|Friday, 22 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-12-15
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Simitis denies plans to replace economy minister, says government will push through structural reforms
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis denied all plans to take the finance and economy portfolios from current minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Thursday, speaking at a press conference for foreign correspondents in Athens.
"I am not contemplating any changes to the government's economic team," he said unequivocally, in response to questions regarding the minister's future.
Commenting on the recent weak performance of the Athens Stock Exchange, he said that its performance long-term would be determined by the "course of the Greek economy, which is positive".
Responding to questions regarding the government's privatization program, Simitis said that the government was determined to push through the structural reforms it had set in motion.
At the same time as deregulating the telecom and power markets, he said, the government will proceed with changes to the state insurance system. He predicted that these would be ready by the end of next May, after dialogue with the various bodies involved that would begin in January 2001.
Regarding the part-privatization of state-owned companies, Simitis said the government would pursue profitable sale contracts.
"We have the experience of selling to get things over with. We are not going to follow this tactic," he stressed.
Upcoming privatizations, according to Simitis, were those of the Piraeus Port Organization (OLP), the Thessaloniki Port Organization (OLTH), and the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
With regard to Olympic Airways, Greece's state-run and problematic national airline, Simitis said that the government would find solutions that would provide Greece with modern air transport.
"We have begun to look for a partner with capital and know-how, because Olympic Airways must serve Greek citizens. Our course until today has shown that there are many difficulties. We are confident that we will soon get results. We believe these results will justify our efforts for our national carrier."
 Simitis offers congratulations to president-elect Bush
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Wednesday conveyed his congratulations to US President-elect George W. Bush.
Simitis and stressed in a telegram that he looks forward to working with the new US leader for the "promotion of peace, stability and democratic principles in the region, for the benefit its peoples' prosperity and progress."
"I would like to express, on behalf of the Greek government, my warmest congratulations on your election as president of the United States of America.
"I am certain that during your term the long-standing and close-knit relations of cooperation between Greece and the United States - based, as they are, on the solid foundations of our shared values -- will expand and develop even more," Simitis' letter reads.
Commenting on Bush's election to the presidency, Simitis said, during a press conference later, that Greece wishes to have good relations with the US, adding that Greece is interested in having good cooperative relations with any government of the US.
 Simitis reiterates Greek government's condemnation of terrorism and desire to stamp it out
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Greece is constantly at war against terrorism, Prime Minister Costas Simitis told foreign correspondents on Thursday, adding that the government both condemned terrorism and did everything in its power to eradicate it.
"Terrorism is arbitrary and an act of violence because it shows disregard for people," he said.
Simitis was speaking after a dinner given in his honor by the Foreign Press Association in an Athens hotel, which was followed by a press conference.
The prime minister announced that a bill would be prepared at the start of the New Year, which would speed up procedures and protect citizens' rights in cases of terrorism.
He said that Greece was cooperating closely with the US and Britain on the issue of terrorism, while in response to questions regarding the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 he noted that these would be carried out in absolute safety.
He also noted that the Olympic Games in Barcelona had taken place without problems, despite Spain's problems with the Basques to the north, while a terrorist attack had occurred at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, where there had been no cause for concern.
Simitis also commented on judicial procedures, saying was looking into ways to cut down the time before cases went to trial.
 PM says EU Nice summit conclusions good for Europe and Greece
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday said the European Union leaders' decisions during the Nice summit left the final goal of the Union vague, as they did not clarify whether they favor a federal or an intergovernmental system.
He added that decisions arrived at were not enough.
Speaking at a press conference during a luncheon given in his honor by the Foreign Press Association, Simitis said that Greece favors a federal model and further EU enlargement.
He also said if the EU embraces all of Europe there would be greater security and stability in the region.
He said the decision arrived at was good for Greece since, being a "medium-size" European country, it has lost almost no ground through settlements which took place on majority vote issues and the way with which they were resolved in Nice.
Simitis said that the Nice summit results came about because the big powers believed that with the EU enlargement, which has already taken place, led to a loss of power within the EU and wished to regain the lost ground.
He said these countries received a bigger number of votes, but not what they had wanted, while medium-size countries retained their voting power.
He further said the special majority remains at the same levels, despite the fact that the big powers wanted to reduce the special majority's percentage.
Simitis said that another positive development for Greece was that the principal of unanimity was maintained on issues pursued by Greece, adding that increased cooperation was established on special policies.
He added that Greece is in the EU's first group since it is participating in the group of countries determining the future course of the EU.
Simitis said Greece does not have the same economic power as other countries such as Germany and Britain, nor the same population. He added that one should realize that one is not alone in the EU and compromises should be made with measure and logic and the decision taken in Nice has both measure and logic.
 Greece did not raise the Turkish-EU relations in Nice, premier says
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Greece did not raise the issue of the Turkish candidacy to the European Union during the summit in Nice, France, Prime Minister Costas Simitis told foreign correspondents on Thursday.
He said that since Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit did not raise the issue, he could not have done so.
Simitis was speaking after a dinner given in his honor by the Foreign Press Association in an Athens hotel, which was followed by a press conference.
He stressed that Turkey's partnership relations with the EU are part of a political frame that was initially arrived at in Helsinki and details Turkey's obligations as a candidate member-state.
He added that this framework would have to be implemented sooner or later, otherwise Turkey would find itself outside the course it should follow to enter the Union.
Simitis also said that there might be "verbal effusions" on Turkey's part, during the accession course, adding that a "country and a society need time to adjust to new conditions".
He stressed that Greece should show patience, perseverance, a responsible attitude and confront the issue as a long term one, since the efforts underway aim at incorporating Turkey in a system that leads to peace and cooperation.
 Tsohatzopoulos expresses Greece's support for democratic changes in Yugoslavia
BELGRADE, 15/12/2000 (ANA - M. Mouratidis)Beginning an official visit to Yugoslavia on Thursday, Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos assured the Yugoslav leadership that Greece would insist on strict adherence to international law and the decisions of the UN Security Council for the troubled regions of Kosovo and southern Serbia.
Tsohatzopoulos was speaking after a meeting with his Yugoslav counterpart Slobodan Krapovic.
"We must make it clear," he said, "that we will allow no one to tolerate the continuation of extremist actions and destabilizing actions in south Serbia, such as those expressed in the past few days." He also said that the UN peacekeeping force in Kosovo, KFOR, was responsible for doing this.
Tsohatzopoulos was referring to the activities of an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group in south Serbia, which is fighting for the secession of south Serbia's Presevo Valley to join Kosovo.
During his visit, the Greek defense minister is also scheduled to meet Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic, the speaker of Yugoslavia's Federal Parliament and Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic. In the afternoon Serb Patriarch Pavlos will receive him.
Apart from conveying the Greek government's support for the democratic changes in the country, his talks with Yugoslav officials will center chiefly on bilateral cooperation in military and defense matters and the tense situation that has arisen in south Serbia, in Presevo and Bujanovic.
Speaking after Tsohatzopoulos, Krapovic said he was satisfied with the positions of his Greek counterpart and expressed hope that the international community would implement its proclamations about respecting Yugoslavia's territorial integrity in practice.
According to the Yugoslav minister, he and Tsohatzopoulos had discussed the outline of a military agreement that will be signed between the two countries and an agreement for training Yugoslav officers for participation in international peacekeeping missions in Greece.
In statements after his meeting with the Greek defense minister, the Yugoslav premier referred at length to the crisis in south Serbia and Greece's support in resolving the problem. He also presented an invitation to Prime Minister Costas Simitis to visit Belgrade, which will be carried to Athens by Tsohatzopoulos.
Djindjic added that he and Tsohatzopoulos had discussed a planned official visit by Kostunica to Athens, the date of which would be decided through diplomatic channels.
 Turkey blocks NATO-EU agreement
BRUSSELS, 15/12/2000 (ANA - B. Demiris)Turkey on Thursday blocked a joint statement of NATO foreign ministers on the future cooperation with the European Union, as it insisted in participating at the decision making process of the EU on defense issues, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou said.
He added that the Turkish delegation failed to submit a compromise proposal to lead talks out of the impasse, stressing that Turkey continued to have objections in allowing the EU rapid reaction force to use NATO's infrastructures for military operations directed by the EU.
On his part, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said that one or two NATO member-states raised objections, which blocked the attainment of an agreement for the defense cooperation between the EU and NATO.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook stressed that Turkey insisted on her demand that the European rapid reaction force be allowed access to NATO's infrastructure on a case by case basis, clarifying, however, that all other NATO member-states agreed to grant to the EU guaranteed and permanent access to NATO's infrastructures.
The Greek foreign minister noted, however, that efforts to resolve the impasse would continue on Friday.
He also noted that on Friday he would meet with Robertson and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
During their meeting, the NATO foreign ministers also discussed the European Security and Defense Identification (ESDI) and agreed on a closer cooperation between NATO and the EU, which could prove beneficial for both organizations, Papandreou said.
He added that the aim of such cooperation would be to minimize costs by avoiding overlapping and duplication of infrastructures.
Papandreou noted that the ministers discussed conditions in the Balkans and focused on the escalation of violence in southern Serbia, saying that "our aim should be the prevention of conflicts and the creation of those conditions necessary for a political and economic stability".
He added that this strategy should be based on the principles of respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity, existing borders and the averting of separatist tendencies. "We should step up our efforts for the establishment of democratic processes and for the protection of minority rights," Papandreou said.
Papandreou calls for close EU-NATO cooperation, during NATO meeting: Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Thursday said that the European Union-NATO relations should be strengthened, on the basis of the 50-year experience gained, since the creation of the military alliance.
Papandreou's statements were made during his address to the NATO Foreign Ministers' meeting, here, which focused on the relations of the European Union with NATO, in developing European defense mechanisms.
Papandreou, who delivered the opening address of the meeting, also said that the EU summit in Nice, France conclusions reaffirmed that the Union and NATO should promote a common, continuing and close cooperation.
This cooperation, Papandreou said, should be built on existing experience gained since the creation of the NATO alliance 50 years ago and should take into account the volition of the European Union to undertake initiatives that aim at peace, stability and prosperity.
 European army to act in protection of human rights and security, Simitis says
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)The European Union will have its own armed forces, which will act in protection of human rights and security, while the EU itself will take decision for military action, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Thursday.
Simitis was speaking after a dinner given in his honor by the Foreign Press Association in an Athens hotel, which was followed by a press conference
Clarifying the EU's decision, Simitis said the European rapid reaction force will act autonomously and will cooperate with NATO in cases where the European force is not adequate.
He also said the whole process of decision making for the deployment of the force would be the exclusive operation of the Union, which will be in a position to hold talks with countries that are not EU members but are NATO members, such as Turkey, as well as with NATO itself.
Commenting on Turkey's participation in the European force, Simitis said Turkey cannot participate in the creation of the European force since it is not an EU member-state and the force is composed of member-states alone.
He said that likewise Cyprus cannot participate in the force's composition, but will be able to do so when it joins the EU.
 Karamanlis on visit to Cyprus, meet with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides
NICOSIA, 15/12/2000 (ANA - G. Leonidas)Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis is carrying out a one-day visit to Cyprus on Thursday, during which he met with Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides.
The two men discussed the Cyprus issue and the course of Cyprus' accession to the European Union.
ND leader criticizes government of exerting pressure on Nicosia for concessions: Karamanlis criticized the policy of the Greek government and Prime Minister Costas Simitis for exerting pressure on Nicosia to make concessions, resulting in the weakening of the Cyprus President's negotiating capacity.
Karamanlis, in an address at the Institute of Eurodemocracy, and earlier at the Democratic Rally party's Young Scientists organization, said he was criticizing the Greek government's moves "to add and not remove and to widen the Cyprus government's margin to maneuver".
He said that from the moment the government of Cyprus shoulders the weight of intercommunal talks, it is the obligation of the entire Hellenism to support its effort and to strengthen its position and negotiating capacity.
Karamanlis said his party's position is clear that EU enlargement, no matter how limited it may be, without Cyprus is not possible, adding that it should be made clear to all that Greece does not accept other countries joining the EU and Cyprus becoming involved in an unacceptable discussion on Cyprus' political problem which is being perpetuated due to the continuing Turkish occupation of its northern part.
 FM Papandreou stresses Greek origin of Cyprus in address in Nicosia
NICOSIA, 15/12/2000 (ANA - G. Leonidas)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed the Greek origin of Cyprus over thousands of years in an address read in Nicosia on Thursday night on the issue of "Hellenism in the 21st century."
"Cyprus is not the extremity of Hellenism. It is its beginning and its entrance to an entire region, that of the Near East, in which we have lived for thousands of years and with whose peoples we had been linked and are linked with strong bonds," he said.
The event started at 7 p.m. and addresses were expected later in the evening by Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, the Greek Foreign Ministry's Expatriate Hellenism Secretary General Dimitris Dollis and former Cyprus' Foreign Minister George Iacovou.
 Athens mayor announces his decision to create new political party
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos on Thursday evening announced his decision to proceed with the creation of his own political party, during a televised message delivered from his office at the Athens City Hall.
Avramopoulos claimed that the crisis plaguing the political system, mistrust of citizens toward the system, the contrast between the needs of society and the priorities of political parties and the institutional inadequacy led to the expectation of an initiative for change and renewal, optimism and a dynamic move forward.
He claimed once again that the existing political parties have exhausted their historic cycle, adding that they offered a great deal to the country, contributing to the consolidation of democratic institutions and the country's accession to European institutions.
Avramopoulos also said the country is currently requesting a new political proposal which will be capable of contributing and inspiring the release and activation of the country's new and healthy forces.
He said that he would be presenting his party's establishment proclamation, charter and program in the next few months.
Main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, who accompanied ND leader Costas Karamanlis on his visit to Cyprus, said from Nicosia, that there is no room for new parties in the political spectrum, adding that new parties should not be created to serve personal or other interests.
Referring to Avramopoulos, who announced that he would not resign before he has completed his task, Roussopoulos said politicians are judged and acknowledged by their work, their ideas and their public character and not through announcements of intentions.
Earlier, Prime Minister Costas Simitis had said during an address given at a luncheon by the Foreign Press Association, referring to the possibility of Avramopoulos creating a party, that every citizen is free to establish a party, but parties are judged by positions, functions and programs and by whether they express social groups and sections of the population.
 KKE general secretary opens party's 16th congress in Athens
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)The 16th Congress of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) was opened on Thursday in the Athens district of Perissos by KKE General Secretary Aleka Papariga, who delivered a one and a half hour speech presenting the Central Committee's proposals for transforming the political scene in Greece.
The Congress, which must elect the party's new leadership, will focus on building a front of political alliances for the party, as well as the new situation created by the EU's Nice Treaty.
Among the points raised by Papariga were a proposal made by Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader for cooperation among progressive and left-wing parties.
She also urged radical forces not to become trapped in a two-party system supported by the ruling classes, while she analyzed the ways in which the party's operation helped and hindered its goals.
The congress was addressed by representatives of all Greek parties except the Coalition of the Left and Progress, which was not invited.
 Merchant marine minister stresses danger from illegal immigrant flow to Turkish minister
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Merchant Marine Minister Christos Papoutsis has addressed a letter to Turkish Interior Minister Saadetin Tadan, stressing the danger stemming from the increase in the illegal immigration rate of various nationalities coming from the Turkish coast.
Papoutsis also referred to the same issue in letters he addressed to European Union Commissioners Gunter Verheugen and Antonio Vitorino. He pointed out to the European officials the need for a more effective handling of the illegal immigration of many people who disembark in Greece or Italy with various ships.
In his letter to the Turkish minister, Papoutsis underlined the considerable efforts of the Greek harbor corps to control and police the sea regions of Greece, as well as the external sea borders of Europe in accordance with the Schengen Treaty.
 Interior minister introduces bill on modernization
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization Minister Vasso Papandreou on Thursday introduced the bill for the modernization of the public administration to the Parliament.
Discussion on the bill is expected to be concluded after the Christmas holidays.
 PM and culture minister discuss culture ministry issues and Cultural Olympiad
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday discussed the culture ministry's major issues in a meeting held in light of the ministerial committee's session on Monday, as well as the meeting of the National Olympic Games Committee. The ministerial committee will examine issues concerning the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and the Cultural Olympiad.
Venizelos said later that the prime minister was also briefed on the legislative initiative related to transparency in sports, which contains settlements regarding refereeing, the ownership status of clubs, and violence in stadiums and sports places, as well as the phenomenon of doping among athletes.
 Cyprus Defense Minister Socrates Hasikos arrives in Irakleio at the invitation of Greek Deputy Defense Minister Apostolakis
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Cyprus Defense Minister Socrates Hasikos, accompanied by members of the Cypriot Parliament's Defense Committee, arrived in Irakleio on Thursday on an official visit at the invitation of Greek Deputy Defense Minister Dimitris Apostolakis.
The visit takes place on the occasion of the taking of the oath by reserve infantry officers in Irakleio, which includes many reserve officers from the Republic of Cyprus.
On arrival at Irakleio airport, Hasikos expressed satisfaction over Cyprus' accession course to the European Union, saying that "it is at a very good phase as it has been assessed both in Cyprus and Greece", but added that the path will be long and cool headedness as well as cooperation between Greece and Cyprus will be required.
 Parliament approves cut in stock transactions tax
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)A set of measures the government hopes will reverse the months-long slide on the Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) were passed by Parliament on Wednesday, following a roll call vote of 135 in favor to 114 against.
Among the most notable incentives to lure back investors is a reduction in the tax rate for stock transactions from 6 ? to 3 ?, as well as a 25-percent deductible in purchases of capital stock from one's taxable income.
The measures were included in a rider attached to a highly publicized and often divisive bill on crucial labor market reforms.
The roll call vote, strictly along party lines, was requested by the main opposition New Democracy party, whereas high-profile absentees from the ruling PASOK side included recently sacked minister Theodoros Pangalos and former ministers Stelios Papathemelis and Sifis Valyrakis.
Additionally, deputies from the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) were also not present at the vote in order to participate at their party's 16th conference, which begins this week.
In all, 249 deputies out of the legislature's 300 voted on the rider.
 Equities rise in return to banking blue chips
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Equities on the Athens Stock Exchange finished sharply higher on Thursday fuelled by a return to blue chip buying, especially in the heavily weighted banking sector, late in the session.
The rebound followed four straight declines that had taken the market 6.50 percent lower.
The Athens general index finished 2.58 percent higher at 3,588.84 points, with turnover at 115.72 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks closed 2.36 percent up, while the FTSE/ASE 40 index for medium capitalization shares rose by 2.36 percent.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: +1.69% Leasing: +4.87% Insurance: +2.34% Investment: +1.20% Construction: +4.14% Industrials: +2.93% Miscellaneous: +1.51 Holding: +5.60
The parallel market for smaller capitalization stocks ended 3.55 percent up.
Of 356 shares traded, advances led declines at 314 to 34 with eight remaining unchanged.
The most heavily traded stocks were Phoenix Insurance, Piraeus Leasing and Alpha Bank.
Main closing share prices (in drachmas): National Bank: 14,495 Alpha Bank: 13,250 Eurobank: 7,600 Lambrakis Press: 5,995 Hellenic Petroleum: 3,740 Commercial Bank: 18,340 Intracom: 9,180 Hellenic Telecom: 6,150 Titan Cement (c): 14,900
Equity futures end up, tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished higher on Thursday, in line with the bourse indices on which they are based.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 2.36 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 2.29 percent higher.
Turnover was 28.6 billion drachmas.
A total of 5,823 contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 with turnover at 24.2 billion drachmas.
On the FTSE/ASE 40 index, 2,534 contracts changed hands on turnover of 4.3 billion drachmas.
Bond prices rise in heavy trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Thursday finished higher in heavy trade with trade focusing on a floating rate note that expires in October 2004.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.515 percent from 5.529 percent in the previous session.
The Greek paper's yield spread over German bunds was 60 basis points from 61 basis points a day earlier.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totaled 238 billion drachmas from 237 billion drachmas in the session before.
Buy orders accounted for around 143 billion drachmas of trade.
Drachma ends down vs. euro, up vs. dollar: The drachma on Thursday ended lower against the euro and higher versus the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market.
At the central bank's daily fixing, the euro was set at 340.740 drachmas from 340.720 drachmas in the previous session.
Also at the fix, the dollar was set at 385.490 drachmas from 389.680 drachmas a trading day earlier.
 Evert seeks probe into National Bank stock purchase
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)A main opposition New Democracy deputy on Thursday called for a judicial enquiry into a purchase by state-run National Bank of Greece of stock held by the Public Securities Company SA (DEKA).
The deputy and former ND leader, Miltiades Evert, alleged that the stock sale to National, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, was an attempt to cover up share manipulation that he alleged was ordered by the government before national elections on April 9, 2000.
Evert had filed a complaint earlier this year with a Supreme Court prosecutor, asking for an inquiry into allegations of malpractice by DEKA.
Evert claimed that instead of pursuing its goals of public portfolio management and repayment of the public debt through privatization proceeds, DEKA had bought massive amounts of shares in state-owned firms quoted on the Athens bourse, including Hellenic Telecommunications, Hellenic Petroleum and National Bank of Greece before national elections on April 9.
After bulling up the market, DEKA ceased the bulk buying after a fresh election victory by the incumbent ruling Pasok party, creating an artificial slide in the market in the wake of an artificial rally, Evert alleged.
He estimated that DEKA'S suspected intervention cost DEKA and the public around 700 billion drachmas.
National's agreement on Wednesday to purchase the stock was an attempt to bail out DEKA, which now found itself unable to meet its commitment of contributing 720 billion drachmas to repayment of the public debt, as foreseen in the budget for 2000, Evert claimed.
The purchase would hurt National Bank's stockholders, he added.
 Athens Olympics organizers forecast major revenue from media
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Organizers of the 2004 Olympics in Athens on Thursday forecast that radio and television rights for coverage of the Games would total around $800 million, sharply higher than $668 billion in the Sydney Olympics.
The Athens organizing committee said in a statement that it had so far signed final or preliminary contracts with 11 major TV networks from around the world; and deals with smaller networks would be signed in the near future.
Revenue from TV rights will represent the bulk of the organizers' income at forty two percent, the statement said.
 Development minister stresses government commitment to developing new technologies, outlines ministry plans
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Addressing the third and last day of a conference on the "Information Society" in Athens on Thursday, Development Minister Nikos Christodoulakis stressed that the government considered the development of information technology in Greece very important.
Christodoulakis noted that the country was very behind in all sectors after decades of recession and inertia but that this could be overcome now that the situation had changed and Greece was a member of the euro-zone.
He predicted that this would give rise to a sense of optimism and vitality, which coupled to persistence would allow the country to reach goals that currently seemed unattainable.
New technologies, he pointed out, would give greater capability for expansion and use and create new prospects for business, growth and employment.
He attributed Greece's economic ills in the past to a lack of competitiveness and initiative in business, compounded by an inflexible banking system.
The government, he said, could help by reducing the number of obstacles but everything finally rested on private initiatives.
Christodoulakis stressed that the development ministry aimed to support these by simplifying the business environment and making start-ups by young people easier, while it was struggling to link the process of research and development to that of production.
He said the ministry had allocated 300 billion drachmas to this effort, which it would use in the following ways:
 Banks to foot the bill for drachma-euro conversion on paper
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)Commercial banks will pay the cost in 2001 of converting their customers' drachmas or euro-zone currencies into euros and the reverse for accounting purposes, the Union of Greek Banks said on Thursday.
The ruling, which is contained in a new banking ethics code that the union helped to compile, also includes the cost-free conversion of two-way payments into euros that involve drachmas and other euro-zone currencies; and bank accounts maintained in those currencies.
Finally, commissions on euro transactions will be the same as those charged for drachma deals.
Greece joins the euro zone on January 1.
 Gov't lifts ban on creation of luxury hotels ahead of Olympics
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)The government on Thursday lifted a ban on the creation of luxury and A Class hotels in parts of Attica previously classed as saturated.
The decree by the development ministry, which does not include islands in Attica, was published in the Government Gazette and takes immediate effect.
The move follows estimates that current hotels will be too few to house an inrush of visitors for the 2004 Olympic Games to be hosted by Athens.
Investment proposals for new hotels must be submitted to the development ministry by February 14, 2001.
 Gov't to decide on part-sale ofPO Savings Bank in 2001
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)The government is to decide in the first half of 2001 on the form of a partial privatization for the Post Office Savings Bank that is expected to involve a strategic investor.
A financial consultant will be appointed to make recommendations on the privatization attempt, and assist in the company's conversion to SA status, its modernization and the creation of new banking products.
The plan was agreed at a meeting of National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis, and the president of the savings bank, Androniki Boumi.
The savings bank will also work closely with Hellenic Post Offices in developing a branch network with allied targets, including the creation of subsidiaries and expansion into the Balkans.
 Thessaloniki to host euro exhibition in 2001
Athens, 15/12/2000 (ANA)An exhibition on the history and role of the euro currency in Europe will be held in Thessaloniki in September 2001.
The event will be organized by the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair under the auspices of the national economy ministry, central bank and the European Union's executive Commission working with the Athens Numismatics Museum.
 EU health ministers discuss new program on public health
BRUSSELS, 15/12/2000 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)The European Union's Council of Health Ministers convened here on Thursday to examine the new EU plan of action in the public health sector. Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos represented Greece.
The council also examined EU policy on the protection of health from the consequences of smoking, as well as the issue of spongiform encephalopathy in bovines in connection with the new variation in the Creutschfeld-Yacob diseases.
On the question of the new EU plan of action in the public health sector, Papadopoulos said the potential of improving health through EU action is inadequately utilized for the time being and it is necessary for the new program to fill in the vacuum.
 Foreign Minister expresses satisfaction over Security Council resolution
NICOSIA, 15/12/2000 (CNA/ANA)Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides on Thursday expressed the Cyprus government's satisfaction over UN Security Council Resolution 1331, adopted on Wednesday, on the renewal of the UN peacekeeping force's (UNFICYP) mandate in Cyprus.
Speaking at a press conference, Kasoulides said the Resolution "satisfies us, because it is a repetition of the previous resolution of last June" and noted that this time, the Security Council, "responding to the content of the UN Secretary-General's report, addresses the Turkish Cypriot side and for the first time the Turkish forces" to restore the status quo ante in Strovilia, near the occupied town of Famagusta, where the Turkish occupation forces illegally put up a checkpoint, thus enclaving its Greek Cypriot inhabitants.
Kasoulides made special reference to the fact that, despite Turkish efforts, there was no addendum to the resolution with Turkish positions.
The foreign minister noted that although the Turkish side had tried to avoid any reference to the Republic of Cyprus in the resolution, it was not successful, which indicates that "the Security Council, its five permanent members and the elected members, remained steadfast in their positions".
Kasoulides said that after the resolution, the Greek Cypriot side had no reason not to participate in the sixth round of UN-led proximity talks on the Cyprus problem, aiming at reaching a comprehensive settlement.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied the northern third of the island.
UN-led proximity talks, separate meetings of the UN with President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, began in December 1999. The UN has invited the two sides to a sixth round in late January.
Kasoulides stressed the Greek Cypriot side's good will for a smooth peace process, adding that the international community "recognizes our good will".
Security Council Resolution: he UN Security Council has urged the Turkish Cypriot side and the Turkish occupation forces in Cyprus to rescind the restrictions imposed since last June on the operations of UNFICYP in the occupied areas of the island and to restore the military status quo at the hamlet of Strovilia, near the occupied town of Famagusta, where the Turkish occupation forces illegally put up a checkpoint, thus enclaving its Greek Cypriot inhabitants.
The call is made in resolution 1331, adopted unanimously on Wednesday by the Security Council, presided by Russia's permanent representative Sergei Lavrov. The Council met to renew the mandate of UNFICYP for another six months.
The Security Council "reaffirms all its relevant resolutions on Cyprus, and in particular resolution 1251 of 1999," which sets out the parameters for a settlement, based on a bizonal, bicommunal federation, with one sovereignty and one international identity.
Further, the Council "urges the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkish forces to rescind the restrictions imposed on 30 June, 2000 on the operations of UNFICYP and to restore the military status quo ante at Strovilia."
The resolution, in its preamble, makes reference to the issue of persons missing since the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
Specifically, the Security Council "welcomes the report of the Secretary-General of December 1, 2000 on the UN operation in Cyprus, and in particular the call to the parties to assess and address the humanitarian issue of missing persons with due urgency and seriousness".
Noting that "the Government of Cyprus has agreed that in view of the prevailing conditions in the island it is necessary to keep UNFICYP" in Cyprus, the Security Council decided to extend the mandate of the peacekeeping force for a further six-month period, ending June 15, 2001.
UNFICYP, which is one of the longest serving UN peacekeeping forces, first arrived in Cyprus in March 1964.