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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-10-19

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, 19/10/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Time now right to start talks for solution to Cyprus problem
  • Social Security Foundation sets up mutual fund manager
  • Greek-Armenian defence pact signed
  • Turkey must now show whether it can meet EU candidate criteria
  • Papandreou-Cook meeting in London
  • Unique El Greco exhibition inaugurated at Athens' National Gallery
  • Stocks nosedive on Wall Street woes
  • Greece, Turkey debate tourism cooperation
  • Budget spending within target
  • Deutsche Bank, Eurobank meet to debate alliances
  • ANEK, Rethymniaki to merge
  • OA switches to Charles de Gaulle Airport
  • Siemens gets EU award
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Time now right to start talks for solution to Cyprus problem

US President Bill Clinton's special emissary for Cyprus, Alfred Moses, said in Athens yesterday that he believed the time was appropriate for the commencement of talks between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot sides for a resolution to the 25-year-old

Cyprus problem.

Mr. Moses, accompanied by visiting US State Department coordinator for Cyprus, Thomas Weston, met yesterday morning with Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

Afterwards, Mr. Moses said the recent rapprochement between Greece and Turkey after the two countries rushed to each other's assistance following devastating earthquakes in both countries, coupled by Turkey's desire for rapprochement with Europe, create d a "momentum" that should be taken advantage of.

The US official described the present situation in Cyprus as "not acceptable" and reaffirmed Mr. Clinton's commitment to see an end to the 25- year-old division of the island."

Mr. Moses declined to divulge details on US positions, saying only that the two American officials were in Athens to hear the proposals of the Greek side and not to convey a specific plan or proposals for a solution.

Mr. Papandreou reiterated the Greek position that it completely supports the efforts being made at this stage to resolve the problem, adding that talks between the two sides should begin as soon as possible.

Mr. Moses and Mr. Weston had talks on Sunday in Ankara, and departed yesterday afternoon for Nicosia on the last stop of their trip to the region.

Sources said the two US officials were due to have consultations in New York with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the content of an invitation for talks Mr. Annan is expected to address to Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 occupying some 37 per cent of its territory.

Social Security Foundation sets up mutual fund manager

The Social Security Foundation (IKA) plans to become one of the largest institutional investors in Greece through the creation of a mutual fund management company.

The new company will aim to maximise returns on IKA's reserve capital and minimise market risks, IKA president Miltiadis Nektarios told a news conference yesterday.

He said that the company, to be named Insurance Funds Mutual Fund Management SA, planned to invest up to 20 percent of its reserves in the stock market. The bulk of funds would be invested in state securities.

Mr. Nektarios noted that the mutual fund company will set up a group of experts to help ensure returns even in times of recession in the market.

National Bank of Greece, a state controlled blue chip on the Athens bourse, will hold a 30 percent share in the new firm.

Market sources said that IKA's decision to focus on state bonds could also help a government effort to reduce domestic state borrowing through the securitisation in the form of five-year bonds of the foundation's reserves.

Mr. Nektarios said that another of IKA's priorities would be the securitisation of monies owed to the foundation and the parallel issue of an international bond. He also said that the private and state sectors owed more than 750 billion drachmas each to the institution.

The new plan would also help an effort to modernise revenue collection procedures and ensure more favourable borrowing conditions.

Mr. Nektarios said that the national economy ministry and agencies that participate on IKA's board - the General Confederation of Greek Workers and Federation of Greek Industry - had already approved the plan.

He clarified that the securitisation of debts to IKA would not entail the transfer of revenue collection procedures to the private sector or foreign banks.

Mr. Nektarios supported a past recommendation by Bacon and Woods for the merger of social security funds through the absorption by IKA of bank employees' funds, a move rejected by both employees and employers in the banking sector.

He announced that IKA's information technology systems would be fully operational in 2000 and a productivity bonus would be introduced for staff in some departments.

Greek-Armenian defence pact signed

National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his visiting Armenian counterpart Vagharshak Haroutounyan yesterday signed a defence cooperation pact.

The defence agreement relates to training, research, information exchange and cooperation between the two countries' defence sectors. Also discussed during talks were regional security problems faced by the two countries.

Speaking afterwards, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said both countries shared the prospect of an external threat and this fact demanded the bolstering of their deterrent capabilities. The Greek defence minister reiterated that Cyprus' accession to the Eur opean Union was the only way that Turkey could upgrade its relations with the European Union.

Mr. Haroutounyan said that the meeting had ascertained an integrated approach to the issues raised.

The Armenian official arrived in Athens on Saturday for a three-day official visit beginning yesterday.

Turkey must now show whether it can meet EU candidate criteria

The government said yesterday that the "ball was now in Turkey's court" to prove whether it could meet EU candidate-member standards.

"It depends on Turkey itself whether this becomes a reality," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

"The decision will be taken at the Helsinki summit."

European Union leaders warned Turkey on Saturday it should not take for granted that it will be made a candidate for membership at a year-end EU summit in Helsinki.

The leaders said all 15 EU countries wanted to give Turkey its coveted candidacy in December, but that it would have to address concerns over Cyprus and human rights first.

Mr. Reppas said the government has done what it had to ensure the country's interests and denied charges that sovereign rights had been ceded.

In Brussels, the European Union's Commissioner for enlargement also noted that Turkey would do well to improve relations with Greece before EU leaders decided in December whether to make it an EU candidate.

"In the run-up to Helsinki every positive signal that the Turkish government can give to lead to further improvements of Turkish-Greek relations really will be helpful and welcome," Commissioner Guenter Verheugen was quoted by a spokesman as telling a group of reporters from EU applicant countries.

Papandreou-Cook meeting in London

Greece backs Turkey's European vocation but its vote of approval at the Helsinki summit in December should not be taken for granted, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said after meeting with his British counterpart Robin Cook yesterday.

He reiterated that Turkey's candidacy has to be substantive and not bogus, as well as falling within a framework of conditions that hold for all the EU candidate countries. He also stressed that the progress of Cyprus' accession to the EU should be secu red so that the island republic would not be "punished" because of Turkey's intransigence.

Mr. Cook said that for Britain "the resolution of the political problem of Cyrpus is not a pre-condition for the island's accession to the European Union".

He also reiterated that every candidate country will be jugded based on its performance in harmonising with the acquis communautaire.

Unique El Greco exhibition inaugurated at Athens' National Gallery

President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, in the presence of Queen Sophia of Spain, inaugurated in Athens last night the most extensive exhibition of works ever collected under one roof by Cretan-born painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known as 'El Greco'.

The exhibition, featuring more than 70 paintings by the Toledo master, will run at the National Gallery through Jan. 17.

Prime Minister Costas Simitis as well as several ministers and other dignitaries were present at the National Gallery in central Athens for the event.

The exhibition, entitled "El Greco P Identity and Metamorphosis", has been touted as the most important ever organised for the painter. Madrid and Rome were the venues for the unique exhibition's first showings.

One painting on display in Athens, belonging to New York's Metropolitan Art Museum and entitled "The Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse", was not included in either the Madrid and Rome exhibitions.

Stocks nosedive on Wall Street woes

Equity prices plunged yesterday hit by worries over developments on Wall Street and their likely impact on international markets, including the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 6.21 percent lower at 5,429.25 points, off the day's low of 5,356 points.

Turnover was 780 billion drachmas reflecting two large block trades by National Bank and Panafon.

Analysts said that the market's reaction to developments on the other side of the Atlantic was excessive and noted that other European markets (Cont. page 6) (Continued from page 5) had reacted calmly.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-5.26 pct), Leasing (-8.00 pct), Insurance (-8.00 pct), Investment (-7.84 pct), Construction (7.83 pct), Industrials (-6.66 pct), Miscellaneous (-7.96 pct) and Holding (-5.39 pct). The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks fell 7.85 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks fell 5.50 percent to 2,754.57 points.

Broadly, decliners led advancers by 298 to 18.

A total of 240 shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit down with another six ending at the day's limit up.

Computer Logic saw its share price soar 65.3 percent on the first day of trading in the market.

Greece, Turkey debate tourism cooperation

Greek and Turkish businesses said during the two countries' first tourism forum that they wished for a climate of friendship and cooperation.

Held by the Turkish and Greek foreign ministries in Bodrum, Turkey over the weekend, the forum was attended by public and private sector agencies.

The agenda included marine tourism, cooperation between hotels and travel agencies, joint efforts to attract foreign visitors, a simplification of travel procedures between the two countries, joint educational programmes, upgrading religious tourism and encouraging youth travel.

Final proposals will be discussed at a fresh round of talks by foreign ministry officials in Ankara on October 21-22.

Greece was represented by Ambassador Alexandros Miliaressis, the head of bilateral relations at the foreign ministry, Greek Ambassador to Turkey Ioannis Korandis, and representatives of Greek tourism.

Deputy Tourism Minister Nevzat Saygilioglu and foreign ministry director Ambassador Seving Dalyanoglu headed the Turkish delegation.

Budget spending within target

Budgetary spending in January-September was within the government's target of a 4.5 percent annual rate of growth, the finance ministry said in a statement yesterday.

In January to September, spending rose by 4.4 percent against 8.9 percent in the same period of 1998, the statement said.

Deutsche Bank, Eurobank meet to debate alliances

More than 50 senior executives from Deutsche Bank and EFG Eurobank held a three-day meeting in Crete to discuss joint business initiatives for both the Greek and European markets, Eurobank said in a statement yesterday.

The two strategic partners decided to embark on new initiatives in a wide spectrum of fields including investment banking, asset management, insurance, shipping finance and project finance, the statement said.

The initiatives will come through by the end of 1999 and in 2000, it said.

Strategic cooperation between the two banks began in December 1998 when Deutsche Bank acquired a 10 percent stake in Eurobank.

ANEK, Rethymniaki to merge

Shareholders of Rethymniaki, a Cretan passenger shipper, yesterday approved a board decision for a merger with the ANEK Lines Group, also of Crete.

Rethymniaki will be renamed ANEK-Creta Ferries and will operate the Rethymno-Piraeus line with its two ferries, the Arcadi and Preveli. Its turnover totalled 3.9 billion drachmas last year.

The merger deal envisages a one-to-one stock swap and the absorption of ANEK-Creta.

In a statement, ANEK Lines welcomed the decision, which it said would expand the company's strategic horizon and strengthen the development of both shippers.

OA switches to Charles de Gaulle Airport

Greece's national carrier Olympic Airways yesterday announced that from October 31 it would transfer all its flights to Paris from Orly airport to the Charles de Gaulle 1 airport.

Siemens gets EU award

Siemens SA yesterday received an award from the European Commission for its record on health and safety at work.

Among the speakers at the ceremony was Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos who underlined the importance of total quality in business, which was essential to the health and safety of employees.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather and scattered showers will prevail throughout Greece on Tuesday. Winds will be southerly, moderate to strong. Scattered showers in Athens and Thessaloniki, with temperatures of 24 and 18 C respectively.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          300.755
Pound sterling       502.150
Japanese yen (100)   286.192
French franc          49.790
German mark          166.991
Italian lira (100)    16.868
Irish Punt           414.705
Belgian franc          8.096
Finnish mark          54.931
Dutch guilder        148.208
Danish kr.            43.946
Austrian sch.         23.736
Spanish peseta         1.963
Swedish kr.           36.835
Norwegian kr.         39.093
Swiss franc          205.691
Port. Escudo           1.629
Can. dollar          202.447
Aus. dollar          193.331
Cyprus pound         563.476
Euro                 326.606
(L.G.)
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