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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-12-09

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] `Clarity` in EU-Turkey, bilateral relations now necessary: Simitis stresses
  • [02] Inflation upturn won't hurt rate alignment
  • [03] Budget revenue surplus totals Dr 430.9 bln in Jan-Nov
  • [04] Gov't to keep focus on cutting public debt
  • [05] Change to penalty rates on overdue loans
  • [06] Equities slump again in lower turnover
  • [07] Bonds rise again on planned drachma revaluation
  • [08] Greek-Bulgarian group okays road project
  • [09] Athens Foreign Exchange
  • [10] Ipekci committee proposes special award for Cem
  • [11] Cem: Turkey will respect 'Agenda 2000' agreement for solving border disputes
  • [12] Tsohatzopoulos calls for unhindered EU accession talks with Cyprus, other candidates
  • [13] Gov't spokesman on PM's reference to early elections
  • [14] Papantoniou on Turkey's EU vocation
  • [15] School students defy government ban
  • [16] Stephanopoulos ranks high in opinion poll
  • [17] Culture minister: Greek views promoted at London symposium on Marbles
  • [18] Athens 2004 leadership at IOC meeting focusing on preparations

  • [01] `Clarity` in EU-Turkey, bilateral relations now necessary: Simitis stresses

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday called for "clarity" in relations between Turkey and the European Union as well as between Ankara and Athens, just two days before the 15-member bloc prepares to discuss Turkey's candidacy bid. "It is necessar y that there be clear positions in regards to the ways and the rules of behaviour of all the participants, our European partners, Greece, Turkey, so that we can be led to solutions and not to impasses with the new relation of Turkey with the European Union," Mr. Simitis told reporters after chairing an inner cabinet meeting. The meeting was called to discuss Greece's position on Turkey's bid for EU candidacy, to be discussed at the Helsinki summit tomorrow.

    Clarity, Mr. Simitis said, will "allow us to avoid crises and to provide the solutions necessary if we are to achieve a satisfactory result".

    The prime minister said Greece had outdone itself in attempting a friendlier relationship with Turkey, in the same way that it had worked towards developing a better climate in relations with the EU on this issue.

    He said he hoped that European partners would share Athens' position that the interests of all and particularly the Union's future demanded workable solutions which would ensure the common goals of the European Union.

    "We are obliged to provide for today to be able to consolidate peace and cooperation tomorrow," he said.

    Turkey's participation in EU procedures as a candidate country would be a positive step but, Mr. Simitis warned, this candidacy will lead to problems and tensions and will not allow the realisation of the goal it serves if there are no previous clear po sitions on existing problems.

    He cited the Cyprus issue and Greek-Turkish relations as two of these problems which required that "the rules of the game be set out on issues which have arisen in the past, or on possible issues which may arise in the future".

    Good relations are in the interests of both Greece and Turkey, he stressed.

    "It is obvious that occasional and repetitive crises and tensions in our relations with Turkey led to a climate of uncertainty and mistrust in the region, something which costs both sides," he said.

    "It would be useful if there were positive steps in the direction of peace, good neighbourliness and cooperation between the two countries," the premier concluded.

    Gov't spokesman : The stance Athens will take at this weekend's EU summit depends more on the actions of the European Union and less on Turkey, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said later.

    The government's decision on Turkey's bid for EU candidacy will be led by national interests and the stance on existing problems, he said. He said talks were continuing at a number of levels, but he stressed that the Cyprus issue remained of paramount importance.

    The policy Greece takes at Helsinki will also be affected by the Cyprus issue, he said.

    Reiterating a call for 'clarity' in EU-Turkish relations from Prime Minister Simitis earlier, Mr. Reppas said that Greece wanted clarity from the EU so as this will not lead in the future to problems from Turkey's candidacy.

    Government sources noted that Athens had been coming under strong pressure over the past few days to wave through Turkey's EU candidacy bid and that mention was being made of the adverse effect a "no" from Greece would have on Greek-Turkish relations.

    Foreign ministry briefing : Meanwhile, a top-level meeting at the foreign ministry was held to focus on a review of the latest developments regarding Turkey's possible EU candidacy. The meeting was chaired by Mr. Simitis.

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou briefed participants on discussions he held earlier with Jaakob Bloomberg, the Finnish EU presidency's representative on the Cyprus issue and the coordinator of member-states' positions ahead of the summit.

    Sources said discussions with Mr. Bloomberg showed that negotiations were continuing "in a positive direction". They also said it was confirmed during the meeting that negotiations were still developing and that Athens' final position would be formulated in conjunction with the degree of acceptance which Athens' demands would be met at the summit.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Inflation upturn won't hurt rate alignment

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    A recent rise in inflation due to higher world oil prices will not upset the convergence of domestic interest rates with the euro zone, National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou said yesterday. The timetable for the decline in rates res ted largely with the Bank of Greece, Mr. Papantoniou added.

    Addressing a conference on the Greek economy organised by the Hellenic- American Chamber of Commerce, he predicted that inflation would remain at the present level over the next two months.

    The minister also said that the eventuality of early general elections would not affect Greece's application in March 2000 to join the European Union's economic and monetary union.

    A decision is due in June.

    Turning to the Athens Stock Exchange, Mr. Papantoniou anticipated an upward trend despite temporary fluctuations.

    Outlining the government's achievements in stabilising the economy, the minister noted that fiscal streamlining had resulted in a reduction of the public sector deficit, aiming at a zero deficit in the year 2001.

    At the same time, he said, public investments carried out under the European Union's Second Community Support Framework coupled with the government's policy of structural change had resulted in an acceleration of economic growth.

    Also playing a part were the privatisation and part flotation of state utilities and companies, the minister said.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Budget revenue surplus totals Dr 430.9 bln in Jan-Nov

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    The budget surplus from revenue totalled 430.9 billion drachmas in January to November, the finance ministry said in a statement yesterday.

    The rise in revenue was 10.8 percent, higher than the government's target of a 5.7 percent increase.

    In November, budget revenue rose by 15.4 percent, overtaking the target by 114 billion drachmas.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Gov't to keep focus on cutting public debt

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    A strategy of reducing the public debt will continue to be the touchstone for the Greek economy, Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said yesterday.

    Speaking at a conference on the Greek economy organised by the Hellenic- American Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Christodoulakis said that Greece's issue for the first time of a 20-year bond, scheduled for the new year, would be attractive for portfolios geared towards long-term investment.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Change to penalty rates on overdue loans

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis announced yesterday that the method of calculating penalty rates on overdue loans would change, saying the measures were imperative.

    "The measures are necessary to normalise the business activity of many firms, particularly small and medium sized companies," the prime minister said.

    He was speaking after a meeting with National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and National Bank of Greece governor Theodoros Karatzas.

    The problem of penalty payments emerged from high interest rates coupled with a reluctance by banks to refinance loans taken out at 18-25 percent.

    Under the new measures, total interest due on existing loans may not exceed double, triple or quadruple the capital owed, depending on the period of overdue payment.

    In other words, the measure will place a ceiling on the debt owed.

    Details of the change have yet to be finalised before the measure is included in a legislative amendment to be submitted to parliament by the end of the year.

    For loans being contracted now, interest will be calculated on a six- monthly basis, in line with regulations introduced last year.

    Mr. Simitis said the measure would create the conditions for healthy business growth in the future, as many debtors will be relieved of pressure from the high loan rates of the past.

    He said that overwhelming debts accumulated by some companies were the direct consequence of high interest and penalty rates in previous years, due to high inflation.

    "We've left this situation behind us now, inflation has fallen significantly, and the risks that existed in the past are no longer with us," the prime minister said.

    Thousands of light industries, small businesses and farmers, as well as those taking out housing loans, have been affected by excessive compound interest. Despite attempts to resolve the issue a year ago, the problem had remained due to reluc tance by a number of banks to implement refinancing.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Equities slump again in lower turnover

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    Equities continued their downward trend on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday with turnover also marking a decline.

    The general index ended 1.45 per cent lower at 5,271.42 points. Turnover was 265.624 billion drachmas.

    The parallel market index for small capitalisation stocks dropped 5.64 per cent to 1,856.36 points.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 1.07 per cent lower at 2,669.19 points.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-0.94 pct), Leasing (-3.54 pct), Insurance (-3.24 pct), Investment (-0.73 pct), Construction (-3.27 pct), Industrials (-1.02 pct), Miscellaneous (-2.52 pct) and Holding (-3.31 pct). Of 329 shares traded, decliners led advancers at 280 to 44 with 5 issues remaining unchanged.

    The most heavily traded stocks were Mesohoritis and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 22,950 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 24, 700, Titan Cement Company (common) at 37,290, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,420, Intracom at 12,100, Panafon at 3,620 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,475.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Bonds rise again on planned drachma revaluation

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    Bonds in the domestic secondary market rose in healthy turnover yesterday with the action focused on mid-term paper after central bank governor Lucas Papademos said the drachma would be revalued in June 2000 against the euro, which would have a positive impact on inflation.

    Trade is expected to shift to 10- and 15-year paper when the finance ministry issues the country's first ever 20-year bond in early 2000.

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

    Greece is to apply to join the EU's euro zone in March, with a summit in June expected to endorse the application for entry on January 1, 2001.

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

    Talk of a one percentage point reduction in the central bank's key intervention rates that would spill into other areas of the market would give the market even more impetus, analysts said.

    The benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 6.30 percent from 6.32 percent in the previous session and 6.34 percent on Monday.

    The yield spread over German bunds was 123 basis points, a record low, from between 127 and 132 basis points a day earlier and 127 basis points in the previous four sessions.

    Ten-year bonds have gained over 100 basis points in just over a week, and 15-year paper over 150 basis points.

    According to analysts, the yield spread over German paper is likely to drop to between 100 basis points and 120 basis points by the end of the year.

    Turnover through the Bank of Greece's electronic trading system was 128 billion drachmas from 142 billion drachmas a day earlier and 110 billion drachmas on Monday.

    In yesterday's trade buy orders accounted for 122 billion drachmas of the total and sell orders the remaining 6.0 billion drachmas.

    In after-hours trade, a few sellers appeared in the market to rake in their profits, traders said.

    Demand nudges up drachma : The drachma nosed up against the euro in domestic foreign exchange trade yesterday, fuelled by limited demand.

    A resulting upward pressure on the drachma prompted the central bank to step into the market, soaking up around 30 million euros at the daily fixing in order to bring down the currency.

    At the central bank's daily fixing, the European single currency was set at 328.470 drachmas from 328.490 drachmas in the previous session and 328.450 drachmas on Monday.

    Also at the fixing, the dollar fell against the drachma in line with its slip on international markets.

    The US currency was set at 320.690 drachmas from 320.900 drachmas a day earlier and 323.960 drachmas on Monday.

    The yen was fixed at 312.450 (100) drachmas from 312.030 (100) drachmas on the previous day.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Greek-Bulgarian group okays road project

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    A standing Greek-Bulgarian cooperation committee met in Athens yesterday to discuss projects being undertaken under the European Union's Phare and Interreg programmes.

    The committee endorsed 24 million euros in funding under Phare for the construction of a road from the Greek-Bulgarian border, a continuation of the Komotini-Nymphaia link in Greece.

    The committee also agreed to promote environmental conservation in the area spanning the two countries' borders.

    Chairing the meeting was the secretary general of the investments and development division of the national economy ministry, Kostas Pheos.

    Heading the Bulgarian side was V. Garnisov, deputy minister for regional development and public works.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] Athens Foreign Exchange

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    Bank of Greecee closing rates of: December 8, 1999

    Parities in Drachmas

    Banknotes             Buying  Selling
    US Dollar             318.124 325.500
    Can.Dollar            215.046 220.032
    Australian Dlr        202.884 207.588
    Pound Sterling        517.011 528.998
    Irish Punt            413.734 423.327
    Pound Cyprus          565.698 578.814
    Pound Malta           741.257 772.143
    Turkish pound (100)     0.057   0.059
    French franc           49.674  50.826
    Swiss franc           203.370 208.085
    Belgian franc           8.077   8.265
    German Mark           166.600 170.463
    Finnish Mark           54.803  56.074
    Dutch Guilder         147.861 151.289
    Danish Kr.             43.805  44.820
    Swedish Kr.            38.019  38.901
    Norwegian Kr.          40.097  41.026
    Austrian Sh.           23.680  24.229
    Italian lira (100)     16.828  17.218
    Yen (100)             309.950 317.137
    Spanish Peseta          1.958   2.004
    Port. Escudo            1.625   1.663
    Foreign Exchange      Buying  Selling
    New York              318.124 325.500
    Montreal              215.046 220.032
    Sydney                202.884 207.588
    London                517.011 528.998
    Dublin                413.734 423.327
    Nicosia               565.698 578.814
    Paris                  49.674  50.826
    Zurich                203.370 208.085
    Brussels                8.077   8.265
    Frankfurt             166.600 170.463
    Helsinki               54.803  56.074
    Amsterdam             147.861 151.289
    Copenhagen             43.805  44.820
    Stockholm              38.019  38.901
    Oslo                   40.097  41.026
    Vienna                 23.680  24.229
    Milan                  16.828  17.218
    Tokyo                 309.950 317.137
    Madrid                  1.958   2.004
    Lisbon                  1.625   1.663
    Athens News Agency

    [10] Ipekci committee proposes special award for Cem

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    A Greek-Turkish friendship group proposed Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem for a special award after he said that Ankara was committed to following EU norms on resolving border disputes.

    The secretariat of the Ipekci Awards took the decision unanimously to propose Mr. Cem for the 'Special Abdi Ipekci Peace and Friendship Prize".

    A statement from the group's secretariat said it was responding positively to statements from Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who said that Mr. Cem's "efforts and activity" should be rewarded, regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's EU summit in Helsinki, expected to discuss Turkey's bid to become a candidate member.

    Mr. Cem said in statements on Tuesday, after visiting the Turkish daily "Miliyet" that Turkey would be "committed to harmonising with the rules of (the EU's) Agenda 2000 in relation to the resolution of border differences."

    Mr. Cem is a first cousin of the pacifist journalist Abdi Ipekci, who was assassinated in the late 1970s.

    The bi-annual Ipekci prizes, alternately hosted in Athens and Istanbul, were established following a Greek initiative in February 1979, shortly after Ipekci's killing. The awards are given in recognition of efforts to promote Greek-Turkish frie ndship and cooperation.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] Cem: Turkey will respect 'Agenda 2000' agreement for solving border disputes

    ISTANBUL, 09/12/1999 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)

    Turkey will respect the European Union's "Agenda 2000" agreement regarding resolution of problems in the Aegean, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said yesterday.

    Addressing the union of Turkish entrepreneurs and industrialists (TUSIAD) meeting in Ankara, Mr. Cem said the EU borders have created a "potential for confrontation" between Greece and Turkey.

    "With the creation of EU borders the Aegean has been divided in half and for this reason Europe must now save Turkey and Greece from such conditions. We do not want to undertake the responsibility of those problems," Mr. Cem said.

    On a different note, Mr. Cem said Turkey cannot accept "special terms" regarding its candidacy to the EU.

    "If additional terms are set only for Turkey, then we cannot accept that," he said, while he reiterated Turkey's opposition to Cyprus' EU accession.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Tsohatzopoulos calls for unhindered EU accession talks with Cyprus, other candidates

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    Athens remains steadfast in its demand for the unhindered completion of EU accession negotiations for Cyprus and another five candidate-states, Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said yesterday.

    Following a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Janos Szabo, the Greek defence minister also said that positive preconditions for closer EU-Turkey ties are more apparent now than ever.

    He also expressed the view that it is the EU's responsibility to formulate a clear framework for the accession negotiations for Cyprus and the other five candidate states, which include Hungary.

    "I cannot understand under what right and in the name of what problems a country of the European Union can set dilemmas towards the completion of this (accession) process.

    "Whoever attempts to pose dilemmas or questions will have total responsibility for anything that will follow," he said.

    On his part, the Hungarian minister said his country is very interested in the date of accession as it is a candidate state.

    "We would be happy if tension in the region was decreased over the next six months and a period of prosperity would dawn in all countries in the region, " he added.

    Cyprus, Hungary and another four European nations comprise the first wave of 11 countries expected to enter the Union in the next century.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] Gov't spokesman on PM's reference to early elections

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that Prime Minister Costas Simitis' reference on Tuesday to the country being "led to elections in a few months' time" was self-evident, given the designs of the main opposition New Democracy party.

    "We are convinced that the present Parliament can elect a president of the republic, and our position that the government must exhaust its four-year term still stands," he said.

    Parliament will have to be dissolved in March if it fails to elect a president with a three-fifths majority, which the ruling party alone does not possess. PASOK is the only party which has said it will support the re- election of incumbent Kostis Stephanopoulos.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Papantoniou on Turkey's EU vocation

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou stressed yesterday that Turkey's European vocation could contribute to the solving of problems on the condition, however, that there are specific commitments on Ankara's part.

    Speaking at a downtown Athens event on the subject of "Greece after EMU" last night, Mr. Papantoniou referred to Greece's position in the Balkans. In terms of Turkey, he said that "the unacceptable disputing of national sovereign rights of ours by Turkey, as well as the continuing occupation of part of the Republic of Cyprus constitute a permanent source of tensions in the region. The acceptance on the part of Turkey of the rules and procedures of international law and the international community provid es the sole exit to handling problems.

    "Turkey's European vocation could contribute positively in this direction on condition that it will be linked to specific commitments," he said.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] School students defy government ban

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    Teachers and high school students held protest rallies in Athens, Thessaloniki and other cities yesterday, demanding changes to recent education ministry reforms and to a more recent government move to allow the prosecution of those organising sit-in prot ests at schools. In Athens, the march down central Stadiou and Filellinon streets to the education ministry was guarded by a strong police presence, which prevented marchers reaching the ministry and averting a repeat of past violence.

    Representatives were allowed to enter the ministry building to deliver a list of demands which include increased spending on education.

    The marchers then moved to the front of the Parliament building; police kept a strict watch but tempers remained in control.

    "We're now not only fighting for our right to education... Now we're fighting for democracy," some marchers said, referring to the empowering last week of judicial officials to allow them to intervene in sit-in protests at schools.

    According to the government, occupations at schools last year caused an estimated six billion drachmas in damage.

    High school students effectively closed down schools around the country for about three months late last year, in protest at the education ministry pushing through new examination and grading systems. At the peak of the protests, more than a thous and schools were thought occupied.

    The Cabinet, acting on the recommendation of the justice ministry, decided last Friday that a legislative act should be drawn up to allow public prosecutors to intervene at any schools being occupied to determine if damage had been caused or non-students were involved in the protest.

    The act will forbid sit-in protests and impose penalties on those persons found to be hindering the normal functioning of schools.

    The Cabinet's decision was unanimous.

    Students have called another march for December 16, in which schools from around Greece have been called to participate in.

    In Thessaloniki, the protestors comprised high school and university students, unappointed teachers and public school teachers.

    Some protesters threw stones, firecrackers and eggs at police guarding the court house, which was on the march's route but no further violence was reported.

    In other marches, seven people were detained but not charged when students blocked the Kozani-Florina road outside Ptolemaida.

    Athens News Agency

    [16] Stephanopoulos ranks high in opinion poll

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos apparently enjoyed widespread support among voters just a few months before the election of a new head of state by Parliament, according to a recent opinion poll published in several Athens dailies yesterday .

    A poll conducted by the firm "Metron Analysis" - held before his high- profile address at a state dinner in honour of visiting US President Bill Clinton last month - shows a sweeping majority of 88.5 per cent as considering Mr. Stephanopoulos' presidency a success.

    Asked to choose between Mr. Stephanopoulos and popular Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos for president, 66.3 per cent of respondents in the poll preferred the current president - 23.7 per cent opted for Mr. Avramopoulos. In the same comparison between Mr. Stephanopoulos and ND honorary president Constantine Mitsotakis, an overwhelming 75.4 per cent preferred the former against 15.5 percent who opted for the former New Democracy premier.

    A similar comparison with veteran leftwing leader Leonidas Kyrkos put Mr. Stephanopoulos' popularity even higher, at 84.7 per cent against only 5 per cent for Mr. Kyrkos.

    Athens News Agency

    [17] Culture minister: Greek views promoted at London symposium on Marbles

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    The government forwarded a view yesterday that the British Museum had been the 'loser' in a recent London symposium to discuss the condition of the Parthenon Marbles, on display at the museum.

    Speaking at a news conference, Culture Minister Elizabeth Papazoi said Athens had "gained new friends" following its presentation of the facts at the symposium.

    "It is obvious that this was a symposium with a pre-defined aim," she said, adding that British historian William St Clair, who revealed the damage done to the Marbles during cleaning attempts in the 1930s, had been targeted by many of the symposium's participants.

    "The British Museum attempted to show itself as a credible agency maintaining and protecting the Marbles in the presence of Greek experts. "The climate turned around towards the end of the symposium and obliged them to talk about the present-day condition of the Marbles," Ms Papazoi said. She also announced that ministry secretary general Lina Mendoni left for London yesterday to take part in a conference on cultural heritage and it is expected that she will once again raise the issue of a return of the exquisite friezes.

    Athens News Agency

    [18] Athens 2004 leadership at IOC meeting focusing on preparations

    Athens, 09/12/1999 (ANA)

    The leadership of the Athens 2004 organising committee will be in Lausanne over the next four days for the International Olympic Committee's executive meeting, focusing on the Greek capital's preparations for the Games.

    Athens 2004 officials also announced that the committee would lend priority to the following sectors leading up to the 2004 Games, namely, communications, marketing, information technology, security, hospitality, transports and volunteers. The organising committee's board of directors will also be charged with deciding on hiring executives for the Games, a 2004 spokesman said. Managing Director Costas Bakouris has the right to appoint up to 5 per cent of such hirings.

    Athens News Agency

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