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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-12-01

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, 01/12/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greek public sector prepares for possible YK2 virus
  • Kosovo, Balkans dominate Papandreou's talks in Russia
  • US embassy conference to focus on Greek tourism sector
  • Latest opinion poll shows PASOK lead
  • SE European defence ministers approve new 'crises management centre'
  • Conference focusing on damage to Parthenon Marbles opens
  • Premier outlines investments in `information society` framework
  • Figures released for foreigners applying for residency status
  • Privatisation revenue to total Dr 3.0 trillion
  • Tourist arrivals seen up 7.0 pct
  • GNTO to open office in China
  • Profit taking halts rally on Athens bourse
  • 12-month treasury bill yield falls
  • AGET, Petzetakis form alliance
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greek public sector prepares for possible YK2 virus

Greece is fully prepared to deal with any problems caused by the "millennium bug" in computer systems throughout the public sector at the end of the year, Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou said yesterday.

"We do not expect any particular problems in the basic sectors of the economy and social sector," Ms Papandreou told a news conference.

She added that all the procedures required to make systems year 2000 compliant have been taken by the Public Power Corp., Public Gas Corp. and the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation.

Data current to end-October showed that Olympic Airways was 99 per cent year '2000' compliant, as were Greek Railways, the Athens and Piraeus Water and Sewage Co., the stock market and public administration.

Ms Papandreou said there had been some delay noted in preparing and dealing with the Y2K problem in the private sector, and in some smaller sized state organisations, such as small pension funds.

This is why Greece has been placed by international organisations in the second category of countries in regard to action taken to combat the problem, she said.

Nevertheless, even second place is a good result, given that only Britain and the United States are in the first category, she noted.

Ms Papandreou stressed that Greece had contingency plans ready in the event of any problem. A special operations room has been set up at the secretariat general for civil protection specifically to deal with problems related to Y2K. The service will be responsible for coordinating the changeover on New Year's Eve and will deal with any emergency.

Kosovo, Balkans dominate Papandreou's talks in Russia

Russia and Greece yesterday expressed support for the strict observance of UN Security Council resolution 1244 regarding Kosovo and for respect for internationally recognised borders in the Balkans.

Kosovo and the Balkans were among the primary issues discussed between Foreign Minister George Papandreou, currently on an official visit here, and his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov.

The two ministers also discussed bilateral Greek-Russian relations, the Cyprus issue and the situation in the Caucasus, while Mr. Papandreou took the opportunity to underline the intense humanitarian problem faced not only by Kosovo but by the rest of Yugoslavia as well.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Mr. Ivanov stressed the great importance of continuous political dialogue between Athens and Moscow and the very high level of bilateral relations which are being developed successfully in all sectors.

Mr. Ivanov strongly criticised efforts being made to reduce Russian influence in the Caucasus and Caspian region, indirectly linking such pursuits with the ongoing crisis in the northern Caucasus (Chechnya, Dagestan).

Mr. Papandreou expressed the European Union's position on the problem of Chechnya, and said Mr. Ivanov "gave him to understand the sensitivities of Russia and the Russian people on this issue."

In addition, Mr. Ivanov strongly condemned the "genocide" which, as he said, is taking place against ethnic minorities in Kosovo. The ousting of Serbs and gypsies, the continuous destruction and the open manifestation of secessionist intentions.

US embassy conference to focus on Greek tourism sector

Tourism professionals from Greece and 30 countries will converge on Vouliagmeni's Astir Palace Hotel this Wednesday for three days of meetings with US companies seeking partnerships for infrastructure projects in Greece and throughout Europe.

The first-ever International Tourism Infrastructure Conference (ITIC '99) is being organised by the US embassy in Athens.

"Thirty US companies are coming to Greece for this conference, which is the first one we've sponsored where American specialists from the tourism sector - architects, designers,builders, researchers and government officials - are meeting with hotel and resort owners from Greece and the region. This conference will draw on Greece's long and illustrious history as a tourist destination and I hope it will lead to increased tourism and to expanded investment," US ambassador to Greece Nicholas Burns said.

More than 500 delegates from Spain to Uzbekistan, and from Finland to Cyprus, have signed up to participate. The conference will serve as a forum to introduce decision-makers from Greece and the other nations to US companies developing tourism infrastructure projects such as resorts, hotels, golf clubs, and eco-tourism, among others.

For more information, please contact the US embassy's commercial service at 72.02.302.

Latest opinion poll shows PASOK lead

Another opinon poll released yesterday showed that the ruling PASOK party continued to have a lead over main opposition New Democracy.

The poll, conducted on behalf of a private radio station by the Metron firm and focusing on respondents from around the country, also affirmed Prime Minister Costas Simitis' lead in popularity over ND leader Costas Karamanlis.

Mr. Simitis polled a 45.5 percent popularity rating, compared to 31 percent for Mr. Karamanlis. Some 32.5 percent of respondents said they would vote for PASOK, compared to 31.3 percent for ND. Democratic Social Movement garnered 5.6 percent of the vote , the Communist Party of Greece 5.2 and Coalition of the Left and Progress 4.8 percent.

The percentage of those undecided or refusing to answer was 10 percent.

SE European defence ministers approve new 'crises management centre'

The defence ministers of the seven countries comprising the multinational force of SE Europe decided to create a "crises management centre" regarding issues of political protection, during a conference in the Romanian capital.

Additionally, a special corps of engineers unit will be set up to tackle emergencies. It will undertake a specific task in Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) at an initial stage. The defence minsisters from the seven Balkan countries and the two observer states made an overall evaluation of the situation in the Balkans, while National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said that "we ascertained that we are not satisfied with the situation shaped in Kosovo." Mr. Tsohatzopoulo s warned that ethnic cleansing against the Serbs and other minorities living in Kosovo, the lack of an adequate police force which would safeguard internal security, the inability to create a new administration for Kosovo and the non-implementation of "great promises", both on the part of the European Union and the leaders of the world community, entail dangers of an immediate worsening of security in the region.

Conference focusing on damage to Parthenon Marbles opens

A two-day conference on the heavily criticised cleaning of the Parthenon Marbles in the late 1930s began in London yesterday.

Archaeologists and experts are participating in the conference, organised by the British Museum, and focusing on the cleaning methods used during 1937-38 to restore the surfaces of the Marbles.

British Museum Director Robert Anderson opened the conference, stressing that its purpose was to focus on scientific issues.

British historian William St. Clair was the first participant to address the conference, reiterating his findings on the damage caused to the Marbles by the "illogical and harsh" cleansing practice by employees of the British Museum, as he said.

According to Mr. St. Clair, in many cases the patina was removed from the Marbles up to 80 per cent of the surface.

Responding to Mr. St. Clair, British Museum Curator of Greek Antiquities Ian Jengins claimed that the damage was caused by weather conditions and other conditions before the Marbles reached England.

He said patina loss was limited to about 10 per cent of the surface of the friezes.

The Greek team of experts, which recently examined the Marbles, noted that along with the loss of the patina, Marble crystals were also removed, resulting in changes to the texture of the statues.

The result can be compared, they said, to 1910 photographs of the friezes.

Premier outlines investments in `information society` framework

The sum of 780 billion drachmas has been earmarked by the state in the framework of the "Information Society" programme of the Third Community Support Framework (CSF) covering the period 2000-2006, for Greece's equal participation in the digital era, PM Costas Simitis said yesterday.

He said after chairing a meeting of a governmental ad hoc committee on the Information Society Operational Programme that five basic priorities were finalised during the meeting, and pertained to the modernisation of public administration with emphasis on serving the citizen, quality of life and improvement of the every-day life of the citizen in the sectors of health, environment and transport, telecommunications and postal services, development and employment, and education and culture.

The premier said all the public sector agencies were obliged to provide electronic access to documents, and gradually to all legislative texts, adding that the first step was taken with the ability to electronically submit VAT statements.

Turning to schools, he said a programme was being drafted, adapted to the needs of the 21st century, while an educational network was being set up, initially linking 1,400 lycems and 430 technical colleges on the Internet by the end of the year 2000.

By the end of 2001, he said, full-fleged computer labs would be operating in the schools and their networking will have been completed.

Figures released for foreigners applying for residency status

Albanians comprise the overwhelming majority of the illegal immigrants who have applied for residency status in Greece, a report from the National Institute for Labour showed yesterday.

According to the report, 91 per cent of the illegals who applied for residency status (or the so-called 'white card') come from Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Pakistan, Ukraine, Poland, Georgia, India, Egypt and the Philippines.

The report stated, Albanian nationals were by far the biggest group applying for residency - as 65 per cent of applicants said their country of origin was Albania.

Way behind in second place with 6.7 per cent, were those applicants who said their country of origin was Bulgaria. Romanians accounted for 4.5 per cent, Pakistanis for 2.9 per cent and Ukrainians for 2.7 per cent.

Eighty-three percent of Filipinos applying for residency were women as were 80 per cent of Ukrainians and 74 per cent of Moldovans.

In total, 369,629 foreigners filed applications for residency between Jan. 1, 1998 and May 31, 1998.

According to estimates at the time, there are another 150,000 illegals who have not filed for legal status. This estimate is considered to have risen since then.

Privatisation revenue to total Dr 3.0 trillion

Revenue from privatisation since March 1998 is expected to total three trillion drachmas by the end of the year, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday.

Mr. Papantoniou said that this year's privatisation programme included the partial sale or flotation of Thessaloniki International Fair, Hellenic Petroleum, Hellenic Industrial Development Bank, Athens Water and Sewage Company, Olympic Catering and the Public Gas Corporation.

He said that Hellenic Vehicles Industry and Hellenic Aerospace Industry would be partially privatised in the first few months of 2000.

Mr. Papantoniou said that Greece had already fulfilled the two basic criteria for participation in economic and monetary union and that the country had completed the first stage towards entering the eurozone. He predicted that the harmonised inflation rate would be 2.2 percent in February.

Tourist arrivals seen up 7.0 pct

Tourist arrivals to Greece are expected to top 12 million in 1999, up 7.0 percent against the previous year despite a slowdown in overland arrivals due to the Yugoslav war.

The Institute of Tourism Research and Forecasts (ITEP) said that the highest rates of growth were observed in the islands, mainly the Dodecanese and Ionian islands, and Crete.

The outlook was also healthy for 2000, ITEP said.

On the basis of bookings so far, arrivals were expected to be at least 6.0. higher next year compared to 1999 to hit a record high of around 13 million arrivals.

Athens is likely to receive about 10 percent more tourists against last year, taking the total back to 1998 levels after dropping in 1999, ITEP said.

GNTO to open office in China

The Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) is to open an office in China in order to tap the country's growing market, GNTO Secretary General Evgenios Yiannakopoulos said yesterday.

Mr. Yiannakopoulos said that Greece could become China's gateway to Europe, and the two countries could work closely together in the tourism sector, especially in terms of cultural heritage.

China was also becoming a new tourist destination for Greeks, he added.

Profit taking halts rally on Athens bourse

Equity prices succumbed to early profit-taking to end lower yesterday, reversing a 7.0 percent rally in the previous two sessions on the Athens Stock Exchange.

The general index ended 1.62 percent off at 5,712.26 points after falling as much as 2.5 percent early in the session.

Traders said the market found strong resistance at the 5,800 level and that EU's positive comments on the Greek economy had already been discounted.

Turnover was 334 billion drachmas.

National Bank of Greece ended at 23,290 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 26, 200, Commercial Bank at 24,000, Titan Cement (common) at 38,400, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,860, Intracom at 14,435, Minoan Lines at 9,500, Panafon at 3, 880 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,990.

12-month treasury bill yield falls

The yield on 12-month treasury bills fell slightly in yesterday's weekly auction of state securities by the finance ministry, reflecting an improved climate in the market.

The average weighed interest rate on the 12-month T-bills worth 50 billion drachmas fell to 8.88 percent from 9.07 percent in the previous auction on October 26 of securities carrying the same term.

Bids submitted by the market's primary dealers totalled 143 billion drachmas, almost three times more than the amount sought.

The average weighted price of the T-bill was 91.847 points.

The finance ministry will launch through a public offering from December 1- 3 a new issue of tax-free savings bonds paying an annual coupon of 8.6 percent.

AGET, Petzetakis form alliance

Cement-maker AGET Heracles and Petzetakis, a plastic pipe manufacturer, have formed a commercial alliance in the building materials sector.

Under the terms of the deal signed yesterday, AGET will distribute the Petzetakis group's integrated pipe systems and Petzetakis Casa construction package through its distribution centres.

Both companies are listed on the Athens Stock Exchange.

WEATHER

Partly cloudy throughout the country on today with increased clouds in the South. Winds alternating, weak and in the southern seas northeasterly weak to moderate. Few clouds in Athens with long spells of sunshine and temperatures from 6-17C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 0- 14C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          322.390
Pound sterling       515.404
Japanese yen (100)   316.220
French franc          49.732
German mark          166.793
Italian lira (100)    16.848
Irish Punt           414.213
Belgian franc          8.087
Finnish mark          54.867
Dutch guilder        148.032
Danish kr.            43.868
Austrian sch.         23.707
Spanish peseta         1.960
Swedish kr.           38.013
Norwegian kr.         40.097
Swiss franc          203.603
Port. Escudo           1.627
Can. dollar          219.232
Aus. dollar          204.937
Cyprus pound         566.591
Euro                 326.219
(C.E.)
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