Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-04-11
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 11/04/1998 (ANA)
- Greece's Archbishop Serapheim dies after 23 years at the helm
- Gunbattle at the Greek-Albanian border
- Santer praises Greece's convergence with its EU partners
- Greece making the final push for EMU, says Santer
- Washington condemns rocket attack on Citibank branch
- Tripartite Balkan meeting on Santorini
- Elder Karamanlis' condition improves
- Olympic Airways restructuring bill ratified
- Tourism professionals urged to cater more to local tourists
- Greek state telecom to focus on Balkans
- Greek shares get a lift from Olympic Airways restructuring bill
- Papantoniou: taxation will fall when tax evasion is curbed
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Greece's Archbishop Serapheim dies after 23 years at the helm
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
His death was announced at 3 am. by the president of the Laikon hospital,
who told reporters: "The Archbishop slept in peace".
Soon after, the Government and the country's political leaders expressed
their "deep grief" and described the archbishop as a "strong personality
whose term of duty at the helm of the Church of Greece was "fruitful".
Gunbattle at the Greek-Albanian border
A gunbattle raged between police and narcotics smugglers on the Greek-
Albanian border early today, leaving one Albanian dead, another seriously
injured and one policeman slightly wounded.
In two separate incidents, four people were arrested and two kilos of
cocaine, five kilos of hashish, Kalashnikov rifles and hand-grenades were
Police first arrested two Albanians, Andreas Michos, 34 and Ahmet Tzoni, 37
in Florina shortly after midnight and seized 1 kilo of cocaine. A Greek
taxi driver, George Vrantzis, was also arrested.
According to the police, the gang leader is Michos, who through illegal
activities, has managed to acquire six large trucks in Albania and seven
apartments in the area of Florina.
In a later incident at dawn, a gunbattle broke out between police and a
gang of Albanian drug smugglers in the border area of Aghia Kyriaki,
In the exchange of fire, Albanian Oltsi Teroli, 25 was mortally wounded and
his compatriot Dala Skenter, 29, was seriously injured and taken by police
to hospital in Kastoria where he is under heavy guard.
Three of their accomplices managed to escape and are believed to have
crossed back into Albania.
Police seized one kilo of cocaine, five kilos of hashish, two hand-grenades
and two Kalashnikov rifles.
Santer praises Greece's convergence with its EU partners
Greece has made considerable efforts towards convergence with other
European Union economies, EU Commission President Jacques Santer said
yesterday on the first day of his official two-day visit.
Speaking to Greek and foreign reporters, Mr. Santer said he is very
satisfied over Greece's incorporation into the European Monetary System's
Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) and optimistic over Greece's development in
connection with Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
Replying to questions, Mr. Santer said that Greece had covered a great deal
of ground over the past two or three years, and that results have been
produced now both in the fiscal sector and on inflation, while there is
convergence in the direction of implementing European policy.
On the question of Cyprus, he said "we support all the envoys of the UN. We
believe that the start to bilateral negotiations with the Republic of
Cyprus might be able to cause some kind of a rapprochement of views in
connection with the issue of Cyprus,which always continues to be a delicate
"For the time being, I can say no more.
We have the mandate to continue these negotiations and we will do this.
Every solution which could put an end to this division of the island would
satisfy us, because we are working for a political solution to be found,"
Referring to the issue of Greece's veto against a financial protocol
between the EU and Turkey, he said that "in the long run we must find a
solution so that the financial protocol will be able to be released.
Replying to another question, Mr. Santer said that Greece will remain
within "target No. 1" for structural funds and will continue to benefit
from them, as well as from the Union's cohesion funds. He added that Greece
received 17.6 billion Ecu over the 1994-1999 period.
Mr. Santer held talks with Prime Minister Costas Simitis at the Maximos
Mansion last night, in which an identity of views on major European issues
The meeting lasted for about three quarters of an hour and focused on major
European policy issues. In statements after the meeting Mr. Simitis pointed
out that he had an extensive discussion with Mr. Santer concerning the main
issues which will preoccupy the EU.
Greece making the final push for EMU, says Santer
The Greek government has participated in the great collective effort of
making the euro a reality. Unfortunately, the distance it has had to cover
to meet the criteria has proved too long. However, the effort has been
impressive, the progress indisputable and the pace fast, Mr. Santer said
yesterday in an address that concluded "The Economist" roundtable
conference with the Greek government.
"Greece can and must push on with modernising its structures resolutely,
seizing all opportunities offered by the new world coming into being.
"For years, Europe has been the target your country has aimed at. Your full
incorporation into Economic and Monetary Union will be the hallmark of your
Turning to the convergence report issued by the Commission on March 25, Mr.
Santer said the Union stresses the effort made over the last few years.
"Greece's economy is deemed to be progressing satisfactorily and the
progress is plain to see. These endeavours have already started to bring
Greece some solid advantages such as:
"Lower deficits, an inflation rate close to being brought under control, a
curb of the public debt which is starting to turn downward...and unlike
what one hears in certain countries, this does not seem to me to be
happening at the expense of growth and employment.
"Lower inflation has not gone hand in hand with recession; on the contrary,
growth was higher in Greece in 1997 than it has been on average every year
for the previous 10 years. In 1998 and 1999 it will reach levels not
achieved for decades. The economy stands on sounder foundations with a
freer and more dynamic market, and most important of all, there are signs
of rising employment on the horizon.
"You must go further, the hard work of going into battle must be a success.
The euro is within your grasp.' Now is the time when you must show the
greatest possible determination, to consolidate the budget and make further
structural reforms," Mr. Santer stressed.
"In this context it would be a serious omission on my part if I were to
forget to welcome the entry of the drachma into the Exchange Rate
Mechanism. This is important for two reasons:
" - It reaffirms Greece's desire to become a member of the euro zone.
" - It improves confidence in the drachma among money markets.
" - The entry of the drachma can be considered as the culmination of the
macroeconomic policy applied in the last few years. I heard with satisfaction
that the government is resolved to speed up its structural reforms," he
"Here there are two factors which I think will play right into the hands of
"First, the new forms of communication and information came in they have
made the single market more homogeneous.
"Secondly, I have been very gratified to see that Greek businesses and
banks are going right ahead and investing in the Balkans,seizing the
opportunities which geographical proximity and ties of history and culture
now place within your grasp," he added.
Washington condemns rocket attack on Citibank branch
The US yesterday strongly condemned a bomb attack against a Citibank branch
in Athens on Tuesday evening.
"Let me say that the United States condemns in the strongest possible term
the rocket attack against Citibank offices in Athens," US State Department
spokesman James Rubin told reporters.
"This is the seventh such attack on an American firm since November. Our
embassy is working closely with the Greek authorities in the hope that the
perpetrators of this attack will be apprehended," he added.
"The suggestion that this attack is a response to claims made by Ambassador
Burns about the danger to American companies creating a dangerous business
climate that needed to be addressed - not that it is a dangerous business
climate, but that this points it in that direction - is twisted and
outrageous logic which cannot possibly reflect the views of decent people,"
Mr. Rubin said.
Mr. Rubin was referring to a speech by US Ambassador to Athens Nicholas
Burns during a business forum in Thessaloniki late last month, in which he
said that bomb attacks against foreign firms were a restraining factor for
US investments in Greece.
Tripartite Balkan meeting on Santorini
Tighter relations between Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, developments in the
Balkans and particularly in Kosovo and European Union and NATO expansion
plans are all on the agenda of the tripartite meeting between the three
countries, beginning today on the island of Santorini.
The Santorini meeting is the fourth tripartite meeting being held by the
countries, following similar meetings in Ioannina (1995), Varna (1996) and
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos will represent Greece at the meeting.
Bulgaria is represented by its foreign minister Nadhezda Mihailova and
Romania by Andrei Plesu.
Elder Karamanlis' condition improvies
Former president of the republic Constantine Karamanlis, currently being
treated for a respiratory infection at the Ygeia hospital in Athens, was
reported in good condition yesterday after having spent a quiet night.
Attending physicians told reporters that the condition of the veteran Greek
stateman's health is continuously improving.
A medical bulletin stated that Mr. Karamanlis, 91, is showing a continuous
improvement, while his response to treatment is considered very satisfactory.
Olympic Airways restructuring bill ratified
Parliament yesterday ratified in principle and by article a controversial
bill to restructure Olympic Airways, Greece's ailing state-run national
The vote was 158 in favour and 124 against. Former New Democracy deputy and
minister George Souflias, recently expelled from the main opposition party,
voted "present", while 17 other deputies were absent from the 300-member
Parliament, in which the rul ing PASOK party controls 159 seats.
Four other former ND deputies, also recently expelled, voted against the
"The scourge of Olympic Airways and other public sector organisations has
been the lack of cooperation between management and trade unions," National
Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said during the debate.
Tourism professionals urged to cater more to local tourists
Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) Secretary General Nikos Skoulas
called on tourism-related professionals and entrepreneurs to create even
more holiday "packages", particularly for local tourists.
He said Greece tops the list of European countries regarding the development
of domestic tourism, according to research conducted by Eurobarometre.
Mr. Skoulas was addressing a conference yesterday on the issue of "Domestic
Tourism: An Insurance Valve for the National Economy, Tourism and
Employment", held in the framework of the exhibition "Tourist Panorama '98"
which was inaugurated at Peace and Friendship indoor stadium on Wednesday.
Mr. Skoulas said that this situation is underestimated by the National
Statistical Service's (ESYE) available data, which shows Greeks as
accounting for 26 per cent (1996) of overnight stays in the country's
However, he said this figure is clearly higher since ESYE does not register
overnight stays in rented rooms and furnished apartments, which account for
40 per cent of the local supply of beds.
Overnight stays by foreign tourists increased by 8.8 per cent in 1997
compared to 1996, while those of Greeks increased by 21 per cent.
Greek state telecom to focus on Balkans
Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) is focusing its strategy on
modernising Greece's national telecoms network and investing in foreign
markets, particularly in the Balkans, its managing director said yesterday.
Speaking at a conference held in Athens by The Economist magazine, George
Chrissolouris said that the organisation's subsidiaries were cooperating
closely with suppliers and banks to facilitate the company's expansion in
the Balkans and reduce investment risk.
He forecast that by the end of the year more than 70 percent of the Greek
telecoms network would be digitally operated and announced the installment
of 1.4 million new digital lines.
Greek shares get a lift from Olympic Airways restructuring bill
Greek parliamentary approval for a government bill to restructure Olympic
Airways yesterday boosted sentiment on the Athens Stock Exchange and sent
share prices to record levels again.
Traders said the market translated parliament's first vote in favour of the
bill as a move paving the way for the restructuring of all other public
sector firms and utilities.
The general index closed 1.54 percent higher at 2,175.39 points.
Sector indices scored gains. Banks soared 2.03 percent, Insurance rose 0.47
percent, Investment ended 0.39 percent, Leasing was unchanged, Industrials
ended 0.81 percent up, Construction rose 0.95 percent, Miscellaneous
increased 0.42 percent and Holdi ng jumped 3.95 percent.
The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 0.73 percent while
the FTSE/ASE-20 index ended 1.84 percent up at 1,284.25.
Trading was heavy with turnover at 53.9 billion drachmas.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 148 to 95 with another 17 issues
Alte, Altec, Pouliades, Halcor, Mouzakis, Strintzis, Macedonia-Thrace Bank
and Shelman scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent
limit up. Hadzioannou, Macedonian Plastics, Halyps Cement and Balkan Export
suffered the heaviest loss es at the day's 8.0 percent limit down.
National Bank of Greece ended at 37,700 drachmas, Ergobank at 26,200, Alpha
Credit Bank at 25,200, Delta Dairy at 3,650, Titan Cement at 23,350,
Intracom at 20,020 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8,
In the domestic money market, the drachma was substantially higher against
the US dollar, the DMark and the Ecu.
Papantoniou: taxation will fall when tax evasion is curbed
National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday announced that
taxation rates will be decreased when the TAXIS programme for cross-
checking tax figures and measures against tax evasion begin to produce
Mr. Papantoniou said that the government's target is for tax relief to be
brought about since, as he said,taxation is at a "maximum level" at
present. However, he clarified that this will occur when the measures aimed
at cracking down on tax evasion start to produce results and increased
revenues are received.
Mr. Papantoniou made his statement at an event organised on the occasion of
the first anniversary of the founding of the Economic Crime Squad
He said that as a result of SDOE's activities and of other measures aimed
at intensifying controls by tax authorities, revenues increased by 16 per
cent over the first quarter of the year.
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.
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