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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-07-16

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, 16/07/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Government pledges to stay on convergence course
  • Greece to revise EU fund package
  • Kranidiotis kicks off Middle East tour with Cairo visit
  • Czech PM in Athens tomorrow for official visit
  • First F-16 refurbished in Greece
  • Commissioner says EU won`t succumb to Turkish threats
  • Defence Minister begins Caucasus tour with talks in Yerevan
  • Athens press union takes stance on Turkish journalists' persecution
  • Trucks banned from highways on weekends
  • New port terminal, motorway credits approved
  • Strong corporate profits seen driving up Greek bourse
  • Greek transport, communications unions agree to strike truce
  • Cyprus in first group for European Union expansion
  • WEATHER
  • FOREIGN EXCHANGE

NEWS IN DETAIL

Government pledges to stay on convergence course

The government yesterday pled-ged to keep to targets contained in its plan to converge the economy with other European Union countries despite changing conditions within the EU, National Economy and Finance Minister Yannos Papantoniou said.

"Our assessment is that developments are not upsetting our own economic planning. We remain firm and dedicated to the programme we have been implementing," Mr. Papantoniou told reporters.

He was speaking after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Costas Simitis to discuss developments in the EU, particularly in Germany and France, and how they would affect economic and monetary union.

Also attending the meeting was Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos.

Replying to questions on whether the government intended to impose any new economic measures this year, Mr. Papantoniou said:

"There will be absolutely no measures during the present year. The budget is going according to plan, inflation has a clear downward tendency and, overall, the economy is keeping to targets set by the government." A preliminary meeting on economic policy for 1998 would be held today but formal discussion would begin in the autumn linked to preparation of the budget, Mr. Papantoniou said.

Asked whether there was concern at the Bank of Greece about this week's sharp rise of the dollar against the drachma, Mr.Papademos said he saw no repercussions on Greece's foreign exchange policy. "These fluctuations reflect various factors which affect the dollar's parity on international markets," Mr. Papademos said.

He also said foreign currency restrictions for Greeks would be lifted in July.

Greece to revise EU fund package

Greece plans to speed up the implementation of European Union funded projects and partly revise the second Community Support Framework (CSF), National Economy Undersecretary Christos Pachtas said yesterday. Speaking after a meeting chaired by Prime Minist er Costas Simitis, Mr. Pachtas said the reallocation of 1994-99 funds was to enable completion of as many projects as possible before introduction of the third CSF, known as the Santer package, due in 2000 after EU enlargement.

Projects not already funded under the second CSF would be accelerated by transfering EU monies from slow moving projects, he said.

Mr. Simitis was briefed on implementation of the public investments programme during the meeting, which was also attended by Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis. According to figures presented by Mr. Pachtas, implementation of EU-funded project s in first-half 1997 showed a 98 percent increase against the corresponding period of 1996.

A total of 725 billion drachmas in CSF funds were spent last year, with a 71% absorption rate for 1994-96.

Kranidiotis kicks off Middle East tour with Cairo visit

Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis kicked off a six-day Mideast tour yesterday with a visit to the Egyptian capital.

His tour of the area will focus on improving relations with Mideast countries as well as promoting Greece's role in assisting with the region's peace problem.

Following separate meetings with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mousa and Foreign Undersecretary El Safty, Mr. Kranidiotis said the atmosphere was positive for improving bilateral relations.

Mr. Kranidiotis said he discussed the entire range of bilateral relations with his Egyptian counterpart, adding that both sides expressed desire for further deve-lopment of relations, and noting that Egypt recognised Greece could play a positive role in the region, especially in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Self-Rule Regions.

The two sides also discussed implementation of the bilateral defence cooperation agreement signed on June 19, while the Egyptian officials expressed concern regarding the similar agreement signed between Israel and Turkey.

Mr. Kranidiotis said he obtained a promise from the Egyptian side to support Greece's candidacy as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. The Egyptians, for their part, asked for Greece's support in their country's relations with the Europea n Union.

Discussions included economic cooperation, and the Egyptian side showed particular interest in Greek investment for the sectors of new technology, telecommunications, industry and construction.

Finally, Mr. Kranidiotis handed Mr. Mousa an invitation by President Kostis Stephanopoulos for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to visit Athens.

Mr. Kranidiotis will also visit Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.

Czech PM in Athens tomorrow for official visit

Czech Premier Vaclav Klaus will visit Greece tomorrow for talks with his Greek counterpart Costas Simitis on bilateral relations, particularly on the possibilities for upgrading political dialogue.

According to a Czech embassy announcement, the aim of the visit is to further develop "the already excellent and friendly relations" between the Czech Republic and Greece in all sectors, especially economic issues. During his stay, Mr. Klaus will also have talks with Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos.

After his talks in Athens, Mr. Klaus, who will be accompanied by his wife, will fly to Crete to participate in an international seminar organised by the Group for International Study and Evaluation A.G. (GISE) and Alpha Credit Bank.

The seminar will focus on issues pertaining to foreign policy, security and international economic relations.

First F-16 refurbished in Greece

The Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAB) yesterday delivered to the Air Force the first F-16 jetfighter to undergo extensive refurbishment in Greece.

The fighter plane was turned over to the Air Force during a special event at EAB's facilities in Tanagra attended by Finance and National Defence Undersecretaries George Drys and Dimitris Apostolakis, Chief of the Air Force General Staff Lt.-Gen. George

Antonetsis, and US Ambassador in Athens Thomas Niles.

The air force has assigned EAB a programme to upgrade all its F-16s by the year 1999. The delivery of six more modernised F-16s is scheduled over the next four months.

The work is being carried out by EAB following its acquisition of the knowhow from Lockheed-Martin Corp., the F-16s' American manufacturer.

Commissioner says EU won`t succumb to Turkish threats

European Commissioner Christos Papoutsis yesterday responded to statements by Turkish officials regarding EU enlargement, stressing that European political culture does not bow to threats or blackmail.

Mr. Papoutsis, who is responsible for energy, SMEs and tourism, was commenting on threatened "counter-measures" by Turkey in the event that the European Commission's recommendation on enlargement does not satisfy Ankara's expectations.

The Commission yesterday announced its formal decision to recommend Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus in the first round of the Union's enlargement.

"European political culture does not succumb to threats and blackmail. Particularly with respect to the Cyprus Republic's European prospect, an independent UN member-state whose northern part has been under Turkish military occupation for the last 23 ye ars," Mr. Papoutsis said.

The Greek Commissioner added that Turkey's road to Europe presupposed respect for international law and human rights.

"Specifically, it presupposes implementation of UN Security Council resolutions and decisions. It presupposes the active contribution of Turkey (in finding) a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem on the basis of UN resolutions," he added.

Mr. Papoutsis said the Commission recommended that accession negotiations should begin with Cyprus in 1998 as planned.

Defence Minister begins Caucasus tour with talks in Yerevan

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday briefed his Armenian counterpart Vasger Sarxien on the situation in the Balkans, including problems created by what he called "Turkey`s expansionist and destabilising policy".

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos is on a tour of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Discussions in Yerevan centred on cooperation in the bilateral defence sector.

In statements afterwards, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos placed particular emphasis on priority for dealing with problems of security, stability and cooperation in the new international environment, particularly in eastern Europe.

Athens press union takes stance on Turkish journalists' persecution

The Athens Journalists' Union (ESHEA) will join the protest of several international press organisations over violations of democratic traditions in Turkey, it announced yesterday.

ESHEA will send a letter of protest to the international federation of journalists to protest a recent sentence against a Turkish journalist.

During the latest general assembly meeting of the European Federation of Journalists-International Federation of Journalists in Brussels last month, New Democracy deputy and ESHEA board member Fani Palli-Petralia tabled a question on the persecution of journalists in Turkey and the federations' lack of serious reaction.

Following a lengthy discussion, the secretary-general decided to set up an investigative committee on the issue.

Trucks banned from highways on weekends

The government yesterday announced a ban on the circulation of trucks over 1.5 tonnes on sections of the country's motorways when traffic is at a peak, in an effort to reduce congestion and cut the number of accidents.

The ban, effective from July 18 to September 14, basically means that trucks will not be able to use motorway sections which generally become congested when city dwellers leave for and return from the provinces at weekends.

For instance, trucks will not be able to use either the old or new national road leading out of Athens for Corinth on Fridays beween 14.00 and 21.00. A similar restriction will apply with respect to the motorway lanes leading in to Athens on Sunday afternoon between 17.00 and 22.00.

Road assistance trucks and vehicles carrying pasteurised milk and fresh fish will be exempt from the ban.

New port terminal, motorway credits approved

Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis has approved credits amounting to 10.1 billion drachmas for the construction of a passenger terminal at the port of Irakleio, as well as for improvements on Kifissos avenue between Iera Odos Avenue and Athinon Avenue.

The amount of 1.15 billion drachmas will be provided for the passenger terminal and nine billion drachmas for Kifissos Avenue.

In parallel, the joint venture "SARANTOPOULOS-MENTON" was assigned yesterday with building the motorway between Almyros and Aerinos, budgeted at 19 billion drachmas. The project is part of the Patra-Thessaloniki- Evzonoi motorway.

Strong corporate profits seen driving up Greek bourse

A long hot summer lies ahead for the Athens Stock Exchange after the market breached resistance at 1,600 points following a month of consolidation, analysts said.

Despite slipping below the key level on Tuesday, factors expected to have a positive impact on the market are anticipated high corporate profits in the first half of the year, particularly for industrial and banking blue chips.

Other factors expected to push the market up are a rebound in the share price of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) as soon as its share capital increase is completed, and an equity increase by National Bank of Greece, due in autumn.

HSBC James Capel, an international investment firm, said in a survey of the Greek capital market that the Athens bourse would see an average 13 percent increase in net profits of listed companies this year, up from an earlier forecast of 10.4 percent.

Greek transport, communications unions agree to strike truce

Union leaders representing workers in 17 public enterprises endorsed a two- month labour peace agreement with Transport and Communications Minister Haris Kastanidis.

After a meeting with Kastanidis, union leaders expressed their support for the minister's efforts to secure labour peace, although they stressed particular sectoral problems. Speaking to reporters, Kastanidis thanked unions for a constructive discussion and for their support for his proposals.

Olympic Airway's pilot unions stressed the need for urgent hiring of new pilots in order to proceed smoothly with a restructuring programme the airline is undertaking.

OA's unions agreed to the labour peace proposal on condition that there would be no surprise legislative adjustments to scrap unions' institutional and financial demands.

Cyprus in first group for European Union expansion

The European Commission proposed yesterday that accession talks for an expanded European Union should start with Cyprus and five other nations.

The Commission's "Agenda 2000" document recommends that Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Estonia join Cyprus in the accession talks next year.

The document was formally agreed on yesterday without much discussion during a meeting of EU Commissioners in Strasbourg.

The adopted proposal will be made official this morning when European Commission President Jacques Santer formally presents the decision to the European Parliament.

The decision means that Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania will have to wait for EU membership, although they will each have contractual accession partnerships allowing them to prepare at their own speed for joining the Union.

Cyprus was scheduled to start membership negotiations six months after the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), in accordance to an EU decision in March 1995.

Last June's Amsterdam European Council had reiterated that accession talks with Cyprus should start as scheduled, that is in early 1998.

Cyprus applied for EU membership in 1990. It signed an association agreement with the European Community in 1972 and a customs union agreement in 1987.

WEATHER

Fair weather is forecast throughout the country initially today, turning cloudy locally in the afternoon in northern and central regions. Athens will be fair with moderate northerly winds. The same for Thessaloniki, with local clouds in the afternoon.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 278.772 Pound sterling 470.248 Cyprus pd 531.772 French franc 46.025 Swiss franc 189.447 German mark 155.446 Italian lira (100) 16.000 Yen (100) 243.982 Canadian dlr. 204.094 Australian dlr. 205.265 Irish Punt 419.100 Belgian franc 7.529 Finnish mark 52.653 Dutch guilder 138.062 Danish kr. 40.797 Swedish kr. 35.726 Norwegian kr. 37.125 Austrian sch. 22.091 Spanish peseta 1.845 Port. Escudo 1.541

(L.G.)


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