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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-12-03

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, 03/12/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Greece wants guarantees before consenting to Turkey's EU candidacy
  • Stephanopoulos hopeful on outcome of EU Helsinki summit
  • Greece to become full member of Schengen Treaty as of January 1
  • Greek, Turkish officials put final touches on range of agreements
  • Athens to welcome new millennium with spectacular show
  • No change in government policy on narcotics, spokesman says
  • Greece says voices sympathy with Seatle protesters
  • Yugoslav government opens bids for construction of key motorway
  • Parliamentary committee approves Greece-USA memorandum
  • Gov't rejects lone bid for HELEXPO
  • Shortlist in tourism asset tender
  • Stocks remain under pressure
  • Popular Bank of Cyprus seeks Athens bourse listing
  • EU okays info-tech forum
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Greece wants guarantees before consenting to Turkey's EU candidacy

Greece said yesterday it wanted guarantees that if it consented to Turkey's formal European Union candidacy status this would not be followed by a rekindling of disputes with Ankara.

"Greece does not wish to find itself tomorrow facing obstacles to Cyprus's accession prospects... (and) its sovereign rights being disputed, without clearly defined and accepted procedures by all on the most efficient way of resolving such disputes," Prime Minister Costas Simitis told reporters after meeting his Finnish counterpart, Paavo Lipponen.

He said Greece wanted to endorse Turkey's candidacy at the EU summit in Helsinki next week, as this would be to the benefit of all, but would veto it without such guarantees.

"It is in the interest of the European Union not to become entangled in disputes and face problems between members or candidates... We hope for an agreement in Helsinki but the participation of any country (in the EU) must guarantee development, peace and cooperation. If we don't achieve this framework, then we will say 'no' in Helsinki," he said.

Mr. Simitis said Greece believed in Turkey's place in the European Union, as this would contribute to the strengthening of peace and cooperation in the region.

"We consider that the era of conflict, threats, of expansion of one country at the expense of another is past. It is not only past, it is also incompatible with international law. It is for this reason that we believe in Turkey's European vocation. Its participation, at an initial phase, in the processes of European integration will facilitate peace and cooperation in the region," he said.

Mr. Simitis said that clear answers required answers to the procedures regarding the entry of Cyprus to the EU.

Mr. Lipponen, whose country currently holds the six-month rotating presidency, said that given the present favourable climate, such as has never existed before, there was an opportunity for certain encouraging steps on Turkey's part.

Stephanopoulos hopeful on outcome of EU Helsinki summit

Visiting President Kostis Stephanopoulos expressed the hope the outcome of the European Union's Helsinki summit will be a result of "unity and common acceptance." He was speaking after holding talks here with his Portuguese counterpart Jorge Sampaio.

The two presidents discussed bilateral relations between Athens and Lisbon and major EU problems, while President Stephanopoulos ascertained that there is "understanding" regarding Greek positions which "are known and will be set out once again at the Helsinki summit."

President Sampaio underlined the ties existing between the two countries and their common history, as well as close cooperation in international organisations to which they belong in support of peace and democracy.

After the meeting, an agreement was signed for the avoidance of double taxation, which will give impetus for further development in bilateral, economic and trade relations between Greece and Portugal.

Greece to become full member of Schengen Treaty as of January 1

Greece is completing the implementation of the Schengen Treaty and will become a full member as of January 1, 2000.

This is the result of the decision taken here yesterday by the Joint Schengen Committee at ministerial level, with the participation of Iceland and Ireland, in the framework of the European Union's Council of Justice and Interior Affairs Ministers.

As a result of the decision, controls on Greece's internal borders with the other Schengen member-states will be lifted. Greece was represented by Foreign Ministry Secretary General S. Perrakis and Public Order Ministry Secretary General D. Efstathiadis .

Mr. Perrakis termed the decision "historic." He said it was the end of a great effort to incorporate Greece in Schengen which anticipates the free movement of persons.

Greek, Turkish officials put final touches on range of agreements

A team of Turkish and Greek government officials began talks in Athens yesterday on putting the final touches to a range of bilateral agreements arising from the so-called 'low-impact' talks between the two countries.

The two sides have been meeting for months on a range of non-contentious issues which could provide the basis for further cooperation. These issues include tourism, police cooperation, the environment, and science and technology.

Major issues of dispute between the two countries - such as Cyprus and a variety of issues relating to the Aegean - have not been touched on. According to diplomatic sources, the texts of the five bilateral agreements refer to tourist cooperation, the environment, issues of security for citizens, economic cooperation and cooperation in the scientific and technological fields. The sources said these agreements were in the final stages.

The final touches to the pacts on the avoidance of double taxation, investment protection, shipping cooperation and cooperation in the energy sector are expected today.

Athens to welcome new millennium with spectacular show

Athens will welcome the new millennium with a spectacular display of light and music. A total of 5,000 searchlights and hundreds of lamps will illuminate the Parthenon and all of Attica for 25 minutes. The event will be directed by Gurt Hoff of Germany, who has also undertaken New Year celebrations in Berlin.

Events on the Acropolis will start in the last 10 minutes of 1999 and will continue into the first quarter of an hour in 2000. The event will be broadcast direct by Greek Radio and Television (ERT) on a global network.

Among others, a stand will be erected in the parking lot of the restaurant "Dionysos", opposite the Acropolis, and concerts will be organised to honour Manos Hadzidakis, Mikis Theodorakis and Odysseus Elytis. At 10 p.m., the Orchestra of Colours with Nea Venetsanou and Vassilis Gisdakis will interpret the "Roman Market" by Manos Hadzidakis. At 11 p.m., Mikis Theodorakis will direct the orchestra "Enarmonia", with Maria Farantouri and Marios Frangoulis with "Axion Esti" by Odysseus Elytis.

On arrival of the new millennium and at 12:15, a concert will be given by Dionysis Savvopoulos and his orchestra and the Athens Municipal Symphonic Orchestra, while from 1:45 and for an hour the Athens Municipality's "Big Band" will be giving its own concert.

No change in government policy on narcotics, spokesman says

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas yesterday said that nothing had changed in the government's policy on narcotics.

Mr. Reppas was responding to reporters' questions about comments made by Deputy Health Minister Theodoris Kotsonis on Wednesday in favour of the state providing free methadone and, possibly, heroin to young drug users.

The minister, speaking to reporters, said that he had broached the issue in talks with the prime minister but that these talks had not got to a formal stage.

Mr. Reppas said the deputy minister's comments had been made in the context of a dialogue presently under way on these issues and denied reports that Health Minister Lambros Papadimas was unhappy with Mr. Kotsonis' remarks.

New Democracy shadow minister for social affairs Vassilis Mihaloliakos called Mr. Kotsonis' views "unacceptable" and said they ran counter to the views expressed by the inter-ministerial committee and national committee on narcotics.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee on combatting the use of narcotics yesterday invited Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Mr. Kotsonis to testify on their views.

Greece says voices sympathy with Seatle protesters

Greece said yesterday that it fully understood and sympathised with protesters in Seattle, where ministers from around the world were meeting on a world trade liberalisation deal.

Although the World Trade Organisation is useful, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, the Greek government believes that countries' particularities, particularly cultural ones, must be taken into account.

Police temporarily sealed off a downtown hotel with President Bill Clinton inside as clashes erupted nearby on Wednesday, the second day of protests against a meeting of World Trade Organisation ministers.

Mr. Reppas said public protests in Seattle revealed the public's sensitivity to issues affecting their lives over the next few years, adding that these sensitivities were understood. Referring to the Clinton visit to Greece last month, which was marked by violent street protests, the spokesman said that the violence in Seattle was a lesson to those critical of Greece for allowing members of the public to express their opposing views.

Yugoslav government opens bids for construction of key motorway

The Yugoslav government opened bids yesterday for the construction of a key motorway to cross Serbia, which had been submitted by three joint ventures with the participation of several European countries and the US, according to a report by the Tanjug news agency.

NATO bombings in spring which lasted 78 days led to the destruction of many factories, infrastructure, government installations and communications. For the time being, business opportunities in Yugoslavia are extremely limited due to the lack of capital and the refusal of many western countries to help the authorities in Belgrade for as long as President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power.

The Public Works Ministry opened bids between three groups with French, Austrian, Greek, Swedish, Italian and American companies offering to cooperate with Yugoslav ones on the motorway which will link the city of Nis with the borders of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and will have a total length of 142 kilometres.

The government's final decision on the bid to be ultimately accepted will be announced in 90 days.

Parliamentary committee approves Greece-USA memorandum

The Greek Parliament financial affairs committee yesterday approved by majority vote the Greece-USA momorandum on technological cooperation with Balkan countries.

The momorandum was signed by National Economy Minister Yiannos Papandoniou and US Secretary of Commerce William Daley on Jan. 17 1998, and includes cooperation in Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and any other country of the region, which the two signatories will agree on to include in the future.

The memoradum will now be tabled in a full session of parliament for final approval.

Gov't rejects lone bid for HELEXPO

The national economy ministry said yesterday it had rejected a single bid submitted in an international tender for the part-privatisation of HELEXPO, the state trade fair organiser.

The ministry said the sole bid was "unsatisfactory", but gave no further details of the tender or any future sale plans.

On the auction block was a 45 percent stake in HELEXPO and its management.

Shortlist in tourism asset tender

The state-owned GNTO Asset Management Company SA said yesterday it had shortlisted six groups from Greece and abroad in a tender to find a financial consultant.

The firm's job is to improve management of assets belonging to the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO), which the latter formerly managed itself.

The consortiums are as follows:


Agricultural Bank of Greece, Bayerische/Hypovereinsbank, PriceWaterhouseCoopers
Zeus Group (Bank of America, National Bank for Investment and Industrial Development, Lamda)
Alpha Finance, Sanwa Bank, Deloitte & Touche Consulting
Fuji Bank Ltd, American Appraisal
Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, Piraeus Prime Bank, KPMG
Warburg Dillon Read

The asset management company is also in the process of selecting specialist consultants for sectors including evaluation of tourism investments and legal advice.

Contracts are expected to be awarded at the end of January.

Stocks remain under pressure

Equities lost ground in low turnover yesterday, remaining under pressure for the third consecutive session.

The Athens general share index ended 1.35 percent lower at 5,577.46 points. Turnover was around 260 billion drachmas.

Although blue chips mostly performed poorly, shares that are often the butt of speculation soared with more than 50 hitting the daily 8.0 percent upper volatility limit.

Of 313 shares traded, decliners led advancers at 173 to 122 with 18 issues remaining unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,790 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 25, 050, Titan Cement Company (common) at 38,310, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,655, Intracom at 13,500, Panafon at 3,920 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,790.

Popular Bank of Cyprus seeks Athens bourse listing

Popular Bank of Cyprus, the parent of European Popular Bank, a subsidiary operating in Greece, is to seek listing on the Athens Stock Exchange, Group chairman Kikis Lazarides said yesterday.

In an interview to the Athens News Agency, Mr. Lazarides said the parent bank's plan for bourse entry was independent of its subsidiary's move to gain listing on the same market.

European Popular Bank's mid-term goal was to expand its branch network to 30 in Greece, he added.

The parent company planned to reinforce its subsidiaries, launch new products and create specialised departments or subsidiaries, Mr. Lazarides said.

EU okays info-tech forum

The European Union's executive Commission yesterday endorsed a proposal by the Association of Northern Greek Information Technology Companies to hold a second Balkan conference.

The EU-funded conference is set to take place in the second quarter of 2000 in Thessaloniki.

The association said in a statement yesterday that the decision to hold a second Balkan info-tech conference in the northern port city in the wake of the first this year had advanced its plan to create a permanent agency in Thessaloniki on infomation te chnology for the Balkans.

WEATHER

Fine weather with local cloud will prevail in most parts Greece on today with the possibility of scattered showers in the Cycladic islands, Crete and the Dodecanese. Winds northerly, light to moderate. Sunshine in Athens with temperatures from 7-17C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 1- 14C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Friday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          323.571
Pound sterling       517.189
Japanese yen (100)   316.775
French franc          49.689
German mark          166.651
Italian lira (100)    16.833
Irish Punt           413.860
Belgian franc          8.080
Finnish mark          54.820
Dutch guilder        147.906
Danish kr.            43.813
Austrian sch.         23.687
Spanish peseta         1.959
Swedish kr.           37.789
Norwegian kr.         40.077
Swiss franc          203.658
Port. Escudo           1.626
Can. dollar          218.736
Aus. dollar          205.741
Cyprus pound         564.448
Euro                 325.941
(C.E.)
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