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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-11-27

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, 27/11/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Athens support for Italian handling of Ocalan issue
  • OA management contract signed between gov't, state-run carrier
  • Greece to see better days under EMU, Simitis says
  • Hellenic Petroleum posts 100 pct consolidated profit jump Jan-Sept
  • Greece no longer at bottom of EU fiscal league, gov't says
  • Stocks shed gains in second day of correction
  • Greece-FYROM trade to exceed US $250 mln.
  • GSEE: 22% of unemployed in Greece higher education graduates
  • Simitis-Klima meeting set for Dec. 2, prior to Vienna EU summit
  • Greek soldiers in NATO force to be stationed in FYROM
  • Students, teachers protest
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Athens support for Italian handling of Ocalan issue

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that he supported Rome extending political asylum to Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.

"Greece is in favour of political asylum being given to Mr. Ocalan," Mr. Simitis said, adding: "Italy has handled the matter properly." Mr. Simitis was responding to questions from the foreign press at an annual Foreign Press Association luncheon hel d yesterday.

The prime minister was harshly critical of the Turkish reaction to the Italian government's handling of the Ocalan issue, underlining that European leaders had to evaluate these reactions.

He called them "intense, exaggerated and almost violent".

"(European leaders) must make clear that in relation to Turkey-EU relations these tactics will not be allowed to pass," Mr. Simitis said.

He noted that Turkey had reacted in a similar fashion recently against the European Union when it was left off the list of candidate-countries, acting with the rationale of, "if we are not a chosen country there will be no cooperation".

For the European Union to mark progress, he said, all EU countries and third countries should comply with the EU guidelines regarding relations between countries. He noted that the Luxembourg European Council had set out a clear framework for the development of Euro-Turkish relations.

"The EU must cooperate with Turkey, which is also to the benefit of Greece, because we are talking about a neighbour whose participation in European procedures ensures stability, conditions of cooperation and peace in the region," he said.

"This cooperation must come under the framework provided by the Copenhagen criteria - respect for human rights and friendly relations with neighbouring countries, " Mr. Simitis added.

Greece does not want to exclude Turkey but argues that Turkish-EU cooperation must be ruled by these principles, he said.

"There is a Kurdish problem and Kurdish minority in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria," Mr. Simitis said.

"This problem has been brought to the attention of international organisations in the past and the stance that has been formulated is that there should be an international meeting on resolving the problem," he said.

OA management contract signed between gov't, state-run carrier

Goals and guidelines for debt-ridden Olympic Airways and OA's subsidiaries over the next five years are included in a management contract signed yesterday by the government with the state-run companies' administrations.

Targets include an increase in revenues from an increase in passenger volume, attraction of more affluent travellers, as well as a decrease in expenditures through the implementation of new staff regulations.

The main directives and strategies included in the plan are the restructuring of OA's route network, a "radical" improvement in the state-run national air carrier's image and services, including the inclusion of new aircraft.

National Ecomony Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis signed the agreement on behalf of the government.

Furthermore, an improvement in the performance and revenues from passenger movement by better monitoring sales, a decrease in expenditures with the establishment of a new organisational programme, full utilisation of the possibilities set out in Law 26 02/98 in programming staff and an increase in productivity by fully introducing computerised systems.

Another goal is development of OA through its presence at the under- construction international airport at Spata, among others.

Translating the plan into figures over the 1998-2002 period means an increase by 21 per cent in flights, an 11.6 per cent in available seats per kilometre and by 12.5 per cent in aircraft units, an increase in revenues from airline work in current prices over the five-year period by 25.5 per cent and a decrease in expenditures for permanent staff by 2 per cent.

The targets of the Olympic Catering subsidiary, as set out in the five-year operational plan are the company's possible listing with the Athens Stock Exchange, its transfer to Spata airport in 2001, an aggressive policy in the air catering sector - which will be deregulated in the EU - completion of overall quality system processes and its certification by ISO 9002, canteens and restaurants at the country's largest airports, as well as an increase in productivity by 40 per cent by the year 2002.

Greece to see better days under EMU, Simitis says

Greece can expect better days following the country's entry into European economic and monetary union (EMU) by January 1, 2001, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday.

Addressing a Foreign Press Association luncheon, he said that the government's policies would ensure Greece's participation in the euro, the EU's future single currency.

"We will be able to achieve what we are seeking, as we are to some extent doing now," Mr. Simitis said.

EMU entry would bring a 35-hour working week, transformation of the tax system, lower taxes, a more effective employment policy, and increased national funding to tackle unemployment, he said.

The prime minister rejected the possibility of a political deal to ensure the country's entry into EMU: "There is no such leeway."

Replying to a reporter's question, the prime minister said that Greece had not joined the first wave of EMU members because it was not ready, attributing the failure to conflicting policies in 1990-1993.

He described the economy's progress as very satisfactory, forecasting a 3.5 percent rate of growth in 1998 and consumer price inflation of 4.1-4.2 percent at the end of the year, down from a budgetary target of 4.5 percent.

Falling inflation would bring down interest rates, as expected, but the pace of the rate decline would have to match that of inflation, he said.

Finally, the impact of a recent global financial crisis on the domestic economy would be minimal because of the country's limited financial ties with southeast Asia and Latin America, two sources of the crisis.

Hellenic Petroleum posts 100 pct consolidated profit jump Jan-Sept

The Hellenic Petroleum Group defied a slump in international oil prices to report a spectacular 100 percent increase in its consolidated profits for the first nine months to 32.6 billion drachmas against the same period last year.

The Group's chairman and managing director, Eleftherios Tzellas, told a news conference yesterday that the results for January-September showed that the company was achieving its business targets for the year and fully implementing its investment programme.

The programme includes construction of a propylene unit in Thessaloniki, which has already begun; investment in another unit nearing completion in Komotini; and the acquisition of Mamidakis Oil on Wednesday, which has given Hellenic Petroleum seven new storage facilities and 593 new gas stations around the country.

Pre-tax profits of the parent company, listed Hellenic Petroleum SA, more than doubled to 26.2 billion drachmas in January-September from 9.7 billion last year.

Pre-tax profits of its retail subsidiary EKO-ELDA totalled 5.4 billion drachmas and those of its research subsidiary ASPROFOS totalled 1.05 billion drachmas in the first nine months of 1998.

The group's turnover, however, fell to 523 billion drachmas from 550 billion last year, hit by a sharp fall in international oil prices in 1998.

Mr. Tzellas also announced that Hellenic Petroleum is to prospect for oil in Iran at 14 sites around the country, and the terms of the project will be set during a visit to Tehran with Development Minister Vasso Papandreou.

"We will find out what terms of cooperation the Iranian government has set, and then we will decide which international consortiums we will work with," Mr. Tzellas said.

Finally, Mr. Tzellas signed an agreement yesterday with Mailis, also listed on the Athens bourse, to cooperate in the production of self-adhesive tapes by Straptech - a Mailis subsidiary - using BOPP film manufactured by Ekofilm - a Hellenic Petroleum subsidiary - as a raw material.

In addition, Mailis' subsidiaries will promote the sale of Ekofilm's Bopp film in eastern and western Europe.

A new plant in Komotini for production of the adhesive tape is expected to launch operations in 1999.

Total investments for the project are 11.4 billion drachmas.

Greece no longer at bottom of EU fiscal league, gov't says

Greece is no longer at the bottom of the European Union's fiscal league, Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis yesterday told a parliamentary committee processing the 1999 budget.

It no longer has the highest fiscal deficit in the 15-nation bloc and coming generations will have a lower debt repayment burden, Mr. Christodoulakis said during the third day of budget discussion.

He said that international markets, the toughest critics, had shown confidence in Greece's prospects of participating in European economic and monetary union by January 1, 2001, seeing Greece as a safe bet as EMU's next member.

Mr. Christodoulakis underlined that a fiscal restructuring process contained in 1999's budget was aimed not just at joining the euro but also at preparing the country for a highly competitive global economy.

Stocks shed gains in second day of correction

Equities ended lower for the second consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday, correcting after a recent surge.

The general index ended 0.87 percent lower at 2,455.16 points in moderate turnover of 49.2 billion drachmas. Volume was 12,136,000 shares.

Sector indices suffered losses.

Banks fell 0.96 percent, Leasing dropped 1.75 percent, Insurance ended 0.38 percent off, Investment plunged 2.37 percent, Construction dropped 2.42 percent, Industrials eased 0.56 percent, Holding fell 0.69 percent, but Miscellaneous bucked the trend to end 0.36 percent up.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 0.02 percent down.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 133 to 105 with another 24 issues unchanged.

Greece-FYROM trade to exceed US $250 mln.

Trade between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is expected to exceed US$250 million in 1998, while Greek investments in the neighbouring country amount to $50 million, first among foreign investors in FYROM.

The figures were announced by Greek ambassador in Skopje Alexandros Mallias at a press conference on the occasion of the 2nd exhibition of Greek enterprises - scheduled for Dec. 2-5.

This year's exhibition will be attended by 82 Greek enterprises specialising in animal fodder, door and window frames, textiles, ready-made clothes, marble, electrical equipment, chandeliers, plastic pipes, foodstuffs and beverages, toys, agricultural machinery, furniture and batteries.

GSEE: 22% of unemployed in Greece higher education graduates

The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) Labour Institute's director said that 22 per cent of unemployed people in Greece are university and technical institute graduates.

Speaking at a conference on "The University and Employment" yesterday, Savvas Robolis said that this percentage strengthens the view of those who maintain that there must be a change in the university's orientation towards providing vocational education and its direct linkage with the labour market's short-term needs. Referring to the total percentage of unemployment, he said that unemployment will increase gradually until the year 2000, adding that according to a report by the OECD in a country with a 10 per cent unemployment rate 6 per cent is due to the structural crisis, 2 per cent to changes in professions and 2 per cent to the relation between the educational system and the labour market.

Simitis-Klima meeting set for Dec. 2, prior to Vienna EU summit

The preparation and issues at the Vienna European Council, to be held on Dec. 11-12, will be discussed in Athens on Dec. 2 between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Austrian Chancellor and European Union President Viktor Klima.

The latter is touring the capitals of the remaining 14 EU member-states as of Wednesday for the same reason.

Mr. Klima considers the employment policy, the euro and the "Agenda 2000" as issues of primary interest at the Vienna European Council, with which the Austrian EU presidency will be concluded.

Greek soldiers in NATO force to be stationed in FYROM

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos told Parliament yesterday that Greece would participate with a contingent of 40-45 soldiers in a N ATO force to be stationed in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The contingent will be set up to protect more than 2,000 OSCE observers in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the NATO force under French command would comprise a total of 250 troops and had nothing to do with "NATO's supposed intervention in Kosovo" as borne out by the fact that it will be based in FYROM.

Reminding the House that Greece had insisted right to the end that a peaceful solution and the avoidance of military intervention was possible in Kosovo, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said this was eventually attained by virtue of the agreement reached between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and US special envoy Richard Holbrooke. "As a force for peace, security and stability in the region, Greece is assuming an active role within the framework of OSCE resolutions, because peace is an issue which is of primary concern to Greece and not only the countries directly involved," Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said.

Students, teachers protest

Three banks and six vehicles suffered extensive damage on Thursday as more than 7,000 students and teachers marched through the city centre to protest education ministry changes to schooling.

Police said anarchist youths who joined the march threw stones and planks and set fire to a parked car on central Syntagma Square, despite the strong police presence.

Another five cars on Panepistimiou street were damaged aftrer being attacked by the anarchists with clubs.

WEATHER

Cloud and rainstorms will prevail throughout Greece on Friday. Winds will be variable, moderate to strong. Light rain in Athens where temperatures will range between 11-16C, turning to storms at night. Similar weather in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 8-12C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 283.891 British pound 470.188 Japanese yen (100) 232.029 French franc 49.646 German mark 166.458 Italian lira (100) 16.811 Irish Punt 413.664 Belgian franc 8.069 Finnish mark 54.794 Dutch guilder 147.669 Danish kr. 43.787 Austrian sch. 23.674 Spanish peseta 1.958 Swedish kr. 34.760 Norwegian kr. 37.763 Swiss franc 201.669 Port. Escudo 1.625 Aus. dollar 180.827 Can. dollar 186.278 Cyprus pound 563.456

(L.G.)


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