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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-09-05

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, 05/09/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Premier urges parties to re-elect Stephanopoulos
  • Prime Minister urges stability ahead of euro entry
  • New Democracy sees deficits rising
  • PM Simitis optimistic on future of Balkans
  • Greek soldier injured in Kosovo
  • FM welcomes rescue workers back
  • Greece keen to see Turkey as EU candidate
  • PM hails 25th PASOK anniversary
  • Stock Market
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Premier urges parties to re-elect Stephanopoulos

Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Sunday urged the country's political parties to re-elect President Kostis Stephanopoulos in order to avoid early elections in March, a move that could jeopardise the economy and entry into the euro zone in 2001.

Simitis told a news conference in this northern port city that Stephanopoulos had been a success in his post. He had respected constitutional procedures and was welcomed by the majority of the public.

The ruling PASOK party had proposed that Stephanopoulos should be re- elected by parliament in line with public opinion, and saw no reason for a change in president, he said.

Replying to a question on a proposal by the Coalition of the Left and Progress that Leonidas Kyrkos should become president, Simitis said he failed to grasp how any left-wing candidacy could in reality be left-wing when it served the political right's petty party interests.

The premier also said that a European Union foreign ministers' meeting in Finland on Sunday had accepted Greece's proposals for aid to earthquake- stricken Turkey.

The informal meeting had endorsed a proposal by Foreign Minister George Papandreou that two pending financing arrangements should be activated of 14 million ecus and 150 million ecus in order to help fund reconstruction after the earthquake, the premier said.

In addition, the council of ministers backed a proposal that Turkey should receive a loan from the EU as earthquake aid.

The question of a financing protocol for Turkey that Greece has vetoed was not raised at the meeting, Simitis added.

He said that Greece maintained unchanged its policy on problems created by Turkey in the Aegean, and had already proposed their resolution through recourse to the International Court at the Hague.

Concerning Greece's earthquake aid to Turkey, the prime minister said that the country operated a principle of assisting other countries, especially neighbouring ones, when disaster struck.

"Our principle is friendship and cooperation among peoples and the earthquake cannot be viewed as an opportunity, because that would make a mockery of our policy," Simitis said.

"We are exercising a policy of peace and cooperation, and Turkey should examine its own line, its own views, and finally make a move that will help to bring a major improvement in the climate."

Finally, the prime minister said that a package of economic measures announced last week, including tax cuts, were not pre-election hand-outs, but proof that the economy was making good progress.

He added that new options would open for the economy following entry into the euro zone, whose target date is January 1, 2001.

The package of measures were part of the government's plan to take Greece forwards. "This policy has nothing to do with elections. It is about the way ahead and the government's new four-year term," Simitis said.

He added that there would be no new concessionary measures.

Prime Minister urges stability ahead of euro entry

Greece should consolidate the political and economic stability it has achieved by working for timely entry into the euro zone, in turn spurring economic and social growth, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Saturday.

In his annual economic policy speech, Simitis said that aligning with the 11-member euro bloc would buffer the country and its economy from upheaval abroad, allowing the government to accomplish its goals of a 15-trillion- drachma investment plan in 2000-2006 and higher social spending.

"In a single year, Greece faced international financial and economic crises in major countries, the war and turbulence in its immediate environment, and the impact of unforeseen rises in oil prices," the premier told a dinner at the Thessaloniki international trade fair.

"The country must move forward. The government is steadily and responsibly moving towards economic and monetary union ... This will eliminate the main elements of uncertainty, risk and inordinate cost that characterised the isolated currencies of small countries."

Helping to safeguard the economy was the drachma's entry into the European exchange rate mechanism in March 1998, which also has acted as an incubator for euro zone entry.

In addition, joining the euro would make Greece part of the EU bloc that was set to become a key player in the global arena as a counterweight to a single superpower, currently the US.

"A single superpower is not a factor for global stability. That is why a politically powerful European Union is needed more than ever as a factor in global equilibrium," Simitis said.

The final stumbling bloc to euro entry on January 1, 2001 was lowering inflation below two percent from the current 2.1 percent and 5.2 percent last year.

But a new round of cuts in indirect taxation on fuel and automobiles announced last week would aid both the counter-inflationary drive and real incomes, the premier added.

Furthermore, easing inflation would help lending rates to fall further, again aiding households. Workers and business had responded to the government's call last year for wage and price restraint.

The benefits of tight fiscal policies in past years were starting to appear, allowing the government to ease off and make genuine concessions to people on low and middle incomes, and with families.

The changes, along with measures to combat unemployment and support for the farm sector, were not pre-election handouts, he added. National polls are due in September 2000.

At the same time, a fiscal problem remained with the self-employed and services sectors.

Greece is to apply for euro zone membership by mid-March 2000 with approval expected at the EU's summit in June of the same year.

In a speech strewn with references to the need for stability and cohesion, Simitis warned that work was needed to maintain the progress already made.

"Our gains were hard to make, but we could very easily lose them if we fail to consolidate our achievements," he said.

The premier called for the avoidance of ructions over elections for a new president of the republic early next year.

"Our position on this matter is clear. Constitutionally, election of the president of the republic is a mandate for unity of the political system, and not a butt of party political conflict," Simitis said.

He stated his party's support for President Kostis Stephanopoulos as candidate for the election.

Commenting on national elections, Simitis said: "At a time when a smooth political course is required, we believe that artificially bringing forward the elections as a form of blackmail does not serve the country, and erodes institutional procedures."

Despite tight economic and monetary policies, Greece was successful in the standard of living it had attained.

"The United Nations has ranked Greece 20th among countries on the basis of social and economic prosperity. It lies in the top 13 percent of the world's population in terms of economic and social development," Simitis said.

The government had also managed to maintain a rise in social spending, bucking the European trend, he added.

Finally, the key to Greece's future was lowering interest rates, utilising CSF funds, completing structural changes in the economy, liberalising telecoms, electricity and maritime transport markets in 2001, helping to rebuild the Balkans, and hosting the 2004 Olympics, Simitis said.

New Democracy sees deficits rising

Main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos on Saturday accused Prime Minister Costas Simitis of fuelling deficits through measures the government says will help lower income earners.

Spiliotopoulos claimed that "in a state of panic" Simitis had ordered the tax cuts to launch a protracted pre-election period, through what he called dishonest pre-election tricks from the past.

Such action, Spiliotopoulos said would not avert the downfall of the government.

PM Simitis optimistic on future of Balkans

Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Friday night appeared optimistic about future developments in the Balkans, underlining Greece's "leading role" in securing peace in the region.

"The twofold ascertainment is common to all, inside and outside Greece: first Greece today plays a leading role in the broader region with its level of growth and policies and, second, its strategy of peace and mutual understanding bears fruit; we will steadfastly continue this policy," he said, addressing the inaugural ceremony of the 64th Thessaloniki International Trade Fair.

"The transition of societies in the friendly neighbouring countries from yesterday's reality to today's reality involves dangers of which we are not afraid. There are perspectives, there is a future in our region," Mr. Simitis said, adding that the prim ary aim was peace, security and stability.

"This means a comprehensive acceptance from all sides for respect of the rule of international law; the seeking recourse to international bodies, when there are insurmountable differences; the participation in collective security systems, the mechanisms of which avert the conflict between those who participate. The century of national territorial claims has ended for Europe long ago," the prime minister said, adding that peaceful coexistence, progress and prosp erity are guaranteed now within the frontiers formulated following World War II. The peaceful coexistence of peoples and ethnic minorities required the creation of strong states ruled by law, respect for human rights, religious beliefs and respect of differences, he said.

"Policies of ethnic cleansing as well as policies of double standards cultivate malice and national phantasms. We are and we remain opposed to such phenomena."

The neighbouring countries' orientation towards an open society and their growing integration with global economy are hopeful signs, but more efforts are needed, if these countries wanted to come closer to the European Union, Mr. Simitis said.

"Southeastern European countries are and will remain a multicultural reality...we must make culture a channel of communication and a bridge of understanding and cooperation between our peoples," Mr. Simitis said.

Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Simitis said that "it is our deep belief that it is to Greece's and Turkey's interest to achieve conditions of good neighbourliness. Turkey's respect of International Law and International Treaties, which define the status quo in the region is a necessary precondition."

Thessaloniki, the premier said, has a strong productive structure with a notable export orientation and creative forces in recent years have helped the city change its strategic options to enable it to follow developments.

The government on its part has created a new economic environment, he said, adding that Thessaloniki becoming the headquarters of the Balkans Reconstruction Organisation is creating a new climate favourable for the northern port city to become the "Balk ans Metropolis".

Greek soldier injured in Kosovo

A soldier of the Greek peacekeeping force in Kosovo was accidentally injured early on Saturday, by his own service pistol, the Greek Army General Staff announced.

Sgt. Anastasios Dinakis, a five-year volunteer serving in the Greek force in Urosevac in Kosovo, was injured at about 1 am on Saturday and was transported to the Thessaloniki military hospital by helicopter.

His condition remains critical.

The incident is being investigated.

FM welcomes rescue workers back

Foreign Minister George Papandreou welcomed back Greek rescue teams working among Turkey's earthquake victims and praised them for doing much to forward peace and rapprochment between the two countries.

Papandreou was speaking after meeting with members of non-governmental organisations such as Doctors of the World and the Red Cross, representatives of the Greek emergency services and of the Church, all of whom were involved in relief and rescue work in Turkey in the wake of the devastating 7.2 Richter earthquake on August 17.

The foreign minister praised the courage and self-sacrifice of those involved in relief operations, saying their only motive was the need to provide help to their fellow humans. "They showed compassion and understanding and this is a guarantee for the future of Greece," he said.

Greece keen to see Turkey as EU candidate

Foreign Minister George Papandreou said on Friday that Greece was keen to see Turkey become a candidate for European Union membership but that this also required that Ankara meet certain obligations.

"More than anyone we want to see Turkey as a candidate country but Turkey and our partners can not overlook the fact that the neighbouring country has responsibilities and obligations," Mr. Papandreou told reporters after briefing President of the Repub lic Kostis Stephanopoulos.

"If Turkey is ready to undertake these responsibilities we have no objection to helping," he said.

Mr. Papandreou on Friday also briefed Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis on the government's proposals on the issue of EU financing for Turkey and the handling of damage caused by the earthquake.

Mr. Kaklamanis said the results of both Mr. Papandreou's handlings and contacts were successful, having led to the smoothing over of relations with Turkey in a very short period of time.

"It is something which satisfies us without disorientating us," he said.

PM hails 25th PASOK anniversary

Prime Minister and ruling socialist PASOK party leader Costas Simitis hailed the party's 25th anniversary in a statement published in the Athens daily Eleftherotypia on Friday, stressing the significance of the past and prospects for the future. PASOK was founded by the late Andreas Papandreou on September 3, 1974.

"The past is a source of experiences and wisdom. It is not an anchor binding us to stagnation and immobility," he said.

"We are living in a new era and historical assessments are adequate for us, " Mr. Simitis said, adding that "the obligation of all of us is to view tomorrow in a sovereign manner."

Mr. Simitis stressed PASOK's decisive contribution to Greece emerging as a safe and stable country which participates on an equal footing in European unification processes and has a strong and dynamic economy.

In a similar statement, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos praised PASOK's contribution to Greek society, as well as the historic role played by its founder Andreas Papandreou.

"It has been proved now, 25 years after its founding, that PASOK's contribution to the development of Greek society was decisive in changing a series of mentalities, conceptions, events and factors and in consolidating the conditions for a modern Greece which can be both equal in Europe and a model in the wider geopolitical region to which we belong," he said in Thessaloniki yesterday during his visit to the Thessaloniki war museum which is undergoing construction.

Stock Market

Equity prices ended the last trading session of a historic week lower following a decline in international markets. The general index ended 0.61 percent down at 5,407.85 points, sharply off the day's lows of 5,346.68 points. Turnover was 388.181 billion drachmas with 46,944,203 shares changing hands. Traders said the market welcomed the government's measures to combat inflation while ignoring a decision for higher sales tax. Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-0.21 pct), Insurance (-0.39 pct), Construction (+1.40 pct), Miscellaneous (-0.89 pct), Leasing (-2.95 pct) and Investment (-4.00 pct).

WEATHER

Mostly sunny weather is forecast for Monday, although mainland Greece and the northern Aegean can expect scattered showers and short-lived storms. Winds northerly, light to moderate. Scattered cloud in Athens with a chance of showers. Temperatures will range from 20C to 31C. The same in Thessaloniki, with temperatures at 17-27C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar 303.006 Pound sterling 488.659 Japanese yen (100) 276.113 French franc 49.367 German mark 165.571 Italian lira (100) 16.724 Irish Punt 411.177 Belgian franc 8.027 Finnish mark 54.464 Dutch guilder 146.947 Danish kr. 43.555 Austrian sch. 23.533 Spanish peseta 1.946 Swedish kr. 37.081 Norwegian kr. 38.742 Swiss franc 202.765 Port. Escudo 1.615 Can. dollar 202.070 Aus. dollar 195.612 Cyprus pound 561.928 Euro 323.828

(C.S.)


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