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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-11-17

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, 17/11/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Events commemorating 1973 Polytechnic uprising culminate today
  • Greek stocks surge on hopes of interest rate, inflation decline
  • Greece has 65 pct chance of meeting EMU target - Morgan Stanley
  • Bank of Piraeus to hold shareholders' meeting Nov 30
  • Higher taxes for self-employed professionals, businesses
  • Thessaloniki metro reportedly awarded to Bouigues
  • EOT: More British tourists visited Greece in '98
  • Bonn again rejects Athens' demand for return of occupation loan
  • Karamanlis: PM Simitis oblivious to citizens' problems
  • European week against drugs opens in Athens
  • Roussel perjury, slander trial adjourns
  • Consuls tout western Macedonia's development prospects
  • Greek Parliament President confers with Clerides
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Events commemorating 1973 Polytechnic uprising culminate today

Celebrations commemorating the 25th anniversary of a students' uprising at the Athens Polytechnic against the military junta that ruled Greece (1967- 1974) culminate today with a protest march to the US embassy.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis yesterday laid wreaths at the university's monument, although scuffles and jeers greeted their arrival. Groups of students threw eggs, plastic bottles and other items at the prime minister's entourage and shouted slogans against the government's policies and the education ministry's reforms. Other student groups charged with maintaining the peace during the three days of events scuffled with the protesters.

Speaking afterwards, Mr. Simitis referred to the significance of the anniversary, saying it brought home the message that democracy, freedom and social justice were ideals worth protecting.

Additional police units have been deployed in the Polytechnic's vicinity and other university and public buildings in an attempt to avert any disturbances.

Violent protests and widespread vandalism have plagued November 17 anniversaries in recent years.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas later said that "small groups should not be able to appropriate the celebration of the Polytechnic with anti- democratic actions and acts of violence."

The government has taken all the measures necessary for celebrations to remain peaceful, Mr. Reppas added.

Greek stocks surge on hopes of interest rate, inflation decline

Greek equities ended sharply higher on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday helped by optimism that interest rates and inflation will fall further.

The general index soared 3.66 percent to sprint through the 2,300 barrier, ending at 2,316.08 points.

Trading was active with turnover at 54.6 billion drachmas. Volume was 12, 525,000 shares.

Brokers said a positive report by US investment bank Morgan Stanley on the Greek economy also brought euphoria to the market.

The report forecast that inflation would drop to 2.5 percent at the end of 1999 and that Greece may achieve entry into European economic and monetary union on target by January 1, 2001.

The Athens bourse was also encouraged by a rally at the opening in European stock markets where investors discounted a new cut in US interest rates.

Sector indices scored gains.

Banks jumped 4.36 percent, Leasing hit the daily 8.0 percent limit up, Insurance rose 2.12 percent, Investment ended 2.92 percent higher, Construction soared 5.30 percent, Industrials rose 3.51 percent, Miscellaneous ended 2.48 percent up and Holding in creased 4.49 percent.

National Bank of Greece ended at 44,795 drachmas, Ergobank at 27,150, Alpha Credit Bank at 24,400, Ionian Bank at 12,080, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,400, Delta Dairy at 3,690, Intracom at 13,540, Titan Cement at 17,890, Hellenic Petro leum at 2,370 and Minoan Lines at 6,400 drachmas.

Greece has 65 pct chance of meeting EMU target - Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley yesterday expressed guarded optimism over Greece's entry into European economic and monetary union by the target date of January 1, 2001, rating its chances at 65 percent.

In a report on the domestic economy, the international investment house was less bullish than the government on the rise in growth of gross domestic product and budgetary targets.

But it said the government's intention was feasible of lowering 1999 consumer price inflation in line with the most recent economic convergence plan it has submitted to the European Union.

Inflation could drop to 2.4 percent in 1999, which would meet alignment targets as the average among the EU's EMU countries was predicted at 2.5 percent, the report said.

The government's reduction of indirect tax on cars and a drop in Value Added Tax on electricity consumption to 8.0 percent from 18 percent would help to pare one percentage point off the consumer price index, according to Morgan Stanley. expected, it said.

Morgan Stanley explained that its GDP growth rate forecasts were cautious due to the fallout from an international financial crisis that had hit third quarter figures in Europe, leading to lower rates of growth throughout Europe.

Bank of Piraeus to hold shareholders' meeting Nov 30

Bank of Piraeus will hold a repeat shareholders meeting on November 30 to endorse a share capital rise of 100 billion drachmas after yesterday's meeting failed to muster a quorum.

The operational absorption of Bank of Macedonia-Thrace is expected to proceed rapidly after a decision to start the process was taken in Thessaloniki on Saturday by executives of both banks.

After the absorption of Thessaloniki-based Bank of Macedonia-Thrace, the Bank of Piraeus Group's assets will total 2.0 trillion drachmas in 1999 and 2.7 trillion drachmas in 2000.

Deposits in 1999 are seen totalling 1.3 trillion drachmas in 1999, jumping to 8.0 trillion in 2000.

Loans in 1999 are forecast at 0.9 trillion drachmas in 1999, rising to 1.3 trillion in 2000.

Higher taxes for self-employed professionals, businesses

Self-employed professionals and businesses taxed with the objective criteria system for determining their income will have to pay a higher tax in 1999 for income obtained this year.

According to Deputy Finance Minister George Drys, the commercial and business fee used correspondingly to determine the minimum amount of income declared to tax authorities by businesses and self-employed professionals will increase.

The commercial fee for determining the minimum net income of commercial businesses will increase from 2.4 million drachmas in 1997 to 2.5 million drachmas in 1998.

The commercial fee for businesses providing services will increase from 3, 120,000 drachmas in 1997 to 3,250,000 drachmas in 1998.

An increase of 2.5 per cent will also take place in connection with the determination of the minimum net income for self-employed professionals.

Thessaloniki metro reportedly awarded to Bouigues

The final awarding of the Thessaloniki metro project to the French consortium Bouigues has been reportedly given by a committee responsible for the project.

The committee's relevant opinion will be forwarded to Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis tomorrow, who will request approval by the inner Cabinet next week in order for the contract to be signed.

The ministry's leadership believes that the contract for the construction of the Thessaloniki metro will be tabled in Parliament for ratification in December.

According to reports from the national economy ministry, if the contract is not signed by Dec. 31 there is a possibility of problems being created regarding funding.

EOT: More British tourists visited Greece in '98

More than two million tourists from Britain will visit Greece by the end of 1998, an increase of about 16 per cent, while an additional increase of 5- 12 per cent is expected for 1999.

National Tourism Organisation (EOT) officials inaugurating Greece's pavilion yesterday at the London international tourism exhibition "World Travel Market" noted that the figure met expectations.

Greece's pavilion this year features 25 participants, including the under- construction international Athens airport at Spata, state-run Olympic Airways, the regional administrations of Crete, Thessaly, the Peloponnese, the Ionian Islands, as well as private firms.

Bonn again rejects Athens' demand for return of occupation loan

Bonn once again rejected Athens' claim for the return of a forced "loan" that the ce ntral bank of Greece handed over to German occupation forces during World War II.

However, although the issue appears closed for Bonn, Athens reportedly doesn't share the view.

The issue was again taken up by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos last week, when he said the issue of the forced occupation loan remains open for Greece.

A German foreign ministry spokesman replied to Mr. Pangalos on Saturday in a statement made to Bavarian Radio's Greek programme, namely, that war reparations to Greece had come to an end with a 1960 agreement. He added that Germany had also aided Greece economically through European Union funds.

The Greek foreign ministry responded yesterday, expressing regret in a relevant announcement, and stressing that the German spokesman's statement contained inaccuracies. Athens noted that war reparations are one thing, while the forced occupation loan is another.

The foreign ministry added that the wartime "loan" was not a remedy for criminal or illegal acts perpetrated by Nazi forces during the occupation.

"It was a specific amount taken from the Greek economy at gunpoint and was used by the German state for its own purposes. According to every rule of law, its return is imperative," the announcement read.

Karamanlis: PM Simitis oblivious to citizens' problems

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday lashed out against government policy, accusing Prime Minister Costas Simitis of being outside the realm of social reality and oblivious to citizens' problems.

Addressing a meeting of ND's central committee, the ND leader launched a stinging attack against the ruling PASOK party, describing it as being "politically weaker than ever before, uncoordinated, tired, confused and lacking a political identity."

This goes to show that PASOK is coming to the end of its historic cycle, which necessitates ND to assume responsibilities, as more and more voters are turning to ND for a lifeline, Mr. Karamanlis said.

Referring to the 1999 state budget, which the government submitted, he said it was indicative that the government had failed to grasp the social messages in light of PASOK's poor showing in the recent municipal elections.

On Greece's course towards Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Mr. Karamanlis said ND supported the national objective. However, he added, "the matter which arises is what kind of Greece will we place in EMU?"

He also announced that the ND's national congress will take place Dec. 5- 6.

European week against drugs opens in Athens

The "European Week for Drug Prevention" opened in Athens yesterday, as the simultaneous event took place in all EU member-states.

At a press conference given at the health ministry, experts stressed that prevention is probably the most effective way to fight drug abuse.

The meeting, which is to last until Sunday, bears the message: "The first step is to talk".

Addressing the first day of the event, Health Deputy Minister Theodoros Kotsonis pointed out that European nations' targets were to increase awareness of the public on the specific problem, to boost European cooperation and promote extensive campaigns, targeted mainly at the younger age groups.

Similar events are organised during the week by Greece's Organisation Against Drugs in the 32 information centres operating around the country.

Roussel perjury, slander trial adjourns

An Athens court hearing perjury and slander charges filed against Thierry Roussel, the father of 14-year-old Athina - heir to the vast fortune of late shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis - will adjourn to allow members of the Onassis family to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Athina's mother, Christina.

Mr. Roussel, Athina and their family will mark the anniversary on the Onassis private island of Skorpios.

Mr. Roussel has been in Athens since early November to stand trial on the charges, arising from a complaint filed by the French national two years ago, accusing the Onassis Foundation board of mismanagement.

A court dismissed Mr. Roussel's complaint early in the year.

In the hearing yesterday, counsel for the defence told the court that Mr. Roussel did not desire to control the Onassis Foundation's finances, but neither did he want the present board to do so.

Onassis Foundation deputy president Apostolos Zambelis told the court that the management of the foundation was overseen by chartered accountants and a financial report was forwarded to Mr. Roussel personally.

Shortly, Swiss courts will also supervise the balance sheets, at Mr. Roussel's request, he said.

Consuls tout western Macedonia's development prospects

Greece provides a very attractive setting for investments which is continuing to improve, according to the general consuls of the US and Germany in Thessaloniki, who added that there are businesses from their respective countries that are interested in ma king investments in the area.

The two officials were among 16 other diplomats who participated in a three- day tour of western Macedonia at the initiative of the Association of Northern Greece Industries.

The envoys spoke favourably of what they described as the region's "incredible" development, saying they were impressed at changes in the country's investment sector, among others.

Greek Parliament President confers with Clerides

Greek Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis yesterday expressed certainty that any problems in Cyprus' accession to the European Union will be overcome as the enlargement process can only be completed with the Cyprus Republic's entry.

Speaking after a 90-minute meeting with President Glafcos Clerides, Mr. Kaklamanis also said he has brought a message of solidarity from Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

The Greek Parliament President said he discussed with President Clerides the present situation in the Cyprus problem, latest developments and Cyprus' EU course.

"Our assessment is that any problems will be overcome because Cyprus' accession is a precondition for the EU enlargement procedure", he said.

Mr. Kaklamanis underlined that Cyprus is well ahead of the other five former eastern bloc countries in conforming with the European acquis communautaire. "Cyprus fulfills nearly all conditions for its accession", he noted.

Mr. Kaklamanis has stressed that Cyprus must be reunited for the benefit of all its citizens.

WEATHER

Overcast weather with rain and storms is forecast throughout Greece today. Snow in the mountainous regions of central and northern Greece. Winds variable, moderate to strong. Partly cloudy in Athens with possibility of rain in the afternoon and temperatures ranging from 12-19C. Rain in Thessaloniki with temperatures be from 8-15C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 278.504 British pound 465.843 Japanese yen (100) 229.797 French franc 49.818 German mark 166.954 Italian lira (100) 16.876 Irish Punt 415.450 Belgian franc 8.094 Finnish mark 54.957 Dutch guilder 148.106 Danish kr. 43.928 Austrian sch. 23.729 Spanish peseta 1.965 Swedish kr. 34.416 Norwegian kr. 37.468 Swiss franc 202.765 Port. Escudo 1.630 Aus. dollar 177.801 Can. dollar 180.068 Cyprus pound 564.527

(C.E.)


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