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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-07-09

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, 09/07/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Inner Cabinet meeting on health, education, employment issues
  • Inflation slows to 2.1 pct in June
  • Response to `Wall Street Journal` editorial on Greek-Turkish issues
  • Athens efforts for release of 2 Australians jailed in Yugoslavia
  • Blue whale spotted off Kavala
  • Gov't steadfast on policy to curb illegal immigration
  • Stocks slump on profit-taking
  • EFG Eurobank blasts Ergobank
  • Industry improves again in 1998
  • Agricultural Bank to enter bourse in 2001
  • Dorian Bank suspended on bourse after merger
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Inner Cabinet meeting on health, education, employment issues

Prime Minister Costas Simitis chaired an inner Cabinet meeting yesterday with an enlarged composition, focusing on issues concerning ministries that are closely related to citizens' daily problems.

Apart from the inner Cabinet's regular participants, the health, labour, education and agriculture ministers were also present.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said efforts will be continued, while the inner Cabinet will convene again with an enlarged composition next Friday to examine issues concerning the development and transport ministries, among others.

In addition, Mr. Simitis is expected to announce specific economic measures concerning tax reliefs and other issues at the annual Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in September.

Inflation slows to 2.1 pct in June

Consumer price inflation slowed to 2.1 percent year-on-year in June, down from 2.4 percent the previous month, the National Statistics Service (NSS) announced yesterday.

NSS secretary general Nikos Karavitis said the trend in coming months would depend on the impact of rising fuel prices in international markets. Price levels in other sectors were satisfactory, particularly fruit and vegetables, Mr. Karavitis said.

Average inflation so far this year is 3.8 percent, higher than a rate of 2.2 percent or 2.3 percent needed towards the end of the year to allow Greece's entry into the euro zone.

Response to `Wall Street Journal` editorial on Greek-Turkish issues

A "Wall Street Journal" editorial on June 30 claiming that "Greece has aided and abetted a killing spree" in Turkey through the movement of now imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan drew a strong rebuff from the press councellor at Greece's Permanent UN Mission.

"The cause of the Kurdish problem has nothing to do with Greece, which has always condemned all forms of terrorism and which has cooperated with all international organizations in combating this menace. Greece recognizes that the Kurdish problem is a serious human-rights issue and wishes its solution through peaceful means," Dimitris Gemelos wrote in a letter to the editor, carried in yesterday's "WSJ" issue.

Mr. Gemelos also defended Athens' attitude towards Ankara's relations with the European Union.

"Greece has consistently declared that it favors its neighbor's European orientation provided it meets the criteria for all candidate-states. So far, Turkey has failed to comply with these fundamental criteria, including respect for international law and international treaties and a good record in human rights. You cannot blame Greece for that," he added.

Athens efforts for release of 2 Australians jailed in Yugoslavia

Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis yesterday said he would intercede with his Yugoslav counterpart for the release of two Australian aid workers convicted on espionage charges in Yugoslavia.

Mr. Kaklamanis spoke after meeting with the Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives Neil Andrew.

Mr. Andrew, who was also received by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos and FM George Papandreou later in the day, thanked Athens for its continuing efforts to have the two freed.

Steve Pratt and Peter Wallace, part of Care Australia's refugee relief programme in Yugoslavia, were convicted of spying after they were detained on Yugoslavia's border with Croatia on March 31.

Australia branded the charges as preposterous.

Pratt, who was shown 'confessing' to intelligence-gathering activities for NATO on Serbian television, was jailed for 12 years after being found guilty by a five-member military court in Belgrade of passing on military secrets.

Wallace was jailed for four years and Yugoslav CARE Australia worker Branko Jelen for six years.

In April, Greece appealed to Yugoslavia to release the two as a humanitarian gesture.

Blue whale spotted off Kavala

A blue whale was reportedly spotted in the gulf of Kavala headed southwest, according to fishermen who said they almost collided with the large sea mammal.

The crew of a local fishing vessel told port authorities in Kavala that they last spotted the whale on Wednesday moving between the Gulf of Strymonicos and Cape Athos, while they claimed the whale measured more than 20 metres in length.

Gov't steadfast on policy to curb illegal immigration

The government 's policy on legalising economic refugees and illegal immigrants who have registered with authorities remains the same, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

Mr. Reppas, speaking after an inner Cabinet meeting, stressed that the only changes to this policy are procedures to incorporate such individuals on an accelerated and more effective basis.

The government has provided economic refugees and illegal immigrants with an opportunity to register for residency and work documents. Those who have not taken up the opportunity stand to be deported.

Police have begun conducting ID checks in various areas where large numbers of illegal immigrants congregate. Those found without legitimate documents are now being deported.

Mr. Reppas told reporters that many economic refugees were contributing to the country's economic progress, although this did not mean that those who had no right to residency could remain.

All economic refugees and illegal immigrants have to be registered and their presence here must be legalised so that they can compete equally with Greek citizens for positions in the job market, he said.

He noted that police were not targetting those who had received residency papers, but those who had refused to register and those who had been prevented from registering by their employers.

The police checks were also concentrating on detecting forgeries of such papers, he added.

Meanwhile, at a news conference yesterday, Public Order Minister Mihalis Chrysohoidis defended police actions during the recent ID checks and sweeps.

He said documents were also being checked for authenticity and denied that the police action was motivated by racism.

"Both foreigners and Greeks have a fair share of the blame in criminal activity," he said. "We are trying to put a stop to people taking the law into their own hands...racism and xenophobia."

Mr. Chrysohoidis also said a draft bill concerning the establishment of a Greek Police headquarters will be tabled in Parliament on Monday.

The establishment of a police headquarters, as well as of regional services with decisive duties, was considered necessary to achieve the necessary administrative and operational independence of Greek Police.

The draft bill creates a coordinating and planning policy council for public order for the first time.

About 1,000 Albanian illegals were deported in June, almost the same number as in the first four months of the year, police officials stated.

The total figure for the first four months of the year is 1,153.

The announcement said more deportations began to be carried out in May - in which 918 Albanians were deported - when police began implementing daily checks to determine whether foreigners held residency papers.

A deadline for registration expired on April 30.

Another 214 Albanian nationals were held as illegal immigrants on Wednesday and were due to be deported. Also to be deported are four nationals from Georgia, eight from Bulgaria, five from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), two from Roma nia, three from Armenia, eight from Iraq, and one each from Morocco and Tunisia.

Stocks slump on profit-taking

Equity prices remained under pressure yesterday for the third consecutive session on the Athens Stock Exchange with the market unable to hold above the historic 4,300-point level.

Traders said banks were hit by heavy profit-taking, reflecting uncertainty over the outcome of a battle for the acquisition of blue chip Ergobank.

The general index ended 0.94 percent lower at 4,245.34 points, off the day's lows.

Turnover was 185.718 billion drachmas with 33,710,610 shares changing hands.

The Insurance, Miscellaneous and Holding sectors outperformed the market, respectively ending 3.57, 0.59 and 3.20 percent higher. Other sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-2.21 pct), Leasing (-2.24 pct), Investments (-3.03 pct), Construction (- 0.29 pct) and Industrials (-0.05 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 0.17 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips fell 1.48 percent to 2,487.01 points.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 153 to 138 with another six issues unchanged.

EFG Eurobank blasts Ergobank

EFG Eurobank, a member of the Latsis Group that is staging the country's first hostile takeover bid, yesterday charged Ergobank, the target company, of misleading shareholders about the terms of a merger offer from rival Bank of Piraeus.

Bank of Piraeus made the merger offer to Ergobank in the wake of EFG Eurobank's attempt to buy control of Ergobank through a direct share swap offer to shareholders, which the target bank's management then opposed.

Ergobank's board supports the merger with Bank of Piraeus, which would also include Macedonia-Thrace Bank and Xiosbank, which are already members of the Bank of Piraeus Group.

All the banks involved are listed on the Athens bourse.

In a statement, EFG Eurobank said that Piraeus' offer was nebulous, and based on non-binding commitments that could be overturned with no warning.

It said that information given to Ergobank's shareholders in the form of a comparison between EFG's takeover bid and Piraeus' merger offer was misleading.

Industry improves again in 1998

Domestic industry maintained its upward momentum in 1998, showing a rise in profitability and higher returns on equity, mainly due to growing productivity and more investment, the ICAP research company said yesterday.

Citing the findings of its survey on a sample of 3,470 firms in 1997-1998, ICAP said in a statement that a 3.4 percent rise in manufacturing output last year, more than triple the previous year's figure, was also due to more favourable macro-economic factors in the economy.

Ranking top in terms of sales was Hellenic Petroleum, which is listed on the Athens bourse. Its turnover was 456.5 billion drachmas in 1998.

The firm also ranked top in profitability, showing earnings of 34.1 billion drachmas.

Agricultural Bank to enter bourse in 2001

Agricultural Bank of Greece will seek listing on the Athens Stock Exchange in the first half of 2001, Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday.

He said a convertible bond would be issued, allowing the acquisition of shares in the bank. Registered farmers would be given first option on the paper.

Agricultural Bank of Greece's profits were forecast at 45 billion drachmas in 2001, Mr. Christodoulakis added.

He also said that Hellenic Industrial Development Bank would seek listing on the Athens bourse this year.

The deputy minister was addressing parliament on the last day of debate on new bourse legislation.

Dorian Bank suspended on bourse after merger

The Athens Stock Exchange yesterday announced the suspension of Dorian Bank's shares from trade.

ASE chairman Spyros Kouniakis said the decision, made at Dorian's request, was taken in order to protect investors' interests.

A new share price is due to be set for the bank based on total equity capital following its merger with Telesis Securities.

Market players are following the case with interest to see how a new law will be implemented on the abolition of existing shareholders' rights in share capital increases linked to mergers or acquisitions.

Dorian Bank's share price would have been cut by roughly half if the stock had been allowed to trade yesterday, leading to a severe decline in the assets of the bank's shareholders.

The stock exchange is expected to allow Dorian Bank to resume trade today at Wednesday's closing price of 12,690 drachmas, with the reduction likely to be made on Monday.

Dorian Bank has reportedly asked the bourse to temporarily scrap the 8.0 percent daily volatility limit on its stock.

The bank is also studying whether it can keep the share price at its existing level by retaining rights for shareholders.

WEATHER

Mostly fair weather will prevail in most parts of the country on Friday with scattered showers in the afternoon in central and northern Greece and in the northern Ionian Sea. Winds will be variable, light to moderate. Fair in Athens where temperatures will range between 23-38C. Possibility of showers in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 22-35C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          316.785
Pound sterling       493.322
Japanese yen (100)   258.466
French franc          49.233
German mark          165.119
Italian lira (100)    16.678
Irish Punt           410.056
Belgian franc          8.006
Finnish mark          54.316
Dutch guilder        146.546
Danish kr.            43.440
Austrian sch.         23.470
Spanish peseta         1.941
Swedish kr.           37.146
Norwegian kr.         39.918
Swiss franc          201.436
Port. Escudo           1.611
Can. dollar          215.105
Aus. dollar          210.701
Cyprus pound         560.282
Euro                 322.946
(L.G.)
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