Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-10-08
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 08/10/1998 (ANA)
- Greek, Russian defence ministers review Kosovo crisis
- Impact of global market crisis on Greece limited, IMF told
- Greek stocks end higher, fuelled by European rebound
- Solana cancels planned visit to Athens
- PM: Local election results do not reflect gov't work
- FM sources describe Kosovo situation as 'fluid'
- Armaments programme the focus of Simitis-Tsohatzopoulos meeting
- NATO's 'Dynamic Mix '98' exercise switches to northern Greece
- CD featuring addresses by Greek statesmen unveiled
- Kostakis collection arrives in Thessaloniki
- Unemployment in ship repair sector
- HEPO pavilion at '99 Paris building materials exhibition
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Greek, Russian defence ministers review Kosovo crisis
Greece is asking that its "uni-queness" as a Balkan country be taken into
account with respect to any possible military intervention by NATO aimed at
resolving the crisis in the strife-torn Yugoslav province of Kosovo,
National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said yesterday.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos made the statement at a joint press conference with his
Russian counterpart, Marshal Igor Sergeyev, when asked whether Greece would
participate in any NATO military intervention in Yugoslavia.
The press conference was held at the close of Greek-Russian talks in
Marshal Sergeyev warned that any intervention would not be a punitive
operation against one side but rather would escalate into war.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos expressed the hope that all diplomatic and political
possibilities to end the crisis would be exhausted and that the use of
force eventually averted.
"There is no military solution," he said, referring to the Kosovo problem.
"What is needed is the quick finding of a political solution."
Impact of global market crisis on Greece limited, IMF told
Greece has remained relatively unscathed by the fallout from a global
financial crisis due to the retention of its export markets and minimal
exposure by domestic banks, with losses offset by robust demand at
"The impact on the Greek economy is limited. Greek exports to countries hit
by the crisis account for just 0.2 percent of GDP and there is virtually no
exposure of our banking system," National Economy and Finance Minister
Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.
He was addressing an annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and
"Moreover, any loss in external demand is being compensated by domestic
demand which is driven by the high level of investment growth," Mr.
In addition, market players were reacting to the perception of a shift in
status for Greece from an emerging to a pre-euro economy in the European
The perception was based on major progress made towards economic alignment
with the EU. The drachma joined the EU's exchange rate mechanism in March
and will enter ERM2 for pre-euro countries on January 1, 1999, Mr.
The government's target date for entry into economic and monetary union is
January 1, 2001.
"The performance of the Greek economy in 1994-1998 indicates rapid
convergence towards the EU's average economic performance in both nominal
and real terms," the minister said.
Fiscal consolidation that began in 1994 had resulted in a decline of the
general government deficit by almost 11 percentage points of GDP by 1998,
with the deficit currently estimated at 2.4 percent of GDP this year.
"The size of fiscal consolidation achieved is almost three times larger
than that accomplished by the rest of the EU member countries over the same
period," Mr. Papantoniou said.
The generation of large primary surpluses in the state budget since 1994
enabled the public debt ratio to decline to 106.7 percent of GDP in 1998
from 111.6 percent in 1993.
"The downward trend in the debt ratio is set to accelerate in coming
In addition, consumer price inflation had fallen to an estimated 4.8
percent in 1998 from 14.4 percent in 1993, a decline of 9.6 percentage
points, Mr. Papantoniou said.
Policy would remain tight in 1999 with the general government deficit
likely to fall below 2.1 percent of GDP, as stated in the government's EU
convergence programme. Budget savings would be achieved mainly by
containing public expenditure, he said.
Growth rates of 3.5-4.0 percent were forecast for the years ahead, based on
fiscal discipline, price stability, a high investment ratio and structural
High rates of investment growth would have a positive impact on employment
and productivity, further reinforced by the introduction of reforms in
industrial relations to allow flexible working hours, privatisation,
restructuring of loss-making state ent erprises, and the improvement of
public sector efficiency, Mr. Papantoniou said.
"Our government is committed to continuing to pursue policies that favour
stability, growth and employment while reinforcing social cohesion," he
Finally, the minister urged that domestic policies in all countries should
take into account the volatility and uncertainty of the global economic
The global crisis that erupted last year and sparked a domino effect had
demonstrated the vulnerability of the international economic system.
Good economic fundamentals and sound policies were not enough to protect an
economy from financial contagion, Mr. Papantoniou said.
Greater transparency was needed, especially for financial institutions.
In order to improve its credibility and efficiency, the IMF needed to
enhance its resources and improve its structure, the minister said.
Greek stocks end higher, fuelled by European rebound
Greek equities ended moderately higher on the Athens Stock Exchange
yesterday following a recovery in European markets amid hopes that lower
interest rates would help to pull world economies out of the current
The general index ended 1.34 percent higher at 1,930.56 points, sharply off
the day's highs when the market jumped more than 3.5 percent early in the
Trading was thin with turnover at 37.1 billion drachmas and 8,649,000
shares changing hands.
Dealers said the market remained highly volatile ahead of news on domestic
consumer price inflation; and whether the government would go ahead with a
fresh 15 percent flotation of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation this
month on the Athens bourse and New York Stock Exchange.
Sector indices mostly scored gains.
Banks rose 1.13 percent, Insurance ended 1.30 percent up, Investment soared
2.75 percent, Leasing jumped 2.69 percent, Industrials ended 1.50 percent
higher, Construction rose 2.19 percent, Holding ended 1.31 percent up, but
Miscellaneous bucked the tre nd to end 0.34 percent off.
The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 1.82 percent
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 195 to 55 with another 11 issues
Solana cancels planned visit to Athens
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana has called off his scheduled visit to
Greece for tomorrow, the government announced yesterday.
Mr. Solana was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, among
PM: Local election results do not reflect gov't work
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that although Sunday's
municipal and prefectural elections had political shadings they could not
be linked to the government's work, saying it will be assessed only at the
end of the year 2000 when the current government completes its tenure.
"Only then will the Greek people decide whether they desire the continuation
of the present course," he told a meeting of PASOK's Parliamentary
He briefly reviewed Greece's domestic and foreign policy issues, with an
emphasis on the economy.
Mr. Simitis said that the international economic environment continued to
be unstable, but added there were some positive indications, such as an
upward trend in the drachma at this critical period.
Turning to the Kosovo crisis, he said there was intense concern as to what
kind of intervention should be made to solve the problems in the region,
the extent of such an intervention, and under what conditions and with what
On Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Simitis said that the problems remained,
adding that he had no doubt that the concerns of some countries on the
issue of Cyprus' EU entry would arise again, just as at the recent EU
foreign ministers' General Affairs Council.
He added, however, that it was a positive aspect that Greece's views were
being heard, as shown in the recent trilateral summit (with the Bulgarian
and Romanian presidents) at Delphi.
Athens, Mr. Simitis said, "has the ability to influence decisions, because
Greece's views are heeded in the EU."
FM sources describe Kosovo situation as 'fluid'
The fact that NATO foreign ministers are not, as originally planned,
meeting today to discuss the Kosovo crisis, while a permanent representatives'
meeting has been called on Saturday in Brussels, does not necessarily make
the adoption of a decision for military intervention any more distant,
Greek foreign ministry sources said yesterday. Sources described the
situation as particularly "fluid," as countries previously insisting on
the issuing of a UN Security Council resolution before any action
is taken , were now "slightly shifting" their position, possibly
considering "intermediate" solutions. Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos
yesterday cancelled his planned attendance at a conference in Rethymno,
Crete, and met with US ambassador Nicholas Burns. No statements were made
after the meeting, which the sources said, focused on Kosovo and mediation
efforts by US presidential envoy Richard Holbrooke, who met with Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic and ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.
Armaments programme the focus of Simitis-Tsohatzopoulos meeting
Prime Minister Costas Simitis and National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos
will confer today on the course of Greece's four-trillion-drachma armaments
procurements programme and other issues, government spokesman Dimitris
Reppas said yesterday.
He added that there was still no decision on whether the Government Council
for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) would convene tomorrow to take
decisions on the armaments programme.
Mr. Reppas said on Tuesday that the final decision would be taken following
consultations between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the competent
Asked by reporters about the KYSEA meeting, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos yesterday
said he didn't know why there was an issue about whether or not KYSEA would
"The KYSEA meeting is scheduled for Friday and tomorrow (Thursday) I will
meet with the prime minister," he said.
The council has already taken a number of final decisions regarding the
procurement of weapons systems while others are expected to be taken at the
forthcoming KYSEA meeting, including the procurement of long-range anti-
aircraft missiles to replace the ageing Nike system and short-range
missiles (Shorads) for the army.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said in July that the defence ministry's target was for
all agreements provided under the government's five-year armaments
programme to have been approved by KYSEA by the end of 1998, with the
exception of new tanks.
NATO's 'Dynamic Mix '98' exercise switches to northern Greece
Military units from Greece, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands will be called
on to tackle a hypothetical political crisis in the Balkans and perform
peace-keeping duties, as an on-going NATO exercise switches to the Assyros
and the Nea Santa region of northern Greece over the next few days.
Greece, along with Turkey and Italy, are hosting "Dynamic Mix '98", the
largest NATO exercise conducted in the southern wing this year, which began
on Oct. 1.
The military exercise involves forces from 11 NATO nations and is being
conducted in the Mediterranean, aimed at improving the southern region's
capability to implement NATO strategy and to deal simultaneously with a
crisis and peace support operation.
Exercises may take place concurrently in more than one location, with many
nations participating in different aspects of the same exercise. Taking
part in the Thessaloniki-area manoeuvre will be officers slated to staff
the NATO headquarters in Larissa in the future, according to sources.
Officers of Greece's First Army Corps, which is commanding the Greek
section of the exercise, told ANA that the planning of the manoeuvre took
place a year ago and was not related to recent developments in the
Greece will also be taking part in the section of the exercise to be held
in Italy, where it will participate with amphibious and other specialised
marines, as well as naval and airborne forces.
The areas of the exercise include the south and eastern Mediterranean, the
Ionian Sea, northern Greece, southeast Turkey and southern Italy.
The final phase of 'Dynamic Mix' will be held in southeast Turkey.
CD featuring addresses by Greek statesmen unveiled
Greek public radio (ERA) in cooperation with Parliament yesterday released
2,000 copies of a double compact disc featuring addresses of several Greek
statesmen and politicians.
The CD was accompanied by a booklet explaining the different periods and
history of each of the eras represented.
Th CD includes declarations by Eleftherios Venizelos, Constantine
Karamanlis in 1955, EOKA leader George Grivas in 1964, Andreas Papandreou,
Melina Mercouri, Harilaos Florakis and others.
Kostakis collection arrives in Thessaloniki
The famed Kostakis collection of 1,100 Russian avant-garde works of art
arrived from Germany at Thessaloniki's Lazariston monastery early yesterday
morning under tight security measures.
The collection, purchased by the Greek state and to be exhibited in the
city's newly founded Modern Art Museum, includes works by Malevic - founder
of the 'Supremacist' school, Tatlin, the founder of 'Constructivism',
Popova, Rozanova and Matiushin.
Art aficionado Georgios Kostakis, a Muscovite of Greek descent, built up
his collection between 1930 and 1960 by exchanging works by western artists
for paintings dating from the period 1910-1930 by then unknown Russian
avant-garde artists. He had donat ed about 150 works to the Tretiakov Art
Gallery in Moscow, and had expressed a wish that the rest of the collection
be displayed in Greece.
The collection, insured for $50 million during transportation, was
purchased from Kostakis' daughter, Aliki. The culture ministry will
organise an official reception ceremony for the works next week.
Unemployment in ship repair sector
A National Labour Institute report was unveiled yesterday that focused on
employment issues in ship repair sector of the greater Piraeus region.
According to the report, unemployment in the sector has reached an
unprecedented 80 per cent, although 7,500 workers are employed in 25
different specialties, while it is estimated that another 25,000 are
employed in similar activities.
During the past five years 47 per cent of the sector-related companies have
not made new investments, while the average age of mechanical equipment is
11 years and the average investment activity is a mere 53.2 million
National Labour Institute research data claimed that 75 per cent of firms
in the ship repair and construction sector believed that their employees
were very experienced and 74.5 per cent stated that their employees'
performance was very good, while with in the last five years, 24 per cent
of employees in the ship repair zone received training - 45 per cent stated
that they wished more training programmes and 55 per cent did not receive
any training due to lack of money and time.
HEPO pavilion at '99 Paris building materials exhibition
The Hellenic Foreign Trade Board (HEPO) will participate with a national
pavilion at the international building materials exhibition "BATIMAT '99",
scheduled for Paris in November 1999.
Greek exhibits will include aluminium products, marble and insulating
Cloudy weather will prevail in most parts of Greece on Thursday with the
possibility of scattered showers in the northwest in the morning. Winds
will be variable, moderate to strong. Mostly fair in Athens where
temperatures will range between 17-29C. Overcast in Thessaloniki where
temperatures will be from 15-26C.
Thursday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 278.058
British pound 470.803 Japanese yen (100) 223.200
French franc 51.501 German mark 172.668
Italian lira (100) 17.465 Irish Punt 430.746
Belgian franc 8.368 Finnish mark 56.746
Dutch guilder 153.140 Danish kr. 45.414
Austrian sch. 24.542 Spanish peseta 2.033
Swedish kr. 35.591 Norwegian kr. 37.984
Swiss franc 210.339 Port. Escudo 1.685
Aus. dollar 171.998 Can. dollar 184.611
Cyprus pound 581.312