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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-11-10

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, 10/11/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Formal negotiations for 6 EU candidate-states begin today
  • Latest Turkish provocation against Halki academy draws rebuke
  • European unification dominates Simitis' talks in Poland
  • NATO's Naumann in Greece
  • Upgrading of Omonia Square announced
  • Retail car prices to drop avg 5.5 pct Monday after tax cut
  • Alico, EFG sign buyout of Bulgarian Post Bank
  • Investors submit bids for three out of five state Xenia hotels
  • Heavy demand seen for Ecu in forex trade
  • Trade between Greece, China rises 26.7 pct in January-August
  • Greek stocks slip, still fail to take 2,300 pts
  • More participations at this year's 'Philoxenia'
  • Two-day conference on Internet sales
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Formal negotiations for 6 EU candidate-states begin today

The European Union will open formal enlargement talks today with Cyprus and five other European nations, expected to be among the first wave of countries to join the Union early in the next century.

EU foreign ministers yesterday reaffirmed their commitement to an eastward expansion but many warned that the upcoming negotiations could be long and difficult.

They also avoided mention of a specific date at which candidates would become full members of the Union.

Greece was represented at the session by Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

During yesterday's session and within the framework of endorsing common positions which EU member-states will present in the negotiations with candidate countries today, France, Germany and the Netherlands signed and tabled a joint declaration on Cyprus , warning of "particular difficulties" linked to the opening of accession talks with the island republic. Italy also signed the declaration.

Greece tabled a counter-statement concerning the process for the accession of Cyprus to the EU.

A political solution to the division and partial occupation of Cyprus must be found as a matter of urgency as the only way which would resolve problems that will arise in the country's accession course, the statement by France, Germany and the Netherlands said.

"They draw in particular attention to the fact that the division of the island poses fundamental problems for the operation and the coherence of the Common Foreign and Security Policy," the statement said.

It also declares that member states note that it has not been possible so far to make progress towards a political solution which would end the continuing division of Cyprus.

Responding to the joint statement, Mr. Papandreou pointed out in a statement he tabled to the Council that any action or statements inconsistent with the EU Luxembourg decisions pose a threat to the entire process of accession.

Mr. Papandreou also called on the EU to act in a positive manner to achieve Turkish Cypriot participation in the accession process and encourage the Cyprus peace effort.

Mr. Papandreou reminded his EU partners that the government of Cyprus has put forward specific proposals to include Turkish Cypriots in the accession negotiations but "unfortunately these attempts have yielded no results so far."

Furthermore, Mr. Papandreou reiterated that what Athens' statement stresses, in his opinion, is that there will never be a Greek Parliament to approve accession of countries to the EU if Cyprus was not among them.

Mr. Papandreou added that Cyprus' accesssion is an issue of moral and political obligation.

Latest Turkish provocation against Halki academy draws rebuke

Greece yesterday stressed that the Halki School of Theology issue exceeded the bounds of Greek-Turkish relations and has become a human rights issue.

Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis, commenting on a decision by the Turkish government to abolish the supervisory committee of the school, said that "it should be stressed that the issue goes beyond the narrow framework of Greek-Turkish relations, since it is a problem of respect of human rights and r eligious freedoms in Turkey, and as such, it has provoked the reaction of other governments and international organisations."

He added that the Greek government follows closely the developments regarding the operation of Halki, which was ordered closed by Ankara in 1971.

Recently, the Turkish government decided to dismiss the remaining members of the committee, claiming financial mismanagement and anti-Turkish propaganda.

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos lashed out on Sunday against the state of human rights and religious freedoms in Turkey, interpreting the indignation of the small ethnic Greek community in Istanbul over the "high-handed abolition of the school's commi ttee."

Mr. Kranidiotis also responded by issuing a demarche to the Turkish ambassador in Athens.

Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos yesterday stressed that the dismissal of the supervising board aims at transferring the school's property to the Turkish state.

The Archbishop spoke during the feast day of Agios Nectarios on the island of Aegina, saying "the measure aims atIgrabbing someone else's property."

European unification dominates Simitis' talks in Poland

Prime Minister Costas Simitis began a two-day official visit in Poland yesterday with a meeting with his Polish counterpart Jerzy Buzek.

Afterwards, Mr. Simitis said that "the pursuit of Europe's unification and the expansion of security networks for peace and cooperation in Europe and elsewhere is a belief shared by both".

"more states should join the European Union and NATO as soon as possible", he said.

"The procedure for EU enlargement must go on, but in a way that rules, limits and regulations are clear to all. Greece will contribute to that effort because European unification will not be feasible if these negotiations do not arrive at a conclusion," he added.

Poland is one of the six candidate-states for EU accession.

He also reiterated that Athens was making efforts to resolve labour and pension concerns of Polish workers in Greece.

Mr. Buzek expressed satisfaction about the support provided by Greece to Poland on his country's desire to join NATO and the EU, saying that the two leaders discussed economic issues as well as cultural and technological cooperation.

A cooperation agreement on research and technology issues was signed by Deputy Development Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and her Polish counterpart.

Mr. Simitis had an earlier meeting with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, focusing on economic cooperation issues.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos met with his Polish counterpart Bronislav Geremek to focus on issues of European unification.

The Greek prime minister, replying to reporters' quetions ruled out early elections in Greece and said that "protest and different views existing in Greece were always within the framework of democracy, therefore creating no probems."

NATO's Naumann in Greece

The chairman of NATO's military committee, Gen. Klaus Naumann, arrived in Athens yesterday for an official two-day visit. He will be received today by National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

Issues expected to be discussed during the meeting will centre on the alliance's new structure, especially the establishment of a NATO land sub- headquarters in Larissa, as well as the overall security in the region. Gen. Naumann is also scheduled to me et with national defence general staff chief, Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis.

Upgrading of Omonia Square announced

The central government yesterday unveiled plans to change traffic circulation and to upgrade the area around Omonia Square in central Athens.

In an announcement, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis said major changes to the way traffic flows in the area would arise from a study by Attiko Metro, the state-run company overseeing construction of the Athens metro .

Mr. Laliotis said changes would widen pavements on major streets. Measures are expected to come into effect by the end of 1999.

The underground sections of the metro at Omonia Square will feature glass bricks, allowing light to enter the areas. Billboards in the square - a longtime characteristic of Omonia - will be removed and rundown escalators leading to the present Omonia st ation will be replaced.

Retail car prices to drop avg 5.5 pct Monday after tax cut

Consumers will be able to buy new and imported second-hand cars for an average 5.5 percent less starting on Monday under a government bill that eases indirect taxes in order to lower inflation.

Deputy Finance Minister George Drys told a news conference that the tax reduction on new cars of up to 900 cc would lead to a 6.0 percent drop in retail prices compared with their current price.

For cars up to 1,400 cc the price reduction is expected to be 7.0 percent; for cars up to 1,600 cc, 6.22 percent; up to 1,800 cc, 6.19 percent; up to 2000 cc, 6.0 percent; and for cars of 2,001 or more cc, 4.9 percent.

Major price reductions are also expected for used cars built from 1996 that are equipped with the latest anti-pollution technology.

Alico, EFG sign buyout of Bulgarian Post Bank

Alico/CEH Balkan Holdings Ltd signed an agreement in Sofia yesterday for the purchase of a 78.23 percent stake in Bulgarian Post Bank (BPB) from state-owned Bulgarian Bank Consolidation Company.

The group is a joint venture of American Life Insurance Company (Alico), a member of American International Group (AIG); and Private Financial Investments Holding (PFIH), a member of EFG Bank Group, itself the parent of EFG Eurobank.

Each group holds a 50 percent share in the venture whose investment cost is 38 million US dollars.

BPB was founded in April 1991 and quickly developed into one of the country's main banks, operating the second largest network in Bulgaria with a total of 125 branches and 1,650 employees.

The bank has signed an agreement with Bulgaria's post office company to provide services at 2,800 of the latter's outlets around the country.

BPB's assets were 406 million DMarks on October 31. Its loans portfolio totalled 100 million marks, and deposits totalled 338 million marks.

Most of BPB's assets and liabilities are in foreign currency.

Alico and EFG Eurobank executives will gain seats on BPB's new board, including Eurobank chairman Yiannis Gontikas and general director Christos Sorotos. Alico's chairman, Kendall Nottingham, also has a seat. The new board agreed to raise the bank' s share capital by 20 million US dollars in the next 12 months in order to fund development.

Investors submit bids for three out of five state Xenia hotels

Investors submitted bids for three out of five state Xenia hotels yesterday, which was the deadline in the government's tender for sale of the units in the chain owned by the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO).

Tourism entrepreneur Manos Tsatsakis of Manos travel agencies offered 223 million drachmas for the Xenia located on the island of Patmos, the sole bidder for the unit.

Mr. Tsatsakis also submitted the highest of five bids for the Paros Xenia at 250 million drachmas.

A local hotel bid 326 million drachmas for Itea's Xenia, the highest of two.

No bids were submitted for the Kalambaka and Andros units.

Heavy demand seen for Ecu in forex trade

Heavy demand was seen for the Ecu in domestic foreign currency trade yesterday both before and after the central bank's daily fix.

The demand for 100 million Ecu, believed to stem from expiry of a coupon on Ecu-linked debt paper, was met without intervention by the Bank of Greece, said dealers, who ruled out speculative motives.

Most foreign currencies closed around Friday's levels at the fix with the mark at 168.385 drachmas; the Ecu at 331.150 drachmas, slightly up on last week; and the dollar at 282.130 drachmas.

Trade between Greece, China rises 26.7 pct in January-August

The value of trade between Greece and China increased by 26.7 percent to 248 million US dollars in January-August compared with the corresponding period last year, the ambassador of the People's Republic of China, Jiang Quonsen, said yesterday.

Speaking in fluent Greek, the Chinese diplomat told a seminar on Greek- Chinese relations that bilateral ties were healthy.

He said China's average economic growth neared 10 percent in the last two decades, while trade totalled 325 billion US dollars in 1997, sharply up from 20.6 billion in 1978.

The ambassador said that the Chinese currency will remain stable and will not be devalued in the aftermath of a financial crisis in Asia.

T. Vlassopoulos, director of the national economy ministry's secretariat of international economic relations, told the seminar that bilateral trade relations could further improve.

"The institutional framework exists, but the availability of information is lacking," Mr. Vlassopoulos said.

The seminar, entitled "The financial crisis in Asia and China, and growth prospects for Chinese-Greek relations", was held by the Institute of International Economic Relations.

Greek stocks slip, still fail to take 2,300 pts

Greek equities ended slightly lower on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday after an unsuccessful fourth attempt to break the 2,300-point barrier.

The general index ended 0.23 percent off at 2,250.59 points, dramatically reversing an early 1.80 percent advance.

Trading was moderate with turnover at 44.5 billion drachmas on 11,560,000 shares traded.

The market remains cautious with players waiting to see if the Bank of Greece, or central bank, will take any action on interest rates. Sector indices were mixed.

The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 0.69 percent.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 123 to 111 with another 27 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 41,900 drachmas, Ergobank at 25,600, Alpha Credit Bank at 23,210, Ionian Bank at 12,215, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,200, Delta Dairy at 3,600, Intracom at 13,800, Titan Cement at 17,900, Hellenic Petro leum at 2,365 and Minoan Lines at 6,400 drachmas.

More participations at this year's 'Philoxenia'

Officials at the HELEXPO-Thessaloniki International Fair appeared satisfied over the weekend with the recently concluded 14th annual international tourism exhibition 'Philoxenia'.

A total of 346 exhibitors participated in this year's exhibition, while the number of visitors approached 12,000, a 21.5 per cent increase compared to last year. In addition, 500 foreign visitors from 36 countries also visited the exhibition.

Visitors' interest focused primarily on travel agencies, hotels and hospitality organisations.

Two-day conference on Internet sales

The National Society of Business Management (EEDE) - Macedonia branch is organising an international two-day conference on computer information systems next week in Thessaloniki.

The conference is entitled "Strategies of Superiority in the Society of Information - Critical Choices for the Future of a Business". It will focus on increasing trade via the Internet.

According to EEDE, sales through the international computer web account for 5 per cent of total global sales, while this number is increasing by 60 per cent on a yearly basis.

Currently, as EEDE noted, 4.5 per cent of employees in the US work with the Internet.

WEATHER

Overcast weather with spells of sunshine is forecast for most part of Greece today. Winds variable, light to strong, turning gale force in the south Aegean Sea. Partly cloudy in Athens with temeratures between 9-18 C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-16C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 279.873 British pound 466.220 Japanese yen (100) 234.132 French franc 49.792 German mark 167.038 Italian lira (100) 16.874 Irish Punt 415.648 Belgian franc 8.095 Finnish mark 54.947 Dutch guilder 148.066 Danish kr. 43.926 Austrian sch. 23.739 Spanish peseta 1.964 Swedish kr. 35.702 Norwegian kr. 37.756 Swiss franc 202.056 Port. Escudo 1.628 Aus. dollar 177.930 Can. dollar 182.449 Cyprus pound 563.456

(C.E.)


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