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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-04-01

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, 01/04/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Parliament to vote on OA next week
  • Kosovo solution a test for Balkans
  • 14 consortiums bid for major road projects
  • Greece hosts Israeli jubilee events
  • Two Romanians arrested
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Parliament to vote on OA next week

The government will call on ruling PASOK deputies to toe the party line in the vote on the bill providing for the revitalisation of Olympic Airways which Parliament is expected to take sometime next week, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said today.

The bill was tabled on Monday night, provoking strong reaction from OA workers' representatives who have asked for more time to study the draft law and submit their proposals.

Reppas said party discipline would be invoked in order to send the message that the stance of the Parliamentary Group is unanimous "in order to serve the public interest, which dictates the revitalisation of Olympic Airways".

The government is determined to ensure the revitalisation of the national carrier, Reppas said, because citizens are entitled to enjoy a high standard of services and OA must become modern, competitive and reliable.

Replying to reporters' questions, Reppas said the decision to table the bill was taken by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, to which Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis agreed. The final decision, he continued, was taken after consultations with Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis who gave the assurance that the voting procedure will be completed at the earliest.

The spokesman also clarified that voluntary retirement procedures had been ruled out because on the one hand OA would not be able to foot the bill and on the other, it would create "a huge gap" in the public deficit.

He left open the possibility of "marginal changes" being made to the bill, while underlining that its main provisions and "backbone" with regard to employer-employee relations at the national carrier must remain as they are.

Reppas also did not rule out workers being "mobilised" if they take strike action during the Easter holiday, saying that the company must continue operating without interruptions.

Replying to other questions, Reppas reiterated that OA chairman and managing director Theodoros Tsakiridis had not resigned.

The atmosphere was tense at the discussion of the bill at the parliamentary committee today.

Following talks, negotiations, the intervention of the parliament president, and the transport and communications minister's agreement that the bill be debated under "emergency procedures", the committee decided on three sittings on the bill, and possibly a fourth, before it is forwarded to the House for debate next week.

The committee also decided that the presidents of the federation of civil aviation unions, the confederation of Greek unions, and of Olympic Airways be called to speak before the committee, as would a former president of Olympic as well as the head of the Greek National Tourist Organisation.

An opposition New Democracy proposal to call all former transport ministers under PASOK governments from 1994 onwards was rejected.

Two ruling party PASOK deputies joined opposition party deputies in calling for the bill to be processed under "emergency" procedures, rather than "urgent" procedures, as the government had originally planned.

In reply, Mantelis said that everybody was aware of the need to deal with OA's problems as quickly as possible and was in touch with the parliament president to set a date for the debate before Easter.

He clarified that the government was not in talks with anyone on a sale of Olympic.

Tempers between New Democracy and PASOK deputies flared at one point, with both sides calling the other various names.

After Kaklamanis restored some semblance of calm, Mantelis said that the government was determined to have a debate of substance.

Deputies from the Communist Party, Left Coalition and Democratic Social Movement called for the bill's withdrawal.

Kosovo solution a test for Balkans

Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou said today that resolving the Kosovo question would inevitably be a major test for the potential of Balkan countries to cooperate peacefully and constructively.

Addressing the final session of a two-day meeting in Athens on the European Union-led "Process for Stability and Good Neighbourliness in SE Europe" , known as the Royaumont Process, Papandreou said the Kosovo crisis had "shown us the priority of the maintenance of stability, peace and full respect of human rights".

"The inviolability of borders in accordance with interrnational law and the UN and OSCE principles are fundamental in this respect, he added.

"Resolving the Kosovo question," he said, "will inevitably be a major test for the potential of Balkan countries to cooperate peacefully and constructively."

"We believe that the two parties must find, through dialogue and peaceful means, a solution to this problem, which endangers the stability of the whole region," Papandreou added.

Papandreou stressed the importance of the Royaumont initiative "at this critical time when the Balkan peninsula is faced with yet another crisis in Kosovo. Our meeting today shows our solid resolve to promote stability and peace in this volatile region".

The Royaumont Initiative, named after the Paris suburb where the first session was held in December 1995, groups together the 15 EU member states, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYROM, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey and Yugoslavia, envisaging a broad "European family" based on democratic principles, peace, stability and cooperation.

Papandreou said that the Royaumont Initiative, adopted by the EU and launched by the EU Council of Ministers on December 12, 1995, "constitutes the main expression of EU policy concerning the futhre of South East Europe", and its aim was to "prevent new tensions and crises and promote stability, confidence and dialogue between the states and civil societies of the region".

The Initiative, he explained, "guarantees the partcipation of all states on an equal footing, according to the decided format, and the active involvement of all Balkan countries".

Papandreou said the changes in the region in recent years have "created new challenges and new opportunities", while the region also faced many setbacks and problems. "Still, we created new perspectives for the promotion of our common goals,' he added.

Papandreou noted that the Balkan countries "share the common prospect of integration into Europe".

"Only yesterday, we made a historical step to further enlargement, beginning the process with 11 countries," he said, adding: "While this particular enlargement did not include all the countries in the region, all these countries are nevertheless oriented towards the goal of integration, and all have developed a deeper relationship with the EU."

"This relationship for some may be a long-standing and more developed one, and for others it may be new with much potential for expansion. In either case, I can assure you that Greece is at your side and willing to support you towards this common goal of becoming part of United Europe. It is in our national interest that this integration process continues," Papandreou said.

"This is why Greece wants to have an active part in all regional initiatives. Being part of this peninsula, our stability and prosperity is tied in with the fate of our neighbours. Moreover, we are part of the European Union, and it is our duty to do our share in promoting stability and peace," he added.

Papandreou said the Balkan people should be able to deal with problems and crises of the region. "Balkan people are coming of age. It is a long process of maturing and learning, which will lead to a stronger role in the new Europe that we are trying to create," he said.

He said the Balkan countries must take the future of the region in their hands and "influence the shaping of Europe as a whole".

"European integration cannot be completed without their participation," Papandreou said, adding: "We must continue to work together for the attainment of our common goals. In so doing, we will strengthen the multicultural profile of the region, which is an important asset for the development of the people of the Balkan peninsula."

14 consortiums bid for major road projects

Greece has received fourteen expressions of interest from international consortiums and companies in a tender for a consultant to attract private capital to fund, build and operate sections of major roads being built nationwide.

The largest projects include a highway linking the cities of Patras, Athens and Thessaloniki to the border post of Evzones; the Egnatia highway linking the country's northeast and northwest; and a road linking Corinth, Tripoli and Kalamata.

The following companies and consortiums submitted expressions of interest on Tuesday, the deadline for the tender's first phase:

  • KPMG Corporate Finance
  • ING BARING (Baring Brothers Limited)
  • Bank of Tokyo, Mitsubishi, Charterhouse, Ioniki Finance, Lamda
  • Deutsche Morgan Grenfell
  • WS Atkins, Coopers and Lybrand, Eurodynamics
  • UBS Union Bank of Switzerland
  • Price Waterhouse, EFG Eurobank
  • Credit Suisse First Boston (Europe) Limited, Alpha Finance
  • Bayerische Vereinsbank AG
  • Bank of America, National Investment Bank for Industrial Development
  • Lazard Consortium
  • Societe Generale
  • Berliner Bank AG (London Branch)
  • Babcock & Brown Limited

Under the terms of the tender, up to six groups will be shortlisted and asked to submit detailed bids.

The government, which plans to select the tender's winner early in the second half of the year, hopes to have concessions for the roads signed in 2000.

The winner will support the government in handling the preparation of tenders and contracts involving concessions and loans.

National Economy Undersecretary Christos Pachtas said the government would adhere to the timescale as part of its programme to extend the use of private capital in infrastructure projects.

Greece hosts Israeli jubilee events

Celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel begin in Greece on Monday with a jubilee event at the Old Parliament building to be addressed by government and political party leaders and academicians.

The keynote speaker at the event will be Athens Academy former president Ioannis Pesmazoglou, while addresses will also be delivered by president of the Central Baord of Jewish Communities in Greece Moses Constantinis, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos, educaiton minister Gerassimos Arsenis, culture minister Evangelos Venizelos, ND honorary president and former premier Constantine Mitsotakis, Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, and Israeli ambassador in Athens Ran Curiel.

A variety of cultural exchanges will take place between Greece and Israel in the context of the jubilee celebrations, including an Israeli Cultural Week at the Athens Hilton in May, a summer performance by the Israeli Camerata in the summer, an exchange of visits between Israel's Cameri Theatre and the National Theatre of Greece, and an exhibition of Israeli art at the national Art Gallery in Athens in September, similar to a recent exhibition of Greek artists held at the Tel Aviv Museum.

Two Romanians arrested

Two Romanian nationals were arrested yesterday and charged with breaking into a number of apartments in the western suburb of Petroupoli

Ioan Gioulein, 24, and Emil Bourlakou, 25, had robbed at least nine apartments in the area, stealing jewelry and other items worth three million drachmas.

The police investigation are continuing as it is believed that the two Romanians have robbed homes in other areas. In their possesion were found various pieces of jewelery worth about one million drachmas which the owners recognised and claimed.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather with light occasional rain, mainly on the islands and Crete, Thessaly, the Peloponnese is forecast for today. Winds mild to moderate and strong in the Aegean Sea. Athens will be partly cloudy with long spells of sunshine and temperatures between 6-18C. Clouds in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 4-16C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 317.242 British pound 532.248 Japanese Yen(100) 238.149 French franc 51.157 German mark 171.418 Italian lira (100) 17.390 Irish Punt 431.024 Belgian franc 8.308 Finnish mark 56.578 Dutch guilder 152.054 Danish kr. 44.973 Austrian sch. 24.360 Spanish peseta 2.020 Swedish kr. 39.757 Norwegian kr. 41.654 Swiss franc 208.127 Port. Escudo 1.674 AUS dollar 210.215 Can. dollar 222.367 Cyprus pound 589.050

(M.P.)


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