Greek foreign minister holds talks with Uzbekistan's leadership
NEWS IN DETAIL
Prime Minister Costas Simitis and main opposition New Democracy (ND) party
leader Miltiades Evert clashed today in Parliament over the economy and the
During discussion of a question tabled by Evert on the Organisation for the
Restructuring of Enterprises (OAE), the ND leader spoke of ''the disintegration
of the state'' for which ''Simitis and his government are proud''.
He said that domestic borrowing had risen from 4.2 trillion drachmas last
year to 11 trillion drachmas, marking an increase of 158 per cent.
Replying to Evert, Simitis said it was well known that debts had accumulated
and ''who is responsible for this''. The premier added that the government
was making a great effort to tackle the problem.
''There is already a draft law aimed at cutting spending, while with the
budget tabled today the aim of the government is to secure funds and curb
expenditures,'' Simitis said.
Earlier in the day the government tabled in Parliament an austerity budget
for 1997 in the aftermath of a nationwide strike and workers' protests
against planned tax break cuts and small salary and pension increases.
The five-day debate on the budget, tabled National Economy and Finance
Minister Yannos Papantoniou, begins in Parliament on Tuesday, December 17,
culminating in a vote on Saturday, December 21.
The relevant Parliamentary committee will hold a three-day discussion on
the budget starting next Wednesday.
Presenting the budget, Papantoniou reiterated that no new taxes would be
imposed during 1997, apart from those already announced and contained in
''There will be no further tax law in 1997,'' Papantoniou said, stressing
that all the tax measures announced ''refer exclusively to the wealthy and
high income brackets''.
He pointed out also that if tax brackets were index-linked to inflation, as
demanded by trade unions, the loss of revenue for the state would be in the
region of 100 billion drachmas, while high income earners would be benefit
to the tune of 80 billion drachmas and persons on low incomes would benefit
by only 20 billion drachmas.
Papantoniou said a list of major tax evaders whose cases have been referred
to justice would be published in the next few days.
More names would be announced during 1997, he added, of persons involved in
fuel smuggling, evasion of VAT payments and other financial offences.
He said the government's target of 4.5 per cent inflation for 1997 was
''ambitious but necessary... because everything depends on the reduction of
Papantoniou called on workers and the producer classes to curtail their
income demands and on businessmen to contain their prices.
He pledged that public utility price increases in 1997 would be ''small or
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos' representative at the Intergovernmental
Conference (IGC), Eurodeputy Yiannis Kranidiotis met today with the
ambassadors of the European Union member-states in Athens to brief them on
Greece's positions at the IGC prior to the forthcoming European Council
meeting in Dublin.
Kranidiotis stressed the need for the EU to move forward on the basis of
the principle of equality of member-states and ''institutional balance''.
He expressed reservations about the efforts of certain countries such as
France and Germany to promote the concept of ''flexibility'' as a general
principle of the EU.
Such a principle, he added, entailed the risk of splitting Europe into two
categories of countries and thus undermining the very foundations of the
Kranidiotis also underlined the need for the new treaty to contain
provisions on respect for the inviolability of borders and the territorial
integrity of the EU, as well as an express clause on political solidarity.
He told the EU ambassadors that the consolidation of these principles would
be a prerequisite for the ratification of the new treaty by the Greek
Four Bulgarian women arrested earlier this month at the Promachonas
border post for attempting to smuggle 13,500 pills and ampules of codeine
into the country were today remanded in custody at Diavata prison pending
A Serres investigating magistrate remanded the four in custody on charges
of ''possession, sale and distribution of narcotic substances'' after
questioning them for 15 hours over the past three days.
The four are Diana Iordanova, 50, Aleka Dimitrova, 53, Elisabet Valtseva,
51 and Milia Angelova, 50.
During questioning, the four claimed that they intended to deliver the
pills to compatriots in Athens for sale at street markets.
According to information in the hands of the police and customs authorities,
the four women are ''known'' members of the Bulgarian mafia and are alleged
to have illegally entered Greece from Bulgaria on several occasions with
quantities of heroin and hashish which they subsequently sold in Athens and
The four were arrested while travelling on a bus heading for Athens from
Sofia via Thessaloniki. The narcotics were discovered in the false bottoms
of their suitcases.
Ruling socialist PASOK Eurodeputy Yiannis Roubatis yesterday raised the
issue of Turkish involvement in arson attacks on Greek islands, during
questions to the Ministers' Council and the European Commission.
He also asked whether the Union intended to financially reinforce Greece's
forestry services for "the more effective protection of European forests
from the threat they face due to the activities of criminal Turkish
"The allegation by Turkish deputy Sedat Bucak that Turkish agents torched
Greek forests is extremely serious," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas
"The government is carefully examining the entire issue," Mr. Reppas said,
and " intendes to seek explanations from Ankara."
PASOK Secretary and Dodecanese deputy Costas Skandalidis noted that "the
provocative and cynical revelation by the Turks that they are behind the
arson attacks on the Greek islands, opens a huge issue for the international
community and law and order, particularly when it is done by a Turkish
He added: "Greece calls for the clarification of the case and the
denunciation of Turkey as an official source of terrorist activity."
The main opposition New Democracy party also issued an announcement
describing the Turkish deputy's statement as being "particularly serious"
and said it must be examined.
Gov't insists on 'realistic policy', appeals for understanding
"The government was just recently given the popular mandate and has the
responsibility to lead the country to an equal relationship with its
European partners," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, replying to
questions on the government's economic policy and yesterday's nationwide
"The government is following a realistic policy while refraining from
taking measures which would simply make it popular," Mr. Reppas said.
The government, Mr. Reppas continued, understands the reactions of workers
and those who are affected by the measures, "but the policy being followed
is the only one which will provide a solution to the country's problems."
The spokesman noted that participation in yesterday's strike and protest
rallies had been small, "and this must be the basis for drawing any
The government later issued an announcement appealing to workers and
particularly the weaker social strata for understanding for its economic
The announcement explains the government's new economic measures, stressing
that the social state is being strengthened while the new taxes introduced
in the 1997 budget burdened the higher income brackets exclusively.
The government said Greece was waging four major battles -participation in
EMU, development, the fairer distribution of income and efforts to enhance
the deterrent capacity of the armed forces.
It said that workers' real income (nominal remuneration less inflation)
would continue to increase at a rate of 2 per cent.
Total expenditure on social protection would amount to 6.5 trillion
drachmas in 1997, or 20.1 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP),
compared to 3.9 trillion drachmas or 18.5 per cent of GDP in 1993, the
High participation rate, unionists claim
In contrast to Mr. Reppas' assessment, trade union officials spoke in terms
of 60 to 100 per cent participation in the strike. Compared with recent
years, they said, the participation in the protest rally in central Athens
and demonstrations outside Parliament was also very high.
The index-linking of tax brackets to inflation and the raising of the limit
of non-taxable income to two million drachmas were the workers' main
Meeting to focus on adaptation of Greek legislation to EU laws
Issues of adapting Greek national legislation to Community law are to be
discussed in Athens today between government officials and E.U. representatives.
According to reports, the discussion will include issues concerning
fertilizers, private vehicles and medicines.
Pangalos holds talks with Uzbekistan`s leadership
Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov requested Greece's assistance for his
country's cooperation with European organisations in talks with Foreign
Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who paid the first-ever visit by a Greek
minister to the Central Asian nation.
Apart from meeting President Karimov, Mr. Pangalos met Uzbekistan Foreign
Minister A. Kamilov and Deputy Prime Minister and Petroleum Minister C.
President Karimov called for the opening of a Greek embassy in Tashkent and
the speeding up of the appointment of a general consul of Uzbekistan in
President Karimov expressed his country's wish to cooperate with European
organisations, saying that he considers Greece a natural channel and
interpreter of the views of his country at the European union.
Mr. Pangalos said the Greek embassy in Tashkent will open in 1998.
Talks with Mr. Hakulov, who is responsible for energy issues, focused on
issues of an economic nature and possibilities of cooperation between the
two countries in the natural gas sector.
Onassis Foundation to donate funds for new library at Metropolitan Museum
The Onassis Foundation will fund the establishment of a new library of
Greco-Roman art at New York's Metropolitan Museum.
"This donation ensures the creation of a library that will give scholars,
researchers and the public, the possibility to refer to valuable historical
archives and the amazing collections of Greek and Roman art, which the
Metropolitan has," the museum's curator, Philippe de Montebello, said
during a ceremony announcing the donation.
Vartholomeos concludes tour of Far East
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos returned to Istanbul yesterday after an
extended visit to Australia, where he toured Perth, Adelaide, Canberra,
Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.
On his return, he praised what he called the "significant achievements in
all sectors of the clearly ecclesiastical, educational, social and other
activities of the Archbishopry," and noted the contribution of Archbishop
Stylianos in the Orthodox Church's achievements in Australia.
In Canberra, Australian Prime Minister John Howard held an official dinner
in honour of the Patriarch, who met with all prime ministers of the states
Patriarch Vartholomeos also visited New Zealand during a tour of the Far
East, while he earlier visited Hong Kong, where he founded the new Orthodox
Metropolis of Southeast Asia.
Archbishop Anastasios meets with premier
Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania Anastasios met with Prime Minister
Costas Simitis yesterday, saying afterwards that the premier is particularly
interested in relations in the Balkans and promotion of cooperation and
friendly communication among Balkan countries.
Anastasios said he has been in Albania for some five and a half years to
restore the Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Albania and to promote
friendship, cooperation and mutual understanding. Consequently, he added,
the exchange of views and opinions in such a climate is always useful.
Greek-Yugoslav investment agreement readied
A joint Yugoslav and Greek committee is scheduled to convene in Athens on
Dec. 5 and 6 in order to discuss the drafting of an agreement for the
mutual promotion and protection of investments as well as avoidance of
According to a Greek embassy official the agreements will be signed during
Prime Minister Costas Simitis' visit to Belgrade, expected early next
He added that a committee of Greek experts will soon be established to
consider details of granting Yugoslavia export credits to the tune of
Athens has also expressed a willingness to organise seminars for the
briefing of Yugoslav businessmen on EU regulations, so as to make more
effective its cooperation with European firms.
National Bank lowers interests rates for deposits
The National Bank of Greece has announced a significant decrease in
interest rates for deposits by half a percentage point, which fall to 10.75
per cent from 11.25 per cent, while the current accounts interest rate will
be set at 9.25 per cent from 9.75 p er cent.
At the same time lending rates will decrease by 0.25 per cent.
The Ionian Bank will also slash deposit interest rates by half a percentage
point as of Monday, while similar moves by the Credit Bank are expected
The National Bank's working capital lending rate will be 17.50 per cent;
for fixed assets 16.25 per cent, and for fluctuating housing loans 15.25
Ionian's interest rates for deposits will be 11 per cent.
Motion tabled to confiscate Delta Brokerage's assets
A special judicial investigator is continuing the main investigation over a
2.6 billion drachmas default at the Athens Stock Exchange by the Delta
Brokerage firm, while a motion was submitted to an Athens court yesterday
by the bourse's common and consenting capital insurance.
The motion, to be discussed on Dec. 17, calls for confiscation of Delta's
movable and immovable assets up to the amount of four billion drachmas for
The main lawsuit on the same issue will be examined in about four months'
Cloudy with rain and local storms in most parts of the country. Same for
Athens where temperatures will range from 12-17C and in Thessaloniki from 5-
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