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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-04-10

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, 10/04/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Alternate FM meets with Dutch EU officials on relations with Turkey
  • Seminar on Imia tomorrow
  • Final approval on Albania contingent due next week
  • Premier urges bolder initiatives to strengthen economy
  • Convergence programme a 'one-way street'
  • New tax shock troops hit the streets
  • Bulgarian Foreign Minister to visit Greece
  • 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'
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange


NEWS IN DETAIL

Alternate FM meets with Dutch EU officials on relations with Turkey

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis had talks today with the diplomatic delegation of the Dutch EU presidency which was returning from consultations in Ankara.

The three-member delegation had talks in Ankara yesterday within the framework of the EU presidency's mediation initiative aimed at the normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations.

Speaking at yesterday's session of the Economist's ''Roundtable with the Greek Government'', Kranidiotis said Athens saw in a positive light a proposal for an exchange of ''scientific views'' between Greek and Turkish experts concerning procedural matters related to relations between the two countries.

Kranidiotis said today's talks with the delegation of the EU presidency concerned precisely this issue, adding that the delegation conveyed Turkey's views to Greece.

He said there were no final conclusions from the talks because Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos had to be briefed.

Kranidiotis clarified that the proposal for the formation of a committee of experts came from the Dutch presidency and that Athens ''views this process within the framework of confidence-building between Greece and Turkey''.

After thanking the Dutch presidency for its efforts, Papandreou referred to his recent private meeting with Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo.

''The Presidency has its own specific thoughts, which I shall convey to the prime minister. We shall see whether the two sides agree to the proposals of the Dutch presidency. Our positions are quite clear. We are now waiting for an unequivocal statement on the part of Turkey,'' Papandreou said.

Asked by reporters, both Papandreou and Kranidiotis declined to refer to the views of the Turkish side as the latter were conveyed today by the delegation.

They underlined however that Turkey must respect international law and reject the use of force as a means of resolving any problems it may have with Greece.

In a related development, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the proposal for the formation of a committee of experts referred to by Kranidiotis last night constituted ''an element of policy within the framework of broadening ways of resolving problems in Greek-Turkish relations''.

Today's talks, Reppas added, between Papandreou, Kranidiotis and the EU presidency delegation was ''within the framework of the effort to resolve the problems in relations'' between Greece and Turkey.

Referring to the conditions set by Greece as prerequisites for any improvement in relations with neighbouring Turkey, Reppas reiterated that these were refraining from using force, Ankara's retracting its threats of war, respect by Turkey for international law and recourse to the International Court at the Hague for resolving differences of a legal nature.

The spokesman also stressed that the normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations also presupposed a ''positive response'' from Ankara to Greece's proposals.

Asked whether there had been any positive initiatives on the part of Turkey, Reppas said recent statements by Turkish Chief of Staff General Ismail Hakki Karadayi and other officials expressing the desire for good relations between the two countries could be viewed as ''positive initiatives''.

''However,'' Reppas added, ''there is a distance between these positions and the policy being pursued by Turkey''.

Seminar on Imia tomorrow

The Andreas Papandreou Institute for Strategic and Development Studies (ISTAME) has organised a meeting tomorrow on ''The Positions of International Organisations on the Imia Crisis''.

The aim of the meeting is to present and record the positions of international organisations such as the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, the Western European Union and the OSCE on the most recent major crisis in Greek-Turkish relations.

The two neighbours and NATO members nearly went to war in January last year after Ankara openly disputed Greece's sovereignty of the uninhabited rocky islet of Imia in the Aegean.

The meeting will also examine issues which have arisen within the entire framework of Greek-Turkish relations and focus on the stance of the Greek media concerning the crisis last January.

Speakers at the meeting will include Eurodeputies, academics and journalists.

Final approval for Albania contingent due next week

The government said today that the Government Council for Foreign Policy and Defence (KYSEA) would meet on 18 April to approve the despatch of the Greek contingent to participate in the multinational protection force in Albania.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas added however that ''a few dozen men from the Greek forece'' would go to Albania in the middle of next week to make preparations prior to the arrival of the main contingent which would comprise over 700 troops.

Reppas reiterated that the Greek contingent would be based in Tirana and Vlore ''but at a later stage it could move to southern Albania, with the primary mission of controlling access routes to Kakavia and Krystallopigi as well as to ports in the Albanian south through which the humanitarian aid will pass.''

Asked who took the decision for the despatch of the Greek contingent, the spokesman replied that it was taken by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the competent ministers.

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 competition.

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 enterpreneurial action.

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.

Convergence programme 'a one-way street'

The successful implementation of Greece's convergence programme with the European Union is the only way forward for the country, Development Minister Vasso Papandreou stressed today in her opening speech at the "Shaping a national policy for the future of the Greek economy" conference.

The government has targetted fiscal reform and monetary stability through a reduction of deficits and a stable parity of the drachma, Papandreou said.

"These goals much be achieved for the convergence programme," she stressed.

At the same time, she added, the government's development programme aims to boost the competitiveness of the Greek economy through the completion of basic infrastructure works, upgrading human resources and improving productivity.

The effective implementation of the development programme will lead to an increase in the domestic product and, subsequently, to admittedly small but real increases in workers' incomes.

So far, she said, the successful implementation of the convergence programme and the fall in inflation and interest rates as well as deficits as significantly improved the investment climate.

The successes of the economic policies applied to date, she said, can be attributed to the realism imbued in the convergence and development programmes and to their acceptance by a majority of the Greek people.

New tax shock troops hit the streets

The much-vaunted Economic Crimes Squad (SDOE) went into operation today, with three-member teams of specially-trained professionals conducting surprise tax checks on businesses in Athens, Thessaloniki and Piraeus.

Visiting the offices of the new squad in Athens today, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told SDOE employees to undertake checks on "large and small".

"The finance ministry is counting on increased credible tax checks to contain tax evasion and to combat economic crime," Papantoniou said.

There will be 500 surprise audits carried out today on pre-determined locations, primarily to detect the illegal distribution of fuel, cigarettes and fresh produce as well as the non-payment of Value Added Tax.

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 Pangalos.

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.

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 following:

- 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 problem.

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 year.

WEATHER

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.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

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

(M.P.)


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