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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-11-26

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, 26/11/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Cabinet meets on tax measures
  • Workers strike over gov't economic measures
  • Opposition leader calls for meeting on foreign policy
  • Albanian illegal immigrants arrested
  • EU-Turkey Association Council meeting bumped to next year
  • Pangalos comments on Ciller meeting
  • Attempt to convert Byzantine era cathedral into mosque creates friction with Turkey
  • National Bank branch opens in Tirana
  • 1997 Europartenariat to be held in Piraeus

    NEWS IN DETAIL

    Cabinet meets on tax measures

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis today chaired a five-hour Cabinet meeting which focused on the government's proposed tax measures.

    During the meeting, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou presented the two ministries' final recommendations, in the form of a draft tax law, covering not only the abolition of a series of tax allowances and the imposition of new taxes, but also issues such as increases in certain categories of living expenses used to calculate presumed income.

    According to the draft legislation, new taxes are expected to be imposed on real estate, state securities and various financial products.

    No statements were made after the meeting since Papantoniou will make an official announcement later today at the General Accounts Office.

    Workers strike over gov't economic measures

    General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) president Christos Polyzogopoulos today warned of a wave of strikes organised to coincide with the parliamentary debate on the state budget for 1997 which should be held by the end of the week.

    ''There is will for an escalation of labour action and I believe that there will be such an escalation,'' Polyzogopoulos told a press conference.

    A 24-hour general strike has already been organised for Thursday in which all major trade union federations will be participating.

    Public utilities such as the Public Power Corporation (DEH), the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), the Athens and Piraeus Water Company (EYDAP) and the Greek Postal Service (ELTA) will be operating with skeleton staffs.

    The strike is expected to hit public transport in particular, with the national carrier Olympic Airways (OA) aircraft being grounded and considerable disruption to ferry-boat, train and bus services.

    Ships' pilots went on strike yesterday to press their demand for an additional pay allowance based on length of service to be paid out of the Seamen's Pension Fund (NAT).

    Secondary school and kindergarten teachers will hold a 24-hour strike tomorrow to protest a new salary scale and proposed government spending on education.

    The administrative board of the Union of Public Secondary School Teachers (OLME) also warned yesterday of the possibility of a two- and three-day strike in December and an indefinite work stoppage in January.

    One of the main demands of the unions is that the government index-link tax brackets to inflation. Its failure to do so for the past five years, they say, will in effect result in a drop in real income in 1997.

    Opposition leader calls for meeting on foreign policy

    Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos today met with President Kostis Stephanopoulos to put forward his party's request for a meeting of the political party leaders to discuss the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) and Greek foreign policy particularly with regard to Turkey.

    If agreement was reached among the parties, such a meeting would be chaired by Stephanopoulos.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Constantopoulos said that president had listened to his party's views with interest.

    Constantopoulos accused the government of ''double talk, the lack of a steadfast position and the absence of a national strategy''.

    ''As far as national issues are concerned, one of two things is happening. Either the government does not understand the critical nature of the present period in time or there are different views within the government itself,'' Constantopoulos said.

    Replying to press questions, Constantopoulos said that in the view of his party there could be no question of a single ''package'' lumping together the issue of Turkey's disputing of the Aegean islet of Imia and the issue of the delineation of the Aegean continental shelf.

    He noted however that both issues should be referred to the International Court at the Hague, adding that in the case of Imia, the initiative for referring the issue must be taken by Turkey.

    Albanian illegal immigrants arrested

    Police today arrested five illegal Albanian immigrants and the Greek driver of the car in which they were travelling at the Malgara toll post near Thessaloniki.

    The driver of the car, Pavlos Vassiliadis, 31, a resident of Volos, was also found in possession of 9.5 grams of hashish and a small quantity of heroin.

    He had picked up the Albanians at a border post near Kastoria, northern Greece and was to have driven them to Peraia, Thessaloniki for 30,000 drachmas per head.

    EU-Turkey Association Council meeting bumped to next year

    Athens' reaction yesterday prevented any changes to a unanimous July 15 decision by the EU Council of Ministers concerning Greek-Turkish relations and further advancement of EU-Turkish ties.

    The July 15 decision calls for respect by Turkey of human rights, adherence to international agreements and resolution of Greek-Turkish differences. An official reply by Ankara is still pending.

    Additionally, the current Irish European Union presidency decided not to convene a Dec. 6 EU-Turkey Association Council meeting, as strenuously requested by Ankara and several EU member-states.

    Both developments became obvious after the end of long discussions concerning prospects for furthering the 15-member Union's relations with Turkey and during working dinner by the Union's 15 foreign ministers.

    On its part, the Irish Presidency said during the council of foreign ministers session that "an exchange of views took place based on the presidency's report ", and that it was decided that "contacts with Turkey will continue with a view to preparing the Association council at the beginning of next year."

    Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos told a press conference afterwards that two unofficial documents were at his disposal which, to the best of his knowledge, have been referred to in press reports. He said the one is a report and the other a plan containing conclusions.

    Mr. Pangalos said the documents were not discussed during the dinner and, consequently, no decision was taken on them. He said a long discussion took place on whether the EU-Turkey Association Council should convene on the Dec. 6 date.

    He added it was agreed that in the common position to be presented at the next Association Council, the document concerning relations between Greece and Turkey will be the July 15 document.

    He said the threat of force, mobilisation of military means and efforts to impose "hegemonic behaviour" over neighbouring countries cannot be accepted by the international community in modern times.

    Pangalos comments on Ciller meetings

    Furthermore, Mr. Pangalos noted that Turkish Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller, despite meeting EU Council of Foreign Ministers president and Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring four times recently, refused to present Ankara's positions on its relations with Athens, as well as if Turkey intends to resort to the The Hague over its territorial differences with Greece - as in the case of the Imia islets for example - or whether in general Ankara intends to build good neighbourliness relations with Greece based on the principles of international law, international agreements and practice.

    Mr. Pangalos further said a note Ms Ciller sent to the EU Council stresses that Greek-Turkish relations constitute a bilateral issue and that the EU should not get involved in them.

    He said this Turkish position is unacceptable and cannot be accepted by the EU, adding that Turkey must realise that it cannot use the threat of force and put forward claims against an EU member-state.

    Mr. Pangalos also announced that the Irish EU presidency intends to invite, at its own initiative, Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan to a dinner shortly after the end of the summit, due to take place in Dublin in mid- December.

    Replying to another question, he expressed his regret over the freezing of Malta's entry into the EU, but said "this cannot concern Cyprus.

    " Cyprus is a 'Maastricht country', which is to say that at this time, along with Luxembourg, if we were to implement Maastricht tomorrow morning, they would be the only two countries which meet the requirement s, if we read the commitments in a very formal manner.

    "I believe that negotiations with Cyprus will last only a few months, and will be the easiest entry negotiations the European Union has conducted," he concluded.

    Pangalos visits Uzbekistan today

    Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos begins a two-day official visit to Uzbekistan today, followed immediately by an official visit to Japan, it was announced yesterday.

    Mr. Pangalos was to leave for Tashkent shortly before midnight last night from Brussels after attending the Council of EU Foreign Ministers meeting.

    Ankara attempt to convert cathedral into mosque

    An attempt by the Turkey's directorate of charitable foundations to convert the Byzantine cathedral of Agia Sophia in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon into a mosque is causing the reaction of the Turkish ministry of cult ure, press reports noted yesterday.

    The same reports say the ministry is claiming property rights over the church, after the directorate issued instructions for its conversion.

    The ruling Refah party has made it clear that "does not consider this initiative necessary."

    Complaints from foreign investors

    Representatives of foreign multi-nationals expressed serious complaints regarding the prevailing climate for foreign investment in Greece, while Greek businessmen were also critical of what they called the lack of "clear solutions in the development sector".

    Alexandros Andriopoulos, the managing director of Levi Strauss Hellas, accused the state of not providing effective protection for industrial and intellectual copyrights, reporting that the annual turnover of imitation brands and products in Greece amounted to 50 billion drachmas, seven billion of which was only for bogus Levi's jeans.

    Giorgos Galanakis, the president of Hayatt Regency Hotel and Tourist A.E., which recently implemented a large casino investment in Thessaloniki, protested that "at a time when prime ministers of the country visited America in search of investors, legislation regarding the sector has been changed three times and new changes are being prepared."

    1997 Europartenariat scheduled to be held in Piraeus

    EU Commissioner for Small-to-Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), Christos Papoutsis said yesterday that the 1997 Europartenariat will be held in Piraeus next June.

    According to Mr. Papoutsis, the Europartenariat will contribute to the further globalisation of Greek SMEs that comprise the backbone of the Greek economy.

    National Bank branch in Tirana

    The National Bank of Greece opened its first branch office in Tirana yesterday while another branch is expected to soon open in Bucharest.

    The new bank branch will accept deposits in major currencies and in drachmas, as well as offering import and export financial services, loans and letters of guarantee, purchase as well as facilitating exchange and capital movement abroad.

    An announcement by the National Bank said the Tirana branch office will have an advantage of providing security for important and high-amount transactions and services.

    In a similar development, a new National Bank branch office opened in Stuttgart on Nov. 18. The new branch office, the fourth in Germany, provides all banking services and is equipped with the latest banking computerisation system.

    WEATHER

    Sunny to partly cloudy with rain later at night. Temperatures in Athens will range from 9-15C and in Thessaloniki from 6-13C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE (Buying)

    U.S. dlr 236.175, Can. dlr.176.040, Australian dlr. 191.466, Pound sterling 397.375, Irish punt 398.189, Cyprus pd 515.840, French franc 46.134, Swiss franc 185.187 Belgian franc 7.573, German mark 156.081, Finnish mark 51.854, Dutch guilder 139.118, Danish Kr. 40.664, Swedish Kr. 35.672, Norwegian Kr. 37.041, Austrian Sh. 22.178, Italian lira (100) 15.714, Yen (100) 210.215, Spanish Peseta 1.856, Portuguese Escudo 1.546.

    (M.P.)


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