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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-07-20

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, 20/07/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • EU agrees on Thessaloniki for Balkan reconstruction agency
  • Turkey condemned for occupation of Cyprus on invasion anniversary
  • First of 68 modernised F-4Es handed over
  • Bulgaria's Kostov in Athens tomorrow
  • Simitis to visit Greek contingent in Kosovo
  • Revisions on green card issuance
  • Photo exhibition on Parthenon Marbles opens at British Parliament
  • Central bank to slap new curbs on credit extention by banks
  • Stocks hit new high, led by Wall Street
  • Greek advertising market dominated by foreign firms
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

EU agrees on Thessaloniki for Balkan reconstruction agency

The European Union's reconstruction agency for the Balkans will be based in Thessaloniki, according to a decision taken yesterday by the Council of EU Foreign Ministers.

The decision - reached after Athens had blocked approval of the regulation for Balkan reconstruction in the face of strong opposition by the European Commission to Thessaloniki - provides that the northern port city will serve both as the location of the administrative headquarters as well as a decision-making centre (hosting the board of the organisation, which will comprise the representatives of the "15" EU member-states and the Commission), while an operations centre will open in Pristina as well. The coordinator of the Stability Pact for the Balkans, Bondo Hombach, will be shuttling between Brussels and Thessaloniki, which he is scheduled to visit on Aug. 27.

According to reports, the agency will employ a staff of around 40 in the city, while the total number of personnel is expected to number between 200 to 250 persons.

Greece's foreign minister George Papandreou said that with the development signals the implementation of the decision reached by EU leaders at the summit meeting at Rio de Janeiro, the prospects for cooperation among Balkan countries, including Turkey, are furthered, and that Greece's role in the region acquires a new potential.

He stressed that the reconstruction effort must not be restricted to Kosovo, but spread to the whole of the Balkans, according to the original plan.

Arguing the case for Thessaloniki, Mr. Papandreou said Greece was the only Balkan country which was a member of the European Union, cited the future possibility that other operational centres could be set up in Serbia and other neighbouring countries - which could not be served from Pristina, and referred to the "technical" advantages, such the reduced cost and infrastructure facilities offered by the Greek city - telecommunications, transports, banks etc.

It is estimated the organisation will commence operation in early November, after the European Parliament debates the matter in September.

The ministers' council also agreed, through the adoption of a joint Greek- Dutch proposal, to examine the gradual lifting of the embargo on Yugoslavia.

Turkey condemned for occupation of Cyprus on invasion anniversary

The prolongation of the Cyprus drama is also considered an indication of the civilised world's decline, President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos said yesterday in a message on the 25th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

Mr. Stephanopoulos expressed hope that Turkey will show the necessary political will to allow for a final solution to the the island republic's protracted problem.

Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974 and occupied 37 per cent of the island, which it holds to this day in violation of repeated UN resolutions.

"Twenty-five years after the Turkish invasion, Cyprus is continuing to live its great ordeal. If July 20th remains a day of grief and national disaster for Hellenism everywhere, it is a day of disgrace for Turkey. Just as the prolongation of the drama of Cyprus is an indication of the civilised world's decline. Turkey is continuing to treat UN resolutions with contempt and violate the rules of international law, as well as of ethics. However, it did not succeed, nor will it succeed in dampening the mora le of Cypriot Hellenism. And precisely this morale, which is supported by the solidarity of Hellenism in its entirety, constitutes the safest guarantee for the vindication of the holy struggle of our Cypriot brothers," he said.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis, in his message, stressed that Greece remains the guarantor of the security and survival of Hellenism in Cyprus.

"It reminds us in a tragic way that the wound is still open, that the island is still divided in two. That Turkey illegally invaded and continues to occupy part of the independent and sovereign Republic of Cyprus illegally," he said.

Mr. Simitis referred to the drama of the refugees and of the missing persons, the plundering of the island's cultural heritage and the Turks' effort to change the demographic composition of the island's population with the wholesale import of Turkish settlers, while in parallel, a third of the Cypriot population continue to be refugees in their own country.

"The efforts of all these years to have the problem of Cyprus resolved, primarily in the framework of the UN, did not meet with success. The ongoing Turkish intransigence and provocativeness, on the one hand, and the absence of the necessary strength and necessary will, on the other, did not allow for a final end to be given to the drama of Cyprus. They did not allow for a clear and resounding reply to Turkish illegality," he added.

Mr. Simitis said the Cyprus problem is an international problem of invasion and occupation, adding that "the prolongation of this situation offends the international community. It offends Hellenism and offends every sense of a modern civilised society."

He said that Greece remained the guarantor of the security and survival of Heellenism in Cyprus, adding that the will for a steadfast promotion of the implementation of the joint defence doctrine and the accession of Cyprus to the European Union was unshakeable.

Mr. Simitis said Greece and Cyprus were struggling for a just and viable solution based on UN resolutions, a solution which would secure a unified state in the form of a bicommunal and bizonal federation with one sole sovereignty, international personality and citizenship.

In his message, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said memories are returning with feelings of grief, anger and indignation.

"It is high time that all those major powers playing a leading role in shaping the new world order, and the US in particular, to address the major problem of Cyprus with determination and provide a solution immediately. That solution which emanates from the decisions of the UN Security Council which they themselves primarily took if they desire their proclamations for human rights and international legal order to regain elementary credibility, " Mr. Kaklamanis added.

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis said in his message that "the fact that Cyprus has remained for a quarter of a century in the state which 'Attila' (the code-name given by the Turks to the invasion of Cyprus) pinned it down constitutes a slur on the international community."

"Nicosia is the last and sole divided capital in Europe at the moment. And this is a disgrace for the international community. More so because Turkey is rejecting the initiative by the G8 and the relevant UN resolutions in a contemptuous way, claiming that the issue of Cyprus has been resolved through the invasion and the pseudo-state," Mr. Karamanlis added.

A statement by the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) said that "the unimpeded progress in the accession of Cyprus to the European Union constitutes a strategic priority for Athens and Nicosia and can prove to be a decisive factor for an exit to the present morass."

Synaspismos said what is necessary now is the defining of a unified national strategy to enable the strengthening of international mobility, the curbing of Turkish intransigence, an end to the consolidation of fair accomplis and the finding of a just and viable solution based on UN resolutions and summit agreements.

First of 68 modernised F-4Es handed over

The first of 68 Hellenic Air Force F-4E fighter jets being modernised by the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) was handed over at a special ceremony at Tanagra Air Base yesterday.

EAB was awarded the tender to improve the fuselage of the F-4Es during an international competition. The programme, worth five billion drachmas, is scheduled to be completed by the summer 2004.

Germany's DASA has undertaken the upgrading of the jets' electronic systems.

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos, who attended the ceremony at EAB's installations at Tanagra, announced that the Hellenic Air Force's fleet of C-130 transport planes would also be modernised. Finance Undersecretary George Drys said that EAB would by the end of 2000 be a profitable company with a primary surplus. During the ceremony, it was announced that EAB would undertake the modernisation and expansion of the Hellenic Army's Tactical Communications System ERMIS II.

The cost of the programme is 80 billion drachmas.

Bulgaria's Kostov in Athens tomorrow

Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov will pay an official visit to Greece tomorrow, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas announced.

Mr. Kostov is scheduled to meet with PM Costas Simitis, while the two men will hold a joint press conference at the conclusion of their midday talks.

Simitis to visit Greek contingent in Kosovo

Prime Minister Costas Simitis will visit Kosovo later this month to visit with Greek troops participating in the Kosovo peacekeeping force, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

Mr. Simitis is due to visit the town of Urosevac on July 27, where the Greek troops are stationed.

Three days later, he will attend a summit meeting to be held in Sarajevo on a Stability Pact for the region, Mr. Reppas said.

Revisions on green card issuance

The government yesterday announced that it will expedite procedures for the issuance of green cards to foreigners who meet all the legal requirements for residency in Greece.

The labour ministry will table a revision to double the number of relative Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) boards in charge of green cards, while further measures hope to prevent falsification of the cards.

A total of 73 card-issuing boards are currently in operation, requiring 12 months for the completion of the procedure, while 225,691 requests for green cards have been submitted, out of which 40,000 had been reviewed by June 30.

Photo exhibition on Parthenon Marbles opens at British Parliament

Greek singer Nana Mouskouri yesterday opened a touring photographic exhibition on the Parthenon Marbles at the British Parliament.

The one-time Euro-MP said the exhibition aimed to inform the British political world on Athens' request for a return of the marbles to Greece, which are now housed in the British Museum.

"When Parliament, which will ultimately decide on our request, is informed of how these marbles left Greece, I am sure it will adopt a positive stand on it," she stated. Labour MP Eddie O'Hara, who participated in organising the exhibition, said it would provide an opportunity to his colleagues and public opinion to understand the "just Greek demand".

"Already, 111 MPs have signed the petition I submitted to Parliament for the return of the marbles, if not with the new millennium, then with the Olympic Games of 2004," he said.

"I am sure that many deputies who are not acquainted with the issue, seeing the exhibition, they will be convinced of the Greek arguments, and I expect that the number of 111 will increase significantly," he added.

The event was attended by MPs from all parties, Greek and Cypriot diplomatic officials, writers and scholars, including historian William St. Clair, who revealed the damage caused to the marbles by maintenance works at the British Museum prior World War II.

Central bank to slap new curbs on credit extention by banks

The Bank of Greece will shortly introduce a new round of penalties on banks that exceed credit expansion targets set for the overall economy, deputy governor Nikolaos Garganas said yesterday.

Speaking to Flash radio station after the release of credit expansion data that showed sharp growth, Mr. Garganas said the central bank was displeased with the breach by commercial banks of curbs imposed two months ago; and new penalties were in the pipeline.

The steep rise in credit growth - especially consumer loans - led customers into debt and created losses for banks due to non-repayment, the deputy governor said. According to the central bank's data for May, overall credit expansion grew by 10.3 perc ent against the same month of 1998. In April, credit expansion was running at 9.5 percent.

The Bank of Greece's target for 1999 is a rate of expansion of seven percent to nine percent, a figure tied into a planned decline in consumer price inflation.

On May 30, consumer loans totalled 1.127 trillion drachmas, up 47.4 percent year on year from May last year. The increase was 47.9 percent in April year on year.

Housing loans rose 21.7 percent year on year to 1,685 trillion drachmas, against an increase of 20.4 percent in April.

Also marking a steep rise were loans in foreign currency, which increased by 37.9 percent in May year on year against a rise of 37.4 percent in April.

Banks are seeking to attract consumers in a fiercely competitive loans market, fuelling credit expansion.

To try to curb the phenomenon, the central bank three months ago ordered commercial banks to contain their credit growth to 12.5 percent in 1999.

Banks that fail to comply have to deposit an amount equivalent to the excess at the central bank, interest-free.

The measure came into force in April, and so far has not been successful, jeopardising the country's inflation targets.

Stocks hit new high, led by Wall Street

Equities yesterday surged to post a new record, their 33rd this year, breaking through the 4,500-point barrier for the first time ever.

Sentiment was spurred by a new high on Wall Street at the end of last week and a healthy outlook for the domestic economy as it opens further to foreign investment.

The general index ended 2.68 percent higher at 4,528.38 points from 4, 410.33 points in the previous session. It has gained 65.42 percent since the start of the year.

Turnover was 175.153 billion drachmas from 179.690 billion drachmas, with 24,692,424 shares changing hands.

The way is clear for the market to hit 5,000 points with the next key resistance level at 4,650 points, technical analysts said.

A correction between the two levels is expected, the analysts added.

The key banking sector also recorded a new high, rising above 10,000 points. The increase led to a breakdown in the bourse's display panel, which is programmed to recognise numerical data up to 9,999 points.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (+2.62 pct), Leasing (-0.54 pct), Insurance (+0.92 pct), Investment (+3.85 pct), Construction (+1.81 pct), Industrials (+4.01 pct), Miscellaneous (+0.56 pct) and Holding (+4.83 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 1.83 percent higher.

The FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips rose 2.31 percent to 2,678.89.

Of 299 shares traded, advances outpaced declines at 215 to 73 with 11 issues unchanged.

Greek advertising market dominated by foreign firms

A survey of the domestic advertising market over the last 10 years shows that only five of the country's 20 biggest advertising companies are Greek, the Institute for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said yesterday.

In a sector report, IOBE said the domination of firms from abroad followed consolidation in the domestic market through mergers and acquisitions.

Sales posted by the largest companies in the sector grew by 3.9 percent in 1994-1997, but profits fell by 12.3 percent in the same period, the report said.

Domestic advertising firms had shown a preference for integration into foreign groups in order to gain better access to customers abroad and the chance to improve their technology, it said.

WEATHER

Sunny wheather is forecast across the country on Tuesday with a possibility of cloud and showers in the north later in the day. Winds will be northwesterlies, mild to moderate, moderate to strong in the east and very strong in the Aegean. Temperatures will range from 19-32C in the north 21- 34 in the mainland and Ionian and 22-30 in the Aegean. Athens will be fine with occasional cloud, winds northerly moderate to strong, 22-34C. Thessaloniki will have scattered cloud, northerly winds mild to moderate and temperatures of 21-31C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          317.172
Pound sterling       493.976
Japanese yen (100)   264.110
French franc          49.058
German mark          164.536
Italian lira (100)    16.620
Irish Punt           408.608
Belgian franc          7.977
Finnish mark          54.124
Dutch guilder        146.028
Danish kr.            43.269
Austrian sch.         23.386
Spanish peseta         1.934
Swedish kr.           36.879
Norwegian kr.         39.666
Swiss franc          200.315
Port. Escudo           1.605
Can. dollar          213.399
Aus. dollar          208.310
Cyprus pound         557.504
Euro                 321.805
(L.G.)
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