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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-11-19

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

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


NEWS IN ENGLISH

ATHENS, Greece, 19/11/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Cabinet approves tough 1997 budget
  • Athens lodges demarche over illegal immigrants from Turkey
  • Chief of Staff to attend NATO meeting
  • Tsohatzopoulos, Papandreou attend W.E.U. ministerial summit
  • Drachma appreciates against all foreign currencies
  • British film wins first place at Thessaloniki film festival
  • Two Albanians killed
  • Blast rocks downtown Athens office building

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Cabinet approves tough 1997 budget

    Cabinet today approved the 1997 austerity budget designed to put Greece definitively on track for European economic and monetary union (EMU).

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that the budget aimed to modernise the economy and achieve the targets foreseen in the convergence programme.

    He called the budget "harsh but fair".

    The budget includes seven new taxation measures, including taxes on large real estate holdings, interest on state titles, interbanks market deposits and derivatives, capital gains of non-listed firms and an increase in taxation on banks.

    National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou was expected later today to reveal the details of the new budget.

    Simitis statements

    Speaking to reporters after today's Cabinet meeting, Simitis said that the fundamental question ''which is not exclusively economic in nature but political'' was to what extent Greece could secure its participation in the EU on an equal basis, safeguard its national interests in the face of the Turkish threat, upgrade its role in the Balkans and secure modernization of the economy and society.

    Simitis underlined that EMU would constitute ''a new centre of gravity in the world which is now being shaped'' and would play a decisive role in all issues pertaining to Greece's national policy ''and consequently Greece should participate in EMU in order to safeguard its standing and ensure its decisive role in developments''.

    ''It concerns our future... (we must) have a voice and determine our country's prospects,'' the premier added.

    Noting that Italy and Spain were intensifying efforts in order to join ''the first group of countries'', Simitis said that if Greece missed the second cycle of accession in the year 2000 or 2001, it would suffer negative consequences ''with regard not only to cuts in Community funds which would have repercussions on income and infrastructure, but also as regards the weakening of the country's negotiating position, and this is why Greece must be on the same level as the other countries''.

    Simitis said the target was ''not just convergence for the sake of convergence'', since ''the entire effort is part of an overall plan for development, competitiveness and social policy which will constitute national strategy during the coming years''.

    ''The public deficit continues to be the country's main political problem, '' Simitis went on, adding that the budget approved today necessitated ''tough but just measures''.

    The prime minister stressed however that for the first time ''there will be proportional contributions from all... everyone will contribute to the national targets''.

    The contribution of ''those having and possessing'' will be decisive, he added.

    Simitis said that ''the possibilities which we have are now exhausted... there is no margin for further measures and demands which go beyond the framework decided for the budget will have negative repercussions on the course towards convergence''.

    On the recently announced 4 trillion drachma defence programme to strengthen the armed forces, Simitis said it would indeed put a great burden on the economy.

    He left open the possibility of ''this armaments policy'' changing at some point in the future through the exercise of foreign policy and by the country's position becoming stronger internationally through diplomatic means.

    ''We can change the shape of the country,'' Simitis said, adding that the period beginning now was the most important for Greece since the end of the Second World War.

    Summing up the main points of the budget and economic policy decided at today's cabinet meeting, Simitis referred to the abolition of non- developmental tax allowances which had no social value, sharp cuts in public spending, the broadening of the tax base by imposing taxes on new issues of bonds and treasury bills, as well as on real estate and transactions between banks.

    He also spoke of ''drastic reductions'' in public sector hiring and support for ''the weaker social strata'' by converting the Farmers' Insurance Fund (OGA) into a principal social security fund and further assistance for retired persons on low pensions.

    Athens to lodge demarche over illegal immigration from Turkey

    Greece was expected to lodge a demarche today with Turkey calling on Ankara to more effectively control its borders following an incident at the weekend in which civil defence forces fired on a Turkish fishing vessel as it fled after landing 10 illegal immigrants on the Aegean islet of Farmakonisi.

    Ankara has already protested to Athens over the incident, claiming that a Greek coastguard vessel opened fire on the crew and passengers of the Turkish boat resulting in the death of one of the two-man crew.

    The incident took place on Sunday.

    Chief of Staff to attend NATO military committee

    Chief of the National Defence General Staff General (Air) Athanasios Tzoganis will represent Greece at the 25th scheduled meeting of the NATO military committee in Brussels on 21-22 November, it was announced today.

    The meeting will focus on issues related to the Alliance.


    National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday attended the first session of a ministerial summit of Western European Union (WEU) member-states.

    After the session, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos expressed his satisfaction over the fact that general orientations as well as terms and conditions for establishment of a European Armaments Organisation, which is expected tomorrow, will be determined by WEU member -states. The decision is considered as the first step towards creating the European Armaments Agency, which is envisaged by the Maastricht Treaty.

    The organisation is essentially a continuation of the Armaments Group of western Europe, where, besides the 10 members of the WEU, Denmark, Norway and Turkey also participate.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos had the opportunity to meet with his counterparts from Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, as well as with WEU Secretary General Jose Cutilheiro. Today, he will meet with his counterparts from Spain, Portugal and France.

    On his part, Mr. Papandreou said Greece had already forwarded its positions regarding the gradual integration of the WEU within the EU as a tool for common defence policy.

    Privatisations a 'tool' of gov't's economic policy

    Development Undersecretary Anna Diamantopoulou said yesterday that "privatisations are one of the tools of our (government) economic policy. The basic one is the 'Industry Business Programme' which, complemented by privatisations, will contribute to the c rucial efforts of modernisation of Greek industry."

    Ms Diamantopoulou was speaking during a conference organised by the "Naftemboriki" financial daily, held within the framework of the "Money Show '96" on the subject of "Privatisations - A Question of Survival and Reliability".

    The undersecretary noted that privatisation procedures have been accelerated, and mentioned the organisation of the development ministry's special privatisation secretariat and the establishment of a schedule for each concern being privatised.

    She added that procedures for the immediate privatisation of four companies in the Organisation for the Rehabilitation of Ailing Enterprises have already been scheduled.

    Drys cites need to quickly implement 'TAXIS' programme

    Speaking at a conference organised by the finance ministry's training academy yesterday, Finance Undersecretary George Drys stressed the need for accelerating procedures for implementation of the comprehensive data processing system "TAXIS".

    Mr. Drys said the main goals of the programme are modernising the ministry's tax services, improving services rendered to taxpayers, widening the tax base and combating tax evasion.

    He also announced that 10,000 tax bureau employees will be given training in light of the new informatics system's implementation.


    The drachma appreciated against all foreign currencies in October, according to weighted parity indicators followed by the Centre for Export Studies and Research (KEEM).

    Specifically, the weighted parity indicator for all foreign currencies fell by 0.57 per cent, and that of European currencies by 0.56 per cent - on the basis of the weightings of the countries total foreign trade (imports- exports).

    In relation to all other currencies, except the US dollar, the weighted parity indicator fell by 1.45 per cent on the basis of their participation in the country's external trade.

    From developments in the first 10 months of 1996, it can be deduced that if the change in the drachma's parity continues at the same average rate until the end of the year, its cumulative appreciation will reach 2 per cent against all currencies, and 1. 6 per cent in relation to European currencies.


    A British film, Udayan Prasad's "Brothers in Trouble" won the first prize at the 37th International Thessaloniki Film Festival's foreign film category on Sunday night.

    "Brothers" marked the Indian-born director's first film, and tells the story of a Bengali illegal immigrant who settles in a deprived north London suburb.

    Presided over by Belgian director Chantal Akerman, the international jury awarded the silver prize to Spanish director Isabel Coixet for "Cosas que nunca te dije" (All that I never told you), while actress Lilli Taylor won the best actress award.

    The best director award went to Taiwanese director Tso Chi Chang for his film "Ah-Chung", while the best script award was divided between Americans Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for "Citizen Ruth" and by Frenchmen Lucas Belvaux and Jean-Pierre Leaud fo r "Pour rire" (To laugh).

    Cypriot director Andreas Pantzis' "The Slaughter of the Rooster" and Greek director Nikos Grammatikos' "Absentees" shared the best film award in the Greek-language category.

    "Slaughter" took six years to film and is an international co-pro-duction between Cyprus, Greece and Italy, as well as participation from Swedish, German, Bulgarian and Syrian interests, not to mention support by the Council of Europe's "Eurimages".

    Another noteworthy film was Aliki Danezi-Knutsen's "Roads and Oranges", which has received an offer to participate in the Brussels Film Festival.

    Ms Danezi-Knutsen, a 23-year-old Greek Cypriot, describes in her film the travels of two girls in Turkey on the trail of their father,missing during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

    She told the ANA

    "I made a road movie,where the issue of the missing is directly projected without heroics or hate, without melodrama. The issue for me is the road of self-knowledge, a journey with which the viewer can empathise," the director said.

    Two Albanians killed

    Two young Albanians were killed last night when a train headed to Kozani ran them over as they slept on the tracks.

    Reports said that Preg Rentzi, 19, and Alfred Mitros, 21, had fallen asleep on the tracks near Alexandria, in the Imathias prefecture, exhausted from their walk from the Greek-Albanian border and faint with hunger.

    Police said the two most probably had walked for days since illegally entering Greece somewhere on the border in western Macedonia and following the train tracks to Thessaloniki.

    Blast rocks central Athens office building

    An explosion rocked a central Athens office building shortly before 8:00 this morning.

    The blast occured in the building housing the offices of the Union of Construction Workers, in downtown Kaningos Square.

    Police said there were no injuries and only minor property damage.

    The explosive device had been placed in the lift and went off between the second and third floors.

    There have been no claims of responsibility for the blast as yet.

    WEATHER

    Sunny to partly cloudy in most parts of the country with possible rainfall in the afternoon. Temperatures ranging from 11-18C in Athens and from 7-14C in Thessaloniki.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE (Buying)

    U.S. dlr 235.769 Can. dlr.175.941, Australian dlr. 186.694 Pound sterling 393.566, Irish punt 394.221, Cyprus pd 515.443, French franc 46.332, Swiss franc 184.983 Belgian franc 7.599, German mark 156.617 Finnish mark 52.030, Dutch guilder 139.664 Danish Kr. 40.791, Swedish Kr. 35.619, Norwegian Kr. 37.180, Austrian Sh. 22.256, Italian lira (100) 15.565 Yen (100) 211.524 Spanish Peseta 1.861, Portuguese Escudo 1.550.

    (M.P.)


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