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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-10-20

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, 20/10/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis cites brisk upgrade in Greek-Romanian ties
  • Premier calls for 'sincere moves' in letter to Izmir businessmanC
  • Karamanlis mounts criticism over `videolotto`, other issues
  • Latvia supports Athens' positions on Cyprus, EU issues
  • Gov't welcomes Cook statements regarding Cyprus
  • Vartholomeos received by Austria's Klestil
  • House of Commons interest in Parthenon Marbles' care
  • 'Olympic truce' song to be unveiled in Mexico
  • EU-wide infertility treatment discussed at Rhodes conference
  • Greece tops infamous `black economy` list in EU
  • National Bank of Greece seeks global expansion
  • Stocks fall in jittery trade
  • Capital markets commission OKs share cap rise
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis cites brisk upgrade in Greek-Romanian ties

Prime Minister Costas Simitis held talks yesterday with his visiting Romanian counterpart Radu Vasile on the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, developments in the Balkans and Romania's prospects for EU membership.

After two hours of talks, with the participation of delegations of the two countries' foreign ministries, Mr. Simitis told a joint press conference that Greece's relations with Bucharest had been on an upward course in recent years.

He cited the fact that 1,680 Greek enterprises are currently active in Romania, while Greece is the sixth largest investor in the Balkan country.

It was agreed during yesterday's talks between the two prime ministers that Athens will provide know-how to the Romanian government to assist its bid for EU membership.

Mr. Simitis said also reiterated Athens' support for the construction of a second bridge over the Danube and the resumption of navigation on the river at normal levels.

Mr. Vasile, who arrived in Greece yesterday, expressed satisfaction at the progress in bilateral relations and made particular mention of the investment opportunities available in Romania.

Premier calls for 'sincere moves' in letter to Izmir businessmanC

Greece expects Turkey to reciprocate its sincere moves for an improvement in bilateral relations, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said in an Oct. 12 reply letter to a Turkish business leader and released yesterday.

"Greece shows sincere and particular willingness to improve relations with Turkey, expressing specifically support for your country's European vocation. It is only natural for us to expect the government of Turkey to respond positively with specific acts to our moves," he told Ekrem Demirtas, the president of the Izmir Chamber of Commerce.

In his letter, dated Sept. 23, Mr. Demirtas said "we want to be friends with Greece and the Greek islands," and "we wish to improve trade relations with your country".

Karamanlis mounts criticism over `videolotto`, other issues

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis again lashed out against at the government yesterday, saying it was responsible for "phenomena of corruption, intransparency and shady deals with vested interests."

In an address to ND's Parliamentary group, and referring to the issue of the controversial "Olympic videolotto", a lottery planned in view of the Athens Olympic Games of 2004, he said he was resolved not to allow Greece to become a country full of gambling.

Mr. Karamanlis said ND would mobilise citizens and seek cooperation with other opposition parties, even with "honest voices in the government camp" and without compromising in the next election. He further criticised the government over its foreign policy, accusing it of "tragi-comic moves, personal experimentations and unilateral concessions" which feed Ankara's intransigence, making Greece appear as the 'weak player'.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas, reponding to Mr. Karamanlis, called ND a "worn-out" party and a "rear guard" political force.

Referring to ND's "unrelenting struggle", Mr. Reppas said it was a "joke, not a struggle", adding that these efforts express a fear over the ND leader's political survival.

Latvia supports Athens' positions on Cyprus, EU issues

Latvia fully accepted Athens' positions on Cyprus and issues concerning any possible Turkish candidacy to the European Union, Alternate Foreign Minister Christos Rokofyllos said here yesterday.

Following meetings with Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzins as well as Monday's talks with Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, he said both were "100 per cent in agreement with our opinions".

Discussions between Mr. Rokofyllos and Mr. Berzins focused on bilateral relations and EU enlargement.

Mr. Berzins, said that the main aim of Latvia's foreign policy is the Baltic country's accession to the EU and NATO, where, as he noted, "we could have more security and prosperity.

While in Riga, Mr. Rokofyllos also met with Latvian President Vaira Vike- Freibergas and the country's Parliament President Janis Straume.

Gov't welcomes Cook statements regarding Cyprus

Greece yesterday welcomed statements by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that the division of Cyprus should be no obstacle to its EU membership.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said this stance was the standing position of the European Union and that nothing could stop Cyprus' march towards membership in the EU.

Mr. Cook, speaking after talks with Foreign Minister George Papandreou in London on Monday, said that "for Britain the resolution of the political problem of Cyprus is not a pre-condition for the island's accession to the European Union".

Vartholomeos received by Austria's Klestil

Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos was received yesterday by Austrian President Thomas Klestil, extending an invitation for him to visit the Patriarchate.

Mr. Klestil will be in Istanbul next month for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting.

Following the meeting, Vartholomeos expressed the Patriarchate's satisfaction over the "obvious and spectacular" improvement of Greek-Turkish relations in the past few months.

House of Commons interest in Parthenon Marbles' care

For the first time over the past two centuries Britain's House of Commons could revise the legality of the British Museum in declaring itself the location for the Parthenon Marbles' safekeeping, according to a report in the London 'Guardian' daily yesterday.

According to the report, the British Museum was the subject of a public outcry recently over the fact that for 50 years its officials had concealed the fact that the Parthenon Marbles, taken by Lord Elgin during the Ottoman rule of Greece on display at the museum since 1816, had been destroyed during scrubbing in the late 1930s, as stressed by a special Parliament committee summoned to probe the issue.

The museum's maintenance services have to defend their reputation now to the degree that they are obliged to provide great care to archaeological treasures they have in their safekeeping, the presse report read.

'Olympic truce' song to be unveiled in Mexico

After years of tuning up the rest of their bodies, Greece's Olympic champions have decided to flex their vocal chords, recording a song to highlight the campaign for a truce during the Olympic Games.

The "Song of the Olympic Truce" is composed by former culture minister Thanos Mikroutsikos, with lyrics by Lina Nikolakopoulou.

Proceeds from the sale of the CD will be given to refugees and children affected by war. The record will be distributed by Minos EMI which has donated all the proceeds, and will premiere in Mexico in November.

EU-wide infertility treatment discussed at Rhodes conference

European infertility experts meeting in Rhodes this week have called on the European Union to take a unified stand on treatment for infertility, which now affects some 15 per cent of the European population.

Participants at the Rhodes meeting focused on two issues: the fact that infertility treatment is generally not covered by state-run health care funds in Europe, and the differing codes of conduct governing treatment.

Infertility treatment - specifically in-vitro fertilisation - is largely uncovered by state funds. Under Greek health care legislation, infertility treatment comes under the same category as cosmetic surgery and is covered as such.

Minas Mastrominas, a surgeon gynaecologist specialising in infertility, said that the Social Security Foundation (IKA) will reimburse about 150,000 drachmas of an expected infertility treatment which costs 800,000 drachmas.

IKA requires a couple requiring reimbursement for infertility treatment to have been married for at least four years and to have undergone various tests.

"Infertility in Greece affects about 14 per cent of the population," he said. In Greece, more than 10,000 children have been born through the in- vitro method.

Greece tops infamous `black economy` list in EU

Greece continues to top the 'black economy' list in the European Union.

The ascertainment was confirmed by a study conducted by a Belgian bank (KBC) published in the Belgian economic newspaper 'Echo' on Monday. The report purports that the only way of confronting "black market labour", which is linked to the black economy, is to decrease tax burdens for labour costs.

According to the list presented in the study, Greece comes first with 29-35 per cent of GDP and with 36 per cent for labour cost (direct taxes and social contributions). Greece is followed by Italy with 20-26 per cent and 52 per cent, Belgium with 12-21 per cent and 59 per cent and Spain with 10- 23 per cent and 38 per cent.

The high cost of labour in the official market is considered the main cause of black labour.

National Bank of Greece seeks global expansion

National Bank of Greece governor Theodoros Karatzas said that an overhaul of the Greek economy in recent years had helped its companies to take advantage of global and regional benefits.

Mr. Karatzas was addressing a dinner at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday to mark the bank's trading debut on the market. "We are not here because we decided to cross the Atlantic just to enter a foreign market," he said.

Mr. Karatzas said the country could now begin enjoying the fruits of macro- economic stability and the progress it had made towards joining the euro zone.

Greek companies had opened their horizons, realising that the domestic market was no longer enough and that long-term growth strategies were needed.

They were seeking to enter foreign markets and develop a leading presence in southeast Europe and the Mediterranean.

"National Bank of Greece has been on the front line of these changes and radical reforms in the domestic market," Mr. Karatzas said.

Stocks fall in jittery trade

Equity prices ended moderately lower yesterday in a volatile session on the Athens Stock Exchange.

Traders said worries over developments on Wall Street led to extreme price swings during the session and kept many investors on the sidelines.

The general index ended 0.68 percent lower at 5,392.32 points, off the day's low of 5.264. It started the day 2.28 percent up at 5,553 points on bargain hunting only to succumb later to profit taking.

Sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-1.00 pct), Leasing (-0.34 pct), Insurance (-3.30 pct), Investment (+0.80 pct), Construction (-1.86 pct), Industrials (+0.27 pct), Miscellaneous (-0.72 pct) and Holding (-0.53 pct). The parallel market index fo r smaller capitalisation stocks fell 1.02 percent while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks eased 0.63 percent to 2,737.31 points.

National Bank of Greece ended at 21,750 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 22, 100, Commercial Bank at 23,900, Titan Cement (common) at 34,550, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,940, Intracom (common) at 15,600, Minoan Lines at 9,200, Panafon at 8,000 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,790.

Capital markets commission OKs share cap rises

The capital markets commission yesterday approved a share capital increase through a public offering for listed Viohalco SA, and a share capital rise via a public offering for Unisystems SA to enter the Athens Stock Exchange's main market.

The commission's board also approved stock market representatives for Metohiki Securities, Eurotrust Securities and Capital Securities.

WEATHER

Cloudy weather and scattered showers will prevail throughout Greece today. Winds variable, light to moderate. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures between 20-26C. Rain in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 16-20C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          302.104
Pound sterling       504.531
Japanese yen (100)   286.252
French franc          49.792
German mark          166.996
Italian lira (100)    16.868
Irish Punt           414.717
Belgian franc          8.097
Finnish mark          54.933
Dutch guilder        148.212
Danish kr.            43.956
Austrian sch.         23.737
Spanish peseta         1.963
Swedish kr.           37.014
Norwegian kr.         39.039
Swiss franc          205.542
Port. Escudo           1.629
Can. dollar          201.872
Aus. dollar          195.097
Cyprus pound         564.686
Euro                 326.616
(C.E.)
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