Greece is virtually assured of equal participation in the third and final stage of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), after EU finance and economy ministers agreed over the weekend to use 1997 figures as a basis for inclusion.
Greek National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou's successful proposal argued that the final stage of EMU go into effect in the first quarter of 1998 on the basis of 1997 figures, rather than 1995 figures suggested by some member-states. Transition to the EMU on 1995 figures would rule out the participation of countries, mainly in the south, which have 1996 deadlines for the convergence programme.
According to the revised convergence programme, Greece will satisfy Maastricht criteria at the end of 1997. EU states have set themselves the goal of moving towards a single currency by 1999 with all countries that meet stringent economic criteria based on interest rates, debt-to-GDP ratio, public-sector deficits and inflation. The meeting unanimously confirmed the 1999 deadline for a single currency and vowed to continue maintaining fiscal discipline.
"The criteria are not only to be applied for the purpose of qualifying (for Economic and Monetary Union)," Spanish Finance Minister Pedro Solbes said after chairing the informal weekend talks. "They are meant as a permanent exercise."
The EU finance chiefs also neared consensus on the name for a single currency, with "Euro" the likely choice for confirmation at the EU Madrid summit in December, which will also put the final touches to the EMU timetable, as well as technical and political details of the issue.
Mr. Papantoniou is accompanied by Bank of Greece Governor Lucas Papademos.
Foreign Minister Karolos Papoulias returned to Athens from New York at noon yesterday after participating in the UN's 50th General Assembly. On the sidelines of the assembly, Mr. Papoulias held separate meetings with his counterparts from the US, Russia and European countries. Mr. Papoulias made no statement to reporters on arrival.
The ruling socialist PASOK party's Parliamentary Group will convene this morning under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, ahead of the official start to the new Parliamentary session. The prime minister is expected to call on his deputies to live up to their parliamentary duties and promote the government's work.
Meanwhile, former industry minister Costas Simitis issued a written statement yesterday, calling on deputies of all parties to promote their autonomy and render Parliament a "pacemaker" for political developments, adding that Parliament's third session was beginning "amidst generalized doubt".
"Objections on the creative role of Parliament are being expressed more and more. Deputies are considered almost exclusively the executors of partisan instructions, while it is being ascertained that the mass media set out the agenda for political confrontations," Mr. Simitis said in his statement.
"A new course is also necessary for Parliament. Our main concern in this direction is to promote the autonomy of deputies. We must strengthen their creative presence. We must render Parliament a pacemaker for political discussions. In this way we will contribute to a more substantive functioning of democracy," he added.
In another development, PASOK Eurodeputy and Executive Committee member Paraskevas Avgerinos told Eleftherotypia newspaper that a special PASOK conference was "the sole exit to existing deadlocks in the government and the party."
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert on Saturday presented his party's health programme in Patras, saying that New Democracy would increase state funds in the health sector by 230 billion drachmas annually when it comes to power.
At a speech at the Patras Medical School, Mr. Evert said his party would make major changes in the sector and accused Health Minister Dimitrios Kremastinos of refusing dialogue on health issues.
Responding to Mr. Evert's criticism, Press Minister Telemahos Hytiris said that the ND leader was trying to persuade "himself and others that he will be the winner of the 1997 elections", after "having, for three years, demolished all that is in the health sector."
An earthquake registering 4.7 on the Richter scale was recorded at 8:23am yesterday. The quake's epicenter was in the sea region, 260kms southwest of Athens.
In a message of congratulations to Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides on the anniversary of Cyprus' Independence Day yesterday, Greece's President Kostis Stephanopoulos expressed the hope that the anniversary would coincide with a new turning point for the island's future.
"I wish today's anniversary, coinciding with a new crucial turning point for the island's future, will constitute the starting point for the final vindication of your struggles for which you will always have the support of the entire Greek nation," the president said in his message.
"I would like to stress in particular that Hellenism in Greece has always expressed solidarity with the fraternal Cypriot people. This solidarity by Hellenism constitutes the basis of its efforts and struggles to achieve its national targets, targets which are in absolute harmony with the mandates of international legality which continues to be ignored on the martyred island of Cyprus so crudely," he said.
In his message to Mr. Clerides, Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou reaffirmed the undivided support of the Greek people in the just struggle of their Cypriot brothers, as well as the determination of the Greek government to continue its active support for the efforts of the Cypriots to achieve a just and viable solution safeguarding the island's future.
Main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert said Greeks would not rest unless they saw the martyred island free and independent and the two communities living together peacefully with respect for human rights.
In a similar message, Political Spring leader Antonis Samaras said the initiative on the unified defence doctrine should be consolidated without being affected by outside pressures. He said all parties, both in Greece and Cyprus, should support the doctrine and jointly decide, at a pan-Hellenic conference, on new initiatives to promote the real meaning of the Cyprus issue as an international problem of invasion and occupation and advance the prospect of Cyprus' accession to the European Union.
The Coalition of the Left and Progress stressed the need for an intensification of efforts for a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue before partitioning "fait accomplis" promoted by Ankara and the Denktash regime with their intransigence were finally and irreversibly consolidated.
The coordinating committee of mayors from communities in Macedonia and Thrace said yesterday that they wanted to meet with UN negotiator Cyrus Vance to set out their views on latest developments in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) issue. The mayors' plenary session convened in Thessaloniki yesterday, and decided to request a meeting with Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and party leaders "to request the adoption of positions set out to date by local administration representatives."
In a resolution issued after the meeting, the mayors expressed concern over developments in the issue in the wake of the interim accord recently signed in New York. They reiterated their steadfast positions that the people and local administration of northern Greece "will neither tolerate nor recognize the neighboring state if (even) one of the basic principles (name, constitution and symbols) remains outstanding."
The plenary session called on the government "not to discuss or accept the recognition of the neighboring state with the name of Macedonia or its derivative", warning that it is determined to take initiatives "escalating its action and mobilizing Hellenism to safeguard just national causes."
Reports yesterday continued to claim that a delegation from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will visit Athens this week, with probable head Lupco Arsorski, a foreign ministry cadre and former consul of united Yugoslavia in Thessaloniki.
Initially, the name of Foreign Under-secretary Viktor Gaber had been reported. However, he is not considered a candidate since he is currently managing the ministry for as long as FYROM Foreign Minister Stevo Crvenkovski is in the US. The delegation should arrive in Athens at the beginning of the week and is expected to return on October 8 or 9.
Moreover, a Parliamentary session has been set for October 9 to ratify the New York agreement. However, journalistic circles expressed concern over the course of talks in Athens and primarily feared "a possible complication concerning what had been agreed in New York", particularly in connection with a settlement to practical issues such as passports and documents.
Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou discussed developments in the Balkans with Yugoslav Foreign Minister Milan Milutinovic at the premier's residence in Ekali.
A statue of assassinated conservative New Democracy party deputy Pavlos Bakoyiannis was unveiled in Karpenisi yesterday but the absence of ND leader Miltiades Evert from the event caused a stir.
The ceremony was held in the morning in the presence of former prime minister and honorary ND leader Constantine Mitsotakis, his daughter and Bakoyianni's widow Dora Bakoyianni and a large number of deputies. Pavlos Bakoyiannis was gunned down by members of the November 17 terrorist group in the lobby of the apartment building housing his office in 1989. ND deputies avoided commenting on Mr. Evert's absence but Mr. Hatzigakis said "everyone can do what he likes."
Also present was former prime minister Tzannis Tzannetakis who said: "Pavlos Bakoyiannis distinguished himself for his independence of thought and it is to him we owe the breaking of dividing lines", adding that "his work opened a window in our country which proved, however, that we are not mature to go through. Political passions did not allow us."
Mr. Mitsotakis, who was accompanied by his wife Marika, expressed the wish that Pavlos Bakoyiannis' blood would be the last to be spilled in Greece.
Greenpeace launched an information campaign against French nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean in Thessaloniki yesterday, the same day the French were scheduled to start their second nuclear test.
The launch of the eastern Mediterranean campaign coincided with the arrival in the northern port city on Saturday of the Greenpeace vessel 'Altair', the same vessel which had "picketed" French President Jacques Chirac at the EU Majorca summit recently. Greenpeace said the vessel would continue its tour of the Aegean, calling in at Volos, Piraeus, Iraklion, Souda and Patras, and providing the public with the opportunity to visit the ship and receive briefings on the organization's activities.
Thessaloniki mayor Costas Kosmopoulos, who visited the vessel on Saturday, told reporters that the city's municipal council had unanimously condemned the French nuclear tests and called for the abolition of nuclear weapons around the world. "We have no right to deliver scorched earth to our children," he said.
Similar resolutions have been sent to the French government by 168 Greek municipalities, while Greenpeace has gathered 6,900,000 signatures from ordinary people around the world, condemning the French government's action. In Greece alone, more than 170,000 people have signed a resolution condemning France and calling for a stop to nuclear testing.
The prefectural authorities, agencies, associations, municipalities, communities and professional organizations of the 16 prefectures of Macedonia and Thrace are setting up a central coordinating committee to oversee the collection and dispatch of humanitarian aid to Serb refugees. Local coordinating bodies have already been set up at a prefectural level, each of which will be represented on the central coordinating committee.
The Institute for the Development of Balkan Strategy will immediately forward the aid to the Serbian Red Cross for distribution among refugees. The decision to set up the central and prefectural coordinating bodies was taken after reports that aid was being channeled to refugees in an "unorthodox" manner.
Meanwhile, it was announced that the first "peace train" carrying food, medicine, clothing and school items for Serb refugees will leave from Thessaloniki for Serbia on October 26. On Friday it was announced that the prefecture of Serres had sent 80 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Serb refugees in the area of Bielina, 150 kilometers west of Belgrade.