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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-01-23

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, 23/01/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece's priorities during its WEU presidency discussed
  • Britain: 'discussion continuing' over Parthenon Marbles
  • Int'l conference on 2004 Olympics
  • US army chief begins Greek visit
  • Changes in high school history books
  • News bulletins in foreign languages
  • 24-hour strike called a success by trade unionists
  • Conference on Greece's course toward EMU
  • Tax draft bill ratified in principle, objections raised
  • No cuts in funding for Egnatia motorway, Santer says
  • Supreme Court says compound interest on bank debts illegal
  • Bourse decision for new shares issue
  • Baltas says gov't sticking to 'hard drachma' policy
  • Banks lead Greek stocks higher
  • Agrotica '98 opens january 28 in Thessaloniki
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece's priorities during its WEU presidency discussed

Visiting Western European Union (WEU) parliamentary assembly President Luis- Maria de Puig met with Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday, before holding talks with Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos on Athens' priorities during its six-month WEU rotating presidency.

Mr. de Puig is on a two-day visit to Greece.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos noted that the two men were in agreement on the issues to be pushed ahead during a WEU summit, scheduled this May in Rhodes.

He said decisions to be reached at the summit should lead to an increasingly upgraded role for the WEU and the European Union.

In a statement after his arrival on Wednesday, Mr. de Puig said that "odd as it may seem, in an organisation such as the WEU, a small country like Greece often has bigger possibilities than a larger country to secure a consensus and be able to convince on important issues it will desire to promote."

Replying to questions, he said the issue of a 10-mile limit for Greek airspace had not been discussed at the parliamentary assembly and that he did not know all the details of the issue.

However, Mr. de Puig said "we support" Greece's internationally recognised rights and he reiterated Mr. Simitis' statement that Greek-Turkish relations must be settled through the acceptance of international law.

Later, Mr. de Puig met with Foreign Ministry Secretary General on EU Affairs Stelios Perrakis and discussed legal and budget issues between the two organisations and met separately with main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis and Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis.

Mr. Kaklamanis said Ankara was waging a war of nerves with Europe and "reacting like a spoiled child to the conditions set by the European Union for a country to join the European family".

Greece, he continued, is well aware that this tactic may cause "certain adventures".

Britain: 'discussion continuing` over Parthenon marbles

Greece and Britain are having a "continuing discussion" of the question of the Parthenon Marbles, Culture and Sports Secretary Chris Smith said here yesterday.

Athens is asking for the return of the ancient marble friezes, lifted from the Parthenon in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin and shipped to England. They later became the property of the British Museum in London, where they are displayed today.

Mr. Smith repeated a statement used by various British officials over the years, saying he was concerned that the marbles' eventual return to Athens would open a "Pandora's Box" of demands by other countries for the return of artifacts currently in British museums.

Int'l conference on 2004 Olympics

A two-day international conference entitled "Olympic Games, City and Environment" opened at Athens' Zappeion Hall yesterday, organised by the World Network of Environmental Science and Technology in cooperation with the International Institute of Environmental Research and the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia".

The opening session was attended by Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis, who stressed in his speech that the 2004 Olympics had the potential to create a huge and timeless surplus for Greece in many sectors.

The minister said that many projects were already underway, while the required studies and plans were ready for others.

Mr. Laliotis also replied to a demonstration by the Greenpeace group outside the conference building. "They are not the only ones to have (environmental) concerns", he said.

Some of the banners held by group members read: "To be or not to be...in Athens in 2004", and "New great idea, new great catastrophe".

The environment was also the main theme in a message to the conference by the Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who said that initiatives of global dimensions were needed in order to overcome the ecological crisis.

The premier said that the quality of the Games will not be judged only on minimising the negative impacts, but also on the improvement in the character and infrastructure of Athens through appropriate projects.

EU Commissioner Christos Papoutsis, through a message to participants, proposed that a special energy centre for the Games be established in Athens with EU funds to study new energy needs and propose solutions on administration and energy saving.

If his proposal is accepted, said Mr. Papoutsis, then the energy centre could be ready to operate within 1998.

Sports Undersecretary Andreas Fouras spoke on economic administration for the organisation of the Games, stressing that the relevant draft bill proved the government's insistence on complete transparency.

The government yesterday announced the names of the members of the organising committee of the Athens Olympics.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas announced that Costas Bakouris, director of the European section of a large US firm, was appointed managing consultant.

Members of the committee include Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos and International Olympic Committee members (IOC) Nikos Filaretos and Lambis Nikolaou.

According to Mr. Reppas the organising committee will soon be turned into the board of the societe anonyme company to be formed in accordance with a law passed by Parliament.

US army chief begins Greek visit

US army chief General Dennis Rymer began a three-day visit to Greece yesterday at the invitation of his Greek counterpart, Lieutenant-General Manoussos Parayioudakis.

The US military official had successive meetings yesterday with Parayioudakis and the Chief of the National Defence General Staff, General (air) Athanasios Tzoganis.

At noon he was received by National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos. The focus of Gen. Rymer's talks was on issues related to bilateral defence cooperation.

During his stay in Greece, Gen. Rymer will visit army units and a number of archaeological sites.

Changes in high school history books

The education ministry has instructed the Paedagogical Institute to proceed with all necessary revisions to relevent sections in junior high and high school history books concerning the Asia Minor catastrophe.

Education Undersecretary Ioannis Anthopoulos made the statement in Parliament yesterday.

He was replying to a question by PASOK deputy Yiannis Kapsis. The undersecretaty added that Greek history will be tough by a 'multiple book', which will include historical narrations and additional materials from school libraries.

Mr. Kapsis said students over the years have been given insufficient information on the economic and cultural prosperity of the Ionia region and the city of Smyrna before the Minor Asia catastrophe.

News bulletins in foreign languages

Foreigners in Greece will be able to hear news in seven languages as of Monday, January 26 on the state radio station ERA 2, ERA General Director Yiannis Tzannetakos announced yesterday.

The news bulletins will be produced by the Voice of Greece (ERA 5) by a team of 37 Greek and foreign journalists and broadcast on 93.6 and 103.7 FM daily at 7.03 (in Arabic and Russian), 8.03 (Polish, Albanian and English and at 9.03 (French and Bulgarian).

24-hour strike called a success by trade unionists

Unionists said yesterday's 24-hour strike by public utilities, banks and urban transport organisations was an overwhelming success and warned the government that it should think first before it choses a rift with state- sector unions.

Sources said the union movement was considering calling another 24-hour strike next week. But the government reiterated its determination to proceed with a restructuring of overdebted public enterprises although it acknowledged workers' right to protest in defending their interests.

General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) president Christos Polyzogopoulos told a rally in Athens that there was almost total participation in the strike from the urban transport sector.

The strike caused serious congestion in central Athens as commuters resorted to their cars to get to work.

Reports said the participation rate in state-run banks and the Greek telecommunications organisation (OTE) was lower.

GSEE called the strike over a provision in the government's new tax bill that allows a change in the status of workers at DEKOs in the framework of their reform. Workers say that the provision directly undermines their status.

"If the government wants a break with the unions, then it shall have it," Mr. Polyzogopoulos said.

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou reiterated to unionists presenting him with their demands that the provision applied only to loss-making or bankrupt public enterprises and corporations (DEKOs).

He said a six-month period of negotiations between DEKO management and unions was sufficient time to achieve an agreement on changes but said that the final decision lay with the government.

Mr.Polyzogopoulos, however, said the union movement would not accept different conditions for workers in loss-making and profit-making enterprises and warned of increased labour unrest.

Reports said urban transport organisations - one of the sectors that Mr. Papantoniou says would be affected by the provision - were considering an indefinite strike.

Urban transport organisations alone have debts of 850 billion drachmas, which will be accommodated by legislation to be submitted to Parliament later in the year.

Conference on Greece's course toward EMU

A conference focusing on Greece's course toward Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) opens today in Hamburg, Germany, with the participation of several distinguished Greek and German academics, researchers, economists and journalists.

During the two-day event, some 30 participants will examine figures regarding Greece's economic convergence, as well as the level of readiness by the country's private sector.

The conference is organised by three important research institutions - Europa-Kolleg of Hamburg, the Society of Southeastern Europe (Suedosteuropa Gesellschaft) of Munich and the Edmund Siemers Foundation, as well as by the Greek consulate in Hamburg an d the German-Greek Association of Attorneys.

An address will be delivered by Foreign Ministry Secretary General for EU Affairs Stelios Perrakis.

Tax draft bill ratified in principle, objections raised

Parliament approved in principle a government taxation draft bill with 153 votes for and 122 against, after a roll-call vote yesterday.

PASOK deputy Christos Kipouros was present at the vote but abstained.

Before the vote, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou replied to a question by main opposition ND honorary president Constantine Mitsotakis regarding labour relations in public utilities (DEKOs).

"There is not going to be any amendment/addition and no essential change in the clause. It will be a reformulation of the provision that will be announced next week", the minister said.

Objections to provisions in the two first clauses of the draft bill were voiced by ruling PASOK deputies Anastasios Peponis, Lefteris Verivakis and Dimitris Georgakopoulos.

No cuts in funding for Egnatia motorway, Santer says

There will be no cuts in Community Support Fund credits for the Egnatia motorway or natural gas projects, European Commission President Jacques Santer stressed recently.

The Commission president responded in writting to a memo sent two months ago by New Democracy Eurodeputy Antonis Trakatelis.

The memo contained a signed petition by 32 main opposition New Democracy deputies, stating that the Greek government was considering shifting funds from major projects in northern Greece in order to use them in other, smaller projects.

Supreme Court says compound interest on bank debts illegal

A Supreme Court plenum yesterday ruled the unilateral levying of compound interest by banks on outstanding debts as illegal.

By a majority vote of 16 to five, the high court overturned an appeals court ruling, and sent the matter back to it for reconsideration.

Bourse decision for new shares issue

The Athens Stock Exchange board of governors yesterday ruled that all listed companies wishing to issue new shares will have to open a special account with a Greek bank, where all prospective shareholders will directly deposit the money required.

The measure aims to promote transparency, the board said.

Baltas says gov't sticking to 'hard drachma' policy

National Economy Undersecretary Alekos Baltas yesterday said that the "hard drachma" policy is a basic goal of the government's fiscal policy in order to "build a correct economy."

Speaking at the Greek-Italian Chamber of Commerce Symposioum, he said that Greek businesses must create alliances within and outside Greece so as to play a role in economic globalisation.

The undersecretary noted the role of chambers of commerce and other related organisations.

The Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) yesterday announced that it backs the "hard drachma" policy.

The announcement also said that for the policy to be successful the state must adjust its fiscal policies.

IOBE, however, is sceptical of the continued pressure on the drachma from continued international monetary crises, which began last October.

Banks lead Greek stocks higher

Greek equities moved steadily upwards yesterday for the fourth consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange this time helped by strong buying interest in banks.

The general index closed 0.86 percent higher at 1,451.64 points, led by a 2.47 percent surge in the banking index.

Other sector indices were mixed. Insurance rose 1.18 percent, Leasing fell 0.02 percent, Investment dropped 0.42 percent, Constructions fell 1.44 percent, Industrials were 0.05 percent up, Miscellaneous jumped 2.81 percent and Holding was 0.62 percent higher.

The parallel market index for small cap companies gained 0.72 percent, while the FTSE/ASE index rose 1.13 percent to 799.10.

Trading was heavy with turnover at 18.4 billion drachmas.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 100 to 99 with another 20 issues unchanged.

Lambropoulos, Macedonia-Thrace Bank, Ideal, Levenderis and Pairis scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's upper limit of 8.0 percent, while Desmos, Dane, Thessaliki and Sato suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,800 drachmas, Ergobank at 14,000, Alpha Credit Bank at 15,250, Delta Dairy at 2,750, Titan Cement at 13,590, Intracom at 14,900 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 5, 530.

Agrotica '98 opens January 28 in Thessaloniki

Agrotica '98, the biggest agricultural trade fair in the Balkans, will be held January 28-February 1 in Thessaloniki, the first exhibition by Helexpo in the new year.

Agrotica, an international trade fair which started 14 years ago, will present an increased number of exhibitors and will occupy the largest area in its history.

According to Helexpo, 1,517 Greek and foreign exhibitors will participate in this year's Agrotica fair on a site of more than 38,500 square metres, compared with 1,501 exhibitors and 36,807 s.m. respectively last year. A total of 776 foreign exhibitor s from 35 different countries and 741 Greek companies will participate, while seven countries - Albania, Bulgaria, France, Spain, Italy, Poland and Tunisia - will participate with national pavilions.

WEATHER

Unstable weather in most parts of Greece today with snowfall in the north and mainland regions. Winds variable, strong to moderate, turning to gale force in the Aegean Sea. Athens, mostly sunny with possible showers in the evening and temperatures between 7-13C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-8C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 283.454 Pound sterling 466.022 Cyprus pd 532.406 French franc 46.807 Swiss franc 192.795 German mark 156.800 Italian lira (100) 15.923 Yen (100) 223.527 Canadian dlr. 195.920 Australian dlr. 186.754 Irish Punt 393.070 Belgian franc 7.600 Finnish mark 51.782 Dutch guilder 139.148 Danish kr. 41.162 Swedish kr. 35.569 Norwegian kr. 37.972 Austrian sch. 22.288 Spanish peseta 1.849 Port. Escudo 1.533

(C.E.)


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