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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-11-25

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, 25/11/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece seen qualifying for euro entry
  • Fuel prices rise again
  • Ministry slaps hefty fines on oil traders
  • Greek stocks hit by inflation worries
  • Bonds rally on ratings upgrade
  • Tax evasion rises in October
  • Merchant marine minister raps shipowners
  • ANEK Lines buys two more ferries
  • Interamerican, Athens Medical in alliance
  • Accusations fly at Parliament debate over transparency
  • Demand over adherence of accession criteria for Cyprus reiterated
  • Athens conference focuses on protection, respect of human rights
  • World record in weightlifting by Bulgaria's Boevski
  • Figures show more film aficionados in Thessaloniki
  • Five nations sign initial air traffic agreement in Athens
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece seen qualifying for euro entry

A report released yesterday by the European Union's executive Commission indicated that Greece has all but met the criteria for entry into the 11- member euro zone with the inflation target - the final stumbling bloc - within reach.

The report on the EU economy, the Commission noted that average annual harmonised inflation in Greece this year would be 2.1 percent.

Under the Maastricht criterion, the country has to attain an inflation rate of no more than 1.5 percentage points above the average harmonised inflation rate of the three best performers, which is expected to be 0.6 percent in 1999.

EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes said that he was not worried by the impact of a global rise in oil prices on Greek inflation, with other countries expected to suffer more.

The report forecast a Greek growth rate of 3.4 percent in 1999, 3.8 percent in 2000 and 3.9 percent in 2001.

Average annual harmonised inflation would fall to 1.9 percent in 2000 and remain there in 2001 from 2.1 percent in 1999.

Unemployment would stand at 9.4 percent in 1999, 9.0 percent in 2000 and 8.6 percent in 2001.

The country's fiscal deficit would be 1.9 percent in 1999, dropping to 1.6 percent in 2000 and 1.2 percent in 2001.

Finally, the public debt would total 104.5 percent of gross domestic product this year, 103 percent in 2000 and 100.3 percent in 2001, the Commission's report said.

Fuel prices rise again

The price of fuel is to rose in the domestic market today in line with a global increase in oil prices, the development ministry and Hellenic Petroleum said in a statement yesterday.

Under indicative rates reviewed weekly, super gasoline rose by three drachmas a litre to around 229.9 drachmas a litre, and heating oil will rise by 4.4 drachmas a litre for amounts over 1,000 litres.

The price rises took effect at midnight and will remain in place for a week.

Ministry slaps hefty fines on oil traders

The development ministry announced yesterday that it had slapped fines totalling 25 million drachmas on six oil trading firms for failing to inform the authorities of their sale prices.

The firms were KMoil, ETEKA, Mediterranean, Tot Hellas Silkoil and Sunoil.

Another three companies received warnings along with all liquid gas trading companies, the ministry said.

The firms are expected to inform the ministry regularly of their prices under a ruling introduced earlier this year.

Greek stocks hit by inflation worries

Equity prices ended sharply lower yesterday pushing the general index below the 5,400 level on worries over the impact of rising oil prices on the inflation rate.

Traders said talk that the Capital Markets Committee had begun surprise inspections of brokerage firms also undermined sentiment.

The general index ended 2.72 percent down at 5,381.76 points, off the day's lows of 5,310 points. Turnover was 316 billion drachmas.

A total of 52 shares ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit down, while another seven at the day's limit up. Eskimo and General Warehouses were the most heavily traded stocks.

National Bank of Greece ended at 2,550 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 23, 790, Commercial Bank at 21,980, Titan Cement (common) at 36,200, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,550, Intracom at 13,395, Minoan Lines at 9,130, Panafon at 4, 160 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,200.

Bonds rally on ratings upgrade

Bonds in the domestic secondary market rebounded yesterday on news that Standard & Poor's, the international ratings agency, had given Greece a credit upgrade.

The news, which broke around 1400 hours, halted a sell-off that totalled around 20 billion drachmas in turnover.

The downspin was followed by about 33 billion drachmas' worth of buy orders.

The market ended with most securites showing gains of 30 to 40 basis points, recouping the bulk of losses from two sessions ago when bonds shed around 50 basis points on inflation jitters.

Tax evasion rises in October

More than half of self-employed taxpayers, such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and artists, inspected by the financial crimes squad in October were found to have breached tax legislation, the finance ministry said yesterday.

In the same month, one out of three companies inspected is accused of tax evasion, the ministry said in a report.

In October, a total of 1,150 breaches of law were reported out of a total of 2,081 inspections made on the self-employed, or 53.30 percent, while 1, 934 companies were accused of tax evasion out of a total of 5,821 inspections, or 33.22 percent.

Merchant marine minister raps shipowners

Merchant marine minister Stavros Soumakis yesterday called on Greek shipowners to take a clear position on whether or not they wanted a quality Greek flag and Greek seamen.

Mr. Soumakis said the shipowners must take a specific position on the competitivenss of the Greek fleet. "The (Greek) shipowners do not want Greek seamen on their ocean-going ships, but won't come out and clearly say so," he said during his weekly pr ess briefing.

The minister said withdrawals from the Greek shipping registry this year were minimal, noting that the Greek registry had ceased to be a "target- flag".

Mr. Soumakis said certain domestic shipowners who did not want Greek seamen in their crews "must realise that quality and cheap labour are not compatible".

ANEK Lines buys two more ferries

ANEK Lines, a Greek passenger shipping company, yesterday announced the purchase of two new ferries from the Japanese market for an undisclosed sum.

"With the purchase of the two ferries we are accelerating the renewal plan of our fleet which is becoming established as a dominant force in the European ferry shipping industry," S. Zampetakis, ANEK's chief executive said.

The first ferry is seven years old and travels at a maximum speed of 25 knots. It is expected to be put into operation next June.

The second ship is three years old, and travels at 27.5 knots. It is expected to be fully operational by 2001.

ANEK Lines has ordered the construction of two high-speed ferries in Norway worth 63 billion drachmas. Each ferry will be able to carry 2,000 passengers and 800 vehicles or 140 lorries at a speed of 28 knots.

Interamerican, Athens Medical in alliance

Interamerican and Athens Medical yesterday announced a wide-ranging business alliance to create, in the first phase, Eurosite, a multi-medical site in Paeania, east Attica.

The new company will have an initial capital of 10 billion drachmas equally distributed between the two partners.

The deal also envisages a share-swap scheme with the participation of Athens Medical in the equity capital of Euroclinic and Interamerican Assistance with a 20 percent stake in each.

Interamerican will buy an 80 percent controlling stake in La Vie, the insurance company in the Apostolopoulos Group.

George Apostolopoulos and Dimitris Kontominas, the chairmen of Athens Medical and Interamerican respectively, told a joint press conference that the Eurosite project would cost 50 billion drachmas.

The project will begin next March and is expected be completed by the end of 2002.

The multi-medical site will include a general hospital with 350 beds, a maternity clinic with 150 beds, and a paediatric clinic with 100 beds. It also includes a conference centre.

Accusations fly at Parliament debate over transparency

Prime Minister Costas Simitis sternly criticised the main opposition New Democracy party during an off-the-agenda debate in Parliament yesterday, which was called by ND over the topic of "transparency in public life."

Mr. Simitis said it was unacceptable for a party to try to turn its own deadlocks into "deadlocks for the country", adding that PASOK's government has nothing to do with intertwined interests because "we define our course on the basis of our positions a nd the strength of the people."

In his address, which included information on the ruling party's intentions in coming months, Mr. Simitis lashed out at what he called ND's scandal- mongering by referring to measures taken by the government in the transparency sector, on the one hand, and with tough criticism of the Mitsotakis government's reputation (1990-1993), as well as of the 1989 coalition government, on the other.

One of the most important announcements was that of a measure aimed at control by an independent body of the economic activities of political figures at the Athens Stock Exchange. It comes a few days after a proposal was made by ND deputies who requeste d a ban on transactions by ministers.

Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis accused the government of phenomena of "decomposition and corruption," adding that while PASOK had been in power for 20 years, Mr. Simitis was now declaring that he was studying an d adopting measures, under pressure from the main opposition.

Referring to public projects, he said the Athens metro should have been ready in 1997, the Egnatia motorway across northern Greece will be ready in 2004 instead of 2000, and most other projects are also facing delays as money is being wasted.

He also raised the issues of establishing an independent authority for public projects and legislation on the exclusion of media owners, saying that "presidential decrees have not been issued and projects are being assigned to those who should have been excluded".

Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga said scandals existed, exist and shall exist for as long as the policy of serving big capital dominates, and as for as long as political power serves specific class interests .

Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos said his party favoured the monitoring of political figures' stock exchange transactions as well as the exclusion of media owners from major public works.

Finally, Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Dimitris Tsovolas called for the immediate establishment of an inter-party committee for major projects and public procurements.

Demand over adherence of accession criteria for Cyprus reiterated

Athens said yesterday that it wanted Cyprus' inclusion into the European Union be judged on the basis of accession criteria and not its political problem.

"The issue of a resolution of the Cyprus issue is not an issue of coercion, " government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said. "It is a duty for all of us, an issue of respect for the resolutions of the United Nations and Greece is determined to use all the means at its disposal to defend the rights of Cyprus." Mr. Reppas said it was "non-sensical" for a country being considered for inclusion in the European Union to be "held hostage" by Turkey, a country which is not even a member of the European Union.

Athens conference focuses on protection, respect of human rights

Foreign Minister George Papandreou yesterday said that the protection of and respect for existing borders and the human rights of residents within these borders had to have the same weight as the need to protect minority rights.

He pointed to the abuse of human rights on Cyprus, saying that diplomacy had dealt with the Cyprus issue with a double standard. Speakers at the seminar underlined that the efforts of governments to secure human rights around the world at times con cealed other interests.

The two-day conference, entitled 'Human Rights in the Third Millennium', is being held at the foreign ministry's auditorium and is organised by the Andreas Lentakis Foundation for Culture and Education.

Speaking at the conference, Danielle Mitterrand said that states are creating their own mechanisms purportedly for the protection of human rights, which are then systematically ignored, she said.

She cited Turkey as an example, saying it bought weapons which it then used against its own population.

The president of the Greek branch of Amnesty International, Dimitris Papaioannou, condemned what he called the "hypocrisy of governments and the mass media" in relation to human rights.

"This hypocrisy is evident if anyone looks at how issues such as Kosovo and Chechnya are being dealt with," he said.

National and religious minorities will be discussed during Thursday's session of the conference. Guest speaker will be the president of Turkey's Human Rights Association, Akin Birdal.

World record in weightlifting by Bulgaria's Boevski

Bulgaria's Galabin Boevski twice broke the world record for the snatch in the men's 69kg category at the world weightlifting championships yesterday in Athens.

The athlete lifted 160.5 in the second attempt and 162.5 kg in the third. The previous record belonged to his compatriot Plamen Zeliatskov, from 1998 in Finland.

Greece's Giorgos Tzelilis and Valerios Leonidis won the silver and bronze medals, respectively, by lifting 155 kg and 152.5 kg.

Figures show more film aficionados in Thessaloniki

More residents of Thessaloniki appear to be movie buffs compared to the rest of the country and Europe in general, according to figures released by the Thessaloniki Film Festival.

Thessaloniki residents take in an average of 2.4 films a year, compared to just one a year for residents in other Greek regions and an average of two per year for European urban residents.

The Festival announced yesterday that a record 68,000 tickets were sold for the state-sponsored event this year, its 40th.

The most popular screenings of the some 150 movies at the festival were the films of noted Spanish director Pedro Almodovar.

Five nations sign initial air traffic agreement in Athens

Civil aviation representatives from Albania, Cyprus, Malta, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and Greece signed an initial agreement in Athens yesterday concerning the exchange of radar data aimed at the harmonisation of air traffic systems in Europe.

The initial agreement comes under the aegis of Eurocontrol and constitutes a prelude to the signing of bilateral agreements between the countries in the region.

WEATHER

Fine weather with a further drop in temperatuires is forecast in most parts of Greece today with local cloud in the north. Winds north, northwesterly, medium to strong, and very strong in Aegean and Ionian seas. Sunny, but cold in Athens with temperatures between 9-14C. Partly cloudy in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-9C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Thursday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          318.571
Pound sterling       515.046
Japanese yen (100)   304.673
French franc          49.709
German mark          166.717
Italian lira (100)    16.840
Irish Punt           414.024
Belgian franc          8.830
Finnish mark          54.841
Dutch guilder        147.965
Danish kr.            43.842
Austrian sch.         23.697
Spanish peseta         1.960
Swedish kr.           37.904
Norwegian kr.         39.886
Swiss franc          203.821
Port. Escudo           1.627
Can. dollar          216.732
Aus. dollar          201.227
Cyprus pound         565.440
Euro                 326.070
(C.E.)


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