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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 97-05-28

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada <grnewsca@sympatico.ca>

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN (No 1197), May 28, 1997

Greek Press & Information Office
Ottawa, Canada
E-Mail Address: grnewsca@sympatico.ca


CONTENTS

  • [01] Simitis asks Demirel for clarifications during brief Paris meeting
  • [02] G. Papandreou
  • [03] Gov't not surprised
  • [04] Opposition
  • [05] First session of 'social dialogue' begins with agreement on agenda
  • [06] Social insurance issue
  • [07] Tsohatzopoulos calls on Turkey to end policy of regional destabilization
  • [08] NATO, Russia sign historic security treaty, Simitis hails agreement
  • [09] KKE response
  • [10] Skandalidis on PASOK, Gov't restructuring
  • [11] Greece supports Czech efforts to join EU
  • [12] Two-day UN conference in Athens focuses on Middle East peace process
  • [13] EU council meeting on public order, internal affairs
  • [14] Kranidiotis-Annan scheduled to meet at UN headquarters
  • [15] Women smokers face high health risk, studies show
  • [16] 'Treasures of Mount Athos' to open in June
  • [17] New measures for the disabled
  • [18] Bank of Greece action to stabilize drachma vis-a-vis ECU
  • [19] EU energy ministers fail to reach agreement on internal market natural gas
  • [20] Tzoumakas stresses need to increase Greek cows' milk production
  • [21] More joint Greek-Turkish business initiatives urged
  • [22] Agreement for winemaker Kambas
  • [23] Athens bourse tops emerging markets' returns
  • [24] Stock prices in correction trend
  • [25] Agricultural Bank's call for restructuring
  • [26] Greece ready for Schengen accord
  • [27] ETANE SA in Bosnia project

  • [01] Simitis asks Demirel for clarifications during brief Paris meeting

    Paris, 28/05/1997 (ANA - A. Podimata)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday had a brief discussion with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel on the sidelines of a signing ceremony here for the recently agreed Founding Act on Mutual Relations between NATO and Russia .

    At a press conference after the end of an official dinner hosted by French President Jacques Chirac, Mr. Simitis said he had discussed with the Turkish president points of the latter's recent interview with the Athens-based television station "Antenna", which he said needed clarification. The Greek premier said he did not agree with the Turkish leader's positions. Mr. Simitis told Mr. Demirel that Turkey appeared to be seeking a revision of the arrangements included in international treaties as well as the non- implementation of International Law.

    For his part, Mr. Demirel reiterated to the Greek prime minister Turkey's known position that "we must discuss all this", but Mr. Simitis also reiterated that "we must first recognize the basic rules and then hold discussions".

    Asked if Greece was considering the signing of a non-aggression pact with Turkey, as proposed by the Turkish president, Mr. Simitis said Athens could not state in advance and in detail the tactics it would follow in its relations with Turkey, as it would be detrimental to the country's interests.

    He reiterated that the government had defined the general context of handling relations with Turkey and the points that could be discussed, such as the Aegean continental shelf.

    Asked to comment on contradictory recent statements of Turkish officials, Mr. Simitis stressed that "the Turkish stand has not changed for some time now".

    [02] G. Papandreou

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    On his part, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday warned Ankara that it would remain isolated from the international community if it could not show the political will to deal with problems in its relations with Greece within the framework of international law.

    Speaking after a meeting with Czech Foreign Under-secretary Karel Kovanda, Mr. Papandreou said that statements by Mr. Demirel and by Turkish Foreign Under-secretary Onur Oymen in Athens on Monday revealed contradictory policies which raised concerns as to what extent there existed an "increasing intransigence" on the part of Turkey.

    "We have chosen the 'long road' of the experts committee via the European Union," said Mr. Papandreou, adding:

    "History and, of course, the international community, will be the judge of the existence of the political will to deal with whatever problems exist within the framework of international law and peaceful co-existence."

    "It is Turkey's responsibility to show that it has that political will, otherwise, it will continue to be isolated from the international community, particularly from the European Union," he concluded.

    [03] Gov't not surprised

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    Greece is not surprised by the positions set out by Mr. Oymen on Monday, since it is well aware of standing Turkish positions, the government said yesterday.

    "Greece is under no illusions regarding Turkey's strategy in the region," acting government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou told reporters. "It is our duty to show to all those who still suffer delusions about Turkey's role that this role does nothing to guarantee stability in the region," he said.

    He reminded reporters of Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos' statements that Turkey was the only European country which was pursuing a change of borders.

    The outcome of Mr. Oymen's visit to Athens on Monday - where he and Mr. Papandreou spoke on Greek-Turkish relations - could only be construed as less than positive, he said.

    "It would have been positive if a better climate could have been created. Oymen's statements were not in this direction," he said.

    He noted, however, that Mr. Oymen's statements would have no effect on the workings of the committees of experts set up to examine procedural issues on Greek-Turkish relations.

    "There is no connection between the two," he said.

    [04] Opposition

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    Commenting yesterday on a statement by Alternate Foreign Minister Papandreou on Ankara's policy concerning Greek-Turkish relations, main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said "the dialogue without terms and preconditions on which it insists (the government), ignoring Ankara's intransigence, mortgages Greek positions."

    "History will not forgive this insistence by the government," he said, and criticized Mr. Papandreou, "who refers the clarification of Greek positions to the international community and history" at a time when Turkey is reiterating "both its threats and its claims" in the most provocative fashion.

    [05] First session of 'social dialogue' begins with agreement on agenda

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    Yesterday's first session of the 10-member tripartite coordinating committee in the process of conducting a "social dialogue" between the government, trade unions and employers' associations, produced an agreement on procedure, organization and a range of topics for discussion.

    Topics were categorized in three "circles" of discussion:

    - Development, industrial policy, private and public investment, small enterprises, privatization etc.

    - Competitiveness and employment, taxation, and what has been termed "securing income increases under conditions of low inflation".

    - "Defining forms of work and social protection with a view to the year 2000", concerning boosting employment among vulnerable groups, determining hours of work, pensioners' employment and new forms of work.

    The session was also described as positive by General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) leader Christos Polyzogopoulos and employers' representatives.

    The next phase will be the setting up of three groups on Monday, who will work through the circles of discussion.

    [06] Social insurance issue

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    Meanwhile, dialogue on the insurance issue will start on June 18, according to the invitation extended to 17 social partner organizations by Labor and Social Insurances Minister Miltiades Papaioannou yesterday.

    "Maintaining the given social protection level appears extremely difficult," the invitation says and notes economic recession, unemployment, the demographic issue and the multisegregation of the country's insurance system as being factors of such difficulties.

    Mr. Papaioannou is calling for dialogue with social partners in the following two directions:

    - Immediate measures to support and exhaust the possibilities of the existing system. This so-called "small package" on the insurance system concerns measures aimed at merging or grouping funds, measures against contribution-evasion, interventions in health sectors, utilization of deposits and real estate, etc.

    - Radical changes to reshape the social insurance system. The major package concerns measures extending over a 30-year period, the shaping and assessment of proposals, an objective review of the existing situation, reliable studies, etc. The government's target is to have proposals set out by the end of 1998.

    [07] Tsohatzopoulos calls on Turkey to end policy of regional destabilization

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday warned Turkey to end what he called its destabilizing and expansionist attitude, while referring to recent developments in Greek-Turkish relations.

    "There are no gray regions, there is nothing to negotiate with Turkey in the Aegean. The only thing which exists is for Turkey to realize that in continuing its destabilizing and expansionist attitude, it will be proclaimed the number one destabilizing factor in the region," he said.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos was commenting in Thrace on statements by Turkish Foreign Under-secretary Onur Oymen on Monday while in Athens. He said Turkey's leadership, apart from its internal problems, must change its tactics and realize that its course towards the European Union passes through a change in attitude and position.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos visited the Ainisio Delta on the Evros River adjacent to the Greek-Turkish border in the morning and then went to the firing range at Proskynites, Rodopi prefecture, where he watched test firings using new weapons systems, including the hi-tech MLRS rocket artillery and Apache helicopter gunships.

    Addressing members of the armed forces participating in the firing exercise, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said Greece is the only European Union and NATO country whose sovereign rights are being officially disputed by a neighboring country, which is also a member of the same security organization. Greece's reply is widening its defense doctrine with new weapons systems, which will directly confront every hostile act in whatever part of the country where danger may appear.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said new weapons systems will be purchased by the end of the year which will be included in the armed forces' overall potential with the purpose of further strengthening regional defense and the possibility of a flexible response to any hostile provocation.

    He said that in the framework of the armed forces new structure, new modern and large military bases will be created with a multiple use.

    At the end of the exercise, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos expressed satisfaction over the new weapons systems' effectiveness, saying that "the financial sacrifices of the Greek people are well spent and we felt certainty that the armed forces are in a position to live up to their duty."

    The exercise marked the first time MLRS missiles were successfully used at their maximum range. Anti-tank TOW rockets were fired on the surface of the sea as well as multiple rocket-launched "Katyusha" rockets. Special artillery shells were used which produce destructive results and Apache helicopters fired "Hellfire" missiles at sea targets.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos was given a guided tour of the location where special depots were built at the Petrohori army base.

    He congratulated the commander of the Fourth Army Corps Lt.-Gen. Dimitris Aikaterinis and officers, stressing that the army's operational readiness is at a very high level.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos returned to Athens yesterday afternoon.

    [08] NATO, Russia sign historic security treaty, Simitis hails agreement

    Paris, 28/05/1997 (ANA- Y. Zitouniati)

    The leaders of Russia and the NATO alliance signed an historic treaty for a new partnership concerning security in Europe at a ceremony here yesterday.

    The Founding Act on Mutual Relations is designed to bind Russia into efforts to create a new European security order and ease the 16-nation alliance's eastward expansion by admitting some of Moscow's former east-bloc communist allies.

    An upbeat Russian President Boris Yeltsin added to the celebratory mood of the occasion with a surprise announcement that Russia would no longer target nuclear missiles at NATO states.

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the signing of the Founding Act was a historic moment for the alliance and extended his gratitude to Russian leader Boris Yeltsin and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov for their "constructive attitude in negotiations."

    The accord, Mr. Simitis said, "will ease the way for future development in Europe," while opening the way for "co-operation, security and stability."

    "We stand before a unique opportunity to lay the foundations for co-operation, to ensure stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic region," the Greek premier said.

    Stressing that close and lasting co-operation between NATO and Russia would be the key to this effort, Mr. Simitis said Greece always insisted that Russia should play a leading role in the European political scene.

    "In this evolving and changing environment for European security we await the positive and productive co-operation of our Russian friends and associates," the premier said.

    "Democracy, international law, peaceful solutions to international disputes, self-restraint before threats or use of weapons and complete respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states have always been the central theme of Greek foreign policy," he said.

    "We are happy to see that all of the above are included in the Founding Act and are used as the corner stone, providing direction for this new relation and co-operation," Mr. Simitis said.

    "We believe NATO should always be open to a balanced geographical and political rapprochement in order to admit new members and promote co-operation with other states as best as possible," he said.

    Concluding, Mr. Simitis said the signing of the Act constitutes the starting point for a new course of co-operation allowing all European states to have peace and prosperity, "free of dividing lines and with harmonious relations at all sectors."

    "Signing this Founding Act we feel that a new Europe is rising," Mr. Simitis said, adding that as a European ally, Greece would contribute to the achievement of this goal.

    Speaking at a press conference after the ceremony, the prime minister said that "for countries such as Greece which suffered the consequences of the Cold War era, with a restriction of their autonomy and independence, all this is a thing of the past. The new era opening up for our country renders it, due also to its geographical position, particularly useful for the development of a new network of political and economic interconnections and a new role in east and west".

    "With war everyone is a loser, but in peace there are only winners," he added.

    [09] KKE response

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    In Athens, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said the Founding Act was a provocation to the peoples and the ever-increasing peace movement in Europe.

    The Greek government as well as the remaining NATO governments have an immense responsibility for this very serious development which runs contrary to all constitutional obligations, a KKE announcement said.

    [10] Skandalidis on PASOK, Gov't restructuring

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    "There is a permanent problem of restructuring party and government, which, however, will be solved from inside PASOK itself," the party's Secretary Costas Skandalidis said yesterday.

    He called on the Left to get away from the past and enter into a debate with all those forces that can change the political map.

    "It is inconceivable that we do not receive the messages of the effort underway for globalization and culture," he said.

    The secretary criticized all those who state they will not participate in the process of "social dialogue."

    Concerning the recent publication of former president Constantine Karamanlis' archives, which contained unfavorable remarks about the late prime minister Andreas Papandreou, Mr. Skandalidis said that "history cannot be rewritten", and that "PASOK's course has been historically vindicated".

    "Any change that has taken place in institutions in our country is due to the policy followed by PASOK, perhaps with certain mistakes which must be evaluated, but nobody can doubt its participation in the great leap which our country is preparing to make."

    [11] Greece supports Czech efforts to join EU

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    Greece's support for the Czech Republic's effort to join European and trans-Atlantic institutions was expressed by Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou in a meeting with Czech Foreign Under-secretary Karel Kovanda yesterday.

    "The Czech Republic is particularly interested in joining NATO and we have declared that we support this effort," said Mr. Papandreou, adding that Mr. Kovanda had expressed understanding for Greece's problems with Turkey and the Cyprus issue.

    Referring to yesterday's signing in Paris of a co-operation accord on security in Europe by NATO and Russia, the Czech under-secretary expressed the hope that his country would be invited to participate in the expansion of the north Atlantic alliance.

    [12] Two-day UN conference in Athens focuses on Middle East peace process

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    A two-day United Nations conference on the Middle East ended in Athens yesterday.

    The conference was attended by UN officials, journalists, diplomats and experts on Palestinian issues.

    During the opening session on Monday, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed Greece's support for the peace process, adding that it is participating in negotiations and, as a member of the European Union, has made efforts for recently app eared obstacles to be overcome.

    Discussions centered on the problems of the peace process, the final status of Palestinian territory and the economic side of the complex Middle East issue.

    According to the conference, the present Israeli government is responsible for delays and the undermining of the peace process. The conference also brought up reports that the Palestinians live in a deplorable economic situation in the occupied and self-rule territories, due to the Israeli policy of exclusion. No Israeli officials or analysts attended the event, although they had initially accepted invitations. However, journalists from Israeli newspapers were present and participated in the conference.

    [13] EU council meeting on public order, internal affairs

    Brussels, 28/05/1997 (ANA - G. Daratos)

    A European Union council two-day session focusing on justice and internal affairs ended here yesterday with Public Order Ministry Secretary-General Ioannis Papadoyiannakis representing Greece.

    Among others, special emphasis was placed on issues concerning temporary protection for people moving against their will in future crises, the initiation of common action on combating and controlling new synthetic drug substances, preparing an agreement on combating bribery, the penalization of bribery and in general corruption among EU employees and employees from member-states managing EU budget funds.

    In his intervention, Mr. Papadoyiannakis said, on the issue of temporary protection for transients, that Greece lies in a sensitive geographical region and that the EU's interest should also focus, apart from legislative harmonization, on a practical approach to enable a unified approach to future crises.

    [14] Kranidiotis-Annan scheduled to meet at UN headquarters

    United Nations, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    Foreign Under-secretary Yiannos Kranidiotis was due to meet late last night with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, after arriving in New York.

    At the scheduled meeting, Mr. Kranidiotis is expected to submit a non-paper or "speaking notes" confirming Greece's support to the UN secretary general's efforts, as well as the Greek positions regarding the course and essence of the pending proximity talks between Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, diplomatic sources said.

    The non-paper will state that talks should be held in conduct with the stipulations of international law, summit agreements and the UN Resolutions, while emphasizing that a Cyprus-EU accession would have to be taken into consideration, at all times, as being part of the solution.

    According to the sources, Mr. Kranidiotis will ask Mr. Annan for details regarding the start of talks and the items on the agenda.

    Mr. Kranidiotis is also due to have a meeting today with Cyprus' permanent ambassador to the United Nations, followed by another meeting with the permanent ambassadors of the EU member-states to the UN.

    He is also due to have bilateral meetings with the representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

    [15] Women smokers face high health risk, studies show

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    Three million people a year die of smoking-related diseases and another 30 percent of all cancers in industrialized countries is connected to smoking, the Greek Anti-Smoking Society said yesterday, in a press conference to mark No Smoking Day on May 31.

    The increasing number of women smokers, particularly in Greece, presents specific health problems, speakers said.

    "Women must realize that if they take the contraceptive pill and smoke they must be informed that the danger is great," they said.

    Women who smoke are less likely to conceive during in vitro fertilization, while recent studies have shown the combination of nicotine and hormone therapy after menopause is linked to the development of osteoporosis, a debilitating condition in which bones become brittle and more likely to break.

    On the other hand, smoking is less popular amongst the new generation, with statistics showing a gradual but significant reduction in the number of young smokers in Greece.

    "Following an increase a few years ago, there appears now to be a new fall in the number of smokers, particularly among the young generation," speakers said.

    The best way to stop people smoking or prevent them from beginning, speakers said, was to ban advertising.

    Greece, they added, was the only country in Europe with such high nicotine and tar levels in its cigarettes.

    "When the European Parliament decided on the highest permissible levels of tar and nicotine, Greece dissented, with the result being that cigarettes distributed here have tar and nicotine levels of up to 50 percent more than other European countries," they said.

    [16] 'Treasures of Mount Athos' to open in June

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    An exhibition of artifacts from the monastic community of Mount Athos is due to open in Thessaloniki on June 21, within the framework of events for the Cultural Capital of Europe.

    Roughly 600 artifacts, which have never been seen outside of the all-male Mount Athos, have been lent for the exhibition by 17 of the monastic community's 20 monasteries.

    The exhibition will remain open for six months, while an extension into 1998 is currently under discussion. The whole event has cost public coffers four billion drachmas.

    The artifacts, including antiquarian books as well as priceless manuscripts and icons, were restored over the past two years by culture ministry employees at Mount Athos. Hand-woven and embroidered cloths, however, are maintained exclusively by women, and had to be transported to Thessaloniki.

    The other artifacts are to be transported to Thessaloniki during the next few days in order to be displayed in the Byzantine Culture Museum.

    The "Treasures of Mount Athos" exhibition will also include articles of everyday use in the monastic community and a photographic display dedicated to the natural environment of the peninsula.

    The exhibition will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Mondays from 12:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

    Tickets cost 2,000 drachmas for adults and 1,000 drachmas for concessions (pupils, students, those over the age of 65 and the disabled). Entrance is free for monks, clerics, members of the military and tour guides.

    Proceeds will go towards infrastructure works on Mount Athos.

    [17] New measures for the disabled

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    A draft presidential decree signed by 19 ministers will enable persons with above 67 percent disability to receive life-long or temporary disability cards and is part of new procedures aimed at bringing uniformity to the status of disabled persons in Greece.

    According to the decree, three-member committees to be established at regional and prefectural hospitals will re-examine all persons with permanent or temporary disabilities.

    The measure is expected to affect some 400,000 people.

    Health Minister Costas Geitonas said there were also plans under way to establish a national emergency service for the disabled, drug abusers and their families, the homeless, refugees and other disadvantaged social groups.

    [18] Bank of Greece action to stabilize drachma vis-a-vis ECU

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    The money market appeared nervous yesterday after increased demand was shown for the European Currency Unit (ECU). The Bank of Greece intervened, providing ECU 400 million to keep the ECU at desired levels against the Greek drachma.

    The ECU's parity in the fixing rate closed at 311.90 drachmas, increasing by 0.17 per cent. According to reports, the uneasiness is linked to uncertainty prevailing in many European markets due to the results of general elections in France last Sunday.

    [19] EU energy ministers fail to reach agreement on internal market natural gas

    Brussels, 28/05/1997 (ANA - M. Savva)

    The EU Energy Ministers' Council yesterday failed to reach agreement on a draft directive regarding the internal market for natural gas.

    During the discussion, nevertheless, the council recognized a series of peculiarities, especially for Greece, but also for Finland, which give them the right of exemption from the application of the directive. The peculiarities basically are that Greece is not connected with the European natural gas network, and that it has only one supplier, namely, Russia.

    Development Minister Vasso Papandreou, who represented Greece, expressed the view that the opening of the market must afford flexibility to member-states, and be moderate and gradual. She added that the public utility nature of the sector must always be taken into account.

    EU Energy Commissioner Christos Papoutsis set out the positions of the Commission, presenting its report on "The Energy Dimension of Climatic Changes" after the council session.

    [20] Tzoumakas stresses need to increase Greek cows' milk production

    Brussels, 28/05/1997 (ANA - P. Pantelis)

    An informal EU Agriculture Ministers' meeting was held in the Netherlands yesterday on the issue of the EU's annual dairy products' surplus, which reaches 9.5 million tons.

    The discussion was based on a report presented by the European Commission concerning the dairy sector, and aims to review in the autumn this present situation.

    The EU's production of milk is expected to fall to 118.5 million tons by the year 2005, while demand on the international market is expected to increase.

    Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler has said regulations for the quantity of milk produced are "bureaucratic, inflexible and must be reviewed."

    Agriculture Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas stressed that Greece produces much less dairy products than all other member-states, producing just 0.5 per cent of the total EU amount. He also stressed the need to increase Greece's production of cows' milk by at least 130,000 tons, in order to reach 760,000 tons.

    In addition, he called for income supplements for mountainous and depressed regions, as milk's retail price has remained fixed over the past three years, while reinforcements and subsidies for export quantities will continue to fall until the year 2000.

    Mr. Tzoumakas suggested a certain quality of milk be set aside for new producers.

    [21] More joint Greek-Turkish business initiatives urged

    Istanbul, 28/05/1997 (ANA/AA)

    The third Greek-Turkish Forum ended here yesterday with a joint statement urging businessmen from the two countries to launch more joint activities.

    The sides decided to increase co-operation on issues such as large infrastructure projects and to evaluate opportunities for joint interests, the statement said.

    The two sides decided during the forum to urge their governments to promote joint initiatives between Greece and Turkey, and to sign a double-taxation agreement.

    It also stressed that more joint economic activities were required, "with the belief that the forum contributed to bilateral understanding," the statement read.

    The primary fields for economic co-operation were determined as being tourism and maritime transportation, while the two sides said a committee will be formed to hold detailed discussions regarding co-operation in the tourism sector.

    Another committee is to be set up to conduct studies for the viability of joint projects with the European Union.

    The forum's next meeting is to be held in Athens in October.

    [22] Agreement for winemaker Kambas

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    An agreement was signed yesterday between National Bank, the winemaker A. Kambas and its main shareholder I. Boutaris with the Mesogaia concern, jointly owned by the construction companies Aktor, Elliniki Technodomiki, Ergas, Meton and Techniki Etairia Volou.

    Among others, the agreement includes the settlement and paying off of debts owed by A. Kambas to its creditors and the transfer of a 67 per cent majority package of A. Kambas to Mesogaia, with a parallel increase in the former's share capital through the Athens Stock Exchange.

    [23] Athens bourse tops emerging markets' returns

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    The Athens Stock Exchange is at the center of domestic and international investment interest as the general index breaks new ground after setting an all-time high of 1,727.70 points last Friday.

    Share prices have risen more than 85 percent since the start of the year and transactions made by stock brokerage firms exceed three trillion drachmas.

    A rapid drop in inflation and interest rates, which have made equities more attractive compared with other traditional investments (bonds, bank deposits, etc.), lies behind this upsurge in the market. Forecasts of higher corporate profits in 1997 - expected to total one trillion drachmas, up 20 percent from 1996 - also have had a positive impact on market sentiment. Market analysts also point out that political stability and the socialist government's determination to proceed with a European Union economic convergence program have encouraged foreign investors in particular.

    In the medium-term, investment interest is expected to remain strong as the market awaits the flotation of about 300 billion drachmas worth of shares from the government's privatization program through the sale of minority stakes in Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE), Public Petroleum Corporation (DEP) etc.

    Analysts stress that the Greek market looks healthy now in comparison with 1990 when it set its previous all-time high of 1,684.31 points.

    Inflation currently stands at 5.9 percent from 20.4 percent in 1990 with T-bill interest rates falling to 9.6 percent from 24 percent in that year.

    The market's P/E ratio stood at 24 in 1990, double the current figure, an indication that the Greek market looks cheap and has potential for further advance.

    The Athens bourse's performance is by far the best among emerging markets, both in drachma and in dollar terms.

    According to a Financial Times survey, the Greek market's returns were 58.3 percent from the start of the year until mid-May followed by Brazil with 33.7 percent and Turkey with 33.1 percent in dollar terms.

    [24] Stock prices in correction trend

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    Share prices moved lower on the Athens Stock Exchange on Tuesday in what dealers described as a normal correction of the market after its record-breaking rise last Friday and Monday's suspended session.

    The general index closed 0.79 percent lower at 1,714.05 points, with most sector indices losing ground with the exception of Investment, which ended 3.29 percent higher.

    Banking fell 0.16 percent, Leasing dropped 2.07 percent, Insurance eased 2.80 percent, Industrials ended 0.64 percent lower, Construction fell 1.30 percent, Holding declined 2.51 percent and Miscellaneous eased 1.91 percent.

    The Parallel Market index dropped 2.51 percent.

    Trading was extremely heavy and turnover was 43.5 billion drachmas. Newly-listed Xiosbank soared 20 percent in its first normal day of transactions to close at 3,180 drachmas.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 149 to 83 with another 24 issues remaining unchanged. Alpha Investments and Minerva scored the biggest gains, while Attica Enterprises, Kalpinis, Rilken and General Bank suffered the heaviest losses of the day.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 38,675 drachmas, Commercial Bank at 13,750, Ergobank at 22,335, Alpha Credit Bank at 22,050 and OTE at 6,850 drachmas.

    [25] Agricultural Bank's call for restructuring

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE) governor Christos Papathanasiou called for an urgent restructuring of the bank to enable it to operate competitively within free market conditions, bypassing political pressure.

    ATE's aim is to accelerate the pace of its restructuring and to reform its portfolio through the creation of a new management company to undertake the coordination of all companies in the group, and to select consultants by June.

    ATE's governor dismissed rumors of the bank's deteriorating capital base, admitting that the bank faced problems from the delayed repayment of loans by private borrowers, but underlined that major debtors could not be published because of the banking secrecy law.

    The bank's non-performing loans total 354 billion drachmas.

    The governor accused several cooperatives of perpetuating past flaws such as improper management, surplus and untrained staff and operations based on social rather than market standards.

    ATE is determined to stop provision of non-performing loans and to collect arrears. The bank has already begun legal proceedings against 74 firms owing a total of 63.6 billion drachmas.

    The governor announced the privatization of 11 viable agricultural firms with a total debt of 71 billion drachmas, a revaluation of its property assets and the launch of a dynamic marketing policy aimed to attract clients beyond the agricultural sector.

    ATE's profits fell to 13.3 billion drachmas in 1996 from 15.8 billion the previous year, although 1996 deposits marked a 10.3 percent increase and lending rose 7.3 percent. The bank intends to launch 22 new branches in Greece and open branches in Albania and Frankfurt, Germany.

    [26] Greece ready for Schengen accord

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    Greece's two biggest airports, Athens and Thessaloniki, are ready to start operating under Schengen standards five months ahead of schedule.

    Members of the Monitoring Committee of External Borders, responsible for countries participating in the Schengen accord, expressed their satisfaction over progress made in Athens and Thessaloniki airports.

    The Schengen accord foresees free movement of citizens, without passport control checks and other formalities within member-countries of the accord.

    Greece, along with Austria and Italy have pledged the implementation of the accord by the end of October.

    Greece has to take strict measures in order to secure free movement of people and protection from smuggling and organized crime.

    The Committee will visit Greece again in order to monitor the implementation of security standards along the sea-borders between Greece and Turkey.

    Ankara refuses to sign the Schengen accord, rejecting a clause which obliges signatories to take back illegal immigrants.

    [27] ETANE SA in Bosnia project

    Athens, 28/05/1997 (ANA)

    ETANE SA, a Greek engineering contractor, is carrying out the industrial design for construction of 300 pre-fabricated concrete homes in Bosnia as part of the Bosnian government's reconstruction effort.

    ETANE is due to proceed with a share capital increase through an initial public offering June 2-4 to gain listing on the Parallel Market of the Athens Stock Exchange.

    The company will offer 400,000 new common shares at 1,850 drachmas each and another 20,000 shares for private placement in order to raise 777 million drachmas.

    The amount will be used for the purchase of equipment and the strengthening of the firm's capital base.

    ETANE's pre-tax profits rose to 474 million drachmas in 1996 from 302 million in 1995 and turnover was 2.3 billion drachmas from 1.7 billion a year earlier. This year's profits are forecast to reach 633 million drachmas.

    End of English language section.


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