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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-10-16

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, 16/10/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Group of businesses to freeze 1999 prices in anti-inflation drive
  • State gas corporation signs preliminary deal with Shell
  • Greek stocks sprint through 1,900-point barrier
  • Greek absorption of EU funds up this year
  • Growth in primary budget spending slows to 6.5 pct in Jan-Oct
  • Tourist arrivals from the Netherlands seen rising next year
  • Greek exporters send delegation to Algeria
  • Nobel prizewinner Sen to speak at Athens event
  • Pangalos lauds Greek-Russian relations in meeting with Matvienko
  • Armenia denies Turkish minister's claims regarding PKK's Ocalan
  • Simitis-Klima talks in Athens
  • Irish official speaks at UN's office in Athens on refugee issue
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Group of businesses to freeze 1999 prices in anti-inflation drive

A group of businesses in foodstuffs, beverages and household goods yesterday agreed to implement zero average weighted price increases in 1999 as part of a government-sponsored policy to lower inflation and protect wages.

Thirty sector representatives assured Development Minister Vasso Papandreou and Development Undersecretary Mihalis Chrysohoidis that they would hold the prices of goods at current levels.

Ms Papandreou expressed the government's satisfaction at a recent move by firms to lower the prices of 300 goods in foodstuffs and household goods following an agreement forged with the government.

She said that combatting inflation was crucial and pledged that the government would take any measures needed to win this battle.

State gas corporation signs preliminary deal with Shell

Greece's Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) yesterday signed in Paris a memorandum of understanding with Shell International Gas Ltd to explore the feasibility of supplying Europe with natural gas from Turkmenistan via Greece.

If the project is eventually carried out, Greece will become a key player in the energy sector in the next century by acting as an intermediary in the movement of gas.

The memorandum was signed by DEPA's managing director, Savvas Papaphilippou, and Wim Hein Grasso, chief executive officer of Shell International Gas Ltd, a subsidiary of oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell.

A feasibility study will be conducted to provide the technical and financial data involved in supplying Greece with Shell's natural gas from Turkmenistan and other central Asian countries, and then transporting it elsewhere in Europe.

Shell has already signed an exclusive exploration and production agreement with the government of Turkmenistan. The deal with DEPA is part of a broader plan to supply gas to Turkey and western Europe.

The feasibility will be examined of supplying natural gas and liquified gas to Turkey and other countries in the region via DEPA's installations on Revithousa, a small island near Piraeus.

Revithousa is currently used for storing liquid gas supplies from Russia and Algeria. A final deal with Shell would lead to expansion of the unit in order to house supplies from Turkmenistan.

Experts from the two companies are expected to meet in Athens next week to begin discussing the plan.

DEPA falls under the aegis of the development ministry.

Greek stocks sprint through 1,900-point barrier

Greek equities ended higher yesterday for the third consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange pushing the market above 1,900 points.

The general index ended 3.39 percent up at 1,918.28 points with turnover at 38.4 billion drachmas. Volume was 10,528,000 shares.

Sector indices scored gains. Banks rose 4.77 percent, Insurance ended 1.19 percent up, Investment was 1.86 percent higher, Leasing increased 4.25 percent, Industrials rose 2.47 percent, Construction ended 4.35 percent up, Miscellaneous ended 3.44 percent higher and Holding rose 2.22 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 3.11 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE 20 blue chip index rose 3.96 percent to 1,145.24 points.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 210 to 30 with another 14 issues unchanged.

Greek absorption of EU funds up this year

The national economy ministry said yesterday that the absorption by Greece of European Union funds this year had risen and was approaching the technically feasible maximum by the end of 1998.

By the end of the current year, 8,898 MECU were expected to be absorbed compared to 7,213 MECU in 1997, the ministry said.

The 1998 figure corresponds to 63.8 per cent of total funds allocated to Greece under the Second Community Support Framework, and 83.6 per cent of the initially estimated amount for the period 1994-98.

The ministry statement contained an excerpt from an EU report dated July 21, 1998 according to which Greece had made great progress in application of the Community's structural funds since 1994.

After a slow start, the report noted, Greece's performance had improved significantly in most sectors.

In addition, GDP growth stood at 3.5 per cent in 1998 - much higher than the EU average - "and unemployment, despite a slight increase, remains lower than the EU average", the report said.

"In reality, the Greek rate of absorption of EU structural funds is now higher than the average of all member-states," it said.

Growth in primary budget spending slows to 6.5 pct in Jan-Oct

The growth of primary spending in the budget slowed to 6.5 percent in the first 10 months of 1998, nearing a target of a 6.3 percent annual increase, the finance ministry said in a statement yesterday.

Budget spending increased by 7.9 and 8.1 percent in the first seven and eight months of 1998 respectively.

The finance ministry also said that the growth in spending on interest fell to 6.3 percent in the first nine months of the year from 7.0 percent in the eight-month period.

The ministry expects growth on spending on interest to fall to 3.9 percent in January-October and to 1.8 percent in December, hitting this year's budget target.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that the government had not yet concluded discussions on drafting next year's budget, and he was optimistic that the deficit target would be fulfilled by the end of the year.

Tourist arrivals from the Netherlands seen rising next year

A 10-15 percent increase is expected in the number of visitors to Greece from the Netherlands next year, according to speakers at a conference of Dutch travel agents held on Corfu.

By the end of 1998, 550,000 Dutch visitors are expected to have visited Greece, which would represent a 12 percent increase over 1997, the speakers said.

Taking part in the conference were 350 representatives of travel agencies in the Netherlands.

The Greek National Tourist Organisation was represented by its secretary- general, Michalis Kyriakidis.

Greek exporters send delegation to Algeria

The Hellenic Foreign Trade Board is arranging a business delegation to Algeria on November 21-24 as part of an agreement with the country's chamber of commerce and industry.

Attracting Greek firms is Algeria's wide-ranging privatisation programme.

Among sectors to be represented in the delegation are foodstuffs, building materials and computers.

Nobel prizewinner Sen to speak at Athens event

This year's Nobel prizewinner in economics, Amartya Sen, will be in Athens on Tuesday to speak at an event organised by the Andreas Papandreou Foundation.

Prof. Sen, who received the Nobel prize on Wednesday, will speak on the topic of "The Political Element of Economic Development: A tribute to Andreas Papandreou."

The event will be held at the Old Parliament Building.

Pangalos lauds Greek-Russian relations in meeting with Matvienko

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday described Athens' bilateral cooperation with Moscow as being of "strategic importance", noting that Russia's parti cipation in several international organisations was of "decisive significance".

He also recalled a coincidence of views between Athens and Moscow on the Yugoslav problem.

He was speaking to reporters after a farewell visit by Russia's outgoing ambassador to Greece, Valentina Matvienko, who recently accepted her nomination as a deputy premier in charge of social policy in Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov's new cabinet.

Mr. Pangalos assured Ms Matvienko of his and the Greek people's sincere sentiments of respect and friendship towards her, and praised her activities during her term in Greece.

He said he had invited Ms Matvienko to visit Greece in her new capacity, noting that he himself was scheduled to visit Moscow on Oct. 21, when he would have extensive talks with members of the new Russian government.

Mr. Pangalos wished Ms Matvienko every success in her new duties, adding that the responsibilities she was undertaking were such that we would "not want to be in her place for even 24 hours".

Ms Matvienko expressed her gratitude to Mr. Pangalos personally and the Greek government and people for their friendliness.

She said she was leaving Greece with a "heavy heart", and promised to do all in her power, in her new post, to further develop Greek-Russian relations and for the materialisation of many of the plans she did not have time to advance while ambassador to Greece.

Ms Matvienko said there was a "new momentum" in Russian-Greek relations recently that was due to joint efforts in that direction.

She said Greece would always be of "primary importance" for Russia, and called for reinforcement of the cooperation between the two countries on the international scene.

The outgoing ambassador said her government placed great importance in Mr. Pangalos' upcoming visit to Moscow, with respect to the promotion of bilateral relations as well as for reinforcing their cooperation in efforts for the resolution of internation al problems.

Armenia denies Turkish minister's claims regarding PKK's Ocalan

The Armenian embassy in Athens yesterday issued a press release flatly denying a Turkish minister's recent claims that Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan was in Armenia.

Turkish Minister of State Metin Gundere on Sunday claimed that the most successful Kurdish separatist leader had left Syria for Armenia, while at the same time lodging threats against Armenia.

According to the press release, the Armenian ministry of foreign affairs expressed its deep concern over the Turkish minister's statements, adding that Yerevan believes that such propaganda by Turkish officials only serves to aggravate conditions in the region, and that Armenia is opposed to any policy based on the use or threat of use of force.

Simitis-Klima talks in Athens

Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima paid a lightning visit to Athens yesterday afternoon for talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in view of an upcoming informal EU summit scheduled in Austria for Oct. 24-25.

Austria currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency.

The informal summit will deal with the future of the European Union after introduction of the euro, the EU's planned single currency. The summit will also deal with issues such as the EU's role on a global level, internal security (combatting of crime and drug trafficking), employment, and social and foreign policy.

The Athens talks were also attended by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

Mr. Simitis said after the talks that the EU has made great achie-vements towards the single market. But the question remaining was "what will follow European Monetary Union and how Europe can intervene on an international level to secure stability and make progress on major issues such as employment, social policy and internal security so as to have a new European dynamism".

Mr. Klima noted that the EU has already started accession negotiations with six candidate-countries, including Cyprus. As for another five nations wishing to enter the EU but not on an accession course, the European Commission will present a progress report at the EU summit in December in Vienna, he said.

Commenting on Turkey's European prospects, the Austrian chancellor said that Ankara has failed to meet the criteria for EU accession.

Irish official speaks at UN's office in Athens on refugee issue

Ireland's refugee council vice-president yesterday spoke on the issue of "refugees and racism", at the United Nations representation in Greece and in light of the 50-year anniversary of the signing of the Universal Human Rights Declaration.

"Racism and abuse of power are the primary factors that cause difficulties for the induction of refugees in their host society," Machim Sefindwaz said.

She added that there are 23 million refugees in the world today and 26 million displaced persons, while 80 per cent of them are women and children.

Today, the Irish official is expected to visit a refugee camp for Kurds on Mount Penteli, while later in the day she is scheduled to meet with representatives of several non-governmental organisations.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather will prevail throughout Greece on Friday with scattered cloud in the eastern islands of the country. Winds will be northerly, northwesterly, light to strong. Fair in Athens where temperatures will range between 9-22C. Mostly fair in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 7-19C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 280.111 British pound 476.120 Japanese yen (100) 235.471 French franc 51.021 German mark 171.060 Italian lira (100) 17.286 Irish Punt 426.560 Belgian franc 8.292 Finnish mark 56.236 Dutch guilder 151.667 Danish kr. 44.997 Austrian sch. 24.314 Spanish peseta 2.013 Swedish kr. 35.137 Norwegian kr. 36.527 Swiss franc 210.006 Port. Escudo 1.669 Aus. dollar 176.556 Can. dollar 181.119 Cyprus pound 578.376

(L.G.)


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