Defence Minister Tsohatzopoulos reiterates Turkey's destabilising role
through its policies in Cyprus, Aegean
NEWS IN DETAIL
Prime Minister urges support for economic policy
Prime Minister Costas Simitis today urged ruling party PASOK deputies and
the party's Central Committee to give their fullest support to the
government's economic policies and the 1997 budget.
Speaking to the joint meeting of the party's parliamentary group and
Central Committee which began this morning, Simitis stressed that there was
no other path than the one the government was currently following.
"The government's aim with the new budget is the modernisation of the
economy and the achievement of the targets foreseen in the convergence
programme," Simitis said. "This period is the most important since the
return of democracy in 1974".
Simitis stressed the dangers of marginalisation facing Greece if it failed
to meet the criteria which would allow its participation in European
economic and monetary union (EMU), stressing that the responsibility lay
with all the members of the party and that the implementation of government
policy was not only an issue for the finance ministry but for all as "if it
is not achieved, there will be wide-ranging repercussions".
"We are founding a new period in the relations between party and government,
" he said. "The party will plan and the government will implement ...Over
the past two months we have drafted a unified government four-year plan
with the central aim of participation in a new Europe, reform and
bolstering of the economy and the strengthening of Greece in the Balkans
and the southeastern Mediterranean."
Cabinet is expected to give the final approval to the budget tomorrow.
The aims of the government's economic policy were threefold, Simitis said:
fiscal discipline, economic growth and social cohesion, all of which
demanded hard work to enable the country to participate in the second stage
"Greece can no longer delay the implementation of the efforts for inclusion
in European unification," Simitis said.
He added, however, that, in contrast with other European Union countries,
economic growth in Greece was increasing along with social cohesion and
Simitis said there were certain "tough but fair" measures in the government's
economy policies for the next four years.
The main aim of fiscal policy, he said, was the reform of revenues and
spending in such a way as to promote growth and combat wasteful spending.
The 1997 budget was based on six major points: the abolition of all
unjustified tax breaks; measures to control and contain spending in the
wider public sector and public organisations; raising an extra 900 billion
drachmas in revenues so as to reduce the public debt from 7.6 percent of
GDP to 4.2 percent; drastically reduced public sector appointments; and a
30 percent increase in spending on the public investment programme.
The increase in revenues would be achieved, Simitis added, by a stricter
incomes policy keeping spending on wages and pensions at levels which will
improve real incomes and at the same time allow the de-escalation of
inflation, alongside a strict anti-inflationary policy to cut inflation
dramatically by the end of next year.
Other measures calculated to raise revenues are the expansion of the tax
base with imposition of tax on large real estate holdings, interest on
state titles, interbank market deposits and derivatives, capital gains of
non-listed firms and an increase in taxation on banks. State subsidies and
exemptions would be cut back and wealth indicators for yachts and vehicles
would be readjusted.
The budget also foresees the establishment of a new body to manage health
spending as well as new forms of social support for large families.
Jobs are expected to increase by 1.3 percent in the new budget and spending
on education, health and welfare will total 12 percent.
Simitis stressed that the budget that had been drafted "had exhausted all
Speaking after the prime minister, National Economy and Finance Minister
Yannos Papantoniou said the budget was "austere but fair" and that it
attempted to make structural changes, such as the establishment of a wage
scale for public servants.
Wage increases will be "restrained but above inflation", he said.
Papantoniou said the indexation of pension levels and the granting of a
'social solidarity bonus' - budgeted at 40 billion drachmas - were the
second major structural change and that legislation cutting back on public
expenditures, with the exception of health and education, was another major
feature of the budget.
Forthcoming legislation cutting a large number of tax breaks and exemptions
was "a major step forward for fair taxation" and would increase revenues
for state coffers, he added.
The government's aim in macro-economic terms, the minister added, was to
increase GDP to 4.5-5.0 percent by the year 2000. He noted that PASOK's
past three years at the helm had brought GDP growth from -0.1 percent to
This achievement, Papantoniou said, is an indication in real terms that
Greece's development is growing at quicker rates than other European
"This effort must continue and be completed because we are not prepared to
leave Greece on the sidelines of European developments," he said.
A 'harsh but fair' budget, Reppas says
The 1997 budget is the best possible and will keep Greece on track for
development, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said today.
Calling the budget, which is currently being discussed at the joint meeting
of ruling party PASOK MPs and the Central Committee, "harsh but fair",
Reppas said the aims of the budget were to fiscal stability, growth and
"Decisions on the budget, which will be taken tomorrow at the cabinet
meeting will regard the expansion of the taxation base and the containment
of spending," he said.
The burden, he added, will be distributed amongst all, but particularly
amongst the more affluent.
"The margins for a populist policy in the budget have been exhausted,"
Reppas said. "This budget keeps Greece on track for development, is the
best possible, will be executed faithfully and everyone will be able to
judge the results."
Athens pollution, planning problems examined
The serious environmental and town planning problems facing Athens went
under the microscope today as an international conference, entitled "A
vision for Athens", got under way.
The conference, jointly organised by the Municipality of Athens and the
Technical Chamber of Greece (TEE), aims to chart the course of planning and
action for the capital and Attica basin.
"We are obliged - state, government, parties, social and professional
bodies as well as citizens - to work together for the sake of Athens which
is sending out an SOS signal," Environment, Town Planning and Public Works
Minister Costas Laliotis told participants.
Laliotis said the ministry had already put together a programme addressing
most of the issues and which responded positively to the challenges of the
times and laid the preconditions to "allow hope for the Attica prefecture".
Laliotis also said the government was committed to realising the dream of
former Athens mayor, the late Antonis Tritsis, to re-establish a tram
network in the city.
Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos said that a municipality study on the
tram network, which would extend to the seaside suburb of Vouliagmeni,
should be put into action.
"We need revolutionary changes to the public transport status to be able to
compete with private vehicles," Avramopoulos said, referring to the daily
problem of traffic congestion.
Too much attention is being focused on the Athens Metro urban rail network
as a solution, Avramopoulos added. "The Metro is not enough. Communication
between the centre and the region must be based on a high-quality ppublic
The conference will end on Thursday.
Arsonists target Communist Party office
Unidentified arsonists set fire to the entrance of the Communist Party of
Greece (KKE) local office in Piraeus at dawn today, causing slight damange
but no injuries, police said.
Five plastic containers of gasoline were set on fire outside the KKE office,
causing damage only to the windows of the semi-basement office.
The Fire Brigade and neighbours extinguished the fire, while the anti-
terrorist squad arrived on the spot to investigate the causes.
Eyewitnesses said the that the fire was set by a man who fled on a
An unidentified man later called a local private television and radio
station ''SKAI'', claiming responsibility on behalf of the ''Athens
Polytechnic uprising participants as a resonse to the 'party-dogs' of the
KKE who, today just as then, are the left hand of suppression''.
A KKE announcement deplored the arson, saying it was ''part of efforts by
various mechanisms to terrorise the popular movement which...ensured the
anti-imperialistic nature of the Polytechnic''.
The 23rd anniversary of a 1973 student uprising in the Athens Polytechnic
against the military junta then ruling Greece took place yesterday with the
traditional march to the US embassy. Only minor incidents, in the vicinity
of the Polytechnic, were reported.
Meanwhile, the anniversary march was attended by a few thousand people,
although it was generally subdued compared to past years. It was estimated
that increased vigilance on the part of authorities and students contributed
to the peaceful march.
Some 5,000 police officers were on duty and another 10,000 on stand-by to
prevent a re-occurrence of violence, which has marred anniversary events
over the past years. According to reports, all roads surrounding the march
route were cordoned off by police.
After laying a wreath at the Polytechnic on Saturday, Prime Minister Costas
Simitis said democracy must be broadened and become the property of each
and every citizen.
"This is why the struggle of the students on Nov. 17, 1973 is a struggle
which must be waged continuously. Only if we try, shall we have a state
which respects the citizen and a society of citizens with social sensitivity
and social responsibility. Thes e are our targets," Mr. Simitis said.
National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said on Saturday that Anka
ra's attempts to unilaterally annul the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne - the basis
of the status quo between the two countries today - through its policy in
Cyprus and provocations in the Aegean, posed a problem not only for Greece
but for all of Europe, as Turk ey is acting as a destabilising force in the
According to the minister, the European Union's Mediterranean policy faces
two serious issues - the Palestinian and Cyprus problems.
Concerning Cyprus, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos reiterated that the problem was one
of invasion and occupation by the Turkish army, and that the EU had set the
start to negotiations for entry of Cyprus and Malta as members six months
after the end of the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC).
Regarding Ankara's accession, he referred to that country's well-documented
problems in the realm of human rights, which the EU had to deal with,
noting that there were many countries in Europe which did not want Ankara's
"The European Union must adopt a stand on this matter also, because Greece
has been used as the naughty child for too long," he said.
Foreign Undersecretary Christos Rozakis, who subsequently addressed the
seminar, said there has never been an issue of half of Cyprus being
admitted into the EU, but as a single entity whose part is under occupation.
Cloudy in most parts of the country with possible drizzle and temperatures
ranging from 11-18C in Athens and from 7-14C in Thessaloniki.
FOREIGN EXCHANGE (Buying)
U.S. dlr 236.036 Can. dlr.176.497, Australian dlr. 186.516 Pound sterling
392.951, Irish punt 393.427, Cyprus pd 515.046, French franc 46.356, Swiss
franc 185.405 Belgian franc 7.604, German mark 156.686 Finnish mark 52.074,
Dutch guilder 139.733 Danish Kr. 40.819, Swedish Kr. 35.714, Norwegian Kr.
37.289, Austrian Sh. 22.267, Italian lira (100) 15.564 Yen (100) 212.288
Spanish Peseta 1.862, Portuguese Escudo 1.550.