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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-11-26

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, 26/11/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Decision on Turkey's EU prospects must promote Cyprus' accession
  • Electricity rates down to contain inflation
  • Interest rates seen falling sharply by end-2000
  • Simitis sees economic progress continuing
  • Stocks finish up in jittery trade
  • Bonds rangebound in dull trade
  • EFG Eurobank reports 600 pct profit jump
  • Greece meets Schengen Criteria
  • Karamanlis outlines ND positions on upcoming Helsinki summit
  • Simitis confident on Greek strategy at Helsinki
  • Athens voices opposition to Ocalan execution
  • SAE int'l assembly in Thessaloniki early next month
  • Italian minister on conditions for Turkey's EU course
  • Information bureau for foreign residents
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Decision on Turkey's EU prospects must promote Cyprus' accession

Foreign Minister George Papandreou stressed in Nicosia yesterday that whatever stance the Greek government decides to take early next month at the EU summit in Helsinki regarding Turkey's possible EU candidacy, it should certainly back efforts for a settlement of the Cyprus problem as well as bring the island republic closer to EU accession.

Mr. Papandreou in Cyprus for a two-day visit involving talks with the government and opposition party leaders over the latest developments ahead of the Dec. 10-11 Helsinki summit.

Following a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides in Nicosia, Mr. Papandreou said that rapprochement between Greece and Turkey cannot be achieved unless the Cyprus problem is solved, but noted that this does not mean that the two countries must not attempt to improve their relations.

Mr. Papandreou said previous EU decisions that its relations with Turkey are affected by the Cyprus problem still stand, while he added that Athens will decide on Turkey's candidacy at the Helsinki summit after it first sees the final terms.

"I cannot call you compatriots," Mr. Papandreou told the Turkish Cypriot reporters, "but I can wish that you are soon members of the EU with your compatriots, the Greek Cypriots."

Referring to Turkey's bid to become a candidate state following the Helsinki summit, Mr. Papandreou said "we will decide in Helsinki when we see these final terms of this candidacy."

He added that Turkey's desire to become part of Europe "should be shown in practice", noting that this "certainly will be assessed in Helsinki depending on how it is expressed."

On the same issue, Mr. Kasoulides said Greece and Cyprus "will weigh what is to our advantage", while Athens will take its decision "accordingly".

Asked what reciprocal measures Athens expects from Ankara, he said "we want to see willingness on the part of Turkey.

Mr. Papandreou also said the Cyprus issue "is not a Greek-Turkish problem; it is an international problem.

"Cyprus' EU accession course is the first and maybe only new element we have had in the last 25 years that is beginning to break this deadlock in the Cyprus problem," the Greek minister stressed.

Electricity rates down to contain inflation

The government said yesterday it would halve a tax on diesel used to produce electricity and lower household electricity charges by 7.5 percent in order to ease inflationary pressures from rising world oil prices. Under an amendment submitted to parliament by National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos, the tax on diesel to produce electricity will be cut to 41,000 drachmas from 83,000 drachmas per thousand litres, effective on December 1.

The reduction aims at containing electricity rates paid by consumers to forestall inflationary pressures ahead of the country's planned entry into the euro zone on January 1, 2001.

The government is to apply to the European Union for entry in March 2000 and a decision is expected in June of the same year.

The amendment was contained in a government bill to deregulate the electricity market.

The 7.5 percent cut in consumer electricity bills goes into effect on December 1. Mr. Papantoniou did not name the duration of the measures.

The minister attributed rising oil prices to both political and economic reasons; the first linked to Iraq's decision to suspend oil exports and the second to OPEC's efforts to boost oil revenues.

Interest rates seen falling sharply by end-2000

Real interest rates will fall to 6-7 percent by the end of 2000 from 12-13 percent at present, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters after announcing key anti-inflation measures with Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Mr. Papantoniou said that interest rates would fall rapidly next year, benefitting small- and medium- sized enterprises highly dependant on bank borrowing.

He also announced that changes to penalty interest rates would be made following consultations with the Hellenic Banks Association.

Simitis sees economic progress continuing

Prime Minister Costas Simitis believes that the economy is moving on the right track and forecast that it will maintain its progress in the future, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday.

Mr. Reppas said the prime minister told a cabinet meeting that a rise in international oil prices could not have been predicted and that no-one could know the outcome.

Mr. Simitis stressed, however, that the economy should be able to deal with increased inflationary pressures resulting from higher oil prices if the government adhered to its policies.

Stocks finish up in jittery trade

The market remained nervous yesterday largely ignoring a positive report by the European Commission on the Greek economy and a decision by Standard & Poor's - the US credit ratings agency - to upgrade the country's rating.

The general index ended 0.68 percent higher at 5,418.60 points after hitting an intra-day high of 5,460 points and an intra-day low of 5,267 points. Turnover was a moderate 257.7 billion drachmas.

Broadly, advancers led decliners by 162 to 147 with another 20 issues unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 20,900 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 24, 060, Commercial Bank at 21,900, Titan Cement (common) at 36,950, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,565, Intracom at 13,000, Minoan Lines at 9,130, Panafon at 3, 815 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,380.

Bonds rangebound in dull trade

Bonds in the domestic secondary market showed little movement in lacklustre trade yesterday with institutional investors abroad still keeping out of the market.

Trade had perked up in the previous session on news that Standard & Poor's, the international ratings agency, had upgraded Greece. The news halted a sell-off, allowing securities to gain around 30 to 40 basis points in active trade by domestic players.

Yesterday, the benchmark 10-year bond was trading above 99.05, showing a yield of 6.57 percent, the same as in the previous session, from 6.61 percent on Tuesday.

Electronic turnover in the secondary bond market was 26 billion drachmas from 53 billion drachmas in the previous session and 56 billion drachmas on Tuesday. Sell orders accounted for 16 billion drachmas of yesterday's turnover.

EFG Eurobank reports 600 pct profit jump

EFG Eurobank, a listed member of the Latsis Group, said yesterday that its consolidated net pre-tax profits in January-September rose to 88.3 billion drachmas, up 600 percent on the same period of last year.

The bank said in a statement that the parent company's pre-tax profit rose to 85.2 billion drachmas in the same period of this year. Assets rose to 2.6 trillion drachmas, up 91 percent on January-September 1998.

Greece meets Schengen Criteria

Greece meets all necessary Schengen Pact criteria for its full integration into this European Union system, which allows for the unrestricted travel of EU citizens to all signatory member-states.

According to a decision of a Schengen joint committee of permanent representatives arrived at yesterday, Greece will join the pact on Jan. 1, 2000, although several secondary airports in Greece's provinces will not be included in the initial phase but will be integrated by March 2000.

The decision will be officially approved during a meeting of the same committee at the ministerial level on Dec. 2-3 in Brussels.

"It is a new and important upgrading of our country within Europe. The unification of Greek territory with the rest of the Schengen territory will complete our country's inclusion into a democratic region of guaranteed security," Alternate Foreign Minister Christos Rokofyllos said.

Karamanlis outlines ND positions on upcoming Helsinki summit

Main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis noted yesterday that Greece should join Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in time and participate in whatever core is created in each case, such as Schengen or a defence structure.

Mr. Karamanlis was speaking at an event organised by the Constantine Karamanlis Foundation last night in the presence of President Kostis Stephanopoulos and former premiers Constantine Mitsotakis and George Rallis.

Mr. Karamanlis said Greece's target should not merely be a "nominal convergence'.

Referring to next month's EU Helsinki summit, Mr. Karamanlis said the possibility of Turkey being granted candidate status for EU accession means the upgrading of Euro-Turkish relations, while the real target is Turkey's de facto linkage to the Common Foreign Affairs and Defence Policy apparatuses, which will lead Ankara to full participation in defence and diplomatic issues in the EU.

Commenting on Cyprus' EU accession course, Mr. Karamanlis said that Cyprus joining the EU as soon as negotiations are over, with a specific timetable and regardless of a solution to the Cyprus issue or progress which will have been achieved, should be a top priority at the Helsinki summit. He underlined that the start to intercommunal dialogue cannot and should not be considered as something given in exchange.

Simitis confident on Greek strategy at Helsinki

Prime Minister Costas Simitis is confident that Greece's strategy ahead of the EU summit in Helsinki will bring the desired result, and bases this confidence on the result of his and Foreign Minister George Papandreou's talks with the leaders of other European Union nations.

Mr. Simitis told a Cabinet meeting yesterday that he and Mr. Papandreou had found "understanding" of Greek positions in talks ahead of the EU summit, which is expected to discuss Turkey's listing as a candidate country.

Discussions, he told the Cabinet, are still under way at both a governmental and party level on the stance Greece will take on this issue at Helsinki.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said the premier briefed the Cabinet over his meeting last week with Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who rejected a proposal by Mr. Simitis that both countries should draft an agreement to refer the dispute over the Aegean continental shelf to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, counter-proposing bilateral talks instead.

Athens voices opposition to Ocalan execution

Athens yesterday expressed a hope that a Turkish court decision upholding the death penalty against rebel Kurd leader Abdullah Ocalan "would not be carried out."

"The death penalty should not be implemented," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

"Greece always brings issues of human rights to the European Union and it has repeatedly brought the issue of the death penalty to the EU," he added.

In a related development, a Greek Europarliament deputy said any attempt to execute Mr. Ocalan would effectively "shut the door" on Turkey's European prospects.

The Ocalan case was also referred to by German SPD Eurodeputy Yiannis Sakellariou, who said the news of the death penalty sentence being upheld and of the sale of 1,000 German-made 'Leopard' tanks to Turkey "should be of particular concern to all of us" .

SAE int'l assembly in Thessaloniki early next month

A total of 1,100 ethnic Greeks from all five continents will attend the World Council of Hellenes' (SAE) 3rd international assembly in Thessaloniki between Dec. 5-8.

The event will be opened by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and will be attended, among others, by President Kostis Stephanopoulos, Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and several party leaders. Within the framework of SAE, the first world youth conference will be held on Dec. 1-2 and on Dec. 3-4 the forum of overseas Greek entrepreneurs, scientists, hellenists, artists and overseas Greek women.

Delegates will start arriving in Thessaloniki next week.

Italian minister on conditions for Turkey's EU course

Turkey's European prospects go hand-in-hand with conditions such as the respect for human rights and democratic processes, Italian Deputy Defence Minister Massimo Bruti told reporters in Athens yesterday.

Bruti was speaking after meeting with his Greek counterpart, Dimitris Apostolakis, on issues related to bilateral defence cooperation and European defence and security policies.

Referring to yesterday's decision by a Turkish court to uphold the death penalty passed down on Kurd rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, Mr. Bruti said that acts of humanity and tolerance were what distinguished democratic governments from others.

Mr. Apostolakis told reporters that the decision had a political dimension and said he believed there were margins to overcome this "sensitive and crucial phase of human rights in Turkey".

Both men said that they had agreed on the need for a distinctly European defence and security policy which would not affect the authority of the Euro-Atlantic alliance.

Information bureau for foreign residents

The foreign ministry has established an information bureau for foreign residents in Greece, aimed at providing information on issues related to the operation of the ministry.

The bureau will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will provide information, advise as well as take complaints.

The office is located at 3, Akademias St. - tel. 36.82.700. The website for the bureau is www.mfa.gr

WEATHER

Cloud and rain is forecast for central and eastern Greece and the Aegean today. Fine weather is forecast for the rest of the country. Winds north, northwesterly, medium to strong, and very strong in the Aegean and Ionian seas. Cloudy in Athens, with temperatures ranging from 7-14C. Sunny in Thessaloniki, with temperatures from 2-9C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          319.315
Pound sterling       516.534
Japanese yen (100)   306.032
French franc          49.694
German mark          166.667
Italian lira (100)    16.835
Irish Punt           413.898
Belgian franc          8.081
Finnish mark          54.825
Dutch guilder        147.919
Danish kr.            43.831
Austrian sch.         23.689
Spanish peseta         1.959
Swedish kr.           37.936
Norwegian kr.         39.968
Swiss franc          203.752
Port. Escudo           1.626
Can. dollar          217.982
Aus. dollar          202.492
Cyprus pound         566.075
Euro                 325.971
(C.E.)
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