that the number of schools under occupation was falling as students returned to classrooms, just days before school lets out for Christmas holidays.

Parents and teaching authorities were optimistic that occupations of school buildings would peter out during the holiday break, despite claims by students to the contrary.

The meeting on Sunday decided occupations of school buildings will continue throughout the Christmas and New Year season at a number of locations, while students have also planned a rally in Athens on Jan. 15.

The committees said they would review their protest action again on Jan. 24.

Baseball the topic of Burns-Fouras meeting

Sports Undersecretary Andreas Fouras and US ambassador Nicholas Burns yesterday had talks on bilateral sports cooperation and the further strengthening of sports ties between the two countries.

It was agreed that a bilateral sports cooperation protocol be signed in January 1999 at a special ceremony.

One of the issues discussed was the promotion of baseball in Greece. Mr. Burns assured the president of the Greek baseball federation that he would personally do everything possible to promote the sport in Greece.

Number of Greek patients seeking foreign medical care dropping

The number of patients seeking medical treatment at foreign hospitals has been constantly dropping since 1991 onwards, according to Social Security Foundation (IKA) governor Grigoris Solomos.

Mr. Solomos was addressing the "Seventh Health and Health Policies Forum", which was held in the town of Karpenisi over the weekend.

He added that patients' trust in public hospitals, as well as of the state- of-the-art Onassion Heart Surgery Centre was increasing, as the number of people treated in hospitals affiliated with the National Health System (ESY) had increased considerably.

Accoriding to the reccords, in 1991 the number of patients who travelled abroad for treatment, mainly to London, stood at 2,738, costing IKA more than 5.8 billion drachmas.

The number of patients seeking treatment abroad has since been dropping, reaching last year 931.

Private clinics in the same period increased their revenues, but the number of patients treated dropped.

Mr. Somolos said that despite existing problems in infrastructure, more patients were addmitted in public hospitals, while at the same time treatment duration has drop-ped.

However, several health technocrats addressing the forum disputed Mr. Solomos' optimistic observations, saying that public hospitals do not pay any attension with regard to quality of care, while patients are insufficiently briefed by doctors.

Larko workers decide mobilisations to protest lay-offs

Labour centre officials from Fthiotida, Evia, Thebes, Livadia, Fokida and Evrytania will join Larko workers today to block the Athens-Thessaloniki highway at the Schimatari juncture in protest against periodic lay-offs at the mining company.

According to Larko's management, lay-offs are the result of a continuous decrease in international nickel prices, while Larko workers claim the lay- offs are the first step in plans to close the company.

Today's protest and others scheduled for the coming weeks were decided at a meeting of trade union officials in Larymna on Sunday.

On Jan. 14, workers will hold a rally in Athens and hold a three-hour work stoppage in all the prefectures of central Greece. In cooperation with the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE), Larko workers will also seek a meeting with Prime Mi nister Costas Simitis and Development Minister Vasso Papandreou.

Increased municipal budget for Athens

Athens municipality's budget,set to be tabled at the municipal council next week, is increased by 9.5 billion drachmas compared to the 1998 budget.

According to press reports, the 1999 municipal budget was expected to total 127.9 billion drachmas compared to 118.4 billion drachmas in 1998.

The estimated increase in revenue stands at 16 per cent, while loan interest payments are expected to reach to 9.4 billion drachmas, while 12.7 billion drachmas will be slated for construction projects, the same sources claimed.

EOA: Renovation of stadium through private investors

Greece's Olympic Games Committee (EOA) yesterday decided to renovate and expand Karaiskaki stadium in Faliro.

According to the annoucement, the project will be financed by private investors who will recover the cost of their investment by managing 50 per cent of the facilities for a 20-year period.

The sports general secretariat will oversee an international bid for the project, which is expected to be completed in three years, the announcement stated.

Special telecoms for impaired hearing

A special telecoms centre for hearing impaired individuals has been in operation since Nov. 16.

Interested parties can reach any Athens telephone number by dialing 88.15.555 daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., for emergencies.

WEATHER

Cloudy skies with rainfall in most parts of Greece today and snowfall on highground. Winds, strong to very strong and temperatures will range in the north from 3-11C, in the Ionian and mainland 7-15C and in the Aegean 12- 87C. Athens will be cloudy with rainfall and temperatures from 9-15C. Thessaloniki will be cloudy with rain and temperatures from 5-10C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 277.175 British pound 466.855 Japanese yen (100) 240.044 French franc 49.679 German mark 166.582 Italian lira (100) 16.821 Irish Punt 414.001 Belgian franc 8.077 Finnish mark 54.873 Dutch guilder 147.843 Danish kr. 43.805 Austrian sch. 23.681 Spanish peseta 1.958 Swedish kr. 34.672 Norwegian kr. 36.319 Swiss franc 205.319 Port. Escudo 1.626 Aus. dollar 171.616 Can. dollar 178.957

(C.E.)


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