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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-11-30

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, 30/11/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • EU lifts Greek excessive debt status
  • Crucial conference on Parthenon Marbles begins in London
  • Latest opinion polls unveiled by Athens dailies
  • Gov't wants general elections as scheduled in Sept.
  • Papandreou refers to `tough bargaining` ahead of Helsinki summit
  • Medical symposium focuses on Parkinson's Disease
  • Greek stocks rally led by blue chips
  • Minoan Flying Dolphins buys another ship
  • Kavala Oil to re-open Prinos oilfield
  • Delta becomes holding company
  • OTE shows small profit rise
  • Attica Enterprises claims lead on Greece-Italy route
  • More aid for quake-stricken heads for Turkey
  • Modern Athens birth certificate bought
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

EU lifts Greek excessive debt status

The European Union yesterday removed Greece from a list of countries carrying excessive debt status.

The decision in favour of Greece, which was placed on the list in 1994, was taken by the EU's economy and finance ministers at a meeting in Brussels.

National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who attended the ministers' meeting, said he welcomed the move.

"The first stage of Greece's entry into economic and monetary union has been successfully completed," Mr. Papantoniou told reporters.

"Since 1993, the Greek economy has achieved the greatest reduction in fiscal deficit among the EU's member states in recent years."

The minister added that the brunt of the drive to lower the deficit was borne by the Greek public.

The next landmark date in Greece's bid to become the 12th member of the euro zone was in March next year when the government would submit its entry application to the Commission, Mr. Papantoniou said.

Next, the Commission and the European Central Bank would produce reports on the Greek economy, which were likely to be ready at the end of May 2000.

Replying to a reporter's question, Mr. Papantoniou said that the application would not be made earlier as Greece may not meet the Maastricht inflation criterion in December due to rising oil prices, but it would meet the target in February.

EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes told reporters after the ministers' meeting that he welcomed the decision to free Greece of excessive debt status.

Crucial conference on Parthenon Marbles begins in London

The Greek government stressed yesterday that it was heading into a special conference in London today with solid arguments that the priceless 5th century sculptures known as the "Elgin Marbles" have been irrevocably damaged in the care of the British Museum and should be returned to Athens.

The 100-page report from the team of Greek culture ministry experts, which examined the condition of the works at the British Museum in late October this year, is "revealing", according to Culture Minister Elizabeth Papazoi, who held a news conference on the issue yesterday.

"We are in a position to analytically and scientifically judge the extent of the damage which was wrought by the cleaning in 1937-1938," Ms Papazoi said.

The Greek experts will present their findings at the seminar today, in combination with two reports on the section of the Marbles that remained in Greece, and escaped the cleaning methods used on the friezes housed in London.

The Greek report, which presents archival material and photographic evidence of the damage to the sculptures patina, says the artworks were subjected to cleaning with an emery cloth and sharp instruments.

The British report, compiled by the curator of Greek artwork at the British Museum, Ian Jenkins, admits that the cleaning methods of the '30s were concealed for decades. The damage to the Marbles - 5th century B.C. friezes taken from the Parthenon to England in the early 19th century and the focus of a bitter ownership dispute between Athens and London over the last 15 years - was revealed last year by a British historian William St. Clair.

Latest opinion polls unveiled by Athens dailies

Ruling PASOK party's popularity appears to be on the rise, according to opinion polls conducted in the greater Athens region this month, the results of which appeared in yesterday's newspapers.

According to a poll by "Opinion", appearing in the Athens daily "Eleftherotypia", 29.8 per cent of those polled said they intended to vote for PASOK in general elections, up marginally from 29.6 per cent in a similar poll conducted by the firm in Septem ber.

The resuts showed 24 per cent intending to vote for the main opposition New Democracy party, down from 25.9 per cent in September; 6.4 per cent for the Communist Party of Greece (slightly down from 6.7 per cent in September); 4 per cent for the Coalitio n of Left and Progress (up slightly from 3.8 per cent in September), and 4.8 per cent for the Democratic Social Movement - down slightly from 5.1 per cent in September.

The poll further showed PASOK the favoured party in the 18-59 year-old age bracket and ND in the above-60 age group.

Gov't wants general elections as scheduled in Sept.

The government said yesterday that elections should be held in September next year because it was "imperative" that the government serve out its four-year mandate.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters that ruling PASOK had made its position clear on when elections should be held but that opposition parties had, on the other hand, not been clear on whether they wanted early elections or not.

If a president of the republic is not elected when incumbent President Kostis Stephanopoulos' term comes up for renewal in March, Parliament is dissolved and general elections held.

The ruling party has said it supports a renewal of Mr. Stephanopoulos' term but the number of deputies it has in Parliament falls short of the number required to re-elect him. Other parties have yet to publicly say whether they will support a re-election of Mr. Stephanopoulos.

Papandreou refers to `tough bargaining` ahead of Helsinki summit

Foreign Minister George Papandreou again reiterated yesterday that Athens has not yet decided whether or not to endorse Turkey's European Union candidacy at next week's EU summit in Helsinki.

"We are ready for a 'no', just as we are ready for a 'yes'," to Turkey's EU candidacy he said, and warned that very "tough bargaining" still lies ahead.

Mr. Papandreou was speaking yesterday at a joint press conference after holding talks here with his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonen.

Regarding the state of human rights in Turkey (missing persons, torture, etc), the Finnish foreign minister said Turkey's proclamation as a candidate is nothing more than the start to the process, while she recognised that Turkey's possible EU path will be tougher than that of many other countries.

Ms Halonen tried to explain how Turkey's candidacy, on the one hand, and the state of human rights in Turkey, on the other, are compatible, claiming that how much progress a country should achieve before being proclaimed a candidate is an open issue. She added that the atmosphere created after the recent earthquakes, particularly in relations between Greece and Turkey, created hopes for a solution to issues between the two countries.

Mr. Papandreou underlined that it should be ruled out for any third country to be able to raise, even indirectly, a veto to the accession of Cyprus. He expressed support for the separation of a political solution to the Cyprus issue from Cyprus' accession, reminding of Germany's example, and added that EU accession will contribute to the protection of the Turkish Cypriots' rights.

Ms Halonen said Finland is facing issues related to Cyprus with an open mind, expressing the hope the Cyprus issue will have been resolved before accession.

Mr. Papandreou leaves for Russia today for talks with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov on bilateral Greek-Russian relations, the Cyprus issue and issues concerning the Caucasus region.

Medical symposium focuses on Parkinson's Disease

Scientists yesterday said recent significant progress in the research field had resulted in controlling some of the symptoms in Parkinson's Disease, as well as in improving patients' quality of life.

Participants at a medical symposium held in Halkidiki, northern Greece, stressed that medical advances have been made in connection with Parkinson's over recent years thanks to the use of a substance called "pramipexole", which eases symptoms and assists in decreasing the use of other drugs with serious side-effects.

They said that during tests on patients it was observed that the use of "parmipexole" achieved up to a 60 per cent reduction in the shaking caused by the disease.

It is estimated that in Greece there are more than 10,000 people suffering from Parkinson's Disease, which usually strikes middle-aged individuals.

Greek stocks rally led by blue chips

Greek equities ended yesterday's session sharply higher, extending Friday's rally on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 3.37 percent higher at 5,806.33 points, at the day's highs. Turnover was a moderate 287.7 billion drachmas.

Traders said buying interest focused on blue chip stocks, mainly in the banks and industrials sectors. Foreign buyers were active again.

National Bank of Greece ended at 23,300 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 26, 800, Commercial Bank at 24,400, Hellenic Petroleum at 5,130, Panafon at 4, 150, Hellenic Telecoms at 7,150, Intracom at 13,950, Minoan Lines at 9,700, Titan Cement (common) at 38,700.

Minoan Flying Dolphins buys another ship

Minoan Flying Dolphins yesterday announced the purchase of a ferry, the "Penelope A", from D. Agoudimos Shipping Co, raising its fleet to 68 ships.

The Penelope A operates the Rafina-Andros-Tinos-Mykonos line.

Minoan Flying Dolphins expects its turnover to total 37.2 billion drachmas this year and passenger traffic to reach 7.5 million.

Kavala Oil to re-open Prinos oilfield

The government and Kavala Oil SA yesterday signed a five-year contract granting the company a concession to the state Prinos oilfield. The agreement was signed in the presence of Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Under the terms of the contract, Kavala Oil will have to sell all its oil from the Prinos field to Hellenic Petroleum, a state firm listed on the Athens bourse, at current prices.

Natural gas supplies will be used to provide the company with power. The Prinos oilfield's proven reserves are estimated at eight million barrels of crude oil with a production capacity of 6,500-7,000 barrels per day.

Delta becomes holding company

Delta Dairies is to be turned into a holding company incorporating Delta Dairy Industry and Delta Ice Cream, managing director Dimitris Daskalopoulos told a shareholders general assembly yesterday.

The new umbrella company will also include Delta Investments, a new firm to emerge from the transfer of a 20 percent stake in Delta held by France's Danone group.

In return, Danone will receive 30 percent in Delta Dairy industry and 4.8 billion drachmas.

Delta Investments, with assets of 70 billion drachmas, will provide the group's arm for further development and acquisitions.

The group expects a turnover of 125 billion drachmas and profits of 15 billion drachmas in 1999.

OTE shows small profit rise

Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) said yesterday that profits before tax, depreciation and interest rose 17.3 percent in January to September to 390 billion drachmas from 333 billion drachmas in the same period of last year.

Turnover was also up by 18 percent, while the gross profit margin stood at about 34 percent.

Pre-tax return on equity was 22.3 percent compared to 20.5 percent in the same period of 1998.

OTE's Romanian and Armenian telecom investments showed profits of 7.2 billion and 3.9 billion drachmas respectively.

Attica Enterprises claims lead on Greece-Italy route

Attica Enterprises said yesterday it had maintained first place among operators on the Greece-Italy route in terms of passengers and trucks carried in January to September.

The company said its Superfast ferries carried 437,000 passengers (23.4 percent of the total), 77,900 trucks (27.1 percent), and 87,000 private cars.

The group's investment plan for the 2000-2001 period includes 11 new vessels, of which six are for Superfast Ferries and five for Strintzis Lines, which is partly owned by Attica.

More aid for quake-stricken heads for Turkey

Eighteen trucks carrying humanitarian aid for earthquake-stricken victims in Turkey left Athens yesterday and are expected to arrive in the Turkish cities of Duc and Bolu tonight.

The trucks are carrying 500 tons of medicines, 650 heaters, condensed milk, foodstuffs and clothing.

Speaking on their departure, Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou congratulated those who offered the aid.

She noted that this climate helps the rapprochement between the two peoples, adding however, "it is not enough for differences existing between the two countries to be resolved. It is necessary for Turkey to take specific initiatives."

Modern Athens birth certificate bought

Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday presented a 1833 document which he called the "birth certificate" of Athens as the capital of the modern Greek state.

The document, which is signed by the heads of the land's leading families at the time, conceded to young King Otto property located in the city's centre today for the construction of squares, roads and public buildings.

Mr. Avramopoulos said the document, which was bought by the Athens municipality at a London auction, possessed unique cultural value for the history of the capital and that "it will offer useful material to those who study Athens."

WEATHER

Partly cloudy throughout the country today with increased clouds in the West and South. Winds northerly, northeasterly moderate to strong in the East and locally strong in the Aegean. Partly cloudy in Athens with sunny spells and temperatures from 6-16C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures between 1-13C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          322.830
Pound sterling       516.515
Japanese yen (100)   315.426
French franc          49.686
German mark          166.641
Italian lira (100)    16.832
Irish Punt           413.835
Belgian franc          8.079
Finnish mark          54.816
Dutch guilder        147.896
Danish kr.            43.823
Austrian sch.         23.686
Spanish peseta         1.959
Swedish kr.           37.936
Norwegian kr.         40.156
Swiss franc          203.390
Port. Escudo           1.626
Can. dollar          218.736
Aus. dollar          205.359
Cyprus pound         566.372
Euro                 325.922
(C.E.)
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