|Monday, 11 November 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-03-14
From: The Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada <firstname.lastname@example.org>
 Greece formally asks for ERM entry, EU to meetGreece requested from its European Union partners for the drachma to enter the exchange rate mechanism (ERM), the government said in a statement yesterday.
"The government asked yesterday (Thursday) for the entry of the drachma to the exchange rate mechanism of the European Monetary System. The entry procedure began today (yesterday) and will be completed on Sunday," the statement read.
The realignment of the Greek drachma's parity against European Union currencies and the Ecu will be decided on Sunday night after Greece's EU partners responded positively to Prime Minister Costas Simitis' request for the drachma's entry into the Excha nge Rate Mechanism (ERM).
Mr. Simitis has cut his visit to London short, and returned to Athens last night for discussions with his economy ministers.
Pressures in the inter-bank market appeared early yesterday. Some 400 million Ecu in outflows were recorded during later fixing. The drachma-Ecu parity reached 323.70 drachmas, but later fell to 316.55.
The EU's Monetary Committee will convene today, and is expected to decide on the terms of the drachma's entry to ERM on Sunday.
The main opposition New Democracy party criticised the government last night of suddenly changing its policy on the drachma.
At the end of a meeting held at the Athens Medical Centre, where ND leader Costas Karamanlis is being treated, ND spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said the government was lying once again and was offering assurances that there was no question of the drachm a's accession to ERM and today (yesterday), under pressure by international markets and without taking necessary structural changes for the economy, is suddenly changing its policy.
 ... Pressures on drachmaThe drachma came under sudden pressure on the domestic money market yesterday for undetermined reasons.
At fixing, outflows totalled approximately 300 million Ecu, 190 million deutschemarks and US$10 million.
The drachma was significantly down against the Ecu.
Interbank interest rates reached 18 per cent to stabilise later at 16.5 per cent, about one percentage point higher than Thursday.
It will become clear next week whether yesterday's developments are an isolated phenomenon or will have greater duration.
Meanwhile, underlining the central bank's determination to stick to its strict monetary policy this year as well, Bank of Greece Governor Lucas Papademos forecast yesterday that inflation would drop to below 2 per cent by the end of the year, a very low level for Greece.
 ... Applying for ERMBRUSSELS (Reuters/ANA)
Here is a brief summary of the procedure for joining or rejoining the ERM, which currently groups 12 of the European Union's 15 currencies.
- Britain was the last country to be allowed to declare its entry rate unilaterally when it took the sterling pound into the ERM in 1990. It was forced out along with the lira two years later.
- Any country joining or rejoining the ERM now has to negotiate the rate at which its currency should join the system.
- Once a country has decided it wants to join the ERM, it normally asks for a meeting of the EU's monetary committee, a secretive grouping of senior finance ministry and central bank officials.
- The committee, which in this case will probably involve senior EU treasury officials and central bankers, will meet in Brussels today when markets are closed to decide whether and at what central rate the currency could join. Earlier, Greek officials h ad said EU finance ministers may have to meet tomorrow to make the decision.
- Decisions can be taken very quickly, since the EU is routinely monitoring the economies of all its member states. A monetary committee can be convened in a matter of hours, following informal telephone contacts between capitals.
- However, if the committee fails to reach an agreement, there may be a ministerial meeting the following day.
- There is no formal voting procedure for admitting new ERM members, and typically a consensus is found through inter-governmental agreement. EU Commission officials say the monetary committee also wants the rate chosen to be consistent with the degree of convergence within the European economies.
- Once in, an ERM member country must keep its currency inside the agreed fluctuation bands - and preferably as close as possible to its central rate.
- In response to currency turbulence in 1992 and early 1993, the ERM's fluctuation bands were widened in August 1993 to 15 per cent either sider of central rates from 2.25 or 6 per cent.
- An ERM member-state must be prepared to take the lead in supporting its currency, through direct intervention or changed economic policies. It must accept a pre-emptive devaluation or revaluation if the central rate becomes untenable.
- Britain has been floating outside the currency grid since September 1992, while Greece and Sweden have never been members. Italy and Finland were the most recent entrants to the ERM.
- There is some debate about whether membership of the ERM is a prerequisite for joining the EU's planned single currency.
Countries including France and Germany insist that ERM membership is a condition for joining the single currency. Sweden and Britain argue that a stable currency, not formal ERM participation, is the key.
This debate is set to rage until EU leaders meet in early 1998 to decide which countries qualify.
 Simitis returns to Athens, due to leave for Czech RepublicPrime Minister Costas Simitis arrived from London late yesterday evening, while he is set to travel to Prague tomorrow.
According to sources, he will chair a Cabinet meeting this morning on Greece's request that the drachma enter the European Union's Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM).
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos is staying in London to attend today's informal European Union council meeting in Edinburgh. Press Minister Dimitris Reppas will attend today's informal meeting of press ministers in Manchester.
 Pangalos warns against any overturn of Luxembourg summit decisionsEDINBURGH (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos yesterday addressed a stern warning that any attempt to overturn Luxembourg summit decisions on Cypriot membership negotiations would jeopardise the Union's entire policy on enlargem ent.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the informal "15" foreign ministers' session, Mr. Pangalos stated that Greece is not one of the countries that will benefit from enlargement, and this should be taken seriously into account by those who may be seeking a revision of the Luxembourg summit decisions.
In today's session, discussions will focus on the reaching of a "political understanding" on the forthcoming negotiations for Cypriot membership, a British diplomat said yesterday. Three proposals will be on the negotiating table regarding the content o f the official introductory statement of the 15 on the negotiations with Cyprus. One is by the British presidency, with which the Greek side does not agree, mainly because it says that the aim of the EU is attainment of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.
Another is by France, which introduces the idea of a possible suspension of negotiations if the problem of Turkish Cypriot participation is not solved, while the other one is by Greece, which is in line with the spirit of the decisions of the Luxembourg summit.
British presidency sources said that despite the conflicting views, the likelihood of reaching a compromise solution was strong, given that no side wished the commencement of enlargement negotiations to be put in jeopardy.
According to the same sources, the British presidency intends to persist with its proposal, considering it reflects a compromise spirit and could become acceptable with certain modifications.
French sources said that France was not against the commencement of negotiations with Cyprus on March 31, but has reservations regarding its smooth evolution.
Commenting on yesterday's statement of support by the foreign ministers for increased autonomy for Kosovo and further santions against Yugoslavia, Mr. Pangalos said it was a clear message to Kosovo Albanians not to seek independence and towards Belgrade to participate without conditions in deliberations for the granting of autonomy.
 Kranidiotis - Miller talks in Athens regarding CyprusForeign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis met with special US State Department coordinator for Cyprus Thomas Miller in Athens yesterday, expressing a hope that the opening of Cyprus' EU accession talks on March 31 will facilitate a just and viable soluti on to the Cyprus problem.
Mr. Kranidiotis asked the US and the EU to play a constructive role and positively influence the course of developments.
Mr. Miller, who held talks in Ankara and Nicosia earlier this week, described the Cyprus issue as "a very tough problem, which will require a lot of work, as well as a give-and-take exchange on the part of all sides".
The US official did not disclose the contents of his talks in Cyprus and Ankara on US efforts for a resumption of intercommunal talks in Cyprus, saying that this role "would be played backstage".
The Greek foreign undersecretary stressed that the Greek side was willing to cooperate with the UN Secretary General and assist all other efforts to be undertaken for resumption of intercommunal talks. Mr. Kranidiotis further underlined that Turkey's "policy of refusal" was a policy leading nowhere.
In a later address at a downtown Athens hotel on Cyprus and the EU, Mr. Kranidiotis stressed the historic responsibility of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leadership in contributing towards the accession course of Cyprus and the democratisation of their own structures.
Mr. Kranidiotis expressed his regret over the refusal of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash to accept the invitation for the participation of the Turkish Cypriots in Cyprus' accession negotiations. He hailed the "brave voices" of the Turkish Cypriot o pposition which support the Turkish Cypriots' participation in the accession talks, calling on the international community to abandon the policy of equal distances and pressure Turkey to lift its policy.
Mr. Kranidiotis said the accession of Cyprus to the European Union will constitute the foundations for pacification and unity on the island and can work as a catalytical factor in the process of finding a just and viable solution to the Cyprus issue.
He said that according to agreements signed, Cyprus will become a member of the EU, legally in its entirety but the accession act will be implemented in the free part for as long as Turkish occupation lasts.
 Constantopoulos calls for political leaders' council on KosovoCoalition of the Left (Synaspismos) leader Nikos Constantopoulos yesterday called on Prime Minister Costas Simitis to convene a political leaders' council on the Kosovo issue, noting that the crisis has assumed worrying dimensions.
Referring to other issues in a speech in the northern town of Drama, he spoke of signs of crisis in the political system, and called for a change in the electoral law that favours the largest political parties.
Further, he noted that the state is absent in the borders areas of Thrace.
"When one visits such areas, one meets the criminal indifference of the state. All governments, with their policies, led border regions to become deserted," he said.
 Ankara displeased over Athens' latest rebuffANKARA (ANA - A. Abatzis)
Ankara yesterday accused Athens of a "lack of seriousness", arguing that its recent proposal for a high-level meeting between the two nations' foreign ministries "was answered within 24 hours".
A statement issued by the Turkish foreign ministry stresses that "Turkey desires the solution of all problems in the Aegean" by common agreement on methods of resolution, and "without ruling out any method, including methods through third parties".
The statement said that "the fact that the Greek government judged sufficient a period of 24 hours to examine our purposeful initiative regarding problems in the Aegean, to which we assign great importance, set a record of a lack of seriousness and good will".
The Turkish foreign ministry also stresses that a bilateral experts' committee never made any significant progress due to Athens' stand since May 1997.
 Anastasios comments on Kosovo crisisAn announcement by Albania's Orthodox Church yesterday, signed by Archbishop of Tirana and All Albania Anastasios, condemned the violation of human rights in Kosovo as well as anywhere else.
The announcement stressed that "the Orthodox Church supports human rights…irrespective of racial origin…and underlines the need for peaceful coexistence…"
 Political talks between PASOK delegation, SPD group in BonnBONN (ANA - P. Stangos)
Political talks will be held here between part y delegations of the ruling socialist PASOK party and the German Social Democrat Party (SPD) tomorrow night and on Monday over foreign and social policy issues.
PASOK's delegation will be comprised of National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos (in his capacity as a member of PASOK's executive bureau and deputy president of the European Socialist Party), PASOK Secretary Costas Skandalidis, Foreign Undersecret ary Yiannos Kranidiotis, Eurodeputy Irene Lambraki and other officials.
The SPD's delegation will be comprised of, in their capacity as members of the party's presidium, the Prime Minister of Essen Hans Eichel, the coordinator of the Parliamentary group and the presidium on foreign policy issues Guenter Verheugen, the minis ter of sciences of Essen Christine Hohmann-Dennardt, the deputy (and president of the Greek-German group of the German Parliament) Sigrid Skarpelis-Sperk, the Eurodeputy (and feputy president of the Joint EU-Cyprus Committee) Mechtild Rothe, the secretary of the International Policy Department Michael Hofmann and others.
On completion of talks between the two delegations, a brief meeting is anticipated between the Greek delegation and the SPD's leadership, President Oskar Lafontaine, the candidate for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the president of the Parliamentary Grou p (and president of the European Social Democrat Party) Rudolf Scharping and the party's secretary-general Franz Muentefering.
Statements will also be made to the German press afterwards and the SPD's presidium will convene to examine the party's pre-election programme.
According to reports, the first part of talks tomorrow night will concern Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus issue, the situation in the Balkans and coordination on these issues between PASOK and the SPD in the framework of the European Socialist Party .
The second part, to be held on Monday morning, will focus on an exchange of views on tackling unemployment and on social policy issues in general, as well as issues concerning Greeks living in Germany.
 Papoutsis contacts in WashingtonWASHINGTON (ANA - T. Ellis)
Visiting EU Commissioner Christos Papoutsis ended his contacts here yesterday and left for San Francisco. He will depart for Brussels on Monday.
During a press conference at the Greek embassy in Washington, the EU Commissioner responsible for energy, SMEs and tourism said his talks with US administration and international finance officials focused on recent developments in the energy sector, as well as on the small to medium-sized business sector.
 Five new ambassadors delivered credentialsPresident Kostis Stephanopoulos yesterday received the new ambassadors of Colombia, Juan Gustavo Cobo Borda; Thailand, Surapong Jayanama; Japan, Kazyo Matsumoto; Australia, Ross Austin Burns and Malta, Henry C. De Gabriele.
The new ambassadors delivered their credentials to the Greek president.
The relevant ceremony was attended by Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis and the secretary general of the presidency, Ambassador Emmanuel Gikas.
 WEU celebrates 50th anniversary of its founding on MondayBRUSSELS (ANA - G. Daratos)
The Western European Union's (WEU) defence committee within its Parliamentary Assembly is holding an emergency meeting on Monday on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the organisation's founding.
Four presidents of as many national defence committees will each speak on a subject of interest to the assembly. Italian deputy Pietro Gianasio will speak on "WEU and Security in the Mediterranean," Britain's Terry Davies on "WEU Enlargement," and Greec e's Constantinos Vrettos on "The WEU After the Signing of the Treaty of Amsterdam".
 Tsohatzopoulos on report over partisanship in armed forcesNational Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos told Parliament yesterday that a report in a Sunday newspaper referring to persecution in the military for political reasons was "fabricated and sha-meless."
Replying to a relevant question by main opposition New Democracy party deputy Vassilis Sotiropoulos, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said not only was there no climate of partisanship and persecution in the military, as was alleged in the press report, but for the f irst time everything is taking place with transparent processes, aimed at upgrading and modernising the armed forces.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos criticised ND for using "false evidence" and names of officers for alleged persecution, creating a problem for them. On his part, Mr. Sotiropoulos said that in the military there were "no whispers, but shouts" about the imposition of partisanship by the national defence minister and called for military justice to take over.
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said in reply that a report to which the deputy referred to was based on a document dated Sept. 20, 1993, when ND was in power.
 Greenpeace calls for ban of toys with PVCsThe Greek branch of the international environmental advocacy group Greenpeace has demanded the complete ban of certain types of toys made of soft plastic (PVC), as well as their removal from toys stores.
Research by the group has found that many toxic substances are found in some types of children's toys.
It is estimated that such material is being used by 5 per cent of toy manufacturers internationally.
Certain PVC additives are linked with long-term health hazards, such as kidney, liver and reproductive organ disfunctions, and development of some forms of cancer.
The result of research carried out by Greenpeace has driven many goverments, including Denmark, Italy, Spain and Sweden, among others, to take certain measures to protect children's health.
 Consumer groups caution over falling standards of foods, dietsOn the occasion of "World Consumer Day" tomorrow, the Consumer Institute (INKA) and the General Federation of Greek Consumers yesterday sounded the alarm over what it called the increasingly unhealthy dietary habits of many Greek citizens.
Both groups said a shift over recent years by the majority of consumers towards cheaper foods has had serious consequences in terms of their health and physical condition.
Younger generations are especially facing dangers, consuming larger quantities of "industrial trash" and uninspected food products of lower nutritional value, the announcement said.
This is mainly due to a lack of education and awareness, but also to what the groups called the "criminal tolerance" both by the state and parents.
The two groups also hold supermarkets accountable for the unhealthy dietary habits of Greek citizens, as consumer behaviours have been imposed without any resistance, they claimed.
Another important factor is food adulteration, with the two groups quoting numerous filed complaints relating both to unsuitable foods and the cost of living.
 Second int'l meeting on children's television in LondonLONDON (ANA - L. Tsirigotakis)
The second international meeting on children's television ended here yesterday with participants including Press and Media Minister Dimitris Reppas and Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Mr. Reppas told the meeting that the Greek government was focusing its attention on concerns over the sensitive relationship between children and the electronic media.
Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos told participants that despite the increased dangers involved in television programming when it comes to children, the younger population should get familiar with new technology and the digital era.
At the end of the meeting it was announced that the next meeting on childern’s television will be held in Athens in 2001.
 V. Papandreou lecture at OxfordDevelopment Minister Vasso Papandreou will visit London at the invitation of the Oxford University's Centre of Advanced European Comparative Law Studies.
On March 16, Ms Papandreou will give a lecture at Oxford on the subject "The Social Dimension of European Integration."
In the afternoon of the same day, Ms Papandreou will make an address to economic officials from London during a dinner to be given in her honour. She will focus on "Investment Opportunities in Greece on the Threshold of a Strengthened European Integrati on Process".
 ... Parliamentary delegation in LondonA five-member parliamentary delegation led by Minas Stavrakakis, leaves Monday for an official visit to London, following an official invitation from the Speakers of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
The deputies will have talks with various British officials on Greek-Turkish relations, the Economic and Monetary Union and the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.
 Bomb defused in ThessalonikiAn explosive device was successfully defused by a bomb squad outside the main entrance of an Agricultural Bank branch in Thessaloniki's Polihni district yestreday at 2 a.m.
Authorities were notified after an anonymous call was received at a local newpaper, with the caller identifying the group that planted the bomb as 'the fighters of Kileler'.
 Greek stocks slip in technical correctionGreek equities ended slightly down yesterday in moderate trade following three straight rising sessions.
Sentiment has been mostly healthy this month due to a stable money market and drachma, boosted by comments on the national currency and Athens Stock Exchange by international financial houses.
The general index ended 0.40 percent down at 1,537.37 points with sector indices mixed.
Banks slid 0.93 percent, Insurance nosed up 0.03 percent, Leasing rose 0.53 percent, Investment lost 0.72 percent, Construction shed 0.69 percent, Industrials slipped 0.22 percent, Miscellaneous jumped 1.28 percent and Holding was 0.46 percent off.
The parallel market index for small cap companies gained 0.61 percent.
Trading was moderate with turnover at 19.6 billion drachmas.
The bourse gained 2.51 percent on the week fuelled by favourable news on inflation and tax revenue in January and February, an upturn in the debt market, and calm in money and foreign exchange markets.
Institutional investors abroad stepped up buy orders on blue chips including Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE), state National Bank of Greece, private Alpha Credit Bank and Titan Cement Company. Saloman Brothers was active in buying Greek s tocks.
Yesterday, National Bank of Greece ended at 22,770 drachmas, Ergobank at 15,750, Alpha Credit Bank at 17,005, Delta Dairy at 3,185, Titan Cement at 14,650 and Intracom at 15,600.
OTE was the focus of attention after JP Morgan upgraded its rating for the state owned telecom, predicting its share price would rise to 8,000 drachmas at year-end.
Also giving the market a lift was news of the issue of drachma bonds worth five billion by Merrill Lynch.
Turnover for the week was 106.079 billion drachmas, giving a daily average of 21.2 billion against 20.9 billion in the previous week.
Yesterday, of 240 shares traded decliners led advancers by 133 to 77 with another 30 issues unchanged.
Ermis, Halyps Cement, Yalco, Mohlos and Etma scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent upper volatility limit.
Benroubi (preferred), Balkan Export (common), Britannia, Balkan Export (preferred) and Gnomon, all of which ended at or near 8.0 percent limit down.
National Bank of Greece ended at 22,770, Ergobank at 15,750, Alpha Credit Bank at 17,005, Delta Dairy at 3,185, Titan Cement at 14,650 and Intracom at 15,600.
At the day's central bank fix, the drachma fell against the mark and Ecu, edging up versus the dollar. Traders reported outflows of 400 million dollars.
 Greece's Alpha Brokerage posts 358 pct profit jump in 1997Alpha Brokerage, a member of the private Alpha Credit Bank Group, reported 1997 net pre-tax earnings of 2.2 billion drachmas against 489 million a year earlier, marking a 358 percent jump.
In 1997 total revenue was 4.8 billion drachmas against 1.4 billion in 1996, up 253 percent.
Equity capital rose by 81 percent to 2.5 billion drachmas.
Last year the company retained second place among Greek brokers on the basis of turnover. Deals totalled 973 billion drachmas, representing a market share of 9.4 percent.
 Greece debates privatisation process for Macedonia-Thrace BankNational Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and National Bank of Greece Governor Theodoros Karatzas agreed during a meeting yesterday to speed up a planned privatisation of Macedonia-Thrace Bank, but no details were given.
National Bank of Greece owns a large packet of shares in the Thessaloniki-based bank.
 Gov't to finalise third telecom float WednesdayNational Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and executives of Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) will decide on Wednesday how to carry out the state firm's third part-float on the Athens bourse. Due to be finalised are how the shares will
 Programme on expanding winter tourism on Crete, RhodesExpanding winter tourism in Crete and Rhodes this year is based on the programme "Crete-12 Months of Tourism", backed by regional authorities, the Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) and four prefectural tourist promotion committees.
According to a statement by EOT Secretary Nikos Skoulas in Hania, large tourist agents have committed themselves to bringing tourists next winter, provided local tourist agencies shape an integrated tourist package immediately.
 Laliotis on measures for withdrawing old vehiclesEnvironment, Town Planning and Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis stressed in Parliament yesterday that final measures on providing incentives for the withdrawal of old cars will be announced next week.
Replying to a question on the issue by deputies of the main opposition New Democracy party, Mr. Laliotis said that vehicles over 15 years old, totalling 700,000, will be withdrawn. He added that 70 per cent of these vehicles circulate in Athens and Thes saloniki.
The ND deputies referred to repercussions for the environment, criticised the government for not promoting projects to protect it and called for specific measures to be taken. They also said that the fleet of catalytic and old technology cars is ageing daily and that the government lacks an integrated policy to tackle the problem.
Mr. Laliotis said that emergency measures have not been taken for smog for 20 months. Referring to his ministry's policy, he said that from 1994-1996 18 billion drachmas were absorbed by the national environment programme out of 64 billion drachmas earm arked as funds by the European Union.
In 1997, he added, 23 billion drachmas were absorbed out of 25 billion earmarked.