|Thursday, 14 December 2017|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-11-30
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Central bank hopes for inflation dip in second half of 2001
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Central bank governor Lucas Papademos said on Wednesday that he hoped consumer price inflation would drop to below 3.0 percent in the second half of 2001, but he forecast it would remain around 4.0 percent for the next two or three months.
A decline in inflation could only be attained if current inflationary pressures did not become permanent, Papademos told a news conference after submitting to parliament the Bank of Greece's interim report on monetary policy.
An unsettling indication was a sharp rise in underlying inflation to 2.7 percent from 1.4 percent in August, Papademos added.
"If individual social partners intend to offset a loss in real income - which stems from the rise in world fuel prices in the economy overall - then an inflation spike will last longer, lowering the Greek economy's competitiveness, raising unemployment and reducing real incomes," he warned.
The central bank governor called for restraint in wage demands and prices in order to achieve stability.
In addition, structural changes in the economy needed to be implemented more rapidly in order to enhance productivity and competitiveness.
Fiscal discipline should be maintained to ensure the attainment of a forecast surplus in the budget.
And cuts in spending should be limited to subsidies to state enterprises and other state agencies as most public spending was inelastic, and cutbacks in health and education should be avoided, Papademos said.
Furthermore, using tax hikes could not attain a return to macroeconomic stability, he added.
Turning to the stock exchange's weak performance, Papademos said that prices had risen excessively in the summer of 1999, and were now undergoing an equivalent decline.
The bourse's medium-term performance would be boosted by the fact that the stock prices of many sound companies with healthy prospects were low, making them attractive in comparison with their counterparts abroad; low interest rates would deter other kinds of investment; entry into the euro-zone would bring advantages for many Greek firms; and new bourse measures would raise the credibility of operations, he noted.
 Minoan Flying Dolphins vice president jumps to his death from sixth-story office
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Pantelis Sfinias, vice-president and managing director of the maritime company that owned the 'Express Samina' ferry whose sinking resulted in the death of 80 people, jumped to his death Wednesday noon.
Sfinias, 55, the managing director of Minoan Lines subsidiary Minoan Flying Dolphin, jumped off his 6th floor office at the MFD headquarters in the port of Piraeus.
The 'Express Samina' sank September 26 in a gale off the coast of Paros after it scraped a well-marked rocky outcropping.
Police said Sfinias was in his office with the managing director of "Saronic Ferries", Yannis Lefakis, discussing the problems MFD was facing following the 'Express Samina' tragedy.
According to Lefakis' initial eyewitness account to police, Sfinias just went over to the window, opened it and jumped, without saying a word.
Police said Sfinias' body crashed onto the hood of a private car parked outside the building.
A coroner was expected to arrive at the scene.
Prime Minister Costas Simitis from Hungary, where he is currently on an official visit, expressed his grief over Sfinias' death shortly before a joint press conference with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban. Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis also expressed grief at the death of Sfinias and his condolences for the family of the deceased.
 Greece supports Hungary's bid to join EU
BUDAPEST, 30/11/2000 (ANA - G. Papachristou)Greece supports the enlargement of the European Union to include central and eastern European countries, since only with the conclusion of the enlargement can there be stability and peace in Europe, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Wednesday.
During a joint press conference with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban, Simitis said that Greece would insist on EU's adherence to the timetable set for the enlargement during the Union Nice Summit in December.
He added that he was optimistic on the Summit's outcome, adding that issues such as employment, the new economy and the course of Union should be promoted.
On his part, Orban said that he and Simitis discussed bilateral and international issues, while they focused on bilateral economic cooperation, which, he added, has been declining since the early 1980s.
He said that the excellent economic relations between Greece and Hungary were downgraded since Greece's accession to the then European Economic Community (EEC), adding that at this time new prospects were arising for the revitalization of those relations.
Orban called on Greek businessmen to invest in his country, noting that their efforts would be supported by the country's economic development program.
He stressed that Hungary would be ready to enter the Union by 2002, adding that he requested of Simitis to support Hungary's efforts.
Simitis comments on Cyprus' EU accession during joint press conference with Hungarian counterpart: The decisions of the EU summit in Helsinki gave a clear answer regarding the process for Cyprus' EU accession, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said here after a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Victor Orban.
Simitis made the statement during a joint press conference with the Hungarian prime minister, in response to questions on whether Greece would insist that Cyprus be included among the countries in the first wave of EU enlargement.
He pointed out that the Helsinki decision specifically states that a solution of the political problem on Cyprus is not linked to the country's EU accession.
"The answer to your question, therefore, is given by the Helsinki agreement," he added.
 Gov't says final deal with Eurofighter consortium pending
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)The government on Wednesday announced that a celebrated deal foreseeing Greece's participation in the Eurofighter consortium -- the four-nation partnership designing and manufacturing the "Typhoon" warplane -- would be signed in about 10 days.
Speaking before a relevant Parliament committee, National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos reiterated that Greece's air force would also proceed with the purchase of 60 US-made F-16s (Block +50) and around 25 French-made "Mirage" 2000-5s, along with an unspecified number of the fourth-generation "Typhoons".
The minister told deputies that Greece will "participate on an equal footing in the consortium" with a "13 percent stake".
"Our participation doesn't deal with the purchase of just our own (Typhoon) aircraft, but in any other production that takes place from now on; while we've already undertaken the project for manufacturing their fuel tank systems," Tsohatzopoulos said.
He added that the government was "in the final phases of negotiations" and would bring the deal before Parliament in roughly one month.
On his part, ruling PASOK deputy Gerassimos Arsenis, a former defense minister, called on Tsohatzopoulos to present the agreement before Parliament's defense and foreign relations committee before it is signed with the German-British-Italian and Spanish consortium.
The wide-ranging "Eurofighter" contract, initially pegged at around the 1.7-trillion-drachma mark, was expected to be tabled in Parliament for approval in the early autumn and with its signing by October, although negotiations apparently delayed the drafting of a final agreement.
The government has in the past been quoted as putting the number of "Typhoons" it will purchase at between 60 to 90 aircraft, depending on the percentage that the state-run Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) will have in the project.
Reaction to Rafale: Regarding the 1998 tender for the lucrative fighter plane contract, which was subsequently awarded to the Eurofighter consortium, Tsohatzopoulos said that the French fourth-generation warplane "Rafale" wasn't taken into consideration because the respective French consortium simply did not offer it up.
"There's an interesting dialogue that in many cases, however, is guided by several sides. When we decided on the reinforcement with the purchase of the 'Eurofighters', France's Dassault did not come forth with its own fourth-generation 'Rafale'; a plane that, at the time, hadn't even been procured by the French air force ... after the fact, though, it's absurd for pressure to be applied," the Greek defense minister stated.
 Defense minister calls on Turkey to change stance on Cyprus issue
NICOSIA, 30/11/2000 (ANA-G. Leonidas)Greece's national defense minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos on Wednesday called on Ankara to alter its stance on the Cyprus issue, warning that its current policy was not aiding the process of Turkey's accession to the European Union.
Tsohatzopoulos, who arrived in Cyprus on Tuesday, was speaking at a seminar of the federation of EU Socialist Youth Associations taking place in Larnaca. Tsohatzopoulos is vice-president of the European Socialist Party.
The Greek minister also said that Cyprus' participation European Parliament's committee on foreign affairs, civil security and defense was a "big achievement" that reflected Cyprus' important role.
 Greece's positions on mad cows disease favor final ban on animal flour in feeding animals
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Greece's positions on the "mad cow" disease favor a final ban on animal flour in feeding animals, while Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis will chair a meeting of the national advisory committee on the "mad cow" disease on Thursday.
The meeting will finalize the country's positions on the issue, which will be supported at the European Union's special Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels on Monday.
Anomeritis said Greece is considering supporting positions banning the use of meat flour in feeding animals and the implementing of the "fast test" in detecting the "mad cow" disease in bovines.
Thessaloniki University researcher claims he's on the trail of a BSE cure: A researcher at a Thessaloniki University pharmacology lab said on Wednesday that his work could well contribute to a cure for spongiform encephalopathy in humans, beef and sheep by the middle of the next decade but rejected press reports that he had found a 'miracle cure' for the disease.
At an emergency press conference in Thessaloniki, Assistant Pharmacology Professor Theodoros Sklaviadis confirmed that he was working on the problem but said that a report by the newspaper 'Ethnos' that he had found 'the drug that cures 'mad cow' disease," was an exaggeration.
Known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or 'mad cow' disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeld-Jakobs in humans, the disease is often fatal, while rising incidents of BSE in European herds has greatly increased concern and suspicion of beef among consumers.
Sklaviadis predicted that the various forms of the disease might be treatable by the middle of the next decade and said that his team would have contributed "a part of the solution to the problem, when this is achieved."
He said his laboratory's discoveries, the result of three years' work, had been published last September at a scientific conference in Germany.
Sklaviadis' research focusing on the process by which prion proteins are transformed from their normal to their pathological isomorph - a process responsible for causing spongiform encephalopathy. The Thessaloniki research team used recombinant DNA techniques to produce a peptide to block this process, which is now being tested in laboratories outside Greece, in collaboration with research centers in the UK, Germany, France and Austria.
Sklaviadis said that conclusions from the experiments were expected within the next two years and that the results up until this time seemed satisfactory.
Sklaviadis' laboratory is part of a EU network of scientists responsible for monitoring the course of BSE throughout Europe.
 No Greek territory lost to Albania in re-demarcation process, Apostolakis says
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Deputy Defense Minister Dimitris Apostolakis on Wednesday said that no Greek territory was given to Albania during the process of re-demarcation the Greek-Albanian border.
Responding to a relevant question in Parliament, tabled by a main opposition New Democracy deputy, Apostolakis said during work performed to maintain and place new border markers no Greek territory was lost, adding that reports, that a Greek border post was lost to Albania, were groundless.
 Niotis officially takes over from predecessor Laiou at formal ceremony
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis, in charge of overseas Greeks affairs, on Wednesday officially took over the portfolio from his predecessor Angeliki Laiou, who recently resigned from the post. Foreign Minister George Papandreou attended the ceremony.
Laiou, a ruling PASOK party Deputy of State in parliament, university professor and noted Byzantinologist, cited 'personal reasons' for her resignation and told her associates at the ministry that she would retain her parliamentary post and continue to support the government's work from that position.
Commenting on Laiou's contribution, Papandreou lauded her efforts and said the government would continue to contribute informally through her role in Parliament.
 Gov't flatly dismisses speculation regarding nat'l economy minister
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)A high-ranking government meeting on Wednesday focused on the issue of implementing a nationwide digital radio network for emergency services.
National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou chaired the meeting, which was also attended by the ministers of interior, transports and public order.
No further details were made available.
In an unrelated development referring to Papantoniou, a government spokesman on Wednesday categorically denied that there are any plans to replace the minister.
Acting spokesman Telemachos Hytiris made the short statement during a regular daily briefing, in reply to reporters' questions and certain recent press reports focusing on the national economy and finance minister.
Hytiris referred to Papantoniou as a "successful minister for several years" and cited what he called the positive economic performances recorded during the latter's tenure.
 Efthymiou presents"Olympic Education" program to be introduced to 1,500 schools
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Education Minister Petros Efthymiou on Wednesday presented an "Olympic Education" program to be introduced to 1,500 elementary and junior high schools, as well as the first grade of senior high schools, with the purpose of acquainting pupils with the Olympic Games and their significance for the country.
Efthymiou said 1,000 physical training teachers would be hired by the end of December, and another 1,000 early next year, to implement the program.
The event was also attended by Athens 2004 Olympiad Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who said in an address that what is important is the participation of society and what will remain in the country after the games have ended.
 Five new ambassadors present credentials
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Five new ambassadors presented their credentials to President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Wednesday during a brief ceremony at the presidential mansion.
The new envoys to Athens are Ms Lisan Stedel Balliache, from Venezuela; Ms Rachel R. Mathabo Ntsinyi, Lesotho; Mr. Serajul Islam, Bangladesh; Ms U. Phone Myini, Myanmar, and Mr. Abdul Wahab Assefi, from Afghanistan.
 Greece submits Balkan projects to EU
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Greece has submitted for EU approval and co-funding joint program papers between Greece-Bulgaria, Greece-FYROM, Greece-Cyprus and Greece-Albania, in the framework of the EU's Interreg program.
The total budget of these projects reaches 173 billion drachmas, of which 88.4 billion are covering the cross-border cooperation between Greece and Bulgaria.
National Economy Deputy Minister Christos Pahtas said that Greece could successfully promote projects and actions for economic and social cohesion and for establishing peace in the sensitive Balkan region.
 Minoan Lines' drama undermines sentiment on ASE
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)The tragic news of the suicide of Minoan Flying Dolphins' vice-president and chairman of the Greek Union of Passenger Shipping Owners, Pantelis Sfinias, undermined sentiment on the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday and halted an effort to push the market higher.
The general index was extremely nervous, falling by 1.50 percent early in the session and rising by 1.42 percent later in the session.
The index finally ended at 3,230.94 points, up 0.55 percent. Turnover was an improved 61.64 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 0.32 percent higher at 1,845.36 points, and the FTSE/ASE 40 index rose 0.15 percent to 382.25 points.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: 6,736.90 -0.12% Leasing: 567.77 +2.17% Insurance: 1,484.77 -0.37% Investment: 1,108.38 -0.71% Construction: 1,167.25 +0.90% Industrials: 1,992.73 +1.43% Miscellaneous: 2,910.68 -1.00% Holding: 3,991.74 +0.54%
The parallel market index for smaller capitalization stocks ended 0.84 percent higher at 325.34 points.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 193 to 140 with another 21 issues unchanged.
Piraeus Leasing, National Bank, Hellenic Telecoms, Intracom and Titan Cement (c) were the most heavily traded stocks.
Minoan Lines' share price plunged 11.98 percent following the news of Sfinias' suicide. The company has lost 49 percent of its market value since late September when one of its vessels sunk in the Aegean causing the death of 80 passengers.
Leading shares' closing prices (in Drs): Alpha Bank:
12.015 Eurobank: 8.655 Panafon: 2.810 Lambrakis Press: 5.040 National Bank: 12.295 Hellenic Petroleum: 3.650 Commercial Bank: 16.340 Attica Enterprises: 2.815 Heracles Cement: 5.060 Intracom: 8.085 Minoan Lines: 1.690 Hellenic Telecoms: 5.610 Piraeus Bank: 5.035 Titan Cement (c): 13.630 Hellenic Bottling: 5,305
ASE suspends Minoan Lines' shares trading: Greece's Capital Markets' Commission on Wednesday decided a temporary suspension of Minoan Lines' shares trading on the Athens Stock Exchange until Friday, 1 December.
The move was aimed to facilitate the company to fully inform the market and investors over its moves following the tragic death of Minoan Lines' vice-president and Minoan Flying Dolphins' chief executive, Pantelis Sfinias.
It is the first time in the history of the market that ASE authorities decided to suspend trading of a listed company's share during the session.
Equity futures end mixed, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished mixed on Wednesday, roughly in line with the bourse indices on which they are based.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 0.32 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 0.15 percent higher.
Turnover was 21.0 billion drachmas.
A total of 5,024 contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 with turnover at 18.7 billion drachmas.
On the FTSE/ASE 40 index, 1,525 contracts changed hands on turnover of 2.3 billion drachmas.
Bond prices rise in heavy trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Wednesday finished higher in heavy trade with mass buying seen in long-term securities.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.728 percent from 5.819 percent for three sessions.
The Greek paper's yield spread over German bunds was 66 basis points from 68 basis points a day earlier.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 168 billion drachmas from 206 billion drachmas in the session before.
Buy orders accounted for around 108 billion drachmas of trade.
Drachma/dollar rate recovery continues: The drachma continued recovering against the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market following a decline in the US currency in international markets on Wednesday.
The Greek currency rose to 394.590 drachmas per dollar at the day's fixing, up from 399.920 on Tuesday.
The drachma moved closer to its central parity against the euro at 340.480 drachmas.
 Vehicle Inspection Centers may go private, transport minister says
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Transport and Communication Minister Christos Verelis on Wednesday confirmed reports that his ministry was studying the possibility of allowing the operation of private Vehicle Inspection Centers (KTEO) in Greece.
He added that the ministry was also engaged in dialogue with interested parties to partially privatize Olympic Airways, Greece's national carrier.
He made the statement during the inauguration of a computer drivers' exam center in Argolida prefecture, southern Greece.
The new center would permit the objective and transparent testing of drivers' traffic signal and driving theory knowledge, he said.
 PASOK deputies lodge question in Parliament on Olympic Airways
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Sixty-one ruling PASOK party deputies lodged a question in Parliament on Wednesday calling on Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis to provide information on the course of Olympic Airways, the country's national carrier.
They called on Verelis to state the solution considered by the government for the airline and how the solution will safeguard its operation and viability, as well as its employees' labor and insurance future.
 Nationwide work stoppage to take place on December 7
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)The Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) will take part in a work stoppage declared by the Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) on December 7 from 11 a.m. until the end of the shift, it was announced on Wednesday.
The unions call on all working people to give a strong presence at all the rallies organized on that day.
The ADEDY board has also proposed to GSEE to organize a nationwide mass rally on the day of the start of the debate in Parliament on the state budget.
 OTE group shows 2.5 pct profit rise in Jan-Sept
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)The Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) Group showed consolidated net profits after tax of 156.3 billion drachmas in January-September, up 2.5 percent on the same period of last year, it said in a statement.
The Group's turnover in January-September 2000 totalled 907.7 billion drachmas, up 13.3 percent from 801.2 billion drachmas a year earlier, despite a reduction in the price of long-distance and overseas fixed-line phone calls, OTE said.
The rise in sales was due chiefly to an 87.7 percent increase in revenue posted by the parent company's mobile arm, Cosmote; in fixed-line to mobile business, up 25.2 percent; and in new services, which showed a 51.4 percent rise, the statement added.
Cosmote holds a 32.6 percent share of the mobile phone market with a customer base of 1,762,076.
Its turnover in January-September was 145 billion drachmas from 77.5 billion drachmas in the same period a year earlier, and earnings before tax were 22.3 billion drachmas against 9.8 billion drachmas in the same period of 1999, the statement said.
 Cosmote enters Dow Jones STOXX index
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Cosmote, Greece's second largest mobile telephony operator, will enter the Dow Jones STOXX Total Market Index from December 18, a move justifying the company's efforts to promo-te its share in international stock market indices.
The decision by STOXX Limited's supervisory board was taken at a meeting in November 14, 2000. The board decided that Cosmote fulfilled all criteria to enter the Dow Jones STOXX Total Market Index, which covers 95 percent of listed companies in Europe and includes around 1,150 shares.
 Archaeologists discover new "living" data of Mycenaean era
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)The Midea Acropolis of Mycenae yielded illuminating artifacts of the Heroic Age of Greece as archaeologists uncovered further evidence of a destructive earthquake that hit the wider region around the final years of the 13th century BC.
Excavations last summer revealed that the Midea Acropolis was an important economic and administrative center during the Mycenaean era, which rivaled in strength and size the better known Tyrintha and Mycenae itself.
According to these latest excavations by Greek archaeologists, the city was destroyed by fire that followed an earthquake, leaving behind valuable information in the cinders of a past civilization.
Experts identified burned olive pits, bones of small animals, burned figs all in large quantities, indicating that the residents were caught off guard abandoning the Cyclopean wall of their fortified city in a hurry.
Fragments of wall murals with traces of blue and red dyes were uncovered among the few remnants of what seem to have been rooms of a grand palace attached to the walls of the city.
This year's dig, however, reached lower than earlier ones uncovering an earlier strata of deposits, indicating the existence of a prior settlement dating back to the 15th century BC, where pottery glazed in blue colors was discovered along with workshops of what seems to be jewelry making, an art for which the era is best known.
 Deputy Sports Minister announces that new weight-lifting center for Athens 2004 Olympics will be ready in 2003
Athens, 30/11/2000 (ANA)Deputy Sports Minister George Floridis announced on Wednesday that work on a new weight-lifting center, which will house the competition during the Athens 2004 Olympics, will begin in February 2001. The new center is to be built in the Piraeus suburb of Nikaia.
Speaking at an event attended by Sports General Secretary Yiannis Sgouros, Nikaia Mayor Vassilis Trapalis, the board of the weight-lifting federation and Greece's weight-lifting "dream team," Floridis said that the new center would cost 15 billion drachmas and be ready in 2003.
Apart from modern sports facilities, he added, it will also provide guest-rooms for 60 athletes.
 European Commission publishes report on Cyprus
BRUSSELS, 30/11/2000 (CNA/ANA)The European Commission on Wednesday published a report, which includes a chapter on Cyprus, foreseeing reduced growth rhythms and some fiscal consolidation for the year 2001 and noting that more needs to be done to achieve the government's medium term deficit objective.
In its report, the Commission notes the crisis in the Cyprus Stock Exchange (CSE) and points out that the government will be under political pressure next year, in the run-up to spring's parliamentary elections.
The Commission says "growth is likely to slow in 2001, as domestic demand moderates", adding that "some fiscal consolidation is expected next year, but more needs to be done to achieve the government's medium term deficit objective".
"Inflation is unlikely to moderate in the near term" and "the interest rate liberalization timetable remains on track", it adds.
It notes that the CSE "crisis has deepened, prompting further sharp falls in the market index" and that "in November, the index stood at 262, compared to a high of 850 just 12 months ago".
The Commission adds that "the government's 2001 central government budget envisages a minor fiscal adjustment of about 0,6 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)" and that "some of the revenue measures introduced this year, most notably the Value Added Tax (VAT) rise, will start to have an impact in terms of deficit reduction, although the overall effects will be somewhat limited".
"It is unlikely that the government will achieve its medium term deficit target of 2 percent of GDP by 2002, without a further significant consolidation effort", the Commission notes.
It says "moreover, the government will be under political pressure to relax fiscal policy in the run-up to the parliamentary elections" and "unfortunately, the government's stance on demand-oriented expansionary policy is weak", as "the recent rise in VAT was accompanied by a significant increase in social expenditure and higher tax allowances".
"In addition", it says, "important structural weaknesses remain within the fiscal sector, in particular the limited indirect tax revenue base".
The Commission points out that "the government's decision to include the 2 percent VAT increase in the annual cost of living adjustment has stoked the inflationary pressures" and "therefore, the Commission's forecast does not envisage a sustainable reduction in the monthly rate of inflation until well into the second half of next year, thus the average inflation rate will remain in the region of 4,5 percent", adding that "the forecast takes a more optimistic view on inflation prospects during 2002".
"Economic growth is expected to moderate next year to around 3 percent, with some pick up in 2002 as the current macroeconomic and financial imbalances are resolved. Private consumption growth is expected to slow in 2001. Consumer confidence has been eroded significantly in recent months, as the CSE correction shows no signs of bottoming out. The government's fiscal consolidation efforts are expected to have a moderating effect on consumption. However, a slight pick up in investment is likely. The previous trend in which funds were diverted to speculative equity investments rather than capital formation will be reversed", according to the Commission.
Referring to the current account deficit, the Commission notes that although it narrowed in 1999, "preliminary data for the first half of 2000 point to a renewed weakening of the external sector".
"During the first seven months of this year, the trade deficit widened to 965 million Cyprus pounds (1 CY pound is trading at about 1,5 dollars) from 802,3 million in the same period a year ago", the Commission says.
It adds that "the strong growth of tourism has mitigated the effects of the trade balance deterioration on the current account", noting that "the number of tourists arriving in Cyprus rose 10 percent in the first nine months of this year, compared with the same period of1999".
"Looking forward, the anticipated slowdown in domestic demand, both within the public and private sector, is likely to prompt a parallel reduction in the current account deficit in the order of 0,5 percent of GDP", the Commission says.
The Commission also says the interest rate liberalization, scheduled for January 1, 2001, "appears to be on track", adding that "the Central Bank will retain the right to fix maximum and minimum interest rates, which banks may charge for loans and advances, or pay on deposits".
It adds that "in an effort to ease market participation into the new interest rate regime, there will be a transitional phase whereby the commercial banks will set deposit and lending rates as a mark up on the Central Bank's Lombard rate" and that "over the medium term, the Central Bank authorities are likely to adopt a cautious approach on interest rate policy".
 British MPs express concern over human rights situation in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus
LONDON, 30/11/2000 (CNA/ANA)Two British Labor Party MPs have expressed their concern about the situation of human rights and press freedom in the areas of Cyprus occupied by Turkey since 1974 and, in an Early Day Motion they tabled in the House of Commons, call on the British government to make representations and ask for an investigation into the matter.
"The situation in northern Cyprus is becoming more dangerous", MPs Andrew Dismore and Andrew Love say, noting that on November 27th the printing works where Turkish Cypriot newspaper "Avrupa" is printed was attacked and recalling various other incidents in the Turkish occupied areas against people opposing the regime and demonstrations and strikes due to the economic situation.
In the Motion tabled on Monday, the MPs express concern that "events this year in the north of Cyprus, in response to demonstrations, conflict with European ideas of human rights, freedom of speech and democracy".
They believe "that the people who live there feel their voices and interests are not being heard in the international discussions taking place on the future of the island".
Dismore and Love call on the British government "to make urgent representations to Turkey to institute a full independent investigation with international observers of these abuses of human rights and press freedom."
 Research shows Turkish occupation forces far stronger militarily than National Guard
NICOSIA, 30/11/2000 (CNA/ANA)Research carried out by the Cyprus Center for Strategic Studies for 200-2001 concludes that the Turkish occupation forces are far stronger militarily than the armed forces of the Republic of Cyprus and that especially with regard to aeronautical forces, Turkey's might is in stark contrast to National Guard capabilities.
The study notes that Turkey's proximity to Cyprus, as opposed to Greece's distance, is another factor, which gives Turkey an ad-vantage.
According to the study, despite its military advantage, Turkey continued during 2000 to strengthen its forces in the third of Cyprus occupied since it invaded the island in 1974, ignoring UN pleas to reduce armaments and to contribute to the solution of the Cyprus problem.
On the other hand, the Republic of Cyprus seems not to have strengthened its defense capabilities, apart from purchasing Italian air defense equipment and receiving Russian TOR-M1 anti-aircraft missiles from Greece, which also participates in National Guard maneuvers.
The study indicates that the Turkish occupation forces on the island increased both in personnel, reaching 36.000 soldiers for the first time since 1974, and equipment. Furthermore, Turkish Cypriot forces reached 5.000 soldiers.
It appears that Turkey aims at increasing the imbalance of forces on the island, in order to underline its insistence on maintaining its military presence in Cyprus, regardless of developments in UN-led peace talks, which resumed last December.
Turkey, the study says, also wants to pose a threat to the free areas of the Republic and to be able to wage a psychological battle as well as strengthen the intransigence of the Turkish Cypriot side at the negotiating table and blackmail Greece and the Greek Cypriot side.