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A.N.A. Bulletin 28/3/95

From: "Greek Press Office BBS, Ottawa" <grnewsca@sympatico.ca>

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN, March 28, 1995


Greek Press & Information Office

Ottawa, Canada

E-Mail Address: grnewsca@sympatico.ca


CONTENTS

  • [1] Gov't agrees to lower fuel, better pensions for farmers, but tax measures will stay

  • [2] Party reactions

  • [3] Papoulias: Turkish moves against Kurds do little to help Ankara's cause at the EU

  • [4] Claes due in Athens for talks Thursday

  • [5] Pallini arms cache two deny involvement

  • [6] Papoulias

  • [7] Stephanopoulos receives Evert

  • [8] Samaras asks Stephanopoulos for party leaders meeting on foreign policy

  • [9] Greece ready to enter talks with Skopje 'in spirit of conciliation'

  • [10] Greece, Cyprus continue efforts to find missing

  • [11] US marks Greece's March 25 holiday

  • [12] AHEPA delegation to visit region

  • [13] Moraitis critical of EU moves on new farm prices

  • [14] Motor Oil Hellas denies reports of Saudi Arabian buyout

  • [15] OA kicks off Kavala-Dusseldorf route


  • [1] Gov't agrees to lower fuel, better pensions for farmers, but tax measures will stay

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    The government moved to quell a week-long revolt by farmers yesterday by accepting their demands for lower petrol prices and higher retirement pensions. "The government will satisfy the farmers' demands for reduced petrol prices and increased pension fees," National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said.

    "In taking these measures, the government has exhausted all the margins of the Greek economy's endurance," Mr. Papantoniou added after talks with agricultural representatives. He said Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou would announce a string of measures for low-paid pensioners later this week. The move was met with approval by the Panhellenic Confederation of Agricultural Co-operatives (PASEGES) but SYDASE, another farmers' association, expressed disappointment and forecast further protests.

    Farmers yesterday continued their second week of mobilisations which have disrupted road and rail traffic and caused problems in the supply of raw materials and goods. The Athens-Thessaloniki national highway remains blocked by tractors at numerous points in central Greece, as too are the railway lines at Larissa and Thiva.

    Farmers are protesting a new tax law which calculates income tax of non-salaried workers on the basis of "objective criteria" rather than declared income. They are also pressing a number of demands related to low crop prices, the absorption of agricultural produce and subsidies for fuel.

    The disruption has caused problems in the supply of raw materials and goods mainly in northern Greece, while reports from Thessaloniki said that the prices of fruit and vegetables were beginning to rise. Newspapers in Thessaloniki and northern Greece are facing problems with the supply of printing paper. Another repercussion has been the two-day postponement of the opening of the branch exhibitions "Furnidec" and "Furnima" in Thessaloniki, which were due to open tomorrow.

    Hundreds of trucks remained stranded on the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway despite efforts by traffic police to divert them along secondary roads. The prefecture of Fthiotida is one of the worst hit areas of the country, with tractors blocking nine major road junctions, effectively cutting off all access between the north and south of the country. Many schools in Fthiotida were operating with a skeleton staff as teachers and pupils were unable to reach them. In Thessaly, farmers decided to block all entries and exits to the region, while in Hania, Crete, farmers blocked the roads with cranes and excavators.

    Ministers met yesterday to discuss the problems caused by the farmers' mobilisations. Taking part were National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, Finance Minister Alexandros Papadopoulos, Interior Minister Costas Skandalides, Public Order Minister Stelios Papathemelis, Agriculture Under-Secretary Floros Constantinou and Public Order Under-Secretary Sifis Valyrakis.

    Mr. Papantoniou said that only a very small number of farmers were participating in the protests and accused them of harming the country's economy and Greek society as a whole. He also charged that the mobilisations were being incited by "specific (political) party leaderships", adding that statements by main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert confirmed this.

    Mr. Evert on Sunday rejected accusations by the government that his party was behind the farmers' mobilisations. "We are neither in front nor behind the farmers. But we are most certainly at their side," Mr. Evert said. Mr. Papantoniou said that the government was conducting a dialogue with farmers' representatives and was ready to deal with existing problems.

    Replying to questions, he said Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou would not be meeting with the farmers since there were ministers competent to deal with the issue. Asked about the presence of Mr. Papathemelis at the meeting, Mr. Papantoniou said that his participation was only natural "because there is a question of public order".

    Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said that the government was handling the farmers' mobilisations "with great care" and had not made any "hasty move". Mr. Venizelos reiterated that the calculation of income tax on the basis of "objective criteria" would not affect the vast majority of farmers.

    The spokesman said that the government was receptive to one of the farmers' demands -- for cheaper fuel -- "since fuel is a major factor in the production cost of agricultural products". He stressed, however, that any reduction in fuel prices would apply only to "real farmers" who would have to be listed in a special register.

    Agriculture Minister George Moraitis told Parliament last week that the aim of the objective criteria was "mainly to tax non-farmers who exploit about 25 per cent of arable land".

    In a related development, shopkeepers, trades-people and professionals have scheduled nation-wide protests for tomorrow to press their demands. The Vice-President of the Thessaloniki Trade Association, Lambis Charalambidis, told a press conference in the northern Greek port city yesterday that he expected "universal" participation in the protests, adding that the continuation of mobilisations would depend on the response of the state.

    The Secretary-General of the Federation of Craft Industry Unions of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Papargyriou, said that the application of objective criteria to calculate income tax was not the only reason for the mobilisation by small and medium-size enterprises (SME). Other demands, he said, were related to the government's incomes and economic development policies, amongst others. "Our protests are not being instigated by anyone," Mr. Papargyriou said.

    "They have been instigated by the policy of all governments against (the interests of) SMEs." He told the press conference that 500,000 enterprises had been forced to close in the last five years. In the first two months of this year, 270 enterprises asked to be struck off the Chamber's register, compared with 70 in the same period of 1994. In 1994, according to the same figures, for every ten enterprises which closed down, only five new ones were established, while the corresponding ratio in previous years was ten to seven.

    [2] Party reactions

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) party Secretary-General Akis Tsohatzopoulos reiterated the government's conviction to stand by its new tax law, branding the farmers' protests irrational. "Continuation of the mobilisations is irrational because it lacks an objective," he told reporters, adding that close to 95 per cent of the Greek farmers will not be affected by the new tax law, only wealthy land-owners. Mr. Tsohatzopoulos also accused opposition parties of politically exploiting the popular unrest.

    Meanwhile, main opposition New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert called on the government to hold an urgent parliamentary session to debate the revolt by farmers. Mr. Evert's proposal was made in a letter to parliament speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis. "The government should initiate the debate as soon as possible to address the problems of the farmers," he said. Mr. Evert criticised the ruling socialist party for its "apathetic" stance towards the farmers and warned of "unforeseen" consequences that may result from the on-going mobilisations.

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary-General Aleka Papariga lashed out against the government yesterday for its attitude against the farmers' mobilisations. Ms Papariga said that in the past few days the government has shown its "real, abhorrent face".

    [3] Papoulias: Turkish moves against Kurds do little to help Ankara's cause at the EU

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias said yesterday that Turkey was doing its relations with the European Union no good, with its continued strong-arm tactics on the Kurdish issue. Turkey, he said, was undermining its own efforts to approach Europe, adding that he could not predict the European Parliament's reactions to Turkey's customs union with the EU.

    The European Parliament has been hesitant to approve a landmark customs union deal signed between Turkey and the EU earlier this year because of Turkey's poor human rights record. As the EU's only directly-elected body, it has the power to block the deal from going through. "I cannot make predictions regarding the decisions, but the European Parliament expresses the concerns and the sensitivities of the citizens of Europe," he said in Ioannina yesterday.

    In Athens, the government said it would bring up the issue of Turkey's raid into Iraq at EU bodies. "Turkish military operations against Kurdish guerrillas in northern Iraq poses a huge problem that is not solved through statements of a wishy-washy or diplomatic character addressed to Ankara by the European troika," government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos told reporters yesterday. He said the issue had already been raised at the EU Council of Ministers and the competent Common External Policy and Political Security Councils.

    [4] Claes due in Athens for talks Thursday

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes will arrive in Athens on March 30 for talks with the Greek government on issues concerning the country and the alliance. More specifically, talks will focus on the NATO headquarters in Larissa, the headquarters of the task force for the alliance's southern flank, which is under consideration, and developments in the wider region.

    [5] Pallini arms cache two deny involvement

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    Two men arrested on Saturday in connection with the discovery of an arms cache in the Athens suburb of Pallini testified before a special investigating magistrate yesterday. Andreas Kokavesis, 67, and the owner of the house where the find was made, was released on bail and prohibited from leaving the country while his nephew Angelos Kokavesis, 36, was remanded in custody. In statement after testifying, both men denied any knowledge or relation to the arms.

    Public Order Minister Stelios Papathemelis said on Saturday the two men were connected with the Liberation Front of Northern Epirus (MAVI) organisation, which claimed responsibility for an attack on the Albanian army border outpost of Episkopi last April, in which two Albanians were killed and a number of weapons stolen.

    The arms find came in the wake of the arrest of seven suspects near the Greek-Albanian border earlier in the month, armed with weapons believed to be similar to those stolen from Episkopi. Mr. Papathemelis said that a relationship between the weapons found in Pallini and those stolen from Episkopi was "highly likely".

    [6] Papoulias

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    Referring to the recent arrests of people suspected of being member of the Liberation Front of Northern Epirus (MAVI) organisation, Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias said yesterday that he believed that factors outside Greece were guiding the group.

    "I believe we have arrived at the nucleus of the illegal organisation and it cannot be ruled out that this nucleus of the conspiracy is connected with foreign centres," Mr. Papoulias said in Ioannina yesterday. Mr. Papoulias added that there are many people inside and outside Greece who would like to undermine good Greek-Albanian relations, which are "strategic" (in Greece's foreign relations).

    [7] Stephanopoulos receives Evert

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday received main opposition New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert. Mr. Evert said he briefed the president on his party's position on the "national, economic and social problems, as well as the dead-ends which the country has come up against."

    Mr. Evert criticised Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, telling the press that "there is no prime minister" in the country. Mr. Stephanopoulos also met with the Mayor of Piraeus Stelios Logothetis yesterday and received Irina Antonova, manager of the Pushkin Museum of Moscow.

    [8] Samaras asks Stephanopoulos for party leaders meeting on foreign policy

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    Minority opposition Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras met yesterday with President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos. Mr. Samaras told reporters afterwards that he made proposals to the president for a meeting of party leaders on foreign policy, a national meeting on the Cyprus problem and for dialogue with protesting farmers. He said he had requested a party leader's meeting on foreign policy so as to have a unified strategy on foreign issues. He also said that a pan-Hellenic meeting on Cyprus -- which has been mooted in the past -- was essential.

    Referring to the ongoing protests by farmers, Mr. Samaras proposed prudence and dialogue and called on the prime minister to show the "needed will and to be the first to set an example by requesting a meeting with the farmers."

    Mr. Samaras also accused the main opposition New Democracy party of "delayed sensitivity" on this issue, because although Political Spring has been promoting the proposal for dialogue with the farmers in parliament over the last three months, ND had only just made a similar proposal.

    New Democracy spokesman Vassilis Manginas said later that the leader of Political Spring was supporting the government and blamed Mr. Samaras for the current state of the Skopje issue.

    [9] Greece ready to enter talks with Skopje 'in spirit of conciliation'

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    Greece would enter talks on the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) with its known positions but also in a spirit of conciliation, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday. Greece and FYROM have been invited to take part in talks on the problems between them under UN mediator Cyrus Vance in New York on April 6.

    Asked how Greece would view a refusal by Skopje to attend the talks, Mr. Venizelos replied that "in such an event, the neighbouring country will once again have displayed its intransigence and will be obliged to give explanations to the United Nations".

    [10] Greece, Cyprus continue efforts to find missing

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    Greece said yesterday it was continuing efforts with the Cyprus government to locate scores of people missing since the island's Turkish invasion in 1974. "The governments of Athens and Nicosia will never abandon on-going efforts to find the missing persons... It has always been an issue of first priority and... a lively obligation," government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said.

    His statement was sparked by an Athens daily news report claiming that officials had tracked down missing persons in areas Southwest of Ankara, Turkey. Mr. Venizelos said Athens and Nicosia were in continuous contact exchanging information on the matter. He added that the United Nations, European Community and third nations were also assisting in efforts. Some 1,600 people -- including foreign nationals -- have been missing since the Turkish invasion of the island republic in 1974.

    [11] US marks Greece's March 25 holiday

    Washington, 28/03/1995 (ANA - D. Dimas):

    The US Government paid tribute to the Greek National Day of March 25 for the ninth consecutive year, through its proclamation by President Clinton of a 'National Day of Celebration of Greek and American Democracy'.

    Stressing Greece's decisive contribution to western civilisation, the proclamation read: "Our countries now stand at the dawn of a new era, a time of growing hope and expanding opportunity... The Greek dedication to independence can provide both an important example and a helping hand for its neighbours, and Greece's recent efforts to strengthen these ties can serve to foster stability and prosperity throughout the region."

    Meanwhile, sources said that there were indications that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) would soon consent to begin direct talks with Greece under UN auspices, thus ending the current deadlock.

    Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Richard Holbrooke, who attended the proclamation ceremony, declined to discuss the issue, because, as he said, "we are in the middle of very intensive negotiations". He also expressed satisfaction over the recent improvement in Greek-Albanian relations, and the hope that it would continue.

    Orthodox Archbishop of North and South America Iakovos, who also attended the ceremony, said after meeting President Clinton, that he was optimistic Greek national issues would "find satisfactory solutions because the American president understands the problems and wants to provide full satisfaction to the Greek American community".

    [12] AHEPA delegation to visit region

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) President Charles Georgeson will lead a high-level AHEPA delegation on a visit to Athens, Nicosia, Constantinople and Thessaloniki from March 29 through April 10.

    The meetings will include discussions with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides and Cypriot government officials; the Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and other Greek government officials and US Ambassadors to Athens and Nicosia Thomas Niles and Richard Boucher, respectively.

    [13] Moraitis critical of EU moves on new farm prices

    Brussels, 28/03/1995 (ANA - P. Pantelis):

    The Council of Agriculture Ministers has adopted an amendment to the regulation on tobacco -- a development favouring Greek producers -- but continued a discussion on reshaping the status governing sugar and new farm prices without taking any decisions. Greek positions were backed by Agriculture Minister George Moraitis who strongly criticised the European Commission's proposals on new farm prices. He said the Commission aimed at fiscal economising while there were serious and pressing problems in a series of farm production sectors.

    The amendment to regulation 2075/92 on tobacco anticipates subsidies being paid directly to producers for the 1994 tobacco crop, the transfer of subsidies for surplus production, in excess of quotas, up to 10 per cent for the 1994 crop and a mechanism to set quotas for 1995, 1996 and 1997 crops.

    Referring to new farm prices, Mr. Moraitis said a series of issues which concerned Greece had not been examined in the Commission's proposals despite the fact the Council of Ministers had provided relevant directions. He mentioned milk quotas which had to cover needs for fresh milk in Europe and quotas for tomatoes for industrial use which would correlate the needs of the market with the utilisation of available potential.

    Mr. Moraitis said in his address a feeling of security should be consolidated among Greek farmers, adding that the Commission's proposals froze prices in restructured sectors. He said there were sectors undergoing restructuring of interest to Mediterranean countries concerning fruit, vegetables, wine, rice and cotton.

    "I want to believe that the Commission's proposals anticipating restrictions on production and price reductions in these sectors will not be ultimately accepted," he added.

    [14] Motor Oil Hellas denies reports of Saudi Arabian buyout

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    The Greek oil refining and marketing company Motor Oil Hellas yesterday categorically denied reports that Saudi Arabia was close to buying a 100 per cent stake in the company. A Reuters report from Nicosia yesterday quoted the authoritative industry newsletter Middle East Economic Survey (MEES) as saying that government-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco was about to buy Motor Oil Hellas, owned by the Vardinoyannis shipping family.

    Stavros Triandafyllidis, spokesman for the Vardinoyannis group, described the report as "completely inaccurate". Mr. Triandafyllidis told the ANA that "detailed" negotiations had been going on for some time with Aramco concerning the acquisition by the Saudi company of a "maximum" 50 per cent stake in Motor Oil. "There is no question of negotiating for a 100 per cent stake in the Greek company," Mr. Triandafyllidis said.

    [15] OA kicks off Kavala-Dusseldorf route

    Athens, 28/03/1995 (ANA):

    Olympic Airways inaugurated its new Kavala-Dusseldorf route at the Megas Alexandros airport in Kavala yesterday. Flights will be carried out on Mondays and Thursdays.

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