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Athens News Agency Bulletin, February 28, 1995

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

E-Mail Address:


  • [1] OA receives 19 billion drachma capital injection in first step to save carrier

  • [2] Greece not to blame for EU failure to agree on customs union agreement, Mangakis says

  • [3] Clerides unworried: no deadlock

  • [4] Evert to meet Milosevic today

  • [5] Greece, Bulgaria optimistic about future defence co-operation

  • [6] Greece regrets death of Albanian illegal immigrant

  • [7] Albania complains about deaths of Albanian illegal immigrants

  • [8] Seven Chinese illegal immigrants arrested

  • [9] Indian minister in Athens for talks on bilateral relations

  • [10] Iranian foreign minister to visit EU member Greece

  • [11] Papademos appoints new Bank of Crete commissioner

  • [12] ANA signs exchange agreement with Armenian agency

  • [13] Greece must look further afield for balanced, multilateral trade relations, Papantoniou says

  • [1] OA receives 19 billion drachma capital injection in first step to save carrier

    Athens, 28/02/1995 (ANA):

    Olympic Airways, Greece's troubled national carrier, has received a total of 19 billion drachmas to enable it to increase its share capital as part of the government's four-year plan to restructure the company.

    According to the plan, OA is to receive a total of 54 billion drachmas in state capital injection: the second instalment of 23 billion drachmas will be paid in 1996 and a further 12 billion drachmas in 1997.

    Transport and Communications Minister Thanassis Tsouras said 65 billion drachmas in mature loans of both the airline and its subsidiary, Olympic Aviation, had already been serviced while the procedure for writing off the company's bad debts to the state was going ahead at the Finance Ministry. The 11 billion drachmas needed to finance its voluntary retirement programme has also been secured, he said. He added staff participation in the company's board had been initiated.

    Mr. Tsouras said the number of employees leaving in 1995 had been set -- following a proposal by Olympic's new board and accepted by the Transport and Communications Ministry -- at 1,048 employees. There were 1,380 applications for voluntary retirement.

    Parliament late last year ratified a bill outlining a four-year survival plan, approved by the European Commission in July 1994, which allows the state to assume Olympic's $2.5 billion debt, but puts an end to further state funding. It also guarantees the company loans of up to $378 million until 1997 to buy new planes. The Commission approved, with conditions, OA's aid package, comprising loan guarantees, debt write-offs and conversions, and a capital injection between 1995 and 1997. The government's bill calls for a two-year wage freeze at 1993 levels for Olympic's 10,780 employees and enforces early retirement of staff and limited staff leave.

    Meanwhile, consultations are continuing between OA and the European Commission on the issue of lifting the monopoly concerning handling issues. New meetings have been scheduled in Brussels next month.

    Transport and Communications Ministry Secretary-General Ioannis Constantinidis has held two meetings with EU representatives and a postponement was requested to enable him to set out his views. Mr. Constantinidis said European Commission Transport Committee general director Mr. Coleman would support his case. He also said Community procedures on the issues were time-consuming.

    The Commission said last year after approving the government's plan to save the carrier that the number of seats offered by Olympic on scheduled flights in the European Economic Area should not be more than in 1993, namely 3,427,500 seats. This excluded flights to outlying Greek islands, over which Olympic Airways currently holds a monopoly which the Commission said must be abolished by June 1998.

    [2] Greece not to blame for EU failure to agree on customs union agreement, Mangakis says

    Brussels, (ANA-F.Stangos/CNA):

    Greece said yesterday it was not responsible for problems created in European Union negotiations for a key customs union pact with Turkey. "From our point of view, we have exhausted all possible limits of good will and good faith in a bid to find a mutually acceptable solution," Greece's European Affairs Minister George Alexander Mangakis said. "We are not the ones creating problems," he told reporters.

    His statements came hours after European Union Permanent Representatives (COREPER) met in Brussels but failed to iron-out details on the controversial deal that could open the way for closer trade relations between the EU and Turkey. Athens has objected to the deal, setting four conditions to lift its veto. These include EU commitments for a specific date for the beginning of Cyprus membership talks, less aid for Turkey and more funds for the Greek textile industry likely to be threatened by Turkish exports.

    Specifically, Athens wants an existing EU document to say talks with Cyprus "will start" within six months after a 1996 intergovernmental conference instead of "could start." Athens insisted on all four conditions but stressed that the Cyprus issue was the most important.

    "The Greek positions are firm and unchangeable," Mr. Mangakis said. He praised efforts by the French presidency of the 15-member bloc to find a solution, but noted on-going negotiations have been "tough" and met with "strong" German objections. Mr. Mangakis said that other countries such as Spain did not back Athens' demands.

    In statements earlier in the day, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said that "if the issue is considered rationally then there can be no rejection of the Greek positions."

    France has said a Turkey-EU Association Council meeting planned for March 6 will not take place unless agreement is reached among EU member-states on the customs union deal and has been seeking ways to meet Greece's new demands before the meeting. A new meeting will be held tomorrow in a last-ditch effort to find a compromise solution.

    France offered Greece a counter-proposal to its four demands last week when Mr. Mangakis travelled to Paris for talks with the French government. The French proposal provides for a clear EU commitment to start membership talks with Cyprus within six months after the 1996 intergovernmental conference. It also provides for a definite structured dialogue between now and the start of accession talks.

    The French also proposed offering full contacts with Cyprus in the run-up to the start of accession negotiations along the lines of the structured dialogue proffered to aspiring EU members from east and central Europe. The third French proposal was that the European Commission make recommendations during this year on aid for the Greek textile industry which is expected to suffer deeply from competition with Turkey once the customs union comes into effect. The proposal relating to the Greek textile industry did not incorporate the Greek request for reduced funding to Turkey.

    Athens gave Paris its reply last week but did not make it public. Greece raised reservations about the initial February 6 agreement and subsequently put forward suggestions to improve the phrasing of the agreement in an attempt to secure a more specific date for the start of EU-Cyprus accession negotiations, a more structured dialogue, restrict EU funds to Turkey and protect Greek textiles.

    All EU member states have expressed reservations about France's counter-proposals and certain nations, led by Germany, rejected all the amendments requested by France. Germany, Belgium and certain other countries have reacted strongly against the stipulations relating to Cyprus whereas Britain's stand was positive in that it wants to see an EU-Turkey agreement concluded.

    Led by Germany, Denmark and Belgium, the EU members expressed reservations maintaining that dialogue should not begin with Cyprus as is the case with the countries of the central and eastern Europe. "Not everyone was happy with the wording change.

    There was a feeling it could prejudge the intergovernmental conference" Reuters quoted an EU source as saying. The source added that there was a deliberate intention to leave vague whether the end of the conference meant the conclusion of technical discussions, the formal closing summit or ratification of the agreement by all EU states.

    According to the French representative who chaired yesterday's meeting, there would be a clarification that the dialogue with Cyprus would be held independently of EU talks with central and eastern Europe states but the part relating to membership talks shall remain as it stands today.

    In earlier statements, the French representative warned that the French Presidency would not alter its counter-proposals and that in the case the members retained their positions he would have to postpone the EU-Turkey Association Council meeting.

    The proposal relating to the Greek textile industry was in general terms satisfactory, however, the French proposals did not incorporate the Greek request for reduced funding to Turkey. The French Presidency's counter-proposal requested that the European Commission submit within 1995 specific proposals for the support of the Greek textiles industry (in regard to competition in the sector) but this has been met with opposition by EU members, especially Germany and Spain.

    Spain requested that French proposals should cover only the financial consequences suffered by the Greek textiles industry by the EU customs union with Turkey, adding that EU aid to Greece should in this case be drawn from existing Community funds.

    The French presidency suggested that a new text should be added to the position placing the Commission proposals for the support of the Greek textiles industry "in the framework of a need for the reorganisation of the sector on European level and with regard to the Community interests." The Greek Representative, Ambassador Pavlos Apostolidis expressed reservations at both proposals.

    The meeting also discussed human rights in Turkey, a further stumbling block to the achievement of a customs union with the 15-member bloc. The European Parliament, the body's only directly-elected body and with the power to block such agreements, said this month that Turkey's poor human rights record was an obstacle to a customs union. The French representative said his country intended to "speak with clear and harsh language" to Turkey over these issues at the Association Council meeting.

    Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Under-Secretary Ozdem Sanberk arrives today in Brussels for political consultations with Germany, France and Spain, currently the EU troika countries, sources said yesterday. The same source said that Turkish Foreign Minister Murat Karayalcin is also expected in Brussels today to attend the EU-Turkey customs union consultations.

    The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) in statements yesterday described the EU members' attitude towards the issue as "demagogic" and hypocritical." The KKE accused the EU of overlooking human rights violation in Turkey, as well as the Kurdish issue. It was also critical of the Greek government which it accused of not seeming preoccupied with the problems and pending issues in the neighbouring country. KKE feels that Cyprus's accession to the European Union will lead to the de-internationalization of the problem and new complications.

    [3] Clerides unworried: no deadlock

    Nicosia, 28/02/1995 (ANA - G. Leonidas):

    Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides yesterday underlined that there was no deadlock on the issue of starting accession talks between Cyprus and the European Union. Referring to the unsuccessful meeting of the permanent representatives of the EU on a final agreement, Mr. Clerides said that the final decision will be made on March 6, adding that tomorrow a final decision will also not be achieved. Asked whether he w as satisfied he said he was.

    [4] Evert to meet Milosevic today

    Athens, 28/02/1995 (ANA):

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party leader Miltiades Evert will fly to Belgrade today for talks with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. According to press reports, Mr. Evert and Mr. Milosevic will discuss developments in the crisis in former Yugoslavia within the framework of ND's peace initiative.

    Mr. Evert, who will return to Athens tonight, held similar talks in Belgrade and Zagreb with Mr. Milosevic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman respectively in December. He met with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe in Paris last week to brief him on the results of the talks.

    [5] Greece, Bulgaria optimistic about future defence co-operation

    Athens, 28/02/1995 (ANA):

    The Greek and Bulgarian chiefs of General Staff Admiral Christos Lymberis and General Bladenov Totomirov said they were optimistic that the two countries' recently signed defence agreement would be successfully executed.

    The programme for 1995 envisages the holding of exercises in the Peloponnese and the Black Sea, the exchange of observers, joint training of special forces, the exchange of information on organisational and operational matters, the tackling of emergencies in border areas and civil defence plans. The agreement was signed last week in Sofia by National Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis and his Bulgarian counterpart Dimiter Pavlov.

    Meeting at the Greek Defence Ministry yesterday, the two officers concurred on current developments in the region and the future of the two countries "which are part of Europe politically, economically, socially, and defence wise".

    A communiqui issued after the meeting said that a basic aim of the two countries remained the contribution to peace and stability. Co-operation necessitates respect for existing borders and human rights, economic exchanges, the consolidation of democratic institutions, and avoiding the use of the threat of violence in dealing with bilateral problems, it said.

    The communiqui pointed to the fuelling of minority problems, Islamic religious fanaticism and the lack of democracy and economic growth as factors that would lead to destabilisation in the Balkans. The two men stressed that Greek-Bulgarian defence co-operation was not aimed at anyone and aimed only to promote peace. Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis received the Bulgarian general before the meeting.

    [6] Greece regrets death of Albanian illegal immigrant

    Athens, 28/02/1995 (ANA):

    Greece yesterday expressed its "deep regret" over an incident at the weekend in which a young Albanian illegal immigrant was killed. Government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said, however, that the incident took place "purely by chance".

    The Albanian was shot by a policeman near the village of Mikrolimni, Florina when a patrol stopped a group of 18 Albanian illegal immigrants. Police said the man was accidentally shot in the face during a scuffle with an officer who was trying to disarm him after the Albanian pulled a knife.

    Mr. Venizelos said it was necessary to conclude a bilateral agreement on the employment of Albanians in Greece, adding that this would be one of the issues discussed during Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias' forthcoming visit to Tirana. The spokesman said that Mr. Papoulias' visit would contribute towards an improvement in Greek-Albanian relations.

    Meanwhile, authorities said a total of 662 Albanian illegal immigrants had been arrested in the Epirus region and sent back to Albania in the last three days.

    [7] Albania complains about deaths of Albanian illegal immigrants

    Athens, 28/02/1995 (ANA):

    Albania officially complained to Greece yesterday over the deaths of two Albanian nationals in border incidents in the last fortnight. In the letter handed to Greece's Ambassador in Tirana, Christos Tsalikis, by Albanian Foreign Under-Secretary Arian Starova, Tirana called on the Greek government "to take effective measures to stop incidents of this type from occurring in the future."

    Mr. Starova expressed regret that the incidents occurred at a time when the two countries were preparing to receive Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias, whom, he said, was welcome to Tirana.

    Albanian Foreign Minister Alfred Serreqi expressed the hope that Mr. Papoulias' visit to Tirana, expected to take place March 13-15, would signal a "turning point" in relations with Athens.

    [8] Seven Chinese illegal immigrants arrested

    Athens, 28/02/1995 (ANA):

    Seven Chinese illegal immigrants who entered the country about ten days ago from Albania have been arrested in Igoumenitsa, northern Greece. The Chinese, who carried fake passports, were arrested while trying to board a ferry-boat to Italy, according to police.

    [9] Indian minister in Athens for talks on bilateral relations

    Athens, 28/02/1995 (ANA):

    India's Minister of State for External Affairs Salman Khurshid arrives here today for a two-day official visit aimed at upgrading Greek-Indian ties, an Indian Embassy source told the ANA. Mr. Khurshid is expected to meet with Alternate Foreign Minister George Alexander Mangakis and Foreign Under-Secretary Grigoris Niotis to discuss bilateral relations and exchange views on regional and international developments. It will be the first visit by an Indian Minister of State for External Affairs to Athens in eleven years.

    Mr. Khurshid will also meet with National Defence Ministry officials to discuss defence co-operation. Greek Defence Minister Gerasimos Arsenis has been invited to visit New Delhi this year.

    The Greek-Indian joint committee is scheduled to meet in Athens in June to review bilateral economic and trade relations. Annual bilateral trade exchanges presently total a mere 30 million dollars annually. Mr. Khurshid, 42, is the grandson of the Dr. Zakir Hussain, the late president of India.

    [10] Iranian foreign minister to visit EU member Greece

    Teheran, 28/02/1995 (AFP):

    Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati is to begin a tour of Greece, Austria and Slovakia next week in a bid to dispel misconceptions about Iran, a newspaper said here yesterday. The visits are aimed at raising "awareness about Iranian ideology and culture," the English-language Iran News said quoting foreign ministry sources.

    "The foreign ministry plans to rectify these misconceptions by establishing broader relations with European Union member states and present them with a realistic vision of the Islamic republic," it added.

    Mr. Velayati's official visit to Greece and Austria will be only the second by an Iranian foreign minister to European Union members since the EU froze high-level exchanges with Iran in December 1992. But in February 1993 the EU agreed to open a "critical dialogue" following a call from President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

    Mr. Velayati visited Greece in February 1994, while his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias was the first EU foreign minister to visit Iran in three years when he held talks here in June 1994. Austria was among those countries which joined the European Union in January swelling the number of members to 15.

    [11] Papademos appoints new Bank of Crete commissioner

    Athens, 28/02/1995 (ANA):

    Governor of the Bank of Greece Lucas Papademos yesterday appointed former National Bank deputy governor Costas Georgakopoulos as Commissioner in the Bank of Crete, in place of Costas Kalyvianakis.

    Following his dismissal, Mr. Kalyvianakis, in the presence of his lawyer, refused all responsibility for the bank's dire economic situation and its incurring of 43 billion drachmas of bad debts -- 20 billion of which are already considered lost -- between November 1988 and December 1993. He blamed previous commissioners and Bank of Greece authorities for the situation, and said he had filed suits against them. He did not name any recipients of loans, but described the bank as "a bomb ready to explode".

    In a statement, the main opposition New Democracy party accused Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou as "morally responsible for removing Bank of Greece Governor Ioannis Boutos a few months ago for the sake of now-removed Mr. Kalyvianakis".

    [12] ANA signs exchange agreement with Armenian agency

    Athens, 28/02/1995 (ANA):

    The Athens News Agency signed an agreement with Armenia's semi-official news agency yesterday in a bid to promote the exchange of news, data and information. The agreement was signed in Athens by ANA General Director Andreas Christodoulides and his visiting Armenian counterpart Ashot Antinian. During his stay, Mr. Antinian is scheduled to visit a string of Greek newspaper establishments and meet with Press Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

    [13] Greece must look further afield for balanced, multilateral trade relations, Papantoniou says

    Athens, 28/02/1995 (ANA):

    Greece's external trade relations must be balanced and multilateral, and develop along the axes of the European Union, the Balkans-Black Sea-Russia, the Mediterranean and Middle East, and the United States-Japan-Southeast Asia, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou told the Exports Council meeting at the Exports Promotion Organisation (OPE) yesterday.

    The minister underlined the significance of the role of Greek businesses as trade and investment partners in many countries of the EU, the Balkans, and the Black Sea, and added that they could co-operate with firms from all over the world for the development of activities along the Balkans-Black Sea-Russia axis.

    He cited the establishment in Thessaloniki of the Inter-Balkan and Black Sea Business Centre (DIPEK), the Inter-Balkan Business Council by the private sector, the planned stock market, and the basing of the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank in the northern Greek city, as important steps in the development of economic activity and exchanges along this axis.

    National Economy Under-Secretary Ioannis Anthopoulos said Greece was seeking to expand its share of trade and co-operation, as well as attract investment from the European Union, Japan, and the United States. 1995 would also be the year of implementation of the planned dynamic expansion into the markets of Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

    He said that the markets of the Balkans, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Black Sea offer a unique historical opportunity for Greek business. Export Promotion Organisation president Yiannis Tzen said OPE's plans included the establishment of a quality symbol for Greek products, and the setting up of a Trade Offsets Directorate to assist Greek businesses that wish to engage in 'trilateral' activities.

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