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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-02-27

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada <grnewsca@sympatico.ca>

ATHENS NEWS AGENCY BULLETIN (No 1427), February 27, 1998

Greek Press & Information Office
Ottawa, Canada
E-Mail Address: grnewsca@sympatico.ca


CONTENTS

  • [01] Prime Minister outlines foreign policy in parliamentary debate
  • [02] ... Karamanlis
  • [03] ... Other opposition leaders
  • [04] ... Pangalos criticizes opposition on foreign policy
  • [05] Karamanlis opening to Mitsotakis
  • [06] Gov't says Turkish statements an "unacceptable threat"
  • [07] Grossman: US priorities vis-a-vis Turkey include Greek-Turkish relations, Cyprus
  • [08] Turkish officer: Rejection of dialogue could lead to 'accident'
  • [09] Hellenic Navy vessels depart for Georgia
  • [10] Italian warship in Thessaloniki
  • [11] Kranidiotis meets with Cypriot leadership
  • [12] Stephanopoulos visits hospitalized Serapheim
  • [13] Measures on tackling illegal immigration discussed in Rome
  • [14] Government backs Pangalos statements
  • [15] Ceremony for Orthodox Metropolitan of Germany Augustinos
  • [16] Greek bank interest in Slavija Banka's sale
  • [17] Credit Bank's Kostopoulos says drachma's devaluation a mistake
  • [18] EU agreement on harmonization of telecoms equipment
  • [19] Greek stocks slump on feared pull-out by foreign institutionals
  • [20] Nat Bank of Greece doubles 97 profit inc. provisions to Dr 123.4bln
  • [21] Greek rate rise problems are temporary-banker
  • [22] Greek workers, bosses still deadlocked in pay talks
  • [23] EOT expects more Italian tourists this year

  • [01] Prime Minister outlines foreign policy in parliamentary debate

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday reiterated Greece's firm position regarding a "step-by-step" approach to Greek-Turkish relations, saying that "the problems between the two countries stem from Ankara's unacceptable demands and pressures".

    He told an off-the-agenda parliamentary debate on foreign policy that "Greece does not discuss, in any manner, its sovereign rights" and rejected the idea of an overall political negotiation.

    Mr. Simitis said that an important element of this approach, as outlined in the Greek proposal, "is recourse to the International Court of Justice at The Hague for the delineation of the (Aegean) continental shelf", which, he said, "is the only issue between the two countries that requires settlement, and would decisively contribute to normalization of the situation".

    The cornerstone for normalization of Greek-Turkish relations was international law, "which Ankara is obliged to respect since", Mr. Simitis said, "international law, the internationally judicial bodies and a peaceful settlement of differences, are the basic prerequisites for the shaping of a new era in relations with Turkey".

    Mr. Simitis recalled the EU decisions at the Luxembourg summit where, he said, "it was deemed, at the present stage, that it was not feasible for Turkey to be included on an equal status with the other candidates".

    With respect to both its participation in the European Conference and to the framework of its relations with the EU, the European Union's 15 member states "called on Turkey to align itself with European values and principles (which) are the framework of commitments concerning peace, security, good neighborly relations, the need for respecting the integrity and inviolability of external borders, and also the principles of international law", Mr. Simitis said.

    He added that it had been stressed that recourse to The Hague was "the most suitable means of settling differences".

    At the same time, he said, respect for the accession prospects of other states was also set as a condition for a country's participation in the European Conference, "and in this way Turkey was called on to accept Cyprus' accession course".

    Mr. Simitis further cited the Luxembourg decisions concerning Turkey's European vocation as outlined in April 1997 by the EU-Turkey Association Council, which called on Turkey to continue the process of democratization and respect for human rights, good and stable relations with Greece and the settlement of differences mainly through The Hague, and a constructive stance regarding a solution to the Cyprus issue within the framework of the UN resolutions.

    The premier told Parliament that the Madrid communiqui, which he signed last summer with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel, aimed at making Turkey accept the rules of international law and the international treaties. The result was, as he said, that Ankara was exposed with its actions.

    Mr. Simitis also noted that in 1993, Greece had acknowledged the general jurisdiction of the International Court, "but, being aware of Ankara's aggressiveness, we stipulated a specific reservation with respect to issues of defense and security".

    "We call on Ankara to follow suit," he added.

    Turning to the Cyprus issue, Mr. Simitis said that Greece supported the UN's efforts and would continue to co-operate closely with the new government in Cyprus, providing every possible assistance so that its negotiations for accession to the EU would be successfully concluded.

    Mr. Simitis also said that Cyprus "has every right to organize its defense", adding that Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides' proposal for demilitarization or gradual disarmament of the island republic "is in the right direction, and Turkey's refusal is another instance of its intransigence".

    The premier expressed the hope that Ankara "will weigh the situation more calmly, abandoning its threats -- such as annexation of the Turkish-occupied territory -- and realize that the accession of a unified Cyprus into the EU would also be to the benefit of the Turkish Cypriots".

    Speaking on developments in the region since 1989, Mr. Simitis said the government's policy was aimed at upgrading Greece's position in the wider region and at having a broader role in international decision-making centers.

    In that framework, he said, Greece was developing initiatives of friendship and co-operation in the Balkans, the Black Sea, the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean. He cited the 34 agreements signed between Greece and those countries.

    Turning to NATO and its role after 1989 Mr. Simitis said:

    "It must be made clear that NATO is not an administrative body, it does not exercise sovereignty on behalf of its member countries. Every state reserves the right and responsibility to assume its sovereign responsibilities in the framework of collective defense."

    "The basic principles of the new NATO structure are collective defense, support missions for peace and stability, and in that context, the NATO headquarters have been reduced from 65 to 20, with strategic regional and sub-regional commands. In the southern sector, which involves our country, the installation of a regional headquarters in Naples is provided for, with two branch regional air-force and naval headquarters in Italy and four inter-branch subregional headquarters in Madrid, Verona, Larissa and Izmir," Mr. Simitis explained.

    He said it had been decided in 1992 that the regulations of the new structure will not have determined limits of operational control, and consequently Greece "has not conceded anything".

    He pointed out ever since 1980, headquarters had been decided upon yet never established.

    Greece, he said, would participate practically and on an equal basis for the first time in all the NATO activities, and consequently new prospects were opening up in the traditional area of collective defense as well as in the area of European identity, security and defense.

    [02] ... Karamanlis

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis accused the prime minister of making concessions to Turkey and of persisting with what he called the "pseudo-dilemma of war or peace" with Turkey, distracting the Greek people from their real problems.

    In his Parliament address, Mr. Karamanlis said the government had not realized the importance of the balance of power in today's world, that pressures were being put on Greece, whose reaction was to pull back. The opposition leader raised strong doubts regarding the prime minister's contention that Turkey was being isolated by the international community.

    "Turkey is being courted by the international (community) and it is a mistake to believe that it is being isolated," said Mr. Karamanlis. "This is clear from the fact that our European allies are trying to bring Turkey into the European Conference through the back door," he said, also drawing attention to pressure being put to bear with regard to the participation of Turkish Cypriots in negotiations for Cyprus' accession to the EU.

    Mr. Karamanlis also accused Mr. Simitis of displaying weakness in the face of Turkey's provocations. He referred to the incident over the Imia islets and the increased violations by Turkey of Greece's Aegean airspace as cases in point.

    Meanwhile, he expressed the view that the new structure of NATO did not fully secure Greece's national interests and that the proposed confidence building measures (between Greece and Turkey) involved the risk of weakening the country's defense.

    The US, meanwhile, did not recognize important aspects of Greece's national interests, said Mr. Karamanlis, noting that the US sided with Turkey on three issues - the extent of Greece's airspace, Greece's legal right to extend its territorial waters to 10-nautical mile limits and Turkey's refusal to file flight plans before its aircraft enter the Athens FIR. The message being sent by Greece, he said, was that Athens would bow to pressure.

    [03] ... Other opposition leaders

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga in her address claimed the existence of a specific plan for the Aegean's partition, calling on the prime minister to tell the whole truth to the Greek people.

    "Sovereign rights have already been undermined. I don't know what percentage we get and how much for Turkey," she said.

    She also referred to diplomatic conspiracies, claiming that Cyprus would gain accession to the EU as a partitioned state.

    "We are talking about a Euro-partition of Cyprus," she said.

    Ms Papariga suggested that "international law is being torn to pieces every day", and only applied when the US and NATO agree, while she insisted that the new NATO structures abolish national boundaries and expressed disagreement regarding the use of the International Court at The Hague. "We all know what this court is and what forces control it. The Hague only deals with legal issues. We just can't start referring our borders to the courts," she said.

    "Just as they are now using Greece against Iraq, they will use other countries against Greece tomorrow," she concluded.

    Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos accused the government of inability to make serious decisions regarding foreign policy, and of political timidity in not asking the EU to treat Turkish threats against Greece as an internal matter.

    He called on the government to assume initiatives to thwart possible negative developments in Greek-Turkish relations.

    Democratic Social Movement (DHKKI) leader Demetris Tsovolas dismissed the government's position that Turkey should be pressured to go to the International Court at The Hague as a major mistake.

    Mr. Tsovolas also suggested that the long-held Greek position, supported by all governments, that only the issue of the continental shelf could be referred to The Hague had been abandoned so that Greece would be allowed to participate in Economic and Monetary Union, after shedding problems that were bothersome to Brussels and the US.

    [04] ... Pangalos criticizes opposition on foreign policy

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos delivered a sharp attack against opposition party leaders for what he called a "relentless hunt for votes" at the nation's expense.

    Mr. Pangalos accused the party leaders of being blinded by their thirst for power which led them to "distort reality" and "undermine the country's position in order to win votes".

    Some of them, he charged, would be happy to see, and were even working towards, a negative interpretation of international treaties. Replying to comments from opposition parties during the debate, he stressed that as Greece had recognized the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice since 1993, it was not able to avoid any recourse taken by any party to that Court, and any attempt to do so would be extremely negative for the country.

    Responding to criticism that the Madrid declaration signed last year by Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Turkish President Suleyman Demirel recognized Turkish claims in the Aegean, Mr. Pangalos said that Turkey did indeed have legitimate vital interests regarding its littoral zone and airspace.

    [05] Karamanlis opening to Mitsotakis

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Main opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis yesterday rebounded on the issue of internal party dissension by making an opening to former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis, whom he had excluded from top-level ND meetings, except those on foreign policy issues.

    "I delineated our relationship and I think it is to the interest of both of us. I believe Mr. Mitsotakis will soon understand this himself," he said in comments to reporters in Parliament.

    "It is self-evident that I will include him in the electoral lists. And I have told you that he is an asset and I will utilize him. He may even be a candidate for president of the republic," he added.

    Close aides of Mr. Mitsotakis said later that the issue of the lists has never been of interest to him.

    "The only issue which interests him is the future of the party," they said.

    Meanwhile, the six prominent ND deputies expelled earlier this month continued their discussions and contacts regarding their future moves.

    George Souflias again spoke out against "the mentality of ownership of the party by a small group, which is leading it to shrink," adding that the way the current ND party operated does not correspond to the original party's outlook, policies and prospects.

    He hinted that conditions for the formation of a new scheme have matured, saying that after the recent developments the need for a "reconstruction" is pressing.

    Close aides of Mr. Karamanlis said he considers that recent turmoil was overplayed, and is focusing on the important tasks of the main opposition.

    [06] Gov't says Turkish statements an "unacceptable threat"

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greece views Wednesday's statement by Turkey's Foreign Ministry as an "unacceptable threat" with which Ankara "cannot hide its real intentions", government spokesman Demetris Reppas said yesterday.

    The Turkish statement slammed Athens for its rejection on Tuesday of proposals for a high-level dialogue made by Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem on improving relations between the two neighboring countries.

    "We cannot proceed with political negotiations based on Turkey's unilateral claims," said Mr. Reppas.

    "Turkey is seeking a form of communication without any specific rules or content. This is meaningless," said the spokesman, who accused Turkey of refusing to operate within the framework of international law, as Greece did. He also charged that Turkey had not accepted the process of an experts' committee within the framework of the European Union.

    [07] Grossman: US priorities vis-a-vis Turkey include Greek-Turkish relations, Cyprus

    Washington, 27/02/1998 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    US Assistant Secretary of State Mark Grossman has said that the US has three priorities in its policy towards Turkey, namely, improvement of Greek-Turkish relations, resolution of the Cyprus issue, and achievement of progress in the field of human rights.

    Speaking at a Turkish-American two-day conference, Mr. Grossman described the situation in the Aegean as "very dangerous", stressing that "we must do something".

    He referred to the prospect of a visit by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Greece and Turkey this year, as well as to Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz's new planned visit to the US.

    Meanwhile, he described as good and encouraging a recent five-point proposal submitted by Turkey, as well as Greece's response. He also praised NATO Secretary General Javier Solana's efforts, stressing the need for mutually agreed operational measures in the Aegean.

    [08] Turkish officer: Rejection of dialogue could lead to 'accident'

    Washington, 27/02/1998 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    A high-ranking Turkish military officer yesterday accused Greece of intense hatred against Turkey, while he also claimed that such hatred will never disappear.

    Turkish Navy Capt. Deniz Kutluk's statements came during his presentation at a Turkish-American two-day conference here on the Balkans and southeastern Mediterranean, attended by several US diplomats, military officers and business people.

    Capt. Kutluk warned that repeated rejections of every Turkish proposal for dialogue could result in an unexpected accident, since Athens "not only does not want to negotiate any of the issues, but does not accept that there are any differences."

    The Turkish officer also accused Greece of harboring and aiding terrorist organizations, such as the PKK.

    Finally, he said that "Turkey wants to be an equal partner in all regards in the Aegean, based, of course, on International law and practice."

    [09] Hellenic Navy vessels depart for Georgia

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Two Hellenic Navy vessels sailed for Georgia yesterday. One of them, a patrol boat, is a gift to the Georgian navy, while the second, the tank carrier 'Samos' is scheduled to take part in efforts for the refloating of five Georgian warships, sunk during the civil war in 1993, so that they might not fall in the hands of Abhazian rebels.

    The operation is part of a military co-operation agreement between the two countries, agreed to during an exchange of defense ministers' visits last year. The 'Samos' is also carrying two buses, medicines and clothes for the roughly 30,000 ethnic Greeks of Georgia.

    [10] Italian warship in Thessaloniki

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    The Italian warship "Aviere", one of the most modern in the Italian navy, will sail into the port of Thessaloniki today as part of a training voyage. It will be arriving from the port of Palermo from where it sailed on Monday. After leaving Thessaloniki, the warship will call at Costanta, Novorossyisk, Istanbul, Alexandria, Haifa, Tunis, Valencia and Casablanca, and return to Italy on May 16.

    The "Aviere" will stay in Thessaloniki until March 3 and admission will be permitted for the public from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

    [11] Kranidiotis meets with Cypriot leadership

    Nicosia, 27/02/1998 (ANA/CNA)

    Foreign Under-secretary Yiannos Kranidiotis held talks with Cypriot political leaders yesterday on prospects for the Cyprus issue and upcoming EU accession negotiations.

    After meeting left-wing AKEL party Secretary General Demetris Christofias, Mr. Kranidiotis said the Cyprus issue was at a very crucial juncture and developments required serious handling and decisions.

    "The broadest possible consensus is absolutely necessary," he said.

    Mr. Christofias stressed that the time of truth had come, the foremost issue being the commencement of EU accession negotiations and an appropriate formula for the participation of the Turkish Cypriots.

    "Everyone agrees on the principles for Turkish Cypriot participation, but the question is what we do in case they refuse to participate on the basis of the principles we propose," he said, adding that "now the major initiatives of the Americans will be interesting".

    Mr. Kranidiotis also met with socialist EDEK party leader Vassos Lyssarides and United Democrats leader George Vassiliou.

    Mr. Vassiliou, who is primed to head the Cypriot delegation to negotiations with the EU, said he would be meeting Mr. Kranidiotis more often in his new capacity.

    [12] Stephanopoulos visits hospitalized Serapheim

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Physicians treating Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Serapheim said yesterday that the next few days are critical.

    Although his condition is serious it is under control, a hospital statement read.

    Meanwhile, President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, Health Minister Costas Geitonas and Education and Religious Affairs Minister Gerassimos Arsenis visited the Archbishop.

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis addressed a telegram to the Archbishop, stating: "Your Beautitude, with respect I express my sincerest wishes for your speedy recovery..."

    [13] Measures on tackling illegal immigration discussed in Rome

    Rome, 27/02/1998 (ANA - S. Aravopoulou)

    Re-admission agreements for tackling illegal immigration and, more specifically, the emergency situation created by the recent exodus of Kurds, in the framework of the Schengen Treaty, are at a negotiating stage between Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, according to an announcement Foreign Under-secretary Pierro Fascino.

    He made the statement to the parliamentary committee on the Schengen Treaty on Wednesday.

    Mr. Fascino said that with Greece the re-admission agreement is at a negotiating phase and for this reason he will arrive in Athens to conclude it in the next few days.

    He said that with Turkey, Italy also aims at concluding negotiations although, as he said, this is not an easy task.

    Mr. Fascino will leave for Nicosia next week to conclude a readmission agreement proposed by Italy to Cyprus.

    [14] Government backs Pangalos statements

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    The Greek government expressed its support yesterday for statements earlier this week by Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos regarding military ties between Turkey and Israel.

    Mr. Pangalos had referred to a Turkish-Israeli military exercise as an "alliance of wrongdoers".

    Government spokesman Demetris Reppas said yesterday that Mr. Pangalos had been expressing Greek foreign policy, which was against the formation of axes as not being conducive to furthering stability in the region.

    Greece, he said, preferred multi-lateral co-operation.

    [15] Ceremony for Orthodox Metropolitan of Germany Augustinos

    Bonn, 27/02/1998 (ANA - P. Stangos)

    Orthodox Metropolitan of Germany Augustinos yesterday celebrated his 25th anniversary at the post and his 60th birthday.

    The president of the German Republic, Roman Herzog, addressed the event and praising Metropolitan's efforts toward ecumenical dialogue.

    Also present at the event were Bonn Mayor Baerbel Dieckmann and Labor Minister Norbert Bluehm representing Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

    [16] Greek bank interest in Slavija Banka's sale

    Belgrade, 27/02/1998 (ANA - M. Mouratidis)

    The acting general director of Beogradska Banka confirmed yesterday that talks with a Greek bank for the sale of Slavija Banka are progressing, although not as quickly as the Serb side wants.

    Speaking at a press conference here, Borka Vucic said the Greek partner is not in a hurry, and for this reason Beogradska Banka is holding talks for sale of Slavija Banka with other foreign partners, whom she declined to name.

    She further said that foreign interests are showing an increased interest in telecommunications, the electricity utility, cement industries and a Belgrade brewery, adding that at the moment the Trepca mines in Kossovo are close to signing an agreement with a Greek firm for the sale of part of the enterprise.

    The Greek partner in the Trepca mines is the Mytilinaios firm, which signed a five-year co-operation agreement last year totaling US$519 million. Lastly, Ms Vucic confirmed the interest of foreign investors in purchasing more shares of Telecom Srbija, of which the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) and the Italian STET company have a 49 per cent stake.

    [17] Credit Bank's Kostopoulos says drachma's devaluation a mistake

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Alpha Credit Bank President Yiannis Kostopoulos yesterday presented the economic results of Greece's largest private bank, adding that the situation in the Greek economy is not rosy, although devaluing the drachma is the worst solution that could take place since it would not benefit international competitiveness.

    On the contrary, he said, it would fuel inflation and increase the cost of labor, which have been placed under control with great efforts over past years.

    Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Kostopoulos said the example set by Italy, which devalued the lire with positive results, would not benefit Greece due to large differences in the two economies. He said that analyses and reports by foreign firms which more or less call for a devaluation of the drachma conceal other selfish interests.

    However, he said he does not accept the scenario of an organized attack against the drachma, or a conspiracy, observing that unless the Greek economy gets even stronger there will always be ground for such criticism.

    Mr. Kostopoulos urged the government to proceed with greater speed in structural changes, particularly in public utilities, saying that there is no time to have them restructured first and then have them sold at a better price. He added that what is ultimately of importance is to have them sold even at a lower price in order to give foreign markets a clear message of determination.

    Alpha Credit Bank's net pre-tax profits amounted to 72.9 billion drachmas in 1997, compared to 60.4 billion drachmas in 1996 -- an increase of 21 per cent. The yield of the bank's capital reached about 21 per cent.

    Mr. Kostopoulos said these profits are good but not excessive. They are moving at the level of other large foreign banks which are competitors of the Greek ones.

    He said that all this talk about excessive profits in the Greek banking system is unjustified, which is simply doing well, while it would be disastrous if the mentality of "let's spoil it" prevails.

    Referring to Alpha Credit Bank's profits in 1997, he said they would have been higher by about 8 billion drachmas if the crisis had not taken place. The board decided to propose dividends amounting to 750 drachmas per share.

    [18] EU agreement on harmonization of telecoms equipment

    Brussels, 27/02/1998 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Union's Telecoms Council yesterday reached an agreement on the harmonization of the EU's telecommunications equipment with that of the United States.

    The council also reached an agreement on a "common response" by the Union to US proposals for managing the Internet.

    Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis represented Greece, where the major issues discussed were adaptation of a political agreement on the compatibility of connected telecommunications equipment and harmonization of national legislation regarding telecommunications with EU regulations.

    In practical terms, such harmonization would mean that users would have inexpensive and easy access.

    The council, also discussed a US proposal for changes in the worldwide web's management, where the EU is requesting a more representative system.

    A major issue of contention between the US and the EU is an effort by Washington to enforce US legislation on copyright issues.

    [19] Greek stocks slump on feared pull-out by foreign institutionals

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greek equities ended sharply lower yesterday, hit by rumors that foreign institutional investors were liquidating their portfolios in Greek bonds.

    Traders said market sentiment remained nervous in the aftermath of Moody's decision to place the country on review for a possible downgrade of its credit rating.

    The general index closed 1.47 percent down at 1,402.44 points. Most sector indices ended lower.

    Banks dropped 2.31 percent, Insurance eased 1.67 percent, Investment fell 0.56 percent, Construction was 1.20 percent off, Industrials dropped 1.16 percent, Miscellaneous fell 2.51 percent, Holding was 0.78 percent off; but Leasing bucked the trend to end 3.25 percent up.

    The parallel market index for small cap companies gained 0.64 percent continuing a rising trend from the beginning of the year. The FTSE/ASE blue chip index fell 1.61 percent to end at 775.01 points.

    Trading was heavy with turnover at 18.1 billion drachmas.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 136 to 77 with another 25 issues unchanged.

    Eskimo, Benroubi, Alco and Papoutsanis scored the biggest percentage gains at the daily 8.0 percent upper volatility limit, while Keranis, Parnassos, Barba Stathis and Agrinio Metalplastic suffered the heaviest losses. National Bank of Greece ended at 2 0,100 drachmas, Ergobank at 13,905, Alpha Credit Bank at 14,990, Delta Dairy at 2,815, Titan Cement at 13,330, Intracom at 14,300 and Hellenic Telecommunications Organization at 5,580.

    In the domestic interbank market, traders reported capital outflows totaling 250 million ECU's at the drachma's fixing.

    The Greek currency was significantly lower against the US dollar. It was weaker against the ECU and the DMark.

    [20] Nat Bank of Greece doubles 97 profit inc. provisions to Dr 123.4bln

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    National Bank of Greece's pre-tax profits almost doubled in 1997 to 123.4 billion drachmas including provisions from 61.4 billion the previous year.

    The group's consolidated profits shot up 60 percent to 203 billion drachmas last year from 127 billion in 1996.

    The bank's governor, Theodoros Karatzas, said yesterday that recent turmoil in the domestic money market had only had a minor impact on the bank's profitability thus allowing for larger loss provisions in 1997, which totaled 87.6 billion drachmas.

    Mr. Karatzas said that the move paved the way for a restructuring of the bank's lending portfolio, a development strengthening the bank's credibility in international markets.

    It also minimized the bank's burden from past debts. Pre-tax profits after provisions stood at 35.8 billion drachmas. The bank's board has decided to propose to shareholders a dividend of 1,100 drachmas per share. National Bank of Greece's loans totaled 2.3 trillion drachmas, a rise of 11.5 percent against 1996, while deposits exceeded 8.0 trillion drachmas for a 15 percent increase.

    The bank's total assets were 9.8 trillion drachmas at the end of 1997, up 17 percent from the previous year, while the group's assets totaled 13 trillion.

    Mr. Karatzas stressed that the bank had managed to cut back on its operational expenses which rose by 9 percent in 1997, down from 12 percent and 17 percent rises in 1996 and 1995 respectively.

    The bank's workforce shrank to 14,476 last year from 15,178 in 1996.

    Mr. Karatzas noted that the state bank, the country's largest, is ready to deal with a single European currency due to be introduced on January 1, 1999.

    [21] Greek rate rise problems are temporary-banker

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greece's economic progress is satisfactory and temporary problems created by higher interest rates will be resolved, loosening a stronghold on the drachma, National Bank of Greece's governor Theodoros Karatzas said yesterday.

    Mr. Karatzas criticized recently published surveys on Greece by international investment firms which had promoted a lack of confidence in the Greek currency.

    [22] Greek workers, bosses still deadlocked in pay talks

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greek workers and employers have failed in a third round of talks to agree on a formula for this year's national collective labor agreement.

    Representatives of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) pulled out of yesterday's talks after rejecting a proposal by the Federation of Greek Industry (SEB) for a 3.5 percent pay rise.

    No date was set for a resumption of negotiations. Trade union officials said it was unlikely the talks would continue before a GSEE congress early in March. GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos did not rule out the possibility of strikes over the continuing deadlock.

    Unions are pressing for a formula that takes into account an estimated rate of 3.7 percent for average consumer price inflation in 1998, plus GDP growth forecast at 2.0 percent, plus a corrective amount.

    SEB president Iason Stratos said industrialists had proposed the 3.5 percent rise from an estimated end-1998 inflation rate of 2.5 percent plus a productivity increase of one percent.

    Among changes to existing practice employers are willing to discuss are a fifth week of annual leave on no pay and study leave for employees. They have refused to debate a 35-hour working week.

    [23] EOT expects more Italian tourists this year

    Athens, 27/02/1998 (ANA)

    Greek Tourism Organization (EOT) Secretary General Nikos Skoulas estimated that more than 600,000 Italian nationals, 10 per cent more than in 1997, are expected to visit Greece this year.

    Mr. Skoulas was speaking to Italian reporters on the sidelines of the International Tourist Exhibition "BIT 1998" in Milan. He said a total of at least 11.5 million tourists are expected to visit Greece in 1998.

    Mr. Skoulas told Italian reporters that Greece and Italy can exchange know-how and create joint tourist programs.

    End of English language section.


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