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

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, 07/07/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Gov't defends nationwide ID checks on refugees
  • 'Youth Parliament' concludes sessions
  • EU decision to base reconstruction agency in Thessaloniki binding
  • Cohen to visit Greece, Turkey
  • Awards to expatriate Greek media
  • Mount Athos museums in the works
  • Athens 2004 organising committee head Stratigis resigns
  • Current account shows deficit in January
  • Prosecutor brings charges against brokerage officials
  • Stocks drop on profit-taking
  • Cosmote turns profitable in second year of operation
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Gov't defends nationwide ID checks on refugees

The government yesterday said the massive number of illegal immigrants in Greece who refuse to partake in the legalisation process was the reason behind the current nationwide police campaign to check ID papers of refugees in the country.

The legalisation process was initiated by authorities about two years ago, with successive steps leading first to a temporary residence permit before eligible applicants were to acquire a permanent work permit.

"The course of the procedure for legalising refugees in Greece by granting the relevant documents has led us to certain conclusions. Among others, we have ascertained that there is still a great number (of refugees) in Greece who have not accepted parti cipation in this procedure; while we have offered all possibilities, all opportunities to foreigners living here to acquire legitimate documents, they do not want it, instead they avoid it," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, referring to the surprise police ID checks throughout the country.

Speaking at a daily press briefing, he added that "...the state cannot remain indifferent to this development. Therefore, after the (first) phase of implementing these (legalising) measures, we have decided to proceed with an intensification of controls for those living in Greece."

Dismissing charges that police were conducting a "pogrom" against illegal immigrants, Mr. Reppas said "there are useful citizens who are here on a completely legal basis and they are protected by law and the state's agencies. We want them to remain here to become part of Greek society. However, there is a certain segment of refugees which must be dealt with accordingly when we find out that they are in Greece illegally, moreover, when it is ascertained that they have an indirect or direct link to crime...

"The aim of the operation is to detect those who do not have legitimate residency documents so that they may be returned to their countries of origin," he stressed.

The government spokesman added that crime had been drastically reduced recently, due to more effective policing and the establishment of a border patrol force.

Police yesterday detained about 500 foreign workers as they continued ID checks around Attica for a third day in a row.

Special teams of about 150-200 police officers arrested about 500 suspected illegal immigrants in the Daphne region. Most of those detained were Albanians.

The group was being held in a local indoor gymnasium while authorities processed and checked their identity, travel and residency papers.

The detainees were also being finger-printed, with records being sent to crime labs to determine whether any of them are wanted for criminal activity.

Officials have said that those found to have legitimate residency papers will be released. Those who are found to be in Greece illegally will be deported - if they are wanted for any crimes, they will be held to face charges.

'Youth Parliament' concludes sessions

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and most of the country's political leaders yesterday attended the final session of the fourth annual "Youth Parliament" conference in Athens.

The assembly, an institution begun by Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, was comprised of 350 teenage representatives - from Greece, Cyprus and expatriate communities - divided into six committees. They met since Friday in Parliament.

Paraskevi Triantafyllopoulou, the education affairs rapporteur, said problems in the sector remained despite the recent reform which should have began from primary school. She called for improved infrastructure, teachers' assessment and back-up tuition from the first day of the school year.

Katerian Tahou, speaking on foreign affairs, focused on the problems of border areas and the need for economic and development incentives, security measures, as well as the tapping of European regional programmes.

She also voiced support for peaceful co-existence in the Balkans, opposition to Turkey's one-sided claims against Greece, while calling for Greece's abstention from what she called NATO's "criminal" acts, as well as punishment for those responsible for the capture of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Thaleia Staramou, of the finance committee, referred to EMU, the lack of meritocracy in the public sector, consumerism and the transformation of a large section of the population into stock market investers. She said citizens should be informed and part icipate in the planning of any government programme thats demands sacrifices from them, such as accession to EMU. She also called for closer state supervision of the stock market.

Georgia Papachristou, of the social affairs committee, said there were no individuals with special needs, only people with special abilities.

"We must all fight against our prejudices. The way we treat them is a sign of our culture," she said.

Public admiminstration and justice rapporteur, Chrysostomos Karteros, from Serres, said it was unemployment and economic backwardness which created the wave of emigration to cities. He also referred to the control of the media by financial concerns, as well as the need for alternative terms to imprisonment, which "creates criminals," and called for the establishment of proportional representation systems in elections.

Production and commerce rapporteur Nicholetta Papadogianni, from Corinth, noted the concept of "man" as a value was absent from society, and outlines her dreams for a better world in which nature would not be polluted and people would not get killed in the streets, among others.

EU decision to base reconstruction agency in Thessaloniki binding

The government stressed yesterday it would fight to prevent the European Union from reversing its recent decision to base an agency for Balkan reconstruction in Thessaloniki.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas confirmed that there were "circles in the European Union" trying to move the agency to Pristina.

European Union leaders meeting in Rio de Janeiro last week decided to base the agency in the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki.

"The decision taken by the 15 (EU members) in Rio will not be changed," Mr. Reppas said.

He added that the issue would be brought up for discussion tomorrow at the COREPER council in Brussels, where Athens will respond "in a convincing manner" to those opposed to the choice of Thessaloniki.

In Brussels, Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis held consultations with EU External Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek and other Commission officials on the issue of the agency's location. Mr. Kranidiotis made it clear that Greece is not willing to make any concessions on the issue, and expects the Commission to respond positively to the political decision of the "15" Union leaders.

In expectation of the Commission's response, Athens has not yet agreed on the issuing of a regulation regarding the Stability Pact, also agreed to in Rio.

The issue is expected to be discussed in Brussels tomorrow by the Union's Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). If there is no positive response from the Commission the decision made before the Rio summit - according to which the new organisation would be responsible only for the reconstruction of Kosovo and would be based in Pristina - could be changed by the Council of Ministers.

However, this would be an unusual development, as decisions reached at summits are usually carried out without further discussion.

Cohen to visit Greece, Turkey

US Defense Secretary William Cohen will visit six European countries, including Greece and Turkey, during a week-long tour beginning on Thursday, the US Pentagon announced yesterday.

Mr. Cohen will travel to Denmark, Norway, Hungary, Albania, Greece and Turkey before returning to Washington on July 15.

Awards to expatriate Greek media

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday bestowed the awards for the 1998 winners of the annual "Hellenic Mass Media Abroad" contest.

Radio Centre-Ville, a multilingual radio station in Montreal and "Hellenicos Typos", a newspaper published in New Zealand, shared first prize for "best information medium of 1998", while a documentary on post-graduate training of Greek children in Toronto - shown by the Canadian CFMT-TV channel - was awarded first prize for "best programme of the year".

Mr. Stephanopoulos praised the national sentiment of expatriate Greeks, "those who left in order to prosper, as well as those who left as refugees, persecuted as such by both places".

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the contest aimed at offering "a stimulus to the mass media of Hellenism abroad...which constitute an information bridge, a channel for cultural transfusion...".

Mount Athos museums in the works

Two Mount Athos monasteries will open their own museums by the fall, as the leadership of the monastic community has decided that hundreds of rare books and artifacts - stored for centuries - should now become available to the public.

Following the success of a 1997 Mount Athos exhibition organised in Thessaloniki, most of the monasteries in the all-male community focused on the better preservation and showcasing of their artifacts.

The Vatopedi and Iviron monsteries will be the first to obtain such facilities.

Athens 2004 organising committee head Stratigis resigns

The president of the Athens 2004 organising committee has tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Costas Simitis, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas announced yesterday.

Mr. Stratigis cited personal reasons as the motivation behind his resignation, Mr. Reppas added.

According to sources, however, the cause of Stratis Stratigis' resignation was his insistence on attending the wedding of ex-king Constantine's daughter in London this month. The one-time monarch is reportedly a close friend of Mr. Stratigis.

However, other reports claim Mr. Stratigis' resignation stems from the government's dissatisfaction, as well as the PM personally, over work produced by the organising committee, including strained relations Mr. Stratigis reportedly had with several of Mr. Simitis' close associates.

Moreover, Mr. Stratigis' relations -- who was a personal choice of Mr. Simitis, just as in the case of managing director Costas Bakouris -- with the other members of the "Athens 2004" board had reached their worst point recently, according to other reports, resulting in many board members threatening resignation.

Members of the International Olympic Committee had expressed their full support for Mr. Stratigis and Mr. Bakouris during their recent visit, including Juan Antonio Samaranch himself, and maintained that a change in the organising committee's leadership is not customary from cities undertaking to host Olympic Games.

Current account shows deficit in January

The current account showed a deficit of 301 million euros in January against a surplus of 188 million euros in the same month of 1998, the central bank said yesterday.

At the end of June, foreign currency reserves totalled 20.2 billion euros, or 21.8 billion US dollars.

The trade deficit narrowed by 140 million euros.

Net foreign borrowing by the central government in January-April stood at 1.7 billion euros, down from 6.1 billion euros in the same period of 1998.

Prosecutor brings charges against brokerage officials

Thessaloniki public prosecutor Evangelos Zaharias yesterday brought charges of forgery, fraud and embezzlement against officials of Alki Securities.

Already being held in custody is Leonidas Tezapsidis, the former head of the brokerage's Thessaloniki office, the centre of a suspected illegal trading ring that authorities believed handled more than 15 billion drachmas in illicit deals.

The Thessaloniki Court of First Instance has frozen the brokerage's assets following suits brought by retail investors who claim they were defrauded.

Members of the government's financial crimes squad are still auditing Alki's books.

Stocks drop on profit-taking

Equity prices ended yesterday's session lower, reversing an eight-day rally that had pushed the market 11.60 percent higher to a new record close in the previous session.

The general index ended 0.81 percent lower at 4,314.70 points after surging to an intra-day high of 4,421.58 points early in the session.

Traders said a new record fall in the euro against the dollar, which undermined European bond markets including Greece's, led many investors to take early profits.

Turnover was 187.764 billion drachmas with 27,620,532 shares changing hands.

Leasing and Miscellaneous outperformed the market ending 6.02 and 0.77 percent higher, respectively.

Other sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-1.06 pct), Insurance (-1.11 pct), Investment (-0.07 pct), Construction (-0.24 pct), Industrials (-0.97 pct) and Holding (-0.22 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 0.86 percent off while the FTSE/ASE 20 index fell 1.11 percent to 2,560.01 points.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 151 to 134 with another 14 issues unchanged.

Cosmote turns profitable in second year of operation

Cosmote, Greece's newest mobile phone operator, said yesterday that revenue totalled 40.5 billion drachmas and pre-tax profits 3.1 billion drachmas in the first half of 1999.

Nikos Manassis, Cosmote's chief executive officer, said the company, a subsidiary of Greece's state-run OTE telecoms, had made global mobile phone history by becoming profitable in the second year of commercial operation.

Cosmote's subscribers totalled 610,613 at the end of June, of whom 450,378 were contract based while the remaining 160,235 used pre-paid services.

Mr. Manassis said the company was focusing on contract-based subscribers because average monthly revenue from this category of customers totalled 17, 000 drachmas.

Cosmote's roaming services extended to 49 countries and included 79 mobile telephone networks.

Investments are expected to total 116 billion drachmas this year, rising to 230 billion drachmas over a five-year period.

Mr. Manassis said Cosmote would be ready to be floated on the Athens Stock Exchange in 2000, but that the final decision lay with the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, its parent company.

WEATHER

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

Winds will be northerly, light to strong. Fair in Athens where temperatures will range between 22-36C. Partly cloudy in the afrenoon in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 20-34C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          316.220
Pound sterling       496.258
Japanese yen (100)   258.803
French franc          49.224
German mark          165.089
Italian lira (100)    16.676
Irish Punt           409.981
Belgian franc          8.004
Finnish mark          54.305
Dutch guilder        146.519
Danish kr.            43.430
Austrian sch.         23.465
Spanish peseta         1.940
Swedish kr.           37.119
Norwegian kr.         40.037
Swiss franc          201.242
Port. Escudo           1.611
Can. dollar          215.919
Aus. dollar          212.189
Cyprus pound         559.607
Euro                 322.886
(L.G.)
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