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Athens News Agency Bulletin, February 24, 1995

(Apo to Ellnviko Grafeio Tupou kai Plnroforiwv, Ottawa, Canada

E-Mail Address:


  • [1] Greece responds to French proposals on EU-Turkey customs union

  • [2] Parliament meets today to begin electing new president

  • [3] Gov't requests clarification on Kinkel statements in Turkish paper, Bonn says Kinkel never gave interview

  • [4] Skoularikis meets with French counterpart on labour issues

  • [5] Black Sea energy group meets on projects, infrastructure

  • [6] Papoulias likely to visit Tirana mid March

  • [7] DEP group firms register profits of 22 billion

  • [8] National Bank to open branch in Sofia

  • [1] Greece responds to French proposals on EU-Turkey customs union

    Athens, 24/02/1995 (ANA):

    Greece said yesterday its response to French proposals on Turkey's custom union with the European Union had been sent off to Paris, but did not elaborate.

    "The government's reply is in line with the well-known and firm positions of the Greek side and allows for the formation of a balanced and mutually acceptable position that safeguards vital national interests," government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said. He said the official Greek response would be conveyed to the French presidency of the European Union through the Greek embassy in Paris.

    European Affairs Minister George Alexander Mangakis earlier told reporters on arrival from Paris that the French proposals were a "clear step forward", but did not clarify whether there was agreement on four key Greek demands. These include setting a exact date for Cyprus' membership negotiations, less aid for Turkey, and more safeguards for Greek industry likely to be threatened by Turkish textile exports. The tariff-slashing customs union agreement would give Turkey some of the closest links to the EU of a non-member state and un-block as much as $1 billion in aid.

    Greece's objections are not the only ones the French must overcome before the customs deal is in the final stretch. The European Parliament cast further doubt on the deal last week when it said Turkey's human rights record was not good enough for the agreement to be allowed to go through at present. Under the Maastricht treaty, the parliament, the EU's only directly-elected body, has the power to block deals such as the customs union.

    Earlier in the day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Costas Bikas told reporters the French presidency had made "strenuous" efforts to attain progress on the issue of the commencement of accession negotiations with Cyprus and the issue of the EU-Turkey customs union.

    Alternate Foreign Minister George Alexander Mangakis described a meeting Wednesday in Paris with French Foreign Under-Secretary for European Affairs Alain Lamassoure as a "positive step" towards resolving the issues.

    After that meeting, Mr. Bikas said, the Greek and French delegations held a meeting at which the Greek side put forward its positions and the French presidency made certain proposals which were conveyed to Athens. Mr. Bikas said that all of Greece's partners in the EU shared a common desire to resolve the issue.

    Greece objected to an EU-Turkey customs union deal agreed in principle by EU foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels earlier this month. Its objections stemmed from the deal's vague reference to when negotiations for Cyprus' admission to the EU would begin and provisions for financial aid to Turkey.

    In another development yesterday, Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias had talks with US Ambassador in Athens Thomas Niles on a number of issues including the EU-Turkey customs union, Cyprus's accession to the EU and Greek-Albanian relations.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr. Niles said that the approval of the customs union would be "a good thing". "Good obviously for Turkey and for the European Union, but also a desirable development for Greece and a positive thing in relations between Greece and Turkey, although it is not a bilateral issue," Mr. Niles said.

    "Quite independently of that," the envoy added, "the US sees virtue, supports the idea that Cyprus should become a member of the European Union. That's not really our issue. It's for Cyprus and the members of the EU, but we see virtue in that".

    He said that the US hoped that agreement would be reached to allow the customs union to proceed and said he saw "virtue in setting some schedule to consider the issue of Cyprus' membership in the EU".

    Replying to questions on Greece's objections to the customs union, Mr. Niles expressed the hope that they could be overcome "and that understanding will be reached among the members of the EU, including Greece, obviously, and Turkey on the terms and conditions of the customs union".

    Mr. Niles said that the US was pleased to see the recent improvements in relations between Athens and Tirana. Meanwhile, Former Foreign Under-Secretary and Eurodeputy Yiannos Kranidiotis arrived yesterday in Cyprus for a series of meetings with the political leadership on the issue.

    [2] Parliament meets today to begin electing new president

    Athens, 24/02/1995 (ANA):

    The first round of voting for the replacement of outgoing President of the Republic Constantine Karamanlis will be held in Parliament at 12 noon today. According to the Constitution, a total of 200 votes in the 300-member House are necessary to elect a new president in both the first and second round of voting, which is scheduled for March 2.

    The candidate put forward by the ruling PASOK party and also supported by Political Spring is Kostis Stephanopoulos. Main opposition party New Democracy has put forward the candidacy of Athanasios Tsaldaris.

    Deputies will be called upon by name to vote openly without any prior debate. It seems unlikely that the first two rounds of voting will produce a new president and the third and final round is scheduled for March 8 when 180 votes will suffice. If in the third round no candidate is elected, national elections will be called.

    [3] Gov't requests clarification on Kinkel statements in Turkish paper, Bonn says Kinkel never gave interview

    Athens, 24/02/1995 (ANA):

    The government said yesterday that it had asked Bonn for clarifications over a reported interview by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel to the Turkish newspaper Sabah and been told that no such interview had ever taken place.

    Greek newspapers have referred extensively to the issue of the interview during which Mr. Kinkel reportedly threatened to isolate Athens if it did not accept an agreement reached in principle by EU foreign ministers in Brussels earlier this month concerning a customs union between the Community and Turkey.

    "Explanations were sought from the German foreign ministry in Bonn and the German embassy in Athens. The reply which we received was that they had no knowledge of any interview given by Mr. Kinkel to the newspaper Sabah," Foreign Ministry spokesman Costas Bikas said.

    "The German side," Mr. Bikas added, "informed us that Mr. Kinkel had delivered a speech to a Turkish Liberals Club in Germany but had not given any interview." Mr. Bikas said, however, that the German side was unable to confirm or deny whether the statements attributed to him in the reported Sabah interview had in fact been made.

    A German Foreign Ministry spokesman also told the Macedonian Press Agency yesterday that Mr. Kinkel had not given an interview to any Turkish newspaper. The spokesman declined to make any comment on the content of the reported statements by Mr. Kinkel, saying Bonn's positions on the customs union between the EU and Turkey were known both in the EU and Greece.

    Sabah presented Mr. Kinkel's reported statements as an exclusive interview with reporter Leila Umar, according to which Mr. Kinkel said he personally guaranteed Turkey's accession to the customs union and that he would tell the Greeks he was fed up with "extortion" and would not give in on the question of customs union.

    [4] Skoularikis meets with French counterpart on labour issues

    Paris, 24/02/1995 (ANA):

    Labour Minister Ioannis Skoularikis met his French counterpart Michel Giraud, the president of the European Union's Social Affairs Council, in Paris yesterday The two ministers agreed to "building a special relation" between the two countries in the labour sector.

    The exclusion of the Merchant Marine from the Community draft directive on the detachment of wage earners and problems faced by wage earners working in third countries were also examined by the ministers.

    On the issue of seamen changing ship, Mr. Skoularikis underlined the peculiarities governing the sector and the international practice of discontinuing contracts. Mr. Giraud promised to support the Greek claim of excluding the Merchant Marine at the next Council of Ministers on March 27. The two countries agreed that the settlement of the labour status should remain the exclusive responsibility of domestic legislation.

    Referring to the payment of social contributions, Mr. Giraud said he would put forward a compromise proposal by which payment would take effect on arrival but would be accompanied by an optional right to either immediate implementation or a one-month postponement.

    Mr. Skoularikis underlined Greece's interest in problems faced by people losing their jobs at an elderly age and efforts which must be made to combat "poverty pockets" due to regional de-industrialisation.

    [5] Black Sea energy group meets on projects, infrastructure

    Athens, 24/02/1995 (ANA):

    The second meeting of the Energy Working Group of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation Council, which wound up its sessions under Greek chairmanship in Athens yesterday, discussed specific ways of promoting and developing energy projects and infrastructure.

    Participants, besides the 11 member-country delegations, included observers from Israel and Egypt, representatives of the European Commission, the United Nations, and the Black Sea Regional Energy Centre. Special emphasis was laid on the need for interconnecting energy networks, which is fully in line with current European Union concerns.

    The Greek side sought and succeeded in orienting deliberations towards strengthening the role of the European Union in this region of marked geopolitical significance. It was decided that the Black Sea Energy Centre in Sofia will carry out special studies to ascertain projects that ought to receive priority and the appropriate criteria thereof, to be discussed by the next Working Group meeting. A working text on the efficient use and management of energy, submitted by the Greek delegation, was also adopted.

    [6] Papoulias likely to visit Tirana mid March

    Athens, 24/02/1995 (ANA):

    Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias will most likely visit Albania between March 10-15, Foreign Ministry spokesman Constantine Bikas said yesterday. Mr. Bikas said that the exact date of Mr. Papoulias' visit to Tirana had not yet been set. He said Mr. Papoulias' visit was a sign of easing tension between the two neighbours.

    Two weeks ago an Albanian appeals court freed four members of the country's Greek minority who had been detained since April 1994 on charges of espionage. The affair had seriously affected relations between the two countries and the court decision was seen as a clear move to ease the strain. The four, along with a fifth ethnic Greek, were leaders of a ethnic Greek organisation, Omonia.

    They were arrested after a bloody attack on an Albanian army barracks. Athens said the trumped-up charges were an attempt to intimidate the minority -- estimated at 300,000 -- and demanded their release, but Tirana found them guilty.

    In response, Athens blocked a European Union aid package of 15 million ECU's (19 million dollars) for Albania, which was lifted in November, in what it called a "goodwill gesture". Albania's President Sali Berisha pardoned one of the five on Christmas Eve while the other four received reduced and suspended sentences at an appeal hearing.

    [7] DEP group firms register profits of 22 billion

    Athens, 24/02/1995 (ANA):

    The Public Petroleum Corporation (DEP) registered profits amounting to 22 billion drachmas in 1994 compared to 8.2 billion drachmas in the previous year. DEP President Christos Verelis and DEP managing director Manolis Daskalakis said the group of DEP companies increased its profits from 25.4 billion drachmas in 1993 to 44.5 billion drachmas in 1994.

    The principal factors responsible for the increase in profits, at a time when refineries in Europe and the Mediterranean basin in particular are going through a crisis, were favourable purchases of crude oil and products in 1994, the profitable management of reserves, a quantitative and qualitative increase in refinery production and support for the drachma resulting in the improvement of results in managing available funds.

    In addition, the DEP group continued its business activities in the development sector, increasing investments from 52.3 billion drachmas in 1993 to 60 billion drachmas in 1994.

    On the question of the group joining the Stock Exchange, it was disclosed that the choice of time will depend on conditions prevailing in both the oil and Stock Exchange markets.

    [8] National Bank to open branch in Sofia

    Athens, 24/02/1995 (ANA):

    Following the Xios and Ionian banks, Bulgarian authorities have granted an operating licence for a branch of the National Bank of Greece in Sofia. The branch is in the financial centre of the Bulgarian capital, measures 500 sq.m., and its renovation cost 150 million drachmas. It is fully geared to meet all banking requirements.

    During Bulgarian deputy premier Kazimir Premianov's recent visit to Athens, National Bank governor George Mirkos said that the bank would soon set up a specialised investment branch in the neighbouring country.

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