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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-12-10

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Simitis tackles `difficult` issues ahead of key EU summit
  • [02] Public revenue up 530 pct on share tax
  • [03] Real estate mutual funds get first vote
  • [04] Parl't begins budget debate Dec. 16
  • [05] OTE names Romtelecom chairman
  • [06] Gov't to aid jobseekers in the arts
  • [07] Burns calls Greece driving force in Balkans
  • [08] OA makes accord with Arab carriers
  • [09] Equities nose up in lower turnover
  • [10] Bonds rise again, bund spread narrows
  • [11] Rio-Antirrio bridge to see Olympic flame in 2004
  • [12] Athens Foreign Exchange
  • [13] Martens: Turkey must meet Copenhagen criteria to become an EU candidate
  • [14] Kaklamanis points to March 26 if early election needed
  • [15] Greek teams bow out of UEFA Cup
  • [16] Lobbyists say gov't close to allowing cremation for non-Orthodox faithful
  • [17] Greek-Turkish conference of media professionals set for February
  • [18] EU's Fischler: Commission dissatisfied with Greek subsidy payment system
  • [19] Ulcer-busting properties of mastic touted
  • [20] Police search for US members of alleged doomsday cult

  • [01] Simitis tackles `difficult` issues ahead of key EU summit

    HELSINKI, 10/12/1999 (ANA- V. Mourtis/CNA)

    Guarantees for Cyprus' unhindered progress towards Union membership, referral of Turkey's differences with Greece in the Aegean to The Hague and a so-called "road map" clearly identifying Ankara's obligations still stood as conditions for Greece's endorsement of the neighbouring country's EU candidacy, high-ranking government sources said here yesterday. On his part, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said these issues were still the subject of negotiations and presented difficulties due to differing views.

    "We are continuing negotiations and discussions with the Finnish presidency and the other governments of member-states to achieve what we believe is correct," Mr. Simitis told reporters at the media centre in Helsinki after meeting with the current pres ident of the European Union, his Finnish counterpart Paavo Lipponen as well as the EU's High Representative on foreign and defence policy, Javier Solana.

    He also said that Athens wanted "a solution to the enlargement problems; a solution that would safeguard the interests of both Greece and the EU so it can operate smoothly". The Greek PM described the issues involved as "quite difficult" because of differing views.

    "We insist and continue to insist on achieving the best possible for the country's interests," he added.

    The same sources said the Greek government aimed at obtaining a reference in the final conclusions reiterating that the island republic would join the EU even if the Cyprus problem remained unresolved, leaving no room for any misinterpretation.

    This position was said to have the support of Britain, which was trying to find the acceptable wording to all EU members.

    The sources also reported that the chances for Athens' approval of Turkey's candidacy remained at 50-50.

    On Wednesday, the Greek prime minister issued a call for 'clarity' to be brought to relations between the European Union and Turkey and to relations between Greece and Turkey, which will facilitate the resolution of problems.

    He underlined that Athens believed Turkey's bid for candidacy status to be a positive step.

    The majority of member-states appear to hold the view that Turkey should be given a candidate status, but accession talks could not begin before Ankara satisfies the criteria set out, especially with regard to respect for human rights within the country itself.

    Ankara reacted strongly two years ago when the EU Council said Turkey was eligible as a candidate for membership, although talks could not begin unless Ankara met certain preconditions, including the backing of a settlement in Cyprus and ironing out its relations with Greece.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Public revenue up 530 pct on share tax

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    Public revenue rose 530 percent in January to November due to a tax on stock market transactions, the finance ministry said in a statement yesterday.

    Revenue from the stock tax came to 195.9 billion drachmas, up from 31.1 billion drachmas in the same period last year.

    Revenue from a mobile phone tax increased 64 percent to 7.5 billion drachmas, up from 4.6 billion drachmas in January to November 1998, the ministry said.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Real estate mutual funds get first vote

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    A bill on allowing the creation of real estate mutual funds received initial approval in parliament yesterday with a vote in favour of the principle of the bill.

    The bill will now be debated and voted in sections.

    Deputy National Economy Minister Christos Pahtas said the new product would give the market an additional investment tool.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Parl't begins budget debate Dec. 16

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    Parliament will begin debating the budget for 2000 on December 16, parliament officials said yesterday.

    The debate will last five consecutive sessions, ending in a vote at midnight on Tuesday, December 21. Next year's budget, the last before the country's anticipated entry into the euro zone on January 1, 2001, targets a 5.8 percent rise in revenue, a further cut in the government deficit, tax cuts worth 470 billion drachmas, and a 7.4 percent increase in public spending.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] OTE names Romtelecom chairman

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    State-controlled Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) announced yesterday the appointment of its deputy CEO, George Skarpelis, as the new chairman of the board of Romtelecom, Romania's national telecom.

    "We like to announce that the general assembly of the stockholders of Romtelecom on December 7, 1999, appointed Mr. G. Skarpelis as the new chairman of the board of Romtelecom," an OTE announcement said.

    OTE acquired a 35 percent stake and 51 percent voting rights in Romtelecom for 675 million dollars a year ago in an international tender for privatisation of the Romanian state company.

    OTE said Mr. Skarpelis has been a staff member since 1968 and has "valuable experience in the management of telecoms". Mr. Skarpelis has served on the board of several companies, and in December 1998 was appointed deputy chief executive officer at OTE, a position he still holds.

    Overhaul completed : OTE said in a separate statement yesterday that it had carried out a restructuring of its divisions in order to further rationalise activities. The companies general directorates have been increased to eight from six after the creation of new units and the abolition of existing ones. In addition, OTE's strategic plan divides commercial activities into corporate clients (major accounts) and residential clients (households).

    Bridge loan sought : OTE also said it was seeking a short-term bridge loan of 310 million euros for three months.

    The issuer will be selected after a tender.

    The loan will be covered by an 800 million euro bond to be signed in February 2000, OTE said.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Gov't to aid jobseekers in the arts

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    Labour and Social Security Minister Miltiades Papaioannou yesterday announced two new programmes designed to subsidise the employment of jobseekers involved in the arts.

    The programmes, which are budgeted at 13.5 billion drachmas, aim at developing jobs including library work and the development of audio visual applications. The first programme will subsidise the recruitment of 2000 unemployed in private companies, local authorities and trade groups for two years at a cost of 5.5 billion drachmas.

    The second programme will assist the self-employed in the sector with subsidies totalling four billion drachmas for each person.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Burns calls Greece driving force in Balkans

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    US Ambassador Nicholas Burns said yesterday that Greece was the driving force for growth in the Balkans. Addressing a conference on the Greek economy held by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Burns said that US and Greek firms could form alli ances to take part in the reconstruction of the region. The ambassador said he was echoing the view of US President Bill Clinton who visited Athens in November. New opportunities for cooperation between companies of the two countries had arisen due to Greece's anticipated entry into the 11-member euro zone on January 1, 2001, he added.

    100 bourse entries seen in 2000 : Speaking at the same conference, Athens Stock Exchange chairman Spyros Kouniakis said that around a hundred companies were expected to join the bourse in 2000, taking the total of listed firms to 300.

    The total covers both the bourse's main market and parallel market for small capitalisation stocks.

    Mr. Kouniakis also said that daily turnover at the bourse had risen at least twentyfold over the last two years.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] OA makes accord with Arab carriers

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    Greek national carrier Olympic Airways announced yesterday it had signed a three-year association agreement with 13 Arab airlines for the provision of ground services.


    SUDAN AIRWAYS, and LIBYAN ARAB AIRLINES. The alliance covers Athens Airport and regional airports, with an option for cooperation at Athens' new Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Spata, which is still being built.

    "Today, Olympic Airways, as a handling agent, offers integrated ground handling services at 26 airports throught Greece. Its more than 40 years of experience, combined with the daily aspiration of all involved for continuous improvement of services offe red on the one hand, and on the other its seasonally-adapted fares policy give OA major advantages in maintaining a leading role," an OA announcement said.

    "The effort aims at successful maintenance of this activity with relocation to the new Athens International Airport," the statement said.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] Equities nose up in lower turnover

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    Equities increased slightly on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday with turnover dropping sharply.

    The general index ended 0.34 percent higher at 5,289.45 points. Turnover was around 197.989 billion drachmas.

    The parallel market index for small capitalisation stocks dropped 5.90 percent to 1,746.71 points.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 1.50 percent higher at 2,709.24 points.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (+1.08 pct), Leasing (-2.02 pct), Insurance (-0.59 pct), Investment (+0.36 pct), Construction (-2.63 pct), Industrials (-0.38 pct), Miscellaneous (-0.18 pct) and Holding (+0.48 pct). Of 327 shares traded, decline rs led advancers at 256 to 66 with 5 issues remaining unchanged. The most heavily traded stocks were Mesohoritis and Panafon Hellenic Telecommunications.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 23,170 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 25, 390, Titan Cement Company (common) at 37,940, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,140, Intracom at 12,255, Panafon at 3,745 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,720.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Bonds rise again, bund spread narrows

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    Bonds in the domestic secondary market rose in healthy turnover yesterday, again lifted by a planned revaluation in June 2000 of the drachma's central parity against the euro 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 that the market expects to be announced on December 15.

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

    The benchmark 10-year bond traded above 100, rising above par, showing a yield of 6.28 percent from 6.30 percent in the previous session and 6.32 percent on Tuesday.

    The yield spread over German bunds was 124 basis points from 123 basis points a day earlier, between 127 and 132 basis points on Tuesday and 127 basis points in the previous four sessions.

    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 104 billion drachmas from 128 billion drachmas a day earlier and 142 billion drachmas on Tuesday.

    In yesterday's trade, buy orders accounted for the bulk of turnover.

    Euro edges up vs drachma : The euro crept up against the drachma in domestic foreign exchange trade yesterday.

    In the previous session, upward pressure on the drachma due to demand had 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 yesterday's central bank's daily fixing, the European single currency was set at 328.850 drachmas from 328.470 drachmas in the previous session and 328.490 drachmas on Tuesday.

    Also at the fixing, the dollar rose sharply against the drachma in line with its ascent on international markets.

    The US currency was set at 323.220 drachmas from 320.690 drachmas a day earlier and 320.900 drachmas on Tuesday.

    Silver & Barytes gets Bulgarian deal : Silver & Barytes, which is listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, yesterday obtained a concession through Somin, its Bulgarian subsidiary, to explore for gold in the neighbouring country.

    The contract, which was signed with the Bulgarian government, allows exploration for the precious metal over an area of 138 square kilometres.

    The deal is for one year, with an option for extension to six years.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] Rio-Antirrio bridge to see Olympic flame in 2004

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    Deputy Public Works Minister Christos Verelis said yesterday that the Rio- Antirrio bridge link would be inaugurated in 2004 with the Olympic flame.

    Athens is to host the 2004 Olympic Games with the flame due to be carried across the bridge to the capital from the ancient town of Olympia in the Peloponnese, Mr. Verelis said.

    He was speaking at the site of the bridge to inspect construction, accompanied by Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis.

    The minister said he was satisfied with construction, which was about four months ahead of schedule.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Athens Foreign Exchange

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    Bank of Greece closing rates of: December 9, 1999

    Parities in Drachmas

    Banknotes             Buying  Selling
    US Dollar             320.634 328.068
    Can.Dollar            216.335 221.351
    Australian Dlr        204.744 209.491
    Pound Sterling        519.153 531.190
    Irish Punt            414.213 423.816
    Pound Cyprus          566.987 580.133
    Pound Malta           746.331 777.428
    Turkish pound (100)     0.054   0.056
    French franc           49.732  50.885
    Swiss franc           204.049 208.780
    Belgian franc           8.087   8.274
    German Mark           166.793 170.660
    Finnish Mark           54.867  56.139
    Dutch Guilder         148.032 151.464
    Danish Kr.             43.886  44.904
    Swedish Kr.            38.027  38.909
    Norwegian Kr.          40.216  41.148
    Austrian Sh.           23.707  24.256
    Italian lira (100)     16.848  17.239
    Yen (100)             310.456 317.654
    Spanish Peseta          1.960   2.006
    Port. Escudo            1.627   1.665
    Foreign Exchange      Buying  Selling
    New York              320.634 328.068
    Montreal              216.335 221.351
    Sydney                204.744 209.491
    London                519.153 531.190
    Dublin                414.213 423.816
    Nicosia               566.987 580.133
    Paris                  49.732  50.885
    Zurich                204.049 208.780
    Brussels                8.087   8.274
    Frankfurt             166.793 170.660
    Helsinki               54.867  56.139
    Amsterdam             148.032 151.464
    Copenhagen             43.886  44.904
    Stockholm              38.027  38.909
    Oslo                   40.216  41.148
    Vienna                 23.707  24.256
    Milan                  16.848  17.239
    Tokyo                 310.456 317.654
    Madrid                  1.960   2.006
    Lisbon                  1.627   1.665
    Athens News Agency

    [13] Martens: Turkey must meet Copenhagen criteria to become an EU candidate

    HELSINKI, 10/12/1999 (ANA - V. Mourtis/A. Panagopoulos)

    European People's Party (EPP) president Wifried Martens reiterated here yesterday that Turkey must accept the Copenhagen criteria as well as conditions set by the European Union at the Luxemb ourg summit if it hopes to become an EU candidate state.

    In response to subsequent press questions, the former Belgian premier also referred to Ankara's past criticism, namely, that the Union harboured religious and cultural prejudices against predominately Moslem Turkey. He stressed that the EPP has a standi ng policy citing only political criteria for Turkey's European orientation, "if these are fulfilled, they will be afforded the same treatment."

    Karamanlis : Meanwhile, senior main opposition New Democracy officials accompanying ND leader Costas Karamanlis to Helsinki for the EPP conference said they have ascertained a shortening of the distance between the current PASOK government's positions and those of ND over the past 10 days regarding the possible upgrading of relations between the Union and Turkey.

    The crucial question is whether the government will insist or not on this policy, Mr. Karamanlis said, who believes that Turkey's proclamation as a European Union candidate country has no symbolic value nor does it constitute a goodwill gesture. "The risk is very big and nobody can accept slack positions or ambiguous formulations," Mr. Karamanlis said, reiterating his conditions for Greece to consent to an upgrading in relations between Europe and Turkey. He said the attitude shown by Turkey for years is "incompatible with its European vocation except under clear and self- evident preconditions: democratisation, with absolute respect for human rights and the rights of minorities; respect for international law and international treaties; the abandonment o f the tactic of the threat or the use of force, and Cyprus' accession to the EU as soon as relevant processes are completed and regardless of whether or not the political problem is resolved."

    Mr. Karamanlis insists that Turkey's possible upgrading to a candidate country constitutes in essence a "European passport" for Ankara since it will be participating in sensitive EU processes, such as the sectors of defence and foreign policy but without anything in exchange for Greece and Europe.

    He also maintains that the possible linking of conditions to be set by the Helsinki summit with Turkey's full accession to the EU constitutes no "fig leaf", since Ankara is aware that if it becomes a full member it will be after 20 years or more.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Kaklamanis points to March 26 if early election needed

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    The most likely date for general elections if Parliament fails to elect a new president early next year will be March 26, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis said yesterday.

    Mr. Kaklamanis told reporters that if opposition parties insisted on pushing for early elections by not re-electing incumbent president Kostis Stephanopoulos, then elections would be slated for no earlier than March 26. The ruling PASOK party has repeatedly said it wants the current Parliament to re-elect Mr. Stephanopoulos to a second term, allowing it to serve out its own four-year mandate and with elections being held in the latter half of 2000.

    According to the Constitution, Parliament must hold a roll-call vote at a special session at least one month before the incumbent president's five- year term expires.

    President Stephanopoulos' term expires on March 9, meaning that this session would be held on Feb. 8, Mr. Kaklamanis said.

    If the presidential candidate fails to garner two-thirds of the total of MPs in Parliament - 200 deputies at the first vote, a repeat is held in five days' time. If at this poll the quota of 200 fails to be reached, another vote is held in another five days.

    In the third and final vote, a president is elected on the basis of three- fifths of the Legislature, or 180 deputies. If the number falls short, Parliament is dissolved in 10 days' time and general elections are called. The first available Sunday for the holding of elections in this eventuality, Mr. Kaklamanis said, was March 26.

    He also denied there were any plans afoot to speed up the procedures and to hold elections before this date.

    Gov't : On his part, acting government spokesman Nikos Athanassakis told a press briefing that the government's intention is to hold general elections in September 2000 at the end of its four-year term. He added that if early elections did take place, the respon sibility would lie with the opposition.

    Asked to comment on a front-page article in a new Athens daily claiming that early general elections would be called for Feb. 20, Mr. Athanassakis said:

    "The government's intention is to abide by the time-table, which provides for elections at the end of the four-year term, in September 2000".

    Athens News Agency

    [15] Greek teams bow out of UEFA Cup

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    Two Greek teams were knocked out of the third round in the second leg of the UEFA Cup yesterday.

    AEK Athens lost 0-1 to Monaco away (2-3 on aggregate), and Panathinaikos drew 1-1 at home with Spain's La Coruna (3-4 on aggregate).

    Athens News Agency

    [16] Lobbyists say gov't close to allowing cremation for non-Orthodox faithful

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    The interior ministry is reportedly set to introduce legislation allowing non-Orthodox faithful to opt for cremation rather than burial, members of a group lobbying for the right to cremation stated yesterday.

    Speakers at a news conference said the final touches were being put on a law allowing those whose religious beliefs permitted cremation to have such ceremonies conducted in Greece, something that would place the country in line with EU human rights dire ctives.

    "Greece is the only country in the EU which does not respect foreign customs and traditions," Coalition of the Left Eurodeputy Alekos Alavanos told a news conference.

    At present, the absence of crematoria effectively prevents those who wish to cremate their loved ones or to be cremated themselves from carrying out their wishes.

    One of the lobbyists, Christel Schneider Andrikopoulos, said that thousands of foreigners, whether residing temporarily or permanently in Greece, experienced unnecessary grief due to the lack of facilities for cremations.

    Parliament vice-president Panayiotis Sgouridis also noted that those whose religious beliefs allowed cremation would soon have their wishes realised and said that legislation allowing the creation of crematoria would be in force by early February.

    The issue of whether cremation will be available for citizens baptised into the Orthodox faith is still unclear.

    The Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece has said that the practice runs counter to the teachings of the Church, but some, including a number of deputies, want the practice to be made available to all regardless of religion.

    In 1994, Attica municipalities proposed allowing families to choose cremation as one way of dealing with overcrowded cemeteries.

    Athens News Agency

    [17] Greek-Turkish conference of media professionals set for February

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    An initiative to convene a Greek-Turkish conference of journalists and mass media executives in Athens this February has gained the support of 52 Greek media professionals.

    The 52 signatories include Athens News Agency (ANA) General Director Andreas Christodoulides and Managing Director Nicholas Voulelis, as well as noted journalists and correspondents Giorgos Votsis, Alkis Kourkoulas and Nikos Mengrelis.

    "Bilateral meetings between free and independent Greek and Turkish journalists and mass media executives undoubtedly improve the climate between them. They possibly affect positively, directly or indirectly, public opinion in both countries by weakening traditional tensions and strengthening common values and conceptions," the text signed by the journalists read.

    The targets of the initiative are to promote in the mass media the conception of mutual understanding between the two countries. The journalistic exploitation of events in bad faith should be avoided. The deliberate charging of situations which create an atmosphere of crisis should be avoided. Creative dialogue should be promoted systematically at all possible levels between the two countries.

    Lastly, various efforts (by governments and various bodies) aimed at dialogue, the peaceful solution to whatever differences, etc, should be promoted from a journalistic point of view.

    The Greek-Turkish press conference will be held in Athens in January and February with the responsibility of the Work and Contact Group.

    Athens News Agency

    [18] EU's Fischler: Commission dissatisfied with Greek subsidy payment system

    BRUSSELS, 10/12/1999 (ANA - V. Demiris)

    Greek farmers are in danger of losing 23 billion drachmas in 1999 from direct European Union agricultural subsidies due to the payment system and deductions imposed on Greece-based payment organisations.

    This is deduced by a reply given by EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler to a question by main opposition New Democracy Eurodeputies Antonis Trakatellis, Yiannis Averof and Costis Hatzidakis.

    "The Commission is not satisfied with the existing system of paying EU subsidies to Greece. The Greek authorities have not yet fully implemented the integrated administration and control system as is necessary according to (EEC) regulation No. 3508/92,"

    Mr. Fischler said.

    "The European Commission has already reduced monthly payments paid in Greece - amounting to 2.78 billion drachmas in 1998 - and 22.9 billion in (all of) 1999," he said, adding that "these amounts are based on 10 per cent reductions of amounts requested for the subsidisation of bovines; 2 per cent for the subsidisation of sheep and goats; 5 per cent for payments of arable cultivations, and 5 per cent in the olive oil sector (only for 1999)."

    Athens News Agency

    [19] Ulcer-busting properties of mastic touted

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    A Nottingham University biochemistry researcher told a press conference in Athens yesterday that mastic is capable of neutralising, to a great degree, the bacteria causing stomach ulcers.

    The mastic trees on the southern part of the eastern Aegean island of Hios have been renowned since antiquity for their reputed therapeutic abilities and fresh taste.

    Results of research were published in the British Medical Journal and reportedly did not surprise British experts, as past studies on patients suffering from ulcers showed a distinct lessening of symptoms following the systematic chewing of mastic.

    According to Prof. N. Ladin, it appears that small quantities of mastic - a gram every day for two weeks -were capable of curing stomach ulcers over a short period of time.

    Athens News Agency

    [20] Police search for US members of alleged doomsday cult

    Athens, 10/12/1999 (ANA)

    Authorities have been alerted throughout the country for any members of the alleged doomsday cult "Concerned Christians", following the deportation of 25 members of the group last week.

    According to reports, police have been investigating homes in the Kozani region, although these searches to date have not uncovered anything.

    Greece deported 25 US citizens residing in Rafina and Neos Voutzas regions of eastern Attica region last week. Authorities said the group - which included women and young children - no longer held valid residency permits. The same fate awaits any other member of the group detected by police, according to one source.

    Authorities fear that members of Concerned Christians will commit acts of violence or suicide as the new millennium approaches.

    Some of the group's members deported over the past week were expelled from Israel in January.

    Athens News Agency

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