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Athens News Agency: News in English, 97-04-03

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.forthnet.gr/ape>


NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 03/04/1997 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece to provide economic, technical aid to Albania
  • Greek contingent to be stationed in Tirana
  • New meeting on Albanian crisis in Athens today
  • Simitis: Athens aims to protect Greek minority's rights
  • Tirana's National Bank of Greece brancyh reopens
  • Defence Minister satisfied with Paris talks
  • 'Committee of wise men' on Greek-Turkish issues
  • Uzbek President invites Greek investment
  • Turkish air violations despite Karadayi's statements
  • Employment issues aired with European Trade Unions official
  • GDP rate rises slightly in '96
  • EBEA officials calls for radical changes to boost industry
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

    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 yesterday evening.

    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 Albania.

    "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 country.

    "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 environment."

    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 announced yesterday.

    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 branch's vault.

    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 yesterday.

    The French defence minister noted the convergence of views between the two countries regarding the issue of security in the Balkans, and particularly in Albania.

    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 Greece.

    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 resources.

    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 service.

    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 1996.

    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 profitable companies.

    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 products.

    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.

    WEATHER

    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.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE

    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

    (C.E.)


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