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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-11-20

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, 20/11/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece aims for rapprochement, understanding with Turkey
  • Justice minister to decide on extradition of German woman
  • Cabinet approves 1997 budget, Papantoniou spells out details
  • Writers conference scheduled for Athens
  • Greece-Italy electrical connection being delayed by environmental concerns

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Greece aims for rapprochement, understanding with Turkey

    The policy of the Greek government is aimed at rapprochement and understanding between Greece and Turkey, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said today commenting on statements by Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller.

    ''In order for there to be a possibility for rapprochement and understanding, all sides must display the same spirit of good intentions and take the appropriate steps. However, not only is Turkey not taking the appropriate steps, its entire behaviour leads to the conclusion that it is seeking to exacerbate its relations with Greece,'' Reppas said.

    Reppas was commenting on statements by Ciller on the margins of a Western European Union (WEU) meeting yesterday in Ostend, Belgium as well as to the English-language ''Turkish Daily News''.

    Ciller was quoted as stating that Ankara's basic objection to a Council of Ministers call in July for respect for human rights, adherence to international agreements and resolution of Greek-Turkish differences stemmed from her country's refusal to accept a linkage of Turkish-EU relations and bilateral problems it has with Athens.

    In addition, Ciller is reported as having warned that Ankara would block the use of NATO equipment by the WEU because of Greek objections to allowing Turkey a greater say in the defence group's planning.

    Although a full member of NATO, Turkey is only an associate member of the WEU and as such, could block the use of Alliance equipment by the union.

    ''On the one hand Ms. Ciller is criticising the European Union for taking into consideration Greek-Turkish relations in shaping its relations with Turkey, and on the other, she is threatening to veto NATO decision-taking precisely because of the prevailing Greek-Turkish relations,'' Reppas said.

    Stressing that Greece's policy would remain unchanged, Reppas said that if Turkey wanted rapprochement it should either stop raising disputes related to Greece's sovereign rights concerning the Aegean islets of Imia or have recourse to the International Court at the Hague.

    The spokesman reiterated quite categorically that Greece would not respond ''in the event that Turkey tries to put forward for discussion a list of issues which merely constitute unilateral claims''.

    Reppas said there were only two issues which Greece could discuss with Turkey.

    ''The first is the Imia islets, regarding which Turkey should either stop disputing (Greek sovereignty) or have recourse to the Hague, and the second is the issue of the Aegean continental shelf,'' he said.

    Greece, the spokesman continued, seeks a climate of stability, security and peace in the region. He called on all parties ''which are interested in the same thing'' to exert ''the appropriate'' pressure on Turkey, underlining that Ankara did not have a problem with Greece but with international law and order.

    On Ciller's threat to block NATO decision-making, Reppas said that ''this is the problem of the Alliance which realizes that Ankara is issuing threats, which is why it must give a fitting reply so that (Turkey) understands that a NATO member state has not only rights but obligations also''.

    Asked whether the Imia and Aegean continental shelf issues could be examined by the International Court as a ''package'', Reppas did not rule out the possibility.

    ''If such a proposal is put forward, we shall treat it accordingly,'' he added.

    Meanwhile, replying to reporters' questions on statements by Ciller that Greece and Turkey should enter into a general dialogue on all issues, National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos invoked the Treaty of Lausanne.

    ''There has been a very clear institutional framework for decades now -- the Treaty of Lausanne -- the consistent implementation of which solves many of what Turkey views as problems in the Aegean and this must be understood by all,'' Tsohatzopoulos said.

    The minister clarified that ''at the present time there is no issue of negotiations about the Aegean''.

    ''If there are concrete proposals, they must be put forward in a responsible way, via a specific procedure,'' he added.

    Explaining what had happened in Ostend, Tsohatzopoulos said Turkey had tried to get the meeting to accept that Ankara could participate, together with the WEU full members and moreover on an equal basis, in decision- taking on initiatives which may be taken by the defence group concerning the despatch of troops and humanitarian missions.

    ''Greece made it quite clear that it was in favour of broader cooperation between all WEU members, including associate members and countries with observer status, since this would ensure the effectiveness of missions,'' Tsohatzopoulos said.

    ''However, there can be no change to the institutional framework of the WEU, which must safeguard the credibility of its institutional bodies. These bodies are the only ones competent to take decisions and therefore, the WEU Council is the body which must, in the future also, take the political decisions and have the political responsibility for any operations which are carried out, whether such operations are with the participation of associate members and observers or not,'' he added.

    Asked to comment on the reported threat by Ankara to block NATO decisions concerning the WEU, Tsohatzopoulos replied that ''this was not made known during the (WEU) meeting. It is an issue which concerns Turkey. It does not concern us and we are not worried.''

    Justice minister to decide on extradition of German woman

    Justice Minister Evangelos Yannopoulos will make a final decision soon on the extradition of a German woman wanted in her country for her alleged involvement in a disco bombing ten years ago, informed sources said today.

    The extradition of Andrea Hausler to Germany was approved yesterday by a three-member appeals court in Thessaloniki. Yannopoulos however has to sign the extradition order before it can be carried out.

    Hausler, who was arrested while on holiday in Chalkidiki last month, is wanted by German police in connection with the 1986 bombing of the La Belle disco in West Berlin, a regular haunt of off-duty US servicemen, in which three people died and 255 were injured.

    The blast killed two US soldiers and a Turkish woman.

    Hausler was taken to Thessaloniki from Korydallos prison near Piraeus under strict security provided by about 40 policemen. She was questioned by the appeals court for 30 minutes before being taken back to prison.

    Sources said Hausler had asked the court not to approve the extradition, claiming that she was in no way involved with the disco bombing.

    1997 budget approved by Cabinet

    The Cabinet yesterday approved the government's proposed 1997 budget, designed to place the country on track for European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the budget, which he called "harsh, but fair", aims at modernising the economy and achieving targets foreseen in the EU convergence programme.

    The proposed state budget includes seven new taxation measures, including taxes 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.

    Armaments programme

    Asked later whether the issue of the armaments programme had been discussed at yesterday's cabinet meeting, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas replied that Greece had set forth the matter to Community bodies.

    "Greece has set forth to Community bodies, such as ECOFIN, the issue of the high expenditures which it is forced to lay out in order to maintain the fighting capability of the armed forces at a high level by acquiring weapon systems," Mr. Reppas said.

    Asked if Greece's partners had shown understanding for Athens' request, Mr. Reppas replied that "in these cases there is always ground for understanding to be displayed".

    Papantoniou

    National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said the overall deficit of the state sector would be reduced to 4.2 per cent in 1997 from 7.6 per cent of GDP this year, while the budget deficit from 9.3 to 6.2 per cent of GDP.

    Further, he forecast a growth rate in GDP (in constant prices) of 3.3 per cent, compared to 2.6 this year, a fall in inflation from 8.5 to an average level of 6.5 per cent next year, and to 4.5 per cent for all of 1997, that public borrowing requirement will fall by 31.7 per cent, overall public revenue will rise by 17.5 per cent, while tax revenues for the regular budget will by 14.6 per cent.

    The gross deficit of the regular budget is estimated to fall by 11.2 per cent, while private and public investment will rise by 8.5 and 18 per cent respectively (in constant prices), and that expenses for health, education and defence will rise above th e average rate.

    Mr. Papantoniou also said that the boost in the growth rate will result in a 1.3 per cent rise in employment.

    Regarding 1996, he said private and public investment will rise by 8.3 and 15 per cent, respectively, that the average increase in real wages will be 2.5 per cent, while the country's foreign exchange reserves will stand at a record high of US$19.5 billion.

    He announced that the policy of the stable drachma will continue next year, with only small margins of fluctuation, while monetary policy will remain restrictive, aiming to facilitate the de-escalation of inflation.

    The government will also enact legislation establishing the independence of the Bank of Greece, he said.

    He said that grants and appointments in the public sector will freeze over the next two years, and called on the heads of public organisations not accept pay rises above 7 per cent in 1997.

    Reactions

    Major problems were caused yesterday in the interbank market as banks reacted strongly to the government's decision to impose new taxes on their operations.

    Banks refused to bid for interest rates of more than 30 days, but agreed to set a reference average interbank rate (Athibor). Banking sources said that the new tax on interbank transactions will lead to higher interest rates.

    The market, which saw outflows of US$300 million yesterday, is expected to experience more disruptions and outflows, while sources warned that the situation might affect the bond market as well.

    The government is working closely with the Federation of Greek Banks in an effort to normalise operations in the market, reports state.

    Writers' federation to hold conference in Athens

    The European Writers' Federation will hold its 15th annual conference at a downtown Athens hotel from Nov. 22-23.

    About 100 writers from 30 countries have been invited by the Greek Writers' Society for talks on issues of concern, such as protection of royalties, plagiarism through the Internet network and the need to create unified legislation in the European Union .

    The society will announce the establishment of a Royalties Collective Management Organisation at the conference, which it created together with the Panhellenic Publishers' Federation. The conference will receive financial backing by the culture ministry.


    A plan for the electrical connection between Greece and Italy faces environmental problems, which are preventing the execution of the project.

    The obstacles seem to be caused by refusal of certain Italian municipalities and communities to issue construction permits, despite a positive report issued by the Italian environment ministry after the examination of a technical and economic feasibility study.

    European Union Energy Commissioner Christos Papoutsis, replying to reporters' questions, expressed his concern over the plan's delay.

    "This project is included in pledges taken during the European Council meeting in Essen, while significant community funding has been decided upon, " he said.

    "The project is of great political importance for the European Union, due to its economic and strategic value. Because the improvement and increase of energy exchanges have been calculated, which could develop in the long- and short-term between Greece and Italy, with the countries of the Balkans and the Middle East," the commissioner added.

    Mr. Papoutsis admitted that restrictions for the protection of the environment cannot be ignored, but stressed that for this particular project, the technical and economic feasibility study has drawn an environmentally friendly line.

    WEATHER

    Sunny to partly cloudy in most parts of the country. Temperatures will range from 11-18C in Athens and from 7-14C in Thessaloniki.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE (Buying)

    U.S. dlr 235.898 Can. dlr.175.306, Australian dlr. 187.081 Pound sterling 394.756, Irish punt 395.272, Cyprus pd 516.642, French franc 46.378, Swiss franc 185.732 Belgian franc 7.610, German mark 156.825 Finnish mark 52.020, Dutch guilder 139.852 Danish Kr. 40.847, Swedish Kr. 35.637, Norwegian Kr. 37.246, Austrian Sh. 22.280, Italian lira (100) 15.580 Yen (100) 211.693 Spanish Peseta 1.864, Portuguese Escudo 1.552.

    (M.P.)


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