|Sunday, 15 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-09-07
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Greece to keep tight economic policy in 1999 for EMU entry,PM says
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)Greece, holding its ground in the throes of global market turmoil, will see another year of tight economic policy aimed at steering the country into European economic and monetary union on target by 2001, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Saturday.
"The coming year - 1999 - is a landmark in our effort. Despite mounting difficulties on an international level, Greece must attain the goal it has set, which is meeting the entry conditions for EMU," Mr. Simitis said in his annual economic policy statem ent.
By the end of this year, the country should meet four of five conditions set for EMU entry by member-countries of the European Union, he told an audience at Thessaloniki's international trade fair.
Likely to be attained were reduction of the fiscal deficit to below 3.0 percent of gross domestic product; a decline in the public debt as a percentage of GDP; the stabilisation of foreign exchange parities; and convergence of long-term interest rates.
"The battle is centred on (consumer price) inflation, on price rises that emerge from millions of minor decisions," the prime minister said.
Inflation, whose trend is declining,slipped to 5.0 percent year-on-year in August from 5.1 percent a month earlier. It rose temporarily after the drachma was devalued by 13.8 percent on March 14 in order to ease entry into the EU's exchange rate mechanism on the same day.
"The leap we have to make in cutting inflation by end-1999 is major, and difficult on the level of the economy overall," Mr. Simitis said. The government aims to reduce inflation to around 4.5 percent by the end of this year, the lowest in 25 years.
Next year's monetary and incomes policy aims to stabilise prices and therefore inflation, currently the toughest target to meet, he said.
With growth rates in the world's strongest economies being revised upwards, the government had to gauge its policies carefully. Care and ongoing stabilisation also would help ward off the impact of adverse financial conditions abroad.
"We have to give the clearest message of our decisiveness in achieving our goals, and scotch uncertainty by means of stability. Any turmoil or backsliding will weigh heavily on the vast majority of the Greek public," the prime minister said. "In the next two years we will show unwavering persistence and consistency in our key national targets."
The fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP should maintain its decline, dropping to 2.4 percent by year's end; and a rising trend in the public debt in terms of GDP had reversed in 1997.
"Our fiscal policy will move within targets set in our (EU) convergence plan. There is no room for change under present circumstances," Mr. Simitis said.
Greece now had one of the highest rates of GDP growth in the EU, which would hold steady at 3.5 percent in 1998 for the second straight year. Industrial production was rising at an unprecedented rate, achieving a 6.5 percent rate of growth in January-Ju ne.
Private and public investment this year had risen by 10.7 percent and the growth rate in 1997-1998 was the highest in the last 25 years.
Since 1997, the government had endorsed 1,800 investment plans worth 486 billion drachmas, boosted by indirect subsidies.
Greece, like other countries, was hit by the fallout from Russia's continuing political and financial crisis but the impact was reduced to a minimum aided by the drachma's membership of the ERM and confidence in the economy at home and abroad, Mr. Simitis said.
"A very few years ago this would have been impossible, and Greece would have been swept into the maelstrom. We have succeeded in nearing the steady track of the Euro countries," he said.
Joining the EU's single currency by January 1, 2001 would spur growth and investment and lower the cost of living, also removing uncertainty about the economy and the national currency.
Setting a priority on long-term growth, the prime minister pledged to continue restructuring the economy in order to boost productivity and eliminate wasteful state spending. Gains from the policy would be reflected in the growth of the Athens Stock Exc hange, whose performance already was spectacular this year until the world repercussions of the Russian crisis brought down the index.
The government had succeeded in improving infrastructure, and companies had stepped up investments to the Balkans, aided by a stronger economy, higher profitability and state incentives, Mr. Simitis said.
In another lift to growth, Greece would receive EU funding under the Third Community Framework for 2000-2006, which is currently being negotiated.
The government was seeking over nine trillion drachmas, which would co- finance 16 trillion drachmas in projects.
In addition, the government would keep to its wide-ranging privatisation programme, aimed at shrinking the public sector and boosting competitiveness in the banking system.
Examples of successful privatisation were Cretabank, Macedonia-Thrace Bank, Bank of Central Greece, and Syros, Skaramanga and Elefsina shipyards, Mr. Simitis said.
The government had also embarked on a plan to modernise the farming sector by switching to more marketable products. Farmers had been offered tax breaks and subsidies.
He underlined the need for social consensus, saying the government would continue its assistance to low-income pensioners and provide free medical care for the long-term and young unemployed.
Beyond the measures, there would be no handouts.
The prime minister welcomed a national collective pay agreement forged in the spring that had revealed that unions supported the government's policy of wage restraint in its drive against inflation.
"This was a rare example in the Greek reality of a sense of responsibility being shown, and society owes a lot to this," he said.
Inflation could not be lowered by government decisions alone. All market players, including workers and employers, were responsible.
This summer, supermarket owners forged an informal agreement to lower prices in selected goods.
In addition, the government had begun to tackle high unemployment in a 1998- 2000 programme, involving subsidies to employers for hiring the jobless, and subsidised training schemes, altogether totalling 400 billion drachmas.
Finally, influencing the government's strategy were regional trouble spots that created uncertainty. They were Kosovo, neighbouring countries facing internal problems, the Caspian Sea and its oil reserves, the strife-torn Middle East and Turkey, the prime minister said.
Relief for those on low pensions : Those on low pensions will pay less for pharmaceuticals and receive a higher "social solidarity" benefit from the state, Mr. Simitis also announced.
Departing from the text of his speech, Mr. Simitis said that, despite the unfavourable economic climate, the social solidarity benefit - a lump-sum monthly payment introduced earlier this year - would increase by about 50 percent as of January 1, 1999.
In the area of social policy, he said, the government is "doing what it can", given that the progress of the country depends on social cohesion and avoiding social marginalisation.
The problem of cheaper fuel for farmers is being resolved, Mr. Simitis said, adding that government policy had to give clear indications that any backtracking on its part would only have a negative outcome for the Greek people.
"We must protect the prosperity of citizens - our economic policy is the only road for the country," he said.
ND charges PM turns TIF into podium for promises : Commenting on the speech made by Prime Minister Costas Simitis at the Thessaloniki International Fair on Saturday night, main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said on Saturday that:
"The podium of the TIF is offered for an account of the government's work and a review of the course of the economy, as well as for the presentation of the general guidelines of government policy for the coming year. Mr. Simitis turned it into a podium for promises which he repeats in stereotype fashion on every opportunity and also breaks.
Mr. Simitis tried in vain to show the series of his failures as successes and a guarantee of the future course. All citizens are aware of the triptych of Simitis' failure."
Mr. Spiliotopoulos went on to say that "he failed and is failing in the crucial sector of structural changes. Mr. Simitis is confusing real denationalisation with flotations. He is placing his hopes on the sale of the Ionian Bank and of the tax-free stores. However, he is also failing there as well in a pitiful and comical and tragic way."
An announcement by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on the issue said that "with his speech tonight, the prime minister once again provoked the working class, the poor farmers and the city's small and medium-size businessmen, the unemployed and pensi oners, while he gave the plutocracy the opportunity of applauding him again."
The Coation of the Left and Progress said in an announcement that "the prime minister's monotonous and outrageous praise for himself, the beautification of Greek reality and the exclusive attribution of all woes to the economic crisis abroad are being used once again demagogically by Mr. Simitis."
Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas said that Mr. Simitis announced in Thessaloniki "two more years of tough austerity for the Greek people who are already impoverished."
Mr. Tsovolas termed the prime minister "an accountant of Brussels and of big economic groups, who had nothing to say about social indicators."
Commenting on his part on government policy in relation to announcements made by the prime minister last year, Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras accused Mr. Simitis of playing "a game of amnesia."
Athens News Agency
 EU calls on Russia not to implement radical economic 'shock therapy'
SALZBURG 07/09/1998 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)The European Union called on Russia yesterday not to implement the radical economic "shock therapy" advocated by some U.S. economists and to aim instead for a western European-style social market economy.
Foreign Ministers ended a two-day meeting in Salzburg without offering Moscow extra cash or debt relief and said the country bore responsibility for resolving its own political and economic crisis.
Speaking to the press shortly after the Council of EU Foreign Ministers' meeting, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said that the finalised conclusions of the "15" are balanced.
He said he was satisfied with the finalised decisions to the degree that, apart from what he said were calls for the creation of a market economy in Russia which was acceptable to all, the need is stressed for tackling aggravated social problems and mai ntaining social cohesion in that country.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting,Council President and Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel called Russia a strategic partner for the European Union and stressed the need for an expression of solidarity by member-states to the Russian people.
However, the "15" did not reach any spectacular decision on the practical aspect of expressing solidarity. On the contrary, they clarified once again that at the present stage there is no question of giving any "fresh money" to Moscow.
A suggestion by Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini for a moratorium on Russia's debt met with a negative response by most ministers.
The sole decision reached by the "15" on Russia, and indeed following intense consultations, was a visit to Moscow by the so-called EU troika (namely the former, present and future EU presidencies). The visit will probably take place on Wednesday at dip lomatic level, while it will take place at ministerial level in accordance with the finalised decision as soon as possible but, substantively, probably after a new government has been appointed in Russia.
Referring to this issue, Mr. Pangalos said that to the degree that officials in Moscow are specific and not many, the Foreign Ministers of Austria, Britain and Germany could pay a visit for talks with them even before a new Russian government is created .
The "15" reiterated their concern over the situation prevailing in the restive Kosovo province and primarily over the plight of more than 265,000 refugees as winter draws near.
The Austrian EU Presidency said that the European Commission will provide humanitarian aid amounting to five million ECU, while Mr. Pangalos said that all member-states must provide material support (medicines, clothing, etc) for efforts to tackle the refugee problem.
On the question of sanctions against Serbia, Mr. Pangalos stressed the need in his address at the Council for an overall review of the EU's policy on this issue. He said that it must be made clear to the Kosovo Albanians that they must abandon every effort aimed at the creation of an independent state.
He added that the EU will call on Belgrade to agree to an increase in EU observers in Kosovo and expressed the hope that the Yugoslav government will respond positively to this request.
Regarding the issue of the ban on flights to and from airports of EU member- states by the Yugoslav JAT airline as punishment for Belgrade over its policy on Kosovo (a ban included in the package of measures against Yugoslavia adopted by the "15" at the Cardiff summit), Mr. Pangalos expressed satisfaction over the discussion held at Greece's initiative at the informal Salzburg Council.
Mr. Pangalos announced that Greece, also taking into consideration the fact that the ban on JAT can be decided by a regular Council of Foreign Ministers with a special majority, decided to facilitate the ratification of the decision through the written process, chosing the option of abstention from this process.
In other words, Greece will not set out its position today, when the time limit for the written process expires, and so the ban on JAT will be ratified with 14 "yes" votes and one abstention by Greece.
On the question of the Austrian EU Presidency's initiative to raise for discussion the issue of reshaping the operation of the EU's Council of Foreign Ministers to make it more effective and capable of living up to the coordinating role which it must play according to Treaties, the "15" reached a 10-point decision.
According to EU analysts, it is not the first time that Foreign Ministers are faced with this problem (the Greek Presidency had tabled a series of proposals in 1988) and the question is whether the Foreign Ministers themselves are prepared to implement whatever decisions are taken in the framework of this process.
Athens News Agency
 Greece speeds towards EMU,PM tells press conference
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)Greece will have met four of the five Maastricht convergence criteria by the end of the year to enable Greece to take its place in European Economic and Monetary Union, Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed yesterday.
Speaking at a news conference at the 63rd Thessaloniki International Fair, Mr. Simitis siad Greece was among the countries which would adopt the European single currency, the euro.
"The only remaining issue will be inflation," he said.
Following the drachma's entry to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in March, Mr. Simitis said, the Greek economy stabilised further. The recent turmoil on international markets has had a negligible effect on the course of the Greek economy,which has shown itself to be resilient, he said.
Mr. Simitis underlined that the developments were positive, saying that in recent years Greece has seen a dramatic fall in state deficits and inflation and a significant increase in investments.
He said that the economic policy of the government could not be changed, adding that the present fiscal policy can not allow for changes, and noted that the international conditions are fluid.
"I am answering you (for) today," he said.
The premier reiterated that the economic policies of the government were decided at the beginning of its four year term, having had the appoval of the Greek people and that they were aiming at the equal accession of Greece to the EMU.
Mr. Simitis said that this would lead to a series of benefits leading the country to more prosperity, stability, development and social justice.
Structural changes : The prime minister said that structural changes in the Greek economy were proceeding satisfactorily, adding that the government would continue with the privatisation of the Ionian Bank and the Duty Free Shops.
He said that the government was not willing to proceed with privatisations, when it is not convinced that they will be accomplished for the benefit of the Greek people.
Furthermore, he said that whenever an offer for a privatisation is not satisfactory it will be turned down.
"What do they want? For us to give away state property in any way without consideration?" he asked.
Mr. Simitis noted that in the case of Olympic Airways the procedure of discussions has not been completed.
The premier admitted that there are social groups which were facing problems, but that they would receive help through systematic government interventions.
Mr. Simitis dismissed speculation from journalists that next month's municipal elections could see a downturn in the ruling party's fortunes, stressing:
"The government's work will be judged in 2000 and not in these elections".
Criticism of the government's economic policies from ruling socialist MPs themselves, he said, was "positive".
"They are setting out opinions and wanting to contribute to the course of the government's work. This is positive and helps the government," he said.
Referring to the ruling PASOK party's congress next year, Mr. Simitis said that it would be focusing on ideological issues.
The premier also called on opposition parties to abandon negative criticism and formulate proposals aiming at improving the economic performances of the country.
He accused former prime minister and main opposition New Democracy party honourary president Constantine Mitsotakis as well as the party's president Costas Karamanlis of focusing their political action on personal issues. "Politics are judged on ideas, values and results," the premier said.
Referring to the issue of the centre-left, Mr. Simitis said that political forces were the result of dialogue with social forces and not with persons.
The prime minister also said that there was no issue of a cabinet reshuffle adding that he was very satisfied with his ministers' performances.
Athens News Agency
 Fight against inflation 'a patriotic duty'
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou on Saturday called on the Greek business world to rally together in the cause of lower inflation, saying the issue was a "patriotic duty".
Speaking at the General Assembly of the Central Union of Greek Chambers in Thessaloniki, Mr. Papantoniou said businesses could help in the fight against inflation by sticking to a strict pricing policy.
"1999 will be the most critical year for our generation," Mr. Papantoniou said.
Inflation is one of the criteria for inclusion in economic and monetary union. The government aims to reduce inflation to around 4.5 percent by the end of this year, the lowest in 25 years.
In his speech on Saturday night, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that the battle for Greece's inclusion in EMU "is centred on (consumer price) inflation, on price rises that emerge from millions of minor decisions".
Inflation, whose trend is declining, dropped to 5.0 percent year-on-year in August from 5.1 percent a month earlier. It rose temporarily after the drachma was devalued by 13.8 percent on March 14 in order to ease entry into the EU's exchange rate mechanism on the same day.
The budget for 1999, Mr. Papantoniou said, would provide "generous safety margins" for any possible crises as, he noted, "we are entering an uncertain economic period in which it is difficult to make predictions".
The government's policy of structural reform would continue with Athens urban transport organisations and Greek Railways next in line for reform, followed by reforms to the pension system and the sales of state-run companies such as Duty-Free Stores and Ionian Bank.
The third share offering for Greek telecoms organisation OTE, he said, would depend on the climate on international markets, and particularly on Wall Street. The third OTE share offering was originally slated for later this year.
Athens News Agency
 Burns tells US investors Greece is a good bet
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)Speaking during a visit to the 63rd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) yesterday, US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns called on American investors to invest in Greece without fear.
Mr. Burns, who was speaking while visiting the pavilion of the American Hyatt Regency company which is exploiting the casino in Thessaloniki, said he was particularly impressed by the TIF which he was visiting for the first time and referred to Greece's vital economy which is forging ahead. He also said that having Greece as an active and dynamic partner was great support for Balkan countries.
"My advice to American companies is to come to Greece and see a country which is changing and an economy which is being modernised. One of the reasons that President Clinton sent me here is to ensure that the US and Greece will strengthen their relations and there is no better way for this than by developing their economic relations. I believe this and I advise American investors to invest in Greece which is a stable country with a good economy, contrary to some Balkan states where we have conflicts. Th ere is stability in Greece," Mr. Burns said.
"Our primary target as the US government is to promote American enterprises in Greece to invest in Greece and to conclude cooperations with Greek companies," he added.
Mr. Burns said that concluding cooperations will mean gains both for Greece, because it will be translated into new jobs and tax revenues, and the US because it will provide the opportunity for them to have a good partner and to obtain profits.
"The main priority is for us to increase trade and our investments," he said.
Mr. Burns reiterated that Greece and the US have been friends and partners ever since Greece gained its independence and pointed out that the issue of Cyprus and Greek-Turkish relations do not affect American investors.
Referring to the SECI initiative, Mr. Burns stressed the particularly important role played by the Greek government aimed at facilitating overseas trade and transport in the region.
Athens News Agency
 Reppas inaugurates digital radio station
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)Press and Information Minister Dimitris Reppas inaugurated the first digital radio station in Greece, as well as in the Balkans, in Thessaloniki at noon on Saturday. The new station is the ERT 3, while its new building installations were also inaugurated in Angelaki street.
Speaking during the inauguration, Mr. Reppas referred to "justified pride" over the functioning of the first digital radio station in Thessaloniki. He said that the investment for digital radio was in the region of 700 million drachmas.
Father Dimitrios Vakaros conveyed the wishes of the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Panteleimon after the ceremony, stressing the quality of the programmes of ERT 3 and reminding that it was from Thessaloniki that "TV started and radio progressed."
Athens News Agency
 PM meets TIF president
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis met the President of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) Antonis Kourtis in Thessaloniki yesterday morning and announced that the supervision of the TIF, which had been the responsibility of the National Economy Ministry so far, will be transferred to the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace.
"In this way the process of taking decisions will be speeded up," Mr. Simitis said.
Mr. Simitis termed the TIF "a tool which shows what is happening in the world and what is happening in Greece. It is a means of promoting Greece on the international economic scene." Earlier, Mr. Kourtis briefed Mr. Simitis on the plan to modernise the TIF with the purpose of "turning it into a centre for international cooperation and development."
Immediately afterwards, Mr. Simitis, Mr. Kourtis and a number of ministers accompanying the prime minister toured the TIF and visited the pavilions of China and Cyprus.
Athens News Agency
 'Thessaloniki Festival' to be created
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)A founding document was signed in Thessaloniki on Saturday by which the "Thessaloniki Festival" will be created. It is a new cultural "umbrella" body for the management, organisation and programming of cultural events in the city by almost all its cultura l bodies (the State Theatre of Northern Greece, the State Conservatory, the State Museum for Modern Art, the Cinema Festival, etc).
The creation of this non-profit making company under the name of "Thessaloniki Festival" had been announced by the relevant minister in Thessaloniki last March.
The signing ceremony took place at the Lazariston Monastery in the presence of Prime Minister Costas Simitis and a number of cabinet ministers.
Athens News Agency
 Greece draws 2-2 with Slovenia
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)Greece drew 2-2 with Slovenia in their European championship group two opening qualifying soccer match in Athens yesterday.
Zladko Zahovic scored twice for Slovenia while Greece scored with Nikos Machlas from the penalty spot in the 55th minute and with Costas Frantzeskos three minutes later.
Slovenia dominated the midfield and opened the scoring in the 19th minute. Machlas's equaliser was his 12th goal for the Greek national team.
Halftime substitute Frantzeskos, a free kick specialist, put the Greeks ahead with an impressive effort from 25 metres.
Zahovic put the match level after hitting the ball over goalkeeper Ilias Atmatzides in the 63rd minute.
Athens News Agency
 All is calm in the Aegean Sea,PM says
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday he did not believe the Aegean Sea to be a region in which developments could spiral out of control.
"I do not believe that the Aegean, despite the expansionist Turkish policy and the tension which it creates, is a region in which conditions are not under control and that there will be problems," he said addressing a press conference in Thessaloniki yesterday.
He was responding to a question whether he shared US President Bill Clinton's recently expressed view that the Aegean was among world "flash points".
Mr. Simitis said Greece had proposed a step-by-step rapprochement with its NATO ally Turkey and was cooperating within the framework of the European Union.
Mr. Simitis also said that he will meet with his Turkish counterpart Mesut Yilmaz at the side-lines of the Balkan countries' conference in Antalya, Turkey, next month.
Cyprus : Speaking on the Russian made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles ordered by the the Cyprus government and due to be deployed on the island republic later this year, Mr. Simitis said that their deployment is not a purpose in itself adding that "the discussion on this subject, 'the missile talk', turns our attention to a direction we do not accept."
He said that the "central issue of the Cyprus problem is the invasion and occupation of the northern part of the island republic by Turkish troops, and the non-compliance of Turkey and the leadership of the Turkish-Cypriots with the decisions of the Uni ted Nations and this is the issue we must constantly have our attention geared to."
Mr. Simitis reiterated that the handling of this issue remains the responsibility of the Cypriot leadership and (Cyprus President Glafcos) Clerides, while he added that this issue was discussed during the last official visit of the Cypriot president in Athens.
Furthermore, the premier stressed that Turkey wants all attention focused on the missiles, and the supposed dangers created by their deployment.
"We do not accept this tactic, because we do not forget who created the problem and which is the problem," he said adding that "Cyprus has the right to defend itself, to take all measures and it is (Cyprus which) will decide when it will take them."
He added that procedures for Cyprus's entry to the 15-nation European Union would create the conditions for a resolution of the central problem facing the island.
Athens News Agency
 Gov't responds to Ecevit comments on Cyprus
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)The division and occupation of a third of Cyprus is an open wound for humanity and the international community must contribute to healing it, Greece said on Saturday. Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, speaking in Thessaloniki, was commenting on statements by Turkish deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who reportedly said the Cyprus issue was definitively "solved" with the invasion of Turkish troops in 1974.
Mr. Ecevit, touring the occupied territories of Cyprus, said that the 1974 invasion had achieved its goal in "consolidating security, peace, freedom and the rights of the two communities."
Mr. Reppas said that if Mr. Ecevit's comments were grounded in reality, then the United Nations and international community would not have concerned itself with the issue.
"Mr. Ecevit's statements are a repetition of aggressive statements by Turkish officials and confirm the rightness of the decisions of the Cypriot government," he said.
Athens News Agency
 Jospin terms Cyprus division 'deplorable'
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin denounced the division of Cyprus saying it was a "deplorable situation for international law" in an interview with the Sunday 'To Vima' published yesterday.
"The real question" in Cyprus is the "division of the island...which persists since nearly 25 years," Mr. Jospin said.
"What France wishes, is to achieve putting an end to a deplorable situation for international law," he said.
"Those who today block the process of rapprochement of the two communities and are opposed to any political settlement based on United Nations resolutions, bare towards their people and to history a grave responsibility, " Mr. Jospin added.
Mr. Jospin was on a one-day visit to Athens last Monday where he addressed, together with Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, a conference on the prospects of socialism in Europe.
Athens News Agency
 Russian works of art in Thessaloniki
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)The famed "Costakis Collection" of Russian avant-garde works of art will be in Thessaloniki for public viewing by the end of September, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos announced on Saturday.
The Cologne-based works of art, collected over thirty years by George Costakis, a Muscovite of Greek descent, kept initially at the Lazarist Monastery until the completion of the city's new Modern Art Museum which is to house the collection.
Mr. Venizelos announced an interim agreement to purchase the works comprising some half of the collection in January. He said the interim agreement had been signed for the purchase of the "Western" part of the collection. A substantial part of the Costa kis Collection is also in the possession of the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow.
Costakis built up the collection between 1930 and 1960 by exchanging works by western artists for paintings dating from the period 1910-1930 by then unknown Russian avant-garde artists.
The collection, which now belongs to the grand-daughter of the famous collector, Aliki Costaki, includes works by Malevic, founder of the "Supremacist" school, Tatlin, the founder of "Constructivism", Popova, Rozanova and Mathiushin.
Athens News Agency
 President concludes visit to Florina
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)President Kostis Stephanopoulos,who paid a two-day visit to the prefecture of Florina over the weekend, was proclaimed an honourary citizen of Florina on Saturday night.
Referring to foreign issues, President Stephanopoulos said that Greece desires to safeguard its peace, security and pride.
"We have no aggressive intention. On the contrary, peoples want to approach each other and if it were up to them, I am certain it would be much easier for governments to seek appropriate solutions," he said.
On the question of economic development, President Stephanopoulos said that all parties were agreed that every possible effort must be made to cover the distance separating the country from its European partners.
"A joint effort is an obligation for the country to enable Greece to stop being last in the European course. A higher rate of development is necessary and a speedup in the rates of major projects," he said.
Athens News Agency
 Fall in crime reported
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)The incidence of crime this year has fallen 10 percent in comparison with figures recorded last year, Public Order Minister George Romeos said on Saturday in Thessaloniki.
Speaking at the Greek Police Force's pavilion at the 63rd Thessaloniki International Fair, Mr. Romeos said the region of Thessaloniki itself had seen a 20 percent fall in crime for the same period.
Mr. Romeos also announced that a new internal affairs service for the Greek Police would be established when the ministry's bill is voted on in October.
The service would begin operating in about March 1999, focusing on combatting corruption in police ranks. Senior Greek police officials would visit New York later next year for training on how the U.S. internal affairs departments work.
Athens News Agency
 Greece-FYROM relations on good track,undersecretary says
LISBON 07/09/1998 (ANA - I. Vergitsis)The Foreign Undersecretary of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Risto Blazewski, in an interview with the Athens News Agency (ANA) on Saturday afternoon, expressed concern over tension in Kosovo and the hope that Athens will help FYROM join the European Union at some time in the future.
Mr. Blazewski, arrived in Lisbon accompanying FYROM President Kiro Gligorov on the occasion of September 5 which EXPO '98 dedicated to his country.
He also spoke with warm words of friendship of Greece to which, as he said, FYROM looks forward to in order to approach Europe. On the question of his country's name, he said that it will be resolved soon, but avoided any comment on how this will be ach ieved.
"Greece may have created some problems for us in the past, but all this has now passed. We look upon Greece as a friendly country now which is investing in 'Macedonia' and is our good partner in the region. It is a modern country which helps 'Macedonia. ' Cooperation between us is explicit and I am certain that both sides will take advantage of the opportunities which have been created so far," he said.
"Greece is contributing towards the rapprochement of 'Macedonia' with Europe and, being a member of the EU, is trying to help us. We undoubtedly also look forward to its help for our future accession to the EU," he added.
On the question of his country's name, Mr. Blazewski said that "this will be settled. Greece has understood that it is necessary for time to be provided for our differences to be resolved with the best possible way for both. Everything will be settled."
"As is the case with the rest of Europe, the United States or Greece, we see no prospect for an independent Kosovo. Kosovo constitutes a part of Yugoslavia, which must find a solution quickly so that in a logical period of two or three years the status of autonomy will have been discussed, always within the Yugoslav state," he said.
Speaking earlier at his welcoming ceremony at EXPO '98, President Kiro Gligorov emphasised the interest of FYROM in Europe and stressed that "The Republic of Macedonia" has made many efforts to achieve its strategic target of establishing stable relations with the EU.
On the question of NATO, President Gligorov said that his country looks upon NATO "as a guarantee for the salvation of the values of our civilisation."
President Gligorov appealed to the Portuguese government for investments in his country, saying that "we hope that Portugal will become an important partner of ours in our effort for the economic development of the 'Republic of Macedonia' and we are cer tain that Portuguese companies, businessmen and other institutions will see that they can obtain economic advantages from our country."
Athens News Agency
 Police launch manhunt for Romanian
Athens 07/09/1998 (ANA)Police in Attica have launched a manhunt for a Romanian man who disappeared after taking a policeman hostage on Saturday night.
The policeman, who was taken hostage after he intervened in an altercation between a group of foreigners in downtown Athens, was released in Piraeus, after an hours-long siege in which the Romanian man threatened to blow up the car and its occupants with a hand grenade.
After negotiations with police officials, the Romanian man was allowed to drive his car in the direction of Piraeus, freeing the policeman, abandoning his car and taking a taxi.
His whereabouts are now unknown.
Athens News Agency