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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-01-08

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, 08/01/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Tsohatzopoulos: Greece prepared for Turkish violations
  • Greece flatly rejects latest Turkish claims on Aegean islets
  • Simitis underlines role of private enterprise in economy's progress
  • Tax bill tabled in Parliament, harsh opposition reaction
  • Greece looking after Knossos - Venizelos
  • EU Commission starts infringement proceedings on directives
  • Soumakis on tabled merchant shipping bill
  • Greek aid to Djibouti
  • Chrysolouris named OTE's new managing director
  • Greek interbank market hit by turbulence
  • Greek stocks resist pressure, end fractionally lower
  • EU Commission sends opinion to four countries on trade
  • Greece boosts port authority fleet
  • Greece to develop Aegean islands
  • Intracom enters domestic defence equipment market
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Tsohatzopoulos: Greece prepared for Turkish violations

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said Greece would follow standard procedures if Turkey violated Greece's airspace during today's phase of their military exercises.

"Any Turkish aircraft that violates Greece's airspace will be intercepted immediately," said Mr. Tsohatzopoulos.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos was speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday, which examined the letest developments in Greek-Turkish relations.

The Greek defence minister added that "Turkey is in a difficult position. It has become the epicentre of criticism for all European countries because, finally, its inability to give an acceptable solution to the Kurdish issue is revealed, the result being this mass exodus and illegal immigration with all the dangers involved.

Greece flatly rejects latest Turkish claims on Aegean islets

Athens yesterday flatly rejected the views expressed by Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Nezati Utkan regarding the status of several Aegean islets and Greece's national airspace.

The Greek foreign ministry, in a laconic announcement by spokesman Costas Bikas, called Mr. Utkan's statements "the known Turkish views", which attempt to cast doubt on the status of the Aegean.

Mr. Bikas added that the Turkish views are presented by Ankara in different ways, according to its interlocutors and are part of a tactic of friction and tension adopted by the neighbouring country. These views, he added, have been substantiatedly and repeatedly rejected by Greece.

Earlier, Mr. Utkan had stated that "one of the important problems between Turkey and Greece is the one concerning the issue of the small islands and islets, whose ownership has not been given to Greece through international agreements".

In terms of Greek airspace, the Turkish official said that "the fact that Greece is continuing to implement a 10-mile national airspace is a clear violation of international law."

He added that "the width of Greece's territorial waters has been determined and announced by a law on Oct. 8, 1936 as six nautical miles."

Simitis underlines role of private enterprise in economy's progress

Prime Minister Costas Simitis defended his government's economic policy in a statement at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (EBEA) annual reception yesterday.

Mr. Simitis said the Greek economy has made considerable steps of progress lately, which is also proved by the fact that inflation has dropped to the lowest levels in past decades, deficits have been decreased considerably and growth rates are among the highest in Europe.

He said this policy must be continued and will be continued because the target of equal participation in economic and monetary union will be achieved in this way.

Mr. Simitis also referred to the businessmens' contribution to this effort through the development of new technology, carrying out new investments and better organising the production process.

Main opposition New Democracy party, party leader Costas Karamanlis strongly criticised the prime minister, whom he termed "the premier of taxes who lacks the boldness to proceed with necessary structural incisions indicated to him by ND."

Mr. Karamanlis said the taxation bill tabled in Parliament was tangible proof of decline imposed on public life by the government. He also accused the government of lying systematically since while committing itself not to impose new taxes it established 13 taxes with the new budget and 25 with the taxation bill.

Tax bill tabled in Parliament, harsh opposition reaction

A taxation bill was tabled in Parliament last night, which is expected to be discussed at the relevant Parliamentary committee next week and where the date of a debate at a Parliamentary plenary session will be set. The bill anticipates significant changes concerning incomes, the way of taxing them and exemptions.

Referring to the bill, main opposition New Democracy Parliamentary spokesman Dimitris Sioufas said "the new and increased taxes are not ultimately 13, but 35", adding that the government has lost all control and is attacking citizens in every way.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) spoke of "a policy of savage tax raiding against the small- and medium-size strata" which, combined with the incomes policy, "crushes the living standards of the large majority of the people."

KKE stated that it considered as being indicative of anti-popular measures an increase to 20 per cent in withholding tax on the revenues of self- employed professionals, a 5 per cent increase in withholding tax on the pensions of various funds and the inc rease in the tax on retail merchants.

Greece looking after Knossos - Venizelos

Reports in the British newspaper The Guardian of damage to the palace of Knossos drew a response yesterday from Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos that measures planned to improve security on the site would soon be completed.

"We are aware of the British Archaeological Society's sensitivity (to the issue) but we ourselves, as well as our experts, are just as, if not more sensitive," he said.

According to the Guardian, the home of the legendary Minotaur was in danger of collapsing.

Mr. Venizelos said the main problem was the large number of visitors to the site. Work to create special walkways for visitors was almost completed, he added.

"While Knossos is an international cultural heritage monument, it is on Greek territory. Responsibility for the site rests with Greece," Mr. Venizelos stresssed.

EU Commission starts infringement proceedings on directives

The European Commission has decided to institute infringement proceedings against Greece and Spain for failing to notify it of measures to transpose into national law certain directives relating to public procurement, according to European Commission press release yesterday.

As regards Greece, the Commission has decided to issue a reasoned opinion (the second stage of infringement proceedings under Article 171 of the EC Treaty) for failure to comply with the judgment of 2 May 1996 by the Court of Justice on the non-transposition into national law of Directive 92/50/EEC on the procedures for the award of public service contracts.

Under Article 171 of the EC Treaty, the Commission calls on Greece to take all the necessary measures to comply with the reasoned opinion and to forward to it the texts adopted with a view to incorporating the Directive on public service contracts i nto national law. The Directive should have been transposed by 1 July 1993 at the latest. If Greece does not respond in a satisfactory manner within two months of receiving the reasoned opinion, the Commission may decide to bring the matter before the Court of Justice for the second time, with the request that the Court impose financial penalties commensurate with the seriousness and duration of the infringement.

Soumakis on tabled merchant shipping bill

Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis yesterday called on Greek shipowners to retain a minimum of Greek merchant seamen on their vessels and to invest in domestic shipping lines.

He also called on the seamen's federation to "not close their eyes" to international competition, during the first day of debate in Parliament on a tabled bill regarding merchant shipping.

Greek aid to Djibouti

The Greek government has agreed to give Djibouti 3,000 tonnes of wheat in aid, worth US$1.3 million, Radio Djibouti announced yesterday.

The agreement was signed by the two countries' ambassadors in Addis Ababa, the announcement said.

Chrysolouris named OTE's new managing director

The top managing director position at the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) has been assigned to Georgios Chrysolouris, an electrical engineer with an impressive academic and business background.

Mr. Chrisolouris graduated from the Athens Polytechnic and acquired a Ph.D from Hanover University in Germany, while he has also served as a professor and researcher at the famed Massachusetts Intitute of Technology (MIT) from 1980 to 1993.

Mr. Chrisolouris has worked for several US and European firms active in the infomatics and technology fields.

OTE's new managing director has been a member of the telecoms' board since 1996 and has headed a team which presented OTE to international investors during share floatations.

Greek interbank market hit by turbulence

Greece's interbank market remained unstable yesterday under the influence of persistent turmoil in east Asian markets to suffer new foreign exchange outflows.

The Bank of Greece, the country's central bank, reported outflows totalling 550 million Ecus at yesterday's drachma's fixing, following outflows of 200 million Ecus on Monday.

Banking sources said the interbank market was also depressed by news of a worsening current accounts deficit in the first nine months of 1997, showing a shortfall of 4.1 billion US dollars from a 3.5 billion gap in the corresponding period in 1996.

The drachma was weaker against the Ecu at 312.98 drachmas, while the Greek currency lost substantial ground against the US dollar due to a sharp appreciation of the greenback in international markets.

Domestic interest rates moved higher with the overnight rate increasing to 10-11 percent.

Greek stocks resist pressure, end fractionally lower

Greek equities came under pressure yesterday on worries of a worsening current accounts deficit and an unstable domestic interbank market to end lower on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 0.10 percent down at 1,523.47 points, sharply off the day's lows.

Sector indices lost ground with the exception of Industrials and Miscellaneous which rose by 1.34 and 1.38 percent respectively on speculative demand.

Banks fell 1.01 percent, Insurance eased 0.46 percent, Leasing dropped 1.48 percent, Investment fell 0.21 percent, Constructions ended 1.72 percent off and Holding dropped 0.71 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 0.22 percent down, while the FTSE/ASE index fell 0.40 percent to end at 864.31 points.

Trading was moderate with turnover at 14.8 billion drachmas.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 116 to 89 with another 24 issues unchanged.

Levenderis, Desmos, Pairis, Flexopack and Babyland scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's upper limit of 8.0 percent, while Fintexport, Etma, Balkan Export, Vernikos Yachts and Ellatex suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 24,900 drachmas, Ergobank at 15,000, Alpha Credit Bank at 16,495, Delta Dairy at 3,250, Titan Cement at 13,350, Intracom at 14,250 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6, 000.

EU Commission sends opinion to four countries on trade

Following complaints, the Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions to France, Belgium, Italy and Greece concerning barriers to the free movement of goods that are in breach of Article 30 of the EC Treaty.

The barriers in question concern processing aids used in the production of certain foodstuffs (France), ultra-light engine-driven aircraft (Belgium), weighing devices (Italy) and pesticides (Greece).

In the absence of a satisfactory response on the part of the member state in question within a period of not more than two months following receipt of the reasoned opinion, the Commission may bring the case to the European Court of Justice.

The Commission has decided to issue a reasoned opinion in respect of the Greek rules on the marketing of pesticides because they have the effect of restricting imports from other member states.

The authorisation procedure imposes high charges for licensing the marketing of such products, and this places a de facto limit on the number of licence-holders.

What is more, the considerable costs involved in launching new products make it difficult to introduce new products onto the market.

Lastly, the Commission emphasises that, since loans are made available only to agricultural cooperatives that agree to purchase fertiliser from the Greek Union of Cooperatives rather than on the open market.

Greece boosts port authority fleet

Greece is awaiting delivery of 47 new ships in the first quarter of this year as part of a plan to modernise the port authority nationwide, Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis said yesterday.

New staff will be hired for the vessels, which include 10 lifeboats, two ships equipped to combat oil slicks and patrol boats, Mr. Soumakis told a news conference.

The ministry had requested approval from the government to recruit 500 port police and 30 officers to staff the new vessels and increase port personnel, he said.

The ministry spent 39.557 billion drachmas in 1997 on modernising the port authority, and received 486 million drachmas in payments on contracts from previous years.

Mr. Soumakis said an exodus from the Greek shipping registry was due to changes in international marine transport, and not to a shift in the composition of crews.

"We will not allow the Greek flag to become a flag of convenience," he said.

Greece to develop Aegean islands

Greece plans to step up development in the Aegean islands this year in order to help offset adverse economic repercussions expected from European Union policies, Aegean Minister Elizabeth Papazoi said yesterday.

In order to better monitor EU polices, the ministry will set up a body comprising ministers, experts and administrators in January, Ms Papazoi said.

In addition, development planning will be undertaken island by island on the basis of EU structural funds for 2000-2006.

The ministry, which is planning an administrative restructuring, also wants to implement the following measures to curb natural disasters in the Aegean islands:

Firefighting equipment and infrastructure

Earthquake action plans for Kos, Nisyros, Chios and the fomulation of similar plans for other islands

Also on the ministry's agenda for 1998 are water management schemes especially for arid islands, research into environmental hazards, participation in Euroisles, an international island network, and backing for a programme linking Thrace, the Aegean and Cyprus.

Intracom enters domestic defence equipment market

The Intracom telecoms firm has announced that it will enter the domestic defence equipment market.

Specifically, a contract estimated at 14 billion drachmas is expected to be announced and signed in the next few weeks between the Hellenic armed forces and Intracom, relating to the construction of 4,000 wireless sets.

Meanwhile, Intracom is expected to announce an increase in its share capital, a major portion of which has already been covered by foreign investors.

Finally, the company's gross revenue in the first nine months of 1997 rose by 20 per cent compared with the corresponding period last year, reaching 35.3 billion drachams.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast for most parts of Greece today with local clouds in the west. Local fog in the morning in the Ionian Sea and mainland Greece. Winds light to moderate. Spring-like weather in Athens with temperatures between 9-18C. Fair weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 4-14C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 286.787 Pound sterling 465.050 Cyprus pd 537.148 French franc 46.910 Swiss franc 194.035 German mark 156.994 Italian lira (100) 15.981 Yen (100) 216.831 Canadian dlr. 199.868 Australian dlr. 183.208 Irish Punt 392.138 Belgian franc 7.613 Finnish mark 51.892 Dutch guilder 139.331 Danish kr. 41.233 Swedish kr. 35.629 Norwegian kr. 38.271 Austrian sch. 22.317 Spanish peseta 1.854 Port. Escudo 1.536

(C.E.)


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