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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-05-04

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, 04/05/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis expands on Greek policy over Kosovo crisis, NATO
  • Opposition parties reaction
  • Gov't to seek compensation from EU for Kosovo losses
  • Stocks hit new record, boosted by fresh capital
  • Germanos applies to enter Athens bourse
  • `Greece as safe, if not safer than most EU countries`
  • Mitsotakis praise, criticism for Simitis
  • Greek journalists rally against NATO bombs, freedom of the press
  • British tourist arrivals reported on schedule
  • Eurostat: Greece 12th in social welfare spending among EU states
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis expands on Greek policy over Kosovo crisis, NATO

Prime Minister Costas Simitis told Parliament last night he had another telephone conversation with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as part of efforts to find a solution to the protracted Kosovo crisis.

He made the statement during the off-the-agenda debate in the legislature focusing on NATO and the war in Yugoslavia, held at the request of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

In his address, Mr. Simitis stressed that the legalising role of the UN is essential in finding a solution to the Kosovo crisis, while any solution to be provided must be within the framework of a unified Yugoslavia in order to be viable.

Mr. Simitis said it was not necessary for the international force to be deployed in the region to be a NATO force, while he indicated that actions also being discussed within the framework of European Union initiatives for a defusion of the crisis include a pullout of Yugoslav troops from Kosovo, a safe return of refugees to their homes and a simultaneous end to all acts of war.

Referring to Greece's position on the crisis, he said "our country's position lives up to our values, the collective reactions of the Greek people, as well as to the need for credibility towards other peoples with which we cooperate."

The Greek PM questioned the correctness of the NATO bombings, saying they produced no results and, more specifically, failed to prevent ethnic cleansing, resulting in hundreds of thousands of refugees and economic destabilisation of Albania as well as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), among others. He also said the bombings rallied the Serbian people behind Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

On the question of NATO's new role, Mr. Simitis briefed Parliament on discussions held during the three-day events marking the alliance's 50th anniversary and on the new texts signed in Washington.

He said Greece was not marginalised but, on the contrary, made its double identity understood, as well as its sensitivity over problems in the region.

He added that Greece is participating in NATO on an equal footing for the first time.

Mr. Simitis, elaborating on NATO's new role, ascertained the strong opposition of the Greek government to whatever efforts to have NATO proclaimed a "international gendarme."

He also said NATO cannot act on the basis of its own principles, independent from those established by the UN and cannot intervene when it alone desires intervention.

The Greek PM said NATO's actions must have legal standing beyond any doubt and that international law is the prerequisite for credibility in all actions.

Referring to the alliance's new structure and the activation of headquarters, Mr. Simitis said that all of NATO's headquarters without exception, including that of Larisa, have been activated by the decision taken by NATO's Council on March 1.

Mr. Simitis said that had the government adopted the positions of opposition parties it would have created spectacular impressions for a few hours but, in the long run, it would have created serious problems which would have worsened the country's inter national position.

Concluding his address, Mr. Simitis said that in the current turmoil prevailing in the Balkans, Greece showed that it has its own view and voice, it can be a factor of peace and a pole of stability and proved that it has strength of spirit.

Opposition parties reaction

In response, Communist Party Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga called on the Greek people to "resist and show insubordination" toward the plans of what she termed the "new NATO".

"We must resist and take all the risks for the defence of borders and peace, instead of accepting peace 'with a gun to our head'. If we bow our head then others will decide what sacrifices we will make and what crimes we will tolerate," she emphasised.

The KKE leader said the new NATO dogma means the "open and without pretext intervention" in the domestic affairs of other countries, something she said "tears apart every meaning of national independence and abandons the principle of the inviolability of borders.

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Costas Karamanlis said there is a great danger of the crisis engulfing the Balkans.

He accused the premier of "double talk", and said that ND's stance was clear, while he accused the prime minister of "whispering without courage and with fear."

Mr. Karamanlis said ND supports a cease fire in Yugoslavia, respect for human rights, a presence of a UN peacekeeping force or one by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said "the new Yugoslav tragedy proved that the NATO bombings not only failed to solve the Kosovo crisis, but exacerbated and complicated it while the 'new order of things' under US guardianship is not an order of peace."

Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) president Dimitris Tsovolas said the NATO alliance's founding charter, which doesn't anticipate an attack against a sovereign third nation, excludes member-states from participating in military operations against Yugoslavia.

Gov't to seek compensation from EU for Kosovo losses

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who predicted that the Yugoslav crisis was "nearing its end", yesterday called on Greek businesses to maintain the country's presence in the Balkans.

He also told the representatives of 57 businesses invited to a meeting on helping to rebuild Yugoslavia that Greece would seek compensation from the European Union for losses suffered by the economy due to the war.

The two sides agreed to set up a working group to coordinate the participation of Greek enterprises in the reconstruction of Serbia, and then in development of the broader region.

Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) president Iason Stratos told the meeting that the working group needed technical backing.

Theodoros Karatzas of the Union of Greek Banks called for simplification of the institutional framework in Balkan states, particularly those directly harmed by the Kosovo crisis, in order to eliminate obstacles met by Greek investors.

Mr. Papantoniou said that a mini "Marshall Plan" for reconstruction of the Balkans would cost 10-20 billion US dollars.

He added the plan would affect next year's budget but that the government would try to seek funds from the EU's Third Community Support Framework.

The government's plan for the Balkans is divided into political and economic sections.

Under the political framework, Greece is working for a diplomatic solution to end the Yugoslav conflict and is ready to help develop the economies of Balkan countries, Mr. Papantoniou said.

The minister added that next year's budget would feel the impact of the plan, which envisages increased funds to damaged Balkan countries as bilateral aid; more support for businesses active in the wider Balkan region; higher export credits and the crea tion of two funds, together worth three billion drachmas, to support Greek exports, services and investments in neighbouring countries.

Stocks hit new record, boosted by fresh capital

Equity prices soared to new records yesterday reflecting the market's confidence in a diplomatic solution to the Yugoslav crisis.

Traders said the market had begun to discount positive developments in Kosovo last week.

Hefty new capital entered the market as investors who had remained on the sidelines in recent weeks opened positions in an optimistic market.

The general index ended 188.91 points, or 5.22 percent higher to post a new record of 3,806.33 points, exceeding its previous all-time high of 3,774.29 on March 19. It was the 23rd record this year. Analysts said breaking the 3, 800-point level had opened the way to 4,000 points.

Turnover was 157.304 billion drachmas and volume 31,560,261 shares.

The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 6.80 percent up while the FTSE/ASE 20 index rose 4.97 percent to 2,356.21.

A total of 103 shares hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,100 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 23, 000, Ergobank at 28,180, Ionian Bank at 18,800, Titan Cement at 25,600, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,590, Intracom at 21,900, Minoan Lines at 7,690, Panafon at 8,550 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,290.

Germanos applies to enter Athens bourse

Germanos yesterday applied to join the main market of the Athens bourse and raise its share capital by 11 percent.

The firm will hold an initial public offer (IPO), planning to use the new funds to finance investments, extend its network of stores, reduce borrowing and boost operating capital.

A lead underwriter of the IPO and its coordinator is EFG Eurobank. The other lead underwriters are Ergobank and Telesis Securities.

Germanos manufactures and sells batteries aimed at the retail sector and industrial and defence sectors. It also has mobile phone retail outlets.

`Greece as safe, if not safer than most EU countries`

Greece is at the same level as other European Union countries with respect to security and public order, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday when asked to comment on a US State Department report regarding terrorism worldwide.

Mr. Reppas added that "others" were also working in Greece within the framework of international conventions aimed at combatting terrorism.

"Therefore," the spokesman said, "the issue of effectiveness is not a matter which concerns exclusively the Greek authorities."

Athens said on Friday it would launch an international advertising campaign to underline that the country was among the safest in the world for tourists, in the wake of a US announcement to its citizens about travelling to Greece.

"The campaign will promote Greece's safe image around the world. Greece is not only a factor of stability and peace in the region but is also an extremely safe destination for tourists," Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said in Parliament.

"Greece is as safe as any other European Union country and, according to crime statistics, one of the safest in the EU," he said.

Mitsotakis praise, criticism for Simitis

Prime Minister Costas Simitis received a 'back-handed compliment' from an unexpected quarter yesterday, when former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis praised him for being the "best prime minister the ruling socialists could provide."

"Mr. Simitis is the best PASOK has and as a prime minister he has many pluses," Mr. Mitsotakis said in an interview published in the Athens daily "Ta Nea".

However, Mr. Mitsotakis added that the PASOK premier has failed to convince he can handle crisis situations.

"He stalls, gets into difficulty and many times fails...but I can't see who in PASOK would be in a position to do any better," the main opposition New Democracy party's honorary president said.

"I am not anybody's crutch. I want the right policies to be applied and it is this that I will support".

Referring to Costas Karamanlis, the president of New Democracy, Mr. Mitsotakis refused to answer a question on whether he was mature enough to become prime minister.

"He is a young person with talent, and much ability but still untried, new and lacking in experience. Time will tell what he can do," Mr. Mitsotakis said.

Greek journalists rally against NATO bombs, freedom of the press

Hundreds of Greek journalists rallied in central Athens outside their union's offices yesterday to mark International Press Freedom Day, demanding an end to NATO bombings in Yugoslavia.

The demonstrators also demanded an end to what they termed the "murderous attacks against journalists" and paid tribute to the victims from a recent NATO missile attack against the Serbian state television building in downtown Belgrade.

"This day is one of mourning and respect for the 500 journalists who died in the 'reporting battle' between 1988-1998 and the 36 victims of the past four months, of which 27 were in Yugoslavia," a statement read.

Journalists further demanded a return of Kosovar refugees to their homes and an immediate commencement of dialogue for a political solution to the Kosovo crisis.

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis praised the Greek correspondents who have covered "in the best possible way" the events in Yugoslavia.

Speaking to the media representatives, who presented him a resolution after their rally, Mr. Kaklamanis said "... certainly, for each crime there are causes and pretences. The behaviour of the Milosevic regime in Kosovo was a problem...(but) an existing problem is not approached through bombardment, through more violence...through actual or fictional NATO bombing mishaps".

He added that "for 25 years no action has been taken regarding the continuing drama of 200,000 refugees caused by the Turkish 'Attila' in Cyprus."

British tourist arrivals reported on schedule

The arrival of some 1,600 British tourists at Thessaloniki's 'Mace-donia Airport' yesterday with charter flights has apparently raised optimism among tour operators that the ongoing Kosovo crisis won't affect tourism to Greece.

Tourist agents in northern Greece have said that the number of British holidaymakers expected up until October are in line with last year's figures, while no cancellations have been reported.

The entire group of British tourists headed to Halkidiki, the verdant peninsula east of Thessaloniki famous for its sandy beaches and high- quality accommodations.

"We are expecting charter flights every Monday, Thursday and Friday, with 1, 600, 600 and 700 tourists respectively each time," according to a local representative of the well-known British-based Thomson tour operator.

The same tour agent said German tourists were also expected to arrive in similar numbers.

Eurostat: Greece 12th in social welfare spending among EU states

The European Union's 'Euro-stat' service yesterday released a report on social welfare expenditures in the 15 member-states. Greece ranks 12th with 23.3 per cent of its GDP allocated to the sector in 1996.

The report noted that the EU average stood at 28.7 per cent of GDP or 5,120 Purchasing Power Units.

The overall expediture in the Union fell by 0.3 per cent compared to 1993, when it reached at 29 per cent, but rose by 3.3 per cent compared to 1990.

In Greece, 49 per cent of expenditures for social welfare were funneled to pensions, 34.9 per cent to health services, 4.3 per cent to combat unemployment, 8.3 per cent for family care and 3.5 per cent in rent subsidies.

WEATHER

The weather in the country today is expected to be warm, humid and sunny with cloud in western, central and northern Greece. Winds variable, light to strong. Warm and humid in Athens with temperatures between 16-32C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 13-30C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          304.544
Pound sterling       490.881
Japanese yen (100)   254.617
French franc          49.219
German mark          165.074
Italian lira (100)    16.675
Irish Punt           409.943
Belgian franc          8.003
Luxembourg franc       8.003
Finnish mark          54.300
Dutch guilder        146.505
Danish kr.            43.438
Austrian sch.         23.463
Spanish peseta         1.940
Swedish kr.           36.218
Norwegian kr.         39.134
Swiss franc          200.260
Port. Escudo           1.610
Aus. dollar          201.604
Can. dollar          208.459
Cyprus pound         559.151
Euro                 322.856
(C.E.)
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