Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-04-01
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 01/04/1998 (ANA)
- Gov't says will not back down on bill to streamline OA
- Pangalos hails start of EU enlargement talks
- Youth affairs ministers to establish Balkan centre
- SE European journalists convene in Athens
- Books delivered to Greek schools in Istanbul
- Spanish bank joins Inter Alpha Group banks
- Profit-taking drives down Greek stocks
- Greece's ERE entry boosts stock market
- Greek shares join international index
- Greek railways issue Lira 325 bln bond
- Greece sees good prospects for Balkan economy, banking cooperation
- Greece seeks energy forum in Balkans
- Bank of Athens denies buy-out rumour
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Gov't says will not back down on bill to streamline OA
Relations between the government and national carrier Olympic Airways staff
reached new hights of tension yesterday, as neither side seemed prepared to
back down after the tabling in Parliament of a bill streamlining the
company following the collapse of talks between the OA administration and
Olympic Airways employees yesterday held demonstrations at the national
carrier's head offices, while the government said it would use legislation
to push through its reforms in other public utilities if unions disagree
with the reform plans.
Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis and the OA trade
unions leadership yesterday failed to agree on a proposition by the unions
to postpone the voting of the OA bill.
Mr. Mantelis tabled the bill Monday night, which will be debated in
Parliament tomorrow, after a deadlock in the talks as a two-month deadline
given to employees and administration to agree on a bail-out plan
The bill provides for a freeze on salaries at Dec. 1997 levels up until the
year 2000, the abolition of a 70,000 lodging allowance for ground staff and
other perks, flexible labour relations and "elastic work hours".
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that the sale of Olympic Airways
was "not an issue" and that the government supported the public nature of
the national carrier and its unhindered operation "with its most capable
Asked about media reports claiming that Mr. Tsakiridis had resigned, Mr.
Reppas said the OA president had not submitted his resignation "and this
entire issue was the result of psychological pressure and 'quasi' violence
exerted on him".
Asked whether the German airline Lufthansa was interested in buying OA, Mr.
Reppas referred back to previous statements he had made, according to which
Olympic must find "strategic partners" if it was to survive.
Mr. Mantelis last night provided further clarificatios over the bill during
a briefing session of the members of the ruling PASOK party's parliamentary
The transport minister stressed that it was now imperative to take measures
to save Olympic Airways. Otherwise, he said, OA will close down or will be
sold at a very low price.
Mr. Mantelis reiterated that the meaures proposed by the government were
the last hope to restructure the national air carrier and to safeguard its
development and competitiveness.
The government will not back down on its bill to streamline the ailing
national carrier, according to Prime Minister Costas Simitis' aides, who
added that the government could not let problems bog down, as the social
benefit to result from tough solutions was much greater than the so-called
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis called for the
privatisation of Olympic Airways with international tendering and, at the
same time, for its restructuring with a modern labour regulation and
Pangalos hails start of EU enlargement talks
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday hailed the start of the
negotiations for the enlargement of the European Union with six new
candidate countries, adding that this enlargement will bring Greece closer
to Europe's mainland.
"The substantive negotiations for the enlargement of the European Union
with six new candidate members started today. This enlargement will bring
Greece closer to Europe's mainland, because it is taking place to the south
and to the east with countries which by tradition Greece has been very
close to, such as Hungary or Slovenia which was a member of the former
Yugoslav Federation," Mr. Pangalos told reporters shortly before leaving
for Athens, commenting on yesterday's start of accession talks with Cyprus
and five central and eastern European countries.
Mr. Pangalos referred to the elements of progress existing in the economy
and society of Cyprus which constituted a very positive base for the speedy
progress of negotiations towards their completion.
"I have tenable reasons to believe that Cyprus will be among the two or
three first candidate countries which will conclude negotiations and will
become members of the EU," he said.
"The political problem of Cyprus will not be resolved with the negotiations
for accession. But since 1974, I believe that it is the sole positive
development related to the Cyprus issue which has happened to us and,
undoubtedly, it would be very difficu lt for one to imagine that the
progress of Cyprus towards Europe will not affect the prospect of a
solution to the political problem in some way," he added.
Youth affairs ministers to establish Balkan Centre
Ministers responsible for youth affairs from southeastern countries held
their first meeting in Athens on Monday, during which they decided to
coordinate youth policies and create the conditions for joint youth action
in the Balkans.
An announcement yesterday said joint action will be targeted at the sectors
of employment, health, sports, the environment, arts and culture. Within
this context, Greece pledged to provide the know-how required for designing
and implementing European Un ion youth programmes.
The Balkan youth ministers also decided to establish a Balkan Centre to
facilitate and optimise the use of new technology by youth, while
discussion also focused on the establishment of an "Observatory" of Minors,
which will monitor respect for youth hu man rights. The centre will also
push for legislation to protect minors from sexual exploitation.
The meeting also decided for the immediate undertakng of a number of
actions regarding the new generation, including a number of meetings,
seminars and exhibitions.
SE European journalists convene in Athens
A two-day meeting of reporters from southeastern European countries,
organised by the European Union's Royaumont initiative and the Athens Union
of Journalists (ESHEA) yesterday issued a declaration and an action
programme for peace, mutual understanding and tolerance.
Journalists from 18 countries including those of the EU southeastern Europe,
Cyprus as well as the United States participated at this first meeting of
The action programme includes the creation of a support network of
journalistic organisations and media of southeastern Europe as well as the
creation of an on-line information data bank on local issues.
The programme also includes the promotion of bilateral cooperation between
the region's media organisations and the preparation of vocational training
programmes for journalists.
Books delivered to Greek schools in Istanbul
The Drama Ecological Movement, in cooperation with the Xanthi Development
Organisation, have delivered three hundred books to the twelve operating
Greek schools in Instabul.
According to the organisation's spokesman, 2,500 to 4,500 Greeks are still
living in Instabul today.
Spanish bank joins Inter Alpha Group Banks
The Bank of Greece has announced that Banco Santader of Madrid has joined
the Inter Alpha Group Banks, which has 13 affiliated members in the EU, and
aims to promote cooperation between them and provide high-standard services
The Group, founded in 1972, now comprises AIB Group of Ireland, Banco
Santader of Spain, Banco Espirito Santo of Portugal, BHF of Germany, Credit
Commercial de France, ING of The Netherlands, Instituto Bancario San Paolo
di Torino of Italy, Kredietbank of Belgium, Merita Bank of Finland,
National Bank of Greece, Nordbanken of Sweden, The Royal Bank of Scotland,
and Unibank of Denmark.
More information on the group may be obtained by phoning the National Bank
at (01)- 3340541.
Profit-taking drives down Greek stocks
A wave of profit-taking halted a price rally on the Athens Stock Exchange
yesterday in an abrupt technical correction.
Traders said the fall was a normal reaction by the market after a
protracted advance that followed the drachma's devaluation on March 14 and
its entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism.
The general index ended 3.75 percent lower at 2,005.82 points with all
sector indices losing ground.
Banks fell 2.16 percent, Insurance eased 2.14 percent, Investment was 3.34
percent off, Leasing dropped 4.38 percent, Industrials plunged 6.22 percent,
Construction lost 6.68 percent, Miscellaneous eased 1.93 percent and
Holding fell 2.77 percent.
Trading remained buoyant with turnover at 89.5 billion drachmas, including
a block trade of 15 billion drachmas for 12 million shares in Ionian
The parallel market index for small cap companies fell 1.74 percent. The
FTSE/ASE-20 blue chip index ended 3.13 percent off at 1,186.31.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 193 to 37 with another 18 issues
European Reliance, Demetriadis and Thessaliki scored the biggest percentage
gains while Ionian Hotels, Aegek, Attikat and Commercial Invest suffered
the heaviest losses at the day's 8.0 limit down.
National Bank of Greece ended at 35,000 drachmas, Ergobank at 22,900, Alpha
Credit Bank at 24,750, Delta Dairy at 3,600, Titan Cement at 23,360,
Intracom at 18,300 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8,
Greece's ERM entry boosts stock market
March was the best month ever in the history of the Athens Stock Exchange
following a rally in share prices that led the Greek market to post a spate
of new all-time highs.
The drachma's entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism and
its accompanying devaluation by 13.8 percent, combined with the announcement
of a drastic reform plan for the public sector spurred trade on the
Since the devaluation the market has emerged as one of the top 10 in the
world, attracting massive foreign capital.
April's trade would depend on the inflation rate, domestic interest rates
and the government's determination to proceed with its plan to restructure
public sector enterprises, brokers said.
The general index was 41.33 percent higher in the month, and the FTSE/ASE-
20 index rose 50.53 in the same period.
The volume of trading hit record levels with total turnover at 1.15
trillion drachmas, reaching a daily average of 57.58 billion up from 17.38
billion the previous month.
Greek shares join international index
Greek equities will join a world index following a decision by FTSE
International to list 32 Greek companies on the international FT/S&P
Actuaries World Indices from May 1.
The move signals a new era for the Greek market as it paves the way for a
place among Europe's biggest stock markets.
The FT/S&P Actuaries World Indices calculate the performance of 2,000
international companies on a daily basis.
On the same day Portugal will be admitted to the index with 16 already
Greece's participation in the index is the following: Alpha Credit Bank,
Aluminium de Grece, Aspis Bank, Medical Centre, Attica Enterprises, Bank of
Piraeus, Chipita, Commercial Bank, Delta Dairy, Elais, Elval, Ergobank,
National Insurance, Goody's , Halcor, Hellas Can, Hellenic Bottling,
Hellenic Sugar, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, Heracles Cement,
Intracom, Intrasoft, Ionian Bank, Michaniki, Mytilineos, ETEBA, National
Bank of Greece, Mortgage Bank, Papastratos, Varytine and Titan Cement.
Greek railways issue Lira 325 bln bond
Hellenic Railways Organisation is to issue a 10-year bond worth 325 billion
Italian lire in the European market.
The bond, the first ever for the national railway company, will be covered
through private placement. It has a yield of 6.25 percent.
Tokyo-Mitsubishi Bank will act as manager of the issue.
The deal was signed in London yesterday.
Greece sees good prospects for Balkan economy, banking cooperation
The prospects for economic and banking cooperation in the Balkans are
favourable, Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday.
He told the second and final day of a Balkan business forum in Thessaloniki
that there were substantial opportunities for banks to penetrate agricultural,
tourist and industrial credit.
Mr. Christodoulakis said bank credit was growing rapidly and was expected
to accelerate further due to an economic recovery that would intensify from
1998, although the outlook for consumer credit in the Balkans was still
"Combined with the lack of capital markets, high inflation, large-scale
foreign borrowing and delay in the modernisation and development of retail
trade, there isn't much room for the development of consumer credit," Mr.
He said it was the first time in the post-war period that the opportunity
was being given to Balkan States to operate without political or military
"This could lead to economic structures and enterprises different from
those we knew in the past," Mr. Christodoulakis said.
Greece seeks energy forum in Balkans
Greece plans to promote the creation of an energy forum in the Balkans in
order to help forge an integrated energy strategy and allow debate among
national power corporations.
Development Minister Vasso Papandreou told the same forum that regional
leaders had agreed at a meeting in Crete last year to make energy was a
priority sector in Balkan cooperation.
In addition, Balkan energy ministers who met in Bucharest last November
agreed to promote European Union funded projects that will pave the way for
integrated Balkan energy networks.
The project awarded the highest priority was a pipeline to carry Russian
oil from Burgas in Bulgaria to the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis,
Ms Papandreou said.
A plan to link the Balkans' electricity network was being approached on two
levels, she said.
The first was to meet energy needs in the region, and the second to operate
as part of the international market, including the transport of energy from
countries with reserves in the east, towards the European Union and other
countries that import much of the energy they consume.
The private sector would play a major part in providing investments, but EU
funds, loans from development banks and international investment initiatives
like SECI should be used, Ms Papandreou said.
Turning to industry overall, she said Greece's government had focused its
attention on northern Greece, the gateway to the Balkans and eastern Europe,
through a programme to improve infrastructure in transport, production,
distribution and information technology.
The programme, which is budgeted at nine billion drachmas for 1997-2001, is
being managed by the Private Infrastructure Development Company of Northern
Greece, which was set up by the Association of Northern Greek Industry and
local trade groups.
Greece had improved the flow of trade following changes to its export
mechanisms and a rise in investments in neighbouring countries.
It was also working to eliminate disincentives, and reinforce mechanisms
for the award of export credits. A new development bill extended incentives
to investments outside Greece that formerly only applied to Albania.
Finally, the drachma's entry into the EU's exchange rate mechanism on March
14 had made Greek exports cheaper in Balkan countries. It also meant that
the national currency could be used as a benchmark for trade in southeastern
Europe, Ms Papandreou said .
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Industry Minister Aleksandr Boskov,
addressing the same forum, said that the privatisation of small and medium-
size enteprises is a one-way road for the restructuring of his country's
Bank of Athens denies buy-out rumour
The Bank of Athens, a listed Greek private bank, yesterday denied rumours
that Hanwa Group, its South Korean main shareholder, was planning to sell
The bank said in a statement that Hanwa's representative told the bank's
board that the Korean group had no plans to sell the bank and that no
financial institution had expressed interest in its purchase.
Cloudy weather with light occasional rain, mainly on the islands and Crete,
Thessaly, the Peloponnese is forecast for today. Winds mild to moderate and
strong in the Aegean Sea. Athens will be partly cloudy with long spells of
sunshine and temperatures between 6-18C. Clouds in Thessaloniki with
temperatures from 4-16C.
Tuesday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 317.242
British pound 532.248 Japanese Yen(100) 238.149
French franc 51.157 German mark 171.418
Italian lira (100) 17.390 Irish Punt 431.024
Belgian franc 8.308 Finnish mark 56.578
Dutch guilder 152.054 Danish kr. 44.973
Austrian sch. 24.360 Spanish peseta 2.020
Swedish kr. 39.757 Norwegian kr. 41.654
Swiss franc 208.127 Port. Escudo 1.674
AUS dollar 210.215 Can. dollar 222.367
Cyprus pound 589.050