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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-04-09

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, 09/04/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Economist-Greece conference addresses
  • New Democracy party leader's convergence proposals
  • Albanian opposition leaders' view of deployment
  • Greece, Slovakia sign air transport agreement
  • Meeting on southeastern European stability held in Skopje
  • Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline discussed at conference
  • Business data bank
  • Greece "dying", demographic study shows
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange


NEWS IN DETAIL

Economist-Greece conference

The annual "Roundtable with the Greek Government" held by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which opened on Monday night, continued yesterday with speeches by ministers, opposition leaders and foreign guests

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou told the conference that Athens would adhere to the implementation of the convergence programme as well as its development programme, while privatisations would go ahead as scheduled, with significant structural chang es allowing for an improved operation of the market and general business environment.

Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis spoke of the need for an expansion of the tax base in Greece over the next few years, along with a gradual reduction in taxpayers' burden. He also stressed that the Greek government would make a greater effor t to manage the public debt.

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas called for more social justice and solidarity on the part of the European Union towards Greece. He claimed that the Maastricht Treaty led to an inhumane and extreme form of neo-conservatism.

Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) president Andreas Kanellopoulos complained of insufficient privatisation, infrastructure problems, overvaluation of the drachma, which he said undermined the competitiveness of Greek products, and too much state inte rvention. He called for a reduction in public spending, emphasising that despite progress that had been made in the Greek economy, the problems remained.

Despite efforts, the Greek economy has still a great distance to cover in many fronts, Giovanni Ravajio, the head of the European Commission's economic affairs department said yesterday.

Addressing the "Economist" conference, Mr. Ravajio said Greece had made satisfactory progress in bringing down inflation and the public deficit, warning that the situation should be stabilised. This way Greece will meet the Stability Pact provisions, he said.

Mr. Ravajio said Greece will meet convergence criteria and participate in the European Monetary Union faster than expected.

Urging the Greek government to make convergence the central focus of its economic policy "very soon after 1999," he went on to say that Greece's monetary policy remains "fragile to the possibility of an investors' crisis of confidence," and that real in terest rates remain excessively high.

Environment and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis said more than 7,000 projects, programmes and actions of national, regional and prefectural importance were underway, stressing their positive implications for the country's development course.

Mr. Laliotis cited the Egnatia Highway across the breadth of northern Greece, the Patra-Athens-Thessaloniki-Bulgarian road axis, the Rio-Antirrio Bridge, the Aheloos River diversion, port and airport projects throughout the country.

Concluding, Development Undersecretary Anna Diamantopoulou yesterday called on western entrepreneurs to make use of the government's "extremely favourable incentives" and move their headquarters to Greece.

New Democracy party leader's convergence proposals

Concluding later in the evening, main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis presented his proposals for the Greek economy's convergence with the rest of the European Union. He also charged that the PASOK government's policy doesn't facil itate convergence with the other EU member-states.

Mr. Karamanlis said the cost of Greece not entering the European Monetary Union is "hard to contemplate," adding that a courageous policy of privatisations should follow.

Albanian opposition leaders' view of deployment

The Greek troops in the multinational force should be deployed in the southern part and towards the centre of the country, Albanian opposition leaders told a press conference in Strasbourg yesterday.

Praising Greece's position, Socialist Party leader Fatos Nano, Social Democratic Party leader Skender Gjinushi and the president of the Democratic Alliance, Nevitan Ceka, said "Greece's presense is not a concern for anybody," and that "the Greek governm ent's positions are known and beyond misunderstanding."

They said the presence of foreign troops could not be regarded as "a blow to Albania's independence," as troops of the security force will not be faced with armed insurgents, "the overwhelming majority of which still keep arms as an act of defence against the Berisha regime, and in claiming real elections."

The Albanian leaders said the troops in the security force will mostly have police duties with the aim to assist the legal government of the country to proceed to democratic elections.

"Only the democratic institutions can guarantee democracy, not people," they said, hinting that Europe has relied for too long "on Berisha's democratic mask."

The Albanian leaders were visiting Strasbourg at the invitation of the European Parliament's Socialist Group.

Greece,Slovakia sign air transport agreement

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos held prolonged talks here yesterday with his Slovakian counterpart Pavel Hamzik as well as with the country's President, Mihal Kovac, and Prime Minister, Vladimir Meciar.

According to reports, the talks ascertained a very good level of Greek- Slovak relations.

The two foreign ministers signed an agreement on air transport in the framework of bilateral cooperation, while the visit of National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos to Bratislava on Sept. 25-26 was also announced.

The two sides also ascertained possibilities for further improving economic cooperation between the two countries, such as in the tourism sector, which is "supplementary" since Slovakia is indicated for winter tourism and Greece for sea tourism. The vol ume of trade exchanges, limited to only US$44 million last year, can be increased considerably through the exploitation of existing potential.

Mr. Pangalos assured his interlocutors of Greece's support for Slovakia's efforts for accession to NATO, the European Union and the OECD. In relation to NATO, he said Greece rejects the creation of new dividing lines in Europe resulting from the selecti ve accession of new members to NATO and shares the desire of countries to participate in European security. He also maintained that Russia's sensitivities should be taken into consideration during NATO's enlargement process.

Pointing to various reservations by Brussels on the democratic nature of certain candidate countries for NATO accession, Mr. Pangalos said no one can invoke a lack of democratic nature at a time when Turkey is a NATO member, where in no way is there res pect for the principles of democracy, human rights or freedom of expression.

In connection with Slovakia's accession to the OECD, Mr. Pangalos said that in this case criteria must be purely economic and various political preconditions must not be necessary.

Commenting on the issue of an Islamic upsurge in Turkey raised by his Slovak interlocutors, Mr. Pangalos said it constitutes the reaction of the Turkish people to the so-called democracy their politicians are offering to them.

Mr. Pangalos left Bratislava for the Caucasus region yesterday afternoon to pay official visits to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. He will also sign a series of bilateral agreements in these countries.

Meeting on southeastern European stability held in Skopje

A meeting on "Stability and Good Neighbourliness in Southeastern Europe" was held in Skopje yesterday in the framework of the Royaumont Initiative.

About 30 delegations from European countries, the United States, the European Union and the OSCE, among others, participated.

The meeting focused on a general review of good neighbourliness, the contribution of the media to stability and inter-regional dialogue, contacts and cooperation in sectors such as education, the society of citizens, an exchange of information on econom ic cooperation initiatives and stability measures in the security sector.

Greece participated with a five-member representation headed by the chief of its liaison office in Skopje, Ambassador Alexandros Mallias.

Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline discussed at conference

A two-day conference on security and protection of the environment from overland oil pipelines and sea terminals ended in Alexandroupoli yesterday.

The conference, organised by the European Commission in the framework of the "Thermie" programme, was attended by more than 100 representatives of Greek and foreign companies active in the construction and management of oil and gas distribution networks .

A preliminary study on the environmental implications of the proposed Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline was presented at the conference, as well as its significance for local communities and cooperation in the political, social, economic and energy sec tors in the Balkans.

Meanwhile, an ANA dispatch from Sofia yesterday reported that Bulgarian Public Works Minister Nikola Karantimov said the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline project will be revised.

"Before we proceed to official negotiations with Greece and Russia, we must clarify the political and economic aspects of the project," Mr. Kantamirov was quoted as saying, and adding that a new technical and economic study was required for Bulgarian in terests.

Another report stated that Russia and Bulgaria yesterday arrived at an agreement regarding the development of a network for the transportation and supply of Russian natural gas to Bulgaria.

The agreement will be signed by Bulgarian Prime Ministers Stefan Sofianksi and his Russian counterpart Victor Chernomyrdin during the former's upcoming visit to Moscow.

Business data bank

The Athens Chamber of Small Manufacturers (BEA) has set up a data bank complete with options for business cooperation with prospective partners abroad. The bank provides information on foreign importers, those interested in participating in trade fairs an d missions abroad. For more information call 36.35.313-9.

ANA

Greece `dying`, demographic study shows

Greece is heading with mathematical precision towards the "abyss" of demographic disaster due to the country's extremely low birth rate and gradual ageing of the population, according to a study carried out over four years by Greek-American professor of m edicine and biochemistry at the University of California, Mihalis Giokas.

The findings of the study will be presented at the 3rd Science conference of Medical Students of Greece and the 3rd Paneuropean Conference of Medical Students which will be held from April 11-13 at Ayia Pelagia, Iraklion.

According to the study, Greece has a birth rate of just 1.4 per cent - one of the lowest in Europe - which, together with the 300,000 abortions annually, and the 4,000 deaths and 38,000 injuries in road accidents each year "will most certainly lead to b iological decline and to fundamental and undesirable changes in Greek society".

In the introductory part of his findings, Mr. Giokas underlines that "only a small percentage of the people and leadership have realized the enormous danger facing the country".

The majority of Greeks are unconcerned, Mr. Giokas says, even though the figures clearly show that Greece is slowly dying.

According to Mr. Giokas's calculations, if the birth rate remains at the same low level (1.3-1.4 per cent), Greece's population in the year 2015 will be reduced by 500,000 as compared to today.

By way of comparison, Turkey, despite all its problems, will have an estimated population of 91.8 million.

WEATHER

Wednesday's weather is expected to be party cloudy with possible snowfalls in the north. Light rain is likely in other areas, particularly the Aegean. Winds will be north-northeasterly, moderate in the west to strong to gale-force towards the southern Aegean, easing later in the day. Temperatures in Athens will range from 5-12C, in Thessaloniki from 4-12C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 267.542 Pound sterling 434.198 Cyprus pd 525.958 French franc 46.412 Swiss franc 181.367 German mark 156.161 Italian lira (100) 15.836 Yen (100) 211.842 Canadian dlr. 193.004 Australian dlr. 207.705 Irish Punt 414.656 Belgian franc 7.569 Finnish mark 52.376 Dutch guilder 138.860 Danish kr. 40.993 Swedish kr. 34.916 Norwegian kr. 38.529 Austrian sch. 22.191 Spanish peseta 1.850 Portuguese escudo 1.557

(Y.B.)


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