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Athens News Agency: News in English (PM), 99-12-04

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, 04/12/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis-EU should treat Turkey with same criteria
  • Athens says its positions at Helsinki EU summit must be met
  • Cyprus proximity talks get under way in New York
  • Greece lodges demarche over violations of Greek air space
  • Declaration for the return of statue of the Niki of Samothrace
  • Gov't rules out legislating 35-hr working week
  • Drachma's parity with euro, dollar shrinks
  • OA defends sale of New York office
  • Athens Stock Market
  • Weather
  • Foreign Exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis-EU should treat Turkey with same criteria

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said on Friday the European Union should treat Turkey with the same criteria as other candidate countries, but added that Greece's stand on the neighbouring nation's candidacy at the upcoming EU summit would be determined by a consideration of all factors during the sessions.

He told the ruling PASOK party's Central Committee meeting that "the European Union must treat Turkey with the same criteria as other candidate countries, while Turkey must itself further its European prospects by adjusting to the acquis communautaire".

He said clear positions were needed in the European Union "on the rules of the game," and this was of particular relevance to the Cyprus problem and Greek-Turkish relations.

"The government's stand in Helsinki is clear, its exclusive guiding criterion being the protection of national interests and the interests of the European Union itself... Nevertheless, the final decision (on Turkey's candidacy) will be reached after con sideration of all factors during the summit," he said.

He strongly accused the main opposition of using irresponsibile and demagogic tactics on major foreign policy issues, starting with Kosovo, continuing with US President Bill Clinton's recent visit, and now in view of the EU summit.

Mr. Simitis denied early election scenarios, stressing that the government would exhaust its four-year term.

"We shall exhaust the four-year term. We have tired hearing various analysts predicting rapid developments on the home front

There will be no such developments," he said, reiterating that the present parliament would elect a president of the republic i n March and would not have to be dissolved. "President Stephanopoulos has bestowed authority on the institution and symbolises national unity.

His re-election is supported by the overwhelming majority of the Greek people," he said.

In his address to the Committee, PASOK secretary Costas Skandalidis said the climate in the party had ardently changed to the better as of late, and members now rallied to the goal of an electoral victory. "PASOK is tuned to the (next) electoral c ontest and everyone has taken up battle positions," he said.

Athens says its positions at Helsinki EU summit must be met

Greece on Friday requested that Athens' positions on issues to be discussed at the Helsinki European Union summit are met, in efforts to avoid an impasse.

In light of the Union's General Affairs Council meeting on Monday in Brussels and the upcoming Helsinki summit, Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou informed his counterparts of all Union member-states via letters handed to the respective embassies in Athens.

Earlier, Mr. Papandreou met with all Union member-states' ambassadors in Athens and briefed them on Greece's stance regarding the possible Turkish candidacy and Cyprus' accession course.

According to sources, the content of the letter was decided jointly by Papandreou and Prime Minister Costas Simitis on Thursday, before the latter met with Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen.

The same sources noted that the letter reiterated Greece's support for Turkey's European prospect, noting that it will result in development, cooperation and security in southeastern Europe and the Balkans.

They added that the Greek FM noted in the letter that the Union member- states must contribute toward this goal in Helsinki, otherwise Greece will be forced to not agree, thus leading efforts to an impasse, an event which will not be to the benefit of Gr eek-Turkish and Euro-Turkish relations.

In a related development, Papandreou is expected to brief Parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee on the Helsinki summit, on Tuesday, while on Wednesday the government committee on foreign affairs will meet to discuss the same subject.

Premier Simitis on Thursday said Greece 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.

Cyprus proximity talks get under way in New York

NEW YORK (CNA/ANA - M. Georgiadou) - The first meeting between UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan and Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides within the framework of proximity talks aiming to prepare the ground for a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem ended at the UN headquarters on Friday afternoon.

Asked how the one-hour meeting went, Mr. Clerides replied, "you can see, we are smiling".

Clerides refrained from commenting on the content of discussions citing a news blackout requested by Mr. Annan.

The president was accompanied by Attorney-General Alecos Markides, Undersecretary to the President Pantelis Kouros, Government Spo-kesman Michalis Papapetrou, Director of the Cyprus Question at the Foreign Ministry Tasos Tzionis and Director of the Offi ce of the foreign minister, Minas Hadjimichael.

Annan later met with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. In a brief statement to reporters, Mr. Annan said: "As long as we are talking we are making progress".

Meanwhile, British Special Representative for Cyprus Sir David Hannay held a meeting at the UN with Russia's Representative on Cyprus, Vladimir Tchizhov.

Greece lodges demarche over violations of Greek air space

ANKARA (ANA-A.Kourkoulas) - Greece's ambassador in Ankara on Friday lodged a demarche with the Turkish authorities over repeated violations of Greek air space and infringements of Athens FIR regulations.

The demarche noted that Turkish fighter planes had continually violated Greek air space and that on Monday a large, unspecified number of Turkish jets had entered the region between Crete and the Dodecanese islands, flying over six Greek islands.

The jets were intercepted by Greek fighters and the Turkish press reported that some interceptions evolved into aerial dog fights.

The Greek protest underlined that this activity was not contributing to the pursuit of cooperation between the two countries.

Declaration for the return of statue of the Niki of Samothrace

Return of statue of the Niki of Samothrace sought Representatives of 48 municipalities from around Greece on Friday signed a declaration requesting the return of the statue of the Niki of Samothrace to the northeastern Aegean island, where it was found and transported to Paris, France.

The hellenistic era statue has been part of the Louvre Museum ancient Greek antiquities collection since 1826. Athens News Agency

Gov't rules out legislating 35-hr working week

The government said on Friday that it would not legislate a 35-hour working week although it backed individual moves by companies to introduce the new arrangement.

Labour and Social Security Minister Miltiades Papaioannou said at a cabinet meeting on the national action plan for employment that the government wanted employment to rise in 2000 to 2004.

He said the ministry's 20 employment programmes had provided jobs for 140, 000 people and training for 110,000 workers.

Unemployment benefit had risen 20 percent and the unemployed had been given the right to medical benefits.

Mr. Papaioannou noted that Greece in 1998 had the highest employment growth rate at 3.0%, while the number of jobs rose 1.4 percent per annum between 1994 and 1998.

He attributed a simultaneous rise in the number of unemployed to an "explosive growth" of the work force, including a 4.2 percent rise in 1998.

The emphasis by the European Union on employment and plans for more funding from the Third Community Support Framework should further bolster the growth of jobs, the minister said.

Government policy on combatting unemployment included linking education with vocational training, drafting and shaping a national system for vocational training, strengthening a business mentality, and linking entrepreneurial skills with employment, par ticularly in small and medium- size enterprises.

In relation to demands for a 35-hour working week with no loss of pay, Mr. Papaioannou said the government supported individual plans but could not support the concept across the board.

Drachma's parity with euro, dollar shrinks

Domestic foreign exchange trade was dominated on Friday by the euro's slump on international markets, helping to bring the drachma's parities with the dollar and euro within the same range.

At the central bank's daily fixing, the European single currency was set at 328.790 drachmas from 328.570 drachmas in the previous session and 328.600 drachmas on Wednesday. Also at the fixing, the dollar jumped against the drachma in line with its rise on international markets.

The US currency was set at 328.250 drachmas from 326.180 drachmas a day earlier, 325.390 drachmas on Wednesday and 324.990 drachmas on Tuesday.

OA defends sale of New York office

The management of Greek national carrier Olympic Airways on Friday defended its decision to sell its New York office, saying the ailing company would divest itself of a source of 'permanent financial loss'.

OA's management said in a statement that it was selling a company asset, but would continue to maintain a sales outlet in the U.S. city.

The money from the sale of the building would be used for investments, such as the renewal of OA's fleet, relocation to the new Athens international airport, and improving the company's product overall.

Management said the decision to sell the building was taken on completion of a study and was deemed to be the best medium- and long-term solution.

OA would be served by a sales office on Fifth Avenue to issue tickets and provide customer services.

Other services would be relocated to Brooklyn, where rents were much cheaper and where most of the airline company's employees resided, the statement said.

Athens Stock Market

Equity prices ended the last trading session of the week slightly lower. The general index ended 0.31 per cent lower at 5,560.14 points. Turnover was around 311 billion drachmas. The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks dropped by 1.24 per cent to 2,086.33 points. The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 0.31 percent higher at 2,788.83 points.

WEATHER

Cloud and rain is forecast for western and nothern Greece on Sunday, while light cloud is expected in the rest of the country. Winds southerly, moderate to strong. Light cloud is forecast for Athens with temperatures from 7-20C. Cloud with rain later in the day for Thessaloniki with temperatures from 4-17C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Monday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          325.624
Pound sterling       520.780
Japanese yen (100)   317.767
French franc          49.723
German mark          166.763
Italian lira (100)    16.845
Irish Punt           414.137
Belgian franc          8.085
Finnish mark          54.857
Dutch guilder        148.004
Danish kr.            43.850
Austrian sch.         23.703
Spanish peseta         1.960
Swedish kr.           37.908
Norwegian kr.         40.206
Swiss franc          203.990
Port. Escudo           1.627
Can. dollar          219.391
Aus. dollar          205.304
Cyprus pound         566.849
Euro                 326.160
(M.S.)
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