BRUSSELS 23/05/1995 (ANA - P. Pantelis)
National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday told his European Union finance and economic counterparts that the Commission and the government were in agreement on the course of the Greek economy.Speaking at the presentation of the Commission's economic report to the Economic and Finance Ministers Council (ECOFIN) in Brussels yesterday, Mr. Papantoniou said the Commission's macroeconomic predictions on the Greek economy and the convergence programme were in line with the Greek government's forecasts.
Mr. Papantoniou said the Commission's estimate of the Greek public deficit in 1995 of 11.3 per cent was corrected to the government's forecast of 10.7 per cent, "restoring its credibility". He noted, however, a small divergence in figures for 1996 and said he hoped the Commission would adjust the divergence with Greek predictions for 1996 concerning the public deficit (10.2 per cent for the Commission and 7.6 per cent for the Greek government). The Commission's figures will then be in line with forecasts made by the OECD and International Monetary Fund, he added. Mr. Papantoniou said the increase in revenues had surpassed the budget's provision of 18.5 per cent and was nearing 24 per cent and would cover the expected reduction in the fiscal deficit, ruling out the possibility of it being covered with new measures and new taxes. He said the climate of cooperation with the Commission was positive and created no problem.
The finance ministers reached an in principle agreement on a draft regulation protecting the Community's economic interests in relation to Community fraud. A special working group will examine the regulation and bring it for ratification to the next Cou ncil of Ministers meeting on June 19. Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock presented the Council with a report on the progress of work concerning the financing of Inter-European networks which claimed the 500 million Ecu allocated to the networks by the Community budget at the Essen summit was inadequate. Mr. Kinnock proposed joint funding by both the state and private sectors with the Commission's cooperation on technical issues. The Commission's positions at the discussion, which was not expected to reach a final decision, were also supported by Greece . The Commission also tabled an amended proposal for energy tax (CO2) at the Council. The amendment anticipates that energy tax will be optional. Mr. Papantoniou said the energy tax would burden Greek competition due to the Greek energy structure and woul d not be implemented, at least for the next five years.
The government of Panama is planning to donate a large expanse of land for the construction of a school for the country's Greek community, a Foreign Ministry announcement said yesterday. It said the announcement was made during talks between Panama's visiting Education Minister Pavlos Thalassinos and Greek deputy Foreign Minister Grigoris Niotis. "Mr. Thalassinos announced ... that the Panamanian government is willing to hand over to the Greek side 50 stremmas of land ... for the construction of a Greek school," the statement said. It said the Greek community of Panama would cover the cost of the project, estimated at one million dollars. The land formerly housed US military installations in the Central American state, the statement added. During the talks, Mr. Niotis said he would press ahead with the signing of an education cooperation protocol between the two states. Mr. Niotis also informed Mr. Thalassinos, who is of Greek descent, that Greek Television, ERT, will broadcast a ten-hour programme to the Latin American nations. According to an announcement by the Education Ministry, Education and Religious Affairs Minister George Papandreou will meet Mr. Thalassinos at 6pm today.
During yesterday's session of the International Energy Organisation (IEO), Industry Minister Costas Simitis referred to the increasing internationalisation and inter-dependence of energy markets, as well as to the sensitisatio n of society of environmental matters. All these factors must be combined with the security of future energy supplies to member-states, he added. He said the critical element in the simultaneous attainment of these diverse, and often, contradictory aims is the development of energy-efficient programmes and rational use of energy with the application of the appropriate technology. With the given l ow energy prices today, such an intervention could only be implemented by governments, not the market, he argued. Referring to the 'regional groups', such as those of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, being formed today, Mr. Simitis stressed that IEO must develop dialogue with them, because they contribute not only to the political stability of the respective regions, but also to the security of their energy supplies. During discussion of the subject of 'Energy and the Environment', he said efforts must centre on the development, spreading and transfer of technology designed to increase effectiveness in energy use.
Troops from four Balkan nations and the United States started a military exercise, the first of its kind, yesterday in the southern Peloponnese. The five-day exercise, code-named "New Spirit '95" and bringing together military forces from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and the US, is part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's Partnership for Peace initiative designed to bring once-comm unist states closer to membership in the Western defence union. The exercise will run until May 26. The combined land, sea and air exercise, in which live fire will not be used, is being staged at military installations near the city of Kalamata and will be carried out in six stages. The manoeuvre is designed to simulate coordinating emergency UN humanitarian aid in the event of a hypothetical earthquake in Kalamata, a city that was devastated by a major quake in 1986 in which 20 people were killed. The US is participating with 53 men, Albania with 46, Bulgaria with 70, and Romania with 72, while Greek army, navy and airforce troops are also joined by a company of marines and troops trained for natural disasters. This will be the first time soldiers from the 40,000-strong Albanian army have taken part in operations outside the country. "Our army's participation in its first exercises abroad is very important because Albania is demonstrating its total commitment to the Partnership for Peace scheme," an Albanian defence ministry spokesman told Reuters in Tirana. He said it marked a further improvement in relations with Greece after the Balkan neighbours patched up eight months of tension. The purpose of the exercise, according to the defence ministry, is "to develop cooperation among the participating countries in providing humanitarian assistance to a region struck by a devastating earthquake and the exchange of knowledge and experienc es for such a specific mission". They said that the troops are not carrying arms, nor will perform any training exercises with real or mock use of weaponry. The final stage of the exercise will be attended by foreign observers. The US and Greece are the only participating countries belonging to NATO. Sources said Germany turned down an invitation to take part in the manoeuvre following Greece's refusal to allow Turkish participation. In Bonn, however, a German defence ministry spokesman denied that Germany had refused to send an observer to the e xercise. According to an ANA dispatch, the spokesman said the military attache stationed at the German embassy in Athens would be attending the exercise on Thursday as scheduled. ANA
The Netherlands' Ambassador to Athens Hendrik Wagenmakers yesterday met with Macedonia-Thrace Minister Constantine Triarides in Thessaloniki. An announcement after the meeting said the two men discussed further developing "already excellent" bilateral trade relations. Mr. Triarides and Mr. Wagenmakers examined ways of promoting cooperation between Greek and Dutch businessmen in the Balkans, eastern Europe and the Black Sea region. ANA
Greek European Affairs Minister George Mangakis leads a Foreign Ministry delegation to Cyprus today on a four-day round of talks with government officials on the island's European Union membership bid, a Foreign Ministry announcement said yesterday. "The talks with the Cyprus leadership will aim to coordinate efforts between Athens and Nicosia in preparation for the next steps of the European Union membership procedure for Cyprus," the announcement said. The 15-member bloc has agreed to begin Cyprus membership talks six months after the completion of next year's intergovernmental conference. Mr. Mangakis will be received by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides tomorrow morning and have separate meetings with House President Alexis Galanos, Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides, Archbishop Chrysostomos and party leaders. On Thursday, Mr. Mangakis and Mr. Michaelides will give a joint press conference. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops stormed into the island's northern part. Turkey still maintains some 35,000 troops in the occupied region. Meanwhile, according to a CNA dispatch from Nicosia, visiting Greek Agriculture Minister George Moraitis had talks yesterday with his Cypriot counterpart Costas Petrides. Talks centred on progress made on a bilateral cooperation programme signed by the two ministers in May 1994, in the fields of agriculture, animal husbandry, water resources, veterinary services, forestry, fisheries and the environment.
Conservative leader Miltiades Evert will meet with honorary New Democracy party president and former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis today to discuss the results of his visit to the United States, party sources said yesterday. They said the meeting would be followed by talks between Mr.Evert and Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias. Mr. Evert visited the United States last week and met with US Vice-President Al Gore and United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to discuss key national Greek issues and developments in the Balkans.
At the end of its three-day third conference in Loutraki yesterday, the New Democracy party youth organisation (ONNED) elected a new Central Committee, considered 100 per cent loyal to the party leadership. Owing to the absolute majority system employed, all 100 members elected belong to the group headed by Panayiotis Sideris, with other 'independents', and supporters of former prime minister Constantinos Mitsotakis being totally excluded. The new president refuted charges of subservience to the party leadership, saying the Central Committee had been elected "on the basis of ideas and not labels". ANA
The Olympic flame, which will burn throughout the IX Special Olympics in New Haven, Connecticut in the United States, will be lit at a solemn ceremony on Athens' Pnyx Hill opposite the Acropolis on Thursday, the Greek committee for the Games announced y esterday. A sun reflector from Ancient Olympia Ñ where the ancient Olympic Games began in 776 BC and from where the torch relay for the Olympiads begins every four years Ñ will be brought to Athens specially for the torch-lighting ceremony. Greece, as the original home of the Olympic Games, is the traditional guardian of the flame. The Olympic torch will be lit by Special Olympics athletes dressed as high priestesses at the Pnyx Hill ceremony, which will be attended by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos, Culture Undersecretary Georg e Lianis and Chairman of Special Olympics International, Sargent Shriver, as well as representatives from the government, the Armed Forces, the US Ambassador in Athens, members of the International Olympic Committee, and Olympic medalists. Evzones from the Presidential Guard will stand as Honour Guards for the flame, while the ceremony has been placed under the aegis of the President of the Republic. The torch will be carried by Greek Special Olympics long-distance runners across Athens to the US Embassy, where it will be handed to Ambassador Thomas Niles and IX Special Olympics organising committee chairman Timothy Kennedy Shriver. The flame will then be entrusted to the captain of the "Argonaut" for the voyage to the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour, and on to New Haven where US President Bill Clinton will open the Special Olympics on June 26. The 9th Special Olympics, which will run until July 9, will bring together 7,200 athletes and 2,500 trainers from 143 countries. Greece is to send a team of 91 athletes who will compete in 10 sporting events, accompanied by evzones from the Presidential Guard. The Special Olympics were established in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver to provide disabled children and adults to tak e part in Olympic sporting events.
Measures to assist the quake-stricken regions of Kozani and Grevena in northwestern Greece will be announced by the end of the week, Environment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis said yesterday, after chairing a meeting of competent ministers and undersecretaries. Measures will be announced on the spot during a new tour of the regions by a ministerial mission. Mr. Laliotis said a package of measures would be completed during the week and Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou would probably chair a meeting of the coor dinating ministerial agency on Thursday to examine the situation prevailing in the regions. Apart from Mr. Laliotis, yesterday's meeting was attended by Alternate Minister Costas Geitonas, Undersecretary Yiannis Tsaklidis and a number of other undersecretaries from other ministries. The devastating earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale hit the northwestern region last week, destroying some 5,000 buildings. Estimates have put the cost of damage at 105 billion drachmas. The earthquake was followed by a string of tremo rs, two registering 5.1 on the Richter scale and many more peaking at 4.0 and over. Meanwhile, a further two strong aftershocks occurred in the Kozani and Grevena regions yesterday while torrential rain worsened living conditions for the homeless living in tents. The Geophysics Laboratory of the Aristotelion University in Thessaloniki registered a 4.1 Richter tremor at 12:10am and another of 4.6 at 6:46am. People living in tents, including children and the elderly, had to cope with heavy rain and cold all night. Prefectural work crews dug ditches around tents and camps to help drain rainwater since weathermen forecast a continuation of rainfall and bad weather. Meanwhile, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos confirmed yesterday that government officials were planning to meet in the next few days to draft a string of proposals for the areas' restructuring. Replying to a questioner on the possibility of a regional minister being appointed to tend to local affairs, as was the case in the Kalamata earthquake several years ago, Mr. Venizelos said prefectural self-administration and regional administration cou ld cope with the situation. In another development, the prime minister said that problems faced by earthquake victims in the Grevena and Kozani regions would be tackled in the best possible manner. Mr. Papandreou gave the assurance to General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) President Christos Protopapas who visited him at noon yesterday to brief him on the situation prevailing in the stricken areas as ascertained by a GSEE representation . In an effort to provide relief for earthquake victims, the Athens Labour Centre (EKA) has opened a bank account with the Commercial Bank numbered 37731358. It also deposited the nominal amount of 500,000 drachmas.
Political Spring party leader Antonis Samaras yesterday requested that Parliament hold an extraordinary debate on national issues. Mr. Samaras made the request in a letter he addressed to Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis yesterday. According to the letter, foreign policy decisions "important and binding for the future of the country" are being made between the government and main opposition New Democracy party, and marginalising parliament. ANA
Communist Party of Greece Secretary-General Aleka Papariga yesterday expressed her opposition to the holding of confidential talks on the Cyprus problem and said she was worried about the course of the problem. "We are sliding towards official partition, in return for accession to the European Union," she said. She said the fact these talks had begun without anything being heard about them in Greece was a source of surprise and wondered whether they had been a topic for discussion at meetings during the recent visit of the Cyprus National Council to Athens. On Sunday, government spokesman Evangelos Venizelos said the decision to begin confidential consultations was made by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides and that the Greek government was aware of the decision. Confidential exploratory discussions on the Cyprus problem with the participation of representatives from the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides as well as British and American officials, who initiated the talks, started in London yesterday. The talks are designed to support the UN secretary-general's efforts and a blanket ban on press announcements or further information has been announced. The UN, US and Britain have renewed their efforts to try and reach common ground between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to pave the way for direct talks between President Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. The recently-launched efforts come on the heels of a March 6 decision of the EU Council of Ministers to begin accession negotiations with Cyprus six months after the end of next year's intergovernmental conference. ANA
Figures released yesterday show the National Bank of Greece Group recorded net profits of 56.3 billion drachmas in 1994, an increase of 119.1 per cent over 1993. The bank's capital base was strengthened, with own capital increasing 9.1 per cent compared to 1993, which enabled the bank to attain the necessary creditworthiness indicator for the group as a whole. The group consists of 166 companies, of which 31 are directly, and 21 indirectly under the bank's control, with minority interests in the remaining number. Management aims at the restructuring, strengthening and development of strategic sectors, yesterday's statement said. On the basis of the results announced, the net profits/ average assets ratio reached 0.60 per cent, compared to 0.29 per cent in 1993, and the net profits/ average own capital ratio 21.96 per cent, as against 12.19 per cent.