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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-12-20
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>
NEWS IN ENGLISH
ATHENS, GREECE, 20/12/1999 (ANA)
NEWS IN DETAILPapantoniou calls on manufacturers and retailers to freeze prices
National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou has again called on manufacturers and retailers to lower or freeze their prices in order to aid Greece's bid to join the euro zone on January 1, 2001. Mr. Papantoniou was speaking in parliament on Saturday during the second day of debate on the budget for 2000 that culminates in a vote at midnight tomorrow.
The government has made "gentlemen's agreements" with many industrial and commercial enterprises to apply price restraint in the battle against inflation, the country's last hurdle to euro zone entry.
Inflation has resurged slightly in the wake of a steady decline to around 2.0 percent due to a rise in world oil prices, but the government and central bank maintain that targets are likely to be met by February.
Mr. Papantoniou told parliament that he hoped the February target would be met, shortly before Greece formally applies to the European Union in March for euro zone entry. A final decision is expected in June. "Greece is following its own path towards economic convergence with the European Union, combining stabilisation with growth and social equity," the minister said.
Countering criticism by the main opposition New Democracy party that the government had used "creative accounting", the minister pointed out that the general government deficit had fallen to 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, well below the euro zone criterion of 3.0 percent.
He also said that he expected interest rates to decline to about 4.0 percent by the end of 2000 and investments to rise by 10 percent annually.
The government's policy of privatisation would continue as planned, and the presence of the state in many parts of the economy had already been removed, Mr. Papantoniou said.
About to be privatised are Hellenic Aerospace Industry and Hellenic Vehicles Industry. The Public Power Corporation and the Piraeus and Thessaloniki port authorities are also expected to be floated.
In the last six years, the economy had recovered, growth had jumped to 3.5 percent and national revenue had risen to 69 percent of the EU average in 1999 from 60 percent, the minister noted.
The budget doubles the tax exempt ceiling on income; increases exemption for families with children; lowers tax for small and medium-sized enterprises to 25 percent from 35 percent; cuts levies on fuel and automobiles; and boosts social spending, includ ing a 10,000 drachma rise for farmers' pensions, the minister said.
Papandreou: Helsinki opened door to opportunity, not to paradise
Commenting on the European Union's recent Helsinki summit in an interview he gave to the newspaper "Kathimerini", Foreign Minister George Papandreou said the door to paradise was not opened with Helsinki but a door to opportunity.
He said he believes rapprochement between Turkey and Europe will strengthen liberal trends in Turkish society. However, he reiterated that there is no question of a dialogue on "Greek-Turkish differences" other than the issue of the continental shelf, add ing that Greece will not lift its reservations on the jurisdiction of the international Court at The Hague on issues of its security.
Mr. Papandreou said that after Helsinki "nothing has been judged finally in Greek-Turkish relations, but new opportunities are looming which we should utilise."
He said that he will be travelling to Ankara in this context, accompanied by businessmen, for the signing of agreements on issues of "lesser significance" with which, however, "a society of interests will be created which, to a certain degree, functions preventively towards the creation of tensions. Until now, certain circles in Ankara had nothing to lose by playing with the game of tension. From now on they will have dilemmas."
Mr. Papandreou insisted on the steadfast position of Greek foreign policy that "the sole existing Greek-Turkish difference is the delimitation of the intercontinental shelf and consequently we shall not accept discussion, and negotiation even more so, on Greek sovereign rights. If Turkey raises such issues it will receive this reply."
With regard to the possibility of methodisation for EU accession of only the unoccupied part of Cyprus, Mr. Papandreou said "our purpose is to facilitate a solution. But if there is no solution, the Republic of Cyprus will join in its entirety, as antic ipated by the Helsinki decision."
Mr. Papandreou clarified that in January, before the start of the second round of talks in New York, he will visit Nicosia to examine, together with the Cypriot government and the parties, the situation created after Helsinki and after the first round of talks.
"I will also promote contacts between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots," he said.
Union to be set up in memory of late Greek politician Kranidiotis
Researchers from countries in southeastern Europe on Saturday agreed to set up a regional union of institutes to be named "The Kranidiotis Forum", in memory of the late Greek politician.
Meeting in Thessaloniki, the representatives of research institutes in fields including law and international relations said naming the union after Kranidiotis was a mark of respect as the veteran diplomat had actively supported the scheme.
Kranidiotis was killed on September 14 when the prime minister's Falcon jet on which he was travelling hit turbulence over Romania.
Attending the session were researchers from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, Moldova, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey.
At the session - the first of its kind - delegates agreed that their institutes should launch cooperation through exchanges of experts and information on research programmes.
Resolution for return of cultural heritage treasures ratified
A plenum of the UN General Assembly's 54th session ratified a resolution on Friday night on the return of cultural heritage treasures to their countries of origin.
The resolution, promoted by Greece and backed by 42 member-states of the organisation, was endorsed by an absolute consensus.
Speaking after the vote, Greece's permanent representative Ilias Gounaris expressed on behalf of the Greek government the country's profound appreciation to all member-states for their valuable solidarity and support for the resolution.
He called on the international community to continue its efforts, particularly through the UN's relevant committees, to promote the implementation of the resolution.
Government considering reduction in length of military service
National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos said in Thessaloniki yesterday that the government was considering expansion of the professional armed forces accompanied by a reduction in the length of military service.
Speaking to reporters after the inauguration of a ministry exhibition in the northern port city, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said a decision on the possible changes would be taken next year.
Being reviewed were an overhaul of the armed forces including expansion of the professional military, which, in turn, could lead to the cut in military service, the minister said.
Under study in connection with the restructuring was the impact on the armed forces of Greece's ageing population, which already had lowered the number of recruits eligible each year for compulsory military service.
Young recruits reporting for service had fallen to 80,000 annually from 100, 000-120,000 in the past, Mr.Tsohatzopoulos noted.
"We must take immediate, systematic measures - not by increasing military service but by finding a way for the armed forces' needs to be met by using a larger chunk of the professional military. Better use could then be made of the shorter-term, military service component," he said.
Souflias announces he will not return to ND
Former minister George Souflias announced last night that he will not be returning to the New Democracy party, from which he had been expelled, and will not be participating in the general elections expected to take place in March.
Mr. Souflias criticised ND's leadership over the policy it has applied over the past two years since his expulsion. He said he nursed some hopes of a change in its policy, adding that throughout this period he ascertained that the leadership's option for the creation of a different party which would be adjusted to its measures and environment was conscientious.
Mr. Souflias said that ND's policy positions were distorted many times, while over the country's major issues the party's leadership was following an opportunist policy and was not presenting specific and responsible positions.
Mr. Souflias said this was even the case with institutions, such as the issue of the President of the Republic. He said it was ND which should have called for the voting of Mr. Stephanopoulos as self-evident, and not the reverse.
Mr. Souflias said the present ND, as it has been transformed primarily by its leadership, does not correspond to his principles and struggles. He said that, loyal to his personal code of principles and honour, he will not return to this different party and will not participate in the elections in March.
Later, ND leader Costas Karamanlis expressed regret over Mr. Souflias' decision in a written statement.
"We would have preferred Mr. Souflias to respond to ND's invitation to find ourselves together again on the bastions. We regret his choice. Mr. Souflias had and has a great deal to offer both to the crucial battle and the party," Mr. Karamanlis' statement said.
Commenting on the same issue in a statement to reporters, former prime minister and ND's honourary leader Constantine Mitsotakis said "I regret Mr. Souflias' decision. It certainly harms ND, but I fear that it also harms himself."
Archbishop Christodoulos ordains deacon from Zaire
Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece yesterday ordained a deacon from Zaire before a packed church with Greeks and foreigners in central Athens, noting that racism and xenophobia should be eliminated.
Speaking at the Aghios Constantinos church in Omonoia, Archbishop Christodoulos called on the Greek public to offer kindness and love to foreigners who seek refuge in Greece.
Archbishop Christodoulos said that prejudices and xenophobia must be eliminated "because our country is known for its hospitality and assistance to foreigners."
Deacon Theotimos, who studied Theology at Athens University, came to Greece 10 years ago. He turned to the Orthodox faith 25 years ago. He is married with two children who go to a Greek school.
Monument to be built based on lost Colossus of Rhodes
The International Herald Tribune (IHT) carried a feature on plans to build a monument for the new millennium based on the lost Colossus of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
In the IHT's December 17 edition, Rhodes Mayor George Yiannopoulos is quoted as saying:
"It will be a contemporary monument with modern artistic expression and technical construction that will surpass conventional standards.
"It will borrow all the ancient symbolic values of the original Colossus and will enrich them further with a current ideological content related mainly to world peace and cooperation and mankind's hopes for a better world in the new millennium."
The municipal council of Rhodes, which devised the scheme, also wants the renewed Colossus to be seen as an international millennium project that will symbolise growing European unification, the IHT said.
Architects, sculptors and engineers worldwide will be asked to submit their ideas based on the historical references available and symbolic values inspired by the Colossus, which was destroyed in 224 B.C.
Domestic interest rates to fall sharply by end of 2000
Domestic interest rates will fall sharply to around 4.0 percent by the end of 2000 from 11.0 percent currently, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said. In an interview to the Sunday Eleftherotypia newspaper, Mr. Papantoniou also fo recast that unemployment would drop next year due to the government's growth-oriented policies. In addition, the minister predicted that national elections would be held prematurely in March, and not in September when the government's term ends. He said he believed Costas Karamanlis, leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, was already committed to opposing incumbent President Kostis Stephanopoulos, which would entail early elections under the constitution.
Finally, the minister forecast that the Athens Stock Exchange, which has slumped recently, would recover in coming weeks.
Prosecutor charges 15 for selling bootleg CDs
A Thessaloniki public prosecutor on Saturday charged fifteen hawkers on a criminal count of violating intellectual property rights after they were arrested for selling bootleg CDs and CD-Roms outside the port city's university.
The 15, who were mostly from countries of the former Soviet Union, denied trafficking the illegal recordings after their arrest on Friday, but refused to state where they were obtained, court sources said. The round-up was part of a Thessaloniki police operation against the bootlegging trade in which more than 9,000 CDs have been confiscated. In Athens, two men were due to be charged for counterfeiting CDs after police raided an illegal recording factory in the Athens suburb of Aghia Varvara.
Confiscated were 760 copies of CDs by artists from Greece and abroad.
WEATHERRainy weather in almost all parts of Greece today, getting worse in the Ionian and northern Aegean sea regions with an improvement late in the evening. Overcast in Athens with rainfall later in the day and temperatures from 14-17C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 6-13C.
Monday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 320.922 Pound sterling 519.114 Japanese yen (100) 312.034 French franc 49.943 German mark 167.503 Italian lira (100) 16.920 Irish Punt 415.976 Belgian franc 8.121 Finnish mark 55.100 Dutch guilder 148.662 Danish kr. 44.035 Austrian sch. 23.808 Spanish peseta 1.969 Swedish kr. 38.113 Norwegian kr. 40.503 Swiss franc 204.347 Port. Escudo 1.634 Can. dollar 217.863 Aus. dollar 206.892 Cyprus pound 566.630 Euro 327.608(C.E.)
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