|Sunday, 8 December 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 00-12-23
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Parliament endorses 2001 budget
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)Parliament in the early hours of Saturday passed the budget for 2001, the first to show a surplus in decades and the last before euro-zone entry on January 1.
Voting in favor of the budget, which forecasts a surplus of 210 billion drachmas, were 157 deputies, with 141 voting against. One deputy voted only in favor of national defense and the presidency of the republic. One parliamentarian was absent in the roll-call vote from the 300-member house.
The budget, the first to be formulated in euros, allows tax relief for low-and middle-income earners and boosts state spending on education, health, pensions and employment. Total spending is 12.6 trillion drachmas, an increase of 8.2 per cent on the previous year.
Rising investment and restraints on consumer spending are expected to aid a reduction in the public debt as a percentage of GDP.
Simitis says January 1, 2001 marks era of optimism: "January 1, 2001 marks an era of optimism but also of new collective responsibilities," Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in his speech late Friday night on the debate in parliament on the 2001 budget.
The prime minister was highly critical of the stance adopted by the opposition parties, in particular that of main opposition New Democracy (ND) party. Simitis referred to three fundamental directions of the government's policy for the coming years.
He said that by 2003, the government would proceed to a radical change for the simplification of the taxation system.
He assured that within 2001 the insurance fund problem will be settled and that there would be a fair distribution of pensions based on the previous total contributions by the pensioner.
Simitis finally underlined that the 2001 budget was also a budget of "social cohesion," with the construction of a social state which would strengthen the feeling of security and tone social cohesion, thus cultivating social solidarity and giving answers to modern problems of social isolation.
ND party leader terms 2001 budget as bogus and over optimistic: Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis criticized the 2001 budget as "bogus and over optimistic", based on the most optimistic assessments of the International Monetary Fund.
"We hope those assessments come true on their entirety, but it is not a given fact they will," Karamanlis said in his address to Parliament.
Karamanlis added that the government "paralyzed and as soon as it reached the Economic Monetary Union (EMU) target it lost its strength, since it can not move any further".
"Our country faces, today, great challenges, as well as new dangers for individuals, society and democracy," he said, adding "the gravest dangers are the widening gap between the poor and the rich, the expanding poverty, the explosive rates of unemployment, the lack of transparency in the dealings of businessmen and the political leadership that deflect the decision making to non institutional centers, which dilute the popular rule".
Communist party leader says 2001 budget makes the wealthy wealthier: In her address, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Aleka Papariga criticized the 2001 budget, saying that it made the wealthy, wealthier and the poor, poorer, while its surplus was based on the surplus of the over-exploitation of the people.
"Beyond the solitary confinement prison cells of the new Turkish prisons there are other modern 'F-Type' cells without guards, these are those of families, of the unemployed, of the poor," Papariga said.
She predicted that the "next economic crisis in Greece would be deeper, it would sharpen the popular dissatisfaction and under specific conditions is could affect positively the rallying of forces and the counterattack for deeper restructuring of forces in a social and political level".
Synaspismos party leader says 2001 budget a 'bogus': Coalition for the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said the 2001 budget was a bogus, containing "tricks and accounting alchemy".
Constantopoulos added that the budget was not drafted to take advantage of "the only real capability of the country for development, which is the third community support framework fund that is being faced with delays".
He noted that the budget was based on the "most optimistic scenario of international developments and (the most optimistic scenario) of the Greek economy's development".
Ministers address Parliament on last day of budget debate: Friday's session was opened by Health and Welfare Minister Alekos Papadopoulos, who warned that the margins for intervention in the national economy will be much reduced in the new European environment.
"We have not yet realized that externally determined rationalization is on its way and that our margins of intervention are miniscule," he said, adding that a failure to conform to this would be "devastating".
Papadopoulos said that this was the first post-election budget with no cutbacks or new taxes but an increase in social spending of 400 billion drachmas instead.
Health spending would rise by 8 percent, he said, to reach 1,316 billion drachmas. Total health spending as a percentage of GDP in Greece, he added, was 8.1 percent, which was slightly higher than the EU average of 8 per cent. He attributed high spending on health to an overabundance of doctors who maintained legal or illegal private surgeries.
Main opposition New Democracy section-head for health Nikitas Kaklamanis disputed the figures presented by Papadopoulos, saying that the increase was cancelled out by debts incurred in the last trimester of 2000.
ND deputy Vassilis Meimarakis pointed out that Greece was the only EU country where GDP and unemployment rose simultaneously and said that the money was not going into productive investments, social protection and correcting regional inequalities.
Former ND defense minister Yiannis Varvitsiotis, meanwhile, claimed that defense spending had also been lowered in real terms.
Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysohoidis said that Greece had made great efforts to modernize its security forces and stamp out corruption, claiming that Greece was one of the safest countries in the world.
"Isolated incidents should not be allowed to malign the country's image," he added.
According to the minister, there had been 326 fewer robberies, 3,279 fewer thefts and burglaries, 5687 fewer car thefts in 2000, while the number of cases solved had risen. He particularly stressed the improved operation of traffic police, saying that there had been 70 fewer deaths and 459 fewer seriously injured in the past year.
The fire brigade also got a special mention, with Chrysohoidis saying that they should not be judged on last summer's catastrophic records, which were the result of "extreme weather conditions".
He said that an international conference would be held in Athens in March, attended by scientists from all the countries that suffered as a result of catastrophic wildfires in the summer.
A heated interchange followed statements by Environment Minister Costas Laliotis, who accused the main opposition of trying to overcome its internal problems by scandal mongering.
 Greek FM holds talks with Indian leadership
NEW DELHI, 23/12/2000 (ANA - D. Konstantakopoulos)Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou on Friday met with India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the country's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and Sonia Gandhi, leader of the country's main opposition.
In both meetings Papandreou discussed bilateral relations, Asian and Mediterranean regional issues, nuclear armament issues and international conditions.
During his meeting with his Indian counterpart, Papandreou discussed ways to further improve economic relations between the two nations, to match the excellent political relations between them.
Both men agreed to speed up preparations for the signing of bilateral agreements on double taxation, diplomatic passport usage, protection of investments and on agricultural cooperation.
They noted that the agreements should be ready for signing by February, when Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis is scheduled to visit India.
Papandreou and Singh discussions also included the computer software sector, on which India has made great advances.
The two ministers also agreed to speed up the establishment and operation of a joint economic relations committee, while Singh proposed - and Papandreou agreed - the establishment of a joint committee composed by noted persons, who will discuss, on a permanent basis, bilateral economic, cultural and educational issues.
India made this proposal only to Germany, England, France and now to Greece.
On behalf of Greece, Papandreou briefed Singh of Greece's strong support to India's request for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, while India on its part promised to support Greece's initiative for an Olympic Truce.
During discussions the Indian government reiterated its support for the resolution of the Cyprus issue based on the United Nations resolutions.
Finally, during his talks with Gandhi, they agreed to coordinate activities of the "Andreas Papandreou Foundation" and the "Gandhi Foundation" regarding globalization, disarmament and Asian-European dialogue.
Greek Premier to visit India in February: Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis is scheduled to visit India in February and sign a series of economic agreements, that will be drafted by a joint economic relations committee, set up by the two countries.
Foreign Minister Papandreou, who was on an official visit to India, discussed the basic principles of those agreements with the country's leadership.
The agreements would include issues related to double taxation, diplomatic passport usage, protection of investments and agricultural cooperation.
 Jerusalem Patriarch Diodoros I laid to rest; Deputy FM and Archbishop Christodoulos attend
JERUSALEM, 23/12/2000 (ANA - M. Papoutsaki)Patriarch Diodoros of Jerusalem has been laid to rest in the city's Mount of Olives, as he requested, alongside his predecessors Patriarchs Benedictos and Timotheos.
The funeral service was held at the monastery of St. Constantine on Friday afternoon, and immediately afterward there was a procession through the narrow streets of the Jerusalem to the Patriarch's final resting place.
Dozens of wreaths sent by Patriarchates, Orthodox and other Christian Churches had been sent to the St. Constantine's since early in the morning. President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos also sent a wreath.
Attending the service were Alexandria Patriarch Petros, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, representatives from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Catholic Church, the Mormons, the Armenian Church and others.
Representing the Greek government was Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis at the head of a Greek Parliament delegation consisting of Evangelia Schinaraki (PASOK), Eleftherios Papanikolaou (ND) and Nikolaos Gatzis (KKE).
Speaking during the funeral orations, Niotis said the Greek government would watch the elections for a new Patriarch with interest and urged the Jerusalem clergy to choose someone who would continue the Patriarchate's traditions "with burning zeal for its Greek Orthodox character."
Archbishop Christodoulos referred to the character and work of the late Patriarch, and said that he left at a crucial time for the fate of the Holy City and the fates of the Holy Sepulchers brotherhood. "Our prayer and our wish is that a worthy successor is elected that is inspired by feelings of Hellenocentricity and will continue the 1700-year presence of Greeks in the region," he added.
The Jerusalem Patriarchate's Holy Synod is scheduled to convene on Monday to set the succession process in motion.
 Transport minister says FAA visit was 'badly timed' while gov't spokesman defends safety standards at Greek airports
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)Transport Minister Christos Verelis said on Friday that the timing of a visit to Greece by Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) officials - which resulted in the US agency downgrading Athens Airport - was "unlucky" since it coincided with the tabling of a bill in Parliament that would have addressed many of the problems that led to their decision.
According to Verelis, the FAA visit had been moved up because of the US elections and he said that Greek airports would certainly be moved back up to "Category I" when FAA officials returned to Greece within the next three months.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, meanwhile, in response to Thursday's statement by the US Embassy in Athens, said that flights to and from Greece were conducted in safety.
In a press release on Thursday evening, the US Embassy said that the "the FAA's action was based on established international safety standards" and not related in any way to "separate issues concerning the sale of military equipment, the arrest of terrorist suspects, the transition from one US administration to the next, the 2004 Olympic Games or other issues."
Reppas also pointed to the transport bill currently being pushed through Parliament, which would make all necessary changes, and said that the UN agency for international flight safety standards, the ICAO, had praised the government's efforts to improve safety at Greek airports.
According to Verelis, Greece kept EU Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio constantly up-to-date on the issues. In their Thursday meeting, the transport minister added, he had briefed the Commissioner on the sale of national carrier Olympic Airways.
 More drastic measures needed from foreign governments, spokesman says in comment on conviction of Cypriot hostage
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)Foreign governments need to take more drastic measures in order to make their intervention in the Cyprus problem effective, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said on Friday, and not confine themselves to merely making observations.
Reppas was responding to questions regarding the conviction and jail sentence imposed on a Greek-Cypriot hostage by the illegal regime of Rauf Denktash in northern Cyprus.
 Greece blocks EU aid to Turkey
BRUSSELS, 23/12/2000 (ANA - B. Demiris)The 15 European Union ministers of telecommunications postponed the approval of a 135-million euro support package to Turkey after Greece's objections.
The decision was to be taken without discussion, but following Greece's objection the French presidency proposed that the approval be postponed until the next meeting of the ministers.
European Union grants to Turkey caused criticism as they coincided with the recent events in Turkish prisons, where many inmates lost their lives protesting changes in prison facilities.
 Turkish and Kurdish organizations in Athens stage solidarity march for hunger strikers in Turkish prisons
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)Members of Turkish and Kurdish organizations, trade unions and student and pupil representatives staged a solidarity march in Athens on Friday afternoon in support of the Turkish and Kurdish hunger strikers in Turkish prisons and to protest the attack carried out in Turkish prisons by Turkish military and police forces.
Holding firebrands and the photographs of Turkish and Kurdish detainees, they marched through Athens to the Turkish embassy, underlining their opposition to the creation of "white cells" in Turkey and the transfer of political detainees to them.
The head of the solidarity coordinating committee for political detainees Gildirim spoke of 40 fatalities and 300 injured during the intervention by military and police forces in prisons and said "the attack by the Turkish state against the detainees is an attack against all the people."
Referring to the official announcement by the Turkish state that operations have ended, Gildirim said Turkey is lying and the strike until death is even continuing in hospitals where over 500 political detainees have been taken.
 US government publishes consular information on air and sea travel in Greece
WASHINGTON, 23/12/2000 (ANA - A. Ellis)The US State Department included the recent downgrade of Greece's civil aviation authority to category 2 in its latest Consular Information Sheet for Greece.
"The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Greece's civil aviation authority as category 2 -- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Greece's air carrier operations," the consular information sheet noted.
While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, the Greek air carriers currently flying to the U.S. will be subject to heightened FAA surveillance.
No additional flights or new service to the U.S. by Greek air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards," the information sheet said.
Discussing recent improvements in Greece passenger shipping the information sheet noted that "cruise lines conform to, and in most cases exceed, international maritime organization standards for passenger safety. Ferryboats operating between Greek ports of call have begun to institute enhanced safety procedures. Passengers chartering private vessels should review safety practices and equipment with the crew".
Thus the previous statement on dangers in the use of Greece's passenger shipping, which was put in place after the "Samina Express" shipwreck, was removed.
 US government publishes international organized crime report on Greece, Cyprus, Turkey
WASHINGTON, 23/12/2000 (ANA - A. Ellis)The United States justice, economy and state departments published a joint report on international organized crime and its effect on that country's strategic interests, following President Bill Clinton's relevant order.
Among other countries the report mentioned that Greece "with its extensive Mediterranean and Aegean coastlines, numerous islands, overland borders with the Balkans, and vibrant banking sector, Greece has emerged as an increasingly active hub for international criminal activity. Greece is located along two spurs of the traditional Balkans route for drug trafficking."
"Crime syndicates from the Balkans--including ethnic Albanian crime groups--Western and Central Europe, Africa, and the former Soviet Union use Greek territory to smuggle drugs, arms, cigarettes, and illegal migrants to Western Europe," according to the report.
"Italian criminal organizations control the illegal cigarette trade in Greece, according to press reports, and earn as much as $500 million per year from cigarette smuggling. Greek law enforcement officials are particularly worried about the presence of Russian criminal groups that are engaged in money laundering, extortion, and trafficking women for the sex industry," the reports said.
"According to Greek police officials, international crime syndicates operating in Greece take in as much as $11.5 billion annually from their criminal operations.
"Weak enforcement of money-laundering laws has made Greece an attractive locale for money laundering, particularly by Russian organized crime," the report noted.
Discussing Cyprus the report said that the island republic had a "business environment that features a minimum of regulations and a location astride major commercial routes has been a regional center for arms trafficking, sanctions evasions, and trade in dual-use goods related to weapons of mass destruction."
"Nicosia's focus on developing the island's offshore business sector through corporate-friendly policies intended to lure legitimate businesses to Cyprus also attracted firms and individuals involved in illicit international trade and illicit financial transactions," the report said.
Confirming its argument it said that Cyprus has "24,000 offshore firms registered in Cyprus, of which approximately 1,100 maintain a physical presence on the island."
The report was scathing for Turkey calling it a "linchpin" of drug trafficking, while it accused the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) of "levying taxes" on the illegal traffic of drugs and distributing it in Europe.
 Stephanopoulos' Christmas message to expatriate Greeks
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos on Friday addressed a message to expatriate Greeks on the occasion of the Christmas and New Year holidays.
"I would like to express my warmest wishes and the deepest feelings of love of all the Greek people for our expatriate brethren," Stephanopoulos said.
"We watch with satisfaction your progress and prosperity in various sectors of your new homelands around the world with your ever lively national identity and love for Greece," he noted.
The Greek president, finally, wished Greeks abroad a "merry Christmas, a happy New Year, good health, prosperity and happiness".
 Orthodox prelates stress need for the unity of the world, the love of all people and human rights
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)Orthodox Christian leaders, including Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos, Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos and the Archbishop of Tirana Anastasios, released several messages on the meaning and importance of Christmas on Friday.
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos said materialism and the exclusive secular life of man does not suit his true nature as an image of God.
He added that man usually attaches himself to mundane and perishable things, as if his entire existence depends on them and the world beyond materialism is nonexistent.
Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos said in his message the problems of life are multiplying, while a global moral decline and decay appear to be touching people.
He said that this Christmas people should pray hard for the unity of the world, the love of all people and human rights which are being crudely violated, as well as for poverty, unemployment, starvation, immorality, racism and discriminations which are struggling against human dignity.
Archbishop of Cyprus Chrysostomos said on his part that for 26 years the holiday of the love of God for man is being celebrated in conditions of stress and anxiety, which were created and are continuing to be maintained by the Turkish invasion and occupation of the homes of Cypriots.
He added that one should continue to struggle relentlessly for the prevalence of freedom and justice all over Cyprus and for all of the island's legal inhabitants before the invasion.
Archbishop of Tirana, Durres and All Albania Anastasios said in his message that the most important effort of those who care for the present and future of mankind is the combatting of violence. He said violence is soaring in many forms such as wars, civil wars, social disturbances and organized crime.
He further said that violence is not only found where the major powers are or where the mass media attract our attention. It is also found in smaller countries, cities, villages, communities and wherever people live, while its usual victims are defenseless members of society such as elderly people, women and children.
 ND central committee member resigns to join Athens Mayor Avramopoulos' party; Reppas on mayor's position
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)A member of main opposition New Democracy's Central Committee resigned on Friday to join the new party announced by Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Formerly a high-ranking member and aspiring leader of the party's youth organization ONNED, Christos Roilos was also closely linked to ND section-head Dora Bakoyianni, though Bakoyianni aides claim that the two had ceased to be in contact for some time now.
Roilos said that the "new generation with Dimitris Avramopoulos has much to offer the country."
Avramopoulos' continued tenure of the mayorship was commented on, meanwhile, by government spokesman Dimitris Reppas - who said that Avramopoulos was the concern of New Democracy, not the government.
"It is the business of the party that supported him and promoted him whether Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos will continue to hold the position of Mayor," he said.
 Greece ready for euro zone on Jan.1, monetary chiefs say
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)Greek monetary leaders said on Friday that Greece was ready for entry into the 11-member euro zone on January 1, 2001, following years of alignment of the economy with European Union norms.
National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and central bank governor Lucas Papademos, the architects of the transition, told reporters that the country would also be ready for sole use of the euro on March 1, 2002 as a currency in circulation.
The euro will be used alongside the drachma in January and February 2002 until the national currency is eliminated on March 1 of that year.
Papademos added that the Bank of Greece, government ministries and the Athens Stock Exchange had affected the shift to the euro on paper, ready for next month.
The two senior officials also said that from January 1, 2001, companies would mark the price of goods in euros as well as drachmas with more than 10 employees. Firms will less than 10 staff would have until March 1 to comply.
Papantoniou and Papademos were speaking after a meeting of the government's euro transition committee.
In addition, the central bank released a leaflet on converting drachmas to euros, and rounding off euro figures.
A selection of conversion rates in the leaflet for use by commercial banks and enterprises is as follows:
100 drachmas = 0.29 euros
200 drachmas = 0.59 euros
300 drachmas = 0.88 euros
1,000 drachmas = 2.83 euros
10,000 drachmas = 29.35 euros
 National economy minister says new economic prospects for Greece following entry to euro zone
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, in an interview with the Athens News Agency (ANA) on Friday, said new economic prospects are being opened to Greece following its accession to the euro zone, while advance payments are already beginning to flow in through the 3rd Community Support Framework (CSF).
Papantoniou reassured that the mature pensioning rights of working people would not be harmed, adding that the privatization and floatation program is proceeding with satisfactory rates.
He further said Greece fulfills conditions to remain in the euro zone since, according to the Maastricht Treaty; the fiscal deficit should stand at 3 percent of GDP.
"We are already close to zero and as of next year we will have surpluses. I am certain that Greece will be able to sustain itself in the line of hard currencies, not to observe some outside commitment, but to decrease the public debt and secure funds for investments and for social policy," he said.
Papantoniou said he expects an inflow of capital, after Greece joins the euro zone as of January 1, 2001, because foreign investors will have no incentive to remove their money from Greece, while Greek businessmen and ship owners will have no particular reason to keep their money abroad since they will be able to keep it in Greece in the common currency.
He further said that there is no delay regarding the 3rd CSF, adding that because 80 per cent of programs are a continuation of the 2nd CSF, advance payments have already been received and from the beginning of 2001 projects will be carried out which belong to the 3rd CSF.
On the question of the insurance issue, he said a probe of the issue has been assigned to a foreign firm and after the firm submits its report a wide dialogue will get underway.
Papantoniou further said that 21 privatizations have already been carried out with revenue exceeding three trillion drachmas. Another 10 privatizations remain, which are at various stages of maturity, and will be carried out in 2001.
He indicated that he does not believe in the separation of roles between PASOK leader on the one hand and of prime minister on the other.
He added that dual leadership would lead to a de facto disruption of PASOK or any other party since when a question arose half would go with the party leader and the other half with the prime minister.
Papantoniou said PASOK would benefit to the degree that it opens its doors to society. Society should realize that it participates in party developments and influences political developments more.
 Shares nose down in light trade
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)Equities on the Athens Stock Exchange finished lower on Friday with most players keeping to the sidelines.
The Athens general share index finished 0.09 percent lower at 3,397.90 points, with turnover at 168.722 billion drachmas.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chips and heavily traded stocks closed 0.02 percent up, while the FTSE/ASE 40 index for medium capitalization shares fell by 0.01 percent.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks: +0.13% Leasing: -2.34% Insurance: -1.74% Investment: +0.61% Construction: -0.63% Industrials: -0.09% Miscellaneous: -0.70% Holding: -1.96%
The parallel market for smaller capitalization stocks ended 0.43 percent down.
Of 353 shares traded, declines led advances at 184 to 151 with 18 remaining unchanged.
The most heavily traded stocks were Hellenic Petroleum, Agricultural Life Insurance and Metka.
Main closing share prices (in drachmas): National Bank: 13,650 Alpha Bank: 12,400 Eurobank: 7,150 Lambrakis Press: 5,010 Hellenic Petroleum: 3,530 Commercial Bank: 17,400 Intracom: 8,140 Hellenic Telecoms: 5,590 Titan Cement (c): 13,900
Equity futures end up, roughly tracking Athens bourse: Equity futures traded on the Athens Derivatives Exchange finished slightly higher on Friday, roughly in line with the bourse indices on which they are based.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index closed 0.02 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 40 ended 0.01 percent lower.
Turnover was 10.2 billion drachmas.
A total of 2,080 contracts were traded on the FTSE/ASE 20 with turnover at 8.2 billion drachmas.
On the FTSE/ASE 40 index, 1,216 contracts changed hands on turnover of 1.9 billion drachmas.
Bond prices slip in light, flaccid trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Friday finished lower in scant trade, in the wake of a record high in turnover the previous session.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 5.469 percent from 5.453 percent in the previous session.
The Greek paper's yield spread over German bunds was 59 basis points from 60 basis points a day earlier.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 44 billion drachmas from a record 412 billion drachmas in the session before.
Sell orders accounted for the bulk of trade.
Drachma flat against euro, up vs. dollar: The drachma on Friday was flat against the euro at its central euro-zone parity and up versus the US dollar in the domestic foreign exchange market.
At the central bank's daily fixing, the euro was set at 340.750 drachmas for the second straight session.
Greece enters the euro zone on January 1, 2001.
Also at the fix, the dollar was set at 369.550 drachmas from 372.800 drachmas a trading day earlier.
 OTE outbidded in tender for FYROM mobile telecom
SKOPJE, 23/12/2000 (ANA-M. Vichou)Hungarian telecoms firm MATAV outbidded Greece's Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) in an international tender for a majority stake in FYROM's mobile phone network company and was awarded the contract late Thursday.
The FYROM announced late Thursday that it had decided to sell a majority 51 percent holding in the country's Global System for Mobile (GSM) technology to MATAV, in which Germany's TELEKOM, Interamerican and the Soros Foundation are shareholders, for 618.2 million euros.
OTE, the second top bidder, had offered 608.3 million euros.
The deal was announced after a five-day detailed analysis by a government committee and while a parliamentary discussion of the bids was still in process, which caused reactions by the FYROM opposition, which accused the government of downgrading the institution of parliamentary democracy.
The agreement with MATAV is due to be signed later Friday, and the Hungarian telecom must deposit the buy-out sum at the FYROM central bank on January 11.
 Audio-visual sector becoming key to EU economy, survey says
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)The audio-visual sector is fast evolving into a key area of economic activity in Greece and the European Union, a survey released on Friday said.
The sector is expected to create 300,000 jobs in the 15-nation EU by 2005, representing 12 percent of the Community's budget by the same year, according to the survey by the EEO Group SA, a consultancy firm, the Union of European Journalists and business groups.
The forecast growth will rank audiovisuals first in the services sector and second as a sphere of economic activity in the EU, the survey added.
 Cosmote subsidiary launches card phones in Albania
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)Albanian Mobile Communications (AMC), a subsidiary of mobile phone operator Cosmote, on Friday launched a card phone service in the neighboring country.
AMC was on target in its plan to introduce the service by the end of 2000, its Greek parent said in a statement.
In turn, Cosmote is a subsidiary of state-owned Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, a heavily traded stock on the Athens bourse.
 Greek police arrest Italian mafia member Francesco Prudentino in Thessaloniki
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)Greek police on Friday afternoon arrested leading Italian mafia member Francesco Prudentino, 52, while he was shopping in a supermarket in the district of Ano Toumba in Thessaloniki, northern Greece.
Italian police believe Prudentino to be a leading member of the Sacra Corona Unita mafia which is responsible for murders, extortions, gunrunning, cigarette smuggling and other criminal acts and is active in southern Italy and primarily in the cities of Brindisi and Lecce.
He did not reveal where he stayed in Thessaloniki, nor his activities in Greece. He is being held in custody at the Thessaloniki police headquarters, while processes for his extradition to Italy have already been activated. He will be brought before prosecuting authorities on Saturday. Police found and confiscated 3,500 German marks and 343,000 drachmas on him.
Prudentino had been sought in various parts of Greece over the past six months, following information provided by the Italian authorities that he was hiding in Greece and continuing his criminal activities.
Interpol had issued a red notice against Prudentino, which is usually issued for internationally dangerous wanted criminals, while an arrest warrant issued against him by judicial authorities in the city of Lecce is still pending against him since 1995 for numerous criminal acts.
According to reports, Prudentino recently moved to Greece from Montenegro, which is considered a crossroads for many cigarette smuggling operations.
The Italian police believe Prudentino is linked to mafia gangs in Naples and the southeastern region of Apulia. According to the Italian police, he is believed to be involved in gunrunning and in extortionist groups. He used to travel to Montenegro frequently.
In Rome, the head of the parliamentary action committee against the mafia Giuseppe Lumia said the arrest was "an excellent result" which was partly achieved thanks to the effective actions of the authorities of Montenegro, following pressure by Italy, and with the cooperation of Greek police authorities.
Reports said Italian agents had been in Greece over the past six months searching for Prudentino, while initial reports had indicated that he lived in the town of Corinth.
 Greek PM chairs meeting of transport and public works minister, urging close cooperation in key infrastructure projects
Athens, 23/12/2000 (ANA)During a meeting to discuss the building of an Athens tramline and suburban railway on Friday, Prime Minister Costas Simitis apparently urged Transport Minister Christos Verelis and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis to cooperate closely in order to ensure that the projects were completed on time and without any problems.
The tram and suburban railway are both important infrastructure improvements linked to the Athens Olympics in 2004 and are expected to greatly improve quality of life for Athens residents.
Emerging from the meeting, Verelis said that the tenders for the two projects would be announced on January 1, 2001. Laliotis said that the tram line, which will link Athens with the coast, will be ready by 2003 and that the suburban railway linking Stavros with the airport at Spata would be ready before the Games begin.
The transport ministry will be in charge of carrying out preliminary studies, plans and monitoring construction while the Environment and Public Works ministry will become involved where the train crosses the Attica highway and the tram passes through works to landscape the Faliron coast.
 British government expresses concern to Denktash over abducted Greek Cypriot
LONDON, 23/12/2000 (CNA/ANA)The main concern of the British government is the welfare of Greek Cypriot Panicos Tziakourmas who has been abducted and illegally detained by Turkish occupation troops, a Foreign Office spokeswoman told CNA.
According to the spokeswoman, the British government has "repeatedly expressed" its concern to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Regarding the substance of the case, she noted, "we cannot say anything yet because the Sovereign Bases Areas police have not yet completed their investigation".
Panicos Tziakourmas, a building contractor by profession, was abducted by the Turkish occupation forces last week as he sat in his car early in the morning, within the British Bases area, waiting to collect Turkish Cypriots to take them to their place of work, as he used to do on a daily basis.
He was accused by the Turkish occupation forces of having drugs in his possession and appeared before a self-styled "court" in occupied Nicosia, which issued an eight-day so-called "remand order".
Tziakourmas appeared before the illegal "court" on Thursday, which ordered he remain in dungeons in the Turkish occupied areas until his so-called "trial", which has been set for mid-February.
The government of Cyprus has been working in earnest for his release. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied 37 percent of its territory.
 Government says it abides by European Court decision over Turkish Cypriot
NICOSIA, 23/12/2000 (CNA/ANA)The Cyprus government on Friday underlined it respects and abides with judgments of both local and international courts, its spokesman Michalis Papapetrou has said.
The spokesman was commenting on a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which held that Turkish Cypriot Erkan Egmez was inhumanely ill-treated by anti-drug police officers in Cyprus at the time of his arrest and that his right to an effective remedy was also violated.
Papapetrou pointed out he had not read Thursday's decision, but "it will be studied by the Attorney General's office and a conclusion with a proposal will be submitted to the government."
"The government fully respects decisions by Cypriot and international courts and its intention is to fully comply with decisions of international courts," he added.
The European Court found that the 34-year-old Turkish Cypriot, living in the areas of Cyprus occupied by Turkey since 1974, was arrested "on reasonable suspicion of committing the criminal offence of drug-trafficking."
However, it took the view that "the ill-treatment to which the applicant had been subjected to could not be qualified as torture. It was nevertheless serious enough to be considered inhuman and there had therefore been a breach of Article 3 of the Convention (European Convention for Human Rights)."
The Turkish Cypriot was arrested by anti-drug police officers at a meeting point, close to the buffer zone and was apprehended by two officers, with whom he fought when he resisted arrest and attempted to escape.
Egmez lodged an application to the European Commission of Human Rights in March 1996 and the Commission referred the case to the Court in October 1999. A chamber of seven judges gave judgment.
Under Article 41 of the Convention, providing for just satisfaction, the Court awarded the applicant 10 thousand pounds sterling for non-pecuniary damage and 400 sterling for legal costs and expenses.