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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-03-04

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, 04/03/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • No need to ease inflation goal for euro entry, Papademos says
  • Gov't pledges price freeze in 1999
  • Stocks stage cautious rally in lower turnover
  • Building activity rises 9.4 pct in 1998
  • Industrial output at 3.2 pct in 1998
  • EU may take Greece to court over telecoms
  • Spending on media advertising up 22.68 pct in February
  • Greek-registered ships show drop in number, rise in tonnage
  • Simitis announces pending ATE circular on refinancing of farm debts
  • Gov't: Tourism unaffected by Ocalan affair
  • Intracom founder on CNN programme
  • Greece points to Ankara as seeking tension in bilateral relations
  • Expatriate Greeks will help in counteracting Turkish propaganda
  • Karamanlis set to visit US
  • 'Euro' events in downtown Athens
  • Trolley strike today
  • Thessaloniki lecture on environment
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

No need to ease inflation goal for euro entry, Papademos says

Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos said yesterday that the country's inflation target for entry into the euro zone should not be lowered, and that inflation would near the key 2.0 percent level in June.

Reaffirming his confidence in the country's anti-inflationary policy, Mr. Papademos said that easing the criterion would be damaging.

Lowering inflation to below 2.0 percent and then keeping it there were necessary targets, which should be attained in order to achieve a smooth transition into the euro zone, he said.

In addition, talk of easing the criterion should not lead to expectations that monetary authorities would relax policy.

At the same time, the authorities should be watchful to ensure that the criterion was not raised due to conditions affecting individual economies, the central bank governor said.

The evaluation of Greece for entry into the euro zone should be the same as for other countries, he added.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said separately in reply to a reporter's question that there was no need for a relaxation of criteria for Greece to join the euro, and it would be judged on the same basis as other countries.

Gov't pledges price freeze in 1999

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday that there would be no price rises this year, and that inspections would be carried out in banks to contain surcharges on loans.

He also said that the ministry would soon submit to parliament a bill incorporating changes to the rental of business premises, the code of commerce, and operation of the ministry's competition commission in order to improve its efficiency.

Mr. Venizelos was speaking after a meeting with representatives of the Federation of Greek Industries, the Association of Supermarkets, the Association of Greek Food Industries and the National Confederation of Greek Commerce.

The minister added that Greece would achieve the inflation criterion needed to join the euro zone without the need for political negotiation with the European Union.

Stocks stage cautious rally in lower turnover

Share prices rebounded yesterday after the previous session's sell-off to end moderately higher on the Athens Stock Exchange but in lower turnover, reflecting caution.

The general index ended 0.67 percent up at 3,340.39 points, off the day's highs of 3,385 points. Turnover was 105.4 billion drachmas and volume 26, 102,878 shares.

Traders said the fall in turnover reflected a reluctance to open new positions in the market in the wake of recent sharp price fluctuactions.

Sector indices socred gains.

Banks rose 0.78 percent, Leasing ended 0.17 percent up, Insurance fell 0.42 percent, Investment increased 0.86 percent, Construction ended 0.97 percent higher, Industrials surged 1.26 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.95 percent up and Holding fell 0.35 pe rcent.

The parallel market index for small cap companies soared 3.51 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index rose 0.32 percent.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 180 to 96 with another 19 issues unchanged.

Thessaliki, Xifias, Mytilineos and Viosol were the most heavily traded stocks.

A total of 53 shares hit the day's 8.0 percent limit up. Among them were Katselis, Nikas, Avax, Athina, Gekat, Gnomon, Proodeftiki, Viokarpet, Metka, Kallinis, Naoussa, Papoutsanis, Klonatex and Mytilineos. Ergas, Athens Bank, Eskimo, Development Invest , Mevaco, NEL Lines, Sea Farm Ionian, Ippotour and Halyps Cement suffered the heaviest losses.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,455 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 33, 800, Ergobank at 22,950, Ionian Bank at 18,700, Titan Cement at 23,100, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,550, Intracom at 19,350, Minoan Lines at 7,600, Panafon at 9.115 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,400.

Building activity rises 9.4 pct in 1998

Construction activity rose 9.4 percent in 1998, the National Statistics Service said yesterday.

Building activity increased 10.3 percent in December compared with the same month in 1997. onstruction permits issued last year accounted for 64,796 cubic metres, up from 59,246 in the previous year.

The Attica prefecture accounted for the biggest increase in 1998 at 14.7 percent. Construction rose 7.5 percent in the rest of the country.

Industrial output at 3.2 pct in 1998

Industrial production rose 3.2 percent in 1998 while the broader index incorporating mining, industry, electricity and natural gas increased by 7.3 percent, the National Statistics Service said yesterday.

The NSS said that industrial production fell by 1.4 percent in December.

EU may take Greece to court over telecoms

The European Union's executive Commission yesterday decided to launch the first step of proceedings at the European Court against Greece for failing to lift curbs on mobile phone operations and liberalise satellite services and alternative networks.

The government has two months to reply to the Commission's five reasoned opinions. If the replies are considered unsatisfactory, or none are received, the Commission has the right to lodge a recourse with the European Court.

The Commission said in a statement that following a check on compliance by member states with directives on the deregulation of telecommunications, it was found that Greece had not provided information about the measures it planned to take.

Among the charges were that Greece has yet to set up a procedure for the issue of new mobile phone operating licences employing DCS 1800 technology despite the availability of frequencies.

Spending on media advertising up 22.68 pct in February

Spending on media advertising nationwide rose to 30.5 billion drachmas in February, up 22.68 percent from the same month of last year, Media Services SA said in a report released yesterday.

The monthly report showed that television commercials again accounted for the lion's share of spending, totalling 15.6 billion drachmas, or 51.17 percent of the market.

Ranking second was spending on advertisements in magazines at 7.1 billion drachmas, or 23.44 percent of the market.

Newspapers and radio stations followed with spending totalling 6.2 billion drachmas and 1.5 billion drachmas respectively.

The products or services that drew the biggest spending were Bodyline, Cosmote Cosmocarta, Panafon a la Carte, Silhouette and government savings bonds.

Greek-registered ships show drop in number, rise in tonnage

Ten ships left the Greek shipping registry but seven joined in February, showing a net loss of three, the merchant marine ministry said in a statement yesterday. However, the gain to the registry was 79,246 tonnes. Merchant Marine Minister Stavros Soumakis said that tonnage was more important than the number of vessels, and the ships joining the registry were larger than those changing flag or being sold.

He said he hoped that the registry would gain in both tonnage and number of ships.

Simitis announces pending ATE circular on refinancing of farm debts

Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday said the Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE) will issue a circular this week or next on the refinancing of farmers' debts.

The Greek premier was speaking in Parliament in reply to a question by Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) deputy Evangelos Apostolou.

He also referred to discussions on the agricultural sector at European bodies, and on the occasion of a question by PASOK deputy Evangelos Vlassopoulos.

Mr. Simitis also appeared optimistic over the result of relevant negotiations, saying that "we are expecting good results" by the end of March, when the European Union summit will be held in Berlin.

Mr. Simitis termed negotiations difficult and said Greece has to face proposals such as those by France over subsidies, which will gradually decrease.

Mr. Simitis went on to say that the last point for which the Greek government is pressuring is a strengthening of policies for the development of rural areas, special care for small producers and the prospect of reform that takes the size of an agricultural plot into consideration.

Gov't: Tourism unaffected by Ocalan affair

Deputy Development Minister Anna Diamantopoulou said yesterday from Crete that the Ocalan affair does not appear to have affected the tourism sector, while she expressed certainty that an increase in arrivals can be expected this year.

"It does not appear to have affected tourism in our country, where everything shows that there are no cancellations and special problems. On the contrary, there will be an increase in tourist movement at particularly high levels this year."

"The economic course is the outcome of many things. The political situation, political stability plays a very big role in the economy. Our course towards Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is certain, stable and will have a successful conclusion if we fo llow the wise policy we have had to date..." Ms Diamantopoulou added.

Intracom founder on CNN programme

The Cable News Network (CNN) will present a half-hour programme on Socrates Kokkalis, the founder of the Intracom group and president of the Olympiakos sports club, during its economic programme "Pinnacle Europe", scheduled for Sunday at 10:30 p.m. local time.

The programme, featuring well-known business leaders from around the world, will be repeated on Monday on Saturday, March 13.

Greece points to Ankara as seeking tension in bilateral relations

Greece yesterday said it was trying to create a positive climate in bilateral relations with Turkey, while Ankara was attempting to create tension.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas made the statement when asked by reporters about the state of relations between Greece and Turkey in the wake of the Ocalan affair.

Mr. Reppas accused Turkish officials of making statements which further exacerbated the climate of bilateral relations.

The Greek spokesman dismissed a statement by Turkish Foreign Undersecretary Korkmaz Haktan, who claimed that the notorious "November 17" terrorist group "was part of the Greek state", emphasising that the Turk official's remarks were "completely ridiculou s and absurd."

"We have always fought against terrorism, constantly and relentlessly," Mr. Reppas added.

Expatriate Greeks will help in counteracting Turkish propaganda

World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) President Andrew Athens yesterday stressed that the ethnic Greek community in the United States and the rest of the would fully support efforts by Athens to counteract Turkish propaganda following the Ocalan affair.

Speaking in Thessaloniki, Mr. Athens and his associates said expatriate Greeks would work with the Greek government on the issue, while he noted that upon returning to the United States next week, he will have meetings with several high-ranking US officials, possibly including US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

"Turkey is looking after its interests and we shall do our duty in cooperation with the Greek government. The United States must understand that Greece is a country which has always supported human rights," Mr. Athens said, referring to the Ocalan affair.

He declined, however, to comment on how the affair might develop and whether the Greek government had made mistakes in its handling.

Mr. Athens expressed a view that there would be no serious "incident" in the Aegean, saying that Washington did not want this.

"The US does not want a further problem in this region," he emphasised.

Mr. Athens met yesterday morning with Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis for talks on SAE and assistance for ethnic Greeks in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

On Monday, the SAE leader was received by Prime Minister Costas Simitis for talks on issues concerning expatriate Greeks.

Karamanlis set to visit US

A main opposition New Democracy spokesman yesterday said a visit to the United States by ND leader Costas Karamanlis is taking place "at a particular moment, a particular turning point" for Greek affairs.

Mr. Karamanlis' long-scheduled visit to the US will last from March 6-16 and will include contacts with several senior US officials, Greek expatriate representatives and academics in Washington, New York and Boston.

Asked whether ND was annoyed by the recent support given to PM Costas Simitis by the US State Department, the ND spokesman said the support for the Greek government elected by the people is "absolutely normal."

'Euro' events in downtown Athens

The new unified EU currency, the euro, will be "visiting" Athens between over the next few days during a special event in downtown Athens, with special stands providing information and relevant pamphlets on the euro.

A competition will be held during the event with three trips to Brussels as the main prizes. Citizens from all the European Union countries can participate by filling out a coupon with which they will include a few simple questions on the European Union and the euro.

A draw for the three trips will be held publicly at the central pavilion on March 13.

The start to the event will take place in Ermou Street on March 5, with several ministers and EU officials scheduled to speak.

Trolley strike today

Employees of the Athens-Piraeus trolley service (HLPAP) announced a work stoppage from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, in protest against government reforms in labour relations.

A general assembly is scheduled during the work stoppage to determine their future stance. HLPAP's administration has taken the issue to court, requesting that the work stoppage be declared illegal.

Thessaloniki lecture on environment

A noted US professor will give a lecture on the subject of "Politics of Endangered Atmosphere" at Thessaloniki's Aristotelion University natural sciences faculty today.

The event is organised by the university's atmospheric physics laboratory, the Greek Society for the Protection of the Environemnt and Cultural Heritage and the US consulate in Thessaloniki.

Prof. Marvin Sorrows, a political science instructor at the University of North Carolina and a specialist on international environmental law and policy, is expected to analyse international and regional efforts to tackle the problem.

WEATHER

Partly cloudy weather will prevail throughout the country today with rain in west central and southern Greece from the afternoon Winds southerly, light to strong, turning gale force in the evening in the Ionian Sea. Possibility of rain in the evening in Athens with temperatures between 9- 19C. Overcast in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 5-17C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          292.233
Pound sterling       471.736
Japanese yen (100)   241.096
French franc          48.645
German mark          163.146
Italian lira (100)    16.479
Irish Punt           405.157
Belgian franc          7.910
Luxembourg franc       7.910
Finnish mark          53.666
Dutch guilder        144.795
Danish kr.            42.920
Austrian sch.         23.189
Spanish peseta         1.918
Swedish kr.           35.496
Norwegian kr.         36.956
Swiss franc          200.592
Port. Escudo           1.591
Aus. dollar          182.607
Can. dollar          191.912
Cyprus pound         551.651
Euro                 319.087
(C.E.)
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