Vienna, 19/05/1995 (ANA/D. Dimitrakoudis):
Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias yesterday presented a new Greek initiative for bolstering the peace process in war-torn Bosnia. During talks with his Austrian counterpart and Deputy Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel in Vienna last night, Mr. Papoulias proposed a tripartite meeting between Greece, Austria and Hungary which would strengthen efforts currently underway for a new approach to the problem of Bosnia-Herzegovina, both by the Contact Group and the European Union and the US.
Mr. Papoulias underlined the importance of the role of Serb President Slobodan Milosevic in resolving the problem in former Yugoslavia. Mr. Papoulias' proposal comes hot on the heels of a recent series of tripartite meetings with his Bosnian and Iranian counterparts on Bosnia. "A substantive result to the peace process is close," Mr. Papoulias told reporters. He said he believed that "we are at the last stage of efforts by the Contact Group, the French EU presidency and the US, (to persuade) Mr. Milosevic to make a statement on the integrity and recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovina's borders". He said the lifting of sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia would be a continuation of this.
Mr. Papoulias said the Greece's position from the start had been that, from the moment Mr. Milosevic contributed to the peace process and dissociated himself from Pale, he should be supported in this effort with a lifting of sanctions. He said the embargo on Belgrade had caused great economic and trade losses for a number of countries and not only neighbouring ones. A decision was taken at the latest session of the Black Sea Co-operation Pact for a joint demarche to the UN Secretary-General to offset losses incurred by these countries and lift the sanctions.
Mr. Papoulias also told reporters that Greece's trade sanctions on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) had been imposed for political reasons, which was confirmed by the prosecutor's address at the European Court. Greece insists on this political decision, which is part of a package aimed at resolving the feud with FYROM, he said. Mr. Papoulias said he hoped and wished efforts by UN mediator Cyrus Vance and US presidential envoy on Skopje Matthew Nimetz would be successful so that Greece's claims would be met and the embargo could be lifted.
In their talks, Mr. Papoulias and Mr. Schuessel agreed that smaller countries should not be crushed by the interests and presence of the major powers in the EU. Each one should have its identity and interests. "We co-exist and live together very well in the European family. New changes should not be allowed at the expense of small countries and their interests," Mr. Papoulias said. It was agreed that these issues would be represented at the intergovernmental conference next year.
Today, Mr. Papoulias will meet Austrian President Thomas Klestil and Federal Parliament President Hainz Fischer. He will also visit the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Vienna and hold talks with the Metropolitan of Austria and Exarch of Hungary and Central Europe Michael.
Athens, 19/05/1995 (ANA):]
The Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) yesterday voiced optimism over the Greek economy's prospects for the next few years and particularly the current year. At its annual assembly, which began yesterday, SEB forecast an increase in investments in both the public and private sectors, with public investments this year expected to increase by 13 per cent.
According to SEB, Gross Domestic Product will increase by 1.5 per cent in 1995, mainly due to the increase in investments. SEB also predicted that exports would increase this year, despite the fact that the government's "hard" drachma policy was "hampering this prospect". The federation acknowledged that despite the increase in investments and GDP, there would be no major change in consumer spending this year in comparison with 1994, because of the government's stricter taxation measures. SEB said that the Greek economy was expected to be more competitive in 1995 compared with last year, given that the unit cost of labour would increase by 9 per cent, against a corresponding increase of 11.75 per cent in 1994.
A bulletin released at the meeting, entitled "Greek Industry in 1994", said unemployment increased in 1994 to over 10 per cent for the first time in recent years. SEB however made no forecast about the course of unemployment in the current year. According to its own figures, SEB said that employment in the manufacturing sector had dropped by 3.6 per cent in 1994 compared with 6 per cent the previous year. At the same time, a small increase was observed in the average number of weekly working hours per worker, which is generally interpreted as the first sign of recovery.
The federation said that the public sector deficit and the public debt were the Greek economy's long-term problems. In contrast with 1993, the bulletin said, when there were major deviations from the targets in the state budget, it had been possible to stick to the budget in 1994. However, it added, there was a considerable shortfall of 257 billion drachmas in tax revenues, mainly due to the disappointing results from indirect taxation revenues, which increased only by 10 per cent due to the continuing recession and tax evasion.
On the contrary, revenue from direct taxation over the 12-month period was at satisfactory levels. Other reasons for this increase, SEB said, were the creation of a new tax scale for high-income earners, the imposition of a 15 per cent tax on mutual funds and repos, the transfer of funds from the Public Petroleum Corporation not originally included in the budget, higher than forecast revenue from state lotteries, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) profits and the interest from deposit s at the Bank of Greece.
The shortfall in revenue was to some extent offset by the curbing of expenditure, particularly the reduced spending on public investments. Debt servicing costs were reduced, largely as a result of the drop in the value of the dollar, cheaper foreign loans and the shift from interest-bearing treasury bills to state bonds. In contrast, spending on pensions and subsidies to public corporations and social security organisations surpassed the limits set, SEB said. SEB said it continued to have good relations with the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) as well as with the European Union, and has also made a contribution to the operation and decision-making process of the Exports Council.
In its bulletin, SEB made reference to the conclusion of the 1994-95 Collective Bargaining Agreement and the drafting of preliminary agreements to establish a Special Joint Unemployment Fund (EKLA). It added that a total of 65 collective labour agreements have been signed. SEB also said that the Economic Social Committee (OKE) was now considering a series of measures dealing with the issue of unemployment in Greece, the first issue for consideration the government had turned over to OKE.
Addressing the SEB annual assembly last night, National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou called on industrialists to focus on the positive elements of the present economic circle and on the stability in economic policy and undertake investment initiatives corresponding to national circumstances. Mr. Papantoniou said that, despite improvements, the Greek economy's problems continued to be considerable, while the restructuring of state finances was still at the beginning.
He suggested a more just tax policy, tougher control on hirings in the public sector, a further decrease in interest rates, support for investments, speeding up processes for implementing major projects, the modernisation of public utilities (DEKO) and an increase in jobs were in the pipeline. Mr. Papantoniou said efforts to implement the state budget would continue, adding that the preparation of next year's budget would be carried out in accordance with the Convergence Programme.
SEB President Jason Stratos expressed satisfaction at Mr. Papantoniou's statement that the government "remains steadfast in its policy." "But in no case," Mr. Stratos added, "should the positive indications in the economy bring about a climate of euphoria which in effect will lead to a relaxation of efforts." Referring to a list of "successes" by the government, such as the lowering of inflation, the decrease in interest rates, and the positive developments in the fields of public revenue and balance of payments, Mr. Stratos said: "All these are overshadowed b y the great structural weaknesses of the public sector, which in effect, widen, instead of narrowing, the gap between Greece and the European Union."
Mr. Stratos warned the government against succumbing to the pressures exerted by workers "for this will cause the public debt to acquire explosive dimensions, endanger the course to convergence, and lead to obstacles in the flow of Community funds." He called on the government to stick to its policy of reducing the public sector, saying that "there is evidence that the policy of hiring is relaxing." Mr. Stratos spoke of "critical delays in privatisations" and mentioned the lack of substantial measures to reduce public spending which, he said, "limits the positive effects of the government's policy, which is basically correct."
Arriving at the assembly, President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos said effort was necessary, adding that all were aware of their responsibilities. Former conservative prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis said he was pessimistic over the course of the economy. Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras said the sole alternative for the economy was development, while former prime minister and academic Xenofon Zolotas called for more development. Former minister George Souflias said the policy followed would produce meagre results.
Athens, 19/05/1995 (ANA):
The Permanent Holy Synod of the Church of Greece yesterday decided to set up a four-member committee of bishops who will visit the Black Sea region, including Georgia, to study the local prospects for undertaking spiritual guidance work by the Church. The Synod decided to set up a committee that will follow up proposals by the Bishop of Corfu Timotheos, concerning "the special role of the Church of Greece in the Balkan peninsula and Eastern Europe".
Ankara, 19/05/1995 (ANA/E. Athanasopoulou/AFP):
Minutes after NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes left Ankara after talks with Prime Minister Tansu Ciller on a dispute that has effectively frozen Nato's military budget, Turkish Defence Minister Mehmet Golhan said Turkey would not agree to any concessions in the establishment of NATO headquarters on the Aegean. Mr. Golhan was speaking to reporters at Ankara airport during the departure of Mr. Claes who paid a 24-hour visit to Turkey for talks with government officials in an effort smooth over Ankara's objections.
"Unless the same responsibilities are attributed to the seventh airforce headquarters, as those of the sixth airforce headquarters, the issue will not be solved and the headquarters will not be established," he told the state-run Anatolia news agency. Ankara has expressed its disagreement over the stationing and operation of the two new NATO military commands in Greece and has blocked the alliance's entire military budget, freezing all NATO military projects just as it is in the process of finalising plans for a possible pull-out of UN peacekeeping forces in Bosnia.
Earlier, Mr. Claes held talks with Prime Minister Ciller in Ankara, saying afterwards "the improvement of relations between Greece and Turkey is to the benefit of both countries as well as NATO." Mr. Claes told reporters he arrived in Turkey with the goal of strengthening Nato's southern flank. He said that being located in the Alliance's southern region, Greece and Turkey would have a much more important strategic role.
"Ms Ciller and I discussed the method which could be followed in developing relations between Greece and Turkey," Mr. Claes said, adding that "the improvement of these bilateral relations will be to the benefit of both countries as well as NATO. I think this point is acceptable to both sides." "We will start diplomatic contacts between the two countries in the next few weeks on resolving Greco-Turkish disagreements in the framework of NATO. I believe development will be achieved by June when the NATO defence ministers' session will take place ," he said.
Mr. Claes also met Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, Turkish General Staff Chief General Ismail Haki Karadayi, Deputy Chief Ahmet Corekci, Foreign Minister Erdal Inonu and Defence Minister Mehmet Golhan. Mr. Claes and his entourage left yesterday afternoon. Mr. Golhan also accused Greece "of using this issue for domestic consumption".
According to the state-run Anatolia agency, Mr. Golhan told Mr. Claes during talks that the Western European Union should exploit Nato's possibilities and that, in this case, Turkey should acquire full membership in the WEU. Turkey is an associate member of the WEU.
In Athens, meanwhile, replying to a questioner on Mr. Claes' recent statements in Athens on relations between Greece and Turkey, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said Mr. Claes saw things from the NATO Secretary-General's point of view and Greece saw them from its own, from national sovereignty and non-negotiation of its sovereign rights.
Athens, 19/05/1995 (ANA):
An Iraklion public prosecutor yesterday charged an Italian fugitive with forgery after he was arrested on Crete in a joint operation by Greek and Italian police. Marco Furlan, 35, wanted in Italy in connection with a string of deadly attacks by a neo-Nazi group between 1977 and 1984, was arrested Wednesday in the Cretan capital.
According to reports, he had been sentenced by an Italian court to 27 years' imprisonment for arson attacks on cinemas and discotheques in which ten people were killed. At the time of his arrest, Furlan was found in possession of a forged police identity card and forged driving licence. He is due to appear before an Iraklion court today. After the trial, Furlan will be taken to Hania where an appeals court prosecutor will begin proceedings for his extradition to Italy.
During questioning by police, Furlan reportedly admitted to the arson attacks but refused to reveal the motive. The attacks were claimed at the time by a neo-Nazi group calling itself "Ludwig". Furlan was arrested at a car rental firm at Iraklion airport where he began working about one month ago. He had arrived in Greece three and a half years ago and had been living in Iraklion for the last seven months under an assumed name. Before starting work at the car rental firm, Furlan had given private Italian lessons to children.
Athens, 19/05/1995 (ANA):
Strong aftershocks continued to shake the Kozani and Grevena prefectures in northern Greece yesterday, five days after a powerful earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale devastated the region. Another major quake measuring 5.4 Richter and originating from the same area jolted the prefectures a couple of days later. The two major quakes and the hundreds of aftershocks have levelled some 7,000 buildings and forced residents to seek refuge in cars and tents. Initial estimates of the damage speak of figures in excess of 100 billion drachmas.
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou on Wednesday pledged the state would do its utmost to assist quake victims and the region's restructuring. Environment Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis will visit the stricken areas today at the head of a government delegation to assess the damages.
Meanwhile, in Strasbourg, a joint draft resolution was submitted at the Europarliament yesterday by the Socialists, the Christian Democrats, the United Left Group, the Fortsa Europa party and the European Democrats calling on the European Commission to allocate financial assistance from its budget's urgent subsidies' fund. The resolution, which was adopted by the European Parliament, also calls on the Commission to consider the establishment of structural credit lines for rehabilitation and other economic recovery works at the earthquake stricken regions.
Washington, 19/05/1995 (ANA/D. Dimas):
At a press conference yesterday to sum up the results of his week-long contacts with US government officials, New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert said the United States had recognised Greece's leading role in the Balkans. This role, he added, had to do with peace in the region, as Greece, belonging to both NATO and the European Union, and being economically viable, could help in the development of all Balkan countries.
Turkey's position and problems made it more suitable to being assigned a role in regions to its east, the Islamic former Soviet republics, the Persian Gulf, and the Black Sea, he said. Mr. Evert cast doubt on the usefulness of promoting confidence-building measures between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean, pointing out that an older agreement between foreign ministers Yilmaz and Papoulias had not been observed by Turkey. He stressed, however, that the two countries had to avoid actions that could possibly lead to further tension. He emphasised that Greece had sovereign rights in the Aegean on which no Greek government could back down.
With respect to Greek-American relations, he acknowledged that the Greek government was moving in the right direction. Concerning the search for a resolution of differences with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, he said that, without being overly optimistic, he believed that a solution was possible. His party's position was in favour of a large package, that would include the issue of the name.
In talks earlier with Mr. Evert, US House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich stressed that "Greece is a valuable friend and ally of the United States with which we have excellent relations."
After meeting Mr. Evert, Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-Maryland) expressed his "satisfaction" over the meeting in which a "large number of issues" was discussed. "It is known that the Senator (Mr. Sarbanes) has helped in all issues related to Greece. He does not forget Greece. Of course, he is above all an American and sees to American interests. But I believe that American interests and Greek interests should be unbreakably connected. They should be one fist and the visit we paid here helps in this respect," Mr. Evert said on his part. Mr. Sarbanes said this was a "correct analysis and American and Greek interests run parallel."
Strasbourg, 19/05/1995 (ANA/M. Savva)
The European Parliament (EP) yesterday approved a report on inter-European transport networks to be completed by 1999. The projects include a rail link between the port of Igoumenitsa and the cities of Patra and Larissa. The project is part of a one billion Ecu plan envisaging the rail and air linking of Munich and Vienna with Bologna-Ravenna-Ancona-Brindisi-Igoumenitsa-Patra-Larissa-Volos-C yprus- Malta-North Africa. The approval puts the project on a priority listing, to be ratified soon by the Council of Ministers.
The projects which the Council has already approved are the Egnatia highway, running the length of northern Greece, and the road axis linking Patra with Thessaloniki and the Greek-Bulgarian border. New Democracy party Eurodeputy Pavlos Sarlis stated after the adoption of the plan that it constituted the "greatest contribution of the Union to the people comprising it," and that it was now up to the Greek government "to press, at Council of Ministers level, for the mainland rail link to remain among the 14 big projects".