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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-10-30

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, 30/10/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis announces minor reshuffle, calls for confidence vote
  • The new cabinet to be sworn in today
  • EU, NATO accession prospects dominate Slovenian PM's talks
  • Athens: Ankara's response to EU memo `hypocritical, misleading
  • Athens supports NATO verification mission over Kosovo
  • Decrease of EU funds for Greek education
  • Archimedes' palimpsest sold at New York auction
  • Decisions on budget taken
  • Equities drop
  • Eurobank increases pre-tax profits by 164 per cent
  • DIPEK agreement with Bulgaria's Foreign Investment Agency
  • ETEBA interest rates
  • EU-wide inflation rate drops in Sept., increases in Greece
  • Greece's trade deficit increases in first half of '98
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis announces minor reshuffle, calls for confidence vote

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday announced a minor cabinet reshuffle, appointing new heads in three ministries and establishing a new ministry to the prime minister and called for a confidence vote on his new government next week.

The government now comprises 20 ministries, with 19 ministers, 22 deputy ministers and one alternate minister. Yiannos Papantoniou remains in charge of both the national economy and the finance ministry portfolios.

The most notable change was the ouster of George Romeos at the ministry of public order, who is replaced by hitherto Macedonia-Thrace minister Philippos Petsalnikos.

George Anomeritis and Yiannis Magriotis, who are cabinet newcomers, will take over the agriculture and Macedonia-Thrace ministries, respectively, while outgoing health minister Costas Geitonas is assuming the new ministry to the prime minister, responsible for relations between the government and Parliament.

Also outgoing are five deputy ministers, including two in the agriculture ministry, and one each in the ministries of labour and social security, transport, and health and welfare.

In a letter to Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, Mr. Simitis has asked for a convening of the plenum for a debate and the seeking of a vote of confidence to the new government.

The debate will start on Sunday and is expected to end with a confidence vote on Tuesday evening.

"The government enjoys the Parliament's confidence only if it receives an absolute majority of all deputies. This is the premier's and the government's position," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said in announcing the reshuffle.

Commenting on the reshuffle, main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said it amounted to no significant change.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in a statement that the reshuffle represented an attempt by the prime minister to defuse the growing popular discontent and to prepare the people to accept the new anti-popular measures it is planning.

The Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) said the prime minister's move was an admission of the government's inability to change the policy which caused social discontent and led the country to a stalemate.

Democratic Social Movement(DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas said the reshuffle was "the other side of the same coin", and would not enable the prime minister to solve either his party's internal problems, nor those of the country, "which required an over turning of the government's harsh neo- liberal policy," as he said.

Political Spring (Pol.An) leader Antonis Samaras said changes in persons for reasons of creating impressions or changing internal balances in the ruling party were devoid of political significance.

The new cabinet to be sworn in today

Prime Minister: Costas Simitis

Interior, Public Administration and Decentralisation Ministry: Alekos Papadopoulos
Deputy Ministers: George Floridis, Stavros Benos

National Defence Ministry: Akis Tsohatzopoulos
Deputy Minister: Dimitris Apostolakis

Foreign Ministry: Theodoros Pangalos
Alternate Minister: George Papandreou
Deputy Minister: Yiannos Kranidiotis

National Economy Ministry: Yiannos Papantoniou
Deputy Ministers: Christos Pachtas, Alekos Baltas

Finance Ministry: Yiannos Papantoniou
Deputy Ministers: George Drys, Nikos Christodoulakis

Development Ministry: Vasso Papandreou
Deputy Ministers: Mihalis Chrysohoidis, Anna Diamantopoulou

Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Ministry: Costas Laliotis
Deputy Ministers: Theodoros Koliopanos, Christos Verelis

Education and Religious Affairs Ministry: Gerasimos Arsenis
Deputy Minister: Ioannis Anthopoulos

Agriculture Ministry: George Anomeritis
Deputy Ministers: Costas Vrettos, Paraskevas Fountas

Labour and Social Security Ministry: Miltiades Papaioannou
Deputy Ministers: Fivos Ioannidis, Christos Protopapas

Health and Welfare Ministry: Lambros Papadimas
Deputy Ministers: Nikos Farmakis, Theodoros Kotsonis

Justice Ministry: Evangelos Yiannopoulos

Culture Ministry: Evangelos Venizelos
Sports Deputy Minister: Andreas Fouras

Merchant Marine Ministry: Stavros Soumakis

Public Order Ministry: Philippos Petsalnikos

Macedonia-Thrace Ministry: Yiannis Magriotis

Aegean Ministry: Elizabeth Papazoi

Transport and Communications Ministry: Tassos Mantelis
Deputy Minister: Nikos Salayiannis

Press and Media Ministry: Dimitris Reppas

Ministry to the PM: Costas Geitonas
Deputy Minister to the PM: George Paschalidis

EU, NATO accession prospects dominate Slovenian PM's talks

Slovenia's efforts to join the European Union and NATO as well as bilateral relations with Greece were at the centre of talks yesterday between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his Slovenian counterpart Janez Drnovsek.

During the talks, Mr. Drnovsek, who arrived here on an official visit yesterday, thanked Mr. Simitis for Greece's support in Slovenia's bid for EU membership.

Replying to reporters' questions after the meeting, and concerning the efforts of certain EU member-states to make Cyprus' accession prospects dependent on relations between the EU and Ankara, Mr. Simitis said EU enlargement was a joint, political decision which was not open to dispute.

Sources said Mr. Drnovsek expressed concern about the course of EU enlargement to the countries of central and eastern Europe, while Mr. Simitis underlined that Greece's policy was in favour of the Community's expansion to the whole of Europe in order to ensure stability and friendly relations.

No problems were ascertained in bilateral relations, since both sides agreed that they had the same targets and shared the same values. Contacts have already begun between Greece and Slovenia at the highest level.

Athens: Ankara's response to EU memo `hypocritical, misleading

Athens yesterday described Turkey's reaction to a memorandum submitted by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos to the EU Council of Ministers concerning relations between the EU and Turkey as "hypocritical, misleading, but expected."

"This stance of Turkey merely harms Turkey itself," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas responded.

Noting that Ankara "is not willing to bring itself in line with the European community", the Greek spokesman also cited the fact that Turkey was among those countries which did not recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court at The Hague.

Mr. Pangalos submitted a 48-page memorandum on EU-Turkish relations to the Council of Ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, which included references also to the Cyprus problem, Greek-Turkish issues - including violations of Greek airspace by Turkish warplanes - and the Kurdish problem.

According to sources in Brussels, the memorandum was an indirect response to efforts by the European Commission to change the legal basis for releasing EU funds to Turkey which have up to now been blocked by Greece.

Athens supports NATO verification mission over Kosovo

Greece said yesterday that it would participate in all processes aimed at defusing the crisis in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas made the statement when asked by reporters if Greek military aircraft would participate in NATO aerial surveillance patrols over Kosovo.

"Greece supports the verification mission in Kosovo and is participating in consultations on the province. Developments in this matter vindicate the Greek position in favour of a political settlement of the problem. Greece will contribute to defusing the situation by participating in all processes related to Kosovo," Mr. Reppas said.

NATO has undertaken to conduct aerial surveillance over Kosovo to back up over 2,000 "verifiers" on the ground whose task will be to monitor a truce between Yugoslav forces and ethnic Albanian separatists.

Decrease of EU funds for Greek education

The European Commission has cut funds amounting to 141 million ecu (about 48 billion drachmas) from European Union programme subsidies for education in Greece.

The clarification was made by the official responsible for social affairs, EU Commissioner Padraig Flynn, in reply to a relevant question by Coalition of the Left and Progress Eurodeputy Alekos Alavanos.

Mr. Flynn said in his reply that a decrease was decided in the European Social Fund's participation in the business programme under the name of "Education and initial training" in Greece by about 190 million ecu and a simultaneous increase in the region al fund's contribution by 49 million ecu. In all, this means a net decrease in the region of 141 million ecu.

Archimedes' palimpsest sold at New York auction

A 12th century palimpsest containing several of Archimedes' theories was sold yesterday to an American collector in a New York auction for just more than US$2.2 million, a spokesman of the Christie's auction house said.

Earlier in the day, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos announced that Greece would take part in the auction, following a New York court ruling on Wednesday that claims of ownership by the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, which requested that the auction be postponed, were baseless.

Mr. Venizelos said that after the auction the Patriarchate will continue its efforts to recover the document.

Decisions on budget taken

The government has reached its decisions on next year's budget, Finance Deputy Minister George Drys told reporters yesterday.

"The revenues leg in next year's budget is closed," Mr. Drys said.

He implied that a package of tax measures aimed at containing inflation would include a 20-25 percent cut in vehicles' sales tax and a reduction in the value added tax (VAT) of Public Power Corp.'s (DEH) bills from 18 to 15 per cent.

The new measures combined with an earlier government decision to lower special fuel taxes will cost 180 billion drachmas annually to the state budget.

Equities drop

Greek equities ended lower as short-selling halted a two-day rally on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday.

Traders said the market was disappointed by a Bank of Greece decision not to lower its intervention rate by 25 basis points, as hoped.

The general index ended 1.65 percent down to 2,105.01 points, with turnover at 38.9 billion drachmas. Volume was 9,823,000 shares.

Sector indices suffered losses. Banks fell 1.37 percent, Insurance eased 0.42 percent, Investment dropped 0.84 percent, Leasing plunged 4.49 percent, Industrials fell 1.93 percent, Construction ended 2.22 percent off, Miscellaneous fell 0.33 percent and Holding dropped 3.70 percent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 0.27 percent higher.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 170 to 63 with another 18 issues unchanged.

Eurobank increases pre-tax profits by 164 per cent

EFG Eurobank's pre-tax profits increased by a spectacular 164 percent to 13.7 billion drachmas in the first nine months of 1998 compared with the same period last year.

A bank statement said yesterday assets rose 79.3 percent to 1,030 billion drachmas, deposits increased 88.8 percent to 773 billion, lending rose 62.1 percent to 370 billion and equity capital totalled 190 billion drachmas, a rise of 312.9 percent from 1997.

EFG Eurobank, a member of Latsis group, also published a total of basic financial figures for the three banks owned by the group (Eurobank, Bank of Athens and Cretabank).

Nine-month assets totalled 1.78 trillion drachmas, deposits totalled 1.44 trillion, lending was 707 billion and equity capital totalled 241 billion drachmas.

The three banks operate a total of 175 branches in the country.

DIPEK agreement with Bulgaria's Foreign Investment Agency

The Inter-Balkan and Black Sea Business Centre (DIPEK) has signed a cooperation agreement with Bulgaria's Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) to represent the Bulgarian agency in Greece.

The deal, signed by the managing directors of the two agencies, Haralambos Tsarouhas and Ilian Vasilev, will offer information to Greek and foreign businessmen on investments and procedures in the neighbouring country's privatisation programme.

A FIA's member will visit Greece each quarter to directly brief businessmen on privatisations and other developments in Bulgaria.

DIPEK, based in Thessaloniki, is in contact with other investment agencies in Romania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and has already signed a cooperation protocol with Yugoslavia's World Trade Center.

DIPEK is on the final stages of issuing business guides for Albania, FYROM and Ukraine and launching a data bank through the Internet.

ETEBA interest rates

The interest rate for the National Investment Bank for Industrial Development's (ETEBA) new bonds issued in October 1998 will amount to 11.5 per cent annually over the period between Nov. 1, 1998 and Oct. 31, 1999. Interest obtained from bonds is taxable.

For every annual renewal the interest rate of bonds issued by ETEBA at the time of renewal is valid. This possibility is provided for four renewals. The provision of new annual bonds by ETEBA will take place at its offices and at the branch offices of the National Bank.

EU-wide inflation rate drops in Sept., increases in Greece

The annual inflation rate decreased last September among the 15 European Union member-states from 1.3 per cent in August to 1.2 per cent, while for the 11 'euro countries' it decreased from 1.2 per cent to 1 per cent.

In Greece, however, annualised inflation increased from 4.7 per cent to 5 per cent.

According to a monthly bulletin issued by the Community's statistical service (Eurostat), the highest inflation rates are in Greece with 5 per cent, Ireland (2.8 per cent) and Portugal (2.2 per cent). The smallest percentages were recorded in Sweden (-0 .1 per cent), France (0.5 per cent) as well as Germany and Austria (0.6 per cent).

Greece's trade deficit increases in first half of '98

Greece's trade balance showed a deficit of 6.9 billion ecu in the first half of 1998, compared to a 6.4-billion-ecu deficit in the corresponding period in 1997.

Specifically, imports totalled over the same period 11.5 billion ecu as against 11 billion ecu in the first half of 1997. Exports in both the first half of 1998 and the first half of 1997 remained steady at the level of 4.6 billion ecu.

A larger deficit (in absolute prices) was shown in the first half of 1998 by Britain (18.8 billion ecu) and Spain (7.8 billion ecu), while in Germany a surplus of 34.4 billion ecu was created over the same period.

WEATHER

Fair weather will prevail througout Greece today with scattered cloud in the west and north. Possibility of rain in the northern Ionian Sea, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 10- 24C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 9- 19C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 279.169 British pound 469.514 Japanese yen (100) 239.270 French franc 50.652 German mark 169.667 Italian lira (100) 17.154 Irish Punt 422.294 Belgian franc 8.227 Finnish mark 55.790 Dutch guilder 150.486 Danish kr. 44.630 Austrian sch. 24.116 Spanish peseta 1.997 Swedish kr. 35.950 Norwegian kr. 37.884 Swiss franc 208.632 Port. Escudo 1.655 Aus. dollar 173.203 Can. dollar 181.238 Cyprus pound 572.880

(C.E.)


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