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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-12-15

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] Simitis sayys Greece now faces future with confidence
  • [02] Greece releases revised EU convergence plan today
  • [03] Gov't weighing up drachma revaluation, PM says
  • [04] No Y2K glitches expected in Greek banks
  • [05] Equities drop, turnover remains moderate
  • [06] Profit taking in bond market
  • [07] Gov't gets quake loan from EIB
  • [08] Funds released for public investment
  • [09] Business prizes awarded
  • [10] Telecoms deregulation draft bill unveiled
  • [11] Athens Foreign Exchange
  • [12] Simitis: No reason for early elections
  • [13] G. Papandreou: Helsinki decision on Turkey changed tempo Aegean, Cyprus issues
  • [14] Greece, FYROM sign defence cooperation accord
  • [15] Latest poll finds ruling PASOK ahead of ND, high rating for Stephanopoulos
  • [16] New draft bill on immigration, foreigners' status presented
  • [17] Mother of five reportedly run-off with eldest son's friend...aged 15

  • [01] Simitis sayys Greece now faces future with confidence

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that Greece's economic prospects and the feeling of security and stability of Greek citizens for the future were secured.

    Addressing a press conference organised by the Foreign Press Association, Mr. Simitis said these stemmed from the positive state of the economy, which will allow the country to enter Economic Monetary Union (EMU), and Turkey's candidacy to the Union, which will in turn create a climate of cooperation, stability and peace in the region.

    "I want to emphasise that for the first time I see realistic possibilities, " he said, speaking on Turkey's candidacy. "The road will be long and difficult, but now we see that it is achievable. It is achievable and possible. We should not be fearful or have the feeling that it can not be done."

    Speaking on the country's economic future, he said "the course of the economy has taken the country out of the state of uncertainty and has lead it to convergence with developed countries, giving it the ability to participate in the centre of decision making."

    The premier, however, said none of the government's top cadres, nor he himself personally, are "overjoyed" with the results of the Helsinki summit. He also stressed that the decision opens up new prospects for the two countries, while the current positive climate in bilateral relation emanates from the goodwill exhibited from the recent destructive earthquakes in both countries.

    "The prospects for peace and cooperation are great and the Greek government will work to aid this effort, which it is already (doing)..." he said.

    Turkey was granted EU candidate status during an EU summit in Helsinki last - the 13th candidate state - after it accepted the terms and conditions set for harmonisation with the Union's acquis communautaire. Conditions also included specific mention to

    Cyprus' accession to the Union regardless of a solution to the island republic's long-standing political problem, as well as a framework for the resolution of Greek-Turkish differences. Athens says the only dispute is the delineation of the Aegean contin ental shelf.

    "The Helsinki decision, beyond creating new conditions in the region, proves that as in the case of Kosovo, Greece creates the preconditions for security and cooperation in the region and shows that it is far from the road of confrontation, while it has expelled dead-weights of the past," he said.

    In response to press questions, Mr. Simitis said the Union's condition that Ankara's claims eventually find their way to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, was positive for Greece. He stressed that Athens' foreign policy opposed a general dialogue on such issues, which it considers as differences. Rather, the only answer should be recourse to The Hague. "This is what we asked for and succeeded in achieving," Mr. Simitis said.

    Speaking on what he said was the Helsinki agreement regarding "border differences with Turkey", the premier noted that this mention was made for all candidate member-states and not just Turkey, and for this reason that paragraph of the agreement was stated in such general terms.

    "As far as Greece is concerned, there are no differences beyond that of the Aegean's continental shelf, if Turkey considers that there are other problems as well, our answer will be the same as it has always been...if Turkey has demands, it must seek recourse at The Hague," Mr. Simitis said.

    The Greek PM added that he did not believe Turkey will seek recourse to The Hague, since before it could take such action it would have to recognise the international court's jurisdiction.

    "Greece wishes to resolve the issue of the continental shelf," he stressed. He also said that it is very early to discuss that issue, as its deadline ends in 2004.

    Speaking on the avoidance of the use of violence in resolving disputes between the two countries, Mr. Simitis said that it is self evident for all countries entering the process of European unification. He also said there will be difficulties in the fut ure, "we are just at the beginning".

    Concluding, Mr. Simitis highlighted the possibilities for economic cooperation between Greece and Turkey, adding that Athens will follow the model it used in improving economic relations with other Balkan nations.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Greece releases revised EU convergence plan today

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou will present a revised economic convergence programme at a news conference today showing alignment with the European Union.

    The programme details past and future adaptation of the economy, indicating its readiness for euro zone entry by January 1, 2001.

    Greece's application to join economic and monetary union will be submitted to the EU's executive Commission in March 2000.

    A final decision, based on evaluation by the Commission and European Central Bank, is likely to be taken in June at a European Union summit in Lisbon.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Gov't weighing up drachma revaluation, PM says

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that the government was looking into the repercussions of revaluing the drachma's central parity to the euro in the European exchange rate mechanism.

    Mr. Simitis told a news conference for foreign correspondents that the economy would gain overall from a revaluation due to an easing of inflationary pressures from the world rise in oil prices.

    At the same time, a revaluation would reduce competitiveness, although the impact would be limited, Mr. Simitis added.

    A final decision on the drachma's new parity would be taken early in 2000, and any disruption of markets avoided, he said.

    Central bank governor Lucas Papademos has said that the revaluation would be effected in June 2000, the same month that the European Union is to decide whether Greece is eligible to join the euro zone by January 1, 2001.

    Mr. Simitis also said that domestic interest rates had declined but there were still differentials with European rates that had to be bridged.

    The alignment could create difficulties due to inflationary pressures from rising oil prices, with rate cuts, in turn, exacerbating the problem, he added.

    Replying to a reporter's question, the prime minister rejected talk that Greece would suffer after entry into the euro zone.

    He said that major funds were available to boost growth oriented activities, adding that he did not expect unemployment to rise.

    Finally, the prime minister said that no political negotiation would be needed for euro zone entry as Greece would enter on its own economic merits. From February, the country would face "almost" no problem in terms of inflation, Mr. Simitis said, adding that he had used the tentative word as it was impossible to be absolute.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] No Y2K glitches expected in Greek banks

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    The Union of Greek Banks said yesterday that its members were Year 2000 compliant and ready to deal with the computer changeover in dates to the new millennium.

    The public could rest easy that money deposited in domestic banks was "completely secure," the union said in a statement.

    "Customer accounts will suffer no effects; transactions will proceed normally."

    The union added that it had been working on the computer Y2K problem for the past three years, supervised by the central bank.

    Commercial banks would continuously supply ATMs with cash throughout the holiday period, allowing immediate withdrawals as usual, the statement said.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Equities drop, turnover remains moderate

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    Equities declined yesterday on the Athens Stock Exchange and turnover remained moderate.

    The general index ended 0.90 percent down at 5,574.16 points. Turnover was at 225.9 billion drachmas.

    The parallel market index for small capitalisation stocks was up 2.52 per cent at 1,947.12 points.

    The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 1.03 per cent lower at 2,834.57 points.

    Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-1.24 pct), Leasing (+1.03 pct), Insurance (-4.39 pct), Investment (-0.84 pct), Construction (+0.91 pct), Industrials (-0.31 pct), Miscellaneous (-2.16 pct) and Holding (-0.55 pct).

    Of 323 shares traded decliners led advancers at 222 to 98 with 3 issues remaining unchanged.

    The most heavily traded stocks were Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation, Panafon Hellenic Telecommunications and Technical Olympic.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 23,800 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 25, 850, Titan Cement Company (common) at 40,050, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,810, Intracom at 14,000, Panafon at 4,050 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 7,000.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Profit taking in bond market

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    Profit takers moved into the domestic secondary bond market yesterday, raking in solid gains after a bull run lasting several sessions.

    The market brushed off a statement by Prime Minister Costas Simitis that the government would decide early next year on revaluation of the drachma's central parity against the euro. Players had already discounted the move, traders said.

    The market has been fuelled recently by the planned revaluation in the European exchange rate mechanism, which, according to Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos, is scheduled for June 2000.

    Greece is to apply to join the EU's euro zone in March 2000, with a summit in June expected to endorse the application for entry on January 1, 2001.

    Investors are also awaiting a possible cut in the central bank's intervention rates today.

    They have already priced in a reduction of around 0.50 percentage point.

    A deeper cut would give the market even more impetus, analysts said. In recent sessions, the forward spread for the next 12 months between Greek benchmark 10-year bonds and equivalent German paper has been estimated at 50 basis points, coinciding with Greece's planned entry into the euro zone by January 1, 2001.

    According to analysts, the yield spread over equivalent German paper is likely to drop to 100 basis points by the end of the year, revising downwards an earlier estimate of 120 basis points.

    The benchmark 10-year bond continued to trade above par, showing a yield above 6.17 percent on Monday and 6.23 percent on Friday.

    The yield spread over German bunds was 119 basis points from a record 116 basis points a day earlier and 123-126 basis points on Friday.

    Turnover through the Bank of Greece's electronic trading system was 144 billion drachmas from 234 billion drachmas in the previous session and 56 billion drachmas on Friday.

    In yesterday's trade, sell orders accounted for 120 billion drachmas of turnover.

    Central bank steps in to ease pressure on drachma : The central bank intervened in the domestic foreign exchange market yesterday by supplying around 250 million euros at the daily fixing, the same as the previous session, in order to prop up the drachma.

    The Bank of Greece moved into the market after the euro broke through the 330 drachma barrier.

    Disruption in the previous session had stemmed from a drop in interbank rates. Any further decline would cause more difficulties for the drachma if the currency's central parity to the euro remained unchanged in the European Union's exchange rate mechanism, analysts said. Despite the Bank of Greece's intervention, the drachma lost ground against both the euro and the US dollar.

    At the central bank's daily fixing, the European single currency was set at 329.850 drachmas from 329.580 drachmas in the session before and 329.100 drachmas on Friday. Also at the fixing, the dollar rose sharply versus the drachma in line with its ascent on international markets. The US currency was set at 328.100 drachmas from 325.250 drachmas a day earlier and 323.970 drachmas on Friday.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Gov't gets quake loan from EIB

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    The government yesterday signed for a 300 million euro loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to help fund rebuilding after a fatal earthquake that hit Athens and Attica on September 7.

    Signing for the government was Deputy National Economy Minister Christos Pahtas, and for the EIB, deputy governor Panayotis Gennimatas. The 30-year loan has a seven year grace period with the first installment due in 2007. Much of the loan would be used to help fund repairs and reconstruction for the homes of private citizens, Mr. Pahtas said.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Funds released for public investment

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    Funds released from the government's public investments programme totalled more than 2,000 billion drachmas between January and December 10, the national economy ministry said in a statement yesterday. The total meant that 89 percent of the programme had been accomplished, the statement said.
    Athens News Agency

    [09] Business prizes awarded

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos yesterday presented the Business Club's 1999 Kouros awards.

    The prize for development and innovation was handed to a representative of Inform Lykos; for performance abroad to a representative of Crete Plastics; and for social contribution, to the entire business community for its fund- raising and assistance to victims after a fatal earthquake in Attica on September 7.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Telecoms deregulation draft bill unveiled

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    The transport and communications ministry yesterday released a text of a draft bill regarding the full deregulation of the country's telecommunications sector from Jan. 1, 2001. The draft bill provides for implemetation of rules of competition; sets out the right of citizens to higher quality services at reasonable prices, and establishes the principles of transparency, objectivity and equal treatment.

    The document is being sent to interested parties for comments before the text is finalised. The ministry yesterday also announced its website at address: www.yme.gr

    Athens News Agency

    [11] Athens Foreign Exchange

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    Bank of Greece closing rates of: December 14, 1999

    Parities in Drachmas

    Banknotes             Buying  Selling
    US Dollar             325.475 333.022
    Can.Dollar            219.827 224.924
    Australian Dlr        206.559 211.348
    Pound Sterling        527.307 539.533
    Irish Punt            415.472 425.105
    Pound Cyprus          568.555 581.737
    Pound Malta           757.600 789.167
    Turkish pound (100)     0.055   0.057
    French franc           49.883  51.039
    Swiss franc           204.342 209.080
    Belgian franc           8.111   8.299
    German Mark           167.301 171.180
    Finnish Mark           55.033  56.309
    Dutch Guilder         148.482 151.924
    Danish Kr.             43.995  45.015
    Swedish Kr.            38.166  39.051
    Norwegian Kr.          40.545  41.485
    Austrian Sh.           23.779  24.331
    Italian lira (100)     16.899  17.291
    Yen (100)             315.248 322.557
    Spanish Peseta          1.966   2.012
    Port. Escudo            1.632   1.670
    
    Foreign Exchange      Buying  Selling
    New York              325.475 333.022
    Montreal              219.827 224.924
    Sydney                206.559 211.348
    London                527.307 539.533
    Dublin                415.472 425.105
    Nicosia               568.555 581.737
    Paris                  49.883  51.039
    Zurich                204.342 209.080
    Brussels                8.111   8.299
    Frankfurt             167.301 171.180
    Helsinki               55.033  56.309
    Amsterdam             148.482 151.924
    Copenhagen             43.995  45.015
    Stockholm              38.166  39.051
    Oslo                   40.545  41.485
    Vienna                 23.779  24.331
    Milan                  16.899  17.291
    Tokyo                 315.248 322.557
    Madrid                  1.966   2.012
    Lisbon                  1.632   1.670
    
    Athens News Agency

    [12] Simitis: No reason for early elections

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    There is no reason for an early election and the main opposition would be responsible if the country went to the polls in March, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday.

    "Elections will be held in March if the main opposition insists on its present position (regarding the election of a president of the republic by Parliament)...The government will try to avoid an early poll," he said during a briefing of Foreign Press Ass ociation members in Athens. He claimed that early elections were not in the interests of the country during a period when its application to join EMU was being considered.

    "The country's interest requires a smooth run-up to accession," he said. The constitution provides for the dissolution of Parliament if it fails to elect a president of the republic with a three-fifths majority. Main opposition New Democracy has indicated it will not support the incumbent, Kostis Stephanopoulos, while the government's full four-year term expires in the autumn.

    The prime minister said he does not intend to ask the president to convene the political leaders' council on the issue, and called on the main opposition to make its position clear.

    "The vast majority of the Greek people want Kostis Stephanopoulos as president," he asserted.

    Responding to other questions, he left open the possibility of the ruling PASOK accepting cadres from other parties which accepted its programme and orientations.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] G. Papandreou: Helsinki decision on Turkey changed tempo Aegean, Cyprus issues

    NICOSIA, 15/12/1999 (ANA - G. Leonidas)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou said yesterday that the EU Helsinki summit's terms for accepting Turkey as an EU candidate had changed the tempo of movement over the Cyprus and Aegean issues. "Greece can deal with Turkey with confidence after Helsinki," Mr. Papandreou told the Cyprus Broadcasting Corp. (RIK).

    However, he said that although the dynamics had changed in the Cyprus and Aegean issues, "we should not expect dramatic developments".

    In his interview, Mr. Papandreou said he was preparing to visit Ankara, probably in January, to sign the first batch of bilateral agreements arising from "low-impact" talks between the two countries. He said these agreements included pacts on trade cooperation and tourism.

    Mitsotakis : On his part, former premier Constantine Mitsotakis yesterday diverged from the official main opposition line and backed the PASOK government's endorsement of Turkey's EU candidacy.

    Mr. Mitsotakis, ND's honorary president, said PM Costas Simitis' government had followed the policy implemented by his own ND government between 1990- 1993.

    "The fact that the government followed our policy should not be unpleasant to us in New Democracy," he said.

    Mr. Mitsotakis said it was better for the future "to have a European Turkey rather than an isolated and bitter Turkey that could fall into the hands of extremist forces".

    "Even if we could have obstructed its candidacy, we had no reason to do so, " he said.

    Mr. Mitsotakis also called the summit decision on Cyprus an "undisputable national success", adding that US President Bill Clinton had also contributed on that matter.

    Ecevit : ANKARA (ANA - A. Abatzis) - Addressing a Turkish assembly plenum yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said "with the strengthening of Turkey's position in the European Union, it will be possible to resolve problems with Greece in the Aegean wit hout it being necessary to resort to a court."

    Briefing the assembly on the EU's Helsinki summit, Mr. Ecevit referred to the Cyprus issue and more specifically to "concerns" expressed by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    "Mr. Denktash has reactions and not concerns," Mr. Ecevit said, adding that "to have concerns he must not be aware of the importance Turkey attributes to Cyprus."

    Mr. Ecevit will meet Mr. Denktash today, who will arrive in Turkey from New York.

    Ciller : ISTANBUL (ANA - A. Kourkoulas) - Meanwhile, former Turkish PM Tansu Ciller said Turkey must extricate itself from the issues of the Aegean and Cyprus and forge ahead to full European Union membership.

    "Turkey must make progress to its full membership of the EU, by getting over the issues of the Aegean and Cyprus ... This is the path we opened in 1996," she said.

    At the same time, she disputed the Turkish government's claim that the country had entered into obligations by accepting the Helsinki agreement according to which it was endorsed as an EU candidate.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Greece, FYROM sign defence cooperation accord

    SKOPJE, 15/12/1999 (ANA - M. Vihou)

    Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) yesterday signed a defence cooperation agreement here.

    The accord, signed by visiting National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his FYROM counterpart Nikola Kljusev, refers to bilateral meetings of experts, the training of FYROM defence ministry officials in Athens as well as cooperation in the sector of defence technology.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos later visited a Skopje military camp to attend a delivery ceremony of 10 Greek-made "Leonidas" armoured personnel carriers and 30 jeeps.

    FYROM already has defence cooperation accords with Bulgaria, Albania, Romania and Turkey.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos described his talks with his FYROM counterpart as "substantive", adding that the two countries "will play a leading role for immediate results for peace in Kosovo" and would "press the European Union" for speedy implementation of the Balkan Stability Pact.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] Latest poll finds ruling PASOK ahead of ND, high rating for Stephanopoulos

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    For the first time after the 1996 elections, the ruling PASOK party leads main opposition New Democracy in an opinion poll of the same company.

    The six-month poll by MRB shows that PASOK has overturned the unfavourable result of last June's Euroelections, and leads both in intentions to vote and in the climate among public opinion.

    The ruling party gained 31.6 per cent of preferences; New Democracy 30.6 per cent; the Communist Party of Greece 5.6 per cent; the Coalition of the Left 4 per cent, and the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) 4.8 per cent. People who have decided to cast a blank vote and a floating vote account for 21.6 per cent.

    Another important conclusion of the poll is that the relative majority of respondents, irrespective of their intention to vote, consider that the ruling party will win the next election.

    A 48.2 per cent share of them considers PASOK will come out victorious, while 32 per cent thinks ND will win the elections. Furthermore, Prime Minister Costas Simitis is considered more suitable for the post (41.9 per cent) than main opposition leader Costas Karamanlis (31.2 per cent).

    Public opinion seems to be negatively disposed towards the prospect of an early election for the purpose of a new Parliament electing a president of the republic. A 49.1 per cent share of respondents want the present Parliament to elect a president, wh ile 31.81 are in favour of the next Parliament electing the country's figurehead.

    Finally, the incumbent president, Kostis Stephanopoulos is by far considered the best individual for the job, preferred by 61.4 per cent of respondents, with Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos trailing far behind with 9.4 per cent, former ND prime minis ter Constantine Mitsotakis with 8.4 per cent, and veteran left-wing politician Leonidas Kyrkos with 1.2 per cent.

    Athens News Agency

    [16] New draft bill on immigration, foreigners' status presented

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    The interior minister yesterday presented a draft law on "immi-gration and the residence of aliens in Greece" which contains terms and preconditons for the controlled influx of non-EU foreign nationals and residence of aliens in Greece, as well as a conso lidation of their rights and obligations.

    Permits will no longer be provided by police authorities and this responsibility will be the task of the country's regional governors.

    Addressing a press conference, Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou said "the enactment of a modern and effective legislative framework, by which the preconditions are set out for the legal entry, residence and work of aliens in Greece and control appara tuses are created for the flow of the immigration wave, constitutes an imperative need now, since Greece has turned into a receiving country from a country sending immigrants."

    She said the existing legislative framework on aliens is totally inadequate, adding that the unveiled draft law will constitute the object of dialogue with relevant ministries, parties and social bodies before it is finalised and tabled in Parliament for ratification.

    According to the draft law, the coordination of immigration policy is given to the interior ministry with the creation of an aliens and immigration service and the creation of corresponding regional services in each prefecture.

    An immigration committee will be created as an advisory body to help the regional governor in his new duties to grant residence permits. The committee, which will have three members, will have personal interviews with each alien to judge his personality .

    Employment offices will be created with Greek consular authorities to liaison with aliens desiring to work in Greece to existing needs in the country's labour market.

    The imposition of criminal and administrative sanctions is anticipated for the employers of illegal foreign workers. Fines in such cases will reach 10 million drachmas, while immigration services and police will be responsible for monitoring application of the law and conducting checks.

    Athens News Agency

    [17] Mother of five reportedly run-off with eldest son's friend...aged 15

    Athens, 15/12/1999 (ANA)

    The husband of a 33-year-old mother of five pleaded yesterday that his wife returns home after she reportedly ran-off with a 16-year-old technical school student. News of the affair has caused a minor sensation in the northern Greek town of Drama.

    The woman's husband said he would forgive his wife if she would just come home. His wife, Vassiliki S., and the young man, identified as Costas D., left town on Friday. Police said they believe the couple has fled to Halkida, where the woman has relatives.

    After initially filing a missing persons' report, the teen's parents have now filed charges against Vassiliki S. for kidnapping.

    The married woman and the teen reportedly began their affair after the latter - a friend of the Saviddis' oldest son - visited the family home.

    Athens News Agency

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