|Sunday, 26 May 2013|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 01-11-01
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>November 1, 2001
 National Bank of Greece and Alpha Bank announce merger
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)The National Bank of Greece and Alpha Bank announced on Wednesday that they had merged.
The merger of the two banks was a necessary prerequisite so as to create a new big bank, even for European standards, to enable it to meet the new competition which is being created with the introduction of the euro.
The governor of the National Bank of Greece, Theodoros Karatzas, and the president of Alpha Bank, Yiannis Kostopoulos, stated this Thursday evening after leaving the Bank of Greece where they had a first briefing meeting with the central bank's governor Loukas Papademos.
Karatzas said a new European bank is being created capable of meeting the new standards which are being created in the European Monetary Union (EMU). Kostopoulos added characteristically: "We could have not done it by ourselves, together we can."
Asked whether the merger would have negative repercussions for the staff of the two banks, Kostopoulos underlined that there was no such issue but on the contrary new opportunities would be opened through the development of the new group.
The announcement of the merger led to a considerable increase of the Bank of Greece's share at the New York Stock Exchange.
The merger, on the basis of the total assets, will mean that the new bank will be among the top 50 biggest banks in the euro-zone, while it will be in 119th position among the 1,000 biggest banks in the world, with assets totalling 67,151 million dollars, according to the magazine Banker.
The new bank will have approximately 1,100 branches in Greece, leaving far behind the Group of EFG Eurobank Ergasias, the Commercial Bank and the Bank of Piraeus, which had acquired ETBA bank on Tuesday.
The new bank will have in its control about 52 per cent of the total assets of the domestic banking market, 53 per cent of total deposits and 44 per cent of grants.
The pre-tax profits of the new bank will be in excess of 405 billion drachmas (298 bln drs for the National Bank and 107 bln drs for Alpha Bank), while total assets will surpass 24 trillion drachmas.
 FM begins tour of Pakistan, Iran and India on Thursday
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Foreign Minister George Papandreou will start a tour of Pakistan, India and Iran on Thursday for talks with the leader-ships of countries involved in the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.
During his talks he will be exchanging views on latest developments and on bilateral issues.
On Thursday, Papandreou will be meeting his Pakistani counter-part Abdus Sattar, while on Friday morning he is expected to meet President Pervez Musharraf.
Papandreou will then be leaving for New Delhi, India, for talks with his Indian counterpart Jaswant Singh. Immediately after the meeting, Papandreou and his entourage will travel to Tehran, Iran.
A joint press conference will be given in Iran on Saturday by the Papandreou and his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi, following their meeting, and afterwards Papandreou will be received by President Mohammad Khatami.
Papandreou is expected back in Athens late on Saturday night.
Premier briefed by FM prior to Pakistan-India-Iran visits: Developments in foreign affairs, as expected, dominated a meeting on Wednesday morning between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, including preparations for Athens' assumption of the rotating EU presidency in the first half of 2003.
Other talks focused on the Cyprus issue, whereas Papandreou also briefed the Greek premier on his trips this week to Pakistan, India and Iran.
The Greek FM departs on Thursday for the three-country tour.
 Greek transport plane carrying aid for Afghan refugees
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)A Greek Air Force C-130 transport plane left for Islamabad, Pakistan, on Wednesday carrying urgent humanitarian aid for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
The mission concerns the distribution of eight tones of blankets and is taking place at the request of the Greek foreign ministry.
 Gov't: No Greek unit training for Afghanistan
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)The government on Tuesday denied that a Greek army unit was training near the central port city of Volos in order to participate in US-led military operations against Afghanistan.
A Greek government spokesman made the statement in response to a press question asking if Greece will participate with military personnel in the ongoing anti-terrorism campaign.
 Greek EU commissioner discusses EU reforms with FM
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Greek European Union Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou held talks on Wednesday with the foreign ministry's leadership, while in statements afterwards both she and Foreign Minister George Papandreou said they discussed issues concerning the EU's institutional reforms, Cyprus' EU accession course and recent developments on the international scene.
Papandreou said Greece can function as a bridge of cooperation with the Arab countries, adding that the EU is prepared to provide support in this direction.
Diamantopoulou said the EU is waiting with interest for the results of Papandreou's visits to India, Pakistan and Iran. On the question of the accession course of Cyprus, she said it is already providing an example worthy of imitation by other candidate countries since it is progressing very satisfactorily.
Issues concerning the Greek EU presidency in the first half of 2003 and its best possible preparation were also discussed during her talks with Papandreou and Alternate Foreign Minister Tasos Giannitsis.
 Turkish military chief lashes out at
EU ISTANBUL, 01/11/2001 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Turkey's powerful military chief vehemently lashed out at the European Union on this week over the issue of his country's undefined participation in any future "European defense structure".
Criticism by Turkish general staff chief Gen. Hussein Kivrikoglu comes as negotiations are continuing over Ankara's veto on the use of NATO forces by the European Union.
"It is unacceptable for the EU to use NATO's capabilities and at the same time exclude Turkey from decision-making processes," the Turkish general said.
He also warned that Ankara would not back down on the all-important issue of a "Common European Defense and Security Policy", among the Union's top priorities of late.
In expanding his criticism of the 15-member bloc, Gen. Kivrikoglu decried the fact that the "EU isn't backing Turkey in its war against religious extremism", as he characteristically said.
"After all of these things, how can the EU ask us for help in the Caucasus?" the Turkish military chief said a reception in honor of a national holiday in the neighboring country.
"Between Turkey and the EU there are issues, such as the Aegean and Cyprus ... If tomorrow we find ourselves in a confrontation over these issues, who will the EU support, Greece or Turkey?" he said.
Roughly one-third of Cyprus has been occupied by Turkish forces following a bloody 1974 despite repeated UN resolutions calling for their withdrawal.
 Reports cite interception of Turk warplanes over Aegean
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Three formations of Turkish warplanes infringed on Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) rules in the central Aegean on Wednesday, according to press reports from the Greek capital.
It was unknown if the Turkish fighter planes also violated Greek national airspace.
The Turkish planes were reportedly recognized and intercepted in all instances by Hellenic Air Force fighters, reports stated.
The interception of at least one pair of Turkish warplanes was also viewed on radar screens by new Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, during his tour of the air force's national operations center, the ministry announced.
 Armenian patriarch in Thessaloniki
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)The Armenian Patriarch and President of the World Council of Churches Aram I arrived in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Wednesday.
The patriarch is on an official visit to Greece due to last until November 6.
The patriarch's visit is taking place in the framework of celebrations organized by the Armenians of Greece on the occasion of the 1,700th anniversary of the proclamation of Christianity as the official religion of the Armenian state. He is scheduled to meet with President Kostis Stephanopoulos.
The patriarch was received in Athens on Tuesday by Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis and in the evening he attended a dinner given in his honor by Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos.
Aram, who is due back in Athens on Thursday, underlined in a statement the role that religions and their leaders are called upon to play for the prevalence of peace in the world.
 Interior minister promises continuous dialogue with unions
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis promised a continuous dialogue with trade unions during his first official meeting with the Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY) on Wednesday.
He said the aim of the ministry's new leadership is its upgrading, the improvement of qualitative services and support for human potential and electronic governance.
ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros said the discussion with Skandalidis was "substantive" and, regarding the promise for a continuous dialogue, added that "we shall all be judged by the outcome."
On the issue of the civil servants' code, Skandalidis spoke of the objectivity of criteria combined with the development and pro-motion of employees, while on the question of salaries, he said that through dialogue there should be a move towards lifting inequalities.
 New press, mass media ministry receives FPA board
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Newly appointed Press and Mass Media Minister Christos Protopappas met with the board of Athens' Foreign Press Association (FPA) on Wednesday, his first with the association since assuming the post last week following a government reshuffle.
FPA president Evangelos Antonaros congratulated Protopappas on the assumption of his new duties, as the latter is also the government spokesman.
Also present at the meeting were Deputy Minister Telemahos Chytiris and the ministry's general secretary, Nikos Athanassakis.
 New general secretary appointed at environment ministry
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Stavros Kabelis was appointed as the new general secretary for environmental and town planning issues at the Environment ministry, replacing Ilias Beriatos who resigned.
The announcement was made on Wednesday by Environment Minister Vasso Papandreou, who took over from Costas Laliotis last week.
According to Papandreou, the ministry's general secretary for public works, Yiannis Chrysikopoulos, would be staying on until projects funded under the 2nd Community Support Framework were completed to ensure a smooth transition.
Chrysikopoulos had asked to resign after Laliotis departed from the ministry.
 PM Simitis meets PASOK's new Central Committee secretary
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Simitis held talks on Wednesday night with the new Secretary of the ruling PASOK party's Central Committee, Costas Laliotis.
No statements were made after the two-and-a-half-hour meeting at the Maximos Mansion.
Laliotis told reporters that the party's Executive Bureau will convene on Thursday.
According to reports, Laliotis and Simitis discussed issues related to the municipal and prefectural elections, Greece's European Union presidency in the first half of 2003 and the successful holding of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
 PM briefed on transition to euro during visit to Greek mint
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)The circulation of euro coins and banknotes would be a land-mark event for Greece's European prospects and economic growth, and for efforts to establish a new social state and a stronger international role for the country, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Wednesday during a visit to the Greek national mint.
The prime minister was accompanied by Bank of Greece governor Loukas Papademos and deputy governors Nikolaos Garganas and Panagiotis Thomopoulos, who briefed him on the transition from drachmas to euros.
Simitis said the introduction of the euro for day-to-day transactions would be a turning point for achieving the goal of true convergence between Greece and other European countries, and the same standard of living as the rest of Europe.
When the euro went into circulation, he added, Greece would be in a much stronger position than that which corresponded to its size as a country and would acquire a greater capacity to with-stand international economic crises.
The transition, the premier warned, would not be easy but the Greek economy was ready to handle it.
Simitis also appealed to businesses to refrain from profiteering and to abide by rules for rounding converted prices down rather than up.
Speaking in Parliament, meanwhile, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis on Wednesday described the euro as a "shield for Greece in the current global economic crisis".
 Greece ready to replace drachma, Bank of Greece says
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Greece has already available 90 percent of the amount of euro notes and coins necessary to replace the drachma currency, Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos said on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Greek National Mint with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, the central banker said that the amount of banknotes and coins in drachmas to be replaced total 3.0 trillion drachmas.
Papademos said that the country's commercial banks have already begun supplying Greek businesses with low value euro coins and notes.
The challenge for Greece in printing euro banknotes and minting coins was even bigger than any other EU member-state since authorities could not begin this procedure before a decision for Greece's participation in EMU in June 2000, Papademos said.
"Banknotes and coins are of excellent quality, according to common standards, incorporating around 30 safety characteristics to minimize any counterfeiting threat," he said.
Papademos announced that Greece would be the only EU state to print 10-euro banknotes by the end of November 2002, and from a total of 360 million banknotes to be printed, 190 million euros would be used for the country's needs and the remaining would be distributed to other EU countries.
"With the circulation of the euro currencies on January 1, 2002, we will all realize the importance of the new currency in our lives and its benefits to citizens, businesses and the economy in general," the central banker said.
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that for the successful transition to the new currency both businesses and citizens "have increased responsibility in this procedure".
He noted the need for a proper double pricing of product and services and in all cases approximation should be in benefit of the consumer. Mr. Simitis sent a clear message to the business world to avoid any speculative increase in prices during the transition phase.
 Draft budget bill debated by Parliament committee
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)A debate on the draft budget bill started at a relevant Parliamentary committee on Wednesday, while Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis said government policy on basic elements of the economy remains unchanged.
The budget is expected to be tabled by November 21.
However, he said there will be changes in the existing privatization system, while the tactic of the loaning of public enterprises with state guarantees will stop.
Christodoulakis appeared optimistic over the continuation of the economy's positive development rates in 2002, stressing that the end of the current year will find them at the high level of 4 percent.
He announced on the sidelines of the debate that the ministry is planning to set a ceiling on the highest tax exemption limits for loans concerning the purchase of a first home and that by the end of the year a relevant announcement will be made, in parallel to the enactment of strong incentives for housing loaning for the financially weaker.
 EU funds inflows total Dr 673 billion this year
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)EU funds' inflows to Greece total 673 billion drachmas so far this year with the government expecting total in-flows for 2001 to reach 1.123 trillion drachmas, Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Christos Pahtas said on Wednesday.
Pahtas said the government remained steadfast to its decision for quality, transparency and efficiency in absorbing funds from a Second and a Third Community Support Framework programs.
He said that the economy and finance ministry has submitted certifications for spending totalling 810 billion drachmas to the European Union concerning projects included in a Third Community Support Framework. Greece expects to receive 450 billion drachmas in EU contribution to this amount.
 Greece, South Korea to soon sign shipping agreement
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Merchant Marine Minister George Anomeritis is due to visit South Korea in a few months time when a shipping agreement between Greece and South Korea is due to be signed.
This was stated during a meeting Anomeritis had with South Korean Maritime and Fishing Minister Yu Sam-Nam in Piraeus on Wednesday.
Also discussed was South Korea's support of Greece's candidacy for its re-election to the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
 Turkish farm minister in Greece on Thursday
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Turkish Agriculture Minister Husnu Yusuf Gokalp will arrive for an official to Greece on Thursday for talks focusing on the farm sector.
Duties for the agriculture ministry's deputy ministers were assigned on Wednesday, following a decision by Premier Costas Simitis and newly appointed Agriculture Minister George Drys.
Deputy Minister Evangelos Argyris was given the crop production, applications and manufacturing portfolio, whereas F. Hatzimichalis was given supervision of forests, veterinary services and stockbreeding sectors.
 More money spent on health and medicines every year
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)More money is spent every year in Greece on health in general and medicines in particular, while total health expenditures showed an upward trend in 2000, according to a study completed and presented on Wednesday by the Economic and Industrial Research Foundation (IOBE) which shows a decrease in the public sector's participation.
In 1989 public health expenditures accounted for 63 percent of total health expenditures, but in 2000 the corresponding figure dropped to 57 percent.
Hospital treatment takes the lion's share of total health expenditures, followed by medical care and with medicine expenditures being in the region of 15 percent.
Public hospital expenditures for medicines rose from 78.6 billion drachmas in 1995 to 144.4 billion drachmas in 2000. The total amount for medicine expenditures also increased from 415.9 billion drachmas in 1995 to 629.1 billion drachmas in 2000.
 Minister says Post Office Savings Bank not for sale
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis said in Mesolonghi, western Greece, on Wednesday that "the Post Office Savings Bank is not for sale", adding that in 2003 it will join the Athens Stock Exchange in accordance with the government's program.
"We have defined a specific policy from which we are not deviating" he said and went on to say that "its conversion into an SA company is anticipated in 2001."
 Greek stocks end sharply up on ASE
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Expectations and talk of positive future developments in the domestic banking sector, following a successful privatization of ETBAbank on Tuesday, combined with a turnaround in international markets, encouraged sentiment in the Athens Stock Exchange.
Traders said buying activity was further boosted by the fact that investors seem now to realize that the bulk of share prices were traded at very low levels currently.
The general index ended 3.59 percent higher at 2,468.26 points, with turnover an improved 54.4 billion drachmas, or 159.6 million euros.
The Holdings, Banks, Retail and Cement sectors scored the biggest percentage gains (7.64%, 5.05%, 4.42% and 4.21%, respectively).
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks ended 4.05 percent higher, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index rose 3.05 percent and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index ended 2.19 percent up.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 320 to 21 with another 22 issues unchanged.
Bond Market Close: Prices rise in brisk trade: Bond prices in the domestic secondary market on Wednesday finished higher in heavy trade focusing on 10-year paper.
The Greek benchmark 10-year bond showed a yield of 4.86 percent, and the yield spread over German bunds was 4.421 per cent.
Turnover through the central bank's electronic system totalled 1.695 billion euros.
Derivatives Market Close: High turnover of 85.922 mln euros: The positive climate which prevailed at the Athens Stock Ex-change also had an effect on the Athens Derivates Exchange on Wednesday.
Changing hands were 13,522 contracts with a turnover of 85.922 million euros.
The underlying FTSE/ASE-20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips closed at 1,385.21 points, marking a 4.05 per cent increase; and the underlying FTSE/ASE-40 for medium capitalization stocks closed at 252.07 points, up 3.05 percent
 Government spokesman praises Olympic Organizing Committee
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Government spokesman Christos Protopappas, referring to Athens 2004 Olympic Games Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, said on Wednesday "the role of Ms. Angelopoulos in particular and of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee in general is both distinguishable and very important."
Protopappas said that Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who has increased responsibility regarding the overall issue of monitoring processes for the Olympic Games, will also participate in meetings between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Athens 2004 "but only for issues linked to the government's work."
He further said that comments on certain problems in projects related to the Olympic Games do not concern the Olympic Village or other issues regarding preparation for the athletics section of the Olympic Games, but certain individual projects, primarily road projects, in which certain mayors, organizations or groups of citizens intervened.
 Gov't blames delays in Olympic projects on legal obstacles
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Problems and delays in preparations for the Olympic Games in 2004 were mainly due to legal action by private citizens, municipalities and other bodies who felt their interests were being compromised by Olympic-related works and projects, government spokesman Christos Protopappas said on Wednesday.
Noting that many projects were mired while awaiting a decision by the Council of State in such cases, Protopappas noted that there had to be a solution "so that the country can prepare for the Games without further hindrance."
He denied that former environment and public works minister Costas Laliotis had been criticized by his successor Vasso Papandreou during Tuesday ministerial meeting on the Olympics.
Protopappas pointed out that there were 120 different projects linked to the Games that were monitored on a three-month basis, according to a schedule that was strictly adhered to.
"The work done by the ministry is immense and Costas Laliotis has helped solve many technical problems, making a decisive contribution to preparations for the Olympics," he added.
He described the budgetary reviews for various projects as natural, given that there were now detailed plans and specifications that did not exist before.
Regarding the greater role given to the culture ministry, Protopappas said that cooperation with the Athens 2004 Olympics Organizing Committee (ATHOC) and its head Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki was excellent.
The government had decided to involve Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos in the coordination and presentation of work to prepare for the Olympics because a large part of this work concerned the government, he added.
 V. Papandreou: 'Alternative scenarios' needed for 2004 projects
Athens, 01/11/2001 (ANA)The government on Wednesday said "alternative scenarios" for certain Olympics-related projects will be considered if problems arise between now and the 2004 Games.
New Town Planning and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou said possible difficulties could stem from reactions by municipalities, construction prohibitions by the archaeological service or even lawsuits filed by private citizens with the Council of State (CoS).
In clarifying her highly publicized statements at a Tuesday inter-ministerial meeting focusing on 2004 preparations, Papandreou stressed on Wednesday that she emphasized that current dead-lines are "suffocating" and that "some projects are on the margin (in terms of timely completion)".
"Decisions must be taken in hours and not days, something that occurred in other countries that hosted Olympics; we must have alternative plans for certain projects, because there are unforeseen factors which are not connected with either our determination nor with our ability, so, we much have an alternative solution," she warned.
Papandreou, who was switched to the public works ministry from the interior ministry in the wake of a government reshuffle last week, also emphasized that her ministry will fully meet all the commitments it assumed following the last visit by an International Olympic Committee (IOC).
In terms of the five construction projects, once dubbed the "orphaned projects", that the public works ministry has responsibility, Papandreou said they have proceeded satisfactorily -- something that will be verified on Nov. 21, when another IOC delegation arrives in Athens to gauge Athens' 2004 preparations.
New ministry general secretary: Meanwhile, Papandreou announced that Stavros Kambelis has been appointed as the new general secretary of the ministry, in place of Ilias Beriatos who tendered his resignation this week.
She added that public works general secretary Yiannis Chrysikopoulos has been asked to stay on at his post temporarily until certain Second Community Support Framework projects are completed.
Chrysikopoulos requested a transfer from the post after Costas Laliotis left the ministry.
 Greece donates Aphrodite mould to Ukrainian foreign ministry
KIEV, 01/11/2001 (ANA)Greece's Ambassador to Ukraine Dimitris Kontoumas donated a mould of Aphrodite of Milos on behalf of the Greek government at a ceremony taking place at the Ukrainian foreign ministry on Wednesday, in the presence of Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko, which adorns the foreign ministry's renovated main entrance.
Zlenko thanked the Greek government for its gesture which "shows the two countries' excellent political relations".
 CoE human rights official due in Cyprus
NICOSIA, 01/11/2001(CNA/ANA)Rapporteur on "Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Greek Cypriots and Maronites in the northern part of Cyprus", of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Dick Marty, was due to arrive in Cyprus on Wednesday for a five-day visit.
According to an official press release, during his stay on the island Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and hold separate meetings will receive Marty with Attorney General Alecos Markides, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, and President of the House Standing Committee on Refugees, Enclaved, Missing and Adversely Affected Persons Aristophanes Georgiou.
He will also meet with the members of the Cyprus Delegation to the PACE, Presidential Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Takis Christopoulos and the Representatives of the Maronite and Armenian Community in the House of Representatives.
According to the press release, Marty will also hold meetings in the occupied area of Cyprus. He leaves Cyprus on Sunday.
Turkish troops have been occupying 37 per cent of Cyprus territory since 1974 forcibly uprooting one third of the island's population (200,000 Cypriots). Thousands of people were killed or have been missing since then.
577 enclaved Greek Cypriots still live in Turkish occupied Cyprus, compared with 20,000 a month after the Turkish invasion of July 1974 and just over 10,000 a year later (1975).
The Maronites, along with the Armenians and the Latins in Cyprus, chose to belong to the Greek Cypriot community when Cyprus got its independence from British colonial rule in 1960.
Few Maronites continue to live in the areas of Cyprus occupied by the Turkish forces since they invaded the island in 1974.