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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-12-20

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Papantoniou calls on manufacturers and retailers to freeze prices
  • [02] Papandreou says Helsinki summit opened door to opportunity, not to paradise
  • [03] Union to bet set up in memory of late Greek politician Kranidiotis
  • [04] Development minister addresses event in memory of Kranidiotis
  • [05] UN General Assembly ratifies resolu tion for return of cultural heritage treasures
  • [06] Tsohatzopoulos says government considering reduction in length of military service
  • [07] Main opposition leader tours Magnisia prefecture
  • [08] Souflias announces he will not return to ND
  • [09] President hosts reception for journalists
  • [10] Archbishop Christodoulos ordains deacon from Zaire
  • [11] Monument to be built based on lost Colossus of Rhodes
  • [12] Prosecutor orders release of Kurdish stowaways
  • [13] Domestic interest rates to fall sharply by end of 2000
  • [14] Prosecutor charges 15 for selling bootleg CDs

  • [01] Papantoniou calls on manufacturers and retailers to freeze prices

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou has again called on manufacturers and retailers to lower or freeze their prices in order to aid Greece's bid to join the euro zone on January 1, 2001. Mr. Papantoniou was speaking in parliament o n Saturday during the second day of debate on the budget for 2000 that culminates in a vote at midnight tomorrow.

    The government has made "gentlemen's agreements" with many industrial and commercial enterprises to apply price restraint in the battle against inflation, the country's last hurdle to euro zone entry.

    Inflation has resurged slightly in the wake of a steady decline to around 2.0 percent due to a rise in world oil prices, but the government and central bank maintain that targets are likely to be met by February.

    Mr. Papantoniou told parliament that he hoped the February target would be met, shortly before Greece formally applies to the European Union in March for euro zone entry. A final decision is expected in June. "Greece is following its own path towards economic convergence with the European Union, combining stabilisation with growth and social equity," the minister said.

    Countering criticism by the main opposition New Democracy party that the government had used "creative accounting", the minister pointed out that the general government deficit had fallen to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, well below the euro zone criterion of 3.0 percent.

    He also said that he expected interest rates to decline to about 4.0 percent by the end of 2000 and investments to rise by 10 percent annually.

    In addition, the government's policy of widening the tax base had led to a surge in revenue of 480 billion drachmas beyond target, which was also linked to the introduction of the Taxis computer system in many finance ministry departments. Also boosting revenue was a robust performance by the Athens Stock Exchange, through a tax on transactions, he added.

    The government's policy of privatisation would continue as planned, and the presence of the state in many parts of the economy had already been removed, Mr. Papantoniou said.

    About to be privatised are Hellenic Aerospace Industry and Hellenic Vehicles Industry. The Public Power Corporation and the Piraeus and Thessaloniki port authorities are also expected to be floated.

    In the last six years, the economy had recovered, growth had jumped to 3.5 percent and national revenue had risen to 69 percent of the EU average in 1999 from 60 percent, the minister noted.

    A total of 470 billion drachmas in the budget was earmarked for redistribution following a rise in national revenue. "We do not circulate bouncing cheques, a thing of the past. First we create wealth and then we redistribute it in order to ease lower and middle incomes," Mr. Papantoniou said.

    The budget doubles the tax exempt ceiling on income; increases exemption for families with children; lowers tax for small and medium-sized enterprises to 25 percent from 35 percent; cuts levies on fuel and automobiles; and boosts social spending, includ ing a 10,000 drachma rise for farmers' pensions, the minister said.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Papandreou says Helsinki summit opened door to opportunity, not to paradise

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    Commenting on the European Union's recent Helsinki summit in an interview he gave to the newspaper "Kathimerini", Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the door to paradise was not opened with Helsinki but a door to opportunity.

    He said he believes rapprochement between Turkey and Europe will strengthen liberal trends in Turkish society. However, he reiterated that there is no question of a dialogue on "Greek-Turkish differences" other than the issue of the continental shelf, add ing that Greece will not lift its reservations on the jurisdiction of the international Court at The Hague on issues of its security.

    Mr. Papandreou said that after Helsinki "nothing has been judged finally in Greek-Turkish relations, but new opportunities are looming which we should utilise."

    He said that he will be travelling to Ankara in this context, accompanied by businessmen, for the signing of agreements on issues of "lesser significance" with which, however, "a society of interests will be created which, to a certain degree, functions preventively towards the creation of tensions. Until now, certain circles in Ankara had nothing to lose by playing with the game of tension. From now on they will have dilemmas."

    On the question of economic developments scheduled as a result of Turkey's European vocation, he said "privatisations and the participation of the Turkish economy in the globalised market will also facilitate liberalisation at political level."

    Mr. Papandreou insists on the steadfast position of Greek foreign policy that "the sole existing Greek-Turkish difference is the delineation of the intercontinental shelf and consequently we shall not accept discussion, and negotiation even more so, on Greek sovereign rights. If Turkey raises such issues it will receive this reply."

    Asked whether European pressure on Turkey for recognition of the International court at The Hague's jurisdiction will also be accompanied by pressure on Greece to withdraw its reservations on security issues, Mr. Papandreou said "our reservation is legi timate and will not be lifted. Ask me again if our relations become cloudless if, for example, they reach the level of our relations with Italy."

    With regard to the possibility of methodisation for EU accession of only the unoccupied part of Cyprus, Mr. Papandreou said "our purpose is to facilitate a solution. But if there is no solution, the Republic of Cyprus will join in its entirety, as antic ipated by the Helsinki decision."

    Mr. Papandreou clarified that in January, before the start of the second round of talks in New York, he will visit Nicosia to examine, together with the Cypriot government and the parties, the situation created after Helsinki and after the first round of talks.

    "I will also promote contacts between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots," he said.

    On the question of PASOK's policy on the home front, Mr. Papandreou said "a policy of reassociation with the popular classes is necessary", not at the level of pre-election benefits or promises but at that of defining "a longterm policy of support for the poorer classes. This is the duty of a socialist party."

    Mr. Papandreou is scheduled to meet today in Athens with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides who will brief him on the outcome of the first round of UN-led proximity talks on the Cyprus question held in New York earlier this month.

    A new round of talks aiming at paving the way for substantive negotiations to reach a settlement on the island, divided since Turkish troops occupied 37 per cent of its territory in 1974, is expected to take place in January.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Union to bet set up in memory of late Greek politician Kranidiotis

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    Researchers from countries in southeastern Europe on Saturday agreed to set up a regional union of institutes to be named "The Kranidiotis Forum", in memory of the late Greek politician.

    Meeting in Thessaloniki, the representatives of research institutes in fields including law and international relations said naming the union after Kranidiotis was a mark of respect as the veteran diplomat had actively supported the scheme.

    Kranidiotis was killed on September 14 when the prime minister's Falcon jet on which he was travelling hit turbulence over Romania.

    Attending the session were researchers from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, Moldova, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey.

    At the session - the first of its kind - delegates agreed that their institutes should launch cooperation through exchanges of experts and information on research programmes.

    The group's second meeting is scheduled for December 2000, again in Thessaloniki.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Development minister addresses event in memory of Kranidiotis

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    Speaking in Thessaloniki on Saturday at an event in memory of Alternate Foreign Minister Yiannos Kranidiotis, Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the sole positive developments over the Cyprus issue since the day of the Turkish invasion are the start to accession negotiations with the European Union and the decision taken at the EU Helsinki summit.

    Mr. Venizelos placed great significance on the decision taken by the "15", saying that no resolution or plan by an international organisation and no discussion have created the prospect created by the summit's decision. He expressed the evaluation that Cyprus' accession to the EU could ultimately constitute the political solution to the Cyprus issue.

    Regarding the second part of the decision taken by the "15", namely Greek- Turkish relations, he said they are sealed in a specific political conception on the meaning of international legality which equips Greece with arguments not only against Turkey but with its 14 partners as well who become active factors in the problem.

    Mr. Venizelos added that all these developments require persistent work. He was speaking at an event concerning the late Yiannos Kranidiotis organised by at the Centre of International and European Economic Law (KDEOD) in Thessaloniki.

    Mr. Venizelos, politicians, university professors, friends and colleagues of the deceased praised the importance of Yiannos Kranidiotis' work and role in defining the strategy for Cyprus' European vocation which culminated at the Helsinki summit and his personality as a politician oriented towards international law.

    Mr. Venizelos said there could not have been a more successful te deum service for Yiannos Kranidiotis than the Helsinki summit and referred to the efforts of the deceased for the island's inclusion in a united Europe.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] UN General Assembly ratifies resolu tion for return of cultural heritage treasures

    NEW YORK, 20/12/1999 (ANA - M. Georgiadou)

    A plenum of the UN General Assembly's 54th session ratified a resolution on Friday night on the return of cultural heritage treasures to their countries of origin.

    The resolution, promoted by Greece and backed by 42 member-states of the organisation, was endorsed by an absolute consensus.

    Speaking after the vote, Greece's permanent representative Ilias Gounaris expressed on behalf of the Greek government the country's profound appreciation to all member-states for their valuable solidarity and support for the resolution.

    He called on the international community to continue its efforts, particularly through the UN's relevant committees, to promote the implementation of the resolution.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Tsohatzopoulos says government considering reduction in length of military service

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said in Thessaloniki yesterday that the government was considering expansion of the professional armed forces accompanied by a reduction in the length of military service.

    Speaking to reporters after the inauguration of a ministry exhibition in the northern port city, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said a decision on the possible changes would be taken next year.

    Being reviewed were an overhaul of the armed forces including expansion of the professional military, which, in turn, could lead to the cut in military service, the minister said.

    Under study in connection with the restructuring was the impact on the armed forces of Greece's ageing population, which already had lowered the number of recruits eligible each year for compulsory military service.

    Young recruits reporting for service had fallen to 80,000 annually from 100, 000-120,000 in the past, Mr.Tsohatzopoulos noted.

    "We must take immediate, systematic measures - not by increasing military service but by finding a way for the armed forces' needs to be met by using a larger chunk of the professional military. Better use could then be made of the shorter-term, military service component," he said.

    The two universities of the Aegean are on cooperation course with the two universities of Greece and Turkey bearing the same name already having started contacts expected to be concluded soon with a meeting between their deans in Mytilene and Izmir .

    The Greek University of the Aegean, headquartered in Mytilene, with 4,000 students and 13 faculties on four islands and the Turkish University of the Aegean, headquartered in Izmir, with 60,000 students and 45 faculties in the region of Izmir, according to the Greek university's dean Themistocles Lekkas "have the future before them."

    Turkish deputy dean Gonul Loney believes that "the future inter-university cooperation can also result in the benefit of peaceful cohabitation between the two peoples in the region." The citizens' movement "coexistence and communication in the Aegean", who held meetings with the two deanery authorities and conveyed corresponding letters already exchanged, played a decisive role in the meeting between the two universities.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Main opposition leader tours Magnisia prefecture

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis visited villages in th e Pilion area yesterday as part of his tour of the Magnisia prefecture, calling for joint mobilisation of all cadres and criticising the state for being tyrannical.

    "We speak today of a state which is a tyrannical state, an oppressor of the citizen, instead of his friend and helper. This regime is defending itself in order to stay in power. And to this end it is using all means. A great deal of money, influences in information and various tricks. We do not fear all this. The more we see them intensifying the more we are vindicated in our decision to take this struggle to the end. All are needed in this effort. There are battle stations for all in the front line. An d we shall win this battle," he said.

    On Saturday, Mr. Karamanlis toured the Trikala prefecture, speaking of transparency and referring to the agricultural policy ND will apply in government.

    "There is an absolute combination with big organised interests. Untransparency and corruption have exceeded all limits. In big auctions, the big contracts of the public where billions and trillions are managed untransperency reigns and rigged auctions," he said.

    Mr. Karamanlis said ND will continue to deal blows at and denounce such phenomena. He added that only those who benefit from untransparency want the present situation to continue and that ND has no such connections, dependencies and commitments.

    He met with the mayor of Trikala, visited the municipalities of Gonthon, Koziaka, Estiaiotidos and Paleokastro and talked to people in the city's street market.

    Mr. Karamanlis said Greek rural areas should be supported and accused the Simitis administration of being responsible for the deadlocks faced by the country's agricultural population.

    He further said that his party is being accused of announcing without calculating where the necessary money will be found.

    "All that I am telling you, plus the other government commitments we have undertaken do not exceed 300 billion and can be raised easily if, at last, rules of good management are applied in the state and public waste is restricted," he said.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Souflias announces he will not return to ND

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    Former minister George Souflias announced last night that he will not be returning to the New Democracy party, from which he had been expelled, and will not be participating in the general elections expected to take place in March.

    Mr. Souflias criticised ND's leadership over the policy it has applied over the past two years since his expulsion. He said he nursed some hopes of a change in its policy, adding that throughout this period he ascertained that the leadership's option for the creation of a different party which would be adjusted to its measures and environment was conscientious.

    Mr. Souflias said that ND's policy positions were distorted many times, while over the country's major issues the party's leadership was following an opportunist policy and was not presenting specific and responsible positions.

    He added that this policy created confusion and the shrinking of the liberal party's ideological and political identity and permitted its steadfast policies to be appropriated by other parties.

    Mr. Souflias said this was even the case with institutions, such as the issue of the President of the Republic. He said it was ND which should have called for the voting of Mr. Stephanopoulos as self-evident, and not the reverse.

    Mr. Souflias said the present ND, as it has been transformed primarily by its leadership, does not correspond to his principles and struggles. He said that, loyal to his personal code of principles and honour, he will not return to this different party and will not participate in the elections in March.

    Later, ND leader Costas Karamanlis expressed regret over Mr. Souflias' decision in a written statement.

    "We would have preferred Mr. Souflias to respond to ND's invitation to find ourselves together again on the bastions. We regret his choice. Mr. Souflias had and has a great deal to offer both to the crucial battle and the party," Mr. Karamanlis' statement said.

    Commenting on the same issue in a statement to reporters, former prime minister and ND's honourary leader Constantine Mitsotakis said "I regret Mr. Souflias' decision. It certainly harms ND, but I fear that it also harms himself."

    Athens News Agency

    [09] President hosts reception for journalists

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos hosted a reception at the Presidential Mansion in Athens on Saturday for representatives of the mass media.

    Present at the two-hour reception were may ministers, deputies, the executive board of the Union of Athens Journalists and hondreds of journalists.

    Commenting on recent developments, President Stephanopoulos told the journalists "We were relieved by (the EU summit in) Helsinki."

    Those present at the reception included Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Coalition of the Left leader Nikos Constantopoulos, Democratic Social Movement leader Dimitris Tsovolas, Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos and Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Archbishop Christodoulos ordains deacon from Zaire

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece yesterday ordained a deacon from Zaire before a packed church with Greeks and foreigners in central Athens, noting that racism and xenophobia should be eliminated.

    Speaking at the Aghios Constantinos church in Omonoia, Archbishop Christodoulos called on the Greek public to offer kindness and love to foreigners who find refuge in Greece.

    "This stance must be independent of the law, regardless of whether foreigners are in our country legally or illegally, because this is the job and duty of the state. We Christians must show our love and solidarity."

    Archbishop Christodoulos said that prejudices and xenophobia must be eliminated "because our country is known for its hospitality and assistance to foreigners."

    The ordainment of the 40-year-old deacon was symbolic, given that yesterday's church service was dedicated against racism and xenophobia.

    Deacon Theotimos, who studied Theology at Athens University, came to Greece 10 years ago. He turned to the Orthodox faith 25 years ago. He is married with two children who go to a Greek school.

    Athens News Agency

    [11] Monument to be built based on lost Colossus of Rhodes

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    The International Herald Tribune (IHT) carried a feature on plans to build a monument for the new millennium based on the lost Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

    In the IHT's December 17 edition, Rhodes Mayor George Yiannopoulos is quoted as saying:

    "It will be a contemporary monument with modern artistic expression and technical construction that will surpass conventional standards.

    "It will borrow all the ancient symbolic values of the original Colossus and will enrich them further with a current ideological content related mainly to world peace and cooperation and mankind's hopes for a better world in the new millennium."

    The municipal council of Rhodes, which devised the scheme, also wants the renewed Colossus to be seen as an international millennium project that will symbolise growing European unification, the IHT said.

    Architects, sculptors and engineers worldwide will be asked to submit their ideas based on the historical references available and symbolic values inspired by the Colossus, which was destroyed in 224 B.C.

    Rhodes council endorsed the idea for the monument in July.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Prosecutor orders release of Kurdish stowaways

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    A Patras public prosecutor on Saturday ordered the release of 26 Kurdish stowaways arrested after they were found hiding in a tanker truck aboard a ferry to Italy.

    On Thursday, a compatriot of the Iraqi Kurds had died in the same truck, apparently from inhaling a residue of liquid gas the vehicle had previously been carrying.

    The two Greek drivers of the truck, identified as Mihalis Kilaras and Dimitris Raftopoulos, are being held for questioning by police in Italy and will later be interrogated in Patras.

    The Superfast II ferry was travelling from the western port of Patras to Ancona in Italy when the illegal immigrants were discovered.

    German truck driver : Also in Patras, a German truck driver was questioned by a public prosecutor after two illegal immigrants from Kosovo were found hiding in the cab of his vehicle, heading for Germany.

    The merchant marine ministry identified the driver as Thomas Duttling Adolf, aged 33.

    The driver and the two Kosovars have been detained since their arrest on Friday and were due to appear before the public prosecutor for a second time yesterday. All three said that no fee was involved in exchange for the ride in the truck, police said.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] Domestic interest rates to fall sharply by end of 2000

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    Domestic interest rates will fall sharply to around 4.0 percent by the end of 2000 from 11.0 percent currently, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said. In an interview to the Sunday Eleftherotypia newspaper, Mr. Papantoniou also fo recast that unemployment would drop next year due to the government's growth-oriented policies. In addition, the minister predicted that national elections would be held prematurely in March, and not in September when the government's term ends. He said he believed Costas Karamanlis, leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, was already committed to opposing incumbent President Kostis Stephanopoulos, which would entail early elections under the constitution.

    Finally, the minister forecast that the Athens Stock Exchange, which has slumped recently, would recover in coming weeks.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Prosecutor charges 15 for selling bootleg CDs

    Athens, 20/12/1999 (ANA)

    A Thessaloniki public prosecutor on Saturday charged fifteen hawkers on a criminal count of violating intellectual property rights after they were arrested for selling bootleg CDs and CD-Roms outside the port city's university. The 15, who were mostly from countries of the former Soviet Union, denied trafficking the illegal recordings after their arrest on Friday, but refused to state where they were obtained, court sources said. The round-up was part of a Thessaloniki police operation against the bootlegging trade in which more than 9,000 CDs have been confiscated. In Athens, two men were due to be charged for counterfeiting CDs after police raided an illegal recording factory in the Athens suburb of Aghia Varvara.

    Police said the suspects arrested on Friday ran the operation from the basement of an apartment block.

    Confiscated were 760 copies of CDs by artists from Greece and abroad.

    Athens News Agency

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