|Thursday, 15 April 2021|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-12-18
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Government prepared to meet ND's push for early general elections, PM says
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis put his cabinet on election footing on Friday, saying that Thursday's rally by main opposition New Democracy party clearly indicated the beginning of its election campaign.
It was the second indication in as many days that the prime minister was preparing to deal head-on with the eventuality of the opposition forcing through general elections by not re-electing President Kostis Stephanopoulos to a second term in February.
On Thursday, Mr. Simitis announced that the ruling party PASOK's election committee would convene immediately after the New Year holidays.
Sources said that the prime minister told the cabinet meeting yesterday that the government wanted to see out its four-year mandate and hold elections at the end of its term in September 2000.
But to date, the premier said, New Democracy's actions have indicated that they will try to force the issue of general elections when the president's term comes up for renewal.
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. Mr. Stephanopoulos' term expires on March 9, meaning that this session would be held on February 8.
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 House, or 180 deputies. If the number falls short, parliament is dissolved in 10 days' time and general elections called. The first available Sunday for the holding of elections in this eventuality is March 26.
New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis' speech at a party rally in Piraeus on Thursday was clearly a pre-election speech, according to Mr. Simitis, who said it marked the beginning of the opposition's campaign.
He told the cabinet that it was necessary for PASOK to point out to the Greek people that it was the opposition, not the ruling party, which was pushing for early elections.
According to a poll released earlier this week, only 22 percent of Greeks asked believe early elections are desirable and 49.1 percent want the present Parliament to elect a president.
Kostis Stephanopoulos was far and away the most popular choice for president, according to the survey, polling 61.4 percent of the vote.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas reiterated yesterday that New Democracy could vote for President Stephanopoulos' second term and that this would be a positive development.
Prime Minister Simitis told his ministers that while the government's achievements had been positive to date - and that this had been indicated in recent polls, giving the ruling party a lead over the opposition - the government could not afford to rest on its laurels.
He asked for the pace of ministers' work to be stepped up and for more emphasis to be given to issues affecting the daily lives of Greeks.
Former PM Rallis backs re-election of President Stephanopoulos : Former New Democracy party Prime Minister George Rallis criticised both the ruling PASOK party and the main opposition New Democracy party in particular over their position concerning the issue of the election of the President of the Republic and after meeting President Kostis Stephanopoulos.
Mr. Rallis said the two parties misinterpreted the constitution, and on the occasion of statements by government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, but added that if he was an ND deputy he would vote for the incumbent president with both hands, who is deservedly fulfilling his duties.
He further said that the agreement reached at the European Union Helsinki summit was good because, as he said, Turkey was obliged to accept that Cyprus will join the EU regardless of whether the political problem is resolved and resort to the Internatio nal Court at The Hague, which was something it had been refusing for 20 years, if differences are not resolved by 2004.
Athens News Agency
 Former PM Mitsotakis says Greece stands to benefit if Turkey adjusts to European realities
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)It is in Greece's interest to support and encourage Turkey's turn to Europe, in the certainty that the sooner this turn is completed the faster the contradictions and the impasses bequeathed by the 20th century shall be left behind, former New Democracy prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis said yesterday.
"The first lesson that emerges from the experience at Helsinki (the recent EU summit) is that Greece stands to benefit if Turkey actually adjusts to European realities, because we shall then have a framework that will be especially helpful in resolving our differences," he said in a lecture to the consular corps, entitled, " Greece, Turkey, Cyprus: A better century ahead?"
He expressed the view that as long as the Cyprus problem remains an open wound, we cannot realistically hope for a normalisation of Greek-Turkish relations.
Mr. Mitsotakis noted that the substantial question was whether Turkish society had the potential of adopting the European model of democracy, free market and human rights, and how much time it needs to implement it.
Further, he said that the neighbouring country's progress in a European framework would put an end to its internal conflict as to its precise national identity, and it would become the first society with a western model of organisation and a population almost entirely Muslim.
"This will change the face not only of itself, but of the entire region," he said.
Responding to questions, the former prime minister said the free movement of persons in the EU would be the greatest stumbling block to Turkey's full integration, meeting with widespread disapproval, particularly in Germany.
Athens News Agency
 Government reveals draft law regulating status of ethnic Greeks from former USSR
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)The government yesterday revealed a draft law regulating the status of an estimated 150,000 ethnic Greeks who sought refuge in Greece in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union 10 years ago. The new bill provides the ethnic Greek refugees wi th formal Greek nationality, special passports providing them with the right to leave and enter the country without restriction and working papers.
The bill also introduces incentives in the form of subsidies to attract these ethnic Greeks to settle in underpopulated and economically depressed border regions, such as the northern Aegean or Thrace.
According to Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis, 70 percent of these migrants have settled in northern Greece and the new law is an important attempt to deal with the problems they face.
Sixty thousand refugees are estimated to be in Thessaloniki and around 30, 000 more in the Thrace region.
According to Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis and Mr. Magriotis, Parliament is expected to vote on the draft bill in late January.
Mr. Papandreou told a news conference yesterday that the text was a "significant innovation", attempting to build on the experience of a decade to deal with the problems created in the wake of the collapse of the communist system and the tidal wave of refugees to Greece. He said 11 ministries had been involved in the drafting of the text. Mr. Niotis said the legislation gave those people wanting to settle in these areas encouragement and noted that in Thrace 2,500 plots of land were available.
"Our aim is to liberate these people from the insecurity which they were trapped in in the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Union," he said.
Athens News Agency
 Papandreou says Greece and Turkey must not dwell on the past
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou said yesterday that the new spirit in Greek-Turkish relations had to be given a chance to bloom and that dwelling on the past was detrimental to both sides.
"At Helsinki we saw the opening of a new dynamic which will allow a new long-term strategy of improvement in the climate," he said. Mr. Papandreou was responding to reporters' questions on infringements of Greek air space by Turkish fighter jets.
"If we dwell on isolated incidents and on practices of the past, we will not be able to see the wood for the trees," Mr. Papandreou said.
"We didn't open the gates to paradise at Helsinki, but we did open the gate of opportunity."
According to reports on Thursday, seven formations of Turkish F-16 and Phantom fighter jets violated Athens FIR guidelines on nine occasions and proceeded to eight infringements of national air space between the islands of Lesvos, Hios and Rhodes.
Greek jets intercepted the Turkish aircraft on all occasions; on three, the interception developed into dogfights.
It was the first time that Turkish fighter activity had been noted over the Aegean since the EU summit at Helsinki last Friday decided to attribute candidacy status to Turkey.
In later comments, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters that Thursday's infringements of Greek air space were "a negative development and indicated a negative stance" on the part of the neighbouring country.
"Helsinki has not solved all the problems and reaching this solution will be a long road," he said.
Athens News Agency
 Greece rejects dual citizenship for Moslem minority in Thrace
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)Greece rejected yesterday any question of dual citizenship for the Moslem minority in Thrace, following statements by Turkey's defence minister a day earlier.
"The Moslem minority in Thrace has rights which are respected in Greece. We believe that any criticism, suggesting that the rights enjoyed by Greek Moslems are undermined, is unjustifiable," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.
"Our policy is well known and we stand by it. We believe that it is complete and in any case it is at the same advanced point, in relation to the policies on minorities in other countries in Europe," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.
"The Moslem minority in Thrace consists of Greek citizens, who have a specific citizenship, the rights and obligations, as all Greek citizens. These are so clear that there is no need to discuss them further," Mr. Reppas added.
Turkish Defence Minister Sabahattin Cakmakoglu on Thursday said that Turkey had to ensure that the members of the Moslem minority had dual citizenship.
He said bestowing this status on the minority members would facilitate both their movements between the two countries and access to education and work in Turkey.
The minister suggested that this could be achieved in return for a re- opening of the Halki Theological Academy.
Athens News Agency
 To the "Daily Bulletin" subscribersAthens, 18/12/1999 (ANA) Dear friends, As you are aware, technological developments in the mass media sector are rapid. Today, all the news services are offered online. The "electronic newspaper" supplements, and in many cases replaces, the printed newspaper. Contact via e-mail also affords th e ability for direct communication.
These developments, as many others, have also influenced our own work here at Athens News Agency (ANA), which is adapting all its services to the new technology. In the framework of these changes, the "Daily Bulletin" will - as of Jan. 2, 2000 - be conv erted from a printed to an electronic medium for our subscribers.
With this change, our subscribers will: a) receive our news items online, at the moment the news is breaking. b) receive the next day's "Daily Bulletin" on their screens at midnight, with the ability to print it out if they wish or simply view on screen. c) receive the "Bulletin" either via the paid ANA services on the Internet, or via e-mail sent to a subscriber's e-mail address. d) also have the ability, for a small surcharge, to utilise the ANA's English-language data bank, which contains all the news items appearing in the "Daily Bulletin" since 1992.
We believe that these changes, which correspond with the new function of the international and national news agencies, will satisfy subscribers' needs for immediate and credible information. In order to subscribe to this service, you must have a PC and a modem, or an e-mail address.
All who wish to continue receiving our services must prepare for these changes which, as stated, will commence on Jan. 2, 2000.
Takis Mantis, the director of ANA's informatics and telecommunications department, is at your disposal for any technical information on tel: 64.00.560 and 64.00.038.
I sincerely hope all our subscribers will adapt to these necessary technological changes.
ANA General Director
Athens News Agency
 Patriarch Vartholomeos announces introduction of scientific lectures at Phanar Library
ISTANBUL, 18/12/1999 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos yesterday announced the inauguration of a new institution of scientific lectures on the premises of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Library at the Phanar, while presenting professor Elizabeth Zahariadou, who carried out the first scientific lecture on religion in Asia Minor from the 11th until the 15th century.
Vartholomeos noted the beneficial consequences for all which will stem from the "historic", as he called it, decision taken at the European Union's summit in Helsinki which accepted Turkey's candidacy for EU accession.
Athens News Agency
 Simitis chairs cabinet meeting on Cultural Olympiad
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis chaired a cabinet meeting yesterday which focused, among others, on the Cultural Olympiad which shall be held from 2001 to 2004 and not as from 2000 as had initially been anticipated. The cabinet ratified the proposal on the Cultural Olympiad programme which was publicised afterwards.
"The purpose of the Cultural Olympiad, with this programme, is for Greece to present its double image outwards, that of cultural heritage and that of modern art," Culture Minister Elizabeth Papazoi said afterwards.
"The 2001-2004 Cultural Olympiad can and should be the starting point for a dynamic campaign by Greece on the world Olympic and cultural scene, it can and should be the starting point for a renewal of the modern Greek cultural development," she added.
Following an agreement between the Culture Ministry and the International Olympic Committee, the Cultural Olympiad will be divided into three entities: The first concerns the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympic Games, the second the renewal a nd enrichening of permanent institutions and the third entity concerns the body of the Cultural Olympiad during the four-year period.
The culture minister announced the enactment of three Olympic awards. The proposal concerns an award for three citizizens who are distinguished personalities (of the country where the Olympiad is being hosted) who have offered to Olympism, a second award for the continent and a third for peace (at global level).
The granting of the awards is decided by an international committee which is composed of the IOC, the Culture Ministry and the municipalities of Ancient Olympia and the organising city.
The awards are included in the upgrading of the ceremony concerning the lighting of the Olympic Flame, which is an event of world concern.
Backing for all institutions is also anticipated with funding by the 3rd Community Support Framework, as well as organising an Ancient Drama Festival, more information on which will be announced in September 2000.
Regarding events in rural areas, the cabinet decided to strengthen cultural activity at local level and to mobilise cultural forces in rural areas. Cultural agencies in the capital will also be encouraged to transfer their events to rural areas and to cooperate with local cultural agencies.
Furthermore, the creation of a Training Centre at the Technological Park of Lavrion was announced yesterday. It will cover an area of 1,600 square metres in the region. It will be the first training centre in the countryside since similar centres are only to be found in northern Europe.
Athens News Agency
 Istanbul to host conference on Greek-Turkish cooperation in information technology
ISTANBUL, 18/12/1999 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)The Turkish Information Technology Institute is organising a two-day conference here on Greek-Turkish cooperation on computer network systems, beginning today.
The conference, entitled "The Greek-Turkish Society of Information Technology", will focus on prospects for the formulation of a long term and stable cooperation between businessmen and specialists of the two countries in that sector.
Athens News Agency
 Parl't begins budget debate
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)Parliament yesterday began a five-day debate on the budget for 2000, whose vote is scheduled for midnight on Tuesday.
The budget for next year, 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 incre ase in public spending.
The budget will complete Greece's efforts for participation in European economic and monetary union, said ruling PASOK party rapporteur Philippos Petsalnikos.
"For the sixth consecutive year, developments regarding basic fiscal indicators are positive. The country has already met four of the five convergence criteria... The 2000 budget will maintain and boost the stabilisation character of monetary policy and promote a significant restructuring of revenue and expenses with a view to a fairer distribution of tax burdens and a boosting of social spending and competitiveness."
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis said the budget reflected the government's micro-accounting practices which would lead to an explosion of unemployment, and cause the government to be voted out by the majority of the Greek pe ople.
"This is a budget of nominal convergence and tax bludgeoning... It reflects the Simitis government's micro-accounting policy which will lead to an explosion in unemployment," he said.
"This budget will be voted by the government majority, which, however, will be voted out by the majority of the Greek people. Our country urgently needs a developmental leap forward in order to be able to deal with the challenges and major demands of the post-EMU era. This is a task which our government will carry out tomorrow," he said.
Athens News Agency
 Concerted buying props up stocks
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)A round of concerted buying mid-session halted a near freefall on the Athens Stock Exchange yesterday after a minor early rise, enabling the market to hold comfortably above 5,000 points.
Taking part in the coordinated buying were institutional investors and major retail players, rescuing the market after sharp declines over several sessions that analysts have been at a loss to explain.
The Athens general share index finished 0.65 percent higher at 5,224.67 points. Turnover was 308.4 billion drachmas.
The index had shed more than 3.0 percent when the buyers stepped into the market.
The parallel market index for small capitalisation stocks was up 0.15 percent at 1,718.85 points.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 0.84 percent higher at 2,687.80 points.
Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (+1.21 pct), Leasing (-1.56 pct), Insurance (+2.13 pct), Investment (-0.13 pct), Construction (-0.86 pct), Industrials (+1.36 pct), Miscellaneous (-0.05 pct) and Holding (-4.23 pct). Of 320 shares traded, decliners led advancers at 163 to 152 with five issues remaining unchanged.
The most heavily traded stocks were Agricultural Insurance and Aegek.
National Bank of Greece ended at 23,200 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 25, 200, Titan Cement Company (common) at 37,000, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,670, Intracom at 13,410, Panafon at 3,800 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,900 drachmas.
Athens News Agency
 Bonds drop in profit taking
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)Prices dropped in the secondary bond market yesterday with profit takers still raking in their gains after a recent rise.
Exacerbating the sell-off, which began earlier this week, was a market report by JP Morgan advising its clients to close their positions in the Greek secondary bond market.
In the first hour of trade, investors sold 78 billion drachmas of paper.
The benchmark 10-year bond continued to trade above par, showing a yield of 6.45 percent from 6.37 percent in the previous session and 6.25 percent on Wednesday. The yield spread over German bunds fluctuated between 123 basis points and 125 basis points from 126 to 127 basis points a day earlier and 120 basis points on Wednesday.
Turnover through the Bank of Greece's electronic trading system was 172 billion drachmas from 220 billion drachmas in the previous session and 60 billion drachmas on Wednesday.
In yesterday's trade, buy orders accounted for only 32 billion drachmas of turnover with the rest representing sell orders.
Dampening sentiment to some extent for a second day was the Athens Stock Exchange's steep decline, although major players joined in a round of concerted share buying to halt an earlier plunge on the bourse, which finally ended slightly up.
The market has brushed off news that a decision will be taken in the first half of next year on a revaluation of the drachma's central parity against the euro in the European exchange rate mechanism.
The statements were made this week by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and central bank governor Lucas Papademos, but the market had already risen for several stretches on speculation of a revaluat ion and discounted the move.
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.
The market also was unmoved by cuts in the central bank's intervention rates this week by 0.75 percentage point that spilled into the commercial bank market with rate declines of 0.50 point for deposits and 0.75 point for loans.
Bond players had already priced in a reduction of around 0.50 percentage point. The deeper cut is expected to give the market more impetus after the holiday season, analysts said.
The forward spread for 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.
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.
Drachma under pressure again : The drachma yesterday nosed down against the euro, which is rising versus most currencies in markets abroad, despite another central bank intervention to nudge up the national currency, traders said.
The central bank stepped into the domestic foreign exchange market, supplying around 250 million euros for the third straight session.
At the central bank's daily fixing, the euro was set at 330.250 drachmas from 330.180 drachmas in the previous session and 329.810 drachmas on Wednesday.
The US dollar slumped against the drachma in line with its decline on international markets.
At the fixing, the greenback was set at 323.510 drachmas from 325.640 drachmas from 329.190 drachmas a day earlier.
Athens News Agency
 Cyprus gets highway loan from EIB
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, is providing Cyprus with 100 million euros to expand and improve its highway network.
The project will be implemented by the public works department of the ministry of communication and works, the EIB said in a statement yesterday.
It consists of three major road schemes identified as crucial to remove bottlenecks in the national road system.
The schemes are the Dhekelia-Famagusta highway, the Nicosia-Troodos area motorway extension and an upgrade for the Limassol bypass roundabout, the statement said.
Athens News Agency
 Athens Foreign Exchange
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)Bank of Greece closing rates of: December 17, 1999
Parities in Drachmas
Banknotes Buying Selling US Dollar 320.922 328.363 Can.Dollar 217.863 222.914 Australian Dlr 206.892 211.688 Pound Sterling 519.114 531.149 Irish Punt 415.976 425.621 Pound Cyprus 566.630 579.768 Pound Malta 747.000 778.125 Turkish pound (100) 0.054 0.056 French franc 49.943 51.101 Swiss franc 204.347 209.085 Belgian franc 8.121 8.310 German Mark 167.503 171.387 Finnish Mark 55.100 56.377 Dutch Guilder 148.662 152.109 Danish Kr. 44.035 45.056 Swedish Kr. 38.113 38.996 Norwegian Kr. 40.503 41.442 Austrian Sh. 23.808 24.360 Italian lira (100) 16.920 17.312 Yen (100) 312.034 319.268 Spanish Peseta 1.969 2.015 Port. Escudo 1.634 1.672 Foreign Exchange Buying Selling New York 320.922 328.363 Montreal 217.863 222.914 Sydney 206.892 211.688 London 519.114 531.149 Dublin 415.976 425.621 Nicosia 566.630 579.768 Paris 49.943 51.101 Zurich 204.347 209.085 Brussels 8.121 8.310 Frankfurt 167.503 171.387 Helsinki 55.100 56.377 Amsterdam 148.662 152.109 Copenhagen 44.035 45.056 Stockholm 38.113 38.996 Oslo 40.503 41.442 Vienna 23.808 24.360 Milan 16.920 17.312 Tokyo 312.034 319.268 Madrid 1.969 2.015 Lisbon 1.634 1.672
Athens News Agency
 Northern Greece awash in fake Greek currency
Athens, 18/12/1999 (ANA)Authorities in the eastern Macedonia and Thrace region say they are awash in fake Greek currency and have stepped up checks at all banks, customs points and other state services. Two fake 10,000 drachma notes were found in the town of Serres: one deposited with the local tax authority and the other by a bank teller in the town.
In another incident, a 19-year-old student questioned about a fake 5,000 drachma note found in her possession said she had received it while shopping in Serres.
In Kavala, authorities said fake 10,000, 5,000 and 1,000 notes had been handed in to a local bank.
No arrests have been made, but authorities say they believe a specific ring is behind the distribution of the fake notes.
Police in the region had issued an alert at the same time last year for those involved in distributing counterfeit 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 drachma notes.
Athens News Agency