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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-05-14

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, 14/05/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Gov't sets timescale for privatisation
  • Athens condemns attack on Turkish human rights activist
  • Young parliamentarians from SE European countries in Thessaloniki
  • Athens to host international conderence on media
  • Greece criticises India's resumption of nuclear testing
  • Guide to holidays in Greece launched
  • Commission endorses gov't measures following drachma's ERM entry
  • Budget revenue rises 14.91 pct in January-April
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Gov't sets timescale for privatisation

The government will forge ahead with its privatisation plan in order to gain entry into the European Union's economic and monetary union despite protests by unions, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

Speaking after a ministerial meeting, Mr. Papantoniou said the government had set a timescale for the sale of 12 enterprises, with the sale process beginning this month and ending in September 1999.

"Under no circumstances will the government change its policy and sacrifice targets set for Greece's entry into economic and monetary union," he told reporters.

The government has committed itself to cutting public spending and streamlining the public sector in order to join EMU by January 1, 2001.

The commitments were made when the drachma joined the exchange rate mechanism on March 14 as a stepping stone to EMU.

The timescale for the privatisation plan is as follows:

  • Duty Free Shops SA will gain full listing on the Athens bourse in July when the remaining 80 percent of its shares are sold in private placements through the stock exchange.
    Bookbuilding will take place in May to set the share's price
  • A 10-15 percent stake in listed Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation will be sold in September in the state telecom's third part-flotation
  • The Thessaloniki international trade fair organisation will hand over the right to organise exhibitions to private firms in September. The trade fair's premises will remain in state hands
  • A 25 percent stake in Olympic Catering, a subsidiary of national carrier Olympic Airways, will be floated on the Athens bourse through the issue of new shares in an initial public offer. Bourse entry will be requested in November
  • A state company operating the Corinth Canal will be privatised with a strategic investor undertaking management. A tender for the firm's sale will appear in November
  • Up to 49 percent of Athens Water Board (EYDAP) will be floated, and subsidiaries may be set up. Bourse entry will be requested in March 1999
  • The state will sell a stake in the Athens Stock Exchange, and the new company to emerge will be listed on the bourse. The project will be completed in December
  • The construction of horseracing tracks will be privatised. A tender is to be called in June 1999 to find an engineering contractor to undertake the project under a Build Operate Transfer deal
  • Thessaloniki's Water Supply and Waste Disposal Boards will be merged. Up to 49 percent of the new company to emerge will be floated in May 1999
  • Thessaloniki Port Authority is to become an SA company, up to 49 percent of whose shares will be floated after bookbuilding to be sought in June 1999
  • Piraeus Port Authority will also become an SA company with up to 49 percent of its shares to be floated through bookbuilding in September 1999
  • A part-float for Hellenic Petroleum, the process for which has already begun

Mr. Papantoniou said listing public utilities would allow the firms easy access to funds for investment.

In turn, this would allow rates for consumers to remain steady for two years, or lead to minimal rises.

The government has already announced it will sell Ionian Bank, Cretabank and Bank of Central Greece.

Athens condemns attack on Turkish human rights activist

The government stressed yesterday that the attempted assassination of Turkey's leading human rights activist, Akin Birdal, was "a blemish on the present era".

"The murder attempt shows that mechanisms operate in Turkey which keep it captive, illiberal and undemocratic," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

Mr. Birdal was critically wounded in a gun attack yesterday, attributed by his colleagues to ultra-rightist groups. Although he regained consciousness yesterday, the Turkish lawyer remained in critical condition.

"It would appear that concepts such as human rights and democracy are meaningless in Turkey," Mr. Reppas said, adding that the present face of Turkey was far removed from that which a modern country wishing to become a part of Europe should be.

Amnesty International (AI) and political parties also condemned the assassination attempt.

"No one is safe in Turkey. Adults and small children are equally in danger, " said AI's Greek chapter, stressing that it has repeatedly called on the Turkish government to respect and protect human rights.

Communist Party of Greece (KKE) parliamentary spokesman Stratis Korakas expressed his party's "strong indignation for the hideous crime."

"I know the victim personally. He is a staunch patriot and internationalist. I admire his boundless courage and heroism with which he has been defending human rights in Turkey for a number of yearsIThere are a great deal of members in his organisation i n Turkey who have been targets of attacks by security forces and para-state organisations, and have been wounded, murdered or disappeared," he said.

Young parliamentarians from SE European countries in Thessaloniki

The conference of young parliamentarians from southeast European countries, sponsored by the Council of Europe, the International Institute for Democracy and the Greek Parliament, opens in Thessaloniki today.

The meeting, which is a follow-up to last year's conference of young parliamentarians from the southeast Mediterranean on the island of Rhodes, April 13-15, aims to boost dialogue and the participation of national parliaments in developments in the region.

A five-member Greek delegation will participate in the conference, as well as delegations from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, FYROM, Turkey, Yugoslavia, and representatives of the European Commission, and the Parliamentary Convention of the Council of Europe.

Parliament vice-president Panayiotis Sgouridis will open the conference.

Athens to host international conderence on media

Journalists, scholars and activists from Europe, the Middle East Africa and America will gather in Athens later this month to attend a four-day international conference to examine the role of corporate and government control of news and information, organised by the Andreas Papandreou Foundation, in collaboration with the Institute of Strategic and Development Studies - Andreas Papandreou (ISTAME).

"A 21st century dialogue: A media-run world" will run May 24-28 at the Astir Palace Hotel in Vouliagmeni.

Among those scheduled to speak are Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former president of Haiti, who will speak on "What the Media doesn't print: Neoliberalism and structural adjustment policies"; Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. attorney ge-neral, who will speak on "Media Manipulation of Foreign Policy"; and renowned Egyptian writer and novelist Nawal El-Sadawi, who will speak on "Western Cultural Imperialism reflected in the Media and International News".

By bringing together some of the world's leading media analysts, the conference hopes to expose the limitations imposed on public debate and perception by government 'management' and corporate censorship of the news. The conference hopes to generate a new level of understanding of the modern media in the era of globalisation while encouraging the creation of an international alternative media.

Among issues to be expanded on at the conference are: media monopoly and the role of the media in manufacturing public opinion; censorship and control of the media; media and war; public access to information; and building access to information.

Greece criticises India's resumption of nuclear testing

The Greek government yesterday expressed its complete disagreement with the resumption of nuclear testing this week by India, ending a 24-year self- imposed moratorium.

India carried out five underground nuclear tests in the western state of Rajasthan. It was the first time India has carried out nuclear tests since the first one conducted by New Delhi in 1974. "

The United Nations treaty on the banning and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons must at all costs be adhered to," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

Guide to holidays in Greece launched

The fourth edition of "Holidays in Greece", an exhaustive guide to vacationing in Greece, was launched at a press conference yesterday. The guide provides information needed by holidaying Greeks and foreigners, such as hotels, tourist agents, camping sites, ski resorts, marinas, airline and shipping companies and others.

It is available in five languages: Greek, English, Spanish, German and Italian and is accompanied by maps of Greece. Information on the guide and on Greece is also available on the website: http://www.vacation-greece.com

Commission endorses gov't measures following drachma's ERM entry

The European Commission has officially endorsed measures announced by the government to accompany the drachma's incorporation to the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), stressing that privatisations, reform of the social security system and a restructuring of the major public enterprises are necessary for the fiscal rehabilitation of the economy.

The admonition is contained in a report on the "Orientations of Economic Policies of Member-States for 1998," issued yesterday in Strasbourg, which also recognises the progress of the Greek economy in recent years, and stresses that it must intensify ef forts for controlling inflation and reducing subsidies.

"Greece has, for a number of years now, made noteworthy progress in stabilising prices. In combination with efforts towards fiscal recovery made in these recent years, this development allowed the entry of the drachma into the Exchange Rate Mechanism of the EMS in March 1998," the report stated.

"Greece has (also) made noteworthy progress for the reduction of significant imbalances in public finances in recent years, but the deficit still stood at around 4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product in 1997...(It) must continue the efforts for fiscal reco very," it added.

With respect to reducing state subsidies, the report says strict control is required on the part of the Commission, and equally strict discipline on the part of member-states

"This discipline is particularly useful in the member-states whose state subsidies in relation to GDP are higher than the EU average (Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Belgium, Greece).

The Commission's recommendations will be discussed and submitted for approval at the EU summit in Cardiff, June 15-16.

Budget revenue rises 14.91 pct in January-April

Budgetary revenue rose 14.91 percent in January-April compared to the corresponding four-month period of 1997, according to government figures released yesterday.

Despite a dip in revenue recorded in April, ministry officials consider the overall figure for the four-month period to be satisfactory.

The target set for an increase in budgetary revenue in 1998 is 11.2 percent compared to last year.

Although the figure is more than covered by the overall four-month rise, the rate of increase in April was just 8.06 percent.

Ministry officials attributed April's figure mainly to a 7.55 percent drop in tax revenue and a 0.34 per cent increase in customs revenue.

WEATHER

Overcast weather with scattered showers is forecast in most parts of Greece today. Winds will be variable, light to moderate, turning strong in the Aegean Sea. Mostly fair with possibility of scattered showers from the afternoon in Athens where temperatures will range between 14-26C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 13-25C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 307.004 British pound 501.833 Japanese yen(100) 228.339 French franc 51.358 German mark 172.251 Italian lira (100) 17.461 Irish Punt 433.504 Belgian franc 8.349 Finnish mark 56.669 Dutch guilder 152.778 Danish kr. 45.205 Austrian sch. 24.471 Spanish peseta 2.027 Swedish kr. 40.013 Norwegian kr. 41.089 Swiss franc 206.663 Port. Escudo 1.681 Aus. dollar 192.503 Can. dollar 213.578 Cyprus pound 584.288

(L.G.)


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