Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-04-09
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 09/04/1998 (ANA)
- Gov't wants party politics kept out of the economy
- Unions launch 24-hour nationwide strike
- OA management, employees reach draft agreement
- Tsohatzopoulos praises Greek-German defence sector cooperation
- Simitis article in new PASOK magazine
- Pelican habitat destruction decried
- Polish President winds up visit, meets with Simitis
- Treasures of Mount Athos exhibition to end April 30
- Greece welcomes EU approval for Thessaloniki metro tender
- Greek stocks trade in narrow range, end flat
- Greek mutual funds jump 15.77 pct in Q1
- Greek tourism authorities speed up asset sale
- OECD report on Greek economy sees '98, '99 improvement
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Gov't wants party politics kept out of the economy
The Greek economy is finally on the right track and party politics should
not be allowed to block progress, National Economy and Finance Minister
Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.
Mr. Papantoniou was speaking at the opening of an economic roundtable
organised by the "Economist" magazine in Athens.
"There is a strong inclination towards progress in the Greek economy and
that is something that various political parties should take note of," he
The recent inclusion of the drachma in the European Union's Exchange Rate
Mechanism was the latest indication that the economy was on the right path
after years of mistakes, he said.
Mr. Papantoniou outlined the government's plans for structural reforms in
the economy, particularly in the public sector, that aim to speed up
"The government is aiming at a climate of consensus so that workers can
actively contribute to the restructuring of Olympic Airways and other state
companies," he said.
The minister said changes in the social security system would be announced
by the government by the end of the year if there was progress in talks
with the parties involved.
The changes would include defining the retirement age, and they would be
included in a timetable of reforms beginning in 2000.
Unions launch 24-hour nationwide strike
The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil
Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), today launched a 24-hour
strike bringing most public transport utilities, banks and the public
sector to a standstill.
Banks and public services will operate only with skeleton crews, while
Olympic Airways flights, rail connections and urban bus schedules will be
severely disturbed. However, staff and drivers of Urban Transport
Organisation (OAS) "blue buses" will not strike between 8 a.m. and 9
Meanwhile, passengers travelling to the islands faced problems throughout
the country's ports yesterday as dockworkers began a 48-hour strike to
protest a government plan to privatise the country's two largest ports,
Piraeus and Thessaloniki.
In addition, the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) will take part in a
24-hour strike called for today.
A PNO statement said that Greek seamen are protesting "the government's
austerity policy and the abolition of labour rights".
At a branch level, PNO is demanding the signing of collective labour
agreements that will take into account the recent 14 per cent devaluation
of the drachma.
PNO also wants to see jobs safeguarded and cabotage restrictions retained.
OA management, employees reach draft agreement
A draft agreement was signed yesterday between Olympic Airways' board and
representatives of the secondary-stage trade union (OSPA) and representatives
of civil aviation pilots, flight engineers and stewards, by which a new
labour regulation for OA staff was accepted.
Objections and reservations were raised by stewards and flight engineers,
but only over working hours. Specifically, they did not accept a 10-hour
workday. On the contrary, they agreed on flight and landing hours, and
leave of absence.
"Our decisions today will determine whether the national air carrier will
be there tomorrow, or whether it will be replaced by other airlines," Prime
Minister Costas Simitis told Parliament yesterday, explaining the
government's philosophy behind the cont roversial OA restructuring
Mr. Simitis called on trade unionists reacting to the bill to realise the
if the current state of affairs was preserved, this would "lead to the
company's closure with mathematical precision". He further rejected
opposition objections to the bill, saying that the main opposition New
Democracy party was more interested in harming ruling PASOK, rather than
contributing to moving the country ahead.
Nevertheless, the prime minister admitted that the OA streamlining
programme implemented since 1995 had failed to achieve its targets.
All Olympic Airways flights scheduled for the Orthodox Easter holiday next
week will be carried out as scheduled and workers who had accepted the new
general regulations would be required to stop all labour action as of
Tsohatzopoulos praises Greek-German defence sector cooperation
Relations between Athens and Bonn in the defence sector were the focus of
talks yesterday on Crete between Greek Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos
and his German counterpart Volker Ruehe. Both men arrived in Hania late
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos called his meeting with his German counterpart "useful"
and told reporters that they would meet again on Rhodes when the Western
European Union defence ministers' council convenes later in the year.
Greece presently holds the rotating six-month WEU presidency. Mr. Ruehe
said that bilateral relations were at a very good level, adding that his
meeting with Mr. Tsohatzopoulos was "positive".
Simitis article in new PASOK magazine
In an article published in the new magazine "Ekfrasi" ('Expression'),
published by the ruling PASOK party, Prime Minister Costas Simitis stressed
the presence of a modern socialist Left without a "state logic" and encoura-
ging the activities of the indivi dual.
On the question of shaping a modern Left proposal, Mr. Simitis said it is
necessary for the Left to "break away with the deeply rooted distrust of
the traditional, and particularly the communist, Left towards the
individual. We must strengthen the auton omy of citizens, fortify their
freedom with new institutions to encourage their initiative and their
"The need is evident for a fruitful dialogue on the major problems of the
Left, Europe and the country.
PASOK Secretary Costas Skandalidis, who spoke at the launching of the
magazine held at the Foreign Press Correspondents'(FPA) offices in downtown
Athens, stressed that "seriousness, independence and an attractive style"
will characterise the new publi cation.
The first 20,000 copies of Ekfrasis will hit the newsstands today, priced
at 500 drachmas each. The publication is a continuation of the PASOK
affiliated newspaper "Exormisis," which ceased publication only recently.
Former government spokesman and PASOK minister Telemahos Hytiris has been
appointed as the magazine's director, while Andreas Pappas is the managing
Pelican habitat destruction decried
The Hellenic Ornithological Society (EOE) and the World Wildlife Fund -
Hellas (WWF) yesterday denounced what they called unprecedented destruction
in one of the world's most important natural habitats for pelicans.
The two groups pointed to the Greek state for showing what they called a
"criminal indifference" towards the Florina prefecture's Mikri Prespa Lake.
The lake serves as a habitat for the silver pelican species. According to
the two groups, a hunter enter ed the region on April 3 and fired shots at
the birds' nests, which subsequently drove them away.
The same hunter remained in the area for three hours, resulting in the
destruction of about 200 nests, or 80 per cent of the total number. The
Pespes Lakes Protection Society has lodged a complaint, while legal action
was initiated against the hunter.
The EOE announcement said that the conviction of one person was obviously
insufficient in doing justice and laying responsibilities.
The group demanded a solution over the pelican habitat's protection and
posed two questions, one regarding the reason why such a large area is
practically unguarded, and the other on why nothing has been done so far to
implement a progrmme for that ecosystem's protection.
Polish President winds up visit, meets with Simitis
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski wound up an official three-day
visit here yesterday with talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who
underscored Athens' willingness to support European enlargement and
Warsaw's entry to European organisations.
"The participation of countries which are at present negotiating their
accession will considerably change the balances and procedures in the EU.
We are willing to provide Poland and any other country currently negotiating
with advice based on our experience in the EU," Mr. Simitis said.
The important thing for Poland is for the will to exist for EU enlargement,
Mr. Simitis said, adding that Greece was in favour of Poland's accession.
Thanking Mr. Simitis for Greece's support, Mr. Kwasniewski said with
respect to his country's accession to the EU and NATO that "we have a
friend and ally in Greece."
In a related development, Parliament yesterday ratified a friendship and
cooperation protocol between Greece and Poland, with approval by all
parties except the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).
Treasures of Mount Athos exhibition to end April 30
The highly successful "Treasures of Mount Athos" exhibition will end on
April 30, while on the same day 15 Orthodox prelates will meet in
Thessaloniki to prepare for a church synod, scheduled for the year
According to Byzantine Museum figures, 650,971 visitors - of which 168,677
were students - visited the exhibition.
Greece welcomes EU approval for Thessaloniki metro tender
Greece yesterday welcomed a decision by the European Union to shelve a
complaint over the award of a tender to a French-Greek consortium for
construction and operation of a metro for Thessaloniki.
"The EU has given the green light for the continuation of negotiations with
the second interim winner of the tender so that this key project for
Thessaloniki can be accomplished," Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis
The complaint was lodged in 1996 by Makedoniko Metro, a consortium that was
originally named the tender's interim winner. It was led by Michaniki, a
listed Greek engineering contractor.
After two and a half years of talks, the two sides failed to reach
agreement and the government embarked on negotiations with the Thessaloniki
Metro consortium to carry out the long-delayed project.
Speaking at a news conference in Thessaloniki, Mr. Laliotis said that the
European Commission's decision vindicated the government's line.
Talks with the new consortium on a contract would finish by June, funding
for the project was ensured, and its completion was expected in five years.
The contract would go to parliament for approval, he said.
The European Investment Bank would then be approached for the award of a
loan to the new winning consortium, and commercial banks asked to provide
Asked to name the cost of construction, Laliotis said the estimate was 40
billion drachmas in 1993 prices.
Of the total, 25 billion drachmas had been allocated to other projects, but
the remainder would be secured from third Community framework or national
A traffic survey of Thessaloniki was nearing completion that was essential
to finalising the metro scheme, Mr. Laliotis said.
Greek stocks trade in narrow range, end flat
Greek equities yesterday moved in a tight range on the Athens Stock
Exchange to end lower despite a surge in the construction sector following
announcement that the Thessaloniki metro project will go ahead.
The general index closed 0.20 percent lower at 2,124.76 points with most
sector indices losing ground. Banks fell 0.19 percent, Insurance eased 1.09
percent, Investment dropped 0.64 percent, Leasing rose 0.77 percent,
Industrials fell 0.61 percent,
Miscellaneous was 0.97 percent off, Holding rose 2.45 percent and
Construction soared 4.13 percent.
The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 0.90 percent
reflecting investors' appetite for smaller capitalisation stocks.
The FTSE/ASE-20 index fell 0.05 percent to 1,261.10 points. Trading was
heavy with turnover at 54.3 billion drachmas.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 135 to 104 with another 17 issues
Epilektos, Shelman, Papahellinas, Katselis, Hellenic Sugar, Alte and Varyte
scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent limit
Nafpaktos Mills, Mouriades, Britania, Yalco and Rocas suffered the heaviest
National Bank of Greece ended at 37,900 drachmas, Ergobank at 24,655, Alpha
Credit Bank at 24,895, Delta Dairy at 3,685, Titan Cement at 23,200,
Intracom at 19,650 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 7,
Greek mutual funds jump 15.77 pct in Q1
Total assets of Greece's 167 mutual funds soared to 8.3 trillion drachmas
in the first quarter of 1998, an increase of 15.77 percent since the start
of the year, a statement by the Union of Institutional Investors said
The composition of the mutual funds market based on assets on March 31
showed money market funds accounting for 65.55 percent of the market,
followed by fixed income funds with a 21.91 percent share, combined funds
with a 9.07 percent stake and equity funds with 3.37 percent.
There are 28 mutual fund management firms currently operating in Greece.
Greek tourism authorities speed up asset sale
The Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) is speeding up the process of
selling its assets after a new timetable set by Development Minister Vasso
GNTO is expected to launch a tender for the lease of its three Xenia hotels
in Nafplion as a single unit to become more attractive to investors,
sources said yesterday.
Tenders are also planned for the lease of Xenia hotels in Lagonissi,
GNTO was expected to set conditions for a minimum annual fee of 200 million
drachmas for a 30-year lease.
Investors would be obliged to invest in the hotels.
OECD report on Greek economy sees '98, '99 improvement
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) yesterday
made public its bi-annual report on economic conditions in Greece.
According to the report, the Greek economy will continue to improve in 1998
and 1999 if the government continues structural changes and keeps salary
raises in check.
The OECD report said inflation decreased by two percentage points in 1997
and the public deficit fell to 4 per cent of GDP during the same year, as
compared to 7.5 per cent in 1996.
The report noted that the deficit of the external balance - 4 per cent of
GDP in 1997 compared to the 2.5 per cent in 1995 - led to a 14 per cent
devaluation of the drachma at its incorporation into the Exchange Rate
Mechanism (ERM) last March.
OECD also notes that inflation must reach the European Union average in
1999, while the current transaction deficit must be stabilised in 1998 and
The organisation expects a small slowdown in the growth rate to 3 per cent
in 1998, due to the strict fiscal policy and the loss of buying power,
while a recovery is expected for 1999.
The report calls for a reduction of the public deficit to 2.4 per cent of
GDP in 1998 by reining in public spending by 1 per cent of the GDP, but it
estimates that it will end up at 2.9 per cent.
It also calls on Greece to continue structural changes in the job market
and the public sector, which has a considerable deficit.
Finally, the organisation noted that the danger of a recession will be
decreased by the effective application of the 1998 budget.
Scattered clouds throughout Greece today with the possibility of rain in
the north, western and central regions in the evening. Winds southerly,
moderate to strong. Athens will be sunny with a few clouds and temperatures
between 12-24C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 10-22C.
Wednesday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 316.448
British pound 528.081 Japanese Yen(100) 238.159
French franc 51.584 German mark 172.916
Italian lira (100) 17.504 Irish Punt 435.885
Belgian franc 8.379 Finnish mark 56.978
Dutch guilder 153.502 Danish kr. 45.344
Austrian sch. 24.579 Spanish peseta 2.038
Swedish kr. 39.878 Norwegian kr. 41.616
Swiss franc 208.211 Port. Escudo 1.685
AUS dollar 208.528 Can. dollar 222.347
Cyprus pound 592.224