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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-09-15

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, 15/09/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece calls on Albanians to show restraint and prudence
  • Greek forces on Greek-Albanian border on the alert
  • Finnish president begins official visit to Greece
  • Athens mayor honours heroic Greek Cypriot teacher
  • French officials arrive in Greece
  • Greece complies with EU directive regarding JAT embargo
  • Nat'l congress hears of Greece's serious demographic problem
  • Int'l conference of women journalists opens
  • Bourse overhaul bill goes to parliament
  • Government may cut consumer car tax in 1999
  • National Bank of Greece subsidiary plans to enter NY bourse
  • Greek stocks jump in scant trade aided by markets abroad
  • Greece to hold six-month treasury bill auction today
  • Bank workers union releases statistics on European banks
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece calls on Albanians to show restraint and prudence

Athens yesterday pleaded for a return to law and order in Tirana, saying self-restraint and calm were necessary to overcome the latest unrest in the Albanian capital.

"Incidents which we all condemn should not be the starting point for a new crisis," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, referring to the killing of a leading Albanian opposition figure on Saturday night.

Mr. Reppas was speaking as reports came in of heightened tension in the Albanian capital as opposition Democratic Party supporters buried Azem Hajdari.

Mr. Reppas refused to comment on statements by former Albanian president Sali Berisha blaming the Albanian government for the killing, saying any comment would be akin to interfering in Albania's domestic affairs.

Mr. Reppas also expressed the government's concern over the ethnic Greek minority in the south of Albania.

The Greek foreign ministry also strongly condemned the killing of the Albanian MP but underlined that resorting to violence would do nothing to bring stability to Albania.

Greek forces on Greek-Albanian border on the alert

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, expressing his concern last night over developments in Albania, said that the Greek forces stationed there were safe.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said that additional security measures have already been taken in the border region and that border forces are on the alert.

He said that according to latest reports it appears that the situation is coming under control, adding that many foreign embassies and international organisations have requested the assistance of the Greek forces to handle the situation.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos expressed support for a political solution to the problem and expressed the hope that the situation will be normalised soon.

In a similar announcement, the main opposition New Democracy party expressed concern over the situation prevailing in the neighbouring country saying that the European Union "must intervene politically directly and effectively and provide all the help possible to prevent the situation in Albania from getting out of hand again".

ND called on the government to request an immediate convening of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers to examine the situation.

Finnish president begins official visit to Greece

Greece and Finland share the same concerns about the tension in the troubled Yugoslav province of Kosovo, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, beginning an official visit to Greece, said in Athens yesterday. Mr. Ahtisaari, speaking after meeting with Greek President Kostis Stephanopoulos, said the UN Security Council should have the final word on the issue and that European partners had to cooperate to deal with the difficulties facing the European Union.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou, government, military and municipal officials were on hand at the official reception for President Ahtisaari and his wife at the Presidential Mansion.

Both Greece and Finland have suffered the adverse effects of bipolarity and the experience has made them both more concerned about regional cooperation and peace, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said after meeting with Mr. Ahtisaari. The Greek governm ent, he said, was in favour of cooperation which extended beyond the European Union to solve problems that were not solely EU issues, such as environmental issues.

Mr. Simitis said Helsinki's proposal for a meeting between the EU, the U.S. and Russia was considered in a "positive light" by Athens.

The two said they would step up efforts to promote a joint foreign and security policy by the European Union.

The current crisis in Albania was also at the centre of talks.

Also discussed at the meeting were the Cyprus issue and Turkey's stance. Agreement was reached that international laws and treaties should be applied and that the International Court of Justice at The Hague was the appropriate means to resolve differences.

Athens mayor honours heroic Greek Cypriot teacher

Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos gave an award of honour of the city of Athens to the heroic teacher of the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus Eleni Foka yesterday.

The ceremony was held at the Town Hall after the city's administrative council reached a unanimous decision to honour her.

In an address, Mr. Avramopoulos said that "Athens stands by and will stand by Eleni Foka and all the struggling Cypriot brothers of ours, whose flamboyant teacher is a symbol, waiting for the day of freedom, the day of vindication and the triumph of jus tice over the injustice of spirit, over barbarity."

Visibly moved, Ms. Foka thanked the Athens mayor for the honourary award and said that "these honours belong to the struggling enslaved Greeks of Karpasia. I am receiving the honourary distinctions on their behalf."

French officials arrive in Greece

A four-member delegation of the French-Greek Friendship Senatorial Group led by Marc Massion has arrived in Athens for a week's visit and talks with Greek officials on bilateral and other issues. The delegation will also visit Crete and Delphi.

Greece complies with EU directive regarding JAT embargo

There is no question of Greece not complying with European Union directives, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

Mr. Reppas was replying to a question regarding the EU's directive to impose an embargo on flights by Yugoslav national carrier JAT.

Mr. Reppas added that Greece had set out its doubts about the effectiveness of the measure.

The European Union ban on flights by Yugoslav carriers to punish Belgrade for its policy in Kosovo was supposed to come into effect last week. Britain said last week it would not implement the ban for 12 months.

Nat'l congress hears of Greece's serious demographic problem

The Fifth National Congress of Large Families on Family and Demography ended Sunday evening in Alexandroupolis, with the participation of 250 delegates.

During the sessions, it was stressed that the demographic problem the country is facing, with the low birth rate, was the number one danger and must be dealt with in immediate and radical measures.

Participating Alexandroupolis Metropolitan Anthimos noted that all large families should enjoy the state's assistance in order to prosper and serve as an example for new married couples, as this was the panacea to overcome the low birth rate.

The meeting was organised by the Supreme Confederation of Large Families of Greece (ASPE), the Central Association of Large Families of Evros and the Alexandroupolis Bishopry, while participants included representatives from similar Cypriot organisations.

Int'l conference of women journalists opens

This year's annual meeting of the International Association of Women Journalists and Writers opened yesterday at a Lagonisi hotel, on the topic: "The value of education in journalism in the 21st cetury".

The meeting, attended by 85 participants from around the world, including the European Network of Greek Women Journalists, will examine issues relating to the profession's code of ethics, Internet in the era of globalisation, and education requirements for journalists.

Addressing the opening session, Secretary General for Press Nikos Athanasakis said that in spite of globalisation, information services were in the hands of monopolies.

As far as education is concerned, Mr. Athanasakis stressed that apart from tertiary education, journalists should have a more general education and culture.

The conference continues today.

Bourse overhaul bill goes to parliament

The government yesterday submitted a bill to parliament that eases restrictions on entry into the Athens Stock Exchange, allowing better investment prospects for many firms currently barred from the market due to stringent listing requirements.

The authorities have held consultations with market players to hear feedback before submitting the bill, which helps to modernise the stock market and harmonise it with other exchanges in Europe. The talks have led to changes in some of the rules ori ginally contained in the bill.

The overhaul is expected to lead to more listings for firms with growth potential, spur large domestic or multinational firms to seek entry, and upgrade the role of the capital markets commission.

The main points of the amended bill before a parliamentary debate and vote are as follows:

  • Application for listing requires the publication of balance sheets for three consecutive years, which need not show profitability. The current requirement of five straight years of profitability has been scrapped. For evaluation are a firm's asset com position and its mid-term prospects for profitability.
  • The asset composition of applicants has to be satisfactory on the basis of the latest balance sheet, with a floor for equity capital of 2.0 billion drachmas from one billion currently in force. Before consultations, the bill originally set 1.5 billion drachmas.
  • A 25 percent share capital increase is no longer mandatory for entry into the bourse.
  • A company's share distribution on listing will be acceptable if at least 25 percent of share capital is sold to the public, or there are at least 2, 000 shareholders.
  • The price of a share can vary for sale to different categories of investors. It can also be fixed or fluctuate within a range of 15 percent either way.
  • The underwriters of initial public offerings will have the right to intervene in the market in order to support a stock's price for three months from the company's date of entry. Before consultations, the time period was six months.
  • For entry into the bourse's parallel market for smaller cap stocks, companies must have a minimum shareholders' equity of 500 million drachmas and have published two balance sheets before entry, the latest showing profits.

Government may cut consumer car tax in 1999

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that the government may reduce a consumer tax on cars in 1999, economic conditions permitting.

"The government is considering the issue, and there are talks going on. It would be premature to say any more," Mr. Reppas said in reply to a question.

On Sunday, National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou said that the government may lower taxes in 1999 in order to help inflation to fall, in turn easing entry into European economic and monetary union.

The minister was apparently referring to indirect taxes on consumer goods.

Consumer price inflation was 5.0 percent in August, slightly down on 5.1 percent in July. Combined with other economic criteria, the rate needs to drop to roughly 2.4 percent before Greece can join EMU.

National Bank of Greece subsidiary plans to enter NY bourse

Atlantic Bank, a US subsidiary of state-run National Bank of Greece, plans to join the New York Stock Exchange and expand its branch network both within the city and into neighbouring states.

National Bank of Greece governor Theodoros Karatzas told a news conference yesterday that Atlantic Bank also planned to set up a brokerage and a holding company.

The news conference was held to outline the activities of the New York based bank following its decision to hold a board meeting in Greece for the first time.

Atlantic Bank of New York (ABNY) is a commercial bank that offers the full range of retail banking services.

Operating 10 branches in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, ABNY ranks as New York's 22nd largest bank and among the 400 biggest in the United States out of a total of 9,500 banks.

Greek stocks jump in scant trade aided by markets abroad

Greek equities rebounded strongly on the Athens Stock Exchange in thin trade yesterday helped by a recovery in international markets.

The general index ended 3.15 percent higher at 2,225.08 points with turnover at 34.4 billion drachmas.

Sector indices scored gains. Banks rose 2.99 percent, Insurance ended 2.45 percent up, Investment increased 2.10 percent, Leasing surged 8.0 percent, Industrials rose 3.14 percent, Construction was 3.66 percent higher, Miscellaneous ended 4.07 percent up and Holding jumped 4.73 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 1.91 percent higher, and the FTSE/ASE 20 blue-chip index ended 3.08 percent up at 1,351.73 points.

National Bank of Greece ended at 41,155 drachmas, Ergobank at 24,590, Alpha Credit Bank at 24,350, Ionian Bank at 10,545, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,935, Delta Dairy at 3,100, Intracom at 11,793, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,680 and Titan Cement at 19,150 drachmas.

Greece to hold six-month treasury bill auction today

The finance ministry will today auction treasury bills worth 60 billion drachmas in the domestic primary dealers' market.

The dealers will receive a commission of 25 basis points for the six-month T-bills in electronic form.

The paper will be available to the public from Friday at banks and the Post Office Savings Bank.

Bank workers union releases statistics on European banks

Greece ranks 14th in the number of banks operating in the country among 18 European countries, fifth in the number of branches, and fourth in staff levels, the bank workers union (OTOE) said yesterday.

According to a survey carried out by the union, Greece has 44 banks operating 2,733 branches with 54,629 personnel. The number of inhabitants per branch is 3,754, with each bank having an average 62 branches and 1,242 staff.

Averages in the 18 countries were 164 for number of banks, 5,525 for branches, and 97,596 for total employees. An average 3,800 members of the population are served at each bank, with each bank having an average 34 branches and 594 employees.

WEATHER

Unstable but fair weather is forecast for Greece today with cloud in the western, central and northern regions and scattered showers later turning to gales or storms. Athens, sunny to partly cloudy with temperatures between 20-29. Thessaloniki will be cloudy with rain and temperatures from 18-26C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 289.386 British pound 484.572 Japanese yen (100) 218.171 French franc 50.699 German mark 169.930 Italian lira (100) 17.214 Irish Punt 425.171 Belgian franc 8.239 Finnish mark 55.820 Dutch guilder 150.700 Danish kr. 44.616 Austrian sch. 24.150 Spanish peseta 2.020 Swedish kr. 36.668 Norwegian kr. 38.182 Swiss franc 206.262 Port. Escudo 1.660 Aus. dollar 172.181 Can. dollar 190.484 Cyprus pound 574.170

(C.E.)


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