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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-07-02

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

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

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 02/07/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greek, Bulgarian presidents meet, agreements signed
  • German defence minister begins visit in northern Greece
  • Shevardnadze receives Onassis prize
  • Tourism hit by hard drachma policy - study
  • Drug arrests in northern Greece
  • Greek reservations on Turkish decision for moratorium in the Aegean
  • Cyprus in next European Union enlargement
  • Greek economy in non-inflationary growth course
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greek, Bulgarian presidents meet, agreements signed

Bulgarian President Peter Stoyanov arrived here today on a two-day state visit and immediately embarked on talks with Greek counterpart Costis Stephanopoulos.

Stoyanov, who heads a ministerial delegation, was also expected to meet with Prime Minister Costas Simitis shortly after noon and with political party leaders in the evening.

After the conclusion of the official leg of his visit on Thursday, Stoyanov will to to Thessaloniki and from there by helicpoter to Mount Athos for a brief visit on Friday, departing in the afternoon for Sofia from Thessaloniki.

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Bulgarian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Stefan Tafrov later signed the agreement for the construction of the Kulata-Promachonas border bridge in the presence of Stephanopoulos and Stoyanov.

The talks between the Greek and Bulgarian presidents focused on bilateral relations, the situation in the Balkans and the greater region and Bulgaria's efforts to join Euro-Atlantic structures which Greece supports.

The two presidents reconfirmed the political will of Athens and Sofia to implement agreements concerning the management of the waters of the Nestos River, the opening of three new border posts.

They also expressed their belief that the construction of the Burgas- Alexandoupoli gas pipeline should proceed at the earliest since this would be to the benefit of the three countries directly involved, namely, Russia, Bulgaria and Greece.

Stephanopoulos stressed that Stoyanov's visit to Greece, the first by a Bulgarian head of state since 1989, would facilitate progress in relations between the two Balkan neighbours which, he added, were already at a very good level.

He said that Bulgaria's accession to NATO and the European Union would help consolidate peace and stability in the region and show that the Balkans could be part of the Community and contribute to the economic development and integration of Europe.

Stephanopoulos said there was great margin for developing even closer economic relations and increasing exchanges between the two countries, noting that Greek-Bulgarian relations could serve as an example of cooperation and friendship for all the countries of the region.

Stoyanov expressed gratitude for the understanding shown by Greece for Bulgaria's problems, particularly Athens' support for the reform programme being implemented by Sofia.

''Our relations were always excellent, but after 1989 things changed as did objectives. And we shall need the help of our friends regarding our accession to NATO and the EU,'' Stoyanov said, adding that the reform programme could make Bulgaria ''more attractive'' to its neighbours.

Stoyanov also stressed the need for an ''intensification'' of Greek- Bulgarian talks and referred to the possibility of cooperation between the two countries ''on major joint plans'' as well as in the culture sector.

Replying to reporters' questions, Stoyanov said the domestic situation in Bulgaria and Greece had never affected relations between the two neighbours.

''Particularly now that the political situation in both countries is completely normal,'' he added.

Asked about the possible threat posed by the Kozloduy nuclear power plant near the border with Greece, Stoyanov said that the way in which the plant was now operating created ''no problem'', maintaining that ''the dangers (posed by Kozloduy) are no more than those existing at similar plants in other countries''.

Stoyanov is expected to arrive in Thessaloniki tomorrow afternoon.

At 9 pm local time, he will attend a dinner given in his honour by Macedonia-Thrace Minister Philippos Petsalnikos.

Also attending the dinner will be the members of the ministerial delegation which Stoyanov is heading.

Speaking after talks with Stephanopoulos today, Stoyanov hailed Thessaloniki, the present cultural capital of Europe, adding that ''we shall see examples of Bulgarian culture'' in the port city.

German defence minister begins visit in northern Greece

Germany's Defence Minister Volker Ruehe begins a three-day visit to Ioannina, northern Greece today at the invitation of his Greek counterpart, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, within the framework of regular contacts between the two countries, an ANA despatch from Bonn said.

According to the German Defence Ministry, the talks between the two ministers will include issues such as NATO's enlargement eastwards and coordination between the two countries in the Western European Union (WEU).

Germany on July 1 assumed the presidency of the WEU for the second half of the current year, while Greece will take over on January 1, 1998.

Tsohatzopoulos and Ruehe are also expected to discuss the situation in former Yugoslavia and Albania, Greek-Turkish relations and bilateral issues.

Shevardnadze receives Onassis prize

The Board of Directors and the Committee for the Onassis International Prizes and the Onassis International Cultural Competitions today announced the names of the 1997 Laureates, which included Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze.

Shevardnadze was awarded ''The Onassis Prize for International Understanding and Social Achievement'', which is accompanied by a 250,000 dollar prize.

Sir Steven Runciman and Dolly Goulandris were each awarded ''The Onassis Prize for Culture'' (Arts and Humanities) and will share the corresponding cash prize of 250,000 dollars.

The International Maritime Organization -- the UN agency responsible for maritime safety and the protection of the marine environment from pollution by ships -- was awarded ''The Onassis Prize for the Environment'' and will also receive 250,000 dollars.

The Awards Ceremony will take place at the Athens Concert Hall on September 16 and prizes will be presented by President Kostis Stephanopoulos.

The first, second and third prizes of the Onassis International Cultural Competitions for Theatrical Plays were awarded respectively to Manjula Padmanabhan of India for her play ''Harvest'', Dr. Anton Juan of the Philippines for his play ''Tuko! Tuko! or Princess of the Lizard Moon'' and Nagle Jackson of the USA for his play ''The Elevation of Thieves''.

The three awards carry cash prizes of 250,000, 200,000 and 150,000 dollars respectively.

Tourism hit by hard drachma policy - study

Greece needs to rationalise the drachma's parity in real terms against the national currencies of Italy, Spain and Portugal, the country's three main tourism competitors in southern Europe, the Tourism Research and Forecasts Institute (ITEP) said.

ITEP - a think tank representing the interests of the domestic tourism industry - argues that the hard drachma policy is responsible for a steady decline in tourist arrivals in Greece in the last few years.

In its first survey, entitled "The impact of foreign exchange policy in the tourism sector", ITEP proposes a 10 percent devaluation of the drachma in order to boost tourist arrivals by 10.3 percent annually.

The number of tourists visiting Greece fell from 10.7 million in 1994 to 9.7 million in 1996 resulting in a drop in the occupancy rate of domestic hotels. Tourism foreign exchange revenues fell from 3.9 billion dollars in 1994 to 3.7 billion last year.

The survey, however, allowed a note of optimism for the future.

It predicted a rise in tourist arrivals to 11.7-12.6 million by 2000, and an increase in tourism revenues to 15 billion dollars if the government relaxes its foreign exchange policy and tourism infrastructure is improved.

Drug arrests in northern Greece

Police in Ioannina, northern Greece today arrested four Athenians suspected of being involved in an attempt to smuggle 345 kilos of marijuana into Greece.

Several cars which failed to stop at a police checkpoint yesterday were chased by the police, their occupants throwing out sacks of marijuana weighing a total of 345 kilos.

The cars managed to shake off their pursuers but police believe the four arrested today were the occupants of one of the vehicles.

According to initial reports, all four have been involved in transporting narcotics from the Greek-Albanian border in the past.

They were identified as Pantelis Tsourlos, 31, his wife, Erasmia, 23, her brother Petros Grivas, 20 and his girlfriend, Efthalia Tassi, 20.

Meanwhile, local police from the village of Nestori, Kastoria found a mule wandering through a wooded region loaded with four sacks containing 50 kilos of marijuana.

The police believe the marijuana was smuggled into Greece from neighbouring Albania. No arrests have been made.

The marijuana was confiscated and the mule will be sold by auction.

In a related incident, five Albanian illegal immigrants, including two minors, were arrested in Kastoria for drug trafficking.

The five were arrested when they went to collect a parcel containing 17.5 kilos of marijuana which had been hidden in a nearby wooded area.

The police had already found the marijuana and had placed the area under constant surveillance.

The three adults arrested were identified (phonetic spellings) as Ganela Artan, 22, Spyros Nika, 30 and Salin Sereti, 24.

Greek reservations on Turkish decision for moratorium in the Aegean

Greece indirectly pointed to Turkey yesterday as making moves aimed only at creating impressions after Ankara's announcement earlier to "limit" Turkish military exercises in the Aegean between July 1 and Aug. 15.

Athens stressed that it supported confidence-building measures (CBMs) "which do not falsify sovereign rights and international duties assigned to it."

A lengthy government announcement issued late last night termed as unacceptable "Turkey's demand for 'reciprocity' in briefing Turkish authorities in connection with Greek aircraft flights over the Aegean, a fact which conceals its (Turkey's) real aims.

"The region of the Aegean constitutes a region of Greek responsibility and Flight Information Region (FIR) management and includes in its entirety the considerable part of the Greek state. The IFF/SIF system does not provide a solution. The problem is not the identity of the aircraft but their attitude," the government announcement read.

On the question of abstention from exercises during the summer months, Greece accused Turkey of "backtracking" on the commitment which the two countries assumed with the 1988 Papoulias-Yilmaz agreements, and which was confirmed through the NATO Secretary General in June 1996 regarding abstention from exercises. This mutual commitment, the government added, includes all of July and August.

Athens further charged that Ankara was now announcing a "unilateral commitment" which comes to an end on Aug. 15, while Greece will observe in full the two-month commitment in accordance with the agreement which had been signed.

In connection with armed warplanes, the Greek government said that Hellenic Air Force aircraft "in any case do not carry weapons in their training missions, but will continue to carry out those missions which concern the security of navigation in the Aegean in the way imposed by regulations."

The government announcement stressed that every decrease in tension in the Aegean contributed to an improvement in security and the climate in the region and was welcome. In parallel, it reminded that "tension in the Aegean is due exclusively and solely to the aggressiveness shown by the Turkish side, with territorial claims, by disputing law, rules and agreements which define the existing status and with daily pressure created by violations of air traffic rules, as well as violations of national airspace ."

However, the government notes as positive Ankara's statement that it will "pedantically observe the implementation of international rules in its activities on the sea and in the air," which emanated from the Papoulias- Yilmaz agreements.

The government said it expected that in these activities in international waters and in the international airspace of the Aegean, the Turkish side will observe international rules and regulations in their entirety and not selectively.

Greece has charged for years that Ankara's warplanes violate the Athens FIR and Greek airspace.

Greece, it said, expressed the hope that the effort undertaken by the NATO Secretary General will continue on shaping mutually acceptable measures which will decrease tension in the direction of the Papoulias-Yilmaz agreements in a climate of respect for internat ional law and the status quo in the region and that the Turkish government's intention is moving in this direction, as it should do, and not in the direction of creating impressions.

Cyprus in next European Union enlargement

Cyprus will be part of the first phase of the next European Union enlargement, Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis stated yesterday.

However, they ruled out any institutionalised presence of the Turkish Cypriot community as a separate entity at the forthcoming accession negotiations Cyprus is expected to start with the EU in 1998.

Speaking after a meeting here yesterday with Cyprus Foreign Minister Kasoulides, Mr. Kranidiotis said: "Our meeting was particularly important in view of the direct talks on Cyprus" to be held in New yrok later this month adding that they also discussed ways to accelerate the Cypriot application for EU membership.

Greek economy in non-inflationary growth course

The Greek economy is entering a period of lower inflation and interest rates with relatively strong growth, according to the latest survey on the short-term economic and financial outlook by Alpha Credit Bank. The survey indicates that nominal convergence indicators have started approaching those in the other countries of the European Union, raising the probability that Greece will be amongst the second group of countries entering European Monetary Union (EMU) from January 2001.

This tends to boost market confidence as well as to strengthen the resolve of economic policy makers in pursuing EMU objectives, it added.

The bullish sentiment in the Athens Stock Exchange continues for a fifth month in a row, with the market stabilised around 1700, having weathered well the overshooting of the all-times-high of 1684 registered in 1990. Since the beginning of the year, growth mutual funds assets have grown by 90 per cent.

Foreign investors have returned to the market, which ranked in May among the best performing markets in the world, the survey said.

WEATHER

Fine weather is forecast throughout the country today with some local clouds in northern Greece in the afternoon. Winds will be variable, moderate to strong, especially in the Aegean Sea at night. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 22-34C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 19-31C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 272.502 Pound sterling 453.165 Cyprus pd 527.149 French franc 46.316 Swiss franc 186.238 German mark 156.111 Italian lira (100) 16.032 Yen (100) 237.038 Canadian dlr. 197.110 Australian dlr. 204.977 Irish Punt 412.434 Belgian franc 7.567 Finnish mark 52.393 Dutch guilder 138.701 Danish kr. 41.013 Swedish kr. 35.176 Norwegian kr. 37.101 Austrian sch. 22.189 Spanish peseta 1.847 Port. Escudo 1.545

(M.P.)


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