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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-07-05

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, 05/07/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece braces for EU energy deregulation
  • Tempi railway tunnel inaugurated
  • Bulgaria promises return of rate 18th century manuscript
  • Greek defence minister views international exercise
  • Greece arrests German wanted by Interpol for fraud
  • June inflation creeps up
  • Vigilence maintained on border with Albania
  • German, Greek defence ministers meet on NATO
  • No British beef in Greece
  • Greece to cooperate with Kazakh oil, gas industry
  • US awaiting decision on Aegean, State Dept. says
  • Charter arrivals up, but problems remain hoteliers say
  • Greek equities finish higher, propelled by blue chips
  • Greece gets new interbank system in September
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece braces for EU energy deregulation

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou today underlined the importance of overhauling Greece's national legislation on energy in order to comply with European Union ordained deregulation in 2001, and prepare for private sector competition.

Speaking at a conference on energy organised by the Public Power Corporation's (DEH) employees union, Papandreou said harmonisation was essential if Greece was to meet competition in the energy market after 2001.

''The government is determined at the earliest to pass a law determining the framework for the overall operation of the electricity market so that DEH will not be unprepared for the system of tough competition which will be completely new for the corporation,'' Papandreou said.

She welcomed a decision by the EU Commission to allow Greece a four-year extension for deregulation, which means that Community rules on liberalisation of the electricity market will come into force in Greece in February 2001.

But she warned against complacency, saying the extension should not lead to procrastination in DEH's adaptation to a new competitive environment.

Dialogue on creating a new institutional framework had already begun between the government, opposition parties and DEH's management in order to try to achieve consensus, Papandreou said.

She stressed that DEH's status as a public utility could only be preserved if the corporation was competitive.

The minister predicted that under deregulation only a small share of the market would go to the private sector because high investment costs in the comparatively small Greek market would act as a deterrent.

Disagreeing with Papandrou, the president of DEH's employees' union, Nikos Exarchos, said that the Development Ministry's plans favoured independent electricity producers, which undermined DEH's status as a public utility.

Tempi railway tunnel inaugurated

A 5,000-metre railway tunnel that was inaugurated on Friday will reduce by one hour the time taken to travel between Athens and Thessaloniki by train. Completion of construction of the Tempi tunnel is scheduled for 1998.

The project, which was carried out by Tempi Joint Venture, is one of the main infrastructure works in the Greek Railways Organisation's (OSE) upgrade for the Athens-Thessaloniki line using high-speed trains and a double-track railway.

The project is funded by the European Union's Cohesion Fund and the "Railways 1994-1999" operational programme. The plan is budgeted at 499 Mecu and with subsidies from the European Regional Development Fund of 294 Mecu.

The project includes building a railway bridge across the Pineios River with a length of 240 metres and a breadth of 12.5 metres, three small tunnels with a total length of 950 metres and the main Tempi tunnel with a length of 4,034 metres.

Tempi will reduce the time of the trip between Athens and Thessaloniki to four hours from five hours. Another tunnel at Kallidromo, which is due for construction in 2000, will cut travelling time to 2.5 hours.

The railways project is currently showing a high absorption rate of EU funds equivalent to one billion drachmas a month. The total budget for the three tunnels at Tempi, Platamonas and Kallidromo is 600 billion drachmas.

Bulgaria promises return of rare 18th century manuscript

Bulgarian President Peter Stoyanov confirmed yesterday that a rare 18th century manuscript stolen from the autonomous monastic community of Mount Athos would be returned to its owner.

Stoyanov arrived in Mount Athos early yesterday morning on the final leg of a three-day official visit to Greece. He was received with the full honours afforded by the holy community to a leader of an Orthodox country.

Following a service at the Protato Cathedral he visited the Ayios Georgios Zografos monastery, where he assured the monks that the manuscript currently on display at a museum in Sofia would be returned.

The priceless 1762 manuscript written by Paissios Hiliendarios was stolen from the monastery in the 1980s but replaced with a copy, delaying discovery of the theft.

Efforts have been made to retrieve the manuscript since it surfaced in Sofia a few years ago.

Greek defence minister views international exercise

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos left for the Ukraine yesterday to take part in "Cooperative Neighbour 1997" within the "Partnership for Peace" programme, which is being held in the city of Lvov between July 1-14.

The exercise includes training for land and air forces from participating countries. Of NATO countries forces from Greece and the United States are participating. Other countries taking part are Ukraine, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Georgia, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia.

Greece is participating in the exercise with military forces comprising 144 troops and a Hercules C-130 transport plane, which will carry staff and drop supplies.

The exercise was planned by US Adm. Joseph Lopez, commander of allied forces in southern Europe.

Tsohatzopoulos will participate tomorrow in "Philellinia 97" in Peta, Arta. The event is dedicated to the symbolic recreation of the Philhellenes Corps.

Greece arrests German wanted by Interpol for fraud

A German man wanted by Interpol in his country for fraud and embezzlement involving millions of marks has been arrested by police in Polygyros, northern Greece.

George Ralf Planck (phonetic spelling), 50, was staying in a rented apartment in Vourvouro, Chalkidiki.

During his stay in Greece, Planck is alleged to have used a false Belgian passport and driving licence in the name of Johann Peters.

Police stopped him yesterday on the Nea Moudania-Sithonia highway and after checking his fingerprints, ascertained that he was Planck.

The German was due to appear before a public prosecutor in Polygyros later today charged with using forged documents. Extradition procedures have already begun.

June inflation creeps up

Greek consumer price inflation rose in June for the first time this year, creeping up to 5.5% year-on-year from 5.4% in May, the National Statistics Service (NSS) said.

June's rise in the cost-of-living index was due to increases of 0.6% in foodstuffs, 1.6% in apparel and footwear, 0.4% in housing (mainly rents), and 0.3% in transport (mainly a rise in passenger ship fares).

Vigilance maintained on border with Albania

The Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence (KYSEA) today unanimously decided the continuation of a state of readiness of the country's military and police on the border with Albania in order to deter and combat criminal activity.

KYSEA, chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, said increased security measures should continue in particular in the sea region between Corfu and the Albanian coast.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the security measures were being implemented in accordance with provisions as laid down in international treaties and international law.

German, Greek defence ministers meet on NATO

Visiting German Defence Minister Volker Ruehe and his Greek counterpart Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday discussed the new structure and enlargement of NATO ahead of the forthcoming NATO conference in Madrid.

The two ministers agreed that there was rapprochement of views, while Ruehe reiterated Germany's endorsement of the establishment of four NATO sub- headquarters in Europe, one of which would be in Greece.

They also discussed initiatives that needed to be taken in the context of the Western European Union (WEU), as Germany is set to take over the rotating WEU presidency from France for the second half of the year, followed by Greece in the first half of 1998.

"There was a series of positive proposals, and we shall continue our collaboration in that direction because we believe that security matters do not concern only NATO and are of priority in many regions of Europe, such as Bosnia, Albania and elsewhere," Tsohatzopoulos said at the Ioannina 'Xenia' hotel shortly midnight when they completed their trek.

On bilateral issues, the talks focussed mainly on armaments, collaborations and a series of political initiatives.

"We reached very positive conclusions," Tsohatzopoulos said, while Ruehe added: "Our relations have become closer, it was an outstanding day for us."

The ministers further discussed the Cyprus issue.

"Negotiations are underway and so are all the initiatives that have been taken, so that the dialogue over the next two months between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cyriot leader Rauf Denktash will flrmulate more auspicious conditions for success," Tsohatzopoulos said.

He said he told Ruehe that Greece "endorses the prospect of Cyprus' membership in the European Union. We hope that those negotiations will commence, as decided, in the most efficient manner. For us, the prospect of a Cyprus slolution is found in the procedures for Cyprus' accession to the EU".

On withdrawal of the eight-nation protection force in Albania, Tsohatzopoulos said the force had completed its mission, which was to assist the distribution of humanistic aid and support the election process.

"Consequently, withdrawal of the multinational force is a matter of time and, in the next few days, the final decision shall be taken in cooperation with the new Albanian government".

Ruehe returned to Bonn this morning.

No British beef in Greece

Agriculture Undersecretary Vassilis Geranidis told a press conference in Thessaloniki yesterday that not one gram of British beef had been imported to Greece from the quantity which was illegally exported in defiance of a European Union ban.

The European Commission said yesterday that 1,600 tonnes of British beef had been illegally exported to the Netherlands, Russia and Egypt. The EU banned the export of British beef last year after London acknowledged that consumers eating infected beef could contract the human equivalent of mad cow disease.

Geranidis said checks were being carried out at all the country's entry points, adding that on the ministry's instructions, the checks would continue.

If quantities of British beef are discovered, Geranidis said, they will be seized on the spot.

Greece to cooperate with Kazakh oil, gas industry

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said on Thursday that Greece was seeking closer economic cooperation with resource-rich Kazakhstan, especially with its oil and gas industries.

"We are interested in productive cooperation which will be mutually profitable," Mr. Pangalos told reporters after meeting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the end of a two-day official visit to the Central Asian state.

Kazakhstan - a country five times the size of France and with a population of just 16.7 million people - is attractive because of its huge oil and gas reserves, the minister said. "Greece is buying important volumes of gas from Kazakhstan, and we shall also buy oil. We are planning a big pipeline from Novorossiisk to (the Black Sea port of) Burgas in Bulgaria and then to the Mediterranean," he said.

Russia's Black Sea port of Novorossiisk is the destination of an oil pipeline due to be built by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium from Kazakhstan's huge Tengiz oil field, in line with an agreement signed in May this year.

US awaiting decision on Aegean, State Dept. says

The United States has said it cannot promote any initiative in the Aegean until Greece and Turkey reached an agreement to reduce tension in the region.

US State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said on Thursday: "We believe that any measures to reduce tension that can be agreed and applied in the Aegean must be implemented by both sides."

Burns added that confidence-building measures (CBMs) in the Aegean were still being discussed under the aegis of NATO, while there was no concluding agreement yet.

"We must await the completion of these talks," he said, adding that "Greece must be given time to evaluate Turkey's public statements".

He was referring to Ankara's unilateral decision announced earlier this week to limit its military activity in the Aegean between July 1 and Aug. 15.

Athens responded with reservation to the announcement, insisting for a three-month moratorium on military overflights in the Aegean.

Charter arrivals up, but problems remain hoteliers say

Tourist arrivals by charter flights are on the rise, the Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers said.

Using figures from arrivals at airports throughout Greece in June, the federation warned that the increase did not preclude a drop in prices offered by tour operators.

The largest increase was reported at the airport of Irakleio, Crete, where arrivals rose 20 percent in June, compared to the same month last year.

At other destinations, tourist arrivals increased in Samos by 7.5 percent and in Corfu by 1.0 percent but decreased in Mytilini by 0.9 percent.

Despite the increase, however, the hoteliers' federatoin warned that long- term infrastructure inefficiencies in tourism had led to a drop in prices and an increase in lower-income tourists.

Greek equities finish higher, propelled by blue chips

Stock prices recovered during the last trading session of the week to finish up 1.38 percent helped by strong buying interest in blue-chips, particularly in the industrial sector.

The general index closed at 1,514.18 points - up 0.43 percent on the week - with all sector indices scoring gains. Trading was moderate with 12.8 billion drachmas changing hands.

Banks rose 1.54 percent, Holding was 1.76 percent up, Insurance increased 1.29 percent, Industrials rose 1.63 percent, Construction was 0.87 percent up, Investment increased 0.81 per cent, Investment ended 0.40 percent up and Miscellaneous increased 0.29 percent.

Greece gets new interbank system in September

A new interbank settlement system will be introduced in Greece in September by DIAS SA Interbank Systems, Bank of Greece deputy governor Panagiotis Thomopoulos said.

The new system, called DIASTRANSFER, will provide speedy and safe capital transfer services among banks either by crediting bank accounts or by cash payments to beneficiaries, said Thomopoulos, who is also president of Dias.

DIASTRANSFER will simplify interbank transfer procedures, enabling settlement within the day.

DIAS is expected soon to introduce a new interbank payments system called DIASDEBIT that will cover, in the first phase, consumer payments to public utility firms.

The company's electronic clearing system on bank cheques, used by 35 banks in Greece, handles more than 50 percent of transactions in the country.

WEATHER

Sunny weather will prevail throughout the country today with a rise in temperatures forecast in the Ionian Sea region and mainland Greece. Winds will be variable, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 23-40C. Similar weather is forecast for Thessaloniki with temperatures from 21-38C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 274.169 Pound sterling 458.641 Cyprus pd 530.581 French franc 46.416 Swiss franc 186.546 German mark 156.443 Italian lira (100) 16.075 Yen (100) 239.796 Canadian dlr. 198.975 Australian dlr. 206.371 Irish Punt 417.731 Belgian franc 7.579 Finnish mark 52.511 Dutch guilder 138.974 Danish kr. 41.071 Swedish kr. 35.248 Norwegian kr. 37.398 Austrian sch. 22.231 Spanish peseta 1.850 Port. Escudo 1.550

(C.S.)


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