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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 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

  • 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
  • Weather
  • 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 years.

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 police cordon.

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 letter.

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 today.

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 season.

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 recommended price.

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 prices.

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 York.

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 "unstable periphery".

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 Union.

The next stop on the Transatlantic Forum's briefing tour of the US is Los Angeles.

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.

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

(M.P.)


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