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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-04-22

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 22/04/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Foreign Minister briefs ND leader on foreign policy
  • Bank of Greece Governor's report on economy
  • Casino inspectors lash out against Development Minister
  • Greece, Austria ascertain coinsidence of views on most issues
  • Man dies in fire on ship
  • Government on Cyprus overflights issue
  • Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch services on Internet
  • Encouraging estimates for '97 tourist season
  • Illegal immigrants picked up on Farmakonisi
  • Steam engine on old Athens-Lavrio railway
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Foreign Minister briefs ND leader on foreign policy

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said today that a proposed Greek- Turkish committee of experts would be of a "strictly procedural nature" and its objective would be "to ascertain whether there are misunderstandings on each side and to facilitate the procedure which might possibly arise."

Stressing that political will was required on the part of Ankara, Pangalos said that the Greek government intended to pursue with all means possible the settlement of problems within generally accepted frameworks such as international law, the International Court at the Hague, respect for peace and refraining from the use of threats.

Pangalos was speaking to reporters after briefing main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis on foreign policy issues.

Asked whether the International Court at the Hague was the only competent body to resolve problems, Pangalos replied that "with respect to Turkey's claims concerning Imia, no body is more suitable than the Hague (court)."

"Turkey would be doing us no favours by having recourse to the Hague. In reality, it would be the action one would expect of a bad neighbour. A move illustrative of good intentions would be if Ankara abandoned its Imia claim and said 'we made a mistake, we recongize that Imia is Greek', as indeed it is," Pangalos said.

Commenting on protests by Turkish deputies at the Council of Europe plenary concerning statements by President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Greek-Turkish relations, Pangalos said:

"A handful of Turkish deputies protested the description made by President Stephanopoulos, with his known courteousness and ethos, concerning the behaviour of their country. They would be well advised to improve their country's behaviour so that any such description will not offend them."

Asked whether he had found common ground with Karamanlis on foreign policy issues, Pangalos said that all Greek political parties "agree with the general principles" while acknowledging that there were "different views with respect to shades of policy and tactical moves."

After the 75-minute meeting, Karamanlis expressed concern and reservations about "the framework and content of government handling" with respect to the proposed committee of experts.

He added that "all this is taking place at a time when instead of giving something in exchange and responding in general to (Greece's) goodwill moves, Turkey is merely increasing its intransigence."

Karamanlis said ND would follow developments closely and impede any handling by the government which was not in the nation's best interests and led to increased tension in Greek-Turkish relations.

Commenting on protests by Turkish deputies at the Council of Europe plenary concerning statements by President Kostis Stephanopoulos on Greek-Turkish relations, Pangalos said:

"A handful of Turkish deputies protested the description made by President Stephanopoulos, with his known courteousness and ethos, concerning the behaviour of their country. They would be well advised to improve their country's behaviour so that any such description will not offend them."

Asked whether he had found common ground with Karamanlis on foreign policy issues, Pangalos said that all Greek political parties "agree with the general principles" while acknowledging that there were "different views with respect to shades of policy and tactical moves."

After the 75-minute meeting, Karamanlis expressed concern and reservations about "the framework and content of government handling" with respect to the proposed committee of experts.

He added that "all this is taking place at a time when instead of giving something in exchange and responding in general to (Greece's) goodwill moves, Turkey is merely increasing its intransigence."

Karamanlis said ND would follow developments closely and impede any handling by the government which was not in the nation's best interests and led to increased tension in Greek-Turkish relations.

Commenting later on the formation of the committee of experts, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that "he ball is in the court of the Dutch presidency" following Athens' approval and prior to the reply expected from Ankara.

Replying to reporters' questions, Reppas said the Dutch presidency of the European Union now had the responsibility "for outlining the common ground."

Reppas added that if the committee was formed, it could conclude with findings which, however, would not be binding on either the Greek or Turkish government.

According to the spokesman, a reasonable time framework for the drawing of such conclusions or findings could be by the end of the Dutch presidency in late June.

Asked what issues were of priority for Greece, Reppas said there had been no discussion of this matter, while adding that Athens would give priority to issues for which the procedures of the International Court at the Hague could be used.

Reppas said no names had been discussed concerning the composition of the committee on the Greek side and in effect ruled out the possibility of Athens appointing any third party to the committee.

Bank of Greece Governor's report on economy

Bank of Greece Governor Lucas Papademos, in a report on the Greek economy released today, emphasised the need for a continuation of the macro- economic policy followed in recent years.

Papademos called for a continuation of the policy aimed at nominal convergence so as not to lose the positive results of efforts made to date, as well as eventually secure Greece's accession to the Economic and Monetary Union by 2001. This goal, he contended, was feasible if vigilance was maintained.

Nevertheless, although the report characterises economic progress as satisfactory, it stresses that various structural reforms should be implemented immediately in all sectors of the economy.

It also observes that the inflation rate could drop to 3% by the end of 1998 if a consistent policy was adhered to.

Radical structural reforms were needed before January 1999, when the country's economic and monetary policy would have to be exercised through the new exchange parity mechanism and the stability and development pact, offering little scope for freedom in the exercise of macro-economic policy, the report warns.

For these reforms to take place however, it continues, major changes in mentality and behaviour were required, as well as in the organisation and operation of the market and the public sector, along with increased competitiveness and dialogue betweeen the government and labour groups.

Nevertheless, Papademos concluded, these changes were "a matter of national importance" as they were linked with the country's role and its future in a united Europe.

While achievements had been made towards nominal and real convergence in comparison with other European Union member states, these positive developments, as well as some negative ones (such as an increase in the current accounts deficit) were also due to external factors as well as to structural problems in the economy itself.

Therefore, the report adds, the fundamental challenge for economic policy was to link the course towards monetary stability and fiscal reform with a qualitative improvement in the country's productive potential.

Radical structural reforms were needed before January 1999, when the country's economic and monetary policy would have to be exercised through the new exchange parity mechanism and the stability and development pact, offering little scope for freedom in the exercise of macro-economic policy, the report warns.

For these reforms to take place however, it continues, major changes in mentality and behaviour were required, as well as in the organisation and operation of the market and the public sector, along with increased competitiveness and dialogue betweeen the government and labour groups.

Nevertheless, Papademos concluded, these changes were "a matter of national importance" as they were linked with the country's role and its future in a united Europe.

While achievements had been made towards nominal and real convergence in comparison with other European Union member states, these positive developments, as well as some negative ones (such as an increase in the current accounts deficit) were also due to external factors as well as to structural problems in the economy itself.

Therefore, the report adds, the fundamental challenge for economic policy was to link the course towards monetary stability and fiscal reform with a qualitative improvement in the country's productive potential.

In his report, Papademos also referred to the problem of unemployment, stressing that it was not possible for the public sector to continue absorbing surplus labour supply.

Given that employment in agriculture and traditional branches of processing was on the decline, Papademos noted, production must be restructured, productivity improved and production costs reduced, "otherwise, unemployment will increase."

According to the report, which draws on data from the National Statistical Service (NSS), unemployment rose to 10.4 per cent in the second quarter of 1996, from 10 per cent in the same period of 1995.

Citing Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) figures, the report said the number of unemployed dropped between August and December 1996, compared to the corresponding months of the previous year, while employment in processing began to rise after seven years of decline or stagnancy.

The number of jobs also increased in construction, the public sector and banking.

Papademos points out in the report that the relatively small increase in unemployment reflected the "adaptability" of the Greek economy, given the high number of foreign workers employed legally or illegally in the country.

The report says business profits rose at a lower rate than inflation, underlying however that the available data was not sufficient to draw reliable conclusions.

Referring to an ICAP survey which used a sample of 230 industrial undertakings, the report said 52.6 per cent of the companies assessed that the rate of increase of their profits was lower than inflation, while only 22.9 per cent estimated that they had risen at a rate higher than inflation.

In the banking sector and on the basis of annual financial results published to date, the increase in profits was in the region of 20 per cent for private banks, while the profits of major banks in the public sector appeared to drop.

Papademos underlines that the progress achieved in public finances in the period 1994-1996 was considerable and creates the right conditions for "more permanent improvement."

The report highlighted two positive developments in public finances in 1996 pertaining to the deficit of the broader government sector and the public debt.

More specifically, the deficit of the broader government sector fell to 7.4 per cent of GDP from 9.2 per cent in 1995. This drop had a positive effect on the increase in the primary surplus of the sector in question which reached 4.1 per cent of GDP in 1996, compared to 3.2 per cent in 1995.

At the same time, the drop in the broader government sector debt remained steady at 111.8 per cent, the same level as 1995.

According to the report, this means that "the strong upward tendency of the debt has now weakened" and the conditions have thus been created for a further drop in the debt.

Despite the progress however, the report notes, the process of adjustment of public finances requires a long-term and determined effort.

In this respect, it adds, the ability of public enterprises and organisations to service their own debts without state financial assistance would make a positive contribution.

Casino inspectors lash out against Development Minister

The Panhellenic Association of Casino Inspectors today charged delays in efforts to modernise the institutional framework governing the inspection of private and state-controlled casinos in Greece.

The inspectors, employees of the Greek National Tourist Organisation (EOT), are based at the Mount Parnes casino and are responsible for carrying out inspections at casinos throughout the country.

Speaking at a press conference, association representatives said the number of trained inspectors was not sufficient for the task at hand.

They also urged the creation of local inspection offices at each private and state casino and criticised Development Minister Vasso Papandreou for not listening to their demands for the reform of the institutional framework governing casino inspection.

Three state-run casinos and five private casinos are currently operating in Greece. The country's first private casino -- the "Porto Carras" in Chalkidiki -- opened in May 1995, while a sixth is scheduled to open on Syros within the next few days.

The casino inspectors said today that casinos in Greece operated with a higher ratio of profit to turnover than the percentage prevailing internationally.

Greece, Austria ascertain coincidence of views on most issues

Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who kicked off a three-day official visit to Austria yesterday with talks with Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima, said there had been a broad coincidence of views on most issues discussed.

The talks centred on the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC). Both sides stated their belief that the federal character of the EU must be maintained, and for this reason small countries, such as Greece and Austria, must continue to play their current role.

Simitis stressed that he and the Austrian chancellor had agreed that the particular attention paid to economic indicators today should not be restricted only to them.

"There must be a new effort for employment and a relevant chapter, as well as relevant policies, in the new Treaty," he said.

Regarding Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the negotiations for enlargement, both men agreed that the same rules must apply to the two groups of countries that may join at different times.

Simitis said that they also discussed issues related to Turkey and Ankara's relations with the EU, as well as the Cyprus issue, establishing that there must be respect for international law and treaties.

Simitis said that progress in Turkey-EU relations, to be discussed at a scheduled EU Association Council meeting on 28-29 April in Luxembourg, would depend on Ankara agreeing to renounce the use of violence, conform to International Law provisions a nd state that it would refer all its claims and demands to the International Court at The Hague.

Simitis, who is accompanied by Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis, also met with Austrian President Thomas Klestil, as well as Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schuessel. The prime minister is leaving today on a working visit to Germany.

Man dies in fire on ship

One person was killed in raging fire that broke out today on board the Cyprus-flagged cargo ship Ionian Bridge docked for repairs at a shipyard in Perama, near the port of Piraeus, police said.

The blaze started during metalsheet repairs on the 12,067 DWT vessel, owned by the Gerasimos Strintzis shipping company. The worker, identified as Dimitris Kyris, 40, died on the way to hospital from severe burns.

The Ionian Bridge, on its way to Australia, docked at Perama on February 10 for repairs. Police said its 21-member crew, all Greeks escaped unhurt and that the fire was brought under control ca using extensive damage.

Another fire which broke at the same time on board the 37,277 Panamanian freighter Minoan Hill, docked for repairs at Drapetsona, near Piraeus was also brought under control, causing damage but without injuries, police said.

Government on Cyprus overflights issue

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that it is at the discretion of the Cypriot government whether overflights of Greek fighters will be included in an upcoming Greece-Cyprus joint military exercise, codenamed 'Toxotis'.

He added that the exercise does not include such flights, but there is no moratorium in force or restriction.

Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch services on Internet

All those connected to the Internet will have the opportunity to hear extracts of Holy Week church services recorded in the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate's Cathedral.

The extracts will be broadcast via the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Internet server, operating since last February.

Georgios Anogeianakis, a professor of the Thessaloniki University, which is responsible for the linkup, stressed the importance of the broadcast, saying it has "primary religious significance as it is very important for Orthodoxy to enter every place on Earth and touch members of the same religion and of other religions. But there is also the social dimension, as all Orthodox churches all over the world, are liked through the Internet.

More than 20,000 people have visited the server site. The address is http://www.epnet.gr

The site includes manuscripts and 103 icons which can be reproduced.

Encouraging estimates for `97 tourist season

This year's tourist season is expected to see an over all increase of roughly 5 per cent in tourist arrivals compared to last year, Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) officials told a conference in Athens yesterday.

Tour operators based in Germany cited encouraging messages regarding an increase in arrivals from that country, expected to rise by roughly 7 to 10 per cent. The main destinations appear to be Crete, Rhodes, Halkidiki, Mykonos and Santorini. Corfu, however, appears to be facing problems, due to the crisis in neighbouring Albania.

A slight increase of British tourists has also been predicted. This is thought to be partly due to the appreciation of the pound sterling against the drachma, making the Greek tourist package cheaper.

Visitors from Scandinavian countries are expected to total approximately 1, 040,000, up from 1,024,000 last year.

In 1996, 20 per cent more Americans visited Greece than in the previous year, and a similar increase is expected for 1997. Preferred destinations for US tourists are Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, Crete, Rhodes and northern Greece.

Half of all American visitors to Greece are from the US East Coast, 30 per cent are from the central US and 20 per cent from the West Coast. The average American tourist spends 13 days in the country and spends 450,000 drachmas, excluding the price of t he holiday package.

For the first time since 1990, Canadians are expected to return to Greece in the same numbers. The original prediction of a 14 per cent increase in arrivals from Canada has already been exceeded - 75 per cent of charter flight seats of the two largest Canadian tour operators have already been sold.

Illegal immigrants picked up on Farmakonisi

Fifty-seven Iraqis were arrested by an army patrol this morning after landing on the islet of Farmakonisi, in the eastern Dodecanese.

Initially the patrol had fired warning shots over the boat bringing the illegal immigrants to the islet, in an attempt to drive them back to the Turkish coast. However, the boat was eventually allowed to land.

All 57 will be transferred to the port authority on the island of Megisti (Kastellorizo) when the weather permits.

Meanwhile, a truck carrying 93 Albanians, all illegal immigrants, was stopped by police near Drosopighes, Konitsa this morning.

The driver managed to escape, but police arrested his accomplice, Landerim Katari, 37, who said the two had been paid 65,000 drachmas from each Albanian to take them from the border to Athens.

A total of 209 illegal immigrants have been arrested over the past 24 hours in the prefecture of Epirus, which borders on Albania. All have been deported.

Steam engine on old Athens-Lavrio railway

A small steam-driven train is to run from Kalyvia to Kouvara in Keratea on the old Athens to Lavrio rail line every weekend starting on May Day.

The initiative for re-opening the line was taken by the "Friends of the Railway" group in cooperation with the Kalyvia community. The four kilometre-long stretch of tracks will eventually connect the area of Markopoulo with Lavrio through the steam train.

The effort, funded by the environment, town planning and public works ministry is aimed at informing the public on the establishment of this environmentally-friendly means of transport.

WEATHER

Strong winds, cloudy skies and scattered showers are forecast for most parts of Greece today especially in the Ionian and northern Aegean seas. Winds will be southerly, strong to gale force. Athens will be partly cloudy with possible drizzle and temperatures between 14-20C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 9-16C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 267.979 Pound sterling 437.988 Cyprus pd 527.665 French franc 46.691 Swiss franc 184.681 German mark 157.401 Italian lira (100) 15.881 Yen (100) 214.004 Canadian dlr. 191.833 Australian dlr. 208.241 Irish Punt 417.533 Belgian franc 7.634 Finnish mark 52.060 Dutch guilder 139.971 Danish kr. 41.327 Swedish kr. 35.154 Norwegian kr. 38.017 Austrian sch. 22.367 Spanish peseta 1.864 Portuguese escudo 1.563

(Y.B.)


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