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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-06-22

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, 22/06/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Government to keep its economic policy intact, PM says
  • Black Sea Trade and Development Bank launched
  • Restructuring of Kosovo, Balkans dominates EU Council discussions
  • Athens, Nicosia laud G8 initiative for lasting solution on Cyprus
  • Representatives of Balkan NGOs to meet in Athens
  • Minister says economic policy is "trump card"
  • Industry leader wants the state to keep out of business
  • Stocks rise, just hold above 4,000 points
  • Northern Greece exporters report increase in '97 sales
  • Mutual funds' total assets
  • Gov't stresses need for OA's management to pass to foreign investor
  • Three-day Interamerican public subscription begins today
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Government to keep its economic policy intact, PM says

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that the government would retain its economic policy despite trailing the main opposition in European elections.

Addressing the Federation of Greek Industry's annual assembly, Mr. Simitis promised that economic gains secured by the government so far would not be jeopardised.

"Our line is clear-cut ... The government will not endanger the country's strategic objectives, or sacrifices made by the public," he said.

Furthermore, confidence in the domestic economy and its outlook also would not be thrown away for short-term targets.

The ruling PASOK party came three percentage points behind the main opposition New Democracy party in the June 13 European elections, causing unease among some party officials due to national polls in 2000.

Mr. Simitis acknowledged that the election results "certainly contain signals."

"One thing is certain. The Greek public is demanding continuation of the way forward, a sense of responsibility and hard work. It expects us to work harder, more quickly, more effectively in order to tackle the problems.

"We will not waste effort on opportunistic moves. We do not conduct politics of the moment, and neither will we make moves that expire within days," the prime minister added.

At the same time, he pledged that the government would improve its performance in problem areas, but not where achievements and progress had already been recorded.

Beyond following the same policies, he said that challenges lay in completing infrastructure projects in order to improve the quality of life; modernising state services; and protecting the social aspect of policy and practice.

If Greece showed the same progress, then it would join economic and monetary union as planned on January 1, 2001, Mr. Simitis added.

Finally, he again called on industry to maintain price freezes and declines to aid the government's battle against inflation, which is the stumbling block to entry into the euro zone.

Black Sea Trade and Development Bank launched

Economic cooperation among countries in the Black Sea region turned a new page yesterday following inauguration of the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank in Thessaloniki, its headquarters.

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who launched the bank's operation, said the new credit institution was the means of achieving development targets set by the Black Sea Economic Cooperation group, of which Greece is a member.

Mr. Papantoniou presented Greek proposals for a national plan to help rebuild Balkan economies and develop bilateral economic relations with Black Sea states.

He noted that economic growth in the Balkans and in the Black Sea region should occur through gradual integration into a wider Europe.

He also said that Greece was in a position to help regional nations because the country was a part of the Balkans, a member of the European Union and other western organisations, and possessed a strong economy.

The minister said that Thessaloniki and northern Greece could play a vital role in this effort, and pledged that the European Union's Third Community Support Framework would allow 50 percent more funding to Macedonia and Thrace.

Finally, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis told the inauguration that Thessaloniki would host a Black Sea foreign ministers meeting with the EU's troika on October 27-28.

The newly created bank's chairman, Ersoy Volkan of Turkey, said the institution should act as a catalyst in attracting foreign capital and promoting cooperation among member countries, beyond financing trade.

He expressed the hoped that the bank would develop into a leading power in the region.

Restructuring of Kosovo, Balkans dominates EU Council discussions

The European Union's Council of General Affairs convened in Luxembourg yesterday with the restructuring process for Kosovo, and the Balkans in general, dominating talks.

Greece was represented by Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis.

The Greek side raised the issue of a slackening of sanctions imposed on Serbia by the EU, focusing its attention on the need to tackle problems of a humanitarian nature created by three months of NATO bombings. However, no decision was taken on the issue and the "15" referred the problem to a future meeting.

The Council also examined the restructuring of Kosovo and the issue of which personalities will undertake the task of coordinating the EU's efforts.

The Greek side underlined that the "Balkan Restructuring Organisation", whose creation was decided during the Cologne summit, should be headquartered in Thessaloniki. The Greek FM said that on the part of the European Commission it has been proposed that the organisation in question should focus solely on the restructuring of Kosovo and have its headquarters in Skopje at an initial phase and then in Pristina.

Mr. Papandreou said he disagrees with this approach and that in Greece's view, Thessaloniki should be preferred, as it features all the suitable infrastructure for the operation of the organisation, adding that this option will not obstruct the function ing of the organisation's specific networks in Balkan countries. The final decision will probably be ratified by the EU's Council in October.

Athens, Nicosia laud G8 initiative for lasting solution on Cyprus

Greece and Cyprus yesterday welcomed a G8 decision stipulating that a democratic solution for the Cyprus problem should be based on UN Security Council decisions and international law.

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his visiting Cypriot counterpart Yiannakis Chryssostomis noted after talks in Athens that the decision taken in Cologne by the G8 leaders was "positive."

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also expressed a hope that the G8 decision will implement the same priniciple applied to Kosovo, adding that "for the past 25 years, two sets of standards have applied in the case of Cyprus".

Replying to press questions, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said any agreements that exist between Greece and Cyprus are in the stage of materialisation, and within the context of supporting the joint defence doctrine between the two countries.

He also stressed that the Republic of Cyprus maintained responsibility for its armaments programme, while Athens supported Nicosia's initiatives for both its prospective European Union membership and in boosting its defences.

In a related matter, the Greek minister anticipated that deployment of the Russian-made S-300 missiles on Crete would be completed within the next three months.

The two men also discussed future bilateral cooperation in the military sector, especially in holding joint exercises and in the field of training and specialisation.

Representatives of Balkan NGOs to meet in Athens

Several non-governmental agencies comprising the Balkan Network will meet in Athens for their fourth conference, scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

Ten NGOs from Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, Croatia and Bosnia are expected to participate in the conference, which will open on the same day as the "International Day of the United Nations for the Protection of Torture Victims."

Network members in cooperation with the international council for the remediation of torture victims (IRCT), have been active in the Balkans in support of war victims.

Minister says economic policy is "trump card"

National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou told reporters yesterday that no change would be made to the government's economic policy, which he called "PASOK's trump card, now and in the future".

Speaking in Thessaloniki, Mr. Papantoniou said economic policy had attained its targets, and implementation would continue normally.

"PASOK's slogan 'we said it, and we did it' is totally apt," he said.

Asked to comment on rumoured changes to tax policy, Mr. Papantoniou said: "There will be no deviation, neither to one side nor the other' from policy drafted by the government after consensus talks.

He added that a new package of measures would come into effect on January 1, 2000, as aleady announced.

Asked to comment on a rumoured cabinet reshuffle involving ministers with economic portfolios, Mr. Papantoniou replied he had "no comment on issues that are the prime minister's concern".

The government has denied that a reshuffle is ahead.

Industry leader wants the state to keep out of business

Federation of Greek Industry (SEB) president Iason Stratos said yesterday that the state should severly limit its role in business and industry.

Addressing SEB's annual assembly, Mr. Stratos recommended that it should pull out of goods and services already handled by the public sector.

Privatisation overall should be accelerated, with priority to selling major state banks, he added.

Instead of being an entrepreneur while intervening in the private sector, the state should adopt a contemporary role as a regulator and supervisor, and act to spur growth.

In addition, more competitiveness was needed in the economy, especially in sectors including fuel, energy and telecommunications.

Finally, Mr. Stratos welcomed progress made towards the country's entry into the euro zone, which he thought was feasible.

Amelioration of the economy was due to the government's stabilisation policy, which had brought discernible benefits despite delays, he added.

Stocks rise, just hold above 4,000 points

Equity prices began the week on a firm note yesterday pushing the market above the 4,000-point level on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Traders said buying interest focused on smaller capitalisation stocks with blue chips once again remaining on the sidelines.

The general index ended 0.85 percent higher at 4,001.77 points, off the day's highs.

Turnover was a moderate 134.373 billion drachmas with 27,276,820 shares changing hands.

The insurance sector and the parallel market for smaller cap stocks outperformed the market with gains of 5.34 and 4.73 percent respectively.

Other sector indices ended as follows: Banks (+0.23 pct), Leasing (+2.59 pct), Investment (+2.42 pct), Construction (+1.15 pct), Industrials (+1.22 pct), Miscellaneous (+2.16 pct) and Holding (+2.19 pct).

A total of 56 issues ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,000 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 20, 845, Ergobank at 32,340, Ionian Bank at 16,695, Titan Cement at 28,960, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,730, Intracom at 20,730, Minoan Lines at 4,990, Panafon at 7,480 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,195.

Northern Greece exporters report increase in '97 sales

Exports businesses in northern Greece posted improved performances in 1997, according to most responses provided by some 1,500 representatives to a questionnaire sent out by the Federation of Northern Greece Exporters (SEBE).

According to the collected data, a 15 per cent average increase in exports was recorded in 1997, while in 1996, exports had decreased by 4 per cent. On average, the volume of exports of each business was about 504 million drachmas in 1997. Sales increas ed by 12 per cent in 1997, while in 1996 they decreased by 13 per cent. Investments decreased 55 per cent in 1996 but increased 18 per cent in 1997. It has been assessed that on average each company made investments amounting to about 87 million drachmas.

Mutual funds' total assets

Mutual funds' total assets amounted to 9.975 trillion drachmas on June 18, registering a tiny increase of 0.02 per cent compared to June 17.

The mutual funds' assets are 10.93 per cent higher since the beginning of the year. The biggest increase as of June 18 was achieved by the overseas mutual funds with 1.44 per cent and the domestic share mutual funds (1.12 per cent), while the biggest de crease in assets were reported by the overseas bond mutual funds (-0.65 per cent).

Gov't stresses need for OA's management to pass to foreign investor

Referring to the country's national carrier yesterday, Olympic Airways, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said OA will "not be able to survive in the international competitive environment", while its management will be granted to a foreign investor in order to have problems dealt with.

The government spokesman said that as soon as the relevant settlement is ratified it will be put into effect with transparent processes.

Three-day Interamerican public subscription begins today

Interamerican's entry onto the Athens Stock Exchange represents its upgrading towards a better course, group president Dimitris Kontominas said during a presentation in view of the issue at the Athens Concert Hall yesterday.

Interamerican is proceeding with an equity capital increase through public subscription and entry of its shares in the Athens Stock Exchange. The Athens-based company will issue more than 4.5 million new common nominal shares, to be offered to the publi c and institutional investors at a ratio of 70 to 30 per cent, respectively, and at 7,000 drachmas each.

Public subscription starts today through Friday. The issue will be launched by the National Bank of Greece, which is also a consultant along with Telesis.

WEATHER

Partly cloudy weather will prevail throughout the country today with scattered showers in mainland Greece, the Ionian Sea and the northern and eastern Aegean Sea. Winds westerly, northwesterly, moderate to strong. Possibility of showers in Athens with temperatures between 20-31C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 20-27C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          310.992
Pound sterling       495.048
Japanese yen (100)   254.458
French franc          49.110
German mark          164.709
Italian lira (100)    16.637
Irish Punt           409.036
Belgian franc          7.986
Finnish mark          54.180
Dutch guilder        146.182
Danish kr.            43.358
Austrian sch.         23.411
Spanish peseta         1.936
Swedish kr.           36.789
Norwegian kr.         39.710
Swiss franc          201.594
Port. Escudo           1.607
Can. dollar          212.348
Aus. dollar          203.162
Cyprus pound         556.512
Euro                 322.142
(C.E.)
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