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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-07-02

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, 02/07/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Olympic Airways unions and government still locked in dialogue
  • Stephanopoulos touts economic cooperation in Lithuania talks
  • Athens calls latest Greek-Turkish contacts a `first step`
  • Common demarche by Greek-Americans to US government this year
  • Contract signed with Ericsson for early warning systems
  • Greece, Cyprus sign customs agreement
  • Greece sent to Eurocourt
  • Exporters welcome choice of HQ for Balkan reconstruction group
  • Stocks rise following markets abroad
  • New airline takes to the skies
  • ANEK launches new passenger ship
  • Unifon to hold share offer for bourse entry
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Olympic Airways unions and government still locked in dialogue

In the midst of a 24-hour strike described by Olympic Airways employees as an "unprecedented" success, government and civil aviation unions yesterday agreed to launch a new crucial round of talks on Monday to iron out uncertainties caused by the arrival of a new British management team.

Later yesterday, Mr. Lynch appeared before the Parliament's committee on Public Utilities and Enterprises (DEKO), which approved his appointment.

At a meeting with Transport minister Tasos Mandelis, workers' representatives called for legislative arrangements securing present labour regulations and jobs in the ailing national carrier.

According to reports, the minister insisted the government had no intention to let the airline shrink, while pointing out that it was competitors who might want to see such a development.

He urged unions to support efforts to take OA out of the present impasse, providing assurances, in line with provisions in the contract assigning management to British Airways' subsidiary Speedwing for 30 months, that wages would be determined according to collective labour agreements, and that the new managers would have to respect Greek legislation.

Union representatives, who announced a new 24-hour strike on Wednesday, will be again meeting Mantelis and National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou on Monday.

The government has repeatedly said the assignment of management to Speedwing is the carrier's "last chance," but apparently without much success in convincing the unions, who describe the agreement as "colonial- type and the product of intransparent and suspect negotiations". Reports say they are preparing to take the issue to the courts.

According to company officials, OA last week was losing 5,000 passengers daily due to a go-slow by ground technical staff that had delayed the repair of seven aircraft. Speaking to the parliamentary committee, Mr. Lynch said that during the first phase of his work in OA, which will last 13 weeks, he will evaluate the existing restructuring plan and only then will he present the new plan.

During that time, he said, the value of the company would be assessed, along with the possibility for BA to purchase stock in OA, as per contract option.

Furthermore, Mr. Lynch said that the dire state of the airline's fiscal problems can be reversed, stressing that the company has greater possibilities to recover if it forms a partnership with a larger airline.

He added that the future of the employees of the company is secure when a company expands and develops, and that the numbers of existing personel "is about right."

Stephanopoulos touts economic cooperation in Lithuania talks

President Kostis Stephanopoulos and his Lithuanian counterpart Valdas Adamkus addressed a forum of Greek and Lithuanian entrepreneurs here yesterday afternoon, stressing the need for the expansion of bilateral economic and investment relations.

The Lithuanian president called on Greek business people to invest in his country, saying the institutional framework which will facilitate these investments is improving continuously, underlining his country's desire to join Euroatlantic structures which he said will strengthen its security and, consequently, every business activity.

Mr. Stephanopoulos said his three-day visit is very important for strengthening relations between Greece and Lithuania in the economic sector, and underlined Greece's economic achievements. He also expressed certainty that Greece will succeed in entering Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

Other topics of discussion between the two presidents were international issues, with an emphasis on the situation prevailing in the Balkans, and on the Baltic country's relations with its neighbouring countries, especially Russia and Belarus.

In a statement, Mr. Stephanopoulos said Athens and Vilnius face no political problems in relations between them, adding that the presence of a Greek business group (acompanying him on his visit) in Vilnius will allow for the further strengthening of bilateral relations in the economic sector. He reiterated that Greece supports Lithuania's bid to join the European Union and NATO.

In a related development, following the meeting between the two presidents, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis signed a bilateral agreement with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Saudargas on the return of illegal immigrants to their original country of entry.

Athens calls latest Greek-Turkish contacts a `first step`

Greece said yesterday that talks in New York between the Greek and Turkish foreign ministers were a "first step" to finding ways to cooperate on a number of issues.

"There should not be either great optimism or great pessimism," acting government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou told reporters.

Athens and Ankara on Wednesday agreed to hold talks on a foreign ministry senior officials level regarding issues relating to the economy, trade, environment, tourism, as well as combatting organised crime, illegal immigration, drugs and on law and order issues.

FM George Papandreou made the announcement after two-hour talks with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem, on the sidelines of a UN-sponsored meeting on Kosovo.

Mr. Papandreou said Greece and Turkey had also agreed on greater cooperation - with the cooperation of their business communities - at a multipartite level, particularly in the Balkans and the Black Sea.

The issue of terrorism was not discussed but briefly referred to during the meeting.

Greece has said that it will approach the issue of terrorism in the framework of existing treaties, multipartite cooperation and its commitments at the Council of Europe for human rights and democratic processes.

Mr. Papandreou said in New York that this did not rule out a discussion beginning on the issues related to organised crime, drug trafficking, illegal immigration and the issue of terrorism.

"There's a difference of opinion between Greece and Turkey over this issue and the framework in which our country can discuss the issue is well-known, " Mr. Nikolaou reiterated yesterday.

Speaking about the general state of bilateral relations, he said Greece's position had not changed. "Greece continues to believe in a step-by-step rapprochement in relations between the two countries," he said. "If Turkey believes there are issues which are unsettled it can at any time seek recourse to the International Court of Justice."

Common demarche by Greek-Americans to US government this year

All of the Greek-American organisations in the United States will join forces this year to lodge a common demarche regarding the Cyprus issue with Washington, Archbishop of America Spyridon said on Wednesday.

He was speaking after a meeting here with Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

"We, here in America, are doing everything possible to advance the Cyprus issue and the other (Greek) national issues," Spyridon said.

He said the Archdiocese was gathering together the Greek-American forces, via the HALO organisation set up by the Archdiocese a year ago, "and for the first time this year, all the Greek-American organisations, with the coordinating assistance of the Archdiocese, will lodge a joint demarche with the US president on the Cyprus issue".

Spyridon said following the normalisation of the Kosovo issue, the Cyprus problem must "regain its rightful priority" and the importance placed by the international community on its resolution must become manifest.

The Archbishop stressed the US Archdiocese's full support for the Greek government in its "major effort for reconstruction of the Balkans", while he briefed Mr. Papandreou on the Archdiocese's financial support to the Serbian Church - totalling some US$ 135,000 to date.

Mr. Papandreou, in New York for a UN-sponsored meeting on Kosovo, briefed the Archbishop on the UN meeting and on his talks on the sidelines with Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem.

Contract signed with Ericsson for early warning systems

The government yesterday signed a contract with the Sweden's Ericsson Microwave Systems to provide four fully-integrated airborne radars for the Hellenic Air Force.

The first Erieye/EB145H will be delivered in 52 months' time. The final Erieye is scheduled to be delivered in 58 months' time.

In the intervening period, the air force will be provided with two Erieye/Saab340H early warning systems belonging to the Swedish armed forces.

These will be delivered in 12 and 18 months' time from the signing of the contract.

The cost of the programme totals 174 billion drachmas. Total offset benefits amount to 149.4 per cent, while the nominal value of the joint production, taking into account offset benefits, comes to US$123 million, or 21 per cent of the total value of the programme.

Eight Greek companies will be involved in the manufacture of the systems and will receive the benefit of technological know-how.

The Erieye radar system will be fitted on the Brazilian-made twin-propeller Embraer 145 aircraft. Also involved in the manufacture of the radar systems is the French multinational Thomson.

Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, speaking at the signing ceremony, said the new system was an important technological development that would provide the Greek armed forces with unlimited abilities.

Greece chose Ericsson in late 1998 to provide it with the four airborne radars, part of the multi-million-dollar armaments programme currently in progress.

Greece, Cyprus sign customs agreement

Cyprus and Greece yesterday signed an agreement which aims to form the legal framework for cooperation of the customs services of the two countries.

The agreement was signed by Cyprus' Finance Minister Takis Klerides and Deputy Finance Minister George Drys, who arrived here yesterday for a three- day visit.

Speaking to the press, Mr. Klerides said the agreement will define a clear legal framework for the implementation of cooperation between customs of the two countries to fight illegal activities, such as tax evasion and smuggling.

The agreement will also facilitate the movement of passengers and goods between the two countries, he added.

Under the agreement, Greece will assist Cyprus in its process to harmonise with the acquis communautaire, Mr. Klerides said, adding it also includes cooperation in customs training.

Greece sent to Eurocourt

The European Commission decided yesterday to refer Greece to the European Court, after stating that Athens does not honour the right of European Union citizens to work in the Greek public sector.

With its recourse, the Commission requests a daily fine of 57,400 euros imposed on Greece for as long as it fails to harmonise its legislation with the rest of the EU.

The European Court had convicted Greece three years ago for not permitting access to certain posts in the public sector for citizens from other member- states, such as at universities.

Exporters welcome choice of HQ for Balkan reconstruction group

The Association of Northern Greek Exporters yesterday welcomed the choice of Thessaloniki as headquarters for an international organisation that will manage reconstruction in the Balkans.

The group said in a statement that choice of the venue was a success for the government.

The northern port city would profit from the arrival of capital, products, services and human resources from the European Union and NATO member countries en route for the Balkan countries destined to receive aid, the statement said.

In addition, basing the organisation in Thessaloniki would attract international media reporting the reconstruction drive.

Finally, Greek businesses would have easy access to information on the projects.

Stocks rise following markets abroad

Equity prices surged yesterday encouraged by a strong performance in international markets following a decision by the US Federal Reserve to raise short-term interest rates by 25 basis points.

Traders said a significant decline in the inflation rate in June was also a boosting factor.

The general index ended 2.31 percent higher at 4,124.79 points. It stands now only 82 points below its record close of 4,206.76 on May 21.

Turnover was 153.893 billion drachmas with 25,948,236 shares changing hands.

The banks and construction sectors outperformed the market ending 2.67 and 6.63 percent higher.

Other sector indices ended as follows: Leasing (+2.07 pct), Insurance (+0.67 pct), Investment (+4.53 pct), Industrials (+1.18 pct), Miscellaneous (+2.21 pct) and Holding (+2.92 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks rose 0.55 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips ended 2.72 percent higher at 2,433.26 points.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 213 to 78 with another seven issues unchanged.

National Bank ended at 21,010 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 21,250, Ergobank at 33,800, Ionian Bank at 16,255, Titan Cement at 29,430, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,900, Intracom at 18,980, Minoan Lines at 5,970, Panafon at 7, 780 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,850.

New airline takes to the skies

Axon Airlines will spread its wings in Greece's expanding airline market with scheduled flights from Athens to Rome, Milan and Brussels, also via Thessaloniki.

The new airline, which is based in Athens, is owned by publisher and entrepreneur Thomas Liakounakos, whose publications include the Kerdos financial daily.

Axon has already signed cooperation and technical support agreements with Olympic Airways and Hellenic Aerospace Industry.

Its fleet includes two new Boeing 737-700 jets with 149 seats each, named George Seferis and Maria Nefeli after a poem by Odysseas Elytis.

Axon Airlines plans to raise its share capital by 30 million US dollars by the end of 1999. It intends to purchase one more Boeing 737-700 jet and three Boeing 717-200s by May next year.

In-flight services will include a library of Greek literature and poetry in Greek and foreign languages for passengers to browse through during the flight.

ANEK launches new passenger ship

Crete-based ANEK Lines is to place into service today a new ship to link Greece to Trieste in Italy.

The 14 billion drachma passenger and car ferry, named the Sofocles Venizelos, was built in Japan's Mitsubishi yards in 1990 and refurbished in Greece's Perama shipyard for 3.5 billion drachmas.

The vessel carries 1,600 passengers and 1,100 cars or 120 trucks, has 650 beds and a speed of more than 25 knots.

Unifon to hold share offer for bourse entry

Unifon is to hold an initial public offer on July 13-16, seeking to enter the main market of the Athens Stock Exchange.

The company is issuing four million new shares at 6,500 drachmas each.

After the share offer, 25 percent of the company's stock will be publicly owned.

The offer's main underwriters are National Bank of Greece and Alpha Credit Bank. Its adviser is Alpha Finance, a member of the Alpha Credit Bank Group.

Unifon is the main commercial associate of listed Panafon, one of the country's three mobile phone operators.

It hopes to tap the market for 26 billion drachmas in order to finance its expansion plans.

The company's largest single project is to develop its e-motion chain of retail stores and acquire other retail chains, budgetted at nine billion drachmas.

Unifon's turnover in 1998 was 114 billion drachmas and pre-tax profits totalled almost three billion drachmas.

The company's main shareholders are Panafon, Info-Quest, Marinopoulos Bros. and two individual shareholders.

WEATHER

Partly cloudy weather will prevail throughout the country today with scattered showers in the afternoon in mainland Greece. Winds northerly, light to strong. Possibility of showers in Athens with temperatures between 20-35C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 19-30C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          311.716
Pound sterling       493.064
Japanese yen (100)   258.168
French franc          49.142
German mark          164.815
Italian lira (100)    16.648
Irish Punt           409.300
Belgian franc          7.991
Finnish mark          54.216
Dutch guilder        146.276
Danish kr.            43.380
Austrian sch.         23.426
Spanish peseta         1.937
Swedish kr.           36.952
Norwegian kr.         39.878
Swiss franc          201.108
Port. Escudo           1.608
Can. dollar          212.883
Aus. dollar          208.766
Cyprus pound         558.893
Euro                 322.350
(C.E.)
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