Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-07-23
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 23/07/1997 (ANA)
- First oil exploration leases for western Greece approved
- Greece to finalise '98 economic policy in October
- Greek EU-funded post office plan in jeopardy
- Dollar jumps vs drachma
- Aspis to begin Yugoslav operations in the fall
- Greece backs simultaneous EU accession talks for 11 nations
- Special forces reinforce security along Greek-Albanian border
- US says major opportunity at hand for solution to Cyprus problem
- Museums, archaeological site hours extended for August, September
- Cache of ancient coins found on Corfu
- Greek telecom successfully increases share capital
- FOREIGN EXCHANGE
NEWS IN DETAIL
First oil exploration leases for western Greece approved
The government yesterday signed two contracts with a US consortium for oil
exploration and exploitation in four stretches near Ioannina and the
The contracts were granted to a consortium comprising the companies
Enterprise Oil Ltd, Union Texas (Transnational) Ltd. and Mol Ltd., while
the DEP-EKY group, a subsidiary of the Public Petroleum Corp., signed for
Development Minister Vasso Papandreou said at the signing ceremony that
allowing exploitation of mineral resources marked the beginning of
modernisation for the country's petroleum exploration policy, which could
mean tremendous benefits for the overall economy.
She said the contracts allowed for the utilisation of local petroleum
potential, the transfer of technology and know-how, creation of new jobs
and additional revenues for the national economy.
Under the terms of the contracts, the contractors will conduct six years of
exploration in the Ioannina area, with a minimum investment of US$20
In the northwestern Peloponnese, the consortium's companies are committed
to four years of exploration, with a minimum investment of $17 million.
The consortium was also obliged to assign a consultant approved by the
government to carry out an environmental study for each region, Ms
In addition, the government has the right to discontinue all work in the
event environmental problems occur. It can also take measures to restore
certain environmental damage at the expense of the consortium, which is
further obliged to compensate damage caused to property or persons, as well
as to ensure protection for neighbouring regions.
Greece to finalise '98 economic policy in October
The government will base 1998 economic policy on its plan to align with
other European Union countries and finalise the details in October,
National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.
Speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Mr. Papantoniou
said the primary goal of economic policy would be to bring consumer price
inflation below three percent, helping to ensure the country's entry into
EU economic and monetary uni on.
Mr. Papantoniou refused to be drawn on 1998 taxation, saying only:
"Economic policy will be within the framework of the convergence programme".
According to government sources, economic policy for 1998 will centre on
public sector wage increases of up to four percent in two phases of two
percent each; a freeze on public utility charges to aid falling inflation;
and drastic public sector spendin g cuts.
The new budget is expected to incorporate an 800-billion drachma rise in
revenue stemming mainly from new measures to improve tax collection. No
increases in indirect taxes are foreseen, and the government may consider
adopting index-linked taxation for incomes.
Lastly, the government is expected to maintain its "hard drachma" policy in
1998, again as part of efforts to lower inflation.
Greek EU-funded post office plan in jeopardy
Greece, which has failed to claim 40 billion drachmas in European Union
funds to overhaul its post offices, may have to scrap the plan and ask for
the money to be allocated to other programmes, an EU Commissioner said
"The Commission is currently studying a new proposal from the Greek
authorities. However, existing problems can only be resolved by means of
specific, timely decisions and moves by the proper authorities," Commissioner
Monika Wulf Mathies said.
In December 1995 the EU endorsed the government's proposal to reshape its
antiquated post office system between 1994 and 1999 but a business plan has
yet to be submitted, barring the release of funds.
"In the absence of the right moves, Community funds earmarked for the (post
offices) programme can, in principle, be moved to other Community Support
Framework programmes in Greece," Ms. Mathies said.
She said Hellenic Post Offices had failed to make organisational changes,
including the creation of a unit to monitor the programme, that would
facilitate the release of funds.
Ms. Mathies was replying to a question by Greek conservative Eurodeputy
Kostis Hadzidakis, a member of the main opposition New Democracy party.
Dollar jumps vs drachma
The dollar's sharp rise on international markets yesterday was reflected in
its parity against the drachma, hitting an all-time high of 283.61 drachmas
at the central bank's daily fix. On world markets, the dollar was around
1.8150 marks, the highest lev el in 70 months. The greenback has gained
14.57 percent on the drachma since the beginning of the year.
The pound sterling also rose sharply against the drachma on the domestic
foreign exchange market, closing at 474.84 drachmas at the fix. The
domestic money market was stable after shedding last week's turmoil. Short-
term depo rates held below 12 percent after hitting 13 percent last
Aspis to begin Yugoslav operations in the fall
The Aspis group's insurance sector activities in the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) are scheduled to begin this autumn. That
decision was announced officially during a recent visit to Athens by the
president of the Dunav group, Milorad Skrbic.
The company to be established will be headquartered in Belgrade, with Aspis
retaining a 49 per cent share.
In the framework of cooperation between the two companies, the insurance
agency BBI is already operating in Thessaloniki and specialises in insuring
goods carried to and from Serbia through the port of Thessaloniki.
Greece backs simultaneous EU accession talks for 11 nations
The European Union should begin accession talks with 11 applicant countries
next year, not just six, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said
At a press conference following an EU Council of Ministers meeting in
Brussels, Mr. Pangalos told reporters that Greece supported simultaneous
talks with all countries interested in Union membership.
In "Agenda 2000", an accession report released recently, the European
Commission recommended that accession talks begin early next year for
Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.
It also recommended that Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia
prepare for a second round of accession talks at an unspecified future
Greece joined Denmark, Italy and Sweden in calling for simultaneous
accession talks with all interested countries early next year.
Negotiations should begin simultaneously but develop according to the
economic and political reality of each country, Mr. Pangalos said,
defending Greece's stance.
Of the six accepted for the first round of talks, he said that Cyprus is
the only one that offers an established market and successful democratic
The foreign minister also said the European community should also discuss
along with accession talks "who will bear the financial burden of (EU)
expansion, the specific changes that must be made on community policy,
especially in terms of fiscal options and agricultural policy, so that we
are in a position to propose to applicant countries the type of Union they
will become members of".
Referring to Albania, Mr. Pangalos said Greece and the EU council were
satisfied with developments following national elections. This was
officially stated in a council statement released following the meeting, he
Mr. Pangalos said the other issues discussed at the council included the
Middle East issue, relations with Iran and the merger of Boeing and
McDonnell-Douglas backed by the United States, which is meeting with
opposition from the European Commission.
In relation to the Middle East, Mr. Pangalos expressed hope that talks
between Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister
David Levy in Brussels would bear fruit.
"Israel should make some gestures of good will in issues such as the
opening of the airport and the Gaza port," he said.
Special forces reinforce security along Greek-Albanian border
Army commandos yesterday began taking up positions along the border with
Albania near Kastoria and Florina, following government decisions to
strengthen border security.
A Hellenic Air Force helicopter at noon flew to local airport, where it
will remain stationed in order to patrol the mountainous region from
Ioannina to Florina.
One helicopter had already been patrolling the region and it is hoped that
the second will contribute to increasing security.
Meanwhile, joint army and police patrols operating in the region will be
reinforced by the formation of new units.
The government took the decisions to increase security in northwest Greece
at a two-hour meeting of ministers on Monday.
The measures are aimed at checking the activities of armed gangs of
Albanian criminals along the border.
US says major opportunity at hand for solution to Cyprus problem
US State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said a major opportunity is
emerging for a solution of the Cyprus problem.
The spokesman was speaking during his last regular press briefing yesterday,
as he is to be posted in Athens as the new US ambassador.
"I think that we are being given a great chance in eastern Mediterranean.
We have a new relation between Greece and the US, which means that we can
move forward in a way that we could not in the past. We have a great
respect for Prime Minister Simit is and Foreign Minister Pangalos. We can
work with them especially on Cyprus, " Mr. Burns said.
Mr. Burns stressed that the efforts for a Cyprus solution should be made in
cooperation with the UN, while he placed emphasis on the leading role
played by US presidential envoy Richard Holbrooke on the issue.
At the same time, the US official assessed that recent government changes
in Turkey will positively contribute to the efforts.
Museums, archaeological site hours extended for August, September
The country's most popular museums and archaeological sites will remain
open until 9 p.m. during August and September, following a decision
yesterday by the culture ministry.
Speaking at a press conference, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said
the opening hours of archaeological sites, museums and monuments during the
summer were not only for reasons connected to tourism, but also ''the
correct promotion of our cultural heritage''.
Less visited archaeological sites which normally close at 3 p.m. will
remain open until 7 p.m. during August and September, Mr. Venizelos said,
adding that the same hours would apply on weekends and on public holidays,
such as August 15 - the Assumption of the Virgin.
Mr. Venizelos said no new museum staff would be hired, since existing
personnel would be able to satisfy the new requirements.
The 9 p.m. closing time will apply to 58 museums and archaeological sites
around the country, including the museums of the Acropolis, ancient Olympia,
Knossos, Vergina, Epidavros, Dion, the National Archaeological Museum in
Athens and the Byzantine Museum.
Cache of ancient coins found on Corfu
A cache of 206 ancient silver coins was discovered yesterday during salvage
archaeological excavations on the Ionian island of Corfu, in the Paleopolis
Archaeologist Kalliopi Preka-Alexandri said the coins were found in an
ancient pot of little value.
The group includes a tetradrachma coin issued during the reign of Alexander
the Great, a drachma by Lysimachus and a very rare coin issued by Illyrian
Greek telecom successfully increases share capital
An increase in the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation's (OTE) share
capital has been successfully concluded.
The share capital marks the largest increase in the annals of a corporation
registered at the Athens Stock Exchange and with the highest percentage of
coverage ever to be achieved in the Greek capital market.
OTE's old shareholders, including the Greek state, exercised their rights
by 97.97 per cent and backed the enterprise's effort despite the downward
trend of the share's price at the bourse over the same period, while
institutional investors covered 93 per cent of the percentage corresponding
The investors' confidence yielded 189.89 billion drachmas for OTE, which is
destined for funding of the telecoms utility's investment plans. Moreover,
OTE's second introduction of a package of shares at the bourse has
benefitted the national economy by about 151 billion drachmas.
In another development, dues received by OTE from mobile telephony
companies (Panafon and Stet), which use its network will be readjusted.
According to a decision by OTE's board, the dues will be redefined for 1995
on the basis of a new study, which will be prepared by the National
Additionally, OTE has a pleasant surprise in store for Internet users,
since according to a decision it has taken it will decrease the cost of
calls at night. Consequently, from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. one unit will be charged
for three minutes and from 11 p.m.- 8 a.m. one unit will be charged for 10
Long distance calls will be charged as normal from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. (as is
the case with the automatic system) and from 11 p.m.-8 a.m. with one unit
for 10 minutes in all zones charged.
Fair weather is forecast over most of the country today, with light cloud
in the north and east. Winds mostly northerly, moderate to strong, becoming
very strong in the southeastern Aegean. Athens will be sunny, with locally
strong winds and temperatures ranging from 22-33 C. Thessaloniki will also
be sunny, with temperatures of 20-32 C.
Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 281.341
Pound sterling 471.041 Cyprus pd 531.414
French franc 46.033 Swiss franc 189.318
German mark 155.248 Italian lira (100) 15.956
Yen (100) 242.098 Canadian dlr. 204.054
Australian dlr. 208.047 Irish Punt 417.930
Belgian franc 7.520 Finnish mark 52.636
Dutch guilder 137.913 Danish kr. 40.779
Swedish kr. 35.942 Norwegian kr. 37.666
Austrian sch. 22.065 Spanish peseta 1.844
Port. Escudo 1.539