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Athens News Agency: News in English, 96-11-29

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, 29/11/1996 (ANA)

MAIN HEADLINES

  • Government tables 1997 budget in Parliament
  • Athens says IGC should proceed on basis of "institutional balance"
  • Four Bulgarian women were remanded in custody after charges of trafficking narcotic substances to Greece
  • Greece raises Turkish arson attacks on Greek islands at E.U.
  • Govt. insists on 'realistic policy' after natiowide labour strike
  • 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 budget.

    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 the budget.

    ''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 inflation''.

    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 zero''.


    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 EU.

    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 parliament.


    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 trial.

    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 Thessaloniki.

    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 organisations."

    "The allegation by Turkish deputy Sedat Bucak that Turkish agents torched Greek forests is extremely serious," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said later.

    "The government is carefully examining the entire issue," Mr. Reppas said, and " intendes to seek explanations from Ankara."

    Skandalidis

    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 deputy."

    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 strike.

    "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 conclusions".

    The government later issued an announcement appealing to workers and particularly the weaker social strata for understanding for its economic policy.

    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 announcement said.

    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 demands.

    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. Hakulov.

    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 Athens.

    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 he visited.

    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 double taxation.

    According to a Greek embassy official the agreements will be signed during Prime Minister Costas Simitis' visit to Belgrade, expected early next year.

    He added that a committee of Greek experts will soon be established to consider details of granting Yugoslavia export credits to the tune of US$100 million.

    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 with interest.

    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 per cent.

    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 losses sustained.

    The main lawsuit on the same issue will be examined in about four months' time.

    WEATHER

    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- 13C.

    FOREIGN EXCHANGE (Buying)

    U.S. dlr 239.270, Can. dlr.177.548, Australian dlr. 194.050, Pound sterling 401.859, Irish punt 402.454, Cyprus pd 516.534, French franc 46.061, Swiss franc 184.829 Belgian franc 7.587, German mark 156.270, Finnish mark 52.080, Dutch guilder 139.346, Danish Kr. 40.745, Swedish Kr. 35.797, Norwegian Kr. 37.369, Austrian Sh. 22.221, Italian lira (100) 15.824, Yen (100) 210.979, Spanish Peseta 1.856, Portuguese Escudo 1.548.

    (C.E.)

    (M.S.)


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