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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-12-21

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, 21/12/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Post-Helsinki prospects, proximity talks discussed in Athens
  • First Greek-Turkish industrial joint venture
  • Equities back to the doldrums
  • Greece gets extension to phase out super gasoline
  • Piraeus Bank launches merger with group banks
  • Parliamentary budget debate continues
  • Hellenic Aerospace, Chinese firm in joint venture
  • Renault to supply new buses for Athens
  • EU sees decrease in Greek farmers' real income for '99
  • Status of ethnic Greeks of Albania discussed at foreign ministry
  • Greek aid to quake-stricken area of NW Turkey
  • OECD report on air, water quality in Greece
  • Digital TV contract signed
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Post-Helsinki prospects, proximity talks discussed in Athens

The prospects opening up after the recent EU summit in Helsinki and results of the first round of UN-sponsored proximity talks in New York dominated discussions yesterday between Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his visiting Cyprus counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides.

Mr. Papandreou told reporters afterwards that a new climate was being created as well as new prospects for finding a solution to the Cyprus issue following the Helsinki summit.

He also announced he would visit Cyprus soon, possibly next month.

Mr. Papandreou said that he and Mr. Kasoulides discussed the recent proximity talks - held between Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash - in light of a second round of talks scheduled to open Jan. 27 in Geneva.

He said the EU's more active involvement not only in Cyprus' EU accession course but also towards a Cyprus settlement would help in further boosting the efforts to resolve the problem.

Also aiding in that direction would be the improvement in the climate in Greek-Turkish relations, Mr. Papandreou added.

Mr. Kasoulides reiterated the Nicosia government's view that the Helsinki decision was a positive one, adding that it was the result of a "huge diplomatic battle" by Athens "which has proved and is proving to be to the benefit of Cyprus and Greece".

Asked whether the Cyprus government intended to reiterate its invitation to the Turkish Cypriots to take part in the EU accession negotiations, Mr. Kasoulides said his government had already done so during the summit dinner in Helsinki attended by the leaders of the EU member-states and candidate countries.

First Greek-Turkish industrial joint venture

Domestic engineering contractor METON-ETEP yesterday signed a cooperation protocol with Yapi Merkezi of Turkey to create a joint venture for the production of plastic irrigation pipes.

The protocol was signed in Istanbul by Nikolaos Hionis for the METON-ETEP Group and Ersin Arioglu, chairman of Yapi Merkezi, also an engineering firm.

The deal involves an initial investment of 15 million dollars for a plant in Greece to produce Owens-Crowning/Subor irrigation pipes. Output is expected to begin in 2001.

"This is the first joint industrial investment between Greece and Turkey and we hope the protocol will mark the beginning of stable cooperation that will also extend beyond the two countries," Mr. Hionis told the Athens News Agency.

"The European Union's acceptance of Turkey's candidacy for membership was very encouraging," he added.

Equities back to the doldrums

Equities maintained a downward trend on the Athens Stock Exchange yeserday with the general index ending 3.63 percent down at 5,034.85 points.

Sentiment remained negative with turnover at 226.39 billion drachmas, or 170 billion drachmas net exluding block trades.

The parallel market index for small capitalisation stocks was down 7.18 per cent at 1,595.48 points.

The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavily traded stocks ended 2.65 per cent lower at 2,616.49 points.

National Bank of Greece ended at 22,800 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 24, 420, Titan Cement Company (common) at 34,830, Hellenic Petroleum at 4,550, Intracom at 12,590, Panafon at 3,750 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 6,800 drachmas.

Government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said yesterday that recent fluctuations on the Athens bourse were normal and the basis was there for the market to rise.

The government's priority was to protect the operation of the Athens Stock Exchange, he added.

Prices edged down in the secondary bond market yesterday with analysts saying current levels were expected to hold until the end of the year - barring surprises - in the wake of a recent bout of profit taking.

Greece gets extension to phase out super gasoline

The European Commission yesterday gave Greece, Italy and Spain a two-year extension to phase out the use of super leaded petrol.

Announcement of the extension to December 31, 2001 was made by Environment Commissioner Margo Wallstrom.

"During this transitional period, the member-states concerned will be able to brief citizens and prepare them appropriately for a shift to more environmentally friendly fuels, and allow economic agencies to proceed with necessary reforms to the market," she said.

Greece had requested a five-year extension, invoking the profusion of older cars on the road that could not be replaced in such a short period of time.

Piraeus Bank launches merger with group banks

Piraeus Bank is launching a merger process with Macedonia-Thrace Bank and Xiosbank, members of its group, that will create one of the country's largest banking groups, president Michalis Sallas told a news conference yesterday.

The merger will be completed by June 30, 2000 when the group's network will total 170 branches.

Mr. Sallas said the group now had a 6.6 percent market share of bank-held assets, aiming to reach 10 percent in the next three years.

The new Piraeus Bank will have assets of approximately four trillion drachmas, shareholders' equity of 400 billion drachmas and 3,400 staff, Mr. Sallas said.

The merger process will start immediately with the stockbroking subsidiaries of the three banks, which are forecast to realise profits of about 24 billion drachmas in 1999.

The group's investment arm, Piraeus Prime Bank, plans to broaden its range of services, and will apply for listing on the Athens Stock Exchange in 2001, aiming for an equity capital of 40 billion drachmas.

Parliamentary budget debate continues

Debate on the government's budget for 2000 continued yesterday with a roll call vote scheduled for midnight today.

Ruling PASOK deputy Pantelis Oikonomou told the chamber that the government's short-term targets included increasing the number of jobs, reducing indirect taxation, improving state education and other public services, and improving the quality of life.

Striking a different note, opposition New Democracy deputy Manolis Kefaloyiannis said that if the budget for 2000 was a corporate budget, the company would be forced to close down.

He said that 44 trillion drachmas had been added to the public debt with PASOK governments in the 1980s responsible for 88 percent of the amount, and successive governments the remaining twelve percent.

"The money could have been used to double wages and pensions, to buy computers for children and to contribute to health," Mr. Kefaloyiannis said.

Deputy National Economy Minister Christos Pahtas told parliament that Greece ranked second in the European Union for the absorption of Community funds, and that public debt servicing in the budget had fallen by half from 66 percent in 1994 to 33 percent this year.

Hellenic Aerospace, Chinese firm in joint venture

State-owned Hellenic Aerospace Industry, which is slated for privatisation, has signed a contract with Shenyang (Sarc) of China for the creation of a consortium to be named Hellenic Aircraft Repair.

Shenyang, which repairs aircraft, is a subsidiary of SAC, one of China's largest firms in the defence aerospace sector.

Hellenic Aerospace will hold a 45 percent stake in the consortium and Shenyang 55 percent.

Under the terms of the contract signed on December 8, the new firm will be based in the Chinese city of Shenyang.

Renault to supply new buses for Athens

The Athens Urban Transport Organisation (OASA) will sign on Thursday a contract with Renault for the supply of 295 non-polluting public buses to help replace an ageing fleet.

On the same day, OASA will also sign a procurement contract with Siemens for an automated control system for vehicles.

Selection of the two companies follows a tender.

EU sees decrease in Greek farmers' real income for '99

The real income of Greek farmers decreased by 2 per cent in 1999 compared to 1998, according to data provided by the European Union's EUROSTAT statistical service and released here yesterday.

The decrease in farmers' income in the European Union was 4 per cent on average.

Farmers' income decreased in 12 of the 15 EU member-states. The biggest decreases were in Ireland (13 per cent) and Denmark (11 per cent). Conversely, agricultural income increased in small Luxembourg (5 per cent), Sweden (6 per cent) and Portugal (14 per cent).

Acxcording to the EU's service, farmers' income decreased in the EU due to a 5 per cent decrease in the real price of farm production, a 2 per cent decrease in the real value of intermediate consumption and a 2 per cent decrease in subsidies in real prices.

EUROSTAT added that agricultural production increased by 1 per cent in 1999, but the labour force involved in agricultural production decreased by 3 per cent. In parallel, the production of grain in the EU decreased by 6 per cent, while real prices remained stable. The real price of grain decreased 4 per cent in Greece, EUROSTAT said.

Greece also shows the biggest decrease (10 per cent) in wine production in 1999.

Status of ethnic Greeks of Albania discussed at foreign ministry

Foreign Minister George Papandreou agreed yesterday to closer contacts with the head of the ethnic Greek organisation of Albania 'Omonia' and the Albanian Human Rights Party leader, during talks in Athens.

Mr. Papandreou held an hour-long discussion with the two high-ranking members of the ethnic Greek minority, Vangelis Dulles and Vassili Melo, respectively, with talks focusing mainly on human rights issues and on protection of the ethnic Greek community in the Albanian south.

Mr. Papandreou will hold talks in Athens tomorrow with Albanian Prime Minister Ilir Meta.

Mr. Meta arrives for talks with Greek counterpart Costas Simitis and other government officials on bilateral relations, regional political developments, Kosovo and implementation of the SE Europe Stability Pact. Mr. Papandreou added that Athens sup ported the efforts of the Greek minority in Albania for economic growth and in the problems it faced.

Greek aid to quake-stricken area of NW Turkey

A total of 440 tonnes of humanitarian aid from Greece are expected to arrive in the city of Tuzla, southeast of Istanbul, today, the coordinator of Greek humanitarian aid to Turkey Costas Georgiou said. The aid is being sent at the initiative of Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos in cooperation with the municipalities of Thessaloniki, Piraeus, Patra and Irakleio, Crete.

The aid, composed primarily of foodstuffs, clothing and tents, will be received by the Mayor of Tuzla, Idris Guluce, during an official ceremony and will then be forwarded to the earthquake-stricken cities of Duzce and Izmit.

OECD report on air, water quality in Greece

Air and water quality in Greece has apparently improved, compared to the recent past, a relevant report of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) noted.

The report, which was completed in November, was presented yesterday by Deputy Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Theodoros Koliopanos.

The deputy minister said the report was compiled following tests and inspections of the private and public sectors of Greece and by an OECD committee, which reached the conclusion that conditions in Greece have improved.

Digital TV contract signed

The first digital television platform in Greece became a reality yesterday as the government approved a contract with Multichoice Hellas, in accordance with a relevant law approved last year by Parliament.

Multichoice will offer a choice o Greek and foreign television broadcasts along with interactive consumer and educational services.

The new company is owned by Netmed Hellas with 51 per cent; Teletypos with 42 per cent and Lumiere TV with 7 per cent, while negotiations with Antenna TV are still in progress for a possible purchase of part of the new company.

"The vision of a society of information, as a society of citizens, one that will secure to everyone the right for total and equal participation in the social, economic and political life should be founded on the model of unhindered public communication, " Press and Media Minister Dimitris Reppas said.

WEATHER

Rainy weather is forecast for almost all parts of Greece today. Snow in the mountainous regions of central and northern Greece. Winds southerly, southwesterly, strong, turning gale force in the Aegean Sea. Sunny in Athens with rain expected in the evening and temperatures from 11-17C. Rain in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 7-11C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying)
U.S. dollar          325.634
Pound sterling       522.824
Japanese yen (100)   316.488
French franc          49.974
German mark          167.604
Italian lira (100)    16.929
Irish Punt           416.228
Belgian franc          8.126
Finnish mark          55.133
Dutch guilder        148.752
Danish kr.            44.084
Austrian sch.         23.823
Spanish peseta         1.970
Swedish kr.           38.154
Norwegian kr.         40.589
Swiss franc          204.903
Port. Escudo           1.635
Can. dollar          219.966
Aus. dollar          209.114
Cyprus pound         569.745
Euro                 327.806
(C.E.)
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