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A.N.A. Bulletin 29/3/95

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

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN, March 29, 1995


Greek Press & Information Office

Ottawa, Canada

E-Mail Address: grnewsca@sympatico.ca)


CONTENTS

  • [1] Greece says national interests come first in resolving problems with Turkey

  • [2] Claes visit off

  • [3] Current accounts deficit falls to record low

  • [4] Arsenis briefs premier on Cyprus visit

  • [5] November 17 claims responsibility for Mega attack

  • [6] Evert meets with van den Broek on Balkans, Greek issues

  • [7] Greek MPs meet with German Gov't officials

  • [8] Laliotis: 750 billion drachmas allocated to preserve nature

  • [9] Papoulias in Sofia tomorrow for talks on bilateral relations

  • [10] Bulgaria to halve transit dues for Greek lorries

  • [11] Shopkeepers, merchants shut down nation-wide today as they join farmers' protests

  • [12] PASOK reveals proposal for constitutional changes

  • [13] Pushkin museum head confers with Mikroutsikos on Trojan treasures

  • [14] Committee recommendations on unemployment released

  • [15] Commission split on Greek-Hochtief plan


  • [1] Greece says national interests come first in resolving problems with Turkey

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    Greece confirmed yesterday that it had received a letter from NATO members regarding its relations with Turkey but said that it would not sacrifice its national interests for the resolution of problems with Ankara. "Greece's positions on Greek-Turkish problems and the operation of NATO headquarters are known but these problems cannot be resolved at the expense of the country's national sovereign interests," government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday.

    The spokesman was commenting on a report in the Athens daily Adesmeftos Typos concerning a joint letter-cum-protest to the Greek government from the United States, Britain and Germany on Greek-Turkish relations.

    Mr. Venizelos confirmed that the government had indeed received a letter from certain NATO countries concerning Greek-Turkish problems and the operation of NATO headquarters, ahead of the visit by Alliance Secretary-General Willy Claes to Athens on March 30.

    Mr. Claes' visit -- which would have included a visit to Turkey -- has since been called off. Mr. Claes would have had talks with the Greek government on the NATO headquarters in Larissa, the headquarters of the Alliance task force for Nato's southern flank which is under consideration, and developments in the wider region.

    "Greece is a member of NATO and is making every possible effort to resolve existing problems. We believe that these problems cannot be resolved at the expense of the country's national sovereign interests... It is known which country is creating the problems, which country is obstructing the operation of the headquarters and on which country any pressure should be exerted... Turkey, and not Greece," Mr. Venizelos said.

    According to press reports later yesterday, the Greek government was rescheduling Mr. Claes' visit for May or June.

    [2] Claes visit off

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    NATO sources in Brussels said later that Mr. Claes had been forced to cancel his scheduled visits for health reasons. The same sources stressed that the postponement of Mr. Claes' visit to Ankara was in no way connected with the ongoing Turkish military operation against separatist Kurds in northern Iraq. They said contacts were already being made with the Greek and Turkish governments to set new dates for the visits.

    A DPA dispatch from Brussels quoted analysts in Brussels saying the trip to Turkey would have caused Mr. Claes "considerable embarrassment". NATO has so far made no official comment on the current incursion by Turkey -- a NATO member -- into northern Iraq. Turkey in turn has not officially given the NATO Council in Brussels any details of the incursion or told it how long the operation is likely to last.

    [3] Current accounts deficit falls to record low

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    The balance of current accounts deficit fell to a record low of 131.2 million dollars in 1994, compared with 716.3 million dollars the previous year, according to figures released yesterday by the Bank of Greece.

    The favourable development reflects the higher increase in the invisible surplus (12.9 per cent) in comparison to the 7.5 per cent rise in the trade deficit. Trade balance figures showed a 13.8 per cent drop in net imports of fuel. In contrast, the deficit without fuel increased by 10.2 per cent due to an 8 per cent rise in spending on imports against a 2.7 per cent increase in receipts from exports.

    According to the central bank, the balance of payments showed a surplus for the second consecutive year, totalling 3,255 million dollars in 1994 compared with 247 million dollars the previous year. This was mainly due to the sharp rise in inflows of private capital which totalled 3,820 million dollars in 1994, up 40 per cent against 1.626 million dollars in 1993.

    Receipts from commercial credits surpassed settlements by 275 million dollars in 1994, compared with a 417 million dollar deficit the previous year. In addition, net inflows of "other capital" totalled 353 million dollars, against net outflows of 618 million dollars in 1993. The increase in the invisible surplus was the result of a 10.1 per cent rise in receipts against a 3.8 per cent increase in payments.

    Net inflows from the European Union rose by 5.4 per cent while other invisible earnings marked an increase of 11.6 per cent. Gross public sector borrowing increased by 1,491 million dollars, but after taking into account the increase in debt repayments, net borrowing expanded by 337 million dollars to total 3,111 million dollars in 1994.

    The increase in net public sector borrowing was solely due to the rise in borrowing of public corporation and utilities. These developments, combined with favourable foreign exchange developments, increased the country's foreign exchange reserves by 6,738 million to total 15.4 billion dollars at the end of 1994, compared with 8.7 billion dollars in December 1993.

    [4] Arsenis briefs premier on Cyprus visit

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis briefed Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou yesterday on the results of his recent visit to Cyprus. According to reports, talks focused on processes for promoting and implementing the second phase of the unified defence zone between Greece and Cyprus and other issues pertaining to the National Defence Ministry's duties.

    [5] November 17 claims responsibility for Mega attack

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    The November 17 terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the March 15 rocket attack on the Mega television station. In a seven-page proclamation dated March 27 and carried in the Athens daily Ethnos yesterday, the terrorist group accused the mass media of covering-up scandals of the (Greek) political world "for payment".

    It also accused the media of "slandering" '17N' by making it appear to be a "criminal" organisation, "thus taking part in a conspiracy of the CIA, FBI and the Greek secret services", the investigations of which "have ended in a fiasco". It further said that the information presented as coming from secret services such as (the former East German) Stasi or the (former Soviet) KGB "is false".

    The proclamation, found in a garbage can in the northern suburb of Halandri after a telephone call to Ethnos, claimed it had warned another newspaper, Eleftherotypia (a co-owner of Mega) that two bombs would explode at Mega in 15-20 minutes so that the employees could vacate the premises, and that the newspaper had failed to notify Mega, insisting it had received no warning.

    Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos declined to make any comment on the proclamation made by the group, saying that the government, as well as all political forces, expresses its positions in relation to organised crime and terrorism, but refuses to carry on a dialogue with terrorist groups.

    [6] Evert meets with van den Broek on Balkans, Greek issues

    Brussels, 29/03/1995 (ANA - M. Savva):

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert held "sincere and friendly" talks with European Union Commissioner Hans van den Broek in Brussels last night on the situation prevailing in the Balkans.

    Mr. van den Broek and Mr. Evert also discussed relations between Greece and Albania, the customs union between Turkey and the European Union, Cyprus' future accession to the EU, Turkish military operations in northern Iraq and the issue of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

    A spokesman for Mr. van den Broek avoided going into details of the talks but said the commissioner reiterated the EU's conviction that Turkey should pull out of Kurdish areas in Iraq.

    Special reference was made to the FYROM issue and Mr. Evert said the discontinued dialogue should resume "not at bilateral level, however, but through the UN." "Greece is paying now because the dialogue was interrupted at some time," Mr. Evert said.

    Asked by questioners to comment on a statement by ND honorary president and former premier Constantine Mitsotakis on a composite name, Mr. Evert said "when one goes to negotiate he does not show his cards."

    Mr. Evert and Mr. van den Broek also discussed the question of major projects but the Commissioner's spokesman again dodged questions on the issue of the Spata airport project being awarded "because it will be discussed at the Commission tomorrow."

    Mr. Evert said he was "very sceptical" and termed the situation "difficult." "When ND was in power we looked after the interests of our country. I don't think we should be very optimistic now. Many mistakes have been made," he said.

    [7] Greek MPs meet with German Gov't officials

    Bonn, 29/03/1995 (ANA - P. Stangos):

    A five-member all party Greek parliamentary delegation, headed by PASOK Central Committee Secretary-General Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday had meetings with senior German government officials and parliamentarians, centring on Greek foreign policy positions.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos told Alternate Foreign Minister Woerner Heuer that Greece was the only Balkan country which desired the existence of the state of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), stressing the will of the Greek side for talks "now".

    He told reporters the impression he had gained after meeting Mr. Heuer and SPD president Rudolf Scharping was that the international community wished to 'secure' normal developments in countries such as Albania and FYROM, in view of the possibility of a generalised conflict in Bosnia and Croatia. "Greece is no longer considered a factor of instability in the region," he said.

    [8] Laliotis: 750 billion drachmas allocated to preserve nature

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    Speaking at the formal inauguration of the "European Year for the Protection of Nature" at the Athens Concert Hall yesterday in the presence of President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis said national and Community resources amounting to 750 billion drachmas had been allocated for this purpose for the 1994-1999 period. The event was also attended by ministers, ambassadors and many representatives of environmental organisations.

    "The government aims at covering the environmental deficit," Mr. Laliotis said, adding that the presence of President Stephanopoulos was a strong indication of the emphasis placed on environmental protection by the Greek state.

    "We can and must save the variety of flora and fauna in Greece to enable the country to actually become not only the cultural but also the biological reserve of Europe as well," he said. Mr. Laliotis further said "development and progress must go together with the preservation of the natural foundations of life."

    [9] Papoulias in Sofia tomorrow for talks on bilateral relations

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias will fly to Bulgaria tomorrow for talks with the government in Sofia, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. Mr. Papoulias' visit aims at bolstering economic and political relations between Athens and Sofia.

    During his two-day visit, Mr. Papoulias is scheduled to meet with Bulgarian President Zhelyu Zhelev, Prime Minister Jan Videnov and his Bulgarian counterpart. Talks are expected to focus on Greek-Bulgarian political and economic co-operation in the Balkans and in Europe, Bulgaria's relations with the European Union and immigration issues.

    [10] Bulgaria to halve transit dues for Greek lorries

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    Bulgaria will make an immediate 50 per cent decrease in transit dues at the border with Greece and stopover dues in Bulgaria which had been increased on March 8. The decision was communicated to Transport and Communications Ministry Secretary-General Yiannis Konstantinidis and other government officials by Alternate Transport Minister Hara Lanov during a special meeting of delegations at the Serres Prefecture.

    According to an announcement by the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace's press office, talks focused on issues related to delays in the transit of Greek trucks from the Promahonas checkpoint and charges payable by transport means. Mr. Lanov attributed the increases to the economic crisis in his country and to high dues imposed by neighbouring countries such as Romania and Hungary.

    Greece also requested facilities for Greek Railway Organisation (OSE) routes to Warsaw and states of the former Soviet Union.

    According to press reports, Greece intends to accept the opening of two border checkpoints at the border with Bulgaria during Greek Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias' visit to Sofia tomorrow.

    [11] Shopkeepers, merchants shut down nation-wide today as they join farmers' protests

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    Shops and pharmacies across the nation will be shut today as shopkeepers and merchants join the open revolt by farmers against the government's new taxation regime. Farmers' representatives from across Greece will meet in Larissa today to discuss mobilisations which have caused widespread disruption to the country's road network for nine consecutive days. Supermarkets are exempted from the strike.

    The representatives from Unions of Agricultural Co-operatives and Federations of Agricultural Associations will also discuss the government's pledge Monday to reduce the price of fuel used for agricultural purposes and increase retirement pensions. Farmers, shopkeepers and merchants are protesting against a new tax law setting criteria that determine the minimum tax that non-salaried workers must pay, regardless of their declared income.

    Farmers' blockades for the most part remained in place yesterday, with only small changes on secondary roads. Farmers in the prefecture of Imathia continued to block the Thessaloniki-Veroia old national road for the second day while colleagues in the prefecture of Halkidiki blocked the Thessaloniki-Polygyros road for the second time in two days. Livestock breeders were also taking part in the Halkidiki protest.

    Farmers in Imathia and Halkidiki originally began their protests in solidarity with colleagues in central and southern Greece but now appear determined to press for the satisfaction of a number of demands related to the absorption of their produce and t he reduction of production costs.

    Asked whether any government initiatives were currently under way to put an end to the farmers' mobilisations, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos replied: "The government has shown the flexibility which it was able to show with the long discussions on the issue of petrol and other fuel used in farming which the Agriculture Under-Secretary had with official representatives of the farmers."

    The spokesman was referring to talks between Floros Constantinou and representatives of the Panhellenic Confederation of Agricultural Co-operatives (PASEGES), the General Confederation of Agricultural Associations (GESASE) and the Confederation of Democratic Agricultural Associations (SYDASE).

    Mr. Venizelos said that the possibility must be safeguarded of social dialogue with "the legitimate representatives of all Greek farmers and not with just a small group of farmers who are affected only if they have high incomes and who cannot remain untaxed".

    National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou later issued the text of a document containing the government's pledges to the farmers announced Monday. Mr. Papantoniou said that the measures decided Monday during talks with PASEGES, GESASE and SYDASE representatives "exhausted the limits of the economy with respect to farmers' long-standing demands which had not been met until now".

    According to the document, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou will announce pension increases for farmers on April 3. A draft law on a register of farmers and cultivations will be passed by Parliament during the first half of the present year and during 1995 the government will reduce petrol prices for "real farmers" listed in the register, for strictly agricultural use.

    An extraordinary meeting of Greece's Farmers' Associations and Federations will be held on Monday, at the initiative of GESASE, to discuss the government's proposed measures and determine further action.

    Later in the day, PASEGES issued an announcement describing the government's move Monday, as "a positive step," adding that it would watch closely the implementation of the measures. PASEGES called on farmers that deliberately or unintentionally undermine the unity of the farmers' movement to consider their responsibilities and the consequences (their actions) will bear on the farming world and the country.

    Mr. Papantoniou accused the farmers taking part in the mobilisations of "acting outside the framework of constitutional legality". "It is inconceivable for the state to be held hostage by a small group of farmers when the government has exhausted all possibilities afforded by the economy to satisfy their demands," Mr. Papantoniou said, stressing that "under no circumstances will the government approve measures outside the framework of its economic policy".

    In a related development, Industry and Trade Minister Costas Simitis charged that "the mobilisation of pressure groups of high income farmers has caused considerable damage to the Greek economy". Mr. Simitis said that the farmers' blockades of the national road and rail networks had resulted in produce rotting, the cancellation of contracts and difficulties in the functioning of the market.

    This practice, he added, undermines the Greek economy and the country's trade credibility. Mr. Simitis attributed "serious responsibility" for the "strangulation" of commercial activity to the opposition parties, and particularly the main opposition New Democracy party. He accused ND of trying to gain "petty party benefits".

    Main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Vassilis Manginas accused the government of "being the sole responsible party to have kept the country cut in two for the past nine days, causing social unrest and incalculable damage to the economy."

    In another development, peanut producers in the Thessaly region, central Greece, said yesterday they would tag on to thousands of farmers protesting against a controversial new tax law. The farmers said they too would roll out their tractors onto major Greek motorways to block road and rail lines between Athens and Salonika and is expected to aggravate the transport chaos.

    Meanwhile in Crete, virtually all stores were closed yesterday as shopkeepers and small business proprietors began a 48-hour protest against a new tax law and in support of demands for measures in favour of trades-people and small- and medium-size enterprises.

    [12] PASOK reveals proposal for constitutional changes

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    Ministers to the Prime Minister's Office Ioannis Pottakis and Press Evangelos Venizelos yesterday presented the proposals of the ruling party's Institutions Committee for constitutional revision. Mr. Pottakis said that a fundamental political prerequisite for the implementation of the initiative is the formation of a framework of consensus, of a sound constitutional agreement, which will enrich and extend the democratic system of government.

    Press Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the proposal is divided into six chapters, noting that it leaves out all 'fundamental' provisions, set out in Article 110, and regarding the basis and form of the system of government, the principle of equality, personal and religious freedoms, and the principle of the separation of powers.

    The first chapter refers to provisions aiming at making the Church more independent of the State, and which find the Church in agreement, said Mr. Venizelos.

    The second chapter includes provisions regarding the promotion of individual, collective, and social rights (Articles 4 to 25).

    The third chapter envisages the upgrading of the constitutional position of Parliament, parties and deputies (Articles 51 to 86).

    The fourth chapter aims at the formation of the constitutional 'infrastructure' deemed necessary for the evolution of the country's international co-operation and course towards European unification (Articles 28, 70, and 80). The experience gained from the application of the Treaty of Maastricht was particularly taken into account in this respect.

    The proposals set out in the fifth chapter aim to promote the independence of justice, and include the setting up of a Supreme Judicial Council.

    The sixth chapter deals with reforms in the civil service and local government. It further envisages the setting up of a 'Hellenic Assembly' that will also represent Greeks resident abroad, and includes reference to provisions setting out the conditions for hiring in the public sector.

    Mr. Venizelos said the government was not considering changes regarding the role of the president of the republic, as those introduced in 1985 had proved their worth during the political crisis of 1989-90. In response to reporters' questions, he said the government was studying the Schengen Treaty and would consider when it would submit it to Parliament for ratification. He added that it will not accept the introduction of provisions on the holding of referenda, as it considered that they oversimplified problems.

    Regarding proposals for constitutional revision set out by the main opposition New Democracy party earlier in the month, he said the government was open to discussion on everything, except the powers of the president.

    [13] Pushkin museum head confers with Mikroutsikos on Trojan treasures

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    The curator of the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, Irina Antonova, conferred with Culture Minister Thanos Mikroutsikos here yesterday on plans to exhibit King Priam's treasure in Athens. Ms Antonova said that the outstanding issue of the ownership status of the treasures which "changed hands" during World War II would first have to be settled.

    She said a draft law regulating the ownership issue was expected to be debated by the Russian parliament sometime this year. Ms Antonova was also received by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos with whom she discussed the development of cultural exchanges between the two countries.

    [14] Committee recommendations on unemployment released

    Athens, 29/03/1995 (ANA):

    National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday released the recommendations of a special committee set up to study ways of combating unemployment. The recommendations include an expansion of the job centre network, reductions in working hours on an agreed basis, incentives for part-time employment and early retirement schemes, special incentives for investment and the formation of consortia among small and medium size enterprises, and schemes for the reduction and subsidisation of social insurance costs.

    The committee also proposed measures for the support of self-employed farmers and the continuous training of labour. Finally, it recommends a register for all immigrants, the issuing of a residency and work permits for foreign citizens who wish to work in Greece, and heavy penalties for immigrants working illegally and their employers. Mr. Papantoniou said the recommendations of the committee are not binding on the government.

    [15] Commission split on Greek-Hochtief plan

    Brussels, 29/03/1995 (Reuter/ANA):

    The European Commission is split down the middle ahead of a debate scheduled for today on whether to act against Greece's stalled project to build a $2.3 billion international airport, EU officials said yesterday.

    Ahead of the discussion the commissioners could not agree on whether to endorse the Spata airport project or send a warning letter to the Greek government, they said. Commissioner Mario Monti, who handles the internal market, stalled a decision earlier this month on whether to act against Greece over bidding procedures and its dealings with Germany's Hochtief AG, the winner of a 1993 tender.

    Under the terms of a revised contract, Hochtief would own 45 per cent of a company to be set up with the state to operate the airport, down from 60 per cent in the first deal made with the government's conservative predecessor.

    Negotiations were reopened last year with Aeroports de Paris, the loser in the original tender, and then dropped, sparking allegations of unequal treatment.

    In Athens, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said the National Economy Ministry and the Major Projects Committee were in continuous contact with European Commission services to get the Spata airport project started "in accordance with what we have said."

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