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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-12-04

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Simitis says EU should treat Turkey with same criteria as other candidate countries
  • [02] Athens says its positions at Helsinki EU summit must be met
  • [03] Cem says Greek-Turkish relations have made unprecedented progress
  • [04] Cyprus proximity talks get under way in New York
  • [05] Greece's ambassador in Ankara lodges demarche over violations of Greek air space
  • [06] Declaration signed requesting return from France of statue of the Niki of Samothrace
  • [07] Electricity pylons pose no health risk to residents, Venizelos says
  • [08] Gov't rules out legislating 35-hr working week
  • [09] New tender to privatise HELEXPO
  • [10] Stocks nose down in jittery trade
  • [11] Bond yield spread holds record low
  • [12] Drachma's parity with euro, dollar shrinks
  • [13] OA defends sale of New York office
  • [14] OTE, KPN to get Bulgarian telecom this year
  • [15] Twin status for Greek, Turkish commerce chambers
  • [16] PPC gets loan for investments
  • [17] Athens Foreign Exchange

  • [01] Simitis says EU should treat Turkey with same criteria as other candidate countries

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday the European Union should treat Turkey with the same criteria as other candidate countries, but added that Greece's stand on the neighbouring nation's candidacy at the upcoming EU summit would be determined by a consideration of all factors during the sessions.

    He told the ruling PASOK party's Central Committee meeting that "the European Union must treat Turkey with the same criteria as other candidate countries, while Turkey must itself further its European prospects by adjusting to the acquis communautaire".

    He said clear positions were needed in the European Union "on the rules of the game," and this was of particular relevance to the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish relations.

    "The government's stand in Helsinki is clear, its exclusive guiding criterion being the protection of national interests and the interests of the European Union itself... Nevertheless, the final decision (on Turkey's candidacy) will be reached after con sideration of all factors during the summit," he said.

    He strongly accused the main opposition of using irresponsibile and demagogic tactics on major foreign policy issues, starting with Kosovo, continuing with US President Bill Clinton's recent visit, and now in view of the EU summit.

    Mr. Simitis denied early election scenarios, stressing that the government would exhaust its four-year term.

    "We shall exhaust the four-year term. We have tired hearing various analysts predicting rapid developments on the home front. There will be no such developments," he said, reiterating that the present parliament would elect a president of the republic i n March and would not have to be dissolved. "President Stephanopoulos has bestowed authority on the institution and symbolises national unity. His re-election is supported by the overwhelming majority of the Greek people," he said.

    In his address to the Committee, PASOK secretary Costas Skandalidis said the climate in the party had ardently changed to the better as of late, and members now rallied to the goal of an electoral victory. "PASOK is tuned to the (next) electoral c ontest and everyone has taken up battle positions," he said. Athens News Agency

    [02] Athens says its positions at Helsinki EU summit must be met

    Greece yesterday requested that Athens' positions on issues to be discussed at the Helsinki European Union summit are met, in efforts to avoid an impasse.

    In light of the Union's General Affairs Council meeting on Monday in Brussels and the upcoming Helsinki summit, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou informed his counterparts of all Union member-states via letters handed to the respective embassies in Athens.

    Earlier, Mr. Papandreou met with all Union member-states' ambassadors in Athens and briefed them on Greece's stance regarding the possible Turkish candidacy and Cyprus' accession course.

    According to sources, the content of the letter was decided jointly by Papandreou and Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday, before the latter met with Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen.

    The same sources noted that the letter reiterated Greece's support for Turkey's European prospect, noting that it will result in development, cooperation and security in southeastern Europe and the Balkans.

    They added that the Greek FM noted in the letter that the Union member- states must contribute toward this goal in Helsinki, otherwise Greece will be forced to not agree, thus leading efforts to an impasse, an event which will not be to the benefit of Gr eek-Turkish and Euro-Turkish relations.

    In a related development, Papandreou is expected to brief Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on the Helsinki summit, on Tuesday, while on Wednesday the government committee on foreign affairs will meet to discuss the same subject.

    Premier Simitis on Thursday said Greece wanted guarantees that if it consented to Turkey's formal European Union candidacy status this would not be followed by a rekindling of disputes with Ankara. Athens News Agency

    [03] Cem says Greek-Turkish relations have made unprecedented progress

    ANKARA (ANA- A. Abatzis) - Greek-Turkish relations have made unprecedented progress and are moving into substantive ground, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said yesterday.

    "Turkish-Greek relations have reached a level we couldn't even imagine two- and-a-half years ago. Tension between the two countries has begun disappearing. We have done this, not for Greece, but for our common interests, and today we have reached a point that has surpassed the expectancy of goodwill gestures. We have begun discussing realities," he said during an address at the Boyazici University of Istanbul.

    Mr. Cem announced Ankara planned to invite his Greek counterpart George Papandreou to "discuss issues such as joint efforts in the EU and other regional issues".

    Referring to the possibility of Greece exercising a veto to the approval of his country's formal EU candidacy in the upcoming Helsinki summit, he said Turkey would not be to blame.

    Referring to Cyprus' EU accession talks, Mr. Cem said his country considered the island republic's application for membership as legally and politicallly invalid.

    Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit, stated that the endorsement of Turkey's EU candidacy in Helsinki now depended heavily on Greece.

    "Greece's stand will be important... (however) more and more countries are coming to realise Turkey's significance," he told a Turkish daily.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Cyprus proximity talks get under way in New York

    NEW YORK (CNA/ANA - M. Georgiadou) - The first meeting between UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan and Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides within the framework of proximity talks aiming to prepare the ground for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem ended at the UN headquarters yesterday afternoon.

    Asked how the one-hour meeting went, Mr. Clerides replied, "you can see, we are smiling".

    Mr. Clerides refrained from commenting on the content of discussions citing a news blackout requested by Mr. Annan.

    The president was accompanied by Attorney-General Alecos Markides, Undersecretary to the President Pantelis Kouros, Government Spo-kesman Michalis Papapetrou, Director of the Cyprus Question at the Foreign Ministry Tasos Tzionis and Director of the Offi ce of the foreign minister, Minas Hadjimichael.

    Mr. Annan later met with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. In a brief statement to reporters, Mr. Annan said: "As long as we are talking we are making progress".

    Meanwhile, British Special Representative for Cyprus Sir David Hannay held a meeting at the UN with Russia's Representative on Cyprus, Vladimir Tchizhov.

    -- UN chief statements-- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said there should be no unrealistic expectations from the proximity talks on the Cyprus question, but said the aim is to try moving the process forward.

    Replying to questions before starting the talks, Mr. Annan expressed the hope serious discussions will take place on substantial issues, in search of a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.

    Asked what his message is to the young people of Cyprus, Mr. Annan said "we should all be hopeful as we begin the talks today and I hope as we start to sit down and begin serious discussions and have meaningful dialogue in search of a comprehensive sett lement that they will all support this effort".

    "It's their future that we are trying to resolve and I hope at the end of this process we will be able to come with a comprehensive solution that will assure the young people of the island a peaceful and harmonious future, " he added.

    To a question what the best possible outcome could be from these talks, the UN chief said "we are just about to begin and I hope we will be able to discuss the core issues, stick to the issues and move forward gradually."

    In a press conference on Thursday, the UN chief's special advisor for Cyprus Alvaro de Soto said the four chapters to be discussed are security, distribution of power, property and territory.

    "I don't expect a miraculous solution. As I've said, we shouldn't have unrealistic expectations that at this round we're going to be able to solve the Cyprus crisis but we're going to try to move the process forward," the UN chief said.

    Mr. Annan expressed his satisfaction with the fact that both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders are in New York, noting "both parties have come determined to engage in a meaningful dialogue."

    He also appeared satisfied that until now the two leaders "have done well" in respecting a news blackout.

    The UN Secretary-General said he and his special advisor will speak to the press on what progress has been made "at critical stages".

    "But I think for the benefit of the talks it's prudent that one doesn't say anything that may be misconstrued by one side or the other and that is the only reason why I've appealed for restraint," he concluded.

    Mr. De Soto has told a news briefing the UN chief has asked the two leaders to remain in New York until about December 15 and said there will be no face-to-face meetings in this round of talks.

    Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory in 1974.

    -- Clinton message -- On Thursday evening, President Clerides had dinner with US Presidential Emissary on Cyprus, Alfred Moses, who earlier on had lunch with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    Mr. Moses met for 15 minutes with Mr. Annan to whom he conveyed an oral message from US President Bill Clinton. A written letter is expected to be delivered to Mr. Annan once Mr. Clinton returns from Seattle.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Greece's ambassador in Ankara lodges demarche over violations of Greek air space

    ANKARA (ANA-A.Kourkoulas) - Greece's ambassador in Ankara yesterday lodged a demarche with the Turkish authorities over repeated violations of Greek air space and infringements of Athens FIR regulations.

    The demarche noted that Turkish fighter planes had continually violated Greek air space and that on Monday a large, unspecified number of Turkish jets had entered the region between Crete and the Dodecanese islands, flying over six Greek islands.

    The jets were intercepted by Greek fighters and the Turkish press reported that some interceptions evolved into aerial dog fights.

    The Greek protest underlined that this activity was not contributing to the pursuit of cooperation between the two countries. Athens News Agency

    [06] Declaration signed requesting return from France of statue of the Niki of Samothrace

    Return of statue of the Niki of Samothrace sought Representatives of 48 municipalities from around Greece yesterday signed a declaration requesting the return of the statue of the Niki of Samothrace to the northeastern Aegean island, where it was found and transported to Paris, France.

    The hellenistic era statue has been part of the Louvre Museum ancient Greek antiquities collection since 1826. Athens News Agency

    [07] Electricity pylons pose no health risk to residents, Venizelos says

    High-voltage electricity pylons pose no health risk to residents in the immediate area, Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos told Parliament yesterday.

    Mr. Venizelos was responding to questions from MPs over press reports earlier in the week alleging that electromagnetic fields from high-voltage power lines around the country were far higher than permissible levels.

    "The Public Power Corporation's (DEH) installations are below the permissible limits and this has been documented by the Greek Standardisation Organisation, in accordance with directives issued by the World Health Organisation and on the recommendation of the EU," Mr. Venizelos said.

    He said that studies by the Greek Society for Atomic Energy had shown that two DEH pylons in Anoixi, Attica, had an electric field of slightly below the limit, while in Pallini and Halkida, the electromagnetic fields were well below the limit. Athens News Agency

    [08] Gov't rules out legislating 35-hr working week

    The government said yesterday that it would not legislate a 35-hour working week although it backed individual moves by companies to introduce the new arrangement.

    Labour and Social Security Minister Miltiades Papaioannou said at a cabinet meeting on the national action plan for employment that the government wanted employment to rise in 2000 to 2004.

    He said the ministry's 20 employment programmes had provided jobs for 140, 000 people and training for 110,000 workers.

    Unemployment benefit had risen 20 percent and the unemployed had been given the right to medical benefits.

    Mr. Papaioannou noted that Greece in 1998 had the highest employment growth rate at 3.0%, while the number of jobs rose 1.4 percent per annum between 1994 and 1998.

    He attributed a simultaneous rise in the number of unemployed to an "explosive growth" of the work force, including a 4.2 percent rise in 1998.

    The emphasis by the European Union on employment and plans for more funding from the Third Community Support Framework should further bolster the growth of jobs, the minister said.

    Government policy on combatting unemployment included linking education with vocational training, drafting and shaping a national system for vocational training, strengthening a business mentality, and linking entrepreneurial skills with employment, par ticularly in small and medium- size enterprises. In relation to demands for a 35-hour working week with no loss of pay, Mr. Papaioannou said the government supported individual plans but could not support the concept across the board.

    In Parliament on Thursday, Mr. Papaioannou had said that general implementation of the 35-hour working week would be a "risky step." He was responding to the presentation of a bill by the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos), a minority oppposition party. The law was rejected.

    "The uniform implementation of the 35-hour week would be extreme and ruin the investment climate," Mr. Papaioannou said, pointing to the failure to implement the system in Italy.

    He said a reduced working week would undermine the character of collective bargaining agreements already in force, but noted that it was being applied in some private sector companies, banks and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation.

    The Coalition of the Left, which argues that a shorter working week would create jobs, was supported only by the Democratic Social Movement.

    Others, including the Liberals, a non-parliamentary party, argue that legislating a shorter working week would increase the cost of labour and lead to the closure of many small and medium sized companies.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] New tender to privatise HELEXPO

    The government said yesterday that it would hold another tender to part- privatise Hellenic Exhibitions-HELEXPO, the state trade fair organiser.

    "The new tender for the sale of HELEXPO will be held in due course," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

    He said that the sole bid for a 45-percent stake and management of the company was rejected on Thursday because it was deemed unsatisfactory.

    Details of the new tender would be given in the next few days, Mr. Reppas added. Athens News Agency

    [10] Stocks nose down in jittery trade

    Equities slipped in nervous trade yesterday, and turnover was slightly higher.

    The Athens general share index ended 0.31 percent lower at 5,560.14 points. Turnover was around 311 billion drachmas.

    A rise in the banking sector index was unable to offset losses in industrials and construction stocks.

    Again, shares that are often the butt of speculation soared with 34 hitting the daily 8.0 percent upper volatility limit.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 0.31 percent higher at 2,788.83 points.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (+0.82 pct), Leasing (+0.70 pct), Insurance (+0.67 pct), Investment (+0.63 pct), Construction (-2.26 pct), Industrials (-2.03 pct), Miscellaneous (-0.72 pct) and Holding (-0.41 pct). The parallel market index fo r smaller capitalisation stocks fell by 1.24 percent.

    Of 314 shares traded, decliners led advancers at 183 to 113 with 18 issues remaining unchanged.

    The most heavily traded stocks were Konstandinidis, Frigoglass and Panafon.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 23,050 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 25, 600, Titan Cement Company (common) at 37,300, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,550, Intracom at 13,000, Panafon at 3,880 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,945. Athens News Agency

    [11] Bond yield spread holds record low

    Bond prices in the domestic secondary market rose in active trade yesterday with the yield spread over German bunds holding an all-time record from the previous session.

    In the market were domestic institutional investors with players abroad keeping mostly to the sidelines.

    Salomon Smith Barney advised its clients to hold longer-term positions in Greek secondary market paper on the likelihood of gains from a revaluation of the drachma's parity against the euro in the European Union's exchange rate mechanism II.

    Players have already discounted a rate cut by the central bank of around 0.50 percentage point, expected this month.

    A greater reduction in key rates would give the market even more impetus, analysts said.

    The benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 6.46 percent from 6.43 percent in the two previous sessions and 6.56 percent on Tuesday.

    The yield spread over German bunds was 127 basis points, the same as in the previous session, from 128 basis points on Wednesday.

    According to analysts, the yield spread over German paper is likely to drop to 120 basis points by the end of the year.

    Turnover through the Bank of Greece's electronic trading system was 149 billion drachmas from 94 billion drachmas a day earlier. Buy orders accounted for around 127 billion drachmas of the total. Athens News Agency

    [12] Drachma's parity with euro, dollar shrinks

    Domestic foreign exchange trade was dominated yesterday by the euro's slump on international markets, helping to bring the drachma's parities with the dollar and euro within the same range.

    At the central bank's daily fixing, the European single currency was set at 328.790 drachmas from 328.570 drachmas in the previous session and 328.600 drachmas on Wednesday. Also at the fixing, the dollar jumped against the drachma in line with its rise on international markets.

    The US currency was set at 328.250 drachmas from 326.180 drachmas a day earlier, 325.390 drachmas on Wednesday and 324.990 drachmas on Tuesday.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] OA defends sale of New York office

    The management of Greek national carrier Olympic Airways yesterday defended its decision to sell its New York office, saying the ailing company would divest itself of a source of 'permanent financial loss'.

    OA's management said in a statement that it was selling a company asset, but would continue to maintain a sales outlet in the U.S. city.

    The money from the sale of the building would be used for investments, such as the renewal of OA's fleet, relocation to the new Athens international airport, and improving the company's product overall.

    Management said the decision to sell the building was taken on completion of a study and was deemed to be the best medium- and long-term solution.

    OA would be served by a sales office on Fifth Avenue to issue tickets and provide customer services.

    Other services would be relocated to Brooklyn, where rents were much cheaper and where most of the airline company's employees resided, the statement said. Athens News Agency

    [14] OTE, KPN to get Bulgarian telecom this year

    SOFIA (ANA/B.Borisov) - Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) and KPN of the Netherlands shortly expect to complete their joint purchase of Bulgaria's state BTK telecom in the wake of lengthy and complex negotiations.

    OTE representative Vassilis Fetsis told the Athens News Agency that he believed the deal would be completed by the end of the year. Addressing a joint news conference in the Bulgarian capital, officials of OTE and KPN said that the two firms would in vest two hundred million US dollars to modernise BTK and develop a second mobile phone network for the Balkan country in the next three years.

    OTE and KPN said that they were ready to pay the purchase price for the company immediately, and wanted to start work on January 1, 2000. Athens News Agency

    [15] Twin status for Greek, Turkish commerce chambers

    The Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry is to be twinned with its equivalent in Bursa in a new sign of business rapprochement between the two countries.

    The twinning ceremony is to take place on Monday in Thessaloniki. Among officials invited to attend are Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis and the Turkish ambassador in Athens, Ali Tinaz Tuygan. Forty officials from the Bursa Chamber of Comm erce and Industry will travel to the northern port city for the ceremony. Athens News Agency

    [16] PPC gets loan for investments

    The Public Power Corporation (PPC) yesterday signed for a loan of 250 million euros from a consortium of nine banks in order to fund part of an investment plan.

    The loan marks the end of the company's financing programme for 1999.

    Key Greek banks in the consortium were Alpha Credit Bank, National Bank of Greece and Commercial Bank of Greece.

    The five-year loan was signed in London. Athens News Agency

    [17] Athens Foreign Exchange

    Bank of Greece closing rates of Dec.3,1999 Banknotes Buying Selling

    US Dollar 325.624 333.174 Can.Dollar 219.391 224.477 Australian Dlr 205.304 210.064 Pound Sterling 520.780 532.855 Irish Punt 414.137 423.739 Pound Cyprus 566.849 579.991 Pound Malta 758.731 790.345 Turkish pound (100) 0.058 0.060 French franc 49.723 50.876 Swiss franc 203.990 208.720 Belgian franc 8.085 8.273 German Mark 166.763 170.630 Finnish Mark 54.857 56.128 Dutch Guilder 148.004 151.436 Danish Kr. 43.850 44.867 Swedish Kr. 37.908 38.787 Norwegian Kr. 40.206 41.138 Austrian Sh. 23.703 24.252 Italian lira (100) 16.845 17.236 Yen (100) 317.767 325.135 Spanish Peseta 1.960 2.006 Port. Escudo 1.627 1.665

    Foreign Exchange Buying Selling New York 325.624 333.174 Montreal 219.391 224.477 Sydney 205.304 210.064 London 520.780 532.855 Dublin 414.137 423.739 Nicosia 566.849 579.991 Paris 49.723 50.876 Zurich 203.990 208.720 Brussels 8.085 8.273 Frankfurt 166.763 170.630 Helsinki 54.857 56.128 Amsterdam 148.004 151.436 Copenhagen 43.850 44.867 Stockholm 37.908 38.787 Oslo 40.206 41.138 Vienna 23.703 24.252 Milan 16.845 17.236 Tokyo 317.767 325.135 Madrid 1.960 2.006 Lisbon 1.627 1.665 Athens News Agency/END

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