Cook terms Greece's role in the Balkans as 'valuable'
Greece's special role as the only Balkan country which is a member of the
EU and NATO has been particularly valuable in reaching the peace agreement
on Kosovo and will continue to be so in the involvement of the two
organisations in promoting a stability pact in the peninsula, British
Foreign Minister Robin Cook said yesterday.
"I would like to officially express my admiration for the positive
contribution of Greece and (foreign minister) Mr. (George) Papandreou in
the diplomatic efforts during the crisis in Kosovo. I recognise Greece's
special position as a member of NATO and the European Union, and as the
only EU member state in the Balkans, which provided it with special
knowledge about the area and, of course, gave it the potential to have a
significant contribution to the diplomatic efforts," he said after two
hours of talks with his Greek counterpart here.
"Greece has a particularly strong role to play in the political reconstruction
of Kosovo and in transferring our broader commitment to the countries
included in the stability plan for the area. Today, George Papandreou and I
agreed that officials from our two countries will cooperate in programmes
of reconciliation of the two communities in Kosovo and in Serbia's
democratisation," he added.
Mr. Papandreou also said they had agreed to cooperate in programmes
promoting the reconciliation of Serbs and Albanians, but "particularly in
the effort for important moves regarding the democratisation and support
for the society of citizens in Yugoslavia".
The two men also discussed the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish relations.
Mr. Cook stated he expected Cyprus would be on the agenda of the G8 summit
in Cologne today, and that there would be an effort to provide a new
impetus to procedures through the United Nations to resolve the problem.
Responding to questions on the issue of the return of Cypriot refugees to
their homes, Mr. Cook stated he believed that any political settlement of
the problem should include a solution to this issue.
"This must be part of any general settlement. The priority, however, must
be on bringing the two sides to the negotiating table without preconditions
so that we may record on the political issue which must be part of the
final solution," he said.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Papandreou met with British Defence Secretary
George Robertson, who agreed with Mr. Papandreou that everything possible
should be done to ensure the Serb population of Kosovo stayed in their
Mr. Papandreou said there it was extremely important that the Serbs of
Kosovo feel safe and that a purely Albanian-populated Kosovo bode ill for
He urged movement on commitments to disarm the KLA, while Mr. Robertson
said negotiations were under way over the issue, and that he was confident
there would be an agreement soon.
In discussing the rebuilding of the Balkans, Mr. Robertson reiterated that
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's departure and the democratisation
of Yugoslavia were prerequisites for British participation in the project,
while the Greek minister urged the immediate dispatch of humanitarian aid
In Athens, the government said yesterday it believed that the so-called
"Kosovo Liberation Army" units in Kosovo had to be disarmed immediately.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, replying to reporters' questions,
also said that the Greek troops in Kosovo, as part of the peacekeeping
force, were taking all the measures necesssary to protect themselves
against possible actions against them by the Albanian rebels.
Government plans Dr 300 bln of tax cuts
A meeting of the government's economic team, chaired by National Economy
and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, yesterday agreed on tax cuts
worth 300 billion drachmas for the period 2000-2001.
Under the plan, due to be submitted to the prime minister next week, 200
billion drachmas in tax breaks will apply to 1999 income and the remaining
100 billion to next year's income, ministry sources said.
The government is discussing two scenarios in a plan to raise the tax
exempt level: firstly, an increase to 2.3 million drachmas for wage earners
and pensioners and to 2.0 million for other taxpayers, up from 1.355
million drachmas and 1.055 million drachmas currently; and secondly, a rise
to 2.0 million for wage earners and 1.7 million drachmas for other
The plan also includes extending the tax scale to eight brackets from six
to benefit middle incomes; lowering the highest tax rate to 43 percent from
45 percent; abolishing base assessed income for the self-employed and small
and medium sized businesses ; and cuts in corporate tax.
Stocks again slump, hit by profit-taking
Equity prices ended lower for the sixth consecutive session on the Athens
Stock Exchange yesterday unable to hold on to early gains because of lack
of follow-through orders.
The general index ended 0.79 percent down at 3,954.19 points, off the day's
The index jumped 1.62 percent initially but finally succumbed to profit-
taking. It has lost 2.61 percent in the last six sessions.
Turnover was 152.941 billion drachmas with 27,929,862 shares changing
The bank and construction sectors were the worst hit to end 1.33 and 1.42
Other sector indices ended as follows: Leasing (-0.13 pct), Insurance (-
0.06 pct), Investment (-0.08 pct), Industrials (-0.73 pct), Miscellaneous
(+0.05 pct) and Holding (+0.24 pct).
National Bank of Greece ended at 20,800 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 20,
560, Ergobank at 22,350, Ionian Bank at 16,100, Titan Cement at 27,750,
Hellenic Petroleum at 2,765, Intracom at 20,400, Minoan Lines at 5,095,
Panafon at 7,520 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,190.
Counterfeit cheques found in brokerage scam
Alki Securities, which is being investigated for alleged malpractice, said
yesterday that it had unearthed counterfeit cheques deposited in a branch
of Alpha Credit Bank.
In a warning to the public, Alki said that it bore no commitment to pay out
on the cheques, which were the result of forgery by a former executive of
the company. The brokerage is also carrying out its own enquiry into the
allegations, which are restric ted to Alki's Thessaloniki branch.
The company's accounts with the Athens bourse are clear, according to
Cosmote signs supply deal with Intracom
Cosmote yesterday signed a mobile telephone equipment supply contract worth
15 billion drachmas with a consortium comprising Intracom, Ericsson and
The four-year turnkey deal is for the supply of base stations and other
equipment, and also includes maintenance, Cosmote said in a statement.
Selection of the consortium was made through an international tender.
Cosmote said the deal would accelerate its network expansion growth rate
and cut equipment and infrastructure installation costs.
When it launched operations, Cosmote had forged a similar agreement with
New float for Hellenic Petroleum seen this year
A second flotation for Hellenic Petroleum is expected to be launched by the
end of the year, Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday.
He said that the percentage of equity to be offered through the stock
market would depend on recommendations made by the consultants to the sale.
The minister stressed, however, that the Greek state would retain a
majority share in the company.
Germanos, Cypriot firms team up for new venture
Cyprus Trading Corporation Ltd and F.W. Woolworth's & Co (Cyprus) Ltd
announced yesterday that they had forged an agreement with Germanos of
Greece to establish a Cypriot venture.
The two firms are to own 51 percent of the new company's share capital, and
Germanos the remaining 49 percent.
The firm will run two networks of stores under the names Germanos and
Multirama, the same as in Greece.
US $20 million credit line for Romania
Greece will grant Romania credits totalling 20 million US dollars, which
will be managed by the two Greek banks established in the Romanian
This was agreed to in meetings held here between a national economy
ministry delegation and the Romanian government.
Other pending issues concerning Greek investors in Romania were also
promoted for resolution. The meetings were held on the sidelines of a visit
to the country by President Kostis Stephanopoulos and Alternate Foreign
Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis.
Meanwhile, Mr. Stephanopoulos held talks with the President of Romania's
Parliament and the Senate's deputy president. In the afternoon, he visited
the Patriarchate of Romania Theoktistos.
In a statement afterwards, President Stephanopoulos said the visit was
"extremely pleasant", which took place for the third time, since "he always
met with the Patriarch whenever he visited Romania."
On his part, Patriarch Theoktistos said he welcomed "a great friend of the
Orthodox Church of Romania, of the Romanian people and of our country."
Late in the afternoon, Mr. Stephanopoulos inaugurated a painting exhibition
at the Romanian National Art Museum entitle of "Testimonies of Plastics
from Modern-Day Greece."
The exhibition will run until June 24.
Greece backs suspension of Genetically Modified Organisms
The permanent Greek delegation to the European Union on Wednesday issued a
statement regarding the suspension of market licenses for "Genetically
Modified Organisms", inviting all other members-states to co-sign
The statement was issued in light of the revision of directive 90/220/EEC,
lauded by the environmental organisation Greenpeace yesterday. The
Greenpeace bureau in Athens issued an announcement expressing its
satisfaction and called on all EU member-stat es approve the proposal.
The statement issued during Wednesday's COREPER meeting read:
"The Greek Delegation, in the light of completing the procedures regarding
the modification of Directive 90/220/EEC for the deliberate release of GMOs
and given the need for implementing a more transparent and strict framework
concerning critical issues , such as risk assessment, monitoring, labelling,
as well as the need to restore the trust of market and public opinion,
states its intention to implement a procedure suspending new approvals
concerning the placing on the market of GMOs, until the amendment of
Directive 90/220/EEC is implemented."
Gov't promotes Greek-produced meat as safe alternative
Representatives of several veterinary organisations yesterday reassured the
public that Greek meat is safe, cautioning consumers to avoid fat, where
However, veterinarians complained that checks taking place in the country
are inadequate. On his part, Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis said
all the quantities of confiscated Belgian meat will be destroyed.
In another interview, Mr. Anomeritis said fresh milk on sale in the Greek
market is unadulterated and locally produced. He said fresh milk is not
imported, while all other products are checked as imported goods, adding
that a further 200 tonnes of fresh products (meat, mayonnaise and poultry)
have already been destroyed.
Mr. Anomeritis said stringent checks have taken place and are continuing to
take place at the source of dioxin infection, which is fodder crops for
Replying to criticism that dioxin checks are not being conducted on Greek
products, he said checks were not taking place because there are no
symptoms. Greek animals are not under suspicion and for this reason checks,
which are costly and require a great deal of time, have not taken place, he
Mismanagement, lack of employees blamed for OA's condition
Lack of management and failure to satisfy employees' wage demands are the
causes of yet more problems at debt-ridden Olympic Airways (OA), a unionist
An official of the stewards' union, Vassilis Yiannakopoulos, said OA's
subsidiary "Macedonian Airlines" and pesonnel shortages were the main
causes for the state-run carrier's problems. He also claimed that
Macedonian siphons off up to 16 per cent of OA 's regular flights.
Mr. Yiannakopoulos demanded special measures to be taken at a meeting
between the ministries of national economy, development and transportation
ministries, with participation of OA's management and unions.
Olympic Airways yesterday announced special ticket discounts for travel to
12 destinations in Europe.
The fares apply to a limited number of seats, Monday through Thursday, and
for a maximum stay of 14 days. Prices are set at 75,000 drachmas for
departures from Athens and Thessaloniki (90,000 from other Greek airports)
to Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Zurich,
Milan, Munich, Rome, Stuttgart and Vienna.
G8 summit to voice support for UN efforts towards Cyprus settlement
The group of most industrialised countries plus Russia (G8), which will
discuss the Cyprus problem during the weekend, are not seeking to displace
the role of the UN in efforts to solve the Cyprus problem but to support a
process towards a settlement.
This was stated here yesterday by the director of the Press Department of
the Foreign Office, Chris Sainty.
Asked if the G8 will talk about the Cyprus problem at their forthcoming
meeting in Cologne, Mr. Sainty said there will be some discussion on Cyprus
and a reference in the statement which will come out of the G8.
What the G8 will be seeking to do is not in any way to displace the UN "as
the international organisation with the key interest to resolving the issue
and reaching a settlement," Mr. Sainty said.
"Clearly, the role of the G8 is a supporting one. I expect it to say in a
statement that it supports the efforts of the UN and the Secretary-General
in promoting the process towards a settlement," the FO offical added.
Invited to comment on statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent
Ecevit that an intervention by the G8 could lead to an ethnic conflict like
in Bosnia, Mr. Sainty said that what the G8 will be seeking to "do is to
help towards the efforts of the U N to reach a settlement."
This is "supported by all sides," he added.
The G8 Foreign Ministers have agreed on a reference on Cyprus during their
recent meeting in Cologne. The reference is subject to approval by the G8
summit this weekend.
The ministers urged their leaders to reiterate their support to UN efforts
for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem on the basis of UN
Security Council resolutions.
Partly cloudy weather is forecast throughout the country today with
scattered showers in central and northern Greece. Winds variable, light to
strong. Scattered showers in the afternoon in Athens with temperatures
between 22-33C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 20-30C.
Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar 310.228
Pound sterling 493.579
Japanese yen (100) 258.545
French franc 48.900
German mark 164.003
Italian lira (100) 16.566
Irish Punt 407.285
Belgian franc 7.951
Luxembourg franc 7.951
Finnish mark 53.949
Dutch guilder 145.556
Danish kr. 43.168
Austrian sch. 23.311
Spanish peseta 1.927
Swedish kr. 36.472
Norwegian kr. 39.363
Swiss franc 200.806
Port. Escudo 1.600
Can. dollar 212.982
Aus. dollar 204.387
Cyprus pound 554.845