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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-07-22

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, 22/07/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece, Bulgaria agree on accelerated Balkan Stability Pact
  • Athens condemns Turkish provocation as minister's plane buzzed
  • Tsohatzopoulos calls for EU security guarantees in the Balkans
  • Samaranch in Athens
  • US-based efforts to promote Greek language, culture presented
  • Industry boss sees new anti-inflation measures
  • Price of gasoline up this week
  • Athens bourse decides today on bank takeover terms
  • Tourism seen rising 10 pct, despite Kosovo crisis
  • Stocks end slightly down after slump
  • State telecom offers ATM services
  • Intersat gets licence for new services
  • Giant mushroom found in N. Greece
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece, Bulgaria agree on accelerated Balkan Stability Pact

Athens and Sofia yesterday agreed that the works provided in the Stability Pact for the Balkans should proceed at a rapid pace.

"The pact should not aim at tackling isolated problems but rather those of the Balkans as a whole," PM Costas Simitis said after talks with his Bulgarian counterpart Ivan Kostov who began an official two-day visit to Athens yesterday.

"Greece has stated that the EU does not have an overall policy for the region and it must formulate one," Mr. Simitis added.

Both leaders stressed that the criterion for tackling problems in the region should be the rules of international law, the international treaties in force and that the United Nations should play a more active role.

"We are opposed to any change of borders in the Balkans or in Europe in general," both Mr. Simitis and Mr. Kostov said.

Both premiers noted the good climate in relations between the two Balkan neighbours.

In addition to bilateral relations, the talks also focused on the upgrading of Bulgaria's ties with the European Union.

Mr. Simitis said that Greece would express its support for the immediate commencement of negotiations for Bulgaria's accession to the EU at the summit meeting in December.

He added that preliminary negotiations concerning Bulgaria's accession had been completed with success and accession negotiations proper should now begin.

Mr. Simitis said Greece would also support Bulgaria's bid to join NATO at the Alliance's next summit.

In addition, the premier said, Greece will support Bulgaria's application within the EU to be removed from the so-called 'black list' of countries with respect to the Schengen Pact.

"The restrictions on the movement of persons must be lifted because we desire greater facility of contact between our peoples. This is why we decided to create a free movement zone on either side of the Greek- Bulgarian border," Mr. Simitis said.

On bilateral relations, the Bulgarian prime minister said Greece was Bulgaria's most important economic partner in SE Europe and this was evidenced by the volume of commercial transactions and the Greek presence in Bulgaria's privatisation process.

"Greece is also an important political partner for Bulgaria, owing to its membership of the EU," Mr. Kostov added.

During yesterday's talks, Mr. Simitis and Mr. Kostov agreed to submit joint proposals within the framework of the Stability Pact for the Balkans and to support the construction of Highway IV, which will connect SE Europe with the rest of the continent.

In this latter respect, Mr. Simitis said Greece would support the construction of a second bridge over the Danube as far west as possible, which Bulgaria wants.

Turning to the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, Mr. Kostov said Bulgaria supported the project and was ready to meet the Greek and Russian sides at the end of July to form the joint venture which will undertake construction.

"We accept and agree fully that the pipeline should be built. But we believe that the project should be performed by private enterprises and be viable. From this point of view, there should be guarantees for the conveyance of a volume of oil which will make the project viable," Mr. Kostov said.

Athens condemns Turkish provocation as minister's plane buzzed

Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday condemned the harassment of Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis' plane and the violation of Athens' Flight Information Region (FIR) by Turkish warplanes.

He noted, however, that it will not affect efforts for de-escalation of tension between the two neighbouring countries.

In a written statement, Mr. Papandreou said "I was informed that two aircraft of the Turkish airforce harassed, today (Wednesday) within Athens' FIR, the civilian aircraft trasporting Minister of Transport Tassos Mantelis from Cyprus to Athens.

"I would like to condemn this action, which does not aid the de-escalation of tension in the relations between the two countries, at a time when the Turkish government has officially expressed its will for an improvement of the climate in our bilateral relations. I wonder which of these messages sent by Turkey are the most precise," he said, adding:

"This event will not influence the effort we have undertaken toward de- escalating tension and improving our relations with Turkey...I ordered our ambassador to Ankara to protest strongly to the Turkish foreign ministry," Mr. Papandreou said.

Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos stressed that Turkey is attempting to "hide its internationally recognised weaknesses with a policy of 'pseudo- bravado', through which it is elevated into an international troublemaker and a factor that dynamites the rules of safe air travel in the Aegean region."

According to press reports, Mr. Papandreou, who will be in Sarajevo next week along with Prime Minister Costas Simitis to attend the summit of the southeastern European Stability Pact countries, will meet with his Turkish counterpart Ismail Cem and tell him that such actions do not aid the effort for the improvement of the climate in bilateral relations.

Earlier, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas called the infringement of the Athens FIR a political act, carrying a negative message for efforts to improve Greek-Turkish relations.

"This behaviour is not only military provocation, but a classic political act with a negative message for the attempted normalisation of relations between the two countries," Mr. Reppas said.

Earlier in the day, defence ministry sources confirmed that two Turkish F- 16s had infringed on the Athens FIR and harassed the aircraft carrying Mr. Mantelis from Larnaca to Athens.

They said the incident took place at 12:50 p.m. at an altitude of 28,000 feet south-east of Rhodes in air corridor RED-19, which connects Larnaca with the Dodecanese island.

According to the sources, two Hellenic Air Force Mirage-2000 jets took off from Crete to intercept the Turkish aircraft which had exited the area by the time the Greek warplanes arrived.

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos called the harassment of Mr. Mantelis' flight unacceptable.

He also said that this action "confirms once again the provocative and offencive practice", followed by Turkey in its relations with Greece.

He added that Turkey wants to maintain the tension and thus the government should take it under consideration during the Greek-Turkish dialogue set to begin on Monday.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) called the incident part of an on-going scheme to divide the Aegean, which the party said is being promoted by Washington.

"The Turkish 'friends' of the Simitis government today went as far as to harass the civil aircraft carrying the Greek transport minister, showing once again how they perceive the concept of the dialogue which the Greek government initiated on the demand of the United States," Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas said.

Tsohatzopoulos calls for EU security guarantees in the Balkans

European Union guarantees for the security of Balkan nations are a condition for the reconstruction of both Kosovo and all the other countries in the region, Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said after talks in Bregenz yesterday with his Austrian counterpart Werner Fasslabend.

He added that Yugoslavia could not be separated from the entire reconstruction effort, and that humanitarian aid had an immediate priority in implementation.

"Greece and Austria have a common interest in the European Union promoting a stable policy which will support reconstruction in the Balkans and the Stability Pact, but also a security policy.

The two men also discussed the terms of peace and security in the broader region of SE Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said the recent change of government in Israel posed new realistic prospects for peace, and stressed the need for support to the old peace plan for the Middle East, proposed by the late Swedish prime minister Palme, saying that this was the purpose of his recent trips to Saudi Arabia and Iran. More visits would follow to Israel, Palestine and north African countries.

"The achievement of peace in the Middle East will positively affect other crisis points in the region, such as Cyprus or Greek-Turkish relations, but also developments in the region of the Caucasus," he added.

Referring to his attendance in common with Mr. Fasslabend on Tuesday night of an opera based on Nikos Kazantzakis' work "Christ Recrucified" at the Bregenz Festival, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said, "when defence ministers show interest and support cultural events the cause of peace is on a good path".

During a joint press conference yesterday, the Greek minister described the Balkans as "a political barometer", stressing that the European Union should exhibit strong political will that will create the conditions for a new zone of stability in Kosovo and the Balkans.

Mr. Fasslabend, on his part, welcomed the EU decision for the basing in Thessaloniki of a supervisory agency for Balkan reconstruction.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, Foreign Minister George Papandreou, and Deputy FM Yiannos Kranidiotis are scheduled to take part in the two-day Balkan summit conference of the European Socialist Party (ESP) beginning today in the Austrian capital.

The summit, to be chaired by ESP president Rudolf Scharping will discuss security, economic and social development, democracy and human rights in the Balkans.

Samaranch in Athens

International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch arrived in Athens yesterday to open an IOC Academy working session.

"I am not worried. Everything will go well," Mr. Samaranch said in reference to the resignation of the president of the 2004 organising committee, Stratis Stratigis, this month. He added that "we expect the Greek government will soon appoint a new presi dent".

Prime Minister Costas Simitis is expected to announce the name of the new 2004 president tomorrow.

US-based efforts to promote Greek language, culture presented

A budding effort to reinvigorate the study and learning of the Greek language and Hellenic culture in the United States, especially in America's hundreds of higher education institutions, was presented in Athens yesterday evening by the American Foundation of Greek Language & Culture.

Distinguished Greek-American and AFGLC president Chris Tsokos told an audience at the recently renovated Hellenic American Union that Greek- related studies, from classical to the modern-day, are often being downgraded at various US universities - with academic giants such as Harvard affected as well.

"It's important to educate Greek-Americans, but it's even more important to educate Americans on the contributions of Greece," Mr. Tsokos said, adding that the media across the Altantic and many young politicians in the United States are much less versed in what Greece has meant to western civilisation throughout the centuries.

AFGLC was established by a group of philhellenes in order to showcase and promote the "historic and cultural role of Hellenic tradition and language". Its mission, as its organisers put it, is to assist in the preservation of the Greek language and culture in the United States through high-quality academic instruction in that country's universities and colleges.

The foundation is headquartered in Florida as a non-profit organisation in the state, while AFGLC officials stressed that the organisation's goal is to establish a centre of Hellenic Studies (CHS) in the Florida university system. Five university chairs -modern Greek, Greek history, Greek culture, Greek Orthodoxy and political philosophy - are the first target by March 2000. The last university chair has already been established at the University of South Florida.

HAU president and long-time New Hampshire Democratic Party leader and ex- state senator Chris Spyrou introduced Mr. Tsokos, while Political Spring (Pol.An) leader Antonis Samaras also made a brief address.

Industry boss sees new anti-inflation measures

The government is likely to need new measures to combat inflation in order to meet its goal of taking the country into the euro zone on January 1, 2001, president Jason Stratos of the Federation of Greek Industry (SEB) said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Stratos said the government should examine the entire price spectrum when considering new measures, and not restrict itself to oil. A proposal by SEB to the development ministry that a consumer tax on fuel should be reduced for industry was well received, but the final decision lay with the finance ministry, he added.

Mr. Stratos also released the findings of a SEB survey that showed investments in industry rising sharply in 1998 on the basis of data from a sample of 3,485 companies.

Fixed assets rose by 20.5 percent against 1997, employment in profitable firms rose by 1.4 percent, and sales by profitable companies rose by 12.6 percent, the survey showed.

Price of gasoline up this week

Indicative prices for gasoline have risen for the coming week effective at midnight yesterday.

Under the government's weekly review, diesel fuel and heating oil remained unchanged, the development ministry and Hellenic Petroleum said in a joint statement yesterday.

The retail price hikes for gasoline are 1.6 drachmas per litre for super and unleaded.

Athens bourse decides today on bank takeover terms

The Athens Stock Exchange is today likely to set the percentage for the acquisition of Ergobank by its two suitors, a bourse board member told the Athens News Agency.

The board member rejected media reports that the stock exchange had already decided that EFG Eurobank needed 33.4 percent to gain control, and Bank of Piraeus 50.1 percent.

The bourse was likely to keep to a 1992 precedent and set 50.1 percent as a blanket percentage for acquisition, he added.

Also yesterday, Bank of Piraeus Group chairman Mihalis Sallas requested that the takeover figure should be the same for both bidders, a view endorsed by Ergobank, the target of the acquisition.

According to the timescale, the two bidders have until July 29 to make new offers; until July 30 to withdraw existing offers; and until August 4 to announce how many shares in Ergobank they have collected.

Tourism seen rising 10 pct, despite Kosovo crisis

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday that tourism would rise around 10 percent despite the Yugoslav war.

He was speaking after a meeting of the National Tourism Council called to debate the repercussions of the war on the sector.

The impact was seen to be minimal. The number of US tourists had declined, but their numbers in normal circumstances were relatively few, Mr. Venizelos said.

In addition, specific areas including Athens and Pieria had seen a decline but prompt measures taken by the government had paid off, minimising the negative impact, he added.

Stocks end slightly down after slump

Equities rallied yesterday after diving early in the session on profit- taking in banks and industrials.

The general index ended 0.28 percent lower at 4,471.22 points from 4,483.90 points a day earlier.

Turnover was 164.127 billion drachmas with 25,961,747 shares changing hands.

The market recouped most losses posted in early trade after players started buying into blue chip bank bargains.

Also attracting investors were small and medium capitalisation stocks.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-0.50 pct), Leasing (+0.59 pct), Insurance (+1.70 pct), Investment (-3.63 pct), Construction (-0.67 pct), Industrials (-0.49 pct), Miscellaneous (+1.99 pct) and Holding (+5.06 pct).

The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 1.78 percent higher.

The FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips dropped 0.31 percent to 2,626.82 points.

Of 298 shares traded, advances outpaced declines at 149 to 138 with 11 issues unchanged.

State telecom offers ATM services

Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, which is listed on the Athens bourse, has begun offering Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) international data link services and Internet Protocol.

The services are for major customers, including multinationals and Internet providers.

Intersat gets licence for new services

Intersat SA said yesterday that it had received a licence from the state's National Telecoms Commission to provide a package of services including Internet access and services and data transfer.

The listed company aims eventually to move into land-based telephone services when state-owned Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, which is also listed on the Athens bourse, loses its monopoly in 2001 under European Union law.

Giant mushroom found in N. Greece

Four climbers came across an unusual sight 1,800 metres high on Mt. Vermio in northern Greece yesterday - a giant mushroom looking like something out of a Disney movie.

The mushroom was 60 cm. tall with a diameter of 60 cm. and, as they found out later, weighed over 5 kilos.

The Greek names for the species, 'fouska' or 'arkouda' (bubble or bear respectively) fully justify the mushroom's gargantuan size.

The four friends took the mushroom to the nearest village and after showing it off to locals, had it chopped up and fried in a taverna and offered pieces to those present.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast across the country on Thursday. Winds will be northerlies mild to moderate in the west, moderate to strong in the east. Temperatures will range from 19-36C in the north 22-33 in the mainland and Ionian and 24-31 in the Aegean. Athens will be fair, winds northerly moderate, 23-36C. Thessaloniki will have fair weather, northerly winds mild to moderate and temperatures of 21-33C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          308.492
Pound sterling       484.929
Japanese yen (100)   258.972
French franc          49.135
German mark          164.790
Italian lira (100)    16.646
Irish Punt           409.238
Belgian franc          7.990
Finnish mark          54.207
Dutch guilder        146.074
Danish kr.            43.323
Austrian sch.         23.422
Spanish peseta         1.937
Swedish kr.           36.773
Norwegian kr.         38.986
Swiss franc          200.726
Port. Escudo           1.608
Can. dollar          206.336
Aus. dollar          198.871
Cyprus pound         558.595
Euro                 322.310
(L.G.)
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