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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-09-06

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, 06/09/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece should work for timely entry into euro zome, PM says
  • Opposition reactions to Simitis speech
  • EU ministers accept Papandreou's proposal for quake aid to Turkey
  • Simitis urges re-election of President Stephanopoulos
  • Papantoniou voices optimism on Greek economy
  • Greece condemns climate of instability in Kosovo
  • Israeli-Palestinian meeting ends in climate of mutual promises
  • Proposal endorsed for Kyrkos candidacy for presidency
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece should work for timely entry into euro zome, PM says

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 at the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, Mr. 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 (successfully) 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. "The country must move forward. The government is steadily and responsibly moving towards economic and monetary union ..."

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, the premier said.

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, he added.

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.

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, Mr. 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.

Commenting on national elections, Mr. 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 ."

"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," Mr. Simitis said.

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

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, the prime minister said.

Opposition reactions to Simitis speech

Reacting to the prime minister's speech on Saturday, main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos spoke of panic and criticised him of placing the country in an undeclared pre-election period of indeterminable time and at the same tim e involving the institution of President of the Republic in his partisan petty evaluations.

The Coalition of the Left and Progress said Mr. Simitis turned the rostrum of the 64th TIF into a pre-election balcony.

"Mr. Simitis bypassed all the major problems of social and regional inequalities, the weakening of small and medium-size incomes, the problems of education, health, insurance, quality of life, the environment and cultural degradation," the Coalition said.

Democratic Social Movement DHKKI leader Dimitris Tsovolas accused the prime minister of making insipid pre-election promises.

"Mr. Simitis tried in vain with insipid pre-election promises or dealing out crumbs to appear from a prime minister of regional desolation, demolition of the welfare state, unemployment and national humiliation to a prime minister of development, social justice and national successes," he said.

EU ministers accept Papandreou's proposal for quake aid to Turkey

Greece yesterday welcomed acceptance by European Union foreign ministers of its proposal that earthquake-stricken Turkey should receive reconstruction aid from the 15-nation bloc.

The officials supported the proposal put forward by Foreign Minister George Papandreou at an informal meeting in Finland that debated the EU's ties with Turkey. The ministers were not empowered to take decisions.

Mr. Papandreou told the ministers that the government, which was eager for the EU to grant Turkey earthquake aid, had already agreed with the EU's executive Commission the amount of assistance and the method of payment.

The monies would be given to the Turkish government and to non-governmental Turkish organisations, he added.

The aid will total nearly 200 million euros in the form of grants and another 600 million euros in loans from the European Investments Bank.

The ministers did not discuss the question of a financing protocol that Greece has vetoed because from a legal point of view it is unclear whether or not the cash from the protocol appears in the EU's budget.

Most ministers and EU officials at the Finland meeting praised Greece's response to the earthquake in interviews to the media, saying the country played a leading role in coordinating the bloc's aid effort.

They also commented on what they saw as a new climate in ties between Greece and Turkey, and the European Union with Turkey.

Mr. Papandreou said that the question of upgrading Turkey's status to an EU candidate would be discussed within the bloc.

The main point was that the EU should agree on the commitments that Turkey should make if it were to become an applicant and then embark on entry talks, the date of which could not at present be determined.

"There needs to be a route map for Turkey," Mr. Papandreou said.

The map should contain specific stages and conditions that the EU had set at various times, he added.

Needed were respect for human rights and more democracy in Turkey.

The main issues for Greece were still Cyprus and the creation of neighbourly relations, and Turkey should comply in order to move towards entry talks, Mr. Papandreou said.

The approach to Turkey's membership varied among EU members. Certain countries, including Sweden, were adamant on the democratisation of Turkey, while others did not want to set tough terms from the outset, he said.

Simitis urges re-election of President Stephanopoulos

Prime Minister Simitis yesterday 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.

Mr. Simitis told a news conference that the president 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 Mr. 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, Mr. 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.

Papantoniou voices optimism on Greek economy

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou predicted that the Greek economy will enjoy development rates in the region of 5 per cent over the next seven years (2000-2006).

In an exclusive statement to the Sunday newspaper "Vima tis Kyriakis", he said the Greek economy's productivity will be upgraded substantively with the third Community Support Framework and that for this reason "I believe it is simple for our country to go ahead with development rates in the region of 5 per cent compared to 3.5 per cent at present."

Mr. Papantoniou said in his statement that continuous vigilance is necessary to prevent the overheating of the Greek economy.

Greece condemns climate of instability in Kosovo

Greece on Saturday condemned the prevailing climate and instability in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

"There is a climate in Kosovo which shows that the international factor has not yet achieved its targets," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.

"There is a high degree of liquidity and instability and I must say that the pace of disarming the UCK is not the most satisfactory. The peacekeeping military forces stationed there should show increased zeal to enable all citizens having their homes in Kosovo to return as soon as possible and live without facing the slightest danger," he added.

Mr. Reppas said it appears that the risk is high even now for those who are living or want to return and this is unacceptable when one speaks of Europe in the 21st century.

Israeli-Palestinian meeting ends in climate of mutual promises

The fourth meeting of Israeli and Palestinian personalities held within the frame work of the "Athens Dialogue" ended here yesterday in a climate of mutual promises for common efforts to assist the Middle East peace process.

Participants, which included former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres, welcomed Saturday's signing of a deal in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat that puts stalled Middle East pea cemaking back on track after weeks of tortuous negotiations.

In a common declaration, the participants recognised the Palestinian people's legitimate right for self determination, while the Palestinians stated that their goal would be the establishment of an independent democratic state alongside Israel.

The declaration also condemns "all forms of acts of terrorism and violence ... both the Israelis and Palestinians are determined to cooperate closely in an uncompromising fight against terrorism, which will safeguard the peace process and allow the two peoples to become an integral part of the Middle East community."

The meeting decided to establish three committees, an inter-parliamentarian committee, a civil society and people-to-people committee and a political committee.

It also decided that the Steering Committee composed of representatives of both sides and of a representative of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs will monitor and report on the implementation of what has been agreed upon in the declaration.

The meeting also endorsed the proposal advanced by the Greek side to explore the possibility of close cooperation among Israel and the Palestinian Authority and Greece in the preservation of cultural heritage as well as in the protection of natural reso urces and other environmental issues. Two respective committees will be formed towards this end.

Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Yannos Kranidiotis, whose ministry sponsors the Athens Dialogue, expressed satisfaction at the end of the meeting, saying that for many years now Greece has been the only country which substantially approaches the achiev ement of a peaceful solution between the two peoples.

"The Athens Dialogue was the only channel of communication between Israelis and Palestinians that existed at a certain phase," Mr. Kranidiotis told reporters.

"A new wind is blowing in the wider Mediterranean and Balkan region, resulting in this area developing at some moment into an area of free exchanges of cooperation and communication, a fact which will promote the interests of all countries in the region.

Greece is called upon to promote and strengthen all the above since it is experiencing the repercussions of all the events which take place in its fluid surroundings," he said.

Israeli Alternate Foreign Minister Nawaf Massalha said the signing of the peace deal was an additional step for further building confidence between the new Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership.

He thanked the Greek government for efforts it has been making for years to bring the two peoples closer.

"We shall continue to build projects and programmes in the framework of the door opened following the signing at Sharm El-Sheikh both with Greece and the other Mediterranean countries, since we are encouraged now both by Greece, the European Union which assists it in efforts to achieve peace between the two peoples, as well as Egypt, Jordan and the other countries," Mr. Masalha said.

Palestinian Minister Anis el Qaq said peace is a noble target for both sides and for all the countries in the Mediterranean.

"An open spirit and an open heart are necessary for understanding," he said, adding that the past must be overcome to enable the two peoples to live together.

Emmanuel Roukounas, International Law professor at the Athens University, coordinated the meeting.

In a statement to the Athens News Agency (ANA) he said "Greece believes that, through such dialogue initiatives for the peaceful coexistence of peoples, the doors to cooperation among peoples open and the doors of nationalism and extremism close which are anachronistic conceptions in the present age."

Replying to a question on whether the overall climate being shaped in the region is capable of affecting the development of the Cyprus issue, Mr. Kranidiotis said: "Both Greek-Turkish relations, which are experiencing a period of good climate, and the reconstruction being attempted in the Balkans, in conjunction with developments in the Middle East, send a message of optimism for a solution to the other problems existing in the area."

On the question of Cyprus in particular, Mr. Kranidiotis said: "It is in the interest of the Arab peoples as well to promote a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue in their own way, a solution which will contribute widely to the peace effort in the region. Stability and peace in Cyprus is also linked directly to the peace effort in the Middle East."

Proposal endorsed for Kyrkos candidacy for presidency

The Coalition of the Left and Progress' Central Political Committee endorsed a proposal by party leader Nikos Constantopoulos on the candidacy for the election as President of the Republic early next year of veteran leftist Leonidas Kyrkos.

Summing up the Committee's two-day session yesterday, Mr. Constantopoulos accused Prime Minister Costas Simitis and the government of danger mongering and of being insincere with the Greek people.

"At a time when the prime minister is even examining proposals for early elections, and before March, he is striving to convince that elections in spring and not in September will be disastrous," Mr. Constantopoulos said.

WEATHER

Mostly sunny weather is forecast for today, 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 with temperatures from 20-31C. 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.E.)
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