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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 98-04-15

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, 15/04/1998 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis: Bulgaria's NATO, EU accession a necessity
  • Elder Karamanlis still listed in critical condition
  • Creation of Balkan rapid deployment force being discussed
  • Romeos says anti-crime measures to be intensified
  • Effort to save Lord Byron's home
  • Programme to upgrade Greek museums
  • Greenpeace members arrested at protest outside soy mill
  • Greece has bad record on the road
  • Opposition to Maliakos Gulf underwater tunnel
  • Gov't not planning to file for OA's bankruptcy
  • Greek stocks again hit new record, show signs of fatigue
  • Commercial Bank of Greece to pay Dr 350 dividend for 1997
  • Balladur-type bonds for DEKOs
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis: Bulgaria's NATO, EU accession a necessity

Sofia and Athens agree that no power blocs should be created in the Balkans, the Greek premier said last night at an official dinner held in his honour by his Bulgarian counterpart.

Mr. Simitis, on a two-day state visit to Sofia, said that Bulgaria's bid to join the European Union was a "necessity" and that Greece would support the bid as well as Sofia's bid to join NATO.

These developments would contribute to the strengthening of regional stability, Mr. Simitis said, as indicated by the joint declaration on Kosovo of the five Balkan nations recently.

He said the progress noted in the Bulgarian economy was "encouraging" and that Greece was prepared to help its recovery, asking at the same time for simpler procedures from the Bulgarian side on issues related to agreements on the Nestos River, the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline and the avoidance of double taxation.

Greece is working as fast as possible on the opening of three new border posts between the two countries, he added, stressing that bilateral cooperation in the sectors of transport, telecommunications, communications and energy were a key factor in common regional strategy.

Mr. Simitis arrived in Sofia yesterday for a two-day official visit, accompanied by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Development Minister Vasso Papandreou, Press and Media Minister Dimitris Reppas and National Economy Undersecretary Alekos Baltas.

Mr. Simitis went into a private meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart, Ivan Kostov, as soon as he arrived.

After talks later with President Petar Stoyanov, Mr. Simitis underlined the excellent level of Greek-Bulgarian relations.

Mr. Stoyanov said the premier's visit marked "the highest point in the reciprocal political dialogue of bilateral relations".

He said they had discussed the crisis in the strife-torn Yugoslav province of Kosovo and agreed that it affected the "image" of the Balkan peninsula.

There was also consensus, Mr. Stoyanov added, that all the countries of the region should work towards broad cooperation in the Balkans.

The Bulgarian president also spoke of the need "to establish a new pro- European picture for the region".

Describing as "very cordial" his talks with Mr. Stoyanov, Mr. Simitis said "we are at the beginning of a new era for the Balkans and eastern Europe, not only because the dividing lines have been eliminated, but above all due to the European perspective opening up".

Stressing the need for relations of supra-national co-operation, Mr. Simitis said the Balkans could play an important role in Europe. He too described his visit to Bulgaria as marking "a new phase" in cooperation with Greece's northern neighbour.

Mr. Simitis also met with Bulgarian Parliament Speaker Ivan Sokolov, who underlined the desire of both sides to further develop bilateral relations.

Unanimity is absolute among Bulgaria's political circles over the need for further developing and widening relations with Greece.

This conclusion was drawn by the results of Mr. Simitis' meetings with the leaders of Bulgaria's main political forces last night.

Opposition Bulgarian Socialist party president Georgi Parvanov said after meeting Mr. Simitis that relations between the BSP and (Greece's ruling) PASOK are an important factor for widening bilateral relations. During his meeting with Mr. Simitis, he stressed the need for the present stagnation to be overcome concerning major plans for upgrading infrastructure.

European Left president Alexander Tomov briefed Mr. Simitis on efforts being made to restructure the Left which the party is making as the main representative of social democracy in Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, the joint presidents of the centre-right Popular Union, Stefan Savov and Anastasia Mozev, stressed their party's support for the development of bilateral relations.

Elder Karamanlis still listed in critical condition

Hospitalised former president Constantine Karamanlis was still listed in a critical condition yesterday, with attending physicians saying they were "prepared for any eventuality".

An attempt on Monday to get the ailing New Democracy founder and former president off a respirator failed, while doctors said they will consider making a second attempt today,but only if the 91-year-old patient responded positively right away.

Mr. Karamanlis was placed on breathing support after his heart stopped beating early on Sunday.

His advanced age, doctors said, was working against his full recovery from a respiratory infection, which led to his being admitted to the hospital early last week.

Creation of Balkan rapid deployment force being discussed

Military experts from Balkan countries are kicking-off a two-day conference in Bucharest today to discuss the creation of a rapid deployment deterrence force by countries in the region.

Representatives from Albania, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Romania, Slovenia and Turkey will attend, while Greece will be represented by an officer with the rank of colonel. The United States and Italy will send observers .

It should be noted that Greece had proposed Thessaloniki as the force's headquarters; Bulgaria has proposed Plovdiv and Turkey is promoting Edirne, while according to a press report a location in FYROM is also being considered.

Greece had proposed that final decisions be reached during a planned meeting of the above countries' defence undersecretaries and gerenal staff deputy chiefs, during an upcoming meeting in Tirana.

Romeos says anti-crime measures to be intensified

Measures to contol crime around the country will be intensified until results are apparent, Public Order Minister George Romeos told a press conference yesterday.

He also admitted that so far, measures to fight crime have been ineffective.

Referring to the increase in crime in Greece over the past few months, Mr. Romeos said that although the government's measures were not expected to eradicate crime, poor results had been noted and that the ministry was not satisfied.

Regarding foreigners and their relationship to the recent crime wave in Greece, the minister said that the government was trying to promote two things:

Firstly, to complete the registration of undocumented foreigners, and second, to record foreigners wishing to stay legally or permanently in the country, distinguishing them from the illegals.

"We are in first place in Europe in terms of black market employment," Mr. Romeos said, adding that "the government is planning to promote a law...on those groups' social integration, avoiding at all costs their marginalisation".

Mr. Romeos added that "green cards" granted to successful applicants will be official documents bearing fingerprints and cannot be forged.

Effort to save Lord Byron's home

British Eurodeputy Ken Coates, who is also the president of the Bertrand Russell Foundation, called on British PM Tony Blair to rescue the ancestral home of Lord Byron from destruction due to coal mining.

According to reports, a coal mining company has bought the coal rich estate on which the residence stands and is planning to begin mining operations, something that will result in the residence's subsidence.

Meanwhile, a committee for the protection of Lord Byron's Heritage was set up in Greece to assist the movement in Britain.

The committee, which was established a few months ago by citizens of the Vyronas municipality in eastern Athens has organised events from April 25 to 27 in memory of the great poet and philhellene.

Programme to upgrade Greek museums

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday announced a "sweeping", as he described it, 13-billion-drachma programme aimed at securing more public investment funds for upgrading the country's museums.

He said 15 major repair and expansion projects were underway in various Greek museums, while there are plans for the construction of 14 new ones.

Mr. Venizelos also announced that the ministry is planning 40 exhibitions domestically, 15 overseas, and 630 interventions in archaeological sites over the next 12 months.

Restoration works will receive nine billion drachmas, of which seven billion target archaeological sites.

Finally, a four-day conference has been scheduled to begin on Sunday, April 26, focusing on the Archaeological Service's work last year.

Greenpeace members arrested at protest outside soy mill

Nine Greenpeace activists, seven Greek nationals and two Germans, who had blockaded a major soy mill plant near the Corinth Canal in protest over genetically altered soya were arrested yesterday afternoon by police.

Earlier in the day, some 30 activists of the international environmental advocasy group blocked the gates of the Soy Mills Co., demanding an end to the importation of genetically altered products.

Greenpeace demands that consumers be provided only with unaltered foodstuffs. Activists taking part in the protest erected a huge banner outside the facility stating: "Genetic Danger Stop".

A Greenpeace official later said that Soy Mills Co. cannot guarantee a non- genetically altered supply for supermarkets, consumers, food industries and stockbreeders. According to a Greenpeace, more than 300,000 tons of soy beans are consumed in Gr eece annually, while the genetic alterations were induced with the use of non-edible organisms.

Greece has bad record on the road

Greece has one of the worst records in Europe for the number of road accidents and fatalities which is fast taking on epidemic proportions in the so-called advanced countries of the world.

The data is contained in reports to be presented at the 13th Medical Conference of Northern Greece which will be held in Thessaloniki from May 15-17.

In 1994, according to the data, 2,050 people died in road accidents in Greece, which corresponds to 20.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

By comparison, the corresponding figures for Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom were between 6.8 and 8.6 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

According to the reports, alcohol consumption is a major factor in road accidents, being responsible for one in three fatalities.

The reports say that if were persuaded to drive with a blood-alcohol content of less than 0.5 per cent, 683 lives would be saved in road accidents in Greece annually.

Opposition to Maliakos Gulf underwater tunnel

The Fthiotis prefectural council yesterday reiterated its opposition to the proposed construction of a three-kilometre underwater tunnel beneath the Maliakos Gulf near Lamia, central Greece.

The council rejected an environmental study as inadequate, and stressed what it called the adverse effects on the region's economy as well as safety considerations, as the area is earthquake prone.

Attending officials from the environment and public works ministry, which is sponsoring the project, took a hammering of their views, and admitted the existence of environmental effects, although they claimed these would be only temporary. They insisted, however, that the projects posed no safety concerns if all specifications were met.

Prefectural officials expressed confidence that the Council of State, where the issue has been referred, will vindicate opponents by annulling the project.

Another important factor on the issue will be the decision of Environment Minister Costas Laliotis, who by law is entitled to approve the project.

Both Mr. Laliotis and the Prime Minister, Costas Simitis are scheduled to visit the prefecture next month.

Gov't not planning to file for OA's bankruptcy

The government is not ready to declare Olympic Airways bankrupt but the airline will close if unions fail to adhere to a five-year restructuring plan, Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis said yesterday.

"From what I am in a position to know, the issue of bankruptcy has not been raised so far. It is certain, however, that if OA doesn't work properly it will close," Mr. Mantelis told reporters.

He was replying to talk on Monday that OA's management had told the Union of Civil Aviation Pilots that if workers failed to accept a series of work regulations then OA's legal department would study filing for bankruptcy.

The union's representatives said they would adhere to the new law on the airline's revitalisation but would enforce a work to rule and reject any loss of time in lieu.

Mr. Mantelis said the airline needed time to adjust to the new work regulations in order to function well.

Greek stocks again hit new record, show signs of fatigue

Greek equities yesterday broke into record territory for the twelfth time in 21 sessions on the Athens Stock Exchange, ending slightly higher.

But the market showed signs of fatigue following a surge on Monday, traders said.

Turnover remained heavy with turnover at 65.2 billion drachmas despite computer trading problems approximately 10 minutes before the close, when volume often jumps.

The general index ended 0.47 percent higher at 2,266.35 points.

Sector indices were mixed. Banks rose 0.43 percent, Insurance fell 0.15 percent, Investment ended 2.22 percent up, Leasing soared 7.58 percent, Industrials were 0.08 percent up, Construction eased 0.74 percent, Miscellaneous rose 1.12 percent and Holding was 1.14 percent higher.

The parallel market index for small cap companies rose 3.60 percent. The FTSE/ASE 20 blue chip index ended 0.25 percent up at 1,349.12.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 131 to 110 with another 17 issues unchanged.

Sysware, Singular, General Bank, Pouliades, Radio Athina, Lambropoulos, Bank of Central Greece, Intrasoft and Sfakianakis scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent limit up.

Barba Stathis, Hadzioannou, Fintexport and Dane suffered the heaviest losses at the day's limit down.

National Bank of Greece ended at 40,205 drachmas, Ergobank at 25,850, Alpha Credit Bank at 25,860, Delta Dairy at 4,050, Titan Cement at 25,245, Intracom at 19,890 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8, 285.

Commercial Bank of Greece to pay Dr 350 dividend for 1997

Commercial Bank of Greece, the country's second largest state bank, will pay out 7.6 billion drachmas in dividends.

The bank said in a statement yesterday that the board had approved the 1997 balance sheet and would propose a dividend of 350 drachmas per share.

Balladur-type bonds for DEKOs

The government will attempt to implement part of a privatisation programme for public utilities (DEKOs) over the next 18 months by issuing Balladur- type bonds.

It will provide these bonds for investors which will be converted into shares over a certain period of time, in an effort to receive in advance funds from the partial flotation of DEKOs, which it has already announced.

Elaborating on the issue yesterday, Finance Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis said that the provision of Balladur-type bonds convertable into shares will be utilised for the partial flotation of DEKOs the government intends to do.

Mr. Christodoulakis said that Ethniki-Eurobank and Paribas (a French bank which has promoted the Balladur bonds in France) have already been entrusted to prepare a study on the way with which these bonds can be utilised in the partial flotation of Greek DEKOs.

He also announced the results of the recent auctioning of three and six- month treasury bills, as well as the public sector's loans programme until the end of May which is aimed at covering 700 billion drachmas.

Interest rates decreased by about two percentage points in the auction. Consequently, for the three-month treasury bills the interest rate offered by banks was set on average at 10.7 per cent from 12.8 per cent. Securities worth 100 billion drachmas wer e auctioned from the three-month treasury bills. Sixty billion drachmas were auctioned for six-month treasury bills with an average interest rate of 11.3 per cent from 13.8 per cent.

WEATHER

Fine weather is forecast in most parts of Greece today with the possibility of scattered showers in Crete, the Dodecanese islands and the islands of the eastern Aegean Sea. Winds variable, light to moderate. Athens will be sunny with temperatures between 10-23C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 7-20C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's closing rates (buying): U.S. dollar 314.127 British pound 525.740 Japanese Yen(100) 241.631 French franc 51.536 German mark 172.737 Italian lira (100) 17.485 Irish Punt 435.488 Belgian franc 8.373 Finnish mark 56.877 Dutch guilder 153.363 Danish kr. 45.289 Austrian sch. 24.550 Spanish peseta 2.035 Swedish kr. 40.118 Norwegian kr. 41.632 Swiss franc 208.295 Port. Escudo 1.686 AUS dollar 203.534 Can. dollar 218.518 Cyprus pound 592.224

(C.E.)


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