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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-06-15

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, 15/06/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Gov't says course unhindered by Euroelection results
  • Ergobank warns shareholders against takeover bid
  • Stocks end lower, shrug off Euro-polls
  • Car registrations up 35.8 pct in May
  • Athens-Prague flight connection
  • Tsohatzopoulos calls Euroelections 'unfavourable for PASOK'
  • Euroelections results
  • ND pleased with Euroelections victory
  • DHKKI satisfaction over results
  • Greek-Mexican bilateral cooperation discussed
  • Vartholomeos inaugurates Ecological Institute of Halki
  • Gov't on possible Clinton visit
  • Greek force departs for southern Kosovo today
  • Dioxin scare dominates EU farm ministers' council
  • Belgian cosmetics judged safe
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Gov't says course unhindered by Euroelection results

The government stressed yesterday that it would continue its course and that no early general elections would be called or a reshuffle announced, after Sunday's Euroelections gave main opposition New Democracy first place.

With almost 100 per cent of the vote counted - 18,506 out of 18,525 polling stations - from Sunday's Euroelections, New Democracy emer-ged as the winner with 35.99 per cent to ruling PASOK's 32.86.

PASOK dropped one Euro-deputy seat to stand at nine, while ND remained at nine Euro-deputies.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), by increasing its electoral strength, elected three Euro-MPs, up from two it won in the 1994 election. KKE gained 8.68 per cent of the vote.

The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) maintained its two seats while falling in voters' preferences to 5.17 per cent. The Democratic Social Movement(DHKKI) in its first-ever Euroelections, polled 6.87 per cent and will field two Euro-MPs.

The Political Spring (Pol.An) lost its two Europarliament seats, polling only 2.28 per cent.

Ergobank warns shareholders against takeover bid

Ergobank yesterday warned its shareholders not to rush to sell stock following a takeover bid by EFG Eurobank, a member of the Latsis Group, with Deutsche Bank of Germany.

In a move announced last week, the two banks are seeking to acquire a maximum 50.1 percent stake in Ergobank, or a minimum of 33.4 percent. Both Greek banks are listed on the Athens bourse.

In a paid advertisement due to appear in newspapers today, Ergobank's management said the offer was disadvantageous for shareholders, cautioning them to refrain from selling their stock before being fully informed of the details of the bid.

EFG Eurobank's parent, Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings, has already raised its existing 9.41 stake in Ergobank to 15.57 percent through block trades on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The EFG Bank Group has offered shareholders of Ergobank 110 shares in EFG Eurobank for 50 held in Ergobank, plus a cash sum of 200,000 drachmas.

The offer to shareholders was closely linked to the share price of EFG Eurobank, a new listing on the Athens Stock Exchange with a short trading history. In addition, EFG's stock was not heavily traded, management said in the advertisement.

The structure of the offer would give Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings control of Ergobank, but it failed to safeguard the interests of the target bank and its minority shareholders, management added.

Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings and Deutsche Bank, a shareholder in EFG Eurobank, together own 20.57 percent of Ergobank.

Stocks end lower, shrug off Euro-polls

The Athens Stock Exchange largely ignored Euro-election results yesterday in the belief that they would not negatively affect political developments in the country, nor affect its economic convergence towards EMU.

The general index ended 0.47 percent lower at 4,020.75 points, off the day's lows of 4,001 points.

Turnover was 123.791 billion drachmas with 22,314,524 shares changing hands.

Dealers said the market had already discounted Sunday's poll results, which saw New Democracy (ND), the main opposition conservative party, coming out on top.

A number of investors remained on the sidelines while others preferred to take early profits.

Dimitris Karagounis, president of Greece's Societe Anonymes Union, said that the stock market had reacted calmly to the European Parliament election result because the gap between ND and the ruling PASOK party was too narrow to reverse the government's economic policy.

"The market showed its confidence in Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who once again reiterated he would remain steadfast in his policy of EMU entry, " Mr. Karagounis said.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-2.07 pct), Insurance (+0.85 pct), Leasing (+0.96 pct), Investment (+0.20 pct), Construction (+5.85 pct), Industrials (+0.33 pct), Miscellaneous (+2.08 pct) and Holding (+2.23 pct).

A total of 75 issues ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up, particularly in the smaller capitalisation sector.

Altec, Intersat, Thessaliki and Michaniki were the most heavily traded stocks.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,010 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 21, 150, Ergobank at 24,335, Ionian Bank at 16,400, Titan Cement at 29,000, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,840, Intracom at 20,990, Minoan Lines at 5,100, Panafon at 7,920 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,300.

Car registrations up 35.8 pct in May

New car registrations totalled 36,550 in May, of which 4,549 were for second-hand vehicles, the National Statistics Service said yesterday.

The NSS said car registrations were up 35.8 percent compared with the same month of last year.

Fiat, Opel and Toyota topped the list at 2,319, 2,225 and 2,503 respectively, followed by Citroen (1,679), Nissan (1,301), Renault (1,239), Peugeot (1, 191) and Suzuki (1,291).

Athens-Prague flight connection

State-run Olympic Airways said yesterday it had signed an agreement with Czech Airlines to carry out flights between Greece and the Czech Republic.

The two carriers, effective as of yesterday, have introduced six flights per week from Athens to Prague, one leaving at 6 a.m. local time on Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and another at 4:40 p.m. on Monday, Friday and Saturday.

The Czech Republic is a destination which has seen growing tourist interest over the past few years and this factor has been taken into account in scheduling for flights originating from Athens, a company statement said.

Tsohatzopoulos calls Euroelections 'unfavourable for PASOK'

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said Sunday's Euroelections results were unfavourable for PASOK, adding that the ruling party's losses in rural and deindustrialised regions constituted a popular message and the last warning after prefectural and municipal elections.

In a statement yesterday, he said the voters also ascertained "a political and social deficit in PASOK".

However, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said PASOK can win parliamentary elections in 2000 because it has proved that it can successfully promote its major interests and needs both in the European Union and the establishment of peace and security in the region.

He said that despite winning first place in the Euroelections, the main opposition New Democracy party is unable to create a popular majority which can only be created by the sector of the left, the sector of reform and the sector of progress.

Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis, speaking to reporters later, admitted that the election result was not what PASOK had hoped, adding that it will not, however, create any obstacles for achieving the government's targets.

PASOK Secretary Costas Skandalidis yesterday said the ruling party "stood on its feet" in Sunday's Euroelections despite the fact it "faced the other political forces of the country."

Following a meeting with PM Costas Simitis, Mr. Skandalidis said the percentage garnered by PASOK was "not expected", although he added the government and its work will be judged in next year's national elections.

Euroelections results

With almost 100 per cent of the vote counted (18,506 of 18,525 polling centres), the results of the European Parliament elections in Greece are as follows:

Party % Seats Votes

PASOK 32.86 9 2,098,313 ND 35.99 9 2, 298,729 KKE 8.68 3 554,086 SYN 5.17 2 330,068 DHKKI 6.87 2 438,870 POL.AN 2.28 - 145,690 LIBERALS 1.62 - 103,536 Hunters 1.00 - 64,067

Participation was 70.18 percent of registered voters, with invalid votes totalling 150,109 and blank 133,067 NB: PASOK = Panhellenic Socialist Movement

ND = New Democracy

KKE = Communist Party of Greece

SYN = Coalition of Left and Progress

Pol.AN = Political Spring

Hunters = Greek Hunters' Party

ND pleased with Euroelections victory

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) cadres yesterday expressed satisfaction over the results of Sunday's Euroelections, noting that the targets set before the poll were achieved.

They added that the percentage garnered, as well as the difference between the two major parties, give ND increased possibilities for victory in the national elections.

ND Parliamentary group secretary Stavros Dimas stressed that the party should continue to exercise a "responsible opposition", and be ready for elections whenever they may occur.

Other party officials spoke of ND's need to focus on improving its electoral perfomance in Attica, Crete and certain regions of Thessaloniki.

There were also calls for the reinstatement of several top ND cadres expelled over the past few years, such as former minister and Larisa-area deputy George Souflias.

DHKKI satisfaction over results

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) officials yesterday appeared completely satisfied with the party's Euroelections performance.

DHKKI's leadership believes that a 50 per cent increase in the party's vote tally from the 1996 general elections vindicated party leader Dimitris Tsovolas' assessment of a wholly autonomous political movement, and with repercussions on ruling PASOK.

Party cadres also referred to a "front" within the progressive political spectrum lined up against "neo-liberalism".

Greek-Mexican bilateral cooperation discussed

Greece and Mexico yesterday sig-ned two agreements for bilateral cooperation in the science and technology fields, following talks yesterday between Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis and visiting Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister for North Amer ica and Europe Juan Rebolledo.

Bilateral issues as well as fostering Mexico's relations with the European Union were on the agenda of talks.

Mexico is currently in talks with the EU on commercial and investment issues which could lead to the establishment of a free trade zone. "Greece has always been supportive of this initiative and for this we thank it," Mr. Rebolledo said.

Vartholomeos inaugurates Ecological Institute of Halki

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos yesterday inaugurated the Ecological Institute of Halki, on the Sea of Marmara islet.

Vartholomeos, speaking at the first conference of the institute, stressed that it will educate clergy, scientists and jounralists on techniques and the "humanitarian aspects of the problem of environmental pollution, as well as the Christian and theolo gical side of the issue."

The institute will participate in all international environmental conferences, while its own conference will be added to the roster of international ecological events.

Gov't on possible Clinton visit

Asked whether a possible visit to Greece and Turkey by US President Bill Clinton was discussed during a phone conversation between the US leader and PM Costas Simitis on Sunday, the government yesterday pointed to an OSCE conference set for Istanbul in October and the US president's expected participation.

Consequently, spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, a presidential visit to the region is a possibility.

Replying to a question on whether Mr. Clinton's visit to both Greece and Turkey is welcome by the government because - according to the reporter putting the question - Athens had in the past expressed apprehension over a Clinton visit to Greece as part of another itinerary, Mr. Reppas reiterated that Mr. Clinton's visit to the area is a possibility.

Greek force departs for southern Kosovo today

Greek troops destined to join a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo were set to depart in the early morning today, headed for the town of Urosevac.

The 501th motorised infantry battalion in Yiannitsa, northern Greece, will be the first part of the Greek brigade to go to Kosovo.

The battalion includes 480 men and 180 vehicles.

Meanwhile, NATO troops destined for the Kosovo force continued to transit through the port and airport of Thessaloniki.

Activity is expected to increase dramatically over the next few days as the bulk of the peacekeeping force is deployed in Kosovo.

Yesterday morning, 350 British soldiers arrived at the city's Macedonia Airport, while the British freighter "Centurion" unloaded military vehicles and containers.

Thessaloniki will continue to be a hub of activity, as it will be a major transit point for supplies for the Kosovo force and will be home to a NATO administrative centre charged with organising the provision and transport of supplies to the Kosovo force.

Dioxin scare dominates EU farm ministers' council

EU farm ministers yesterday unanimously called for greater transparency and controls in the Union's stockbreeding sector and in the foodstuffs industry in order to avoid any future scandals, such as the current dioxin scare emanating from Belgium.

In a joint text, they called on the EU Commission to present them with measures for the improvement of inspection mechanisms, underlining the necessity of regaining European consumers' confidence.

Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis expressed Greek consumers' concerns and compared the dioxin contamination in Belgian animal feeds with "a chemical Chernobyl in the foodstuffs industry."

Belgian cosmetics judged safe

Officials from the National Pharmaceuticals Organisation (EOF) yesterday announced that cosmetics originating from Belgium were jud-ged safe for consumers.

EOF's board, which met yesterday to examine the possibility of dioxin absorption through the skin by the use of cosmetics, said the Belgian government along with responsible EU bodies provided assurances that specific cosmetics on the Greek market were not prepared with animal tissue tainted with the carcinogen substance.

Dermatology professor Ioannis Hatzis pointed out that "dioxin can penetrate the human skin through the use of cosmetics, but due to the cosmetics preparation process...the final dioxin content in those products, if any, seems to create a minimal dioxin accumulation risk to the human body".

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast in most parts of the country today with the possibility of scattered showers or storms in the afternoon in the mountainous regions of northern Greece. Wind variable, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 21-34C. Partly cloudy with showers in Thessaloniki and temperatures from 19-32C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          307.282
Pound sterling       495.742
Japanese yen (100)   255.281
French franc          48.991
German mark          164.308
Italian lira (100)    16.597
Irish Punt           408.041
Belgian franc          7.966
Luxembourg franc       7.966
Finnish mark          54.048
Dutch guilder        145.826
Danish kr.            43.259
Austrian sch.         23.354
Spanish peseta         1.931
Swedish kr.           36.258
Norwegian kr.         39.267
Swiss franc          201.515
Port. Escudo           1.603
Can. dollar          210.364
Aus. dollar          203.509
Cyprus pound         556.512
Euro                 321.358
(C.E.)
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