Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-04-10
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 10/04/1997 (ANA)
- Premier urges bolder initiatives to strengthen economy
- Greek economy performance at a rate lower than expected
- Greek banks should increase competitiveness
- Defence Minister calls for EU intervention in the Balkans
- Part of Greek loan to Albania to aid Greek businesses
- Bulgarian Foreign Minister to visit Greece
- Washington in favour of recourse to the Hague for Imia
- Merchant Marine Ministry tenders for new helicopters
- Mortgage Bank's pre-tax profits rise in '96
- Health Ministry initiative to tackle illegal drug use
- Airline passengers give Athens airport a 'vote of confidence'
- Foreign Exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Premier urges bolder initiatives to strengthen economy
Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday called on private enterpreneurs to
undertake bolder initiatives that will allow the economy to make the
qualitative leap necessary to face increasingly stiffer international
Speaking at yesterday's session of the Economist's "Roundtable with the
Greek Government", which opened in Athens on Monday, Mr. Simitis said this
leap entailed the speedy stabilisation of prices, reduction in fiscal
deficits and high rates of growth, which required very specific forms of
These concern the capacity to act effectively in a number of fields,
including control of costs, a dynamic perspective for business growth
rather than opportunistic profitability, creation or utilisation of
innovations and research activities, restructuring with a view to growth in
size that affords greater risk-taking and access to larger capital sources,
establishment of brand names, tuning in to the messages of the markets and
making good use of the conditions created by economic policy.
The modernisation of public administration, implementation of decentralisation
policies and the strengthening of the adjustment of businesses to new
realities are among the priorities of the Greek government, he stressed.
Greek economy performance at a rate lower than expected
He cautioned that "the performance of the Greek economy is evolving
satisfactorily but at a rate lower than feasible. Production and productivity
are increasing at very low rates, and funds disbursed have not been
utilised to the desirable degree for the development of the country".
He also emphasised the role of private enterprise.
"Restructuring, modernisation, and an increase in productivity do not
concern only the state, public utilities or working people. They concern
private enterprise to an even greater degree," he said.
Mr. Simitis pointed out the government's goals do not concern particular
social or professional groups, but everyone without exception. Despite the
difficulties, the premier called on economic partners to look to the future
He said the focus of government strategy was increasingly shifting towards
the productive restructuring and the strengthening of the country's growth
"Nineteen-ninety-seven is a crucial year for our policy. The extent of the
improvement in the fields of fiscal deficits and inflation will determine
the distance from our goal, and the intensity of the effort that will be
required next year," he said.
"Investment in infrastructure and the development of human resources, the
institutional changes, are gradually changing the structure of our society
and economy. The national strategy in infrastructure, transport, communications,
energy, ensures a large part of the competitive potential of the national
economy in the coming decades," he added.
He cautioned that there is no other alternative for the country's European
"This policy, the policy of convergence, is the only answer to a multi-
speed Europe. Policies which do not strengthen our economy, no matter how
many excuses they are dressed up with, have one result only: they lead the
country to the second or third sp eed of Europe and annul the long
expectations and sacrifices of working people and the productive forces,"
He further outlined four goals of the government`s programme, namely:
Mr. Simitis said Greece's recent economic performance had created new
comparative advantages regarding investment, monetary, institutional, and
- Ensuring Greece's participation in the final phase of EMU.
- Promotion of strong structural interventions that will speed up
- Contribution to the creation of conditions of political stability and
peace in the broader region, and ensuring the existence of a strong
deterrent force vis-a-vis the systematic provocations in our eastern
borders and in Cyprus.
- The fourth goal is ensuring a high degree of social cohesion, with the
balancing of inequalities and creation of a society based on trust and
"Nineteen-ninety-six was the first year that the growth rate of our economy
signalled, after many years, a real convergence with the average of the
"This performance was achieved without increasing the burdens for the
coming years and generations. The positive course of the country's finances
has resulted in the boosting of its credibility in international organisations,
with secondary positive influences in the cost of external borrowing," he
Greek banks should increase competitiveness
Transformation of the Greek banking sector in view of the Economic and
Monetary Union (EMU) was the focus of yesterday morning's Economist
Commercial Bank President Constantinos Georgoutsakos said that in view of
EMU, Greek banks should try to preserve their competitive advantage in the
"Greek banks should strengthen their position in the local market, where
they are traditionally competitive and have developed strong ties with
their local clientele," he said.
Mr. Georgoutsakos said Greek banks should also expand their activities to
the Balkans, where they could benefit from Greece's traditional economic
relations with these markets and from the development of Greek business
interests in the region. added.
"Our aim is to protect the consumer," Development Undersecretary Mihalis
Chrysohoidis told the conference.
"In view of this political pursuit," he added, "we are formulating the new
rules of healthy competition in the framework of a free market economy."
Mr. Chrysohoidis said that a draft bill to improve protection of free
market competition would soon be completed. He also said the ministry
worked towards the creation of a system to control product quality.
Defence Minister calls for EU intervention in the Balkans
National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed the need for the
European Union to intervene in the Balkans, not in a fashion of managing
crises through military presence alone, but through promoting conditions of
economic cooperation and developme nt, with a plan similar to those
entailed in Mediterranean programmes.
"Greece can play a prominent role in a new developmental scheme, having a
national interest in ensuring stability in Albania and the Balkans," he
Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis stressed that there could be no
normalisation of relations with Turkey as long as what he called Ankara's
aggressive policy towards Greece continued. He said Greece had rejected a
Dutch proposal for the establi shment of a committee of experts from third
countries that would look into Greek-Turkish differences, because it
contained the danger of arbitration.
He said that instead, an exchange of views between Greek and Turkish
experts, with a view to preparing a report on how to handle procedural
matters would be useful.
Part of Greek loan to Albania to aid Greek businesses
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said aid will be provided for Greek
enterprises in Albania which have suffered losses immediately after an
assessment and registration of damages has been made.
Mr. Simitis, who was replying to a question by main opposition New
Democracy party deputy Haralambos Papathanasiou, said part of a 20-billion-
drachma loan Greece will grant to the Albanian government will be provided
for Greek enterprises suffering loss es in the neighbouring country
following several months of turmoil, adding that the situation is still
fluid and there is no clear picture of real losses sustained by Greek
enterprises in that country.
Mr. Papathanasiou said there is also a climate of insecurity and uncertainty
among the Greek business world operating in the neighbouring country,
stressing that this climate is intensified by extortions from organised
Bulgarian Foreign Minister to visit Greece
Bulgaria's caretaker Foreign Minister Stoyan Stalev will pay working visit
to Greece from April 14-16 at the invitation of Foreign Minister Theodoros
The despatch added that Mr. Stalev would be received by President Kostis
Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Parliament President
Apostolos Kaklamanis and have talks with Mr. Pangalos.
Quoting Bulgarian foreign ministry spokesman Radko Vlaidkov, Mr. Stalev's
talks will focus on Bulgaria's desire to join NATO and become a member of
the European Union.
During his contacts here, Mr. Stalev is also expected to discuss the
general situation in the Balkans and bilateral cooperation issues,
particularly commercial and economic relations and cross-border programmes.
Washington in favour of recourse to The Hague for Imia
The White House reiterated yesterday that it favoured referral of the Imia
dispute to the International Court of Justice at The Hague.
"We have repeatedly said that we believe that the dispute between Greece
and Turkey surrounding the sovereignty of Imia/Kardak, the island that has
two names, should be referred to the International Court at The Hague...that
is and will be our position," White House spokesman Mike McCurry said.
Merchant marine ministry tenders for new helicopters
The merchant marine ministry will in the next few days invite tenders for
the supply of all-weather helicopters, following the unanimous approval of
the inter-party committee responsible for examining the procurement.
Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis, who made the announcement at a
press conference yesterday, thanked all the representatives of the
political parties who participated in the committee for their decision.
Mortgage Bank's pre-tax profits rise in '96
Speaking at the National Mortgage Bank of Greece's (EKTE) general assembly
yesterday, bank governor Vassilis Rapanos said EKTE's pre-tax profits
amounted to 36.08 billion drachmas compared to 20.06 billion drachmas in
the previous fiscal year.
He further said that the price of the bank's shares at the Athens stock
exchange increased by 59 per cent in 1996 against an increase of 22 per
cent of the bank share indicator.
Mr. Rapanos added that apart from the bank's improved productivity and
efficiency indicators, efforts are underway to modernise and develop EKTE
and that a series of projects aimed at a gradual change in the bank's basic
structures and functions has alr eady been approved.
Health ministry initiative to tackle illegal drug use
The health ministry announced a series of measures yesterday to tackle the
problem of illegal drug abuse in Greece at a time when heroin-related
deaths are increasing.
At the same time, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that the government
was not considering a change in the law against illegal drugs, during a
response to a question tabled by PASOK deputy Nasos Alevras.
Health Minister Costas Geitonas said there are no "magic solutions" for
this problem and called on whoever has any to come forward. The triptych of
the government's effort to tackle the drug scourge was set out as
- An active upgrading of centres preoccupied with the issue and their close
cooperation with many known centres abroad which have made great achievements
in tackling the problem.
- Action through the organisation against drugs, the establishment of new
centres aimed at decentralising prevention and therapy programmes and in
remote parts of the country as well.
An appropriate registration of data from around the country.
Health Undersecretary Manolis Skoulakis said the turnover stemming from
drug trafficking in Greece is estimated at 450 billion drachmas and called
on every local association or group to organise itself and combat the
Heroin-related deaths claimed 10 victims in eight days recently.
Airline passengers give Athens airport a 'vote of confidence'
Athens' Hellenikon airport has been voted the world's most improved airport
by long-haul airline passengers, the International Air Transport Association
(IATA) said yesterday.
Athens was bottom of the poll last year and for years target of fierce
criticism in the travel industry.
The poll, based on the views of some 55,000 people and covering 54 airports,
chose Singapore's Changi airport and Britain's Manchester as the world's
top two airports. Melbourne came a close third, up from seventh last
Fine weather with long spells of sunshine is forecast for most parts of
Greece today except for the Aegean islands and Crete where it will be
partly cloudy. Winds will be variable, weak to moderate. Athens will be
mostly sunny with temperatures ranging from 3-14C. Similar weather in
Thessaloniki where temperatures will be between 1-13C.
Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 268.028
Pound sterling 435.409 Cyprus pd 525.760
French franc 46.428 Swiss franc 182.017
German mark 156.205 Italian lira (100) 15.820
Yen (100) 212.129 Canadian dlr. 193.043
Australian dlr. 209.148 Irish Punt 415.053
Belgian franc 7.572 Finnish mark 52.352
Dutch guilder 138.900 Danish kr. 41.015
Swedish kr. 34.926 Norwegian kr. 38.638
Austrian sch. 22.197 Spanish peseta 1.850
Portuguese escudo 1.559