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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-05-12

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, 12/05/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Athens, Lisbon agree on need for immediate peace in Kosovo
  • Simitis, Majko confirm will for closer bilateral relations
  • Premier touts Greece's role in promoting Balkan stability
  • FYROM' extends invitation for Greek entrepreneurs, investors
  • Stephanopoulos begins official visit to Armenia
  • Greece sets plan in action to help develop Balkans
  • Stock market hits new all-time high
  • Banks launch wave of share cap rises
  • 10-year bond yield drops in auction
  • Papantoniou on damage to economy from Balkan crisis
  • Yugoslav football team's home match in Thessaloniki
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Athens, Lisbon agree on need for immediate peace in Kosovo

Greece and Portugal yesterday agreed in that peace should be pursued in Kosovo and that further hostilities complicated already existing problems.

"It is our common conviction that peace should be pursued right now, because the problem of (continuing) hostilities add to already existing problems. Diplomacy should be the main means through which we will solve the problem," PM Costas Simitis told reporters in Thessaloniki after talks with his visiting Portuguese counterpart Antonio Guterres.

"Every move that contributes to peace is positive," Mr. Simitis added, referring to an announcement by Belgrade on Monday regarding a partial withdrawal of federal troops from the province of Kosovo.

He said President Slobodan Milosevic's act was positive but must be accompanied by further action.

Mr. Simitis said last week's draft proposal for a settlement from the 'G8' countries was a good basis for a final settlement of the Kosovo problem.

The Greek prime minister stressed the need for prompt and coordinated action to rebuild the Balkans as soon as peace was achieved and said Mr. Guterres had agreed that Thessaloniki was best-placed to be the centre of these efforts.

Mr. Guterres said the proposal had his agreement and that Thessaloniki was not only the best choice in terms of geography but also in terms of its access to international networks.

Both urged the speediest possible settlement of the crisis, saying the G8 proposal had to be implemented without delay and that it could lead to a resolution of the crisis.

Mr. Guterres said respect for existing borders was a priority.

Mr. Guterres said he had been impressed by the progress achieved by the Greek economy and said he was certain that Greece would be participating in Economic and Monetary Union as of 2001.

Simitis, Majko confirm will for closer bilateral relations

Prime Minister Costas Simitis and his Albanian counterpart Pandeli Majko confirmed the will of both countries for closer cooperation, after holding talks in Thessaloniki yesterday.

In a statement, Mr. Simitis said he agreed with the Albanian PM that peace efforts must be continued and that an end to the war must be sought in every way as soon as possible.

Referring to cooperation between the two countries, Mr. Simitis said he and Mr. Majko discussed the need for a plan on restructuring the region as well as the need for cooperation between Greece and Albania on preparing the plan.

Commenting on the opening of an Albanian consulate in Thessaloniki yesterday, he said it was proof of the continuous improvement in relations and in the better linkage between the two countries. He further indicated that he will be visiting Tirana at a later stage.

Premier touts Greece's role in promoting Balkan stability

Greece wishes to play a prominent role in promoting stability in the Balkans and integration of the region's countries into mainstream Europe, Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed yesterday.

"Greece wishes to participate on equal terms in the building of a 'New Europe', to play a prominent role in the integration process of Balkan countries and emerge as a force of friendship, peace and cooperation. Our primary concern is stability in the region," he said in an address at the 6th annual Thessaloniki Forum on Greece and the Balkans.

"Greece as a member of the European Union, of Euroatlantic structures and a Balkan country is trying to play a constructive role in stabilising the wider region and function as a factor of peace and economic reconstruction, " he added.

He said current developments would be particularly crucial in determining the future of the countries of the region, and that the Kosovo crisis, which was linked to peace and stability in the whole of Europe.

A resolution to the crisis required the involvement of the United Nations, and Greece was willing to participate in such an effort.

Mr. Simitis said Greece was exposed to the Kosovo crisis more than other EU countries, due to its proximity to Yugoslavia and its increasingly stronger economic links with Balkan countries.

"Greek exports to the Balkan countries represented 13 percent of our total exports in 1998. On the other hand, Greece is a partner absorbing 15 per cent of the exports of Balkan countries," he stressed.

The Greek business presence in the Balkans involved 3,500 firms, which invested $300 million in 1998 in the consumer product and the raw material sectors, he said.

Finally, Mr. Simitis stressed that Greece was hosting hundreds of thousands of foreign workers from neighbouring countries, and had taken measures to legalise their presence in order to give them the opportunity to work on equal terms with Greek workers .

FYROM' extends invitation for Greek entrepreneurs, investors

The prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) Ljubco Georgievski yesterday issued an open invitation to Greek entrepreneurs to invest in the neighbouring country, saying economic cooperation was the key to stronger bilateral ties .

"I believe in a strong spirit of mutual friendship between the two countries and believe that the five months of our government has opened a positive road to strong political communication with the Greek government," Mr. Georgievski said after meetings with Greek ministers and business figures in Thessaloniki.

He said his meeting yesterday with Prime Minister Costas Simitis had contributed to this positive atmosphere.

Mr. Georgievski said he was pleased at the fact that Greece was the leading investor in FYROM but said Skopje was keen to see investment from a diverse group of countries.

"When we speak of revitalising the Balkans, there remains the outstanding issue of Kosovo and our attention must be focused on this," he said.

Referring to a recent deal between his government and Hellenic Petroleum for a majority stake in FYROM's OKTA refinery, Mr. Georgievski noted that Yugoslavia had lost its two refineries in the NATO bombing and would have a problem processing fuel in the future.

Working with Meton SA, a Greek engineering contractor, Hellenic Petroleum will also build a 230-kilometre oil pipeline linking Skopje and Thessaloniki with a capacity of 2.5 million tonnes of crude annually.

Mr. Georgievski said FYROM planned to create two industrial zones, one of which would be located on the border with Greece.

Stephanopoulos begins official visit to Armenia

Armenian President Robert Kocharian welcomed his Greek counterpart Kostis Stephanopoulos here yesterday, who arrived for a three-day official visit to the Caucasus country.

Mr. Stephanopoulos is accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis and Deputy National Economy Minister Alekos Baltas.

The Greek president held brief talks with his Armenian counterpart at Yerevan airport and later visited a local museum.

Both men will hold private talks this morning and afterwards three texts will be signed: an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation; an agreement for mutual assistance between customs administrations and a protocol for an exchange of documents on the ratification of a friendship and cooperation agreement between Greece and Armenia - signed in Athens in June 1997.

In a brief statement, he said friendly ties between Greece and Georgia were strengthened with his visit to Tbilisi and underlined the important role played by Greek expatriates in Georgia as a link in relations between the two countries.

Greece sets plan in action to help develop Balkans

The government has launched a national action plan for reconstruction of the Balkans following a meeting last week between National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, trade groups, companies and banks.

Addressing an international forum on southeast Europe in Thessaloniki yesterday, Mr. Papantoniou said that he would lead a working group comprising representatives of the national economy, development and foreign ministries and trade groups.

The group's task will be to recommend measures to the government and liaise with the private sector, especially engineering contractors and banks, which will lead the reconstruction drive.

Mr. Papantoniou said the government and business representatives had already agreed to boost the capital of the export credit insurance organisation; increase staff and loans for the country's financial and trade offices in the Balkans; redistribute bil ateral development aid towards the Balkans; and increase export credits to Greek businesses.

Mr. Papantoniou said the government was planning to create two special funds totalling three billion drachmas to be managed by the World Bank. The money would be allocated from the budget.

The two funds would support Greek businesses undertaking projects in Balkan states hurt by military operations.

Mr. Papantoniou said Thessaloniki and northern Greece should play a decisive role in this international drive: "Thessaloniki must become the official centre of this effort."

He also urged domestic utilities like the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, Public Power Corporation, state water company and Hellenic Railways Organisation, to seriously consider their participation in the reconstruction projects.

Stock market hits new all-time high

Equity prices resumed their upward course yesterday to end at new record levels on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 2.56 percent up at 4,104.69 points, its 26th record this year. The index has shown a 49.94 percent gain in 1999.

Turnover yesterday was 190.925 billion drachmas and volume 38,100,476 shares.

Traders said the market had discounted the end of the war in Kosovo and was gradually turning its attention to economic fundamentals and corporate profits.

The parallel market index for small cap companies soared 6.74 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 1.67 percent up at 2,488.05.

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,700 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 22, 685, Ergobank at 30,000, Ionian Bank at 18,045, Titan Cement at 29,550, Hellenic Petroleum at 3,080, Intracom at 23,150, Minoan Lines at 8,580, Panafon at 8,500 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,720.

Banks launch wave of share cap rises

Seven of the country's largest banks are seeking to raise over 700 billion drachmas in fresh capital from the domestic market by the end of the summer in order to finance expansion plans, analysts said yesterday.

National Bank of Greece, Alpha Credit Bank, Bank of Piraeus and Xiosbank have already launched share capital increases totalling 474 billion drachmas, while in the next few days Eurobank is launching an increase of 110 billion drachmas.

Commercial Bank of Greece and Macedonia-Thrace Bank have also announced they will seek to raise 120 and 70 billion drachmas each from the market, but have not yet announced subscription dates.

The analysts said that although each bank had its own strategy for the use of new capital, there was a common goal of raising market shares in domestic and international markets.

The banks want to strengthen the promotion of new products and develop services beyond traditional banking such as mutual fund management, stockbroking, venture capital etc.

They also are seeking to expand in international markets focusing on the Balkans and major financial centres in Europe and the US.

Other plans are to expand Internet services, boost electronic banking services, install more ATMs, widen the use of phone banking, and expand branch networks.

10-year bond yield drops in auction

The 10-year bond yield dropped substantially in yesterday's auction of paper by the finance ministry.

The average weighed rate fell to 5.66 percent from 5.98 percent in the previous auction. The bids submitted totalled 580 billion drachmas, 2.4 times more than the offered sum.

The 10-year bond yield is a benchmark for entry into the European Union's economic and monetary union.

Following yesterday's results, the domestic yield spread over German bunds fell to around 160 basis points, 46 points below the convergence criterion.

Papantoniou on damage to economy from Balkan crisis

National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday announced that damage to Greece's economy due to the Kosovo crisis will not exceed 200 billion drachmas.

The minister, addressing reporters on the sidelines of the 6th SE Europe business forum in Thessaloniki, said a worst-case scenario would cause the country's GDP to drop by 0.5 per cent.

Yugoslav football team's home match in Thessaloniki

Yugoslavia will play its home match against Malta in the European Championship qualifying tournament at Thessaloniki's Toumba stadium on June 9, the Greek Football Federation (EPO) announced yesterday.

EPO accepted a request from the Yugoslav Football Association (FSO) for both the under-21 and men's team to play in Thessaloniki following a decision on Monday by European soccer's governing body (UEFA) to allow the country to remain in the "Euro 2000" tournament. Owing to the Kosovo conflict, however, UEFA told FSO that home matches would have to be played in a neutral country because of the NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia.

The under-21 match between Yugoslavia and Malta will be held in Thessaloniki on June 8.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast in most parts of the country today, with light cloud in the afternoon in mainland Greece. Winds northerly, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 16-28C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 11-25C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          300.417
Pound sterling       487.449
Japanese yen (100)   248.060
French franc          49.213
German mark          165.054
Italian lira (100)    16.673
Irish Punt           409.892
Belgian franc          8.002
Luxembourg franc       8.002
Finnish mark          54.294
Dutch guilder        146.488
Danish kr.            43.450
Austrian sch.         23.460
Spanish peseta         1.940
Swedish kr.           36.075
Norwegian kr.         39.265
Swiss franc          200.627
Port. Escudo           1.610
Aus. dollar          201.361
Can. dollar          205.860
Cyprus pound         557.901
Euro                 322.817
(C.E.)
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