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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-06-25

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, 25/06/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Gov't unveils new labour relations bill
  • PM calls on workers, unions to back privatisation
  • Greek, foreign firms eye Cretabank ahead of sale deadline Monday
  • Greek stocks rise spurred by blue chip buying
  • Agricultural Bank to sell Bank of Central Greece by end-July
  • Listed engineering contractors join forces with Enel SpA
  • Tourist arrivals seen rising by 12 per cent
  • Lion's share on Elaiourgiki's debts expected to be written-off
  • Greek President on historic visit to Cyprus today
  • 'Systematic effort' by Ankara to revise Lausanne Treaty
  • Eurodeputy says Slavia in UEFA Cup competition instead of AEK
  • Police officer suspended over incident
  • Health services on standby as heat wave forecast
  • New 5,000-drachma bill out next month
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Gov't unveils new labour relations bill

Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou yesterday stated that a draft law on regulating labour relations is aimed at promoting flexibility in the labour market, as well as consolidating security among working people.

He was speaking while unveiling the relevant text to representatives of social partners and to the press.

Part-time work, regulating work time, local employment agreements and the creation of a Labour Inspection Corps are the main issues expected to attract the attention and objections of trade unions.

According to the bill, part-time work will be permissible from now on in all public enterprises as well as organisations and other agencies in the wider public sector.

The overall settlement of work time is initiated following an agreement between employers and employees. For a period of time of up to three months, an increased number of work hours up to nine hours a day can be set, while in specific cases and for a period of up to six months an increased number of work hours up to 10 hours a day and up to 48 hours a week can be set.

In such cases, the employer does not pay for work exceeding eight hours with an increase, but returns the workhours with a corresponding increase in days off or an increase in paid leave.

In every case, the average work time over the six-month period, and in special cases the 12-month period, cannot exceed 40 hours a week.

PM calls on workers, unions to back privatisation

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday called on workers and recalcitrant trade unions to back his privatisation policy as the only way to boost investment and safeguard jobs.

The prime minister was speaking during a tour of three partly or fully privatised enterprises in order to promote the government's privatisation plan.

"Only this policy will allow inflows of investment capital so that enterprises may become competitive abroad,in turn safeguarding jobs," Mr. Simitis told workers at Hellenic Petroleum, who questioned the privatisation scheme.

The government pledged to carry out a wide-ranging privatisation scheme in commitments made in March to the European Union when the drachma joined the EU's exchange rate mechanism as a stepping stone to economic and monetary union by January 1, 2001.

During his tour of Hellenic Petroleum's Aspropyrgos refinery, Elefsina Shipyards and Skaramanga Shipyards, the prime minister welcomed the contribution of management and workers in improving profits and productivity, reversing a trend of decline.

At the same time, he slammed what he called small trade union groups representing vested interests whose outdated attitudes could jeopardise Greece's economic convergence with other EU countries.

Greek, foreign firms eye Cretabank ahead of sale deadline Monday

Banks, brokerages and investors have expressed non-binding interest in an international tender called by the government to sell almost 100 percent of state-owned Cretabank, banking sources said yesterday.

The deadline for bids is Monday in the latest tender, which follows two abortive attempts by the government since 1996 to privatise the bank.

There is no minimum bid, in contrast with a starting price of 30 billion drachmas in the last tender; and the government hopes to announce the winner by September.

Macedonia-Thrace Bank told its shareholders this week that it would submit a joint bid for Cretabank with Bank of Piraeus. Both banks are listed.

Cretabank has 71 branches and 16 other outlets in Greece with a staff of 1, 485 people. Its share capital was 41.9 billion drachmas at the end of 1997.

The bank has a loans portfolio of 199.6 billion drachmas, deposits of 331.7 billion and assets totalling 406.8 billion drachmas.

Greek stocks rise spurred by blue chip buying

Greek equities ended higher yesterday recovering from a previous two-day decline with renewed buying interest in banks and other blue chips propelling the market.

A sharp decline in the first two sessions of the week offered opportunities for bargain hunters, brokers said.

Investors were also encouraged by a successful initial public offer by state-owned Hellenic Petroleum, which is due to make its trading debut at the end of the month, the brokers said.

The general index ended 0.95 percent higher at 2,434.66 points with highs showing gains of 2.0 percent during the session. Sector indices were mixed, and trading was moderate to active with turnover at 60.3 billion drachmas.

Banks rose 1.88 percent, Insurance jumped 2.57 percent, Investment was stable, Leasing fell 1.23 percent, Industrials dropped 0.31 percent, Construction rose 2.14 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.20 percent up and Holding eased 1.0 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 0.94 percent higher. The FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 1.32 percent up at 1,461.23.

Mediterranean Invest, Britannia, Demetriadis, DIS, Intrasoft, Desmos, Ideal, Allatini and Orion suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 39,710 drachmas, Ergobank at 26,195, Alpha Credit Bank at 27,000, Ionian Bank at 13,450, Delta Dairy at 3,920, Titan Cement at 20,500, Intracom at 10,500 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 7,310 drachmas.

Agricultural Bank to sell Bank of Central Greece by end-July

Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE) will sell about 56 percent of its subsidiary, Bank of Central Greece, by the end of July, its governor Petros Lambrou told ATE's shareholders' meeting yesterday.

The sale by the state-owned bank is part of a drive by the government to shrink the sprawling public sector.

In addition, Agricultural Bank will eventually seek entry into the Athens Stock Exchange and internationalise its activities, Mr. Lambrou said.

The bank reported a 9.2 percent rise in assets to 4.1 trillion drachmas in 1997, and a 6.0 percent increase in deposits to 3.2 billion drachmas.

It has a leading 17.3 percent share in the country's credit market, and ranks second in deposits.

Listed engineering contractors join forces with Enel SpA

Engineering contractors Avax and Aktor have struck a deal with Enel SpA of Italy to bid jointly in tenders for energy projects in Greece and the Balkans.

The three firms signed the agreement yesterday.

Avax and Aktor are listed on the Athens bourse.

Tourist arrivals seen rising by 12 per cent

The outlook for Greek tourism in 1998 is optimistic, the Institute of Tourism Studies and Forecasts (ITEP) and the Association of Tourism Studies and Forecasts (SETE) said yesterday.

During a news conference by ITEP to promote the release of the fifth volume of "Greek Economy and Tourism", officials said they were expecting tourist arrivals to rise by at least 12 percent compared to last year.

ITEP said it based the forecast on factors including the devaluation of the drachma last March, favourable economic conditions in the US and Europe, and a shift from other Mediterranean destinations to Greece.

Lion's share of Elaiourgiki's debts expected to be written-off

The General Council of the Agricultural Bank of Greece is to debate an economic viability study for Elaiourgiki, the national federation of olive- oil producers' cooperatives, whose debts total 72 billion drachmas.

The announcement was made at the concern's annual general assembly yesterday.

Of the total debt, 67 billion drachmas are expected to be written- off.

Another of the issues discussed yesterday was the single standardisation of olive oil by cooperatives.

In the next general assembly in September, Elaiourgiki's management will present the federation's members with its final revised proposals for participation of regional cooperatives.

Greek President on historic visit to Cyprus today

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos left today for a four-day state visit to Cyprus, the first ever by a Greek head of state to the island republic.

President Stephanopoulos' visit coincides with increased Turkish provocations, such as yesterday's violations by Turkish warplanes of Nicosia's Flight Information Region (FIR) and Turkish President Suleyman Demirel's visit to the Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus, scheduled for Sunday.

Turkey occupies 37 per cent of the island republic's territory since 1974.

Mr. Stephanopoulos will hold talks with his Cypriot counterpart later today, while delegations of the two countries will also be meeting.

Saturday's schedule includes visits to the ELDYK (Greek Forces of Cyprus) camp, the Cyprus National Guard headquarters, and the towns of Paphos and Limassol.

The Greek president will visit the Green Line - the UN-controlled buffer zone between the free areas and the Turkish-occupied sector in the north of the island republic - on Sunday. He will also visit the cities of Larnaca, Dherynia and the town of Paralimni before departing Sunday afternoon for Athens.

The first premier ever to visit Cyprus was then premier Andreas Papandreou in February 1982, followed by Constantine Mitsotakis in June 1991. Prime Minister Costas Simitis officially visited Cyprus in August 1996, before again heading to the island repu blic in early October 1996.

'Systematic effort' by Ankara to revise Lausanne Treaty

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos charged yesterday that Turkey was engaged in a systematic effort to revise the Treaty of Lausanne at the expense of Greece and Cyprus through the implementation of a destabilising policy of tension and crisis.

"Ankara's claims that the treaty does not adequately define the territorial status quo with reference to Greece and Turkey are no different from the Nazi theory of Lebensraum (vital space) and are founded on unstable foundations which also run contrary to the principles of international law, " Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said, speaking at the presentation of the book "Chronicle of the Asia Minor War - 1919-1922" by Iacovos Z. Aktsoglou.

This tactic of Turkey's, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos continued, is supplemented with the creation of faits accomplis, as reflected by the de-hellenisation of Imvros and Tenedos, the enormous shrinking of the ethnic Greek community of Istanbul and more recently, the occupation, albeit for a few hours, of Greek territory on the Imia islet in the eastern Aegean.

Eurodeputy says Slavia in UEFA Cup competition instead of AEK

One of Greece's most popular football clubs, AEK Athens, appears to have been "knocked out" of this coming season's UEFA Cup competition by Slavia Prague, even before a ball has been kicked.

British Eurodeputy Glynn Ford yesterday revealed to the ANA that ENIC, the British company which owns AEK, had decided that Slavia Prague, which also belongs to ENIC, will play in the lucrative competition.

The problem arose after UEFA ruled that if the same company owns more than one soccer club, only one team will be eligible for each of the three main European cup competitions.

Both AEK and Slavia Prague had qualified for this year's UEFA Cup competition.

The Eurodeputy expressed the opinion that UEFA's decision that the company be the one to decide which team participates in a competition was unfair.

He added that he would be seeking the intervention of the European Commission on the matter and would be meeting with Commissioner for competition Karel Van Miert later this week.

Police officer suspended over incident

Public Order Minister George Romaios yesterday ordered the suspension of a police officer who has admitted witnessing the savage beating of three students and teachers' activists earlier this month, one of whom is still hospitalised in serious condition.

Vassilis Sotiriou, the suspended policeman, claimed he happened to be sitting in the same cafeteria outside the Athens court complex off Evelpidon Avenue where the three victims were attacked by a group of eight suspects. However, he said he did not rep ort anything, fearing for his personal safety.

Lawyers representing Dimitris Kousouris, the 24-year-old leftist university student seriously injured in the incident and one of his companions, said yesterday that both men had recognised through photographs one of the suspects. According to reports , Antonios Androutsopoulos was recognised as one of the attackers. Aged between 35 and 40, he is a member of the Chryssi Avgi (Golden Dawn) ultra-nationalist fringe organisation.

Health services on standby as heat wave forecast

Hospitals, ambulance and health services are on standby to receive possible cases of heat exposure due to high temperatures in Athens.

The temperature ratcheted up to 37 degrees Celsius yesterday and the forecast for today was the same. The health ministry, in an announcement, advised residents of the capital to avoid strenuous activity, seek relief in the shade and wear loose clothing .

Children and the elderly should drink plenty of liquids, preferably water, and eat light meals.

According to the weather bureau, temperatures will begin to decrease on Saturday.

New 5,000-drachma bill out next month

The Bank of Greece yesterday unveiled a new 5,000-drachma banknote, in circulation as of July 1, a move aimed at minimising counterfeiting of the bill.

The central bank's administration said that in the design and production of the new bill, its printing department used state-of-the-art technology that was also used in the 10,000-drachma bill. Advanced technology used also makes it easier for the public to recognise genuine against counterfeit banknotes, officials said.

The previous "pentohiliaro", featuring Greek independence hero Theodoros Kolokotronis on one side, will be gradually withdrawn from circulation.

WEATHER

Fine weather is forecast throughout Greece today with few storms in the north in the afternoon. Winds, light to moderate. Hot and sunny in Athens with few clouds in the afternoon and temperatures between 19-37C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 20-35C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 301.320 British pound 502.051 Japanese yen (100) 215.115 French franc 49.939 German mark 167.400 Italian lira (100) 16.996 Irish Punt 421.501 Belgian franc 8.115 Finnish mark 55.125 Dutch guilder 148.552 Danish kr. 43.961 Austrian sch. 23.790 Spanish peseta 1.972 Swedish kr. 38.130 Norwegian kr. 39.680 Swiss franc 200.429 Port. Escudo 1.635 Aus. dollar 184.319 Can. dollar 204.689 Cyprus pound 571.392

(C.E.)


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