Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-02-10
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 10/02/1999 (ANA)
- Simitis: No gov't intention to sell majority stake in OTE
- Nation's foreign currency reserves jump to Dr 21.6 bln
- Current account shows 221 mln dollar surplus in Jul-Aug 1998
- Commercial Bank to seek binding offers in Ionian privatisation
- T-bill rates plunge in heavy demand
- Gov't on S-300 installation in Crete
- Dayton agreements, Kosovo the focus of Pangalos' talks in Belgrade
- Parliament discussion begins on Treaty of Amsterdam
- Harrier eagle protection programme
- Archbishop of America Spyridon arrives in Athens
- First step towards hotel 'star' system taken
- Contract with Canadian firm for Thessaloniki metro coaches
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Simitis: No gov't intention to sell majority stake in OTE
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that the government did not
intend to sell a majority stake in the Hellenic Telecommunications
Organisation (OTE) to private investors, although he noted that some
changes may be made in the future to make the state-run telecoms utility
The premier was speaking to reporters after a lengthy meeting with OTE's
board at the organisation's headquarters.
Expressing the view that OTE was successfully operating in the face of
international competition, Simitis referred to the organisation's major
investments in Romania, Serbia and Armenia.
He congratulated OTE management and employees, saying they had made a major
contribution to the organisation's development.
Commenting on an upcoming fourth sale of OTE shares, a 10 per cent package
which will increase the private sector's stake to 45 per cent, the PM said
the government was trying to considerably reduce the state's participation
in such enterprises.
He also observed that with current technology, new subscribers could have a
telephone line in a matter of five days, while this waiting time will drop
to three days with full digitisation of OTE's switchers.
He further underlined OTE's new services with emphasis on the number 1502,
a telphone service for the issue and delivery of birth certificates, police
records and other official documents.
Nation's foreign currency reserves jump to Dr 21.6 bln
The country's foreign currency reserves on January 31 were 21.6 billion
dollars, sharply higher than 18.2 billion dollars on December 31, the Bank
of Greece said in a statement yesterday.
January's inflows of 3.4 billion dollars reflected interest by investors
abroad in domestic bonds and stocks, and therefore their confidence in the
economy, economists said.
Current account shows 221 mln dollar surplus in Jul-Aug 1998
The current account showed a surplus of 221 million dollars in July-August
1998 against a deficit of 720.8 million dollars in the same period of 1997,
the Bank of Greece said in a statement yesterday. The central bank
attributed the improvement to a decl ine in the trade deficit, a rise in
European Union inflows and an increase in foreign currency from tourism.
The trade deficit in July-August was 2.538 billion dollars, declining by
11.1 percent against the same period of 1997.
Commercial Bank to seek binding offers in Ionian privatisation
State-owned Commercial Bank of Greece is to invite binding offers next week
in an international tender to privatise its subsidiary, Ionian Bank.
Commercial's financial adviser, JP Morgan, said in a statement yesterday
that the call for potential bidders would be published in the week
beginning February 15. The deadline for non-binding offers in Ionian's 51
percent privatisation was on Monday, ending the first phase of the sale.
The bidders' names were not released. Expected to take part in the tender
were Alpha Credit Bank, EFG Eurobank with Ergobank, and the Bank of Piraeus
Group. The first attempted sale of Ionian fell flat when the bids offered
were considered to be too low. The sale is central to the government's
wide-ranging privatisation plan to shrink the public sector and aid entry
into European economic and monetary union.
Meanwhile, equities ended yesterday's session sharply lower on the Athens
Stock Exchange hit by profit-taking and rumours of unsatisfactory non-
binding offers in a privatisation tender for Ionian Bank.
The general index ended 3.09 percent off at 3,219.91 points.
Turnover was 123.6 billion drachmas and volume 28,481,099 shares. Bank
shares were badly hit. Ionian Bank's share price fell 5.2 percent followed
by Commercial Bank with a 3.6 percent loss. Sector indices lost ground.
Banks dropped 3.87 percent, Leasi ng fell 1.20 percent, Insurance ended
0.35 percent off, Investment eased 0.93 percent, Construction ended 0.39
percent up, Industrials fell 2.71 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.88 percent
down and Holding plunged 3.74 percent.
National Bank of Greece ended at 20,200 drachmas, Ergobank at 24,000, Alpha
Credit Bank at 35,060, Ionian Bank at 16,300, Titan Cement at 23,245,
Hellenic Petroleum at 2,310, Intracom at 15,700, Minoan Lines at 7,660,
Panafon at 9,745 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,100.
T-bill rates plunge in heavy demand
Average weighted yields dropped substantially in yesterday's auction of
three- and six-month treasury bills by the finance ministry.
The three-month average weighted yield was 9.5 percent from 11.07 percent
in the previous auction on December 22.
Primary dealers submitted bids totalling 228 billion drachmas, six times
higher than the 40 billion sought by the ministry, which accepted bids
totalling 48 billion drachmas.
The six-month average weighted yield was 9.54 percent from 10.46 percent in
the previous auction on December 8.
Bids submitted totalled 206 billion drachmas, five times more than the
amount sought. The ministry accepted bids totalling 48 billion drachmas.
Bankers said the new drop in short-term interest rates paved the way for a
cut by Bank of Greece in its money market intervention rate.
Gov't on S-300 installation in Crete
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas again stressed yesterday that the
Russian-made S-300 missiles purchased by Cyprus will be deployed in eastern
Crete. He said technical details of the S-300s' installation will be
discussed next week when a Cypriot delegation and a representative of the
Greek foreign ministry travel to Moscow.
Reppas clarified that the missiles would remain in the ownership of the
Cyprus Republic, while Greece would control the operation of the weapons
system and pay for its operating cost. He said the governments of Greece
and Cyprus would jointly decide how to make optimum use of the S-300
missiles but declined to say when the missiles would be installed in
Dayton agreements, Kosovo the focus of Pangalos' talks in Belgrade
Bilateral relations between Greece and Yugoslavia, implementation of Dayton
Agreements and the Kosovo issue in light of Rambouillet talks were
discussed here yesterday by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and his
Yugoslav counterpart Zivadin Jovanovic.
Referring to bilateral relations, Mr. Jovanovic termed them as "good",
adding that cooperation in the political, economic, tourist, cultural and
communications sectors was improving continuously, while he stressed the
importance of a business delegation accompanying Mr. Pangalos.
Mr. Jovanovic said he briefed his Greek counterpart on the strategy, as he
called it, of his country for resolving all problems concerning Kosovo with
political and peaceful means through dialogue. He said that on the basis of
precisely this strategy, his country decided to send a delegation to carry
out negotiations at Rambouillet.
He further said that Yugoslavia wishes the success of these talks and
pointed out that the basis for a success is full respect for the sovereignty
and territorial integrity of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,
full respect for the equality of all nationalities in Kosovo and respect
for the highest European and international standards on human rights and
Mr. Pangalos referred to Bosnia-Herzegovina, which he visited on Monday,
and reiterated the need for full implementation of the Dayton agreements.
Mr. Pangalos reminded that Greece has a particular sensitivity on the issue
of human rights and believes that they must be safeguarded and protected
absolutely in Kosovo as well as anywhere else.
He added that sometimes the international community applies double
standards on this issue and that this is certainly something which does not
The second point Mr. Pangalos underlined is the need for the inviolability
of borders in the region of southeastern Europe and stressed that whatever
agreement adopted must clearly determine that it exludes the independence
of Kosovo now and in the future.
The third issue Mr. Pangalos touched on is that force must not be used as a
threat and as an argument when negotiations are being conducted. He
reiterated that talks must start for Yugoslavia's incorporation in all
international organisations from which it has been excluded.
Replying to questions from the press on the possible implementation of
whatever agreement on Kosovo with military means and on the possibility of
Greek participation, Mr. Pangalos said that he and Mr. Jovanovic did not
discuss the issue of the implementation of the solution since the solution
is not yet in sight and reiterated that Greece will not participate in
operations aimed at enforcing peace.
"The position of my country is that we do not participate in peace
enforcing situations in southeastern Europe," Mr. Pangalos said, adding
that "we may participate in peacekeeping operations provided we have the
agreement of the country on the soil of which the operation is taking
Parliament discussion begins on Treaty of Amsterdam
Parliament began a five-day debate yesterday evening which is expected to
conclude with the ratification of the Treaty of Amsterdam.
The treaty, which in effect revises the Maastricht Treaty on European
unification, was signed in Amsterdam on Oct. 2, 1997 by the foreign
ministers of the European Union member-states.
The principal targets of the Treaty of Amsterdam are three:
First, to strengthen democracy within the EU by instituting policies and
actions which better safeguard citizens' rights.
Second, to create a more cohesive presence for the EU on the international
scene, particularly by means of a common foreign and security policy.
Finally, the adjustment of the EU's institutional structure in order to
make it more effective in view of the future accession of countries of
central and eastern Europe.
Harrier eagle protection programme
A programme to save and protect the harrier eagle in Greece, the largest
bird of prey in Europe, has been underway since last October by the
University of Crete's Natural History Museum and the Greek Ornithological
Society. The programme is being applied in seven regions on Crete and
another three regions in mainland Greece, belonging to the network "Natura
Harrier eagles are now characterised as a "species threatened with
extinction." The eagles used to be found in almost all of Greece's
mountainous regions, both on the mainland and the islands.
Archbishop of America Spyridon arrives in Athens
Archbishop Spyridon arrived in Athens yesterday on his first visit to
Greece since taking over as Prelate of the Greek Orthodox Church of America
three years ago.
Spyridon, a former Metropolitan of Italy, was elected to replace Archbishop
Iakovos by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in July 1996.
Education Undersecretary Yiannis Anthopoulos, among others, greeted him at
Spyridon, who will stay in Greece until Feb. 15 at the invitation of the
Greek government, is scheduled to meet with President Kostis Stephanopoulos
and Prime Minister Costas Simitis as well as various ministers.
He will also hold talks with main opposition New Democracy leader Costas
Karamanlis, other political leaders as well as Athens Mayor Dimitris
Shortly after his arrival, Spyridon was received by Archbishop Christodoulos
for discussions on several topics of interest between the two Greek
Asked about reported problems in the Orthodox Church in the United States,
and specifically about opposition among US Orthodox bishops to his
appointment, Spyridon said the problems were being dealt with.
"Our Church is successfully performing its task...it is natural for there
to be problems and difficulties...only cemeteries have no problems.
The Archbishop later visited Parliament where he was warmly received by
members of the committee for Orthodoxy and the committee for expatriate
"The Greek-American Orthodox community is like a new great Greece, as the
case used to be with Greeks in southern Italy during antiquity and
Byzantium," the Archbishop told Parliament.
Replying to questions by MPs, Spyridon underlined that Greeks should not
approach the US administration only in times of need.
The Archbishop further announced that the Archdiocese has established an
office near the White House in order to boost relations with Washington.
First step towards hotel 'star' system taken
A substantive step was taken yesterday towards implementing the classification
of Greek hotels with the international "star" system after the Greek
Tourist Organisation (EOT) delivered its proposal to the sector's
Hoteliers' observations are expected very soon in order to enable the final
phase of the proposal to be implemented.
Development Minister Vasso Papandreou announced at a press conference the
proposed system resulting after a comparative study on the experience
obtained by other countries.
Ms Papandreou offered assurances that when the system will operate it will
equal those applied by other European countries.
She said there are hotels in Greece declaring themselves luxury hotels
without being so, adding that this situation must end.
EOT intends to provide a transitional period of one year as a time limit
for the "star" system to be applied. Supervision for its implementation
will take place at central level by EOT, probably in cooperation with a
private company "to avoid pressures during the classification of hotels if
control was to take place at a regional level," as she said.
The experience of the Greek Standardisation Organisation (ELOT) on quality
certification systems based on ISO might also be utilised at the same
Ms Papandreou also disclosed that the corresponding classification of
rented rooms with the "key" system has begun.
Contract with Canadian firm for Thessaloniki metro coaches
The Canadian embassy yesterday announced the signing of a contract for
construction and placement of a rapid automatic transport system for the
proposed Thessaloniki metro on behalf of the Bombardier company.
The contract in question follows a contract for the purchase of 10
amphibious firefighting aircraft "Canadair 415 GR", while the value of both
exceeds US$430 million.
Bombardier will provide primary parts of the transport system for the
Thessaloniki project, including 36 coaches similar to the metro coaches
delivered for the Docklands network in London. The contract for the
Canadair aircraft anticipates the possibili ty of five more aircraft being
purchased and includes spare parts and ground maintenance and training
equipment. Delivery has started, with one plane already in Greece.
"These two sales are very important for trade between Greece and Canada and
are indicative of the high level of technology Canadian industry can
provide for its trade partners," a Canadian embassy release stated.
Partly cloudy weather will prevail in most parts of Greece today with rain
in the west of the country. By nightfall, rain is also expected in mainland
Greece and the islands of the northern and eastern Aegean. Snow will fall
in the mountainous regions of central and northern Greece. Winds southerly,
southwesterly, strong, turning gale force in the Ionian Sea and the Aegean
Sea. Possibility of rain in the evening in Athens with temperatures between
5-15C. Rain from the afternoon in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 2-
Wednesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 282.482
Pound sterling 463.085 Japanese yen (100) 246.145
French franc 48.767 German mark 163.557
Italian lira (100) 16.521 Irish Punt 406.176
Belgian franc 7.930 Finnish mark 53.802
Dutch guilder 145.160 Danish kr. 43.021
Austrian sch. 23.248 Spanish peseta 1.922
Swedish kr. 35.950 Norwegian kr. 36.996
Swiss franc 199.640 Port. Escudo 1.595
Aus. dollar 182.687 Can. dollar 189.170
Cyprus pound 552.544