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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-04-25

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, 25/04/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Premier's talks in Bonn focus on Greek-Turkish relations and EU
  • Mr. Simitis meets with Kinkel
  • Premier declared honorary professor of Marburg University
  • George Papandreou calls for deeds, not words from Ankara
  • Tsohatzopoulos to attend European Socialist Party meeting
  • Orthodox Easter exodus from the capital begins
  • Ancient skull to be returned to Greece
  • EU Commission adopts recommendation on SMEs
  • European Union clears shipyard aid to Greece, Germany, Spain
  • Turkish fugitive arrested at Athens airport
  • Weather
  • Olympiakos wins European Club Basketball Championship
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Premier's talks in Bonn focus on Greek-Turkish relations and EU

The official part of Prime Minister Costas Simitis' visit to Germany ended here yesterday with talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel focusing on Greek-Turkish relations and European Union issues.

Speaking to reporters after his talks with Chancellor Kohl, Mr. Simitis expressed reservations regarding "great expectations" for spectacular developments in Greek-Turkish relations, noting that a recently considered idea regarding a "committee of experts" was still in the realm of proposals and consultations.

The premier said things might be clarified at the EU-Turkey Association Council, to be held on April 28-29 in Luxembourg.

Mr. Simitis also underlined that during the year that passed since his previous visit to Bonn in February 1996, negative developments have prevailed in Greek-Turkish relations. He cited Turkey's instigation of such issues as "redefining the borders," and the "grey zones."

Referring to the content of his talks with Mr. Kohl, Mr. Simitis said he had explained Athens' positions to the German Chancellor and underlined Greece's interest in cooperating with Turkey in the framework of the European Union.

He said, however, that such cooperation will be made possible only "under the conditions that Turkey will not initiate claims..."

Regarding the issues of the Intergovernmental Conference and institutional reforms in the EU, he reiterated that the smaller EU countries should have an equal pariticipation in the 15-country Union.

German government spokesman Peter Hausmann underlined the "very friendly atmosphere" in which the talks were held. "The chancellor and the prime minister stressed their decision for the completion of the IGC in Amsterdam in June 1997 with a good result oriented to the future," Mr. Hausmann said, linking the outcome of the IGC with negotiations for the accession of Cyprus to the EU.

"This will ensure both the basis for the commencement of negotiations with the first associated countries of central and eastern Europe, as well as with Cyprus, in early 1998," he said.

Mr. Simitis meets with Kinkel

Mr. Simitis also met with German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, but neither side gave details of what was discussed during the 40-minute meeting.

Mr. Kinkel declined to answer reporters' questions, stating only that "I deeply respect Mr. Simitis and I received an exceptionally positive impression from our meeting."

In another development, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou met with his German counterpart Woerner Heuer and discused issues concerning the Intergovernmental Conference and the preparation for the EU-Turkey Association Council.

Commenting on his meeting, Mr. Papandreou said "the Germans understand the fact that there are open problems between Greece and Turkey and they also understand that for Turkey to obtain European prospects it must proceed with the resolution of its probl ems itself."

Mr. Simitis was due to meet with opposition Social Democrat (SPD) leader Oskar Lafontaine and the president of the party's parliamentary group and Rudolf Scharping, who is also president of the European Socialist party (ESP).

Premier declared honorary professor of Marburg University

Prime Minister Costas Simitis reiterated today that Greece would, subject to conditions, be willing to discuss issues with Turkey at a bilateral level aimed at improving the climate of relations between the two countries, according to an ANA despatch from Bonn.

At the same time, the premier underlined the preconditions for such a dialogue, namely that Turkey abandons all threats or use of force and accepts ''the activation of an international body with jurisdiction'' for resolving differences.

Simitis made clear however that the party whose territorial integrity was being disputed did not have any obligation to enter into negotiations.

On the contrary, he said, the party which puts forward the relevant claims is obliged to have recourse to the International Court at the Hague and await its decision.

The premier was addressing an audience at Marburg University where he was awarded an honorary doctorate for his contribution to law.

The main part of Simitis' address at Marburg University focused on the Greek government's European perspective.

The economic convergence programme being implemented by the government since 1996, he said, would gradually lead Greece by 1998 to the fulfilment of conditions for the country's accession to EMU.

Simitis based this assessment on the Greek economy's progress during the last three years, particularly the curtailment of the public deficit by 6.5 per cent, the drop in inflation from 12 per cent in December 1993 to 6.8 per cent in February 1997 and the rate of growth of GDP which now stands at 2.5 per cent, from -1 per cent in 1993.

The premier noted that this progress had been achieved without any wage freezes or dramatic increase in unemployment.

Among the government's targets for 1997, Simitis said, was a further drop in the public deficit to 4.2 per cent, GDP growth of 3 per cent and inflation of 5 per cent.

Although the prospects for the Greek economy were good, Simitis told his audience, the country's increased defence spending may place pressure on the main indicators of public finances.

George Papandreou calls for deeds, not words from Ankara

In an interview with the weekly German-language Athens-based newspaper "Athener Zeitung", Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said words should be accompanied by deeds and specific moves by Ankara, such as lifting threats of war and recognising international law.

Mr. Papandreou said the release of European Union funds for Turkey depends on that country's position towards Greece and that a precondition for an improvement in Euro-Turkish relations is a change in Turkey's overall position.

At the same time, he described meetings between agencies of the two countries, representing both societies, important.

He said "goodwill" indications exist and that statements made on both sides are positive and constitute a new political element. However, he said, words should be accompanied by deeds. In this context, a reply is not expected "even at a symbolic level",but specific moves.

"Ankara must lift threats of war it has made on the issue of the expansion of Greek territorial waters and state that it recognises international law, positions of a self-evident nature for every country wishing to strengthen its relations with the European family," he said.

" Another obstacle for the improvement of relations is the stagnant situation prevailing over the Cyprus issue. I remind you that the European Parliament has also put EU funds for Turkey on hold due to the position it is observing on human rights," he added.

Mr. Papandreou said "Germany is one of our leading partners in the European Union and it has the possibility to help in issues of particular Greek concern in many ways. Our cooperation in the region of southeastern Europe could be strengthened. Our common interest in strengthening EU integration with the gradual accession of new members is a sector of priority for both our countries and our closer cooperation would have positive results for Europe," Mr. Papandreou concluded.

Tsohatzopoulos to attend European Socialist Party meeting

National Defence Minister and Vice President of the European Socialist Party Akis Tsohatzopoulos is to participate in the meeting of European socialist party leaders in The Hague tomorrow.

The meeting will focus on discussions regarding the Intergovernmental Conference in view of the EU summit meeting in June, as well as preparation for the European Socialist Party summit, due to be held in Sweden in early June.

Orthodox Easter exodus from the capital begins

This year's exodus of holiday-makers from Athens for Easter is expected to be the largest of recent years as buses, trains and ships have already reached capacity.

Toll booth officials told ANA that more than 150,000 cars are expected to pass by the tolls of the country's two national road networks. Demand for train, ferry and airplane tickets has risen by more than 50 per cent in comparison to last year.

Traffic police has been placed on alert, while measures have been taken to aid traffic leaving cities. Part of the Athens-Corinth national road has been made one-way, from Daphni to Elefsina.

Police are paying particular attention to smaller, rural roads where many fatal accidents occur.

Ferry companies have chartered extra vessels, particularly for routes to Saronic Gulf islands, Crete and Rhodes. Olympic Airways has increased the number of flights, although there are no seats left. Those wishing to travel and who have not yet purchased tickets will be placed on waiting lists.

Ancient skull to be returned to Greece

An ancient skull of particularly significant archaeological value that was stored for many years in Vienna for research purposes, will be returned to Greece today.

The "Minoan Microcephalus" was delivered to Greece's ambassador in Vienna yesterday. Ambassador Ioannis Yennimatas had made considerable efforts over the past months to achieve the skull's return.

It was found in 1962 during archaeological excavations at Kato Zakro, Crete, and had been displayed at the Irakleion Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Athens, where it will probably be kept upon its return.

The Minoan Microcephalus' great archaeological value lies in the fact that it proves, according to researchers, that the Minoan dynasty in Crete was indigenous.

Austrian anthropologist Prof. Zeidler, using the method of stereolithography, "restored" the Skull of Petralona, complete with all its internal and external cavities, to prove in this way that the Homo Sapiens who lived in Europe 20,000 years ago were a lso located in Greece.

EU Commission adopts recommendation on SMEs

The European Commission has adopted a recommendation to EU member-states anticipating an improvement and simplification of the practice concerning newly established businesses and small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) in particular.

The decision was taken in light of a proposal by the EU Commissioner responsible for SMEs, Christos Papoutsis.

The recommendation sets out measures on the start of enterprises' operation and ways of improving the relevant process by national administrations. Another aim is to support enterprises during the first years of their development and reduce burdens of a tax, social, environmental and statistical nature.

Among others, measures contained in the recommendation are that administrations must establish a unified registration document which will be sent to relevant public services, establishment of a single registration number for enterprises, methods of curtailing ratification processes, improvements in the tax handling of recently established enterprises and a decrease in social insurance contributions in the event new employees are hired.

European Union clears shipyard aid to Greece, Germany, Spain

EU industry ministers gave the green light yesterday to state aid totalling some US$1.6 billion to ailing Greek, Spanish and German shipyards, despite strong opposition from the Union's three Nordic member-states.

The European Commission's proposal to approve the requests from Bonn, Athens and Madrid for permission to grant restructuring support, which has also sparked US criticism, won the necessary backing of a qualified majority of EU countries.

The ministers, increasingly pessimistic about the chances of US ratification of a plan to slash shipbuilding subsidies, also agreed to extend existing EU ship aid rules for another year until the end of 1998.

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou said the decision removed uncertainty regarding the cancellation of the Skaramanga Shipyards' debts and creates positive conditions for the company's ability to receive credit.

Turkish fugitive arrested at Athens airport

A Turkish national was arrested at Athens Airport yesterday in possession of a forged Italian passport and identity card after arriving from Amsterdam.

The man was identified through fingerprinting as Orhan Koer, 32.

According to reports, he faces charges for cocaine trafficking, armed robbery, illegal possession of a weapon, two kidnappings and other lesser crimes.

Koer escaped from a German hospital where he was under guard. According to German authorities, four hooded gunmen believed to be members of an organised crime ring Koer was involved in, burst into the hospital and freed him after overpowering guards.

He is being held in custody until procedures for his extradition to Germany have been completed.

WEATHER

Local cloudiness getting heavier is forecast for most parts of Greece today with drizzle in the central and northern regions and the mountainous areas of the Peloponnese. Winds will be northerly, weak to moderate, turning strong in the Aegean Sea. Athens will be sunny with some cloudiness and temperatures ranging from 10-18C. Thessaloniki will be locally cloudy with possibile rain in the afternoon with temperatures between 7-13C.

Olympiakos wins European Club Basketball Championship

Olympiakos of Piraeus won its first European club championship basketball title last night by beating Barcelona 73-58 (halftime 31-29) in the final in Rome.

Olympiakos is the second Greek team to win the championship, after Panathinaikos took the trophy last year in Paris.

The team returned to the Greek capital at dawn today where they were met at Athens Airport by more than 10,000 cheering fans.

Olympiakos captain George Sigalas stated: We always said that we have the best team in Europe, but we did not have the crown. Now we have won it."

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 270.717 Pound sterling 438.325 Cyprus pd 529.113 French franc 46.719 Swiss franc 184.631 German mark 157.500 Italian lira (100) 15.881 Yen (100) 214.609 Canadian dlr. 193.896 Australian dlr. 209.957 Irish Punt 418.128 Belgian franc 7.640 Finnish mark 52.467 Dutch guilder 140.060 Danish kr. 41.319 Swedish kr. 35.315 Norwegian kr. 38.321 Austrian sch. 22.382 Spanish peseta 1.871

(M.S.)


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