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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-07-06

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, 06/07/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Gov't, OA union leaders meet over national carrier's future
  • Gov't: No link between presidential term, general elections
  • Tsohatzopoulos on EU policy in the Balkans
  • G. Papandreou meets with French health minister on Kosovo
  • Second pilot of crashed F-5 trainer jet dies
  • Margaret Papandreou hospitalised after heart attack
  • Russian forces expected this week at Greek port
  • Policy on visas discussed at high-level gov't meeting
  • Simitis to attend European-Balkan summit in Sarajevo
  • OEK to build Olympic Village in Thrakomakedones site
  • Ergobank's workers back merger offer
  • Stocks jump, hitting new all-time high
  • Agricultural Bank offers loans for OTE rights issue
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Gov't, OA union leaders meet over national carrier's future

Two of the government's top ministers met yesterday with state-run Olympic Airway's union leaders for talks focusing on the ailing national carrier's future, following the recent hand-over of OA's management to a British Airways subsidiary.

Following the meeting, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said the government will secure the funds necessary for a renewal of the airline's aging fleet, as well as its transfer to the new Athens international airport at Spata. Transport Mini ster Tassos Mantelis also attended the meeting.

"The message we wanted to get across to the federation of employees and to management is that the survival of OA depends completely on the management and the employees," Mr. Papantoniou.

"The government supported and supports, but it cannot guarantee OA's survival. It cannot fund a company which continually incurs losses," he added.

Mr. Papantoniou also promised OA's unions that no existing domestic routes will be eliminated. However, he stressed that the viability of various overseas flights will fall under the domain of the new management.

Speedwing, a BA subsidiary, was selected by the government to manage the debt-ridden carrier for an initial period of 30 months, a development greeted with widespread dissatisfaction by OA's Unions.

On their part, representatives from the Federation of Civil Aviation Associations (OSPA) noted that they will proceed with strike tomorrow as planned, whereas further actions will depend on the government's expected written proposals.

Gov't: No link between presidential term, general elections

The government reiterated yesterday that national elections would be held as planned at the end of the government's four-year mandate, namely, in September 2000.

Spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the government did not link an election of the president of the republic with the government's term.

President Kostis Stepahanopoulos' five-year term comes up for renewal in March next year. Under the Constitution, if the candidate for president does not receive 200 votes in the 300-seat chamber in the first two rounds, and fails to gather 180 votes in a third round of voting, Parliament is dissolved and general elections held.

On Saturday, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis said "the sooner national elections were held, the better", although he declined to comment on whether ND would support Stephanopoulos' re-election.

Mr. Simitis has already said that ruling PASOK would support a second Stephanopoulos term.

PASOK has 162 seats in the legislature. It would need the support of other parties' MPs during voting for the president if it were to avoid elections in March.

"Prime Minister Costas Simitis has never linked the issue of the election of the president with the tenure of the Parliament, but Mr. Stephanopoulos could be that person which all the parties agree to re-elect to the position of president," Mr. Reppas said.

He criticised the opposition for what he termed involving the institution of the president with an attempt to force early elections.

Tsohatzopoulos on EU policy in the Balkans

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday referred to the principles of European Union policy in the Balkans following the Kosovo crisis as well as Greece's role in the region's reconstruction.

The minister was addressing an international conference on the subject of "Geopolitics of Eurasia and Eastern Mediterranean in the New International System", organised by the national defence ministry's general staff.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the principles that must govern EU policy in the Balkans include safeguarding borders from any and all territorial claims, non-intervention in the domestic politics of Balkan countries as well as regional security.

He said Greece must aim at the European orientation of the Balkans in order to demonstrate Turkey's deadlocked policy in the region through this prospect, which will bring about stabilisation in the Balkans, as he noted.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos reiterated that the change in security conditions in the Balkans, as a result of latest developments in Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovina, Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), must be taken into consideration by Ath ens within the framework of its national strategy. He also assessed that Eurasia, southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean will constitute an area of heightened interest over the next decade.

G. Papandreou meets with French health minister on Kosovo

Foreign Minister George Papandreou focused on the Kosovo problem with the UN's chief envoy in the Yugoslav province and French Health Minister Bernard Kouchner yesterday in Paris.

The two men also discussed the restoration of political stability, the peaceful coexistence of all minorities in Kosovo as well as reconstruction of the region, among others.

These issues were discussed in relation to the Greek contribution from Thessaloniki and the presence of Greek experts and humanitarian organisations in Kosovo.

Afterwards, Mr. Papandreou said Athens wanted to support Mr. Kouchner's work in his effort for reconstruction, reconciliation and pacification in the Kosovo region.

Mr. Kouchner referred to the mission entrusted to him by the UN for Kosovo, adding that elementary security must be restored, otherwise, reconciliation will be even more difficult. Referring to Greece's role, he termed it important, underli ning the country's position, history and religion.

Mr. Papandreou later presided over the afternoon session of the World Conference on "Education and Sports for a Civilisation of Peace", jointly organised by UNESCO and the International Olympic Committee. He placed emphasis on the contribution of the Olympic Concept to peace and civilisation for the creation of a better world.

Mr. Papandreou said, among others, that traditional diplomacy must be supplemented with cultural diplomacy and the diplomacy of citizens. He also referred to the Olympic ceasefire and to examples when it was observed.

Mr. Papandreou further said that IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who addressed the event, must be honoured who contributed to the resurfacing of this idea from ancient Greece, meaning the Olympic Games, saying that if we are not capable to provide inspiration,to dream, to have great ideas, "we will indeed lose the sense of mankind and humanity".

Second pilot of crashed F-5 trainer jet dies

The co-pilot of a Hellenic Air Force F-5 training jet that crash landed on a highway off Thessaloniki airport Monday died at dawn today of injuries sustained in the crash, a national defence ministry spokesman said.

The plane's trainee pilot, 25-year-old Second Lt. Panayotis Drivas, died yesterday en route to a nearby hospital.

Pilot trainer Lt. Stavros Stamatoyannis, 32, the father of two children, died today at the 424 Military Hospital in Thessaloniki from widespread burns and massive chest injuries suffered in the crash, during a training flight, after doctors battled overnight to stabilise his condition.

A team of Air Force experts are examining the jet's wreckage and other clues to establish the causes of the crash.

Margaret Papandreou hospitalised after heart attack

Margaret Papandreou, former wife of the late PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou and the mother of FM George Papandreou, suffered an acute heart attack yesterday and was admitted to the Onassion Cardiology Centre. According to reports, Ms Papandreou's condition was described as "serious", with pharmaceutical treatment initially prescribed, an Onassion announcement stated. She was being treated in the hospital's intensive care unit.

A medical bulletin issued later in the day said Ms Papandreou's condition remained stable.

Russian forces expected this week at Greek port

A convoy of ships carrying Russian marines and artillery has set sail for a northern Greek port en route to Kosovo despite the snag between NATO and Moscow over the deployment of Russian peacekeepers in the troubled Yugoslav province, sources said.

According to reports, four large Russian naval transport ships set sail Saturday from the port of Sevastopol for Thessaloniki or Volos, where they were due to arrive in mid-week.

From there, the troops and weaponry would head for neighbouring FYROM and on to Kosovo, sources said.

Policy on visas discussed at high-level gov't meeting

A high-level government meeting was convened yesterday regarding policy related the issue of foreign nationals' residence and entry visas.

The meeting was chaired by Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis.

"The foreign ministry's effort is to have a single, cohesive and modern policy shaped on the entry and stay of aliens in our country, also within the framework of a decision on reviewing the status of granting the 'green' (residence) card and the effective handling of illegal immigration," Mr. Kranidiotis said.

The meeting was attended by the heads of Greece's consular authorities in Balkan, central Asian and Caucasus countries, as well as representatives from relevant ministries.

Mr. Kranidiotis reiterated the need for the strict implementation of relevant circulars and instructions to secure the necessary cross-checking of information collected by applicants, as well as a strict implementation of the country's international com mitments within the framework of the Schengen Pact.

Simitis to attend European-Balkan summit in Sarajevo

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will attend a Balkan stability pact summit in Sarajevo on July 30, the government announced yesterday.

Dozens of European and world leaders are expected to attend the summit, although according to some reports, it may be postponed. A final decision on the date is expected next week.

OEK to build Olympic Village in Thrakomakedones site

An inter-ministerial committee yesterday awarded the state-run Workers' Housing Organisation (OEK) a contract to build the Olympic Village - the largest project for the Games - in the Thrakomakedones region of northwest Athens.

The meeting was attended by Culture Minister Elizabeth Papazoi, Deputy Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Christos Verelis, Deputy National Economy Minister Christos Pachtas, the president and managing director of the 2004 organising committee, Stratis Stratigis and Costas Bakouris, respectively, as well as OEK President G. Ioannidis.

In addition, the immediate proclamation of an international architecture tender was also decided at the meeting.

Ergobank's workers back merger offer

Workers at Ergobank said yesterday that they backed a merger offer by Bank of Piraeus but would consider a new proposal by EFG Eurobank, whose hostile takeover bid Ergobank's management has opposed.

The president of Ergobank's staff association, Theodoros Papavlassopoulos, told a news conference that Bank of Piraeus' offer safeguarded the rights of personnel.

He also said that that Bank of Piraeus' structure and culture were similar to Ergobank's.

Bank of Piraeus made its offer to Ergobank's management on Friday to merge and create a new banking group. Piraeus' existing group also contains Xiosbank and Bank of Macedonia-Thrace.

At the time time, Ergobank's staff association may review its recommendation if EFG Eurobank improves its offer, especially terms concerning personnel and management, Mr. Papavlassopoulos added.

In an interview to Reuters, EFG managing director Nikos Nanopoulos did not rule out a new offer.

EFG Eurobank, through its parent company Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings, made the first hostile takeover bid in Greece, offering the target bank's retail and institutional shareholders 2.2 of its shares plus 4,000 drachmas in cash for each Ergobank s hare they sell.

EFG Eurobank, which is a member of the Latsis Group, has said it is seeking control of Ergobank, or 50.1 percent of its stock. It would also accept a minimum of 33.4 percent, which would allow it to block decisions at shareholders' meetings.

All the banks involved are listed on the Athens Stock Exchange. Also yesterday, Ergobank's management said in a statement that Bank of Piraeus' offer would benefit shareholders, staff and customers.

The new bank to emerge would be called Ergobank Piraeus. The 18-member board and senior management positions would be split equally between the two banks, the statement said.

Ergobank's shareholders would receive three new shares in Bank of Piraeus, which have yet to be issued, plus 10,000 drachmas in cash, for each share they hold.

In order to proceed, Bank of Piraeus' shareholders would have to endorse the merger deal at a meeting scheduled for August 7.

Further approval would then be needed by shareholders' meetings of Ergobank and Xiosbank, expected in November.

Ergobank is the fifth largest commercial bank in Greece, and Bank of Piraeus the fourth largest.

Stocks jump, hitting new all-time high

Equity prices soared to a new record yesterday with the general index surpassing the 4,300 level.

News of a mega-merger deal in the banking sector between Bank of Piraeus, Xiosbank and Ergobank, creating the third largest credit institution in the country, combined with a record close on Wall Street on Friday, encouraged sentiment on the Athens Stoc k Exchange.

The general index ended 4.76 percent higher at 4,350.13 points, its 31st record close this year. It now stands 58.91 percent higher against January 1.

Turnover was 179.228 billion drachmas with 25,899,422 shares changing hands.

The Banks and Holding sectors outperformed the market ending 5.70 and 6.09 percent higher respectively. Other sector indices ended as follows: Leasing (+5.58 pct), Insurance (+2.53 pct), Investment (+5.75 pct), Construction (+3.35 pct), Industrials (+4. 29 pct) and Miscellaneous (+2.75 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 1.70 percent up, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index jumped 5.18 percent to 2,588.66 points.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 218 to 72 with another seven issues unchanged.

Bank of Piraeus and Ergo Invest were the most heavily traded stocks, while Bank of Piraeus, Ergobank and National Bank of Greece led the day's turnover.

A total of 41 shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up, while another two ended at the day's limit down.

Agricultural Bank offers loans for OTE rights issue

Agricultural Bank of Greece is offering loans to help retail investors buy into a rights issue by Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation.

The bank said in a statement yesterday that the rates on the loans were 16 percent under two schemes for amounts up to 1.5 million drachmas and up to five million drachmas.

WEATHER

Fair weather will prevail in most parts of the country on Tuesday with scattered cloud in mainland Greece in the afternoon.

Winds will be northerly, light to strong. Temperatures in Athens will range between 21-35C, while in Thessaloniki from 20-32C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          314.821
Pound sterling       496.417
Japanese yen (100)   257.295
French franc          49.118
German mark          164.734
Italian lira (100)    16.640
Irish Punt           409.099
Belgian franc          7.987
Finnish mark          54.189
Dutch guilder        146.204
Danish kr.            43.327
Austrian sch.         23.414
Spanish peseta         1.936
Swedish kr.           37.081
Norwegian kr.         39.924
Swiss franc          200.632
Port. Escudo           1.607
Can. dollar          215.066
Aus. dollar          209.818
Cyprus pound         557.603
Euro                 322.192
(L.G.)
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