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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 97-09-04

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, 04/09/1997 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Education reform bill endorsed in principle
  • Tsohatzopoulos pays last respects to Diana
  • PASOK marks 23rd anniversary of its founding
  • Bosporus issue erupts after checks on Egyptian vessel
  • Dutch Euro-MP calls for start of Cypru's EU accession talks
  • Kinkel reiterates Bonn's intention to help solce Cyprus issue
  • GSEE sets out positions on array of issues
  • Greek registry loses nine ships in August
  • Greek balance of payments perks up in May
  • Greece raises about 300 bln drs from Treasury bills
  • Greek stocks jump on Olympics optimism
  • Capital market legislation considered
  • EU-funded projects for Macedonia, Thrace
  • Piraeus Port Authority deal with transport firm
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Education reform bill endorsed in principle

An education reform bill introducing several fundamental changes, particularly at secondary and tertiary levels, was endorsed in principle by Parliament yesterday.

The bill, which came under strong criticism by opposition parties, envisages, among others, abolition of entrance examinations for colleges and universities by the year 2001, as well as of the system of teaching appointments based on seniority in graduation.

Education Minister Gerasimos Arsenis said that the system of public school teaching appointements based on seniority "does not constitute a system based on meritocracy."

Mr. Arsenis said abolition of the system was necessary in order to introduce reforms in education, pledging to find the necessary funds to finance the proposed reforms. He said education funds will increase by 25 per cent this year.

Main opposition New Democracy defended the abolition of the existing system of teaching appointments, but said it disagreed with the way this was promoted by the government.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) and the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) criticised the bill, saying that certain proposed reforms were not in line with provisions of the Constitution.

The bill, which has sparked strong reactions, particularly among unemployed and unappointed educators, who have already held and are planning further protest rallies, also prompted a reaction by ND honourary president and former premier Constantine Mits otakis, who opposed abolition of the current system.

Tsohatzopoulos pays last respects to Diana

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos,currently on an official visit to London, signed a book of condolences for Diana, Princess of Wales, at St. James's Palace yesterday.

It was also announced that Greece's ambassador in London, Vassilis Zafeiropoulos, would represent Greece at the funeral on Saturday.

PASOK marks 23rd anniversary of its founding

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday presided over a special executive bureau meeting commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the ruling PASOK party's founding.

Following the meeting, which also discussed the party's plan for the next six months, Mr. Simitis, who is also party president, said that the PASOK which was entering the 21st century would be a different one from the party of experiences, the "heroic past" and the focus on being an anti-right coalition. For the 21st century Greece needed a party that would be mature, responsible, and promoting large social economic and political transformations.

Bosporus issue erupts after checks on Egyptian vessel

Commenting on checks being carried out by Turkish authorities on vessels passing through the Bosporus Straits, Greek government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the Treaty of Montreux should be implemented, stressing that inspections were permitted only for sanitary reasons.

Turkish press reports claimed last week that the Turkish authorities stopped and checked an Egyptian-flagged vessel in the Bosporus Straits for components of the S-300 missile system purchased by Cyprus.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told reporters on Tuesday that the Egyptian ship "was found to be carrying a lot of missile and launch parts, but the consignment documents showed that it was an Egyptian order."

Mr. Reppas clarified that checks had not affected Greek-owned vessels and consequently Athens did not intend to raise the issue first. The matter, he said, should be raised by countries or shipowners who believe that their interests have been prejudiced.

Meanwhile, according an ANA dispatch from Washington, US State Department spokesman James Foley said that the US has no indication that weapons systems found aboard the Egyptian vessel by Turkish authorities were destined for Cyprus.

Dutch Euro-MP calls for start of Cyprus' EU accession talks

The European Parliament must request from the EU Council of Ministers the immediate start to negotations for Cyprus' membership on the basis of decisions already adopted on the matter, Dutch Euro-MP Gene Wilhelm Bertens told the assembly's external affairs committee yesterday.

"We consider the island as a whole and the European Union must undertake initiatives for the involvement of the Turkish Cypriots in the negotiations for entry," he added.

Mr. Bertens stressed that Turkey must not be allowed to use Cyprus as a pressure lever towards the European Union for its own cause.

He also accused Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for intransigence during the recent direct talks in Switzerland, noting that he had refused to discuss the substance of the Cyprus issue, and that this unacceptable stand was followed by a threat of w ar against the Cypriot government.

Kinkel reiterates Bonn's intention to help solve Cyprus issue

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel yesterday assured his visiting Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides of his country's support toward the finding of a settlement to the protracted Cyprus problem.

United Nations efforts and intercommunal talks must resume as soon as possible, Mr. Kinkel said after talks with Mr. Kasoulides.

The German foreign minister called on the Cyprus government to take into account the interests of the Turkish Cypriot community during Cyprus' EU accession talks, due to start early next year.

Mr. Kasoulides said that accession talks with the EU should contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Cyprus issue.

Last July the European Commission recommended the opening of accession talks with Cyprus as well as five east European countries.

Mr. Kasoulides is currently on tour of several European countries.

GSEE sets out positions on array of issues

The General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) yesterday outlined the trade unions' positions on incomes policy, unemployment, taxation and social insurance.

A press conference was called in view of the customary prime ministerial economic speech at the opening of the International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki on Saturday, as well as in view of the drafting of the 1998 budget.

A nationwide 24-hour strike has been scheduled for Oct. 23.

GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos said the mobilisation will provide a "new breath" to the trade union movement.

Mr. Polyzogopoulos laid particular emphasis on the price-indexing of the tax scales and an increase in tax breaks, given, as he said, that the approximate 8 per cent wage increase in the 1995-96 two-year period evaporated in the face of a 25-30 per cent increase in taxation for working people.

Finally, Mr. Polyzogopoulos called for additional measures against unemployment and reiterated a GSEE proposal for a 35-hour work week.

Greek registry loses nine ships in August

Greece's merchant fleet was nine ships down on a net basis in August after 14 vessels left the national registry and five joined it, the merchant marine ministry said yesterday.

The five new arrivals represent 113,189 gross registered tonnes. Two of the ships have an average age of 21 years and the remaining three an average of four years, the ministry said.

Two of the 14 ships left the registry were 42 years old, and the remaining 12 vessels had an average age of 18 years. The losses represent 219,510 gross registered tonnes.

Greek balance of payments perks up in May

Greece's balance of payments improved in May for the third month in a row, the central bank said on Tuesday, while the trade deficit remained unchanged.

Bank of Greece figures showed that the current account deficit fell 15.7 percent year-on-year on a provisional basis to 668 million dollars from 792.3 million a year earlier.

The trade deficit was virtually unchanged at 1.66 billion dollars from the same month in 1996. The stagnation in the trade balance reflects a drop in imports despite higher fuel imports, offset by a drop in exports, the Bank of Greece said.

The figures were in line with market expectations and provided evidence of stabilisation following a poor start in 1997.

Greece's foreign exchange reserves stood at 14.5 billion dollars in end- July, down frm 16.3 billion a month earlier.

Analysts said the drop indicates that the drachma took a serious beating in July along with other emerging market currencies.

The cumulative current account deficit in the first five months of the year was up 10.4 percent to 2,955 million compared to the respective period of 1996.

The trade deficit over the January-May period was 7.992 billion, 5.6 percent wider than its year-earlier value.

Greece raises about 300 bln drs from Treasury bills

A recent Greek treasury bill issue raised about 300 billion drachmas from the sale of 12-month T-bills, according to provisional figures.

The T-bills offered a gross yield of 9.50 percent. About 663 billion drachmas of T-bills matured in the first two days of the week.

Greek stocks jump on Olympics optimism

Greek equities remained on an upward trend for the second consecutive session led by bank and construction issues, reflecting the market's renewed optimism ahead of a crucial vote on Friday on whether Athens will host the 2004 Olympic Games.

The general index closed 1.38 percent higher at 1,565.14 points with most sector indices scoring gains.

Banks rose 1.51 percent, Leasing was 0.75 percent up, Insurance increased 0.97 percent, Investment rose 2.17 percent, Industrials were 1.48 percent higher, Construction jumped 2.58 percent and Holding ended 0.82 percent up. Miscellaneous bucked the tren d to end 0.07 percent down. The parallel market index for small cap companies eased 0.83 percent.

Trading was moderate and turnover was 13.1 billion drachmas.

Broadly, advancing issues led declining ones by 147 to 63 with another 22 issues unchanged.

Atemke, Thessaliki, Babyland and Parnassos scored the biggest percentage gains, while Athinea, Kekrops, Ippotour and Ermis suffered the heaviest losses of the day.

National Bank of Greece ended at 34,400 drachmas, Ergobank at 17,200, Alpha Credit Bank at 19,090, Delta Dairy at 4,125, Titan Cement at 14,615, Intracom at 12,495 and OTE at 6,425.

In the domestic foreign exchange market the US dollar was fractionally higher against the drachma.

Capital market legislation considered

National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday that a new bill for the financial derivatives market aims at the institutional opening of the Greek capital market to securities from emerging Balkan markets.

The bill, which was debated by the Economic Affairs Committee, provides for creation of a new parallel market trading in Greek certificates (ELPIS), and investment funds from emerging markets (EKAA), which will select securities from neighbouring countr ies and will offer their shares to Greek or foreign investors.

The bill also contains reform provisions for stock brokers' Joint Surety Fund, promotes transparency in stock exchange transactions and enhances the potential for trading in state securities with a more effective functioning of the secondary market.

EU-funded projects for Macedonia, Thrace

Partially EU-funded infrastructure projects worth 1.6 billion drachmas are expected to start in Macedonia and Thrace soon, regional director Stavros Kambelis said yesterday.

In the prefecture of Kavala, including the island of Thasos, the projects will help complete or improve existing port installations and fishery projects.

In Xanthi prefecture, projects include construction of a fish hatchery, dams, forest recreation areas and ecological tourism installations.

In Evros prefecture, projects will improve urban or intercommunal road construction, equipment for managing waste and the completion of port improving on Samothrace.

Projects are worth a total of 1.68 million drachmas and have been included in EU programmes, which means they have the ability of being initiated immediately.

Piraeus Port Authority deal with transport firm

The Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) announced an agreement yesterday with the multinational transport firm Norasia, estimated to provide OLP with extra yearly revenues of 2.5 billion drachmas.

Under the agreement, which is not expected to create any problems to other users of the port now handling about 65 per cent of cargo, Norasia will handle about 100,000 transit containers.

Meanwhile, OLP is continuing its investment programme in the New Ikonio handling terminal. It will also announce a tender for upgrading the passenger port terminal.

WEATHER

Fine weather with a drop in temperatures is forecast for most parts of the country today. Local cloudiness in mainland Greece, the Cyclades islands and Crete. Winds northerly, moderate to strong, turning to gale force in the Aegean Sea. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures between 20-28C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 18- 27C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 284.277 Pound sterling 452.550 Cyprus pd 531.315 French franc 46.384 Swiss franc 189.551 German mark 156.111 Italian lira (100) 16.012 Yen (100) 234.548 Canadian dlr. 205.562 Australian dlr. 206.663 Irish Punt 418.545 Belgian franc 7.561 Finnish mark 51.919 Dutch guilder 138.572 Danish kr. 41.003 Swedish kr. 36.085 Norwegian kr. 37.765 Austrian sch. 22.177 Spanish peseta 1.852 Port. Escudo 1.541

(C.E.)


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