|Thursday, 29 February 2024
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-11-04
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Cov't submits 'last budget before euto entry`
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)The Cabinet yesterday approved next year's budget, the last before the country's expected participation in Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
"We create wealth and we redistribute it," Prime Minister Costas Simitis said after the Cabinet meeting.
The budget for the year 2000 includes the basis of next year's budget which will put the country in line with the stability pact for member states in the euro zone.
National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou submitted the budget to Parliament later yesterday.
The prime minister noted that the budget was the last to be drafted in drachmas - the next budget will be drafted in euros - saying that a new era was starting for Greece.
"The budget", Mr. Simitis said, "represents the successful course of the economy" and underlined that the government would remain steadfast on the same course.
The budget aimed at supporting a society of fraternity and justice, he said.
Government sources said the premier criticised the main opposition New Democracy party's stance over the government's fiscal policy and urged ministers to respond directly to accusations of scandals and corruption.
Budget targets : The budget forecasts a 5.8 percent rise in revenues, a further cut in government deficits, tax cuts worth 470 billion drachmas and a 7.4 percent increase in public spending.
"Next year's budget is the crowning achievement of a long course that started in 1994 with the aim to strengthen the Greek economy and to satisfy citizens' expectations," Mr. Papantoniou said.
He noted that the 2000 budget was designed to ensure the country's entry in EMU and at the same time "boost our national strategy for economic growth, employment and social cohesion".
The budget's main features include: - tax cuts and measures to support lower incomes, worth 470 billion drachmas, including higher tax-free income ceilings, tax rebates for people with children, abolition of objective tax criteria for self-employed, lower tax scales for personal businesses and pensions increases. - revenues are expected to rise by 5.8 percent with tax revenues up an estimated 5.3 percent due to a more efficient electronic monitoring of tax and customs data. - the central government's deficit is forecast to fall to 3.1 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), from 3.6 percent in 1999 and 4.4 percent in 1998. - defence and social welfare spending growth is expected to exceed a projected rise in the inflation rate (2.0 percent). - public investment programme's spending are forecast to total 2.4 trillion drachmas with emphasis given to infrastructure, health, education and vocational training.
Mr. Papantoniou said that the current year's budget was progressing satisfactorily and noted that the economy's growth rate exceeded the EU's average in 1999 to 3.5 percent with a forecast to accelerate to 3.7 percent next year.
The budget's main targets include: - a further drop in inflation to achieve the last convergence criterion to participate in EMU and to maintain the inflation rate at low levels. - cutting the general government's deficit to 1.2 percent of GDP and to create a surplus of 4.9 percent of GDP. - lowering indirect taxation and easing monetary policy and, - pursuing an ambitious privatisation programme.
The budget envisages that next year's public investment programme will total 2.4 trillion drachmas, up from an estimated 2.25 trillion in 1999 (including 20 billion drachmas in compensations for damages inflicted by a strong quake that hit Athens in Sep tember).
The programme includes: - spending 216.2 billion drachmas on railways projects, down from 225.7 billion in 1999. - cutbacks in public administration spending to 46.6 billion from 62.1 billion drachmas. - higher spending on transport projects (550.9 billion up from 337.7 billion in 1999) including the Athens metro, the Egnatia motorway, the supply of environment-friendly buses and road network works. - spending of 172.9 billion drachmas for industry and manufacturing, up from 151.6 billion this year. - higher spending on health and social welfare. - cutbacks on communications spending to 8.8 billion drachmas from 20.9 billion in 1999, focused on the modernisation of Hellenic Post. - lower spending on energy projects to 82 billion from 115.2 billion this year. - higher spending on education to 220.4 billion from 209.7 bln and, - increased spending to the agriculture sector to 168.5 billion from 138.1 bln this year.
Primary spending is expected to rise by 6.4 percent in 2000, while the general government's fiscal debt is forecast to fall to 103.9 percent of the country's GDP from 104.9 pct this year.
The fall will be a result of a continuing drop in interest rates.
Mr. Papantoniou was adamant that the government was not considering introducing a capital gains tax in the stock market.
The budget envisages that next year's monetary and foreign exchange policies will be oriented towards maintaining inflation below 2.0 percent.
He also forecast that inflation would rise slightly in October (possibly to 2.2 percent from 2 percent in September), but remained confident that inflation would remain within projected targets by March next year, when the country will submit an applica tion to participate in EMU.
He said that the government would remain alerted over monetary policy and predicted that interest rates would continue falling but at a slow pace.
Mr. Papantoniou, once again, dismissed talk of new tax or fiscal measures to contain inflation and said that next year's budget envisages the amount of 27.6 billion drachmas for new hirings in the public sector in the year 2000.
Next year's budget envisages that EU receipts will total 2.4 trillion drachmas, up from an estimated 2.28 trillion in 1999, a rise of 6.4 percent.
The rise will reflect higher receipts in a public investment programme, up 9.7 percent) and the start of projects in a Third Community Support Framework.
Structural funds inflows in the period 2000-2006 are projected to total 3-4 percent of the country's GDP.
Greek payments to the EU, the country's contribution to the community budget, will total 440 billion drachmas, slightly up from 435 billion this year, leaving Greece with a fiscal surplus of 1.98 trillion drachmas, up 7.6 percent from 1999.
Gov't spokesman: Budget 'guarantees Greece's future' : The government has submitted a budget of stability, development and prosperity, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said later. He said that all economic indicators had shown a steady improvement and that the budget, prepared Greece's path for inclusion in economic and monetary union.
"What is apparent now is how right the government's economic policy was and how unjust and unrealistic (opposition) New Democracy's criticism was," he said.
"We can guarantee the future," Mr. Reppas said.
Opposition : Commenting on the state budget for 2000, main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said the budget "postpones the confrontation of the basic problems to the post-EMU entry era."
The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) issued a press release noting that "of the new budget there will be great losers and great winners: the first category includes wage-earners, pensioners, the unemployed and poor farmers, (while) the constant winners include the major industrialists, big businessmen, bankers and shipowners."
On his part, the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas said "the budgetIpromotes socially unjust choices."
A Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) press release noted that "the basic characteristic of the budget for 2000 is its pre-election nature."
Athens News Agency
 Gov't deflects criticism from Washington Post over terrorism issue
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)The government yesterday voiced its displeasure over a major US daily's article regarding terrorism in Greece, expressing a hope that opinions of anonymous "US officials" do not reflect the positions of the US administration on the issue.
"The particular concern and effort of the Greek government and state services in combatting terrorism cannot be questioned in the least bit," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said in response to a relevant question.
"The positions of American officials, who are included in the report, are not only far from reality, but offer negative services to Greek-American relations. We hope that they do not reflect the positions of the United States government," he added.
The report, published in yesterday's 'Washington Post' stated that the United States has pressured Athens to take action against terrorism in Greece and especially against the infamous "November 17" terrorist group, active since 1975 and responsible for dozens of murders and terrorist attacks since then.
"November 17's seeming immunity has provoked renewed concern among U.S. officials that some Greek political and security officials do not share Washington's goal of bringing the group to justice. Instead, they complain, some within the Greek government may have sought to preserve its anonymity, possibly to hide past links to the organisation by top Greek officials," the paper reported.
"U.S. officials say they suspect that arrests of group members have been blocked by both a lack of official interest and active opposition within the Athens government.
"U.S. officials say they hope the two NATO allies can finish drafting a protocol authorizing cooperation between a special squad of Greek police and a trio of FBI counter-terrorist specialists. The United States also wants to help train and equip Greek police involved in the investigation," the report added.
Greece's envoy to Washington yesterday delivered a demarche at the US State Department over the "Washington Post" article referring to terrorism in Greece.
Greek ambassador Alexandros Filon was received by Assistant Secretary of State Marc Grossman at the State Department.
State Dept. : WASHINGTON (ANA - T. Ellis) - In a statement, a US State Department spokesman said the "US continues to cooperate closely with Greek authorities in order to eliminate the danger of 'November 17' and other terrorist organisations."
US State Department spokesman James Rubin referred to close cooperation with Greece's leadership and Greek Police (EL.AS), while adding that Washington, "just as the Greek government", is disatisfied that not one member of the notorious terrorist group "has been brought before justice".
"The US is working closely with the Simitis government and Greek Police to support their efforts against terrorism, fully respecting Greek sovereignty..." he added.
In regards to Mr. Clinton's upcoming visit to Greece, Mr. Rubin said "the US are working closely with Greek authorities, as we do always in such visits," while he added that Washington has complete faith that Mr. Simitis' government is determined to do all in its capacity so that the US president's visit is successful.
US ambassador : On his part, US ambassador to Athens Nicholas Burns stated last night that any suggestions that terrorism suspects are linked to the Greek government are groundless and do not represent US policies and views.
"I believe the US government is working cooperatively with the government of Greece on terrorism. As I said many times, I believe that the Greek government including Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Minister of Public Order Chrysohoidis share our concerns," Mr. Burns said in a statement to the ANA.
"Our law enforcement agencies work together effectively. Any suggestions that terrorism suspects are linked to the Greek government are groundless and do not represent US policies and views," Mr. Burns added.
Athens News Agency
 EU, Balkan issues top tripartite meeting in Bulgaria
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis leaves for Bulgaria today to take part in a tripartite summit meeting with Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and Romanian President Emil Constantinescu.
This will be the second Greek-Bulgarian-Romanian summit meeting between the three countries. The first meeting, a Greek initiative, was held in October 1998 in Delphi.
European unification and EU expansion are expected to top the agenda of the meeting. Greece, as the only EU member country in the region, is taking an important role in Bulgaria and Romania's attempts to join the Union.
Ways in which to expand cooperation between the three countries are also expected to be examined; some sectors on which there is already some cooperation are crime, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and joint transport and infrastructure projects.
Regional developments in the wake of the Kosovo war are also expected to be fully examined.
According to sources, the need for expanded autonomy in Kosovo and the respect of existing borders are expected to be stressed at the meeting.
Athens News Agency
 Peace, stability and investments to top Clinton's agenda: US envoy
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)Advancing peace and stability, together with boosting private investments in the Balkans, will be among the top issues on the agenda of talks between US President Bill Clinton and Premier Costas Simitis during the president's upcoming state visit to Athens, US ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns said yesterday in Thessaloniki.
"One of the items of top priority to be discussed by President Clinton is how he can work together with Greek Premier Costas Simitis and the Greek government to advance stability, peace and private investments in the Balkans," the US envoy said.
Mr. Clinton will visit Greece from Nov. 13 to 15. He will also be making an official visit to Turkey Nov. 15-17 ahead of an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul on Nov. 17-19, before going on to Italy and Bulgari a Nov. 20-21 and 21-23, respectively.
PM to confer with party leaders : Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that Mr. Simitis would hold meetings with leaders of parliamentary political parties to discuss Mr. Clinton's visit.
Mr. Simitis is expected to meet tomorrow with Communist Party of Greece Secretary General Aleka Papariga, Coalition of Left and Progress leader Nikos Constantopoulos and Democratic Social Movement party leader Dimitris Tsovolas.
The premier will meet with main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis on November 11 .
Large-scale security operation under way : More than 8,000 police officers will be brought in to ensure draconian security measures for Mr. Clinton. According to sources at the public order ministry, the operation to ensure the security of the movements of the US president is one of the largest in recent years.
Police are already on watch at areas the US president is expected to visit during his stay and this surveillance will continue until after his departure. The measures will be tightened up a few days before his arrival.
The Attica traffic police has issued a statement calling on drivers to not park their cars along the route to be taken by the president during his arrival and departure. The ban will be in force from Nov. 10 through to 15.
Mr. Clinton will be accompanied to Athens by about 750 people, including officials, reporters and security personnel. A public order ministry official said that the cooperation between the two sides over the visit was at an excellent level.
Athens News Agency
 Defence minister to visit United Arab Emirates
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)National Nefence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos begins an official visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Nov. 16 for talks aimed at advancing bilateral defence cooperation, it was announced yesterday.
The date of the visit was finalised during Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis' visit to Dubai on Monday, where he represented Greece at a one-day joint meeting of European Union and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Mr. Niotis held talks with the UAE defence minister and foreign undersecretary. The talks focused on the course of bilateral relations in the political, economic, defence and shipping sectors.
The UAE foreign undersecretary pledged that the emirates would soon open an embassy in Athens, in the context of the developing bilateral relations. Press reports yesterday that Greece's former king had passed the first hurdle in claiming compensation from the Greek state for the seizure of royal properties found most Greek government officials unmoved. Athens daily 'Ethnos' reported that Constantin e Glčcksburg planned to demand 615 billion drachmas following the approval of his application for compensation to be heard at the Court of Human Rights. "The Greek government will do battle at the Court of Human Rights," Alternate Foreign Minister Ch ristos Rokofyllos simply said.
Athens News Agency
 Canada's Chretien receives G. Papandreou for talks
OTTAWA, 04/11/1999 (ANA - G. Angelopoulos)Foreign Minister George Papandreou held talks here with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien here on Tuesday in the framework of his official visit to Canada.
He later met with the Canadian Parliament's permanent foreign affairs and international trade committee, briefing it on Greek positions regarding a series of issues, while he replied to questions put to him by its members.
Mr. Papandreou's meeting with Mr. Chretien was held in the premier's office in Parliament and lasted over half an hour.
The meeting revealed that the climate in Canada is positive for Athens' positions, while Mr. Chretien said he considers Greece's position that minorities should develop in existing borders logical, and that there should be no changes in borders which co uld bring about major upheavals.
Mr. Chretien said Canada is a model of such a settlement and whose implementation should possibly be examined in cases such as that of Yugoslavia.
Greek diplomatic sources interpreted this statement as agreement on the part of Ottowa with Athens' position that there should be no change in Balkan borders.
Speaking afterwards to the committee, Mr. Papandreou outlined the country's positions on the Balkans, the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish relations, insisting on the role of mediator which Greece wants to continue to play in the region and in the new rap prochement it has started with Turkey.
He said that in Kosovo, Greece was the sole country which had access to both the Serbs and the Albanians and was accepted by both the warring sides.
Referring to the Cyprus issue, Mr. Papandreou thanked the Canadian side for its support for Greek positions, underlining the conviction that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can live together in Cyprus.
Yesterday, Mr. Papandreou was due to meet Canadian reporters at the National Press Club here and deliver a speech on "Greek foreign policy in light of the 21st century."
Afterwards, he will meet his Canadian counterpart Lloyd Axworthy with whom he will sign a Greek-Canadian agreement on the mutual extradition of penal criminals, as well as a memorandum between the two countries for cooperation in the sports sector.
Athens News Agency
 SE Europe reconstruction conference concludes in Thessaloniki
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)A two-day "Conference on the Reconstruction of SE Europe" came to a close in Thessaloniki last night with the announcement of the conclusions reached.
The text of conclusions said programmes for the reconstruction of southeastern Europe in the framework of the Stability Pact should move with speedy rates and adequate funds so as to cover the 10-year worsening of the position of countries in the region , compared to countries in central and eastern Europe.
Particular importance is attributed to the present underdeveloped regional cooperation with the promotion of joint investment programmes, both at the level of private initiative and states. Promoting regional cooperation and avoiding each country being handled separately is a necessary precondition for the reconstruction programme's success.
Processes for the accession of southeastern European countries to the European Union should be speeded up with customs association being the first step.
The creation of an Investment Charter for SE Europe is considered necessary in the framework of the stability pact which will also function as an investment guide for reconstruction. The reconstruction of the Balkans cannot be completed without the part icipation of a democratic Yugoslavia.
It was recognised that the Greek plan for Balkan reconstruction is the first plan to be submitted on the international scene, it has been accepted by the countries to which it appeals and constitutes a useful example for the elaboration of the Internati onal Plan.
US ambassador : Addressing the conference, US ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns said the Greek private sector can be the 'steam-engine' for the economic development of the region.
He said that the role Greece was playing was justified by its history, geographical position and the magnitude of the private sector's participation in its economy.
"There is no country that presents greater opportunities than Greece," the envoy said.
He thanked Greece for the help it was extending and planned to extend to other Balkan countries for their reconstruction, saying Greece was "a cradle for the economic reorganisation of southeast Europe".
Thessaloniki was also important in the wider framework, he said, justifying a US decision in September to create an office in Thessaloniki which would coordinate US economic activities throughout the Balkan region. The head of the office was due in the northern Greek city soon, he said.
He defended NATO's decision to intervene in the Balkans, saying that if the leaders of NATO countries had not taken this decision, "their children would never have forgiven them".
He criticised the Milosevic regime for corruption and said the Yugoslav leader had been the cause of four wars which had caused destruction to his country and to its neighbours.
"Kosovo showed the worth of NATO," Mr. Burns said. The question, he said, was not if Kosovo will remain in Yugoslavia but if Yugoslavia, Kosovo and other countries would remain in Europe.
As far as Yugoslavia went, he said Washington was prepared to extend humanitarian aid but not economic aid. "As the 20th century ends, it is inconceivable that national leaders can continue to be a threat to international peace," Mr. Burns said.
"Our policy is one of open borders and of the defence of human rights."
Athens News Agency
 Tsohatzopoulos on nuclear weapons issue
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)Greece does not have means to transport or use nuclear weapons, Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said yesterday, responding to a relevant question in Parliament.
Commenting on the question, tabled in Parliament by Communist Party of Greece (KKE) deputy Orestis Kolozov and Coalition for the Left (Synspismos) deputy Maria Damanaki, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said Greece has excelled in policies of peace, security and stability in our region.
"We stand against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and we have the moral and political weight to oppose the construction of a Turkish nuclear plant oposite Cyprus," he said.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the deputies who tabled the question are creating an issue for no reason, while he also denied reports that there is danger of a nuclear accident in Greece.
The defence minister also said that during the Cold War there was a concentration of nuclear weapons in countries of both the east and west, adding that the governments of PASOK since the 1980s have worked via negotiations to remove them from Greece.
Athens News Agency
 Eleventh victim discovered in Superfast III garage
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)The death toll from a fire that broke out on board a ferry boat on its way from Patra to Ancona rose to 11 after port authorities found the body of another stowaway in the vessel's garage yesterday.
A Patra harbour official also said the search for more victims continued in the five-level garage.
The latest victim was a man. His body was found in the cabin of a truck, "where he apparently sought refuge after the fire broke out on another truck carrying pulp", authorities said.
All 11 were believed to be illegal immigrants of Kurdish origin who boarded the 11,246-ton Greek-flagged 'Superfast III' ferry clandestinely destined for Italy.
The ferry's 307 registered passengers and 106-member crew were all safe and accounted for, only four of whom suffered minor injuries.
In a related development, two of three Kurds questioned in relation with the ferry fire were carrying Greek passports, most likely fake, although Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis dismissed reports of collusion between port services and illegal immigrant smugglers.
He said the 11 dead had been put aboard a Danish lorry, while the driver is still being sought.
Responding to the charges of collusion between some corrupt port officials and rings running illegals between Greece and Italy, Mr. Soumakis said that, on the contrary, the number of illegal immigrants gaining entry to Greece had decreased.
He said that 4,500 illegals and 49 immigrant smugglers were arrested in 1997, compared to 3,600 immigrants and 28 smugglers in 1998 and 1,104 immigrants and 88 smugglers in 1999.
Most of the smugglers arrested, he said, were Turkish.
Finally, about 200 Kurds staged a sit-in at the port and the offices of Superfast Ferries S.A., protesting the delay in the handing over of the bodies of the victims, which were in a Patra hospital morgue.
Athens News Agency
 Simitis on farmers' income
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)The income of Greek farmers has increased dramatically, despite international pressures and compared to other countries where it declined, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday in Parliament.
Responding to a relevant question by Democractic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas, Mr. Simitis also said that farmers' income rose by 20 per cent in Greece since 1981, while in Denmark during the same period, it declined by 18.5 per cent .
He stressed that the government secured seven trillion drachmas from the European Union for the agricultural sector to be allocated over the next seven years.
On his part, Mr. Tsovolas referred to significant reductions in the price of goods produced by farmers, adding that middle-men mostly benefit, while he requested of the premier to take action "before it is too late" because the rural areas are being "de serted".
Athens News Agency
 Premier on Falcon accident
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday criticised what he called the "partisan exploitation" of the accident involving a state VIP aircraft which resulted in the death of alternate FM Yannos Kranidiotis and six other people.
Responding to a question tabled by main opposition New Democracy (ND) deputy Dimitris Sioufas and in light of statements by former FM Theodoros Pangalos, Mr. Simitis said "we should first wait for the experts' report and then be very strict with those responsible", although he warned against "irres-ponsible exploitors".
Kranidiotis was among the seven passengers killed aboard the government Falcon as it approached Bucharest last Sept. 15 before the plane suddenly lost altitude and plunged almost 17,000 feet before the two pilots managed to regain control.
Athens News Agency
 Maarket changes direction, ends substantially lower
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)Equity prices came under strong pressure yesterday to end substantially lower, halting a two-day advance on the Athens Stock Exchange.
The general index ended 1.80 percent lower at 5,548.09 points, off the day's lows of 5,525 points. Turnover was a moderate 302.2 billion drachmas.
Shares in the Holding, Insurance and Bank sectors were strong hit pushing their relative indices 2.88, 2.28 and 1.98 percent lower, respectively.
Other sector indices ended as follows: Leasing (+0.34 pct), Investment (- 1.79 pct), Construction (-1.87 pct) and Miscellaneous (-0.29 pct).
The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks, however, ended 1.99 percent higher. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks fell 1.95 percent to 2,813.91 points.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 210 to 116 with another eight issues unchanged.
A total of 24 shares ended at the day's limit up while another eight ended at the day's limit down.
Kekrops and Naoussa Spinn Mills were the most heavily traded stocks. Intralot share price jumped 99 percent on the first trading day in the market.
National Bank of Greece ended at 22,300 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 24, 700, Commercial Bank at 24,000, Titan Cement (common) at 39,000, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,900, Intracom at 14,530, Minoan Lines at 9,690, Panafon at 4, 050 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,750.
Athens News Agency
 DEH launches new power unit
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)Public Power Corporation (DEH) yesterday launched the official commercial operation of its new electricity power station in Platanovrissi, Drama, northern Greece.
The two power units of the station, totalling 100 MWatts, are expected to generate electricity power totalling 230 giga-watts annually.
The power station has been connected with DEH's national electricity grid and will by powered by the waters of Nestos River.
It is the second power station built on the river, part of DEH's plan to promote a large hydro-electric project in the area, with a total power of 1, 015 giga-watts.
The project also includes the construction of a water tank with a capacity of 90 million cubic metres.
DEH plans to auction a third section of the project for the construction of a power station in Temenos Parastenio by the Nestos river.
The operation of the first two units of the power project has already contributed to an improvement of the country's energy balance.
Athens News Agency
 Gov't mulls further support for SMEs
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)Deputy Finance Minister George Drys told Parliament yesterday that the ministry was considering introducing three additional measures to provide further support for small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).
Mr. Drys said these involved amendments to legislation currently in force in relation to company mergers, as well as the continuation of incentives currently offered - including tax exemptions on some profit gains from the merger of small and medium size businesses.
Also being considered, Mr. Drys said, was a 50 per cent cut in the transfer tax on property in border regions, industrial areas and light industry parks.
Athens News Agency
 Paris Stock Exchange head confident of Greece's EMU entry
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)The president of the Paris Stock Exchange and the Federation of European Stock Exchanges, Jean Francois Theodore, addressed an event organised by the Union of Greek Banks (ETE) in Athens yesterday, where he underlined that the Greek Stock Exchange has the best performances in Europe this year thanks to the Greek economy's dynamic development.
Mr. Theodore also expressed certainty that Greece will join the group of euro zone countries on Jan. 1, 2001 in accordance with the timetable set. Greece is expected to apply for EMU entry in March next year.
Athens News Agency
 Barclaycard Visa to be offered in Greece
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)One of Europe's best known credit cards, Barclaycard Visa, is expected to soon be available in Greece.
The credit card, presented yesterday by Barclay's Bank in Greece officials, will be provided for those interested with a free subscription for the first year, while the interest rate will be 9.9 per cent for the first six months.
The card features high credit limits - up to three million drachmas - and insurance coverage for travel accidents; the transfer of a balance from a different card, etc.
Bank executives said Barclaycard Visa has the lowest minimum monthly payment instalment P 3 per cent of the balance with the minimum payment of 5,000 drachmas.
Barclays currently has a network of 13 branches in the country and will open two more soon in the Kolonaki district and Agia Paraskevi.
Athens News Agency
 Allianz-AGF Kosmos-Helvetia merger approved
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)A merger between the insurance companies Allianz, AGF Kosmos and Helvetia with the creation of Allianz General Insurances and Allianz Life has been ratified by a ministerial decision.
At the same time, a general assembly meeting decided to increase the two new companies' share capital by 6.5 billion drachmas.
From the point of view of insurance premium production, the Allianz group currently holds third place in the Greek insurance market with insurance premiums expected to total 60 billion drachmas for 1999. It is reminded that the insurance group also has active participation in the fiscal sector with 10 mutual funds boasting total assets of 200 billion drachmas, all managed by Allianz Elliniki AEDAK.
Athens News Agency
 Athens Foreign Exchange
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)Bank of Greece closing rates of: November 3, 1999
Parities in Drachmas
Banknotes Buying Selling US Dollar 310.744 317.949 Can.Dollar 210.998 215.890 Australian Dlr 200.186 204.827 Pound Sterling 512.566 524.451 Irish Punt 414.213 423.816 Pound Cyprus 563.972 577.048 Pound Malta 737.552 768.283 Turkish pound (100) 0.061 0.064 French franc 49.732 50.885 Swiss franc 202.809 207.512 Belgian franc 8.087 8.274 German Mark 166.793 170.660 Finnish Mark 54.867 56.139 Dutch Guilder 148.032 151.464 Danish Kr. 43.872 44.889 Swedish Kr. 37.617 38.489 Norwegian Kr. 39.482 40.397 Austrian Sh. 23.707 24.256 Italian lira (100) 16.848 17.239 Yen (100) 298.473 305.393 Spanish Peseta 1.960 2.006 Port. Escudo 1.627 1.665 Foreign Exchange Buying Selling New York 310.744 317.949 Montreal 210.998 215.890 Sydney 200.186 204.827 London 512.566 524.451 Dublin 414.213 423.816 Nicosia 563.972 577.048 Paris 49.732 50.885 Zurich 202.809 207.512 Brussels 8.087 8.274 Frankfurt 166.793 170.660 Helsinki 54.867 56.139 Amsterdam 148.032 151.464 Copenhagen 43.872 44.889 Stockholm 37.617 38.489 Oslo 39.482 40.397 Vienna 23.707 24.256 Milan 16.848 17.239 Tokyo 298.473 305.393 Madrid 1.960 2.006 Lisbon 1.627 1.665
Athens News Agency
 Sept. 7 quake redirects seismic research to other areas as well: experts
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)The devastating Sept. 7 earthquake has redirected the scientific community's attention to areas which until now had been characterised by low seismic activity, scientists meeting in Athens said yesterday.
The experts were speaking at the first international conference on "Progress in Reducing Natural Disasters - The European and Japanese Experiences". The two-day conference is serving as a forum for representatives of scientific bodies from the European Union, the Council of Europe and the Japanese embassy in Athens on developments in dealing with natural disasters and in seismic prediction and prevention, with the focus on areas of low or moderate seismic activity.
Participants said the primary aim was to minimise the impact of natural disasters through the coordination of various methods, the juxtaposition of statistical parametres and the development of satellite pictures.
"After Sept. 7, it became clear that Greece is seismically active. Socially, it has to be made clear that first priority must be given to safe constructions, while rescue services must be properly equipped and on continuous stand-by," Athens Observatory
Director Georgios Stavrakakis said. The earthquake, which caused the death of 149 people and led to widespread property destruction, has also provided valuable lessons for the state's emergency services, officials said.
"After the recent lesson that Greece received, the immediate targets of the state are to inform and alert members of the public, to develop and utilise volunteer services, to introduce educational courses for protection against natural and other disasters, as well as to develop and modernize telecommunications in the area of civil protection," Civil Protection Secretary General Dimitrios Katrivanos said.
Seismology professor Gerassimos Papadopoulos stressed the importance of the participation of Japan, which is considered to be most technologically and scientifically advanced in seismic phenomena.
Athens News Agency
 Minor quake from Mount Parnitha fault
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)A minor earthquake measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale was recorded in Athens early yesterday.
The tremor was recorded at 5:32 a.m. with its epicentre 20 kilometres northwest of Athens, coming from the same fault near Mount Parnitha that produced the devastating 5.9 Richter earthquake in Athens on Sept. 7.
Athens News Agency
 Four arrested for bogus ID documents scam
Athens, 04/11/1999 (ANA)Police yesterday arrested a local man and three foreign women on charges of falsifying official documents.
Eleftherios Kavadatos, 51, is charged with fabricating three certificates for the issuing of green cards. He allegedly sold the forged documents for 300,000 drachmas each to Ludmila Sintorengo, 27, from the Ukraine, Ludmila Pikesar, 21, from Moldova, an d Antzeska Zantga, 22, from Poland.
The three women used the forged documents to obtain work permits and health booklets from the authorities in Nafplio, Argos, and Argolida, in the Peloponnese, police said.
Athens News Agency
 Vartholomeos continues official visit to Albania
TIRANA, 04/11/1999 (ANA - I. Paco)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, currently on an official visit to Albania since Tuesday, inaugurated the start of construction of a cathedral in the northern town of Shkoder yesterday.
It is the first time the Ecumenical Patriarch is visiting the country whose population is 70 per cent Moslem, 20 per cent Orthodox Christian and 10 per cent Catholic.
The Patriarch received a state welcome by the Albanian government in Tirana at the start of his lengthy visit to the country.
He was also met at the airport by the Holy Synod of the Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Albania, headed by the Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania Anastasios, as well as a host of Albanian officials.
A Parliamentary delegation headed by KEAD President Vassilis Melos was also present. The Patriarch was also welcomed by the Greek ambassador to Albania Alexandros Mallias, who headed a Greek embassy delegation.
In a statement on his arrival, Vartholomeos said "the Ecumenical Patriarchate is intensively watching efforts being made for the reconstruction of Albania, as well as the Albanian people's effort to take the position belonging to them in the European family.
"His beatitude Anastasios and the Albanian Orthodox Church are contributing to this, since Albania constitutes a model of coexistence between people with different religious convictions.
"We express our gratitude for the warm welcome accorded to us. We bless Albania and its people with all our heart."
The Patriarch has already held meetings with Albanian President Rexhep Mejdani, new Prime Minister Ilir Meta and other officials.
Athens News Agency
 President Clerides to meet Prime Minister Simitis in Athens Nov. 20
NICOSIA, 04/11/1999 (CNA/ANA)President Glafcfos Clerides and Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis are scheduled to meet on November 20 in Athens, government spokesman Michalis Papapetrou announced here yesterday.
He also said Greece's Foreign Minister George Papandreou will visit Cyprus but no firm date has been fixed for the visit as yet.
"The president was in touch with premier Simitis yesterday (Monday) and they agreed to meet on 20 November when President Clerides will stop over in Athens on his way back from the summit of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in Is tanbul," Mr. Papapetrou told his daily press briefing.
Replying to press questions, Mr. Papapetrou dismissed press suggestions that the government has conveyed any concerns relating to developments ahead of the European Union summit in mid-December.
"We exchange views as part of our regular contacts in order to jointly reach the right conclusions," the spokesman added.
Cyprus and Greece are coordinating their efforts amid increasing speculation about the possible resumption of peace talks this fall and the prospect of seeing the EU granting Turkey candidate status for EU membership at its December summit.
President Clerides leaves on November 9 for South Africa to participate in the Commonwealth summit in Durban and will then fly to Istanbul for the OSCE meeting.
He returns home on November 21.
Athens News Agency