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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-07-08
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 08/07/1999 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILGovernment sees high fuel prices as threat to inflation
The government is worrried about containing inflation, whose decline is jeopardised by increases in international fuel prices, National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou said yesterday.
He told reporters after a three-hour meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis that it was too early to decide on introducing additional measures to help bring down inflation, which the government was closely monitoring.
Any decisions would be taken in September, Mr. Papantoniou added.
The national statistics service is today due to announce June's inflation rate, which is forecast at 2.1 percent.
The government's target is to reduce inflation below 2.0 percent in July or August, and keep it there until the end of the year, in order to attain the inflation criterion for entry into the euro zone.
The government has yet to finalise the details of tax relief planned for 2000 due to inflationary pressures, which could be eased by lowering indirect taxation, and possibly public utility rates.
The reduction in tax would depend on overall economic progress, Mr Papantoniou said.
He urged the public and business to aid the government's anti-inflation drive.
"I urge Greek businesses to voluntarily freeze their prices in coming months to contribute more effectively to this effort," he said.
The minister noted that the economy had made great progress but still had quite a way to go.
Stocks fall again on profit-taking
Equity prices remained under pressure from profit-taking yesterday to end moderately lower for the second consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange.
Dealers said buying activity shifted towards smaller capitalisation stocks in reaction to a correction in blue chip stocks.
The general index ended 0.67 percent lower at 4,285.84 points.
Turnover was 180.191 billion drachmas with 28,304,728 shares changing hands.
The Industrials, Leasing and Miscellaneous sectors outperformed the market ending 0.22 and 2.63 percent higher.
Other sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-1.26 pct), Insurance (-0.29 pct), Investment (-0.39 pct), Construction (-0.37 pct) and Holding (-3.55 pct).
The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks, however, jumped 4.0 percent.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips fell 1.39 percent to 2,524.44 points.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 171 to 115 with another 11 issues unchanged.
Public investment payments rise in first-half 1999
Payments from the Public Investments Programme totalled 870 billion drachmas in the first half of the year, an increase of 18.7 percent from the same period in 1998, and up 62.8 percent against the first half of 1997, the national economy ministry said in a statement yesterday.
Payments for co-financed projects, accounting for 77.4 percent of this year's public investments programme, totalled 564.7 billion drachmas in the period January-June.
The ministry said that 33.2 percent of co-financed works had been completed, or 39.6 percent of the 1999 programme.
Deputy National Economy Minister Christos Pahtas noted that the growth rates both of payments and completion of projects were faster than in previous years due to timely preparation on the part of the state.
They also reflected the country's economic growth and stronger outlook, he said.
Mr. Pahtas said that the government's target to complete by the end of the year the European Union's Second Community Support Framework programme, which accounts for 80 percent of this year's public investments programme, remained feasible.
Construction of Thessaloniki metro to start in January
Surveys for the Thessaloniki Metro project will begin in the next few days while construction is expected to begin in January next year, Public Works, Town Planning and Environment Minister Costas Laliotis said yesterday.
Preliminary work includes carrying out geotechnical and archaeological surveys, collecting data on public utility networks and final engineering.
The projects are expected to be completed in eight months. Their budget is 6.6 billion drachmas, or 3.0 percent of the metro's total budget.
Mr. Laliotis said the state would cover 80 percent of the project's total budget, while the remaining 20 percent would be met by the private Thessaloniki Metro consortium.
He said that the government had already submitted all necessary documents to the European Investment Bank asking for funding for the project.
Wine fair to be held in Athens
Greece's two-yearly Oinorama wine fair will be held in Athens on February 25-27 next year.
The international trade fair is held under the aegis of the Association of Greek Wine.
Exhibiting their wares are producers from home and abroad.
The organisers are Delos Communications and London International Wine Fair.
Spending on advertising rises 27.22 pct in first-half 1999
Spending on advertising in domestic media rose to 229.6 billion drachmas in January-June, up 27.22 pct against the same period of last year.
Again receiving the lion's share of spending was television at 111 billion drachmas, representing a 48.4 percent share of the market. Next came magazines, newspapers and radio stations.
Spending on advertising in the month of June was 47.5 billion drachmas from 37.1 billion a year earlier, marking a 28 percent rise.
The data was released in a monthly report by Media Services SA., released yesterday.
Karamanlis calls for upgraded EU role in int'l affairs
Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis called for an upgraded role on the part of the European Union in international affairs.
"The EU is not participating in the formulation of the international scene as much as it should, according to its dominant cultural position and its leading role in the world economy," he said on the sidelines of the European Peoples' Party (EPP) conference in Marbella, Spain, attended by conservative and Christian Democrat leaders from throughout Europe.
"It is very important that we give the EU the role it can and must play internationally," he said, adding that this was a crucial challenge for EPP, which constitutes a major political majority in Europe, as measured in the recent Euroelections.
For this to happen, he noted, there should be a greater balance between economic and political power, stressing that progress towards political unification and a common defence and external policy required greater political will.
Katiforis elected Eurosocialist VP
The Europarliament's Socialist group convened yesterday in Brussels to elect a new presidium, following last month's Euroelections.
Spanish Eurodeputy Enrique Baron Crespo was elected president of the group, while PASOK Eurodeputy Georgios Katiforis was elected vice-president.
US Defence Secretary Cohen in Greece next week
US Defense Secretary William Cohen will visit Greece on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of his eight-day tour of Europe, the US Pentagon announced yesterday.
A Pentagon official said issues to be discussed with the Greek government will include both bilateral and multilateral cooperation (involving both Athens and Ankara), future developments in Kosovo and southeast Europe.
Confidence-building measures (CBMs) in the Aegean and dealing with terrorism will also reportedly be on the agenda. The same official stressed that Athens is working very hard to ensure the protection of US nationals serving in Greece, while Greece-Iran ian relations will also be discussed, he added.
Mr. Cohen's itinerary includes visits to Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as meetings with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and FM George Papandreou.
Other stops on the US defense secretary's European tour are Denmark, Norway, Hungary, Albania and Turkey, where discussions will include Kosovo and Greek-Turkish relations.
Thessaloniki the primary entry point for Kosovo military presence
Thessaloniki is by far the most prolific entry point for international forces amassing in and around Kosovo since the beginning of the crisis last February, according to latest figures.
Greek officials said more than 17,000 troops have passed through the city's port and airport, arriving on 293 planes, 91 vessels and nine trains.
During the same time period, some 14,000 military vehicles, 3,067 containers, 214 tanks and 1,710 armoured personnel carriers also disembarked in Thessaloniki.
OA strike cancels more than half of domestic flights yesterday
Olympic Airways and Aviation employees held a 24-hour strike yesterday to demand the safeguarding of their jobs and prevention of flights cuts, amid the pending assumption of the debt-ridden carrier's management by a British Airways' subsidiary.
The situation prevailing at both terminals of Athens airport yesterday morning was unlike previous days, since travellers were mostly aware of the strike. More than half of domestic flights had been either cancelled or had their departure times changed.
However, OA passengers travelling abroad, who had to change flights, faced several hours of delay.
Meanwhile, the general manager of the construction consortium building the new Athens international airport at Spata yesterday said that OA's privatisation is a tested solution that has worked well with other European carriers. Speaking in Beirut during a presentation of an airport project headed by Hochtief, German national Gerhard Shill said the Spata airport will open in March 2001 regardless of whether OA's maintenence and repair facilities are transferred to the new airport or not. However, transport ministry so urces denied that there is an agreement for the granting of an operation permit to the new airport without the prior construction of OA facilities at the site.
Gov't says it will retain management in public utilities
The state will retain the management of public utilities which have been partially privatised - varying between 25 and 49 per cent, Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis told Parliament yesterday.
"Management in public utilities will be chosen by the majority shareholder. And it is clear that in utilities of a strategic character, the 51 per cent majority will be held by the Greek state," he said in response to a claim by Democratic Social Moveme nt (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas that a relevant draft legislative provision signalled the "sell-out of public enterprises to the private sector". Mr. Christodoulakis explained that the measure aimed to strengthen the presence of private enterprise ami d the boards of the utilities.
"It is natural and necessary when the number of private investors increases for their representatives also to increase on the board," he said.
Petrol prices rise in weekly adjustments
Petrol prices will increase by six drachmas per litre as of today, while diesel and heating oil rates will jump by 3.90 drachmas per litre, following hikes in international crude oil prices.
Super gasoline will cost 218.80 drachmas per litre in the Attica and Thessaloniki areas, while unleaded will cost 203.60 drachmas per litre.
Gas station owners believe prices should be set at higher levels, while certain reports state that competition on islands and isolated areas has been lacking, allowing for even higher prices.
Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos will meet representatives of oil companies today and, according to reports, talks will focus on the absorption of part of the increase by companies and distributors.
Gov't unveils figures on green card applicants
The government said yesterday that the majority of illegal immigrants who applied for a green card will receive one, while an estimated 500,000 illegals who didn't apply or who entered Greece illegally since the deadline for submission passed face deportation.
"The responsibility for their being excluded from the prospect of being legalised is entirely their own," Labour and Social Security Minister Miltiades Papaioannou told a news conference yesterday.
Immigrants who have not registered for a green card -the deadline for submissions ended on June 1, 1998 - or have entered the country illegally since Nov. 30 1997, would not be allowed to remain in Greece legally, he said.
According to figures from the Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED), 373, 196 people submitted applications under the government's programme to legalise illegal immigrants. Of those, 225,691 have applied for a green card.
On the basis of those figures, some 180,000-190,000 foreign workers will receive a green card. According to trade union estimates there are an estimated 700,000 illegal workers in the country.
Mr. Papaioannou said 73 committees were at work on processing the applications and were clearing 16,000 applications a month. At this rate, he said, the entire process was expected to be completed in 12 months' time. To date, 40,000 applications have be en examined and 35,000 approved, with the rejection rate currently running at 12 per cent.
"We are trying to step up the pace," he added.
Sixty-five percent of those registering for a green card were Albanian. Bulgarian nationals made up 6 percent, Pakistanis 5 per cent and Indians 4 per cent.
Mr. Papaioannou denied that there had been any change in the government's immigration policy or that the green card programme was being scrapped.
Greek-Egyptian team retrieves ancient stone anchors
A Greek-Egyptian underwater archaeological effort off Alexandria concluded on Tuesday after amassing new evidence about the port city during antiquity.
A press release by the Hellenic Institute of Ancient and Mediaeval Alexandrian Studies (IAM) noted that divers from the scientific team retrieved 25 stone anchors during the 26-day project in the vicinity of the submerged ancient port.
The discovery of another seven stone anchors last year has led archaeologists to believe that further research will even reveal ancient shipwrecks. Pottery shards spewed across the seabed were also photographed and will be studied.
The study and field research is a joint effort by the Greek Institute for the Preservation of Naval Tradition, IAM and the Egyptian Department of Underwater Archaeology.
The president of the Greek institutes, Haris Tzalas, and Egypt's director of underwater archaeology, Ibrahim Atteyiah Darwish, supervised the project.
WEATHERMostly fair weather will prevail in most parts of the country on Wednesday with scattered showers in the afternoon in the northern Ionian Sea, Epirus, Madedonia and possibly in western mainland Greece and Thessaly. Winds will be westerly, light to moderatae, turning strong in the Aegean Sea. Fair in Athens where temperatures will range between 23-38C. Possibility of showers in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 21-35C.
Thursday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 315.228 Pound sterling 491.516 Japanese yen (100) 258.218 French franc 49.201 German mark 165.013 Italian lira (100) 16.668 Irish Punt 409.792 Belgian franc 8.000 Finnish mark 54.280 Dutch guilder 146.452 Danish kr. 43.398 Austrian sch. 23.454 Spanish peseta 1.939 Swedish kr. 37.125 Norwegian kr. 39.902 Swiss franc 201.262 Port. Escudo 1.610 Can. dollar 214.332 Aus. dollar 209.228 Cyprus pound 560.044 Euro 322.737(L.G.)
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