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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-10-08

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, 08/10/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • 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
  • Weather
  • 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 Athens.

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 home.

"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 World Bank.

"Moreover, any loss in external demand is being compensated by domestic demand which is driven by the high level of investment growth," Mr. Papantoniou said.

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 Union.

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. Papantoniou said.

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 years."

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 reform.

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 said.

Finally, the minister urged that domestic policies in all countries should take into account the volatility and uncertainty of the global economic environment.

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 financial crisis.

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 session.

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 higher.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 195 to 55 with another 11 issues unchanged.

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 others.

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 group.

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 targets.

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 ministers.

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 meet.

"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 region.

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 drachmas.

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 materials.

WEATHER

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.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

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

(L.G.)


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