Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 97-07-23
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 23/07/1997 (ANA)
- Greece welcomes House of Representatives resolution on Cyprus
- Government to make its policy on immigrants "more specific"
- Hariri begins two-day visit to Greece tomorrow
- Stephanopoulos on restoration of democracy
- OTE to appoint digital switch supplier by August
- First oil exploration leases for western Greece approved
- Greece to finalise '98 economic policy in October
- Greek EU-funded post office plan in jeopardy
- Special forces reinforce security along Greek-Albanian border
- Cache of ancient coins found on Corfu
- FOREIGN EXCHANGE
NEWS IN DETAIL
Greece welcomes House of Representatives resolution on Cyprus
The government today welcomed as ''very positive'' a US House of Representatives
resolution on the Cyprus problem calling for the demilitarisation of the
island and the withdrawal of the Turkish occupation forces.
Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said that if the points contained in
the resolution constituted ''active elements of US foreign policy, then a
permanent and viable solution of the Cyprus problem may be attained''.
The spokesman noted however that similar texts had in the past been adopted
by representative bodies of the United States ''but they were not
implemented in the country's foreign policy''.
Commenting meanwhile on the joint declaration signed Sunday by Turkish
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf
Denktash, Reppas underlined that the latter was not acting independently
but ''constitutes an extension of Turkish foreign policy''.
The spokesman added that the declaration was almost identical to one signed
in January this year by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and Denktash.
The latest declaration outlines a series of steps towards partial economic
integration and promotes cooperation in the fields of security, defence and
''Attempts are being made to dynamite efforts for a settlement of the
Cyprus problem and this kind of behaviour must be isolated,'' Reppas
Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said yesterday a
major opportunity was emerging for a solution of the Cyprus problem.
The spokesman was speaking at his last regular press briefing, as he is to
be posted in Athens as the new US ambassador.
"I think that we are being given a great chance in eastern Mediterranean.
We have a new relation between Greece and the US, which means that we can
move forward in a way that we could not in the past. We have a great
respect for Prime Minister Simit is and Foreign Minister Pangalos. We can
work with them especially on Cyprus, " Burns said.
Government to make its policy on immigrants "more specific"
The government confirmed today that it intended to make its policy on
immigrants residing and working in the country ''more specific''.
Replying to reporters' questions, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said
the issue would again be discussed by the Cabinet at a forthcoming
Reppas clarified however that this did not signal a change in policy but
simple that the government would it more specific.
Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou said yesterday that the government
was thinking of reconsidering its policy on illegal immigrants and not
excluding Albanians and migrants from other countries bordering Greece from
the right to become registered and acquire legal status.
According to two presidential decrees approved by the Cabinet on June 27,
foreigners and illegal immigrants living and working in Greece will be able
to be registered as of September 1.
When the decrees were initially approved, their provisions would have
applied to about 200,000 of the estimated 450,000 illegal immigrants
currently in the country, because labourers from countries sharing borders
with Greece were not covered by the new legislation.
In effect, this exempted immigrants from Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey and the
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Papaioannou noted that the original proposals contained in the decrees,
which were drafted by his ministry, included all foreigners.
Hariri begins two-day visit to Greece tomorrow
Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is expected to arrive in Athens
tomorrow on a two-day official visit during which he will have talks with
Premier Costas Simitis, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas announced
Hariri will also have talks with Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis,
the spokesman added.
Stephanopoulos on restoration of democracy
President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos said today the 23rd
anniversary of Greece's return to democratic rule following a seven-year
military dictatorship provided an opportunity to once again ascertain that
there was no longer a problem of democracy in Greece.
"Democracy has been permanently restored and prevails, and the present
period of our political life is one of full and smooth function of our
democratic institutions," the President's message on the July 24 anniversary
Democracy was restored in Greece in July 1974 after the collapse of the
1967-74 junta following an abortive coup in Cyprus and the subsequent
invasion of the island republic by Turkish military forces. Turkey
continues to occupy 37% of the island in the north, which in 1983 it
unilaterally declared as the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" that is
recognised only by Ankara, and maintains 30,000 troops there.
Stephanopoulos said ensurance of democratic rule was not in itself
sufficient for the prosperity and progress of the Greek people. "It is a
fundamental condition, which we have already consolidated, but much more
still remains," he said.
He said it still remained for the Greek economy to reach the level of the
other European Union member states, and for successful confrontation of the
national issues still pending, "particularly repulsing Turkey's aggessiveness
in the Aegean".
OTE to appoint digital switch supplier by August
The Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) is expected to appoint a
supplier for 600,000-1,800,000 digital switches by August 1 as part of a
fast track investment plan for 1997-1998 worth 135 billion drachmas, OTE
sources said today.
OTE's traditional suppliers Intracom and Siemens are so far tipped to win
the contract, which is due for debate by OTE's board in three meetings
starting on Thursday, the sources told the Athens News Agency.
They said the state telecom was likely to use direct award for the contract
because forging a long-term agreements with suppliers or calling an
international tender would delay the procurement, which is urgently
The board's second and third meetings to discuss the award would be held on
Tuesday and Friday next week, the sources said.
OTE president Dimitris Papoulias has informed Prime Minister Costas Simitis
of progress in the state telecom's investment plan and fresh needs that
have arisen, they said.
First oil exploration leases for western Greece approved
The government yesterday signed two contracts with a US consortium for oil
exploration and exploitation in four stretches near Ioannina and the
The contracts were granted to a consortium comprising the companies
Enterprise Oil Ltd, Union Texas (Transnational) Ltd. and Mol Ltd., while
the DEP-EKY group, a subsidiary of the Public Petroleum Corp., signed for
Development Minister Vasso Papandreou said at the signing ceremony that
allowing exploitation of mineral resources marked the beginning of
modernisation for the country's petroleum exploration policy, which could
mean tremendous benefits for the overall economy.
She said the contracts allowed for the utilisation of local petroleum
potential, the transfer of technology and know-how, creation of new jobs
and additional revenues for the national economy.
Under the terms of the contracts, the contractors will conduct six years of
exploration in the Ioannina area, with a minimum investment of US$20
In the northwestern Peloponnese, the consortium's companies are committed
to four years of exploration, with a minimum investment of $17 million.
The consortium was also obliged to assign a consultant approved by the
government to carry out an environmental study for each region, Ms
In addition, the government has the right to discontinue all work in the
event environmental problems occur. It can also take measures to restore
certain environmental damage at the expense of the consortium, which is
further obliged to compensate damage caused to property or persons, as well
as to ensure protection for neighbouring regions.
Greece to finalise '98 economic policy in October
The government will base 1998 economic policy on its plan to align with
other European Union countries and finalise the details in October,
National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.
Speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Mr. Papantoniou
said the primary goal of economic policy would be to bring consumer price
inflation below three percent, helping to ensure the country's entry into
EU economic and monetary uni on.
Mr. Papantoniou refused to be drawn on 1998 taxation, saying only:
"Economic policy will be within the framework of the convergence programme".
According to government sources, economic policy for 1998 will centre on
public sector wage increases of up to four percent in two phases of two
percent each; a freeze on public utility charges to aid falling inflation;
and drastic public sector spending cuts.
The government is expected to maintain its "hard drachma" policy in 1998,
again as part of efforts to lower inflation.
Greek EU-funded post office plan in jeopardy
Greece, which has failed to claim 40 billion drachmas in European Union
funds to overhaul its post offices, may have to scrap the plan and ask for
the money to be allocated to other programmes, an EU Commissioner said
"The Commission is currently studying a new proposal from the Greek
authorities. However, existing problems can only be resolved by means of
specific, timely decisions and moves by the proper authorities," Commissioner
Monika Wulf Mathies said.
In December 1995 the EU endorsed the government's proposal to reshape its
antiquated post office system between 1994 and 1999 but a business plan has
yet to be submitted, barring the release of funds.
"In the absence of the right moves, Community funds earmarked for the (post
offices) programme can, in principle, be moved to other Community Support
Framework programmes in Greece," Ms. Mathies said.
She said Hellenic Post Offices had failed to make organisational changes,
including the creation of a unit to monitor the programme, that would
facilitate the release of funds.
Ms. Mathies was replying to a question by Greek conservative Eurodeputy
Kostis Hadzidakis, a member of the main opposition New Democracy party.
Special forces reinforce security along Greek-Albanian border
Army commandos yesterday began taking up positions along the border with
Albania near Kastoria and Florina, following government decisions to
strengthen border security.
A Hellenic Air Force helicopter at noon flew to local airport, where it
will remain stationed in order to patrol the mountainous region from
Ioannina to Florina.
One helicopter had already been patrolling the region and it is hoped that
the second will contribute to increasing security.
Meanwhile, joint army and police patrols operating in the region will be
reinforced by the formation of new units.
The government took the decisions to increase security in northwest Greece
at a two-hour meeting of ministers on Monday.
The measures are aimed at checking the activities of armed gangs of
Albanian criminals along the border.
Cache of ancient coins found on Corfu
A cache of 206 ancient silver coins was discovered yesterday during salvage
archaeological excavations on the Ionian island of Corfu, in the Paleopolis
Archaeologist Kalliopi Preka-Alexandri said the coins were found in an
ancient pot of little value.
The group includes a tetradrachma coin issued during the reign of Alexander
the Great, a drachma by Lysimachus and a very rare coin issued by Illyrian
Fair weather is forecast over most of the country today, with light cloud
in the north and east. Winds mostly northerly, moderate to strong, becoming
very strong in the southeastern Aegean. Athens will be sunny, with locally
strong winds and temperatures ranging from 22-33 C. Thessaloniki will also
be sunny, with temperatures of 20-32 C.
Tuesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 281.341
Pound sterling 471.041 Cyprus pd 531.414
French franc 46.033 Swiss franc 189.318
German mark 155.248 Italian lira (100) 15.956
Yen (100) 242.098 Canadian dlr. 204.054
Australian dlr. 208.047 Irish Punt 417.930
Belgian franc 7.520 Finnish mark 52.636
Dutch guilder 137.913 Danish kr. 40.779
Swedish kr. 35.942 Norwegian kr. 37.666
Austrian sch. 22.065 Spanish peseta 1.844
Port. Escudo 1.539