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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-12-15

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, 15/12/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis says Greece now faces future with confidence
  • Gov't weighing up drachma revaluation
  • Equities drop, turnover remains moderate
  • Profit taking in bond market
  • Telecoms deregulation draft bill unveiled
  • Simitis: No reason for early elections
  • Helsinki decision on Turkey changed tempo on Aegean, Cyprus issues
  • Greece, FYROM sign defence cooperation accord
  • Latest poll finds ruling PASOK ahead of ND
  • New draft bill on immigration, foreigners' status presented
  • Mother of five reportedly run-off with eldest son's friend, aged 15
  • WEATHER
  • FOREIGN EXCHANGE

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis says Greece now faces future with confidence

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that Greece's economic prospects and the feeling of security and stability of Greek citizens for the future were secured.

Addressing a Foreign Press Association luncheon, Mr. Simitis said these stemmed from the positive state of the economy, which will allow the country to enter Economic Monetary Union (EMU), and Turkey's candidacy to the Union, which will in turn create a climate of cooperation, stability and peace in the region.

"I want to emphasise that for the first time I see realistic possibilities, " he said, speaking on Turkey's candidacy. "The road will be long and difficult, but now we see that it is achievable. It is achievable and possible. We should not be fearful or have the feeling that it can not be done."

Speaking on the country's economic future, he said "the course of the economy has taken the country out of the state of uncertainty and has lead it to convergence with developed countries, giving it the ability to participate in the centre of decision making."

The premier, however, said none of the government's top cadres, nor he himself personally, are "overjoyed" with the results of the Helsinki summit.

"The prospects for peace and cooperation are great and the Greek government will work to aid this effort, which it is already (doing)..." he said.

Turkey was granted EU candidate status during an EU summit in Helsinki last - the 13th candidate state - after it accepted the terms and conditions set for harmonisation with the Union's acquis communautaire. Conditions also included specific mention to

Cyprus' accession to the Union regardless of a solution to the island republic's long-standing political problem, as well as a framework for the resolution of Greek-Turkish differences. Athens says the only dispute is the delineation of the Aegean contin ental shelf.

In response to press questions, Mr. Simitis said the Union's condition that Ankara's claims eventually find their way to the International Court of Justice at The Hague, was positive for Greece. He stressed that Athens' foreign policy opposed a general dialogue on such issues, which it considers as differences. Rather, the only answer should be recourse to The Hague. "This is what we asked for and succeeded in achieving," Mr. Simitis said.

"As far as Greece is concerned, there are no differences beyond that of the Aegean's continental shelf, if Turkey considers that there are other problems as well, our answer will be the same as it has always been...if Turkey has demands, it must seek recourse at The Hague," Mr. Simitis said.

The Greek PM added that he did not believe Turkey will seek recourse to The Hague, since before it could take such action it would have to recognise the international court's jurisdiction.

Concluding, Mr. Simitis highlighted the possibilities for economic cooperation between Greece and Turkey, adding that Athens will follow the model it used in improving economic relations with other Balkan nations.

Gov't weighing up drachma revaluation

Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that the government was looking into the repercussions of revaluing the drachma's central parity to the euro in the European exchange rate mechanism.

Mr. Simitis told foreign correspondents that the economy would gain overall from a revaluation due to an easing of inflationary pressures from the world rise in oil prices.

At the same time, a revaluation would reduce competitiveness, although the impact would be limited, Mr. Simitis added.

A final decision on the drachma's new parity would be taken early in 2000, and any disruption of markets avoided, he said.

Central bank governor Lucas Papademos has said that the revaluation would be effected in June 2000, the same month that the European Union is to decide whether Greece is eligible to join the euro zone by January 1, 2001.

Equities drop, turnover remains moderate

Equities declined yesterday on the Athens Stock Exchange and turnover remained moderate.

The general index ended 0.90 percent down at 5,574.16 points. Turnover was at 225.9 billion drachmas.

The parallel market index for small capitalisation stocks was up 2.52 per cent at 1,947.12 points.

The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 1.03 per cent lower at 2,834.57 points.

Of 323 shares traded decliners led advancers at 222 to 98 with 3 issues remaining unchanged.

National Bank of Greece ended at 23,800 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 25, 850, Titan Cement Company (common) at 40,050, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,810, Intracom at 14,000, Panafon at 4,050 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 7,000.

Profit taking in bond market

Profit takers moved into the domestic secondary bond market yesterday, raking in solid gains after a bull run lasting several sessions.

The market brushed off a statement by Prime Minister Costas Simitis that the government would decide early next year on revaluation of the drachma's central parity against the euro. Players had already discounted the move, traders said.

The market has been fuelled recently by the planned revaluation in the European exchange rate mechanism, which, according to Bank of Greece governor Lucas Papademos, is scheduled for June 2000.

Greece is to apply to join the EU's euro zone in March 2000, with a summit in June expected to endorse the application for entry on January 1, 2001.

Investors are also awaiting a possible cut in the central bank's intervention rates today.

They have already priced in a reduction of around 0.50 percentage point.

Telecoms deregulation draft bill unveiled

The transport and communications ministry yesterday released a text of a draft bill regarding the full deregulation of the country's telecommunications sector from Jan. 1, 2001. The draft bill provides for implemetation of rules of competition; sets out the right of citizens to higher quality services at reasonable prices, and establishes the principles of transparency, objectivity and equal treatment.

The document is being sent to interested parties for comments before the text is finalised. The ministry yesterday also announced its website at address: www.yme.gr

Simitis: No reason for early elections

There is no reason for an early election and the main opposition would be responsible if the country went to the polls in March, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday.

"Elections will be held in March if the main opposition insists on its present position (regarding the election of a president of the republic by Parliament)...The government will try to avoid an early poll," he told a Foreign Press Association luncheon. He said that early elections were not in the interests of the country during a period when its application to join EMU was being considered.

"The country's interest requires a smooth run-up to accession," he said. The constitution provides for the dissolution of Parliament if it fails to elect a president of the republic with a three-fifths majority. Main opposition New Democracy has indicated it will not support Mr. Stephanopoulos, while the government's full four-year term expires in the autumn.

"The vast majority of the Greek people want Kostis Stephanopoulos as president," he asserted.

Helsinki decision on Turkey changed tempo on Aegean, Cyprus issues

Foreign Minister George Papandreou said yesterday that the EU Helsinki summit's terms for accepting Turkey as an EU candidate had changed the tempo of movement over the Cyprus and Aegean issues. "Greece can deal with Turkey with confidence after Helsinki," Mr. Papandreou told the Cyprus Broadcasting Corp. (RIK).

However, he said that although the dynamics had changed in the Cyprus and Aegean issues, "we should not expect dramatic developments".

In his interview, Mr. Papandreou said he was preparing to visit Ankara, probably in January, to sign the first batch of bilateral agreements arising from "low-impact" talks between the two countries. He said these agreements included pacts on trade cooperation and tourism.

Greece, FYROM sign defence cooperation accord

Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) yesterday signed a defence cooperation agreement here.

The accord, signed by visiting National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos and his FYROM counterpart Nikola Kljusev, refers to bilateral meetings of experts, the training of FYROM defence ministry officials in Athens as well as cooperation in the sector of defence technology.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos later visited a Skopje military camp to attend a delivery ceremony of 10 Greek-made "Leonidas" armoured personnel carriers and 30 jeeps.

FYROM already has defence cooperation accords with Bulgaria, Albania, Romania and Turkey.

Mr. Tsohatzopoulos described his talks with his FYROM counterpart as "substantive", adding that the two countries "will play a leading role for immediate results for peace in Kosovo" and would "press the European Union" for speedy implementation of the Balkan Stability Pact.

Latest poll finds ruling PASOK ahead of ND

For the first time after the 1996 elections, the ruling PASOK party leads main opposition New Democracy in an opinion poll of the same company.

The six-month poll by MRB shows that PASOK has overturned the unfavourable result of last June's Euroelections, and leads both in intentions to vote and in the climate among public opinion.

The ruling party gained 31.6 per cent of preferences; New Democracy 30.6 per cent; the Communist Party of Greece 5.6 per cent; the Coalition of the Left 4 per cent, and the Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) 4.8 per cent. People who have decided to cast a blank vote and a floating vote account for 21.6 per cent.

Another important conclusion of the poll is that the relative majority of respondents, irrespective of their intention to vote, consider that the ruling party will win the next election.

A 48.2 per cent share of them considers PASOK will come out victorious, while 32 per cent thinks ND will win the elections. Furthermore, Prime Minister Costas Simitis is considered more suitable for the post (41.9 per cent) than main opposition leader Costas Karamanlis (31.2 per cent).

Incumbent president, Kostis Stephanopoulos is by far considered the best individual for the job, preferred by 61.4 per cent of respondents, with Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos trailing far behind with 9.4 per cent, former ND prime minis ter Constantine Mitsotakis with 8.4 per cent, and veteran left-wing politician Leonidas Kyrkos with 1.2 per cent.

New draft bill on immigration, foreigners' status presented

The interior minister yesterday presented a draft law on "immigration and the residence of aliens in Greece" which contains terms and preconditons for the controlled influx of non-EU foreign nationals and residence of aliens in Greece, as well as a consolidation of their rights and obligations.

Permits will no longer be provided by police authorities and this responsibility will be the task of the country's regional governors.

Addressing a press conference, Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou said "the enactment of a modern and effective legislative framework, by which the preconditions are set out for the legal entry, residence and work of aliens in Greece and control appara tuses are created for the flow of the immigration wave, constitutes an imperative need now, since Greece has turned into a receiving country from a country sending immigrants."

She said the existing legislative framework on aliens is totally inadequate, adding that the unveiled draft law will constitute the object of dialogue with relevant ministries, parties and social bodies before it is finalised and tabled in Parliament for ratification.

The imposition of criminal and administrative sanctions is anticipated for the employers of illegal foreign workers. Fines in such cases will reach 10 million drachmas, while immigration services and police will be responsible for monitoring application of the law and conducting checks.

Mother of five reportedly run-off with eldest son's friend, aged 15

The husband of a 33-year-old mother of five pleaded yesterday that his wife returns home after she reportedly ran-off with a 16-year-old technical school student. News of the affair has caused a minor sensation in the northern Greek town of Drama.

The woman's husband said he would forgive his wife if she would just come home. His wife, Vassiliki S., and the young man, identified as Costas D., left town on Friday. Police said they believe the couple has fled to Halkida, where the woman has relatives.

After initially filing a missing persons' report, the teen's parents have now filed charges against Vassiliki S. for kidnapping.

The married woman and the teen reportedly began their affair after the latter - a friend of the Saviddis' oldest son - visited the family home.

WEATHER

Overcast weather and scattered showers will prevail throughout Greece today. Winds southerly, strong to gale force. Partly cloudy in Athens with spells of sunshine and temperatures from 9-19C. Possibility of rain in Thessaloniki in the evening and temperatures from 5-13C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Wednesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          325.475
Pound sterling       527.307
Japanese yen (100)   315.248
French franc          49.883
German mark          167.301
Italian lira (100)    16.899
Irish Punt           415.472
Belgian franc          8.111
Finnish mark          55.033
Dutch guilder        148.482
Danish kr.            43.995
Austrian sch.         23.779
Spanish peseta         1.966
Swedish kr.           38.166
Norwegian kr.         40.545
Swiss franc          204.342
Port. Escudo           1.632
Can. dollar          219.827
Aus. dollar          206.559
Cyprus pound         568.555
Euro                 327.211
(C.E.)
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