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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 98-03-18

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

From: The Greek Press & Information Office, Ottawa Canada <>


  • [01] Simitis says no new measures pending, need for acceleration of policy
  • [02] ... Government spokesman
  • [03] ... Papantoniou
  • [04] ... Gov't should resign, Evert says
  • [05] ... KKE
  • [06] Tsohatzopoulos stresses need for unified initiative on Kosovo
  • [07] EIB's Gennimatas on EMU
  • [08] Tsohatzopoulos says Turkish proposal on Balkan peace force 'arbitrary'
  • [09] PM concludes Czech visit
  • [10] ... Simitis-Horn meeting to focus on EU, NATO issues
  • [11] Turkish warplanes violate Greek air space between Limnos, Samothrace
  • [12] Kranidiotis-Vassiliou talks
  • [13] Evert calls for Papantoniou's resignation
  • [14] Pangalos-Albright meeting on Friday
  • [15] Tzoumakas on 'green' parity
  • [16] Boeing touts the F-15E at press conference
  • [17] EU Licence plates
  • [18] EOT-IKA tourism package
  • [19] Cretan hoteliers organise 'Greek Night' in Strasbourg
  • [20] Gov't: Imports prior to March 24 subject to pre-devaluation parity
  • [21] Inner Cabinet on OA's future
  • [22] 'Kokoretsi' ban postponed
  • [23] Economic Crime Squad inspections
  • [24] Drachma devaluation results in higher EU inflows
  • [25] Eurobank lowers loan interset rates
  • [26] Greek stocks hit year's high on ERM, devaluation euphoria
  • [27] Greece explains impact of drachma devaluation to foreign investors
  • [28] Greek hoteliers cautiously back drachma devaluation
  • [29] Light industry, accountants blast drachma devaluation
  • [30] Greece to draft bill encouraging sale of old cars
  • [31] Greek newspaper gives business awards

  • [01] Simitis says no new measures pending, need for acceleration of policy

    PRAGUE 18/03/1998 (ANA - S. Liarellis)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the government's long-held plan to incorporate the drachma into the EU's Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) was fully implemented with respect to both the scheduled timeframe and the manner in which it was carried out.

    Speaking yesterday to reporters in Prague shortly before returning to Athens, Mr. Simitis said there would be no need to take new measures, but rather it would be necessary to accelerate implementation of the policy already announced. Greece ente red the ERM over last weekend with a subsequent devaluation of the drachma by 14 per cent, while drastic economic measures were announced for immediate implementation.

    He forecast a drop in interest rates and prices and an increase in investments, and dismissed talk of the political cost arising from the devaluation.

    "If this were the case, a government would be in a state of permanent inaction," he said.

    The prime minister also responded to domestic criticism, saying it was fuelled by petty party criteria and "an ignorance of issues".

    The government's decision for the drachma to enter the ERM, he said, will be judged not by the statements of various people but by the reaction of the market. Although this will become clear over a long period of time, he added, initial response was positive.

    "It seems the market views it as a positive move and believes that the position of the Greek economy has been strengthened and things will go better," he said.

    Positive results from the devaluation were already visible, he said, with a strengthening of the drachma above the new parity, a steep rise in stock prices and inflows of foreign exchange.

    He said that Greece's top target was participation in Economic and Monetary Union - before EMU's procedures begin to fully operate - and that priority would now be given to keeping a lid on prices, which was the most difficult aim to attain. He added th at the devaluation also strengthened Greece's national currency.

    The prime minister defended the previous 'hard drachma' policy, stressing it had aimed to reduce inflation and deficits which were necessary requirements for the drachma's incorporation into ERM. Considerable progress was recorded in recent years, he said,noting in particular that the term "rising cost of living" has not been particularly prominent among people's concerns in recent years.

    He also forecast a spectacular decline in interest rates especially after May 3, when the EU adopts crucial decisions regarding EMU.

    [02] ... Government spokesman

    In Athens, acting government spokesman Nikos Athanasakis said the government has ruled out any new devaluation of the drachma following last weekend's 14 per cent devaluation, which was lin-ked to its entry into ERM.

    But the drachma was still overvalued in relation to the devaluation parity agreed with the European Union, Mr. Athanasakis said. Markets have reacted positively to the drachma's devaluation and interest rates are falling, a trend that will gain moment um in coming months, he said.

    [03] ... Papantoniou

    National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, addressing Parliament last night, said that low inflation was behind the "adjustment" of the drachma's parity at this time.

    He added that the European Union could not accept Greece with high inflation, while he noted that Italy was accepted with an inflation rate of under 3 per cent.

    Mr. Papantoniou said that "all that I said was ratified by the market. A rise was noted in the stock market, foreign currency flowed in, the drachma appreciated...and interest rates are declining."

    He admitted that their is a cost from this new situation, but expressed a hope that by early summer, the market will absorb dangers and that by the end of the year inflation will stand at 2.5 per cent.

    [04] ... Gov't should resign, Evert says

    The former leader of the main opposition New Democracy party yesterday demanded the government's resignation, saying it is "unable to work effectively on national issues...the drachma and to protect citizens from everyday crime."

    Miltiadis Evert was speaking after a meeting with President Kostis Stephanopoulos, which lasted for less than an hour.

    Mr. Evert stressed that ND had asked for cooperation in the national, economic and social sectors, but the government did not accept it, with the result being that more mistakes were made on government and things were getting worse.

    [05] ... KKE

    In a letter to Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, Communist Party of Greece (KKE) Secretary General Aleka Papariga requests an off-the-agenda Parliamentary debate on the government's decision to devalue the drachma.

    Ms Papariga said the decision to devalue the drachma and the accompanying measures with which the government committed itself with the European Union, apart from immediate repercussions on the wide popular strata, highlight the antipopular reversals in labour relations, the insurance system, the labour income, social expenditures and the sellout of public property.

    For these reasons, Ms. Papariga proposed an immediate dialogue at party leader level.

    [06] Tsohatzopoulos stresses need for unified initiative on Kosovo

    BRUSSELS 18/03/1998 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos yesterday stressed the need for Europe to undertake a unified initiative regarding the Kosovo crisis in the direction of a new balance, recognising the human rights of the province's Albanians within the framework of New Yugoslavia.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos was speaking yesterday at the opening of the West European Union's (WEU) special session on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Brussels Treaty.

    He called on Europe to send a clear message to Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership in support of their autonomy but not the independence of the province, while at the same time point out to that community the need to begin an unconditional dialogue with Belgrade immediately.

    The WEU's session got underway at its headquarters in Brussels with addresses by Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, who chairs the WEU council during the present six-month period, Belgian Foreign Minister Eric Derycke and the WEU's Secretary General Jose Cutilheiro.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos, whose address focused on "The WEU's mission in the new framework of European security", referred to the background leading to the founding of the WEU and to its present role.

    "In eastern and particularly in southeastern Europe crises are multiplying and are succeeding each other. After the crisis in Bosnia, we had the crisis in Albania and while these two crises have not been ultimately overcome, the crisis in Kosovo has al ready started. In the first two of the above crises, the EU and consequently the WEU were unable to play the role corresponding to them and which all were expecting of them. They were neither able to avert them nor to stop them in time with suitable political initiatives. What will happen with the third crisis which has already started and which is threatening Europe' Will Europe be able to play its role this time'" Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said.

    "The continuation of joint efforts for the successful accession of the WEU to the new European security framework will depend on the decisions which we will take in the immediate future and the solutions which we will give on crucial and multifaceted is sues related to the development and utilisation of the defence capabilities of Europe, as well as the determination of the peoples of Europe to undertake their own share of responsibility at a political, economic and military level on joint collective sec urity and defence," he added.

    [07] EIB's Gennimatas on EMU

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Greece's participation in Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) has long-term advantages, as it leads to economic stability without inflation and with low interest rates which favour investors, European Investment Bank (EIB) vice-president Panayiotis Gennimat as said in an address to the Piraeus Professional Chamber yesterday.

    However, he warned that a country could face dangers within EMU - increased unemployment, poverty etc - if it has not previously completed the required phase of adjustment of its economy.

    Referring to the port city of Piraeus, he said it should aim to improve its position in the framework of Mediterranean competition, reconsidering its position in the broader area, particularly in relation to Turkey and the Black Sea.

    [08] Tsohatzopoulos says Turkish proposal on Balkan peace force 'arbitrary'

    BRUSSELS 18/03/1998 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos has described as "arbitrary" Turkey's proposal that a Balkan peacekeeping force be based in Edirne, near the Thrace border with Greece.

    "This is an arbitrary...initiative, compared to our own, in continuation of the conference in Sofia a few months ago, on a joint effort to formulate terms of security, cooperation and stability in the Balkans," he said on the sidelines of the Western Euro pean Union (WEU) conference.

    'Turkey's initiative annuls implementation of the programme agreed to in Sofia by all Balkan countries. We are meeting in Tirana in April to plan the further implementation of what we approved in Sofia. For this reason we do not respond to Turkey's initiative and we call on them to come to Tirana for a joint agreement with other Balkan countries," he said.

    [09] PM concludes Czech visit

    PRAGUE 18/03/1998 (ANA- S. Liarellis)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday wound up an official visit to the Czech Republic, describing it as constructive and focusing on that nation's prospects for EU membership.

    Mr. Simitis had talks yesterday with Czech President Vaclav Havel on bilateral relations and the enlargement of the European Union and NATO. On Monday he had talks with his Czech counterpart Josef Tosovsky and Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yaroslav Sendivi.

    Mr. Simitis added that small countries would play a constructive role in the EU in coming years, and for this reason Greece had to maintain good relations with them.

    He rejected views on the linking of a solution to the political problem of Cyprus to its EU accession course towards the EU, saying that his Czech counterpart had understood Greek positions and accepted them.

    Questioned on yesterday's statements by German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, who tried to link the two issues, the prime minister reminded that Germany itself had been divided.

    "We have said it to the Germans themselves, that Germany had been a member of the EU while divided. We are in a phase of negotiations and such things do not deter us," he said.

    [10] ... Simitis-Horn meeting to focus on EU, NATO issues

    Mr. Simitis will continue his talks with central European leaders today on NATO and European Union issues when he meets visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn in Athens.

    Mr. Simitis was due to return to Greece last night from a three-day official visit to Prague, government spokesman Nikos Athanasakis said yesterday.

    Mr. Horn arrives today for talks with Mr. Simitis which are, again expected to focus on European Union accession talks scheduled to begin on March 31 and Budapest's efforts to join NATO, as well as bilateral relations.

    Mr. Horn will be received by President Kostis Stephanopoulos at 1 p.m. local time. At 2 p.m., Mr. Simitis will host a working lunch for Mr. Horn and at 3.30 p.m. the two premiers will give a joint press conference.

    Tonight, Mr. Simitis will reply in Parliament to opposition party questions on the recent economic developments, particularly the 14 per cent devaluation of the drachma.

    Tomorrow morning, Mr. Simitis will chair a Cabinet meeting which will focus on efforts to revitalise the national carrier Olympic Airways.

    [11] Turkish warplanes violate Greek air space between Limnos, Samothrace

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Twelve Turkish warplanes infringed on Athens Flight Information Region (FIR) regulations yesterday over the Aegean, many of which developed into violations of Greek air space.

    According to reports, from 12 noon until early in the afternoon, eight Turkish F-16 and four F-4 "Phantom" jets infringed on Athens FIR air traffic regulations. Ten violations of national air space in the region between the islands of Limnos and Samothr ace were also reported.

    In all cases, the Turkish warplanes were recognised and intercepted by Hellenic Air Force Mirage 2000 and F-16 fighters, while on four occasions the interception process turned into an engagement.

    [12] Kranidiotis-Vassiliou talks

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis yesterday met with the head of Cyprus' European Union accession negotiating team, George Vassiliou, for talks on related issues.

    Mr. Kranidiotis' office announced after the meeting that special emphasis was given on the coordination of efforts between the two goverments in light of the beginning of accession talks.

    Cyprus is one of the six countries to begin accession talks with the EU on March 31.

    [13] Evert calls for Papantoniou's resignation

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Former main opposition New Democracy party leader Miltiades Evert tabled a question in Parliament yesterday calling on National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou to provide information on the commission received by the Lehmans Bros. and J.R. Morgan firms.

    Those companies undertook to mediate for the one-billion-dollar loan concluded by Greece before the drachma was devalued. Mr. Evert claimed that Mr. Papantoniou's daughter is employed at one of the firms.

    Replying to Mr. Evert's question, Mr. Papantoniou said that "Mr. Miltiades Evert's desperate effort to exit from his known political deadlock is leading him to maliciousness."

    Mr. Papantoniou said that according to a memo by the State General Accounting Office and decisions taken by the relevant Undersecretary Nikos Christodoulakis, the selection of the two banks, Lehman Brothers and J.R. Morgan, who managed the loan, was made by the relevant services of the Bank of Greece following tendering and was ratified by the Debt Committee. He said the awarding terms are in absolute accordance with international practice and are particularly beneficial for Greece.

    Referring to his daughter Daphne, Mr. Papantoniou said she has a Cambridge graduate and has been working for a year and a half as an ordinary employee with Lehman Bros., one of the largest US banks.

    [14] Pangalos-Albright meeting on Friday

    WASHINGTON 18/03/1998 (ANA - T. Ellis)

    Greek-Turkish relations a well as Cyprus' EU accession talks and the latest developments in Kosovo will be the focus of a meeting between Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos and US State Secretary Madeleine Albright on Friday at the State Department, according to spokesman James Rubin.

    "Cyprus' accession into the EU is possibly a positive factor in resolving the (Cyprus) problem, and the likelihood of this happening would contribute to creating a favourable climate for the solution of such issues..." said Mr. Rubin, referring to the Cyprus problem.

    With regard to the situation in Kosovo, the spokesman underlined Washington's concern over tensions in the region, saying the US backed all initiatives by nations in that region for a better coordination of moves aimed at effectively dealing with developments.

    [15] Tzoumakas on 'green' parity

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Agricultural Minister Stephanos Tzoumakas yesterday announced that Greek farmers will receive 120 to 130 billion drachmas as a result of the new "green" parity to the Ecu.

    He added that the new parity will be set, at the latest, by next Monday, between 350 to 355 drachmas to one Ecu as opposed to the current 312.5.

    Mr. Tzoumakas said that there will also be positive results in the EU supported programmes for the agricultural sector.

    [16] Boeing touts the F-15E at press conference

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Representatives of the Boeing company, manufacturers of the F-15E fighter, yesterday outlined the third generation warplane's performance during a press conference in Athens.

    Two F-15E "Fighting Eagles" are currently being testing by Hellenic Air Force pilots.

    - The basic price of the plane is US$50 million, although the final price depends on the package.

    - Time of delivery is between 32 months and three years, maybe less if Greece opts for it.

    - The advantages of F-15E centre on its radar system, range and payload capability.

    The Boeing representatives called their aircraft a multiple-role deterrent aircraft, claiming it has never been downed in a dogfight. Its net payload is 23,000 lbs, and its "Lantirn" system enables it to fly at a very low altitude during the night and under poor weather conditions.

    The F-15E features two General Electric engines instead of the Pratt & Whitney F-100-P and W-229.

    There are 1,400 F-15Es worldwide in use, used by the United States, Israel, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

    The Seattle-based firm's spokesmen said the company was also actively seeking joint production with Greek companies in various fields.

    [17] EU Licence plates

    BRUSSELS 18/03/1998 (ANA - M. Spinthourakis)

    The European Union's Transport Council of Ministers yesterday announced that all automobile licence plates issued by member-states must soon be uniform.

    The council announced that the colors used will be white, blue and spot of yellow, while the international letter symbolising the issuing member-state and the yellow stars of the Union's flag will be placed on the licence plates.

    [18] EOT-IKA tourism package

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    The Greek National Tourism Organisation (EOT) in cooperation with the Social Security Foundation (IKA) is offering a new health spa tourism package.

    The package will provide services to about 15,000 IKA pensioners who want to visit health spas around the country from May to October.

    The daily IKA allowance per person will be 3,300 drachmas for hotel rooms and 2,900 drachmas for apartment rooms, while spas enrolled in the programme must offer a 20 per cent discount to pensioners for all services provided.

    [19] Cretan hoteliers organise 'Greek Night' in Strasbourg

    STRASBOURG 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    A successful "Greek Night" was organised here Monday night on the riverboat "Queen of Holland" by the Federation of Cretan Hoteliers, in cooperation with the Greek delegation's press office at the Council of Europe.

    The image of Crete, with its culture, environment, customs and people, was presented to municipal officials, ambassadors from EU member-states, senior officials from the Council of Europe, journalists, business people and local dignitaries.

    [20] Gov't: Imports prior to March 24 subject to pre-devaluation parity

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    The finance ministry yesterday announced that all imports cleared through customs by March 24 will be subject to Value Added Tax (VAT) estimated on the pre-devaluation parity of the drachma to other currencies.

    According to a finance ministry circular, all imports clearing customs after March 25 will be subject to VAT estimated at the March 18 drachma parity levels.

    The circular noted that all import dues on products from non-European Union countries will be estimated in the same manner.

    All special dues are estimated on the parity of the day of clearing.

    [21] Inner Cabinet on OA's future

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    A crucial inner Cabinet meeting on the future of Olympic Airways will be held tomorrow. The new labour regulation and the state carrier's operational plan are expected to be presented at the meeting.

    Shortly afterwards, Transport and Communications Minister Tassos Mantelis and OA President Theodoros Tsakiridis will present the texts and clauses of the new labour regulation to enable dialogue with the staff to get underway.

    According to reports, the new labour regulation has been prepared on the basis of similar regulations of other European carriers and includes, among others, an increase in working hours, restriction of tickets, a decrease in seasonal staff by 30 per cen t and a curbing of bonuses, while a decrease in leave is also envisioned.

    [22] 'Kokoretsi' ban postponed

    BRUSSELS 18/03/1998 (ANA - P. Pantelis)

    The EU's Council of Agriculture Ministers failed to reach a majority yesterday regarding a Commission proposal to postpone a ban on the consumption of animal entrails, part of a plan to preclude the transmission of 'mad cow' disease to humans.

    The proposed ban would include Greece's traditional delicacies of 'kefalaki' (goat's or sheep's head) and 'kokoretsi'.

    The ban was to go into effect on April 1 this year, but the Commission has proposed it be postponed, while certain member-states with no record of outbreaks of the disease being excluded.

    Strong opposition to the proposed ban has been voiced by Greece and Germany, while Britain and France have called for stricter measures.

    The farm ministers council - after failing to approve the Commission's proposal - called on the Commission to submit a new deferment proposal by April 1 to the Veterinary Committee in order to allow for preparation of new proposals regarding animal entails.

    EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler said the Commission was expecting results of a relative study on the dangers entailed from the consumption of such products.

    [23] Economic Crime Squad inspections

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    A massive inspection of the market for economic crimes continued yesterday by the Economic Crime Squad (SDOE) , prepared immediately after the incorporation of the drachma into the European moneraty system.

    SDOE inspections at the present phase are targeted at businesses importing raw materials, automobile spare parts, fuel and petroleum byproducts, electronic appliances, widely consumed foodstuffs, clothing etc.

    Apart from detecting tax evasion or infringements of customs regulations, inspections are also aimed at eradicating profiteering, with SDOE teams recording stocks and prices before and after the date of the drachma devaluation.

    [24] Drachma devaluation results in higher EU inflows

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Greece will receive about 453 billion drachmas more from European Community funds due to the recent devaluation of the drachma, according to assessments by the national economy ministry.

    The ministry clarified that the net benefit for the country will be far less, since a part of this amount will be provided to cover increased payments in foreign currency for three major projects, the Elefsina-Stavros-Spata ringroad around Athens, the n ew international airport at Spata and the Rio-Antirrio bridge.

    The contracts signed for these projects with foreign companies anticipate that all payments concerning construction will be made in foreign currency.

    Moreover, a considerable amount from the exchange difference resulting in EU inflows, due to the devaluation, will be absorbed by the additional cost caused by the decrease in the value of the drachma in the imports of goods and materials necessary for the construction of the projects.

    The remaining amount will be provided as additional funding for various projects.

    According to figures provided by the ministry, as of now and until Dec. 31, 2001, the country should receive about 10.3 billion Ecu from the Delors package. This amount corresponded to 3.223 trillion drachmas before devaluation. Now, it corresponds to 3 .676 trillion drachmas - a difference of 453 billion drachmas.

    [25] Eurobank lowers loan interset rates

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Eurobank yesterday said it was dropping loan interest rates from between 0.50 to 2.75 percentage points. The drop relates to business, housing and consumer loans, while savings and deposit rates will remain unchanged.

    [26] Greek stocks hit year's high on ERM, devaluation euphoria

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Greek equities yesterday jumped to their highest level this year reflecting the market's euphoria over a 14 percent devaluation of the drachma at the weekend and its entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism.

    The general index ended 5.31 percent higher at 1,737.37 points, 56.77 points off its record close of 1,794.14 on October 8, 1997.

    Trading remained extremely heavy with turnover at 63.4 billion drachmas due to massive new capital inflows.

    According to early estimates, Greek mutual funds inflows totalled 40 billion drachmas over the last two days. Most sector indices scored gains. Banks jumped 6.62 percent, Insurance was 0.34 percent up, Investment rose 2.93 percent, Leasing increased 1.3 0 percent, Industrials soared 5.53 percent, Construction dropped 2.94 percent, Miscellaneous eased 1.41 percent and Holding rose 0.58 percent.

    The parallel market index for small cap companies ended 0.23 percent up, and the FTSE/ASE blue chip index jumped 6.52 percent to 995.18 points.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 132 to 99 with another 21 issues unchanged.

    National Bank of Greece, Alpha Credit Bank, Ergobank, Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation and Titan Cement scored the biggest percentage gains at the day's 8.0 percent upper volatility limit. Yalco, Nematemboriki, Phaliro Medical and Proodeftiki su ffered the heaviest losses at the day's 8.0 percent limit down.

    Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation share price soared to a new record of 7,873 drachmas reflecting increased foreign interest in the company ahead of a new flotation, probably in May.

    However, analysts said the market looked vulnerable to a correction in the short-term, a normal reaction ahead of a push to break resistance at 1,800 points.

    The forecasts were based on movement by the Italian and Portuguese stock exchanges which shot up 25 percent in the aftermath of their currencies' devaluations a few years ago.

    In the domestic money market the drachma was stronger despite a new Bank of Greece intervention to hold back the currency's advance.

    The drachma was 0.10 percent higher against the Ecu and up 0.31 percent against the US dollar. It was down 0.26 percent against the DMark.

    Bankers reported new capital inflows totalling 100 million Ecus and 160 million DMarks at the drachma's daily fixing.

    [27] Greece explains impact of drachma devaluation to foreign investors

    LONDON 18/03/1998 (ANA/L.Tsirigotakis)

    Development Minister Vasso Papandreou on Monday night outlined to a group of foreign businessmen, bankers and institutional investors the new conditions created in the economy by the drachma's entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism.

    Speaking at a business luncheon in London, Ms. Papandreou said that the economic situation had never before been so favourable for foreign investments in Greece.

    She cited three main factors:

    * Economic growth was better structured thanks to financial support from the European Union's economic and social cohesion policy * Macro-economic improvement was more reliable as it was linked to negotiations for participation in the single European currency * Greece was actively backing peace, democracy and a market economy in the Balkans

    Ms Papandreou also outlined Greece's infrastructure programmes, accounting for 55 percent of approved European funding.

    She said that in the next few days the government would call an international tender for the operation of a natural gas network in Athens, Thessaloniki and Larissa. It had also pledged to speed up privatisation.

    Greece aims to privatise 11 public enterprises by 2000, along with three to four state banks. It also wants to float up to 20 percent of the Public Petroleum Corporation, she said.

    She added that political stability in Greece was also a factor boosting confidence in the economy.

    [28] Greek hoteliers cautiously back drachma devaluation

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Greek hoteliers yesterday cautiously welcomed a 14 percent drachma devaluation linked to the country's entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism at the weekend.

    The Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers, which long opposed the former hard drachma policy, said the benefits of the devaluation would appear in the future. At the same time, wage rises had to be contained to around 2.5 percent and inflation to 3.0-4.0 percent at the year-end for the devaluation to pay off, the federation said in a statement.

    Most domestic tourism enterprises had signed contracts in drachmas long before the drachma's devaluation, which meant the devaluation would have little impact on hoteliers' revenue in the summer season, the statement said.

    Hoteliers also would incur higher operating costs due to price rises in imported goods, including foodstuffs, beverages and fuel, resulting from the devaluation.

    [29] Light industry, accountants blast drachma devaluation

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    The Federation of Light industry and Footwear Manufacturers and the Panhellenic Federation of Accountants yesterday blasted the government's 14 percent devaluation of the drachma.

    In separate statements, the representatives of light industry said small and medium sized enterprises had no chance of recovery due to the devaluation, and many would be forced to close.

    The accountants' federation claimed that the devaluation, linked to the drachma's entry into the European Union's exchange rate mechanism at the weekend, would hurt wages and favour the rich.

    [30] Greece to draft bill encouraging sale of old cars

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Environment Minister Costas Laliotis yesterday agreed to submit a bill to Parliament by June granting incentives to the owners of old cars to replace their vehicles.

    It is the second time incentives will be given. The method will be cash payments, the amount of which has not yet been decided.

    The bill, which is part of a drive to reduce pollution, will also contain provisions concerning the taxation of both new and second-hand cars.

    According to government sources, the incentives for the withdrawal from circulation of old vehicles will not be given until 1999 because a 14 per cent drachma devaluation at the weekend has changed economic and market conditions.

    [31] Greek newspaper gives business awards

    Athens 18/03/1998 (ANA)

    Greece's Exousia daily has given awards to 10 leading business personalities for their contribution in 1997 to the modernisation, development and competitiveness of the Greek economy.

    The awards were presented to National Bank of Greece governor Theodoros Karatzas, Minoan Lines chairman and founding member Constantine Klironomos, DIS S.A. software company founder and CEO John Kyriakopoulos, ALUMIL aluminium extrusion industry S.A. pr esident and managing director George Milonas, STET Hellas managing director Giacinto Cicchese, Mytilineos S.A. Group chairman Evangelos Mytilineos, Ethniki Insurance managing director Miltos Nektarios, Attica Enterprises and SuperFast Ferries chairman Pericles Panagopoulos, SEKAP S.A. tobacco cooperative president Elias Seitanidis, and FAGE S.A. dairy industry chairman Kyriakos Filippou.

    Exousia publisher and editor Michael Androulidakis said the awards would be presented annually.

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