Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-04-10
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 10/04/1998 (ANA)
- Greece mourns Archbishop Serapheim
- Serapheim: resistance fighter, pioneer
- Greece pays tribute to archbishop
- Gov't announces plans to fight unemployment
- Commission president Santer in talks
- Two arrested for transporting illegal immigrants
- Mini heatwave hits Crete
- Foreign Exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Greece mourns Archbishop Serapheim
Archbishop Serapheim of Athens and primate of all Greece died early today
after 23 years at the helm of the Orthodox Church of Greece. He was
His health has been failing him in recent years while undergoing dialysis
treatment for renal failure. His death was announced at 3 a.m. by the
president of the Laikon hospital, where he spent the last 46 days, who told
reporters: "The Archbishop is sleeping in peace".
The Archbishop's body was taken to the Athens Cathedral, known as the
Metropolis, where it will lie in state for three days until his funeral on
Monday with honours of a head of state.
The Holy Synod, 12-member ruling body of the Church of Greece, meets later
today to "declare vacant" the archbishop's post and start the process for
the prelate's replacement. He will be temporarily succeeded by the
Metropolitan Chyssostomos of Messinia, who is the eldest bishop ordained
among the members of the Synod.
Four days of public mourning has been declared for the death of the
archbishop and Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos said the archbishop's
funeral would be paid for by the state and that he would be buried with the
honours normally reserved for a head of state.
The day of his burial, Monday, will be a public holiday for public services,
Serapheim: Resistance fighter, pioneer
Archbishop Serapheim was born Vissarion Tikas in 1913 in the village of
Artesiano in the northwestern town of Karditsa.
He graduated from the Theological School of Athens University in 1938
shortly before the German forces occupied Greece. He served as an officer
in the Democratic Resistance Army (EDES) of General Napoleon Zervas,
undertaking several secret missions and risking arrest by the Germans on
more than one occasion.
He was ordained bishop in 1949 in Arta, where he organised the building of
a hospital, a school and kindergardens.
Serapheim was ordained Archbishop of Athens and Primate of all Greece in
January 1974 following the resignation of Archbishop Ieronimos Kotsonis.
While at the helm of the Church of Greece he swore into office one dictator,
seven Presidents of the Republic and nine prime ministers, the last one
being current Prime Minister Costas Simitis.
His major works included the safeguarding of the Autocephalus Status of the
Church of Greece in 1975, the drafting of the New Charter of the Church of
Greece in 1977, and later the church's approval of a controversial
provision giving equal status to civil and religious marriages.
He startled the conservative Greek Orthodox public in 1985 when he
announced he had become an organ donor, paving the way for other Greeks to
He was the 18th Archbishop of the Church of Greece since it became the
Autocephalus Church of Greece on July 27, 1833.
Greece pays tribute to archbishop
President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas
Simitis today expressed their deep grief over the death of Archbishop
Serapheim, who had sworn both of them into office.
Stephanopoulos described Serapheim as a "personality who contributed to the
Church and society in a multitude of ways for many years, a patriot and
freedom-fighter who was a true Christian and a genuine Greek".
Simitis said Serapheim had been a fighter all his life and had been a
resistance fighter during the years of the Nazi occupation, while he also
served the Church selflessly and had contributed to Orthodoxy by embracing
the problems of modern-day society.
Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis also expressed deep
grief, and the hope that the person chosen to succeed Serapheim would make
as great a contribution to increasing the Church's influence in the daily
life of Greeks and in the role of Orthodoxy in all corners of the
Communist Party of Greece Secretary-General Aleka Papariga and honorary
president Harilaos Florakis also issued condolences, while Democratic
Social Movement leader Dimitris Tsovolas said Serapheim, who had distinguished
himself with his patriotic struggles and his service to Orthodoxy and the
Church, had left a vacuum.
Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Gerasimos Arsenis expressed his
"deep grief" and described the archbishop as a "strong personality whose
term at the helm of the Church of Greece was "fruitful".
Gov't announces plans to fight unemployment
The government today outlined its national action plan on increasing jobs
and tackling unemployment, after Labour and Social Security Minister
Miltiades Papaionnou presented the framework to the Cabinet.
"The central points of the government's policy is an increase in jobs and
combatting unemployment," Prime Minister Costas Simitis said after the
meeting. "This is a multi-facteted and integrated package which includes
measures which are new for Greece, such as programmes for unemployed
"The average unemployment level in Greece is lower than the EU average but
it is our constant aim to further reduce it," he added.
Papaioannou said that his draft bill was unanimously accepted by the
"The outcome of social dialogue will be the guide for our policy," he said.
"The only problem is reservations by the General Confederation of Greek
Workers (GSEE) on the overall settlement of working hours, a point on which
we will work to overcome differences".
Papaioannou said the package was a framework for a draft bill which would
be submitted to Parliament and social partners in early May and sources
added that the ruling party's Central Committee would discuss the framework
The framework is based on four main axes: upgrading human resources through
training and vocational guidance; providing support for target groups;
support for Greek business, primarily small and medium size enterprises
that, in line with European experience, remain the prime movers behind
increasing employment; and changes to the labour market.
One of the support programmes for the target group of unemployed youth
(under age 28) will entail an outlay of 108 billion drachmas for a
programme for 50,000 youths this year with the total outlay coming to 350
billion drachmas for 200,000 youths by 2000.
Papaioannou said changes to the labour market were an issue that had
already been broached by markets and technology developments and that the
government's intervention was purely of a "regulatory" nature and it was
not playing a "deregulatory role".
The major issues in changes to the labour market include extending part-
time employment, which in Greece involves only 5.0 percent of the working
force, while the European Union average is 18.0 percent. The government
hopes part-time positions will flourish in both private and public
Papaioannou said the government was watching the pilot programme to
introduce the 35-hour working week in Italy and France but that it was
premature to talk about introducing the measure to Greece. Greece did,
however, want to promote greater flexibility in the job market, in line
with a 1993 Community directive.
Papaioannou said the introduction of a nine-hour or 10-hour working day
with workers receiving time in lieu instead of overtime pay would lead to
savings while not reducing total working hours.
Also included in the national action plan are disincentives for those
retirees receiving pensions to take on paid work. Papaioannou said these
disincentives already existed for those receiving pensions from the Social
Security Foundation or the state and that the measure would be extended to
other categories of pensioners.
Unions are also expected to object to government plans to introduce "local
employment contracts" in which employers in regions with high unemployment
will be able to pay unemployed workers wages that are less than the hourly
levels set in sector contracts but not less than those in the national
collective labour agreement.
Commission president Santer in talks
European Commission President Jacques Santer had talks in Athens today with
Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou which focussed on European
integration and preliminary negotiations for Cyprus' accession to the
The talks, attended also by National Economy Undersecretary Christos
Pachtas and foreign ministry secretary general Stelios Perrakis, also
focused on issues related to Crete, particularly the rate of absorption of
EU funds on the island.
Papandreou will be accompanying Santer to Crete later today.
Earlier, Santer met with main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader
Costas Karamanlis and discussed the course of Greece's entry into Europe's
economic and monetary union (EMU) and the course towards Cyprus' EU
Santer told reporters after the meeting that the two men had a "constructive
and pleasant" discussion on a wide range of problems and issues, such as
the Greek drachma's recent entry into the European Union's exchange rate
mechanism (ERM) and Cyprus' EU membership negotiations, and had a broad
exchange of views, adding that their views more or less coincided on most
Karamanlis outlined his party's firm position on and active support for EMU,
stressing the need for Greece's entry as soon as possible.
He also attacked the government, saying that the big mistakes and omissions
on the part of the various PASOK governments had resulted in Greece's being
the only EU member state that would not be taking part in the first stage
of EMU not by choice but because it did not meet the requirements.
Turning to the negotiations for Cyprus' EU membership, Karamanlis said ND
would invest every effort so that Cyprus would take part in the EU and not
be rendered a hostage to the provocative Turkish policy.
Santer leaves later today for the island of Crete to attend an open
discussion in Iraklion on the European Union's new Regional Policy. During
his three-day stay in Crete, Santer will visit the Research and Technology
Foundation, the Knossos archaeological site, the Iraklion Museum, Crete
University, and the old cities of Rethymno and Hania.
He will attend Easter services at the Catholic Cathedral in the old city of
Hania on Sunday morning, and will give a press conference later in the
morning, before departing Crete early on Monday.
Two arrested for transporting illegal immigrants
Two farmers were arrested in Verria, northern Greece early today for
allegedly transporting 15 Albanian illegal immigrants in a truck.
They were identified as Petros Diaras, 44 and Nikolaos Pliatsikas, 43, both
residents of Sydendrou, Grevena.
Police said the "fare" charged was 60,000 drachmas per person for the trip
from Grevena to Thessaloniki and 80,000 drachmas for Grevena to Kavala.
The farmers were arrested after failing to stop as requested by a police
officer who wanted to carry out a check. Two patrol cars chased the truck,
eventually stoppping it in Diara.
The two farmers were due to appear before a public prosecutor later today
while the illegal immigrants are to be deported.
Mini heatwave hits Crete
A mini heatwave has hit southern Crete, sending hundreds of locals to the
beaches for an early spring dip.
Meteorologists said the 32 degree centigrade temperatures, coupled by
southerly winds and low humidity would be repeated frequently throughout
April and May, but were not necessarily a prelude to an unusually hot
Scattered clouds and sporadic rain is forecast in most parts of Greece
today. Winds southerly, moderate to strong. Possibility of light rain from
the afternoon in Athens with temperatures ranging between 13-27C. Similar
weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 12-24C.
Thursday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 314.523
British pound 525.204 Japanese Yen(100) 235.600
French franc 51.403 German mark 172.380
Italian lira (100) 17.451 Irish Punt 434.496
Belgian franc 8.354 Finnish mark 56.772
Dutch guilder 152.966 Danish kr. 45.180
Austrian sch. 24.495 Spanish peseta 2.031
Swedish kr. 39.728 Norwegian kr. 41.535
Swiss franc 207.239 Port. Escudo 1.682
AUS dollar 205.746 Can. dollar 220.819
Cyprus pound 587.641