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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 98-04-10

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, 10/04/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece mourns Archbishop Serapheim
  • Serapheim: resistance fighter, pioneer
  • Greece pays tribute to archbishop
  • Gov't announces plans to fight unemployment
  • Commission president Santer in talks
  • Two arrested for transporting illegal immigrants
  • Mini heatwave hits Crete
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece mourns Archbishop Serapheim

Archbishop Serapheim of Athens and primate of all Greece died early today after 23 years at the helm of the Orthodox Church of Greece. He was 85.

His health has been failing him in recent years while undergoing dialysis treatment for renal failure. His death was announced at 3 a.m. by the president of the Laikon hospital, where he spent the last 46 days, who told reporters: "The Archbishop is sleeping in peace".

The Archbishop's body was taken to the Athens Cathedral, known as the Metropolis, where it will lie in state for three days until his funeral on Monday with honours of a head of state.

The Holy Synod, 12-member ruling body of the Church of Greece, meets later today to "declare vacant" the archbishop's post and start the process for the prelate's replacement. He will be temporarily succeeded by the Metropolitan Chyssostomos of Messinia, who is the eldest bishop ordained among the members of the Synod.

Four days of public mourning has been declared for the death of the archbishop and Interior Minister Alekos Papadopoulos said the archbishop's funeral would be paid for by the state and that he would be buried with the honours normally reserved for a head of state.

The day of his burial, Monday, will be a public holiday for public services, Papadopoulos added.

Serapheim: Resistance fighter, pioneer

Archbishop Serapheim was born Vissarion Tikas in 1913 in the village of Artesiano in the northwestern town of Karditsa.

He graduated from the Theological School of Athens University in 1938 shortly before the German forces occupied Greece. He served as an officer in the Democratic Resistance Army (EDES) of General Napoleon Zervas, undertaking several secret missions and risking arrest by the Germans on more than one occasion.

He was ordained bishop in 1949 in Arta, where he organised the building of a hospital, a school and kindergardens.

Serapheim was ordained Archbishop of Athens and Primate of all Greece in January 1974 following the resignation of Archbishop Ieronimos Kotsonis.

While at the helm of the Church of Greece he swore into office one dictator, seven Presidents of the Republic and nine prime ministers, the last one being current Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

His major works included the safeguarding of the Autocephalus Status of the Church of Greece in 1975, the drafting of the New Charter of the Church of Greece in 1977, and later the church's approval of a controversial provision giving equal status to civil and religious marriages.

He startled the conservative Greek Orthodox public in 1985 when he announced he had become an organ donor, paving the way for other Greeks to do so.

He was the 18th Archbishop of the Church of Greece since it became the Autocephalus Church of Greece on July 27, 1833.

Greece pays tribute to archbishop

President of the Republic Costis Stephanopoulos and Prime Minister Costas Simitis today expressed their deep grief over the death of Archbishop Serapheim, who had sworn both of them into office.

Stephanopoulos described Serapheim as a "personality who contributed to the Church and society in a multitude of ways for many years, a patriot and freedom-fighter who was a true Christian and a genuine Greek".

Simitis said Serapheim had been a fighter all his life and had been a resistance fighter during the years of the Nazi occupation, while he also served the Church selflessly and had contributed to Orthodoxy by embracing the problems of modern-day society.

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis also expressed deep grief, and the hope that the person chosen to succeed Serapheim would make as great a contribution to increasing the Church's influence in the daily life of Greeks and in the role of Orthodoxy in all corners of the world.

Communist Party of Greece Secretary-General Aleka Papariga and honorary president Harilaos Florakis also issued condolences, while Democratic Social Movement leader Dimitris Tsovolas said Serapheim, who had distinguished himself with his patriotic struggles and his service to Orthodoxy and the Church, had left a vacuum.

Minister of Education and Religious Affairs Gerasimos Arsenis expressed his "deep grief" and described the archbishop as a "strong personality whose term at the helm of the Church of Greece was "fruitful".

Gov't announces plans to fight unemployment

The government today outlined its national action plan on increasing jobs and tackling unemployment, after Labour and Social Security Minister Miltiades Papaionnou presented the framework to the Cabinet.

"The central points of the government's policy is an increase in jobs and combatting unemployment," Prime Minister Costas Simitis said after the meeting. "This is a multi-facteted and integrated package which includes measures which are new for Greece, such as programmes for unemployed youth".

"The average unemployment level in Greece is lower than the EU average but it is our constant aim to further reduce it," he added.

Papaioannou said that his draft bill was unanimously accepted by the Cabinet.

"The outcome of social dialogue will be the guide for our policy," he said. "The only problem is reservations by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) on the overall settlement of working hours, a point on which we will work to overcome differences".

Papaioannou said the package was a framework for a draft bill which would be submitted to Parliament and social partners in early May and sources added that the ruling party's Central Committee would discuss the framework in mid-May.

The framework is based on four main axes: upgrading human resources through training and vocational guidance; providing support for target groups; support for Greek business, primarily small and medium size enterprises that, in line with European experience, remain the prime movers behind increasing employment; and changes to the labour market.

One of the support programmes for the target group of unemployed youth (under age 28) will entail an outlay of 108 billion drachmas for a programme for 50,000 youths this year with the total outlay coming to 350 billion drachmas for 200,000 youths by 2000.

Papaioannou said changes to the labour market were an issue that had already been broached by markets and technology developments and that the government's intervention was purely of a "regulatory" nature and it was not playing a "deregulatory role".

The major issues in changes to the labour market include extending part- time employment, which in Greece involves only 5.0 percent of the working force, while the European Union average is 18.0 percent. The government hopes part-time positions will flourish in both private and public sector.

Papaioannou said the government was watching the pilot programme to introduce the 35-hour working week in Italy and France but that it was premature to talk about introducing the measure to Greece. Greece did, however, want to promote greater flexibility in the job market, in line with a 1993 Community directive.

Papaioannou said the introduction of a nine-hour or 10-hour working day with workers receiving time in lieu instead of overtime pay would lead to savings while not reducing total working hours.

Also included in the national action plan are disincentives for those retirees receiving pensions to take on paid work. Papaioannou said these disincentives already existed for those receiving pensions from the Social Security Foundation or the state and that the measure would be extended to other categories of pensioners.

Unions are also expected to object to government plans to introduce "local employment contracts" in which employers in regions with high unemployment will be able to pay unemployed workers wages that are less than the hourly levels set in sector contracts but not less than those in the national collective labour agreement.

Commission president Santer in talks

European Commission President Jacques Santer had talks in Athens today with Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou which focussed on European integration and preliminary negotiations for Cyprus' accession to the European Union.

The talks, attended also by National Economy Undersecretary Christos Pachtas and foreign ministry secretary general Stelios Perrakis, also focused on issues related to Crete, particularly the rate of absorption of EU funds on the island.

Papandreou will be accompanying Santer to Crete later today.

Earlier, Santer met with main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Costas Karamanlis and discussed the course of Greece's entry into Europe's economic and monetary union (EMU) and the course towards Cyprus' EU membership.

Santer told reporters after the meeting that the two men had a "constructive and pleasant" discussion on a wide range of problems and issues, such as the Greek drachma's recent entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism (ERM) and Cyprus' EU membership negotiations, and had a broad exchange of views, adding that their views more or less coincided on most issues.

Karamanlis outlined his party's firm position on and active support for EMU, stressing the need for Greece's entry as soon as possible.

He also attacked the government, saying that the big mistakes and omissions on the part of the various PASOK governments had resulted in Greece's being the only EU member state that would not be taking part in the first stage of EMU not by choice but because it did not meet the requirements.

Turning to the negotiations for Cyprus' EU membership, Karamanlis said ND would invest every effort so that Cyprus would take part in the EU and not be rendered a hostage to the provocative Turkish policy.

Santer leaves later today for the island of Crete to attend an open discussion in Iraklion on the European Union's new Regional Policy. During his three-day stay in Crete, Santer will visit the Research and Technology Foundation, the Knossos archaeological site, the Iraklion Museum, Crete University, and the old cities of Rethymno and Hania.

He will attend Easter services at the Catholic Cathedral in the old city of Hania on Sunday morning, and will give a press conference later in the morning, before departing Crete early on Monday.

Two arrested for transporting illegal immigrants

Two farmers were arrested in Verria, northern Greece early today for allegedly transporting 15 Albanian illegal immigrants in a truck.

They were identified as Petros Diaras, 44 and Nikolaos Pliatsikas, 43, both residents of Sydendrou, Grevena.

Police said the "fare" charged was 60,000 drachmas per person for the trip from Grevena to Thessaloniki and 80,000 drachmas for Grevena to Kavala.

The farmers were arrested after failing to stop as requested by a police officer who wanted to carry out a check. Two patrol cars chased the truck, eventually stoppping it in Diara.

The two farmers were due to appear before a public prosecutor later today while the illegal immigrants are to be deported.

Mini heatwave hits Crete

A mini heatwave has hit southern Crete, sending hundreds of locals to the beaches for an early spring dip.

Meteorologists said the 32 degree centigrade temperatures, coupled by southerly winds and low humidity would be repeated frequently throughout April and May, but were not necessarily a prelude to an unusually hot summer.

WEATHER

Scattered clouds and sporadic rain is forecast in most parts of Greece today. Winds southerly, moderate to strong. Possibility of light rain from the afternoon in Athens with temperatures ranging between 13-27C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 12-24C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 314.523 British pound 525.204 Japanese Yen(100) 235.600 French franc 51.403 German mark 172.380 Italian lira (100) 17.451 Irish Punt 434.496 Belgian franc 8.354 Finnish mark 56.772 Dutch guilder 152.966 Danish kr. 45.180 Austrian sch. 24.495 Spanish peseta 2.031 Swedish kr. 39.728 Norwegian kr. 41.535 Swiss franc 207.239 Port. Escudo 1.682 AUS dollar 205.746 Can. dollar 220.819 Cyprus pound 587.641

(M.P.)


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