Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-04-09
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 09/04/1997 (ANA)
- Athens denies press reports of secret talks with Turkey
- Greek, Albanian defence ministers discuss details of force
- Greece in EMU by 2001, BoG governor says
- Gov't criticises construction workers' protest
- Hellenic Vehicles Industry develops armoured combat vehicle
- Tourist-friendly measures announced
- Apostolakis continues talks in US
- Business data bank
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Athens denies press reports of secret talks with Turkey
The government today denied a newspaper article claiming that Athens was
engaged in a secret dialogue with Ankara within the framework of NATO.
A front-page article in today's edition of the Athens daily ''Eleftheros
Typos'' claimed that negotiations between Greece and Turkey on the Aegean
were already in progress.
According to the newspaper, talks were in progress in Brussels -- the
headquarters of NATO -- under the general supervision of Alliance Secretary
General Javier Solana.
Denying the report, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said ''what is
happening is the study and drawing of conclusions on the basis of the
picture relayed to NATO by Greek radar concerning the violations of Greek
airspace by Turkish aircraft''.
The spokesman underlined that there was ''no other issue of dialogue''
while noting that ''this dialogue does not constitute negotiation''.
Replying to other questions, Reppas said that the discussion at the level
of permanent representatives with the aim of reducing tension in the Aegean
was nothing new.
He added that Greece was also examining the issue of extending the
moratorium on military flights over the Aegean, currently applicable to
July and August, to June and September also.
''The present process at NATO strengthens Greece's relationship politically
because it shows that Athens is right to charge and protest Turkish
aggression,'' Reppas said.
Greek, Albanian defence ministers discuss details of force
Greece's participation in the multinational peace force in Albania, as well
as in assisting in the reconstruction of the Albanian armed forces were
discussed today by visiting Albanian Defence Minister Shaqir Vukaj and his
Greek counterpart Akis Tsohatzopoulos.
The Greek Defence Minister said the Greek corps would consist of 700-900
troops, depending on requirements, while tomorrow the final decision was to
be made in cooperation with the Albanian government regarding the
deployment of the first troops on 14 April.
Replying to questions regarding reports that the Italian government of
Prime Minister Romano Prodi could resign over the issue, and the risks
involved in the mission, Tsohatzopoulos expressed the belief that the
Italian parliament would approve the deployment of an Italian corps in
Albania. If not, he added, others would take charge, as the UN decision (to
send troops) could not be cancelled.
The dangers that would have to be faced by the multinational force, said
Vukaj, were limited to criminal gangs, as the Albanian people in both the
north and south of the country would welcome the foreign troops.
Vukaj dismissed interpretations in the press that Albania was in a state of
civil war. There had never been a civil war, nor had Albanians taken up
arms against each other, even though there were three different religious
groups. Albania's ethnic Greek minority, he added, served as a "bridge of
friendship" between the Greek and Albanian peoples.
At the meeting, details of bilateral cooperation were worked out with
regard to Albania's reorganisation of its armed forces. Discussions will be
continued at military level, said Tsohatzopoulos. Vukaj said the reconstruction
would be based on the history of the army, the traditions of the people,
the experience of the modern infrastructure of NATO member states and that
of other countries similar to Albania.
Greece in EMU by 2001, BoG governor says
Bank of Greece Governor Lucas Papademos, speaking at today's session of the
Economist-sponsored "Round Table with the Greek Government", was optimistic
that Greece would be able to participate in the European Monetary Union by
the end of 2001.
He referred to progress made in recent years towards monetary stability and
satisfying the criteria of the Maastricht treaty.
"Conditions are favourable for a decrease in inflation to below 3% within
1998, approaching the limit set out in the convergence criteria," he
predicted, adding that meeting monetary criteria for convergence would be
the most difficult task of macro-economic policy over the next few
Papademos also made extended reference to the consequences of the EMU on
Greece's monetary policy, stressing that even though the same goals would
be adhered to, two new elements would be introduced. These were the
introduction of an exchange parity mechanism based on the euro and a
stability pact aimed at a more effective restriction of monetary deficits
within specific limits.
Turning to the repercussions of the EMU on the credit system and the
capital markets, Papadimos said the trend towards a smaller number of large
banks offering the entire range of banking services, along with the
creation of specialised financial institutions would be encouraged.
Domestic credit institutions would be able to succeed in the new environment
if they reduced their operating costs, improved their technological and
personnel infrastructure, improved their position regarding capital and
risk management, he added.
The Bank of Greece, he concluded, was proceeding with necessary preparations
for adopting the single currency and would soon establish new strategies to
influence fluidity and inter-bank market rates. He also said the Bank was
coordinating its efforts to institute the operation of an effective system
of payments which would be in line with comparative systems in other
European nations and that these systems will constitute the inter-European
payment system target necessary for the unified monetary policy.
Gov't criticises construction workers' protest
The government criticised today's protest by striking construction workers,
marred by scuffles between the latter and policemen, saying it ''dynamites
every good effort to tackle the problems of the people''.
Advising calm and sobriety, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas noted that
some of the construction workers today wore crash helmets ''which although
not indicative of unlawfulness is indicative of a certain attitude''.
The scuffles, during which one policeman was slightly injured, broke out
near the Labour Ministry which was being visited at the time by Prime
Minister Costas Simitis, when construction workers tried to break through a
Order was restored after riot police intervened using teargas.
Earlier, about 1,500 construction workers, who today staged a 24-hour
strike, attended a rally in central Athens.
Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou described as ''unacceptable'' the
construction workers' insistence on reaching the ministry during a
scheduled visit by the prime minister.
Papioannou said he had sent a letter to the construction workers' labour
federation asking them to postpone today's meeting. Not only had they
refused, he added, but they also assaulted the person who delivered the
The President of the Panehellenic Federation of Construction Workers,
Andreas Zazopoulos, accused the government of high-handedness.
During a 30-minute meeting with Papaioannou, a six-member delegation
representing construction workers outlined their positions on the measures
they believe must be taken to combat unemployment in their branch.
The delegation also put forward social security demands and underlined the
problems caused by the illegal employment of foreign workers in construction.
The Panhellenic Federation of Construction Workers is scheduled to meet in
the next few days to decide on further protest action.
Hellenic Vehicles Industry develops new armoured combat vehicle
The Hellenic Vehicles Industry (ELBO) has designed a new armoured vehicle
for combat and proposed its mass production to the National Defence
Ministry, ELBO President Lykourgos Sakellaris told a press conference
Sakellaris however declined to say whether the proposal had met with a
favourable response from the ministry.
Referring to ELBO's activities in general, Sakellaris said the company was
aiming to extend its activities.
In 1997, ELBO is expected to triple its profits, which are expected to
reach an estimated one billion drachmas.
Last year, the company recorded a turnover of 25.5 billion drachmas and
profits of 330 million drachmas, compared to 24.5 billion and 1.4 billion
drachmas respectively in 1995.
Sakellaris attributed the drop in profits to the high cost of manufacturing
products and the company's increased overheads.
According to Sakellaris, ELBO is currently negotiating with the National
Defence Ministry for the manufacture of 57 ''Leonidas'' armoured vehicles
and 355 small jeeps.
On 28 March, he added, the company signed an agreement with the Cypriot
government for the supply of military trucks and jeeps in a deal worth a
total of 2.7 billion drachmas.
At the same time, an order has been placed by the Thessaloniki Urban
Transport authority for the manufacture of 45 buses, worth 1.8 billion
drachmas. The first 15 vehicles will be delivered this year.
ELBO was recently awarded a Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE) tender for
the manufacture of 15 coaches in a deal worth 1.5 billion drachmas which is
expected to be finalized shortly.
The company is currently completing an order placed by Thessaloniki
Muncipality for the manufacture of 15 garbage trucks.
Sakellaris noted that the company's exports were progressing well,
particularly with respect to Serbia, while expressing optimism that
negotiations with Egypt for the supply of 15 ''Leonidas'' armoured vehicles
would have a positive outcome.
Tourist-friendly measures announced
Development Minister Vasso Papandreou and Undersecretary Michalis
Chrysochoidis today announced a series of measures aimed at protecting
consumers and upgrading tourism services prior to the new tourist
According to the new measures, a number of basic goods such as bottled
water and soft drinks will as of this year go on sale displaying a
Although prices will be freely determined by producers and importers and
will not be binding on retailers, consumers will know whether the price
they are paying is reasonable and will therefore to some extent control
The recommended prices will be higher on the islands and in tourist areas
only in high season, but all the year round in snack-bars on ferry-boats,
trains and at airports, sports grounds and archaeological sites.
The measures also introduce a ''protest sheet'' which will be available (in
triplicate) to consumers at the exits of stores and other business
premises. Consumers will be able to use the sheet to complain about tax,
market or sanitary violations, leaving one copy with the store and sending
another to the local prefectural authorities.
A study will also get under way this year on a categorisation system for
restaurants, entertainment centres and hotels. Using ''stars'' to denote
quality of services, the system will be implemented during 1998.
Brochures written in several languages, accompanied by protest sheets, will
also be distributed to taxis for use by disgruntled passengers. At the same
time, the police will increase their patrols and checks at taxi ranks such
as at airports and harbours.
In addition, over the next three years all taxi drivers will attend a
special training course, completion of which will be a prerequisite for the
granting of licences.
Assurances were also given today that the general situation for passengers
will be much improved at airports and ports around the country.
In view of the new tourist season, Papandreou asked local government
authorities to strictly implement provisions on tourist and related
facilities and services, imposing fines and other penalties where necessary,
regardless of any political cost.
Apostolakis continues talks in US
Defence Undersecretary Dimitris Apostolakis discussed relations between the
European Union, its defence arm the Western European Union, and NATO with
United Nations Deputy Secretary General Bernard Miyet, who is responsible
for peace missions. Apostolakis later developed these views during an event
at the European Institute, reports the ANA's correspondent in New
In the meeting with Miyet, reference was made to the multinational force
for Albania, to be deployed next week, as an example of an autonomous force
not sponsored by the UN but which had been approved by the Security Council,
following approval by the European Union.
Apostolakis, who is heading a delegation of the Transatlantic Forum,
addressed the European Institute gathering on the European Union's
initiatives in creating a common foreign and security policy, NATO
expansion and the role of the Western European Union.
He made particular reference to problems that have arisen due to the stance
of the more powerful Western European nations, who appeared to be less and
less willing, following the collapse of communism, to intervene in "foreign
conflicts", resulting in the acceptance of faits accomplis which were in
opposition to the values of the West. This stance, he noted, was of
particular concern to countries situated around the European Union's
No guarantees existed for the security of these countries, he noted, adding
that the EU should develop an autonomous security and defence body within
NATO which would be parallel to that of the North Atlantic Alliance.
The WEU's goals, he said, were to be on the one hand, the European mainstay
of NATO and on the other, to undertake the defence of the European
The next stop on the Transatlantic Forum's briefing tour of the US is Los
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.
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
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