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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-03

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, 03/02/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • SPD delegation holds high-level contacts with PASOK counterparts
  • Greece still last in EU per capita income
  • Tsohatzopoulos defends S-300 purchase decision
  • Vartholomeos on pitfalls of economic globalisation
  • Three-nation exhibition of El Greco's works
  • Greek-Hungarian transports, telecoms protocol signed
  • Short-term interest rates fall in 12-month bond auction
  • Mailis French buy-outs
  • Greece-EU funds
  • Stock market activity
  • Campaign to promote standardised olive oil
  • Total bourse value of investment firms dramatically rises
  • Subsidised hirings announced
  • Kavala man jailed until trial for murder of US fiancee
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

SPD delegation holds high-level contacts with PASOK counterparts

Delegations from the ruling PASOK party and the German Social Democrat Party (SPD) held talks at the former's offices in Athens yesterday, while in the morning the German Social Democrats were received by Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

The head of PASOK's delegation, Secretary Costas Skandalidis, said the meeting was very important, while the head of the German delegation Gunther Verheugen said it was not by chance that the first visit they were making after the German elections was to Greece, to meet with a delegation of PASOK.

Mr. Simitis and the SPD delegation discussed European developments and relations between the two parties. Later, the German Social Democrats met with a government delegation composed of Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis, Deputy National Economy Minister Alekos Baltas and Deputy Labour Minister Christos Protopapas.

Talks focused on issues concerning the Balkans, the situation in Kosovo, the Cyprus issue, Greek-Turkish relations and issues of European concern, such as the 'Agenda 2000' and employment.

According to sources, the German delegation showed understanding for Athens' positions on issues including the "Agenda 2000" and noted that Greece will certainly continue to benefit from funds contai-ned in the European Union's structural funds, which Germany does not intend to curtail.

The same sources said the SPD delegation showed interest in the problem of Cyprus and agreed with the Greek side that Cyprus' accession negotiations with the EU must continue unimpeded and unobstructed.

The SPD delegation expressed grave concern over developments in Kosovo and pointed out to the Greek side that the terms and preconditions for the use of military force must be examined if the situation in the region is not normalised as soon as possible .

Later, the German officials had a brief meeting with Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, while a luncheon given in their honour included National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

Greece still last in EU per capita income

Real per capita income in Greece in 1999 is estimated to be 30 per cent lower than the EU average, although the difference did shrink from 40 per cent in 1986, the European Commission's latest bi-annual report on the so cioeconomic state of European regions stated.

The report, unveiled yesterday, contains extensive references to data relating to the economically weaker regions of the Community, which include all of Greece.

Real per capita income in Greece, expressed in points of purchasing power, rose from 59.2 per cent of the EU average in 1986 to an estimated 69.3 per cent this year; in Portugal from 55.1 per cent to 71.8 per cent; in Spain from 69.8 per cent to 79.6 per cent; while in Ireland from 60.8 per cent it has now surpassed the Community average by 5.1 per cent.

Commenting on the figures, structural funds Commissioner Monica Wulf- Matthies said the rapid rate of convergence of the poorer countries, including Greece, to the EU average was largely the result of activities supported by the funds.

Regarding Greece, the report also contains extensive references to socio- economic problems, stressing that the Greek economy faces several serious problems in competitiveness, and estimating that for the EU average to be approached, productivity would have to increase by 40 per cent in coming years and employment by 20 per cent.

Concerning the state of infrastructure contributing to economic growth, the report states that the Greek telecoms sector shows serious retardation in relation to both the number and the quality of connections.

Finally, the report points out that 10 of the 25 poorest regions of the European Union are in Greece, while most of the rest are overseas French territories or old Spanish and Portuguese colonies.

The northern Aegean region appears as the poorest, with real per capita income being 44 per cent of the EU average, and is followed by Epirus wiht 47 per cent, eastern Greece with 49 per cent, the Ionian islands with 52 per cent, Thessaly with 55 per cent, eastern Macedonia and Thrace with 56 per cent, Crete with 57 per cent, western and central Macedonia with 58 per cent and the Peloponnese with 61 per cent.

Tsohatzopoulos defends S-300 purchase decision

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday defended Nicosia's decision to purchas e Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles but said subsequent poor handling resulted in the cancellation of their deployment, according to sources.

Speaking at a closed-door session of Parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the missile issue gradually became a "diplo-matic card", turning the Cyprus issue into a "missile issue" and Nicosia's plans to install the system on the island had to be aborted. He stressed, however, that the Greece-Cyprus joint defence doctrine had to be substantially strengthened and that the non-deployment of the S-300 missiles on Cyprus meant systems with a different range would have to be procured to replace them and that this was a matter for the Cyprus government to decide.

In addition, the committee yesterday began discussion of a multi-million dollar armaments programme currently underway to boost the effectiveness of Greece's armed forces.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos told reporters that the level of defence spending depended "on the conditions, dangers and threats under which the country is obliged to live..."

Vartholomeos on pitfalls of economic globalisation

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos yesterday said globalisation should not lead to the financial improvement of the few against the many, during his address at the International Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Addressing participants, many of whom comprise the economic, political and literary elite of the western world, the Patriarch stressed that globalisation of the international economy, information and knowledge are major achievements of our era, but their worth depends on their ultimate uses by man.

Three-nation exhibition of El Greco's works

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos left last evening for Madrid to attend the inauguration of an international exhibition entitled "El Greco - Identity and Transformation."

The exhibition, jointly organised by Spain, Italy and Greece opens in Madrid before travelling to Rome and Athens.

The inauguration ceremony at the Titian Museum will be attended by Spain's monarch, Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia.

The exhibition traces the career of Cretan-born Domenikos Theotokopoulos from his early years on the Venetian-held island, to Venice and finally to 17th century Spain.

On display will be 72 of the artist's works from the three organising countries, as well as from private collections and museums.

The exhibition will be inaugurated at the National Gallery in Athens on Oct. 19 by President Kostis Stephanopoulos.

Mr. Venizelos said the exhibition was of particular importance for Greece, because the country was for the first time acknowledged as the "artistic cradle" of the great painter.

Greek-Hungarian transports, telecoms protocol signed

Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis and his Hungarian counterpart Kalman Katona yesterday signed a bilateral protocol of cooperation.

According to a joint statement, the protocol establishes a basis for multi- faceted cooperation on air, road and rail transports as well as telecommunications.

During the press conference, Mr. Mantelis said Athens will support Budapest during pre-accession talks with the European Union, as well as during the accession phase.

On his part, Mr. Katona said Hungary will offer Greece all the needed facilitations for the unhindered travel of Greek shippers through the country.

The two ministers also announced the creation of a joint transportation monitoring committee to meet once a year and examine the course of bilateral relations in the sector.

Mr. Katona also expressed his government's desire for state-run Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) to participate in an international tender for Hungary's mobile telephone system. Hungary is among 11 EU candidate countries.

Short-term interest rates fall in 12-month bond auction

Short-term interest rates fell significantly during yesterday's 12-month bond auction by the finance ministry in the domestic market of primary dealers.

The average weighed yield fell to 9.50 from 10.30 percent of the previous auction in December.

Bids submitted a total of 548 billion drachmas, 3.4 times more the original asked price. Finally, the finance ministry accepted bids totalled 192 billion drachmas.

The ministry announced the offering of two-year tax-free deposit bonds, in electronic form, on Friday, Feb. 5 and Monday Feb. 8.

The new bonds, offered at a minimum nominal price of 10,000 drachmas, pay a 9.20 percent annual coupon.

Mailis French buy-outs

Mailis group, a company listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, yesterday announced the buy-out of three French packaging firms, Cerbere Agrafvit, Sovarec and Codami, for an undisclosed sum.

Cerbere Agrafvit, founded in 1935, is the second largest producer of metallic hoop in France, a company statement said.

Mailis noted the significance of know-how and sales experience that the company would benefit from its decision to expand in the French market. The group's consolidated turnover is expected to increase by five billion drachmas, or 25 percent, following the three takeovers.

Mailis plans to expand activities and create its own supply network in west and east European markets. It expects profits and turnover to double this year.

Pre-tax profits in 1998 rose by 80 percent to 3.4 billion drachmas, while sales rose 36 percent to 20 billion drachmas in 1998, according to the provisional estimates.

Greece-EU funds

Greece has made remarkable progress in fiscal restructuring and is on the right track to participate in EMU, the director of the EU general directorate on regional policy, E. Slavkov, said yesterday after a meeting with national ministry officials.

The meeting, attended by National Economy Undersecretary Christos Pahtas and other EU officials, discussed proposals on a Third Community Support Framework.

The Greek government hoped that EU funds, earmarked in the Santer package, will be as significant as in the past, Mr. Pahtas said.

He noted that the new Community Support Framework's priorities were to fund programmes aimed at combatting unemployment, job training and education with the target of reducing unemployment to 5.0 percent by 2006.

Stock market activity

Greek equities extended their record-breaking rally to a sixth consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday although the pace of advance was slower than in the previous sessions.

The general index ended 1.39 percent higher to 3,278.03 points, its ninth record this year. Turnover also hit a new record to 148.1 billion drachmas causing serious problems in the operation of the market's electronic trading system. Volume was 23,200,0 73 shares.

Sector indices scored gains. Banks soared 2.26 percent, Insurance fell 4.58 percent, Leasing dropped 1.89 percent, Investment ended 1.21 percent off, Construction increased 1.52 percent, Industrials rose 1.18 percent, Miscellaneous ended 1.87 percent higher and Holding ended 1.55 percent up.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 0.80 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index rose 1.63 percent to 2,092.99. Broadly, decliners led advancers by 154 to 109 with another 25 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,735 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 33, 450, Ergobank at 26,500, Ionian Bank art 16,245, Titan Cement at 22,980, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,305, Intracom at 15,785, Minoan Lines at 7,300, Panafon at 10,450 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,550.

Campaign to promote standardised olive oil

The federation of Greek olive oil canners (SEVITEL) has begun a campaign to promote standardised olive oil with the purpose of better informing consumers on how to discern the quality of olive oil.

The campaign is entitled "In the name of our health we choose standardised olive oil." It will be completed at the end of February and will be presented on television and in various Sunday newspapers of Athens and Thessaloniki.

The campaign comes in the wake of a decision by the development ministry prohibiting the uncontrolled sale of non-standardised olive oil, particularly by itinerant salesmen. Profiteers have repeatedly been brought to the attention of both the development and health ministries for selling poor quality olive oil.

Total bourse value of investment firms dramatically rises

The total stock market value of portfolio investment firms stood at 322.9 billion drachmas on Dec. 31, 1998, up 86.17 per cent from a year earlier.

The net value of these firms, on the same dates stood at 335 billion and 167.29 billion drachmas respectively. At the end of December, 13 out of the 16 firms in the sector recorded an improvement in their stock market price, while all showed an improvem ent in their internal value.

Regarding the structure of their portfolios, the companies had invested 82.3 per cent of their assets in shares, 5.3 per cent in fixed-income securities and 12.4 percent in money market funds, as of Dec. 31, 1998.

Subsidised hirings announced

The government yesterday announced the subsidised hiring of 4,000 new unemployed university graduates, during one-day seminar organised by the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED).

Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou said the subsidy will last for 11 months, while unemployed individuals participating in the programme will receive a 140,000-drachma monthly stipend.

The ministry expects 1,400 new permanent jobs to be created through the STAGE programme.

The programme will be jointly funded by OAED and the European Union. The programme is applicable for both the private and public sectors.

Firms wishing to participate in the programme are invited to apply until the March 1 deadline at any OAED office.

Kavala man jailed until trial for murder of US fiancee

A 24-year-old junior cruiseship officer, charged with first degree murder in the death of his American fiancee, was remanded into custody yesterday pending trial.

Georgios Skiadopoulos, who admited to killing Julie-Marie Scully, a 31-year- old New Jersey resident, was formally arraigned yesterday by a Kavala magistrate.

According to court records, Skiadopoulos said he strangled Scully when she told him she had changed her mind and would not marry him.

During his five-hour testimony, Skiadopoulos admitted killing the woman but claimed it was a crime of passion.

He also claimed that he grabbed her by the neck "to just shake her,

According to the man's defence attorneys, Skiadopoulos has regretted his actions and broke down several times during questioning.

Skiadopoulos said the victim's decision stemmed from the fact that she had not adjusted to life in Greece and that she missed her three-year-old daughter, who was in her father's custody in the

WEATHER

Intermittent rain is forecast in most parts of Greece today with light snowfall in the mountainous regions and possibly in areas of central Greece. Winds northerly, light to moderate, turning strong in the Aegean Sea. Sunny spells in Athens with possible rain in the afternoon and temperatures from 2-11C. Overcast in Thessaloniki with temperatures from - 2C to 4C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 281.371 Pound sterling 462.847 Japanese yen (100) 248.417 French franc 48.519 German mark 162.726 Italian lira (100) 16.436 Irish Punt 404.111 Belgian franc 7.890 Finnish mark 53.528 Dutch guilder 144.421 Danish kr. 42.791 Austrian sch. 23.130 Spanish peseta 1.913 Swedish kr. 35.869 Norwegian kr. 37.091 Swiss franc 198.564 Port. Escudo 1.587 Aus. dollar 179.478 Can. dollar 186.317 Cyprus pound 549.370

(C.E.)


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