NEWS IN DETAIL
Greece to provide economic, technical aid to Albania
Greece will provide US$80 million (roughly 20 billion drachmas) in urgent
economic assistance to Albania, Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his
visiting counterpart Bashkim Fino agreed at a high-level meeting in Athens
It was also agreed that Greece will provide technical assistance to the
crisis-racked country for the holding of elections in June.
"Sincerity and realism prevailed at the meeting," Mr. Simitis told
reporters afterwards, adding that Athens was prepared to cooperate and
provide any means necessary for the promotion of peace and normalcy in
"The holding of elections and a smooth course towards democracy are
especially important issues and will facilitate the securing and speeding
up of the various aid which Albania needs," the Greek premier said.
He did not specify whether the aid would be disbursed before the holding of
elections, but said Greece wished this to happen as soon as possible, and
on the basis of certain developmental principles. He added that Greece
would also examine ways of further strengthening the presence of the
European Union in the neighbouring country.
Greek contingent to be stationed in Tirana
Mr. Simitis reiterated that Greece would participate in the "accompanying
force" of European Union advisors in Albania, and stressed the need to
secure access for the Greek contingent to as many Albanian regions as
possible, "so that humanitarian aid will reach them the soonest."
The Greek contingent, which will be stationed near Tirana, will also assist
with the distribution of humanitarian aid in southern Albania.
The Simitis-Fino talks also dealt with the issue of technical-advisory
assistance Athens will provide for the restructuring of Albania's armed
forces and police.
Mr. Fino said relations between Greece and Albania were excellent, and
expressed his government's appreciation for the dispatch of a Greek
contingent to Albania as part of the UN-mandated multinational force.
"The return to order and normalcy cannot take place that quickly, and for
this reason the Albanian government has asked for the support of the
European Union, and chiefly Greece and Italy," he said.
Asked if he desired the resignation of Albanian President Sali Berisha, Mr.
Fino answered in the negative, underlining that what he desired was for Mr.
Berisha to respect the agreements which he made with the 10 Albanian
parties and to lead the country to democratic elections in June.
New meeting on Albanian crisis in Athens today
A new meeting on the Albanian crisis is scheduled at the foreign ministry
today, with the participation of the Albanian premier, Foreign Minister
Theodoros Pangalos, the special envoy of the Organisation for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), fo rmer Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky,
who was expected in Athens last night, and the Dutch president of the EU
Council of Ministers, Hans van Mierlo, who is arriving this morning.
Mr. Fino's meetings today also include one with newly elected leader of the
main opposition New Democracy party, Costas Karamanlis.
Simitis: Athens aims to protect Greek minority's rights
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that Greece's interest in
Albania was to protect the rights of the ethnic Greek minority in southern
Albania and not to establish a sphere of control in the neighbouring
"Greece's presence on the Albanian problem is aimed at facing the crisis
through political means and safeguarding the rights of the Greek minority.
We do not intend to create a zone of influence," Mr. Simitis said, adding
that the Albanian crisis was a prime example of "today's fluid international
The premier made the statements during an address to the ruling PASOK's
Parliamentary group meeting. Citing improvements in economic indicators,
Mr. Simitis said the government's economic policy has yielded positive
results, adding that the policy must be implemented.
Tirana's National Bank of Greece branch reopens
The National Bank of Greece branch in Tirana has resumed operations as
normal with transactions being conducted in complete safety, the bank
Security at the building in which the branch is housed is being provided by
armed security guards on a 24-hour basis.
In addition, customers' deposits and other securities are considered to be
perfectly safe thanks to the latest technology installations at the
The branch first opened in the Albanian capital in November last year.
Defence Minister satisfied with Paris talks
National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his French counterpart
Charles Millon expressed their satisfaction over the "excellent climate of
talks and the convergence of views" during their meeting in Paris
The French defence minister noted the convergence of views between the two
countries regarding the issue of security in the Balkans, and particularly
France has strongly supported the dispatch of a multi-national force to
safeguard humanitarian aid sent to Albania and to participate with local
authorities in the restoration of law and order.
Mr. Millon stressed the quality of relations between Greece and France, the
high level of talks and his friendly relations with his Greek counterpart.
He also spoke of NATO's expansion eastwards, particularly Romania,
referring to the common Greek-French position regarding the entry of the
latter into the alliance with the first batch of candidate countries.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos stressed the importance of his talks with the French
defence ministry, saying changes were agreed upon to promote the security
and stability in the region and in the circles of NATO and the West
European Union (WEU).
He also spoke of NATO's new structure and its southern flank, where Paris,
despite objections from Washington, is insisting on a European commander
being appointed. Mr. Tsohatzopoulos added that the two ministers also
agreed on armament issues.
Questioned by reporters, the defence minister said "Greek-Turkish relations
could not have been left out of (the discussions)," although he declined to
give further details.
'committee of wisemen' on Greek-Turkish issues
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Omer Akbel yesterday said Ankara
accepted in principle as positive the idea of creating a "committee of
wisemen" to handle Greek-Turkish problems.
"There are various methods of seeking a solution in cooperation and
understanding between the two sides. One of these methods is the idea of
the 'committee of wisemen'," he said.
"If this idea will help in resolving problems between the two countries
with dialogue and if help from third parties is required, we will have no
objection to this and face it with satisfaction," he added.
Mr. Akbel said that what is necessary is a "sincere effort to resolve all
problems and we must start some sort of a dialogue for this purpose."
Uzbek president invites Greek investment
Visiting Uzbek President Islam Karimov yesterday invited Greek businessmen
to consider the many opportunities for investing in Uzbekistan and
establishing closer commercial ties with the central Asian republic.
During a 90-minute visit to the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
Mr. Karimov underlined the opportunities related to the exploitation of
Uzbekistan's vast mineral wealth, particularly its huge unexploited
reserves of gold, oil and natural gas.
Part of these resources, he added, could subsequently be imported by
Turkish air violations despite Karadayi's statements
The violations of Cypriot airspace by Turkish warplanes show that the words
of Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Ismail Karadayi do not correspond to
deeds, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday. Replying to
reporters' questions, Mr. Reppa s added that the Turkish violations were
not violations of "some moratorium, which in any case does not exist, but
of the borders of an independent country, Cyprus".
Gen. Karadayi made conciliatory statements on Greek-Turkish relations
recently during a visit to the Greek embassy in Ankara on the occasion of
Greek Independence Day.
Employment issues aired with European Trade Unions official
Labour and Social Security Minister Miltiades Papaioannou and the secretary
general of the Confederation of European Trade Unions, Emilio Campalio,
held a meeting yesterday focusing on employment-related issues.
Mr. Campalio elaborated on the two main issues concerning the confederation.
These include transformation of European industries with negative
repercussions for employment, and the confederation's request for inclusion
in the Maastrict Treaty of a new c lause on employment policy together with
that on Economic Monetary Union.
After the meeting, Mr. Campalio said the Greek government should seek a new
strategy to resolve the issue of unemployment while improving human
Mr. Papaioannou said EMU's goal would not be achieved unless the European
Union consolidated social cohesion.
GDP rate rises slightly in '96
The rate of GDP increase rose in Greece slightly in 1996 compared to 1995,
according to figures provided by the European Union's statistical
Greece's GDP rate increased to 2.38 per cent in 1996 as against 2.03 per
cent in 1995.
Such an acceleration in GDP growth in 1996 occurred only in Greece, the
Netherlands and Portugal, in contrast to other EU countries, which are all
showing a slowdown in GDP growth. Indicative of this trend is that the
average EU rate decreased from 2.48 per cent in 1995 to 1.59 per cent in
Greece ranks fourth after Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal in relation
to the greatest GDP increase rate among EU countries in 1996.
EBEA official calls for radical changes to boost industry
The Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EBEA) has recommended that the
government institute a series of drastic measures designed to boost
activity in the industrial sector.
The measures were announced by EBEA secretary-general and president of the
Union of Greek Textile Industrialists, Eleftherios Kourtallis.
Mr. Kourtallis said it was imperative that current development legislation
be revised to extend incentives on the basis of stricter criteria and not
be restricted to tax breaks which will benefit only a small number of
He said the deregulation of the labour market and "more flexible" labour
relations through institutional changes would reduce production costs and
that all sector-based collective agreements should be abolished and
renegotiated from the beginning.
Pension contributions which burden labour costs should also be reduced as
should bank interest rates, which should come into line with inflation, in
an effort to compress production costs and create more competitive
Mr. Kourtallis said estimates for the course of industry for the first
quarter of 1997 were pessimistic, resulting in the business expectation
index reaching its lowest levels since December 1995.
He said he considered the de-industrialisation of the economy was
continuing, saying that industrial production had been ranging at the same
levels since 1980, and that industry's contribution to Gross National
Product fell to 13 percent in 1995 from 23 percent in 1980.
Unstable weather will continue in most parts of Greece today with local
cloudiness, rain and sunny spells. Storms locally heavy in the south.
Occasional snowfall in the mountainous regions. Winds weak to moderate.
Sunny spells in Athens with temperatures between 6-15C. Thessaloniki will
be partly cloudy with temperatures between 3-13C.
Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 263.475
Pound sterling 433.405 Cyprus pd 527.546
French franc 46.793 Swiss franc 182.191
German mark 157.619 Italian lira (100) 15.832
Yen (100) 215.324 Canadian dlr. 189.512
Australian dlr. 207.070 Irish Punt 416.442
Belgian franc 7.638 Finnish mark 52.864
Dutch guilder 140.100 Danish kr. 41.368
Swedish kr. 34.680 Norwegian kr. 39.184
Austrian sch. 22.399 Spanish peseta 1.860
Portuguese escudo 1.569