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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-05-21

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Vatrholomeos arrives in Athens for official visit
  • [02] Social spending rising in the 1990s
  • [03] Unemployment at 11.5 pct in first quarter
  • [04] Greece to release Balkan reconstruction plan in June
  • [05] Stocks hit new high, smaller stocks sought
  • [06] Gov't sees SMEs as priority, Simitis says
  • [07] Singular buys stake in UK firm
  • [08] Delta Dairy posts sales increase in Q1
  • [09] Increase in tourists from Scandinavia reported
  • [10] Athens Foreign Exchange
  • [11] Gov't proposes TV debate between Simitis, Karamanlis
  • [12] G. Papandreou in Moscow, Beijing for talks on Yugoslav crisis
  • [13] Athens calls on Belgrade to press for peaceful Kosovo settlement
  • [14] Greece declines Turkish request for passage of military air transports
  • [15] Kosovar refugees flown out from Thessaloniki
  • [16] Onassis Foundation trustees press campaign against Swiss court decision
  • [17] Gov't points to very clean Greek beaches
  • [18] British backing for Greek wine exhibition

  • [01] Vatrholomeos arrives in Athens for official visit

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, arrived in Athens yesterday morning on a 15- day visit to the Autocephalus Orthodox Church of Greece.

    The Ecumenical Patriarch, who will be afforded full head of state honours, was met at Athens airport by President of the Republic Kostis Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece, Parliament Preside nt Apostolos Kaklamanis, main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis, cabinet members, the armed forces' leadership, members of the Holy Synod as well as of the diplomatic corps.

    At noon, Foreign Minister George Papandreou hosted a luncheon in the Patriarch's honour.

    During his visit, which ends on June 5, Vartholomeos, will tour a number of cities and towns throughout the country.

    On May 31, the feast of the Holy Spirit, Vartholomeos will visit the metropolitan church in the Thessaloniki district of Kalamaria, accompanied by Archbishop Christodoulos.

    The Church of Greece is the only Orthodox Church that Vartholomeos has not visited. He has already visited the all-male monastic community of Mount Athos and areas of Greece under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including the semi-autonom ous Church of Crete and the Metropolitan dioceses of the Dodecanese.

    Vartholomeos has also visited Thessaloniki and parts of Thrace at the invitation of local civic authorities.

    The Patriarch blessed crowds of Athenians who had gathered to greet him in central Syntagma Square, from his hotel balcony.

    "We hail the Greek people for their adherence to their principles and traditions," Vartholomeos said.

    He called for peace to prevail, saying: "Where might fails to impose its will, love prevails."

    The Patriarch and Archbishop Christodoulos then walked the short distance to the Athens Cathedral where they officiated at a mass. Vartholomeos emphasised the links between the two churches, which he said "are pure, peaceful, full of love".

    "Blood ties warm our hearts, as Greeks who live around the world belong to the Patriarchate's flock," he said.

    Official dinner : Later in the evening, President Stephanopoulos awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Saviour to Vartholomeos, whom he also hosted to an official dinner.

    Mr. Stephanopoulos stressed the Patriarch's great contribution to the promotion of Christian unity and understanding between churches.

    "In an era when spiritual values are cast doubt upon, societies are in turbulence and world peace is upset, we look upon the teachings of religion and to the Orthodox Church to draw new hope and strength in the struggle for an improvement and the development of human societies," he said.

    He also emphasised the importance of the Patriarchate.

    "It promotes peace in the world, supports the great human values and principles, and proposes compromise between peoples beyond national boundaries," he said.

    "The development and prosperity of national is achieved through peaceful competition and cooperation, and peace is based on respect for the principles of international law," Mr. Stephanopoulos added.

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Social spending rising in the 1990s

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Social spending in Greece has increased significantly in recent years, improving the country's position among European Union member-states, especially southern countries with comparable economies, according to a survey by the National Statistics Service.

    The NSS survey, which was released yesterday, covers the period 1990-1998 and employs harmonised EU figures.

    National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said the figures covered spending on health, pensions, employment and housing.

    In 1992, spending on social protection as a percentage of the gross domestic product was 21.5 percent, at the bottom of the EU league, rising to 24.3 pct in 1993. The percentage then continued to rise.

    In 1998, spending on social protection totalled 8.7 trillion drachmas with the annual rate of increase accelerating every year.

    Mr. Papantoniou said the rate of increase in 1991 and 1992 slowed by 1.1 and 1.8 percent respectively, but it rose by 2.3 percent in 1993, by 4.1 percent in 1995 and by 7.8 percent in 1998.

    He noted that the increase in spending on social protection was double the rate of GDP growth, and was up 30 percent from 1992.

    The minister stressed, however, that the situation was still unsatisfactory and that the country had still a long way to go to reach average EU levels.

    He forecast a continuous rise in social spending and pension payments in coming years if economic growth was maintained.

    NSS secretary-general Nikos Karavitis said that Greece now had an integrated system of recording social protection.

    He also said that the country would be able to present harmonised unemployment figures within the year.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Unemployment at 11.5 pct in first quarter

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Unemployment in the first quarter of the year was 11.5 percent of the working population, the National Statistics Service said yesterday.

    Commenting on the record figure, Labour Minister Miltiades Papaioannou said that a high proportion of seasonal unemployment was incorporated that did not signal an annual rate.

    The annual rate would be lower, Mr. Papaioannou added.

    The minister was speaking after a meeting with leaders of the General Confederation of Greek Labour on an action plan the government is drafting to boost employment.

    The plan, which is in its final stage, will be given to the European Union by May 30, he said.

    On Monday, Mr. Papaioannou is due to meet with employers' representatives to discuss the scheme.

    GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos told reporters that this was the first time a government had made a concerted effort to hold talks on employment policy.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Greece to release Balkan reconstruction plan in June

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    An international plan to restructure Balkan economies, budgeted at 10-30 billion US dollars, will contain a package of measures proposed by Greece, due for completion by the end of June, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yeste rday.

    Mr. Papantoniou was speaking to reporters after a meeting with officials from other ministries and representatives of industry, banking and exports.

    Also taking part was Tassos Giannitsis, the prime minister's financial advisor.

    It was decided to create five working groups to collect data on the Balkans covering investments, infrastructure, external trade in goods, external trade in services and legislation. The data will be used to draft the national action plan.

    Mr. Papantoniou said the government's action was timely, and would enable the country to launch initiatives in the Balkans.

    Bulgaria will be included in the international reconstruction drive. "I think it would be irrational not to include Serbia in the plan," said the minister in reply to a question.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Stocks hit new high, smaller stocks sought

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Equity prices set a new record yesterday reflecting strong buying interest in small and medium capitalisation shares.

    The general index ended 1.37 percent higher at 4,165.36 points, off the day's highs. It was the 29th record close in 1999 bringing gains for the year so far to 52.16 percent.

    Turnover was 212.795 billion drachmas with 40,024,333 shares changing hands.

    Banks and construction - which led the market's recent record rally - underperformed the index ending 0.42 and 0.97 percent lower respectively.

    Interest was also seen in selected industrial blue chips, including Titan Cement Company and Hellenic Bottling.

    Other sector indices scored gains as follows: Leasing (+4.35 pct), Insurance (+5.01 pct), Investment (+4.11 pct), Industrials (+3.34 pct), Miscellaneous (+2.53 pct) and Holding (+6.31 pct).

    The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks finished 1.52 percent higher while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips rose 0.91 percent to 2,481.09 points.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 205 to 90 with another five issues unchanged.

    A total of 109 shares ended at the daily 8.0 percent limit up, while seven ended at the daily limit down.

    National Bank of Greece closed at 22,420 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 22, 400, Ergobank at 29,150, Ionian Bank at 16,995, Titan Cement at 29,050, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,900, Intracom at 22,995, Minoan Lines at 9,699, Panafon at 8,400 and Hellenic Telecoms at 7,500.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Gov't sees SMEs as priority, Simitis says

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday that the government had set a priority on aiding the growth of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs).

    Mr. Simitis was visiting Ylikon SA, a manufacturer and repairer of ship engine components located in Attica.

    The prime minister urged the owners of SMEs to take advantage of European Union funding, banking facilities and new financial tools to boost competitiveness.

    He gave the company's 50 employees a review of government policy over the last five years that had aided the sector, noting that industrial output had grown by 8.5 percent after 20 years of stagnation.

    Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who was accompanying the prime minister, said that the size of SMEs gave them greater potential for flexibility.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Singular buys stake in UK firm

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    The Singular information technology group announced yesterday that it had acquired 34 percent of a British firm, Alpha Nova Ltd, and 80 percent of EDI Hellas. The move has taken Singular, which is listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, into telecommunicati ons and Internet commerce. Singular recently bought a 34 percent stake in Multirama, a retailer of computer hardware and software, and acquired Baan Hellas.
    Athens News Agency

    [08] Delta Dairy posts sales increase in Q1

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Delta Dairy yesterday reported a 15.2 percent increase in sales for the first quarter of 1999 compared with the same period last year to 19 billion drachmas. The company's gross profit margin remained unchanged at last year's level of 28.2 percent.

    Administration expenses as a percentage of sales also were steady at 23.7 percent.

    Pre-tax profits increased 31 percent to 700 million drachmas. Delta Dairy expects its results to improve further in the second and third quarters due to higher sales of ice cream, mainly, and dairy products.

    Athens News Agency

    [09] Increase in tourists from Scandinavia reported

    STOCKHOLM, 21/05/1999 (ANA - A. Angeli)

    Some 1.2 million tourist arrivals are expected from Scandinavian countries this year despite the war in Yugoslavia, with an increase around 5 per cent expected this season compared to 1998. According to reports, no cancellati ons or a freeze in bookings has been noted.

    Scandinavian countries - Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark - are considered to be among the top tourist markets and hold third place in Greece with more than 1.12 million arrivals in 1997. As a percentage, however, in relation to their population whic his barely 24 million, they come first with 21 per cent.

    The war has had no repercussions on tourist movement since about 95 per cent of tourists travel with charter flights and most bookings (80 per cent) in the entire region had already been closed at catalogue prices before the crisis erupted, according to Christos Lianeris, the head of the Greek Tourist Organisation's (EOT) office in Stockholm.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Athens Foreign Exchange

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Bank of Greece closing rates of: May 20, 1999

    Parities in Drachmas

    Banknotes             Buying  Selling
    US Dollar             302.669 309.687
    Can.Dollar            206.336 211.120
    Australian Dlr        200.389 205.035
    Pound Sterling        488.302 499.624
    Irish Punt            409.174 418.661
    Pound Cyprus          556.155 569.050
    Pound Malta           724.228 754.404
    Turkish pound (100)     0.068   0.071
    French franc           49.127  50.266
    Swiss franc           201.262 205.928
    Belgian franc           7.988   8.174
    German Mark           164.764 168.584
    Finnish Mark           54.199  55.456
    Dutch Guilder         146.232 149.622
    Danish Kr.             43.398  44.404
    Swedish Kr.            35.821  36.652
    Norwegian Kr.          39.027  39.932
    Austrian Sh.           23.419  23.962
    Italian lira (100)     16.643  17.029
    Yen (100)             244.082 249.741
    Spanish Peseta          1.936   1.981
    Port. Escudo            1.607   1.644
    Foreign Exchange      Buying  Selling
    New York              302.669 309.687
    Montreal              206.336 211.120
    Sydney                200.389 205.035
    London                488.302 499.624
    Dublin                409.174 418.661
    Nicosia               556.155 569.050
    Paris                  49.127  50.266
    Zurich                201.262 205.928
    Brussels                7.988   8.174
    Frankfurt             164.764 168.584
    Helsinki               54.199  55.456
    Amsterdam             146.232 149.622
    Copenhagen             43.398  44.404
    Stockholm              35.821  36.652
    Oslo                   39.027  39.932
    Vienna                 23.419  23.962
    Milan                  16.643  17.029
    Tokyo                 244.082 249.741
    Madrid                  1.936   1.981
    Lisbon                  1.607   1.644
    Athens News Agency

    [11] Gov't proposes TV debate between Simitis, Karamanlis

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    The government yesterday reiterated its position that a televised debate should be held between Prime Minister Costas Simitis and main opposition New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis prior to Euro-elections next month.

    Replying to reporters' questions, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas proposed June 7 as a suitable date for the debate, six days before the elections.

    Earlier, ND spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos called on the government to answer "yes or no" to the opposition party's proposal for a dialogue with all party leaders on all the "crucial issues".

    Responding to the government's call for a televised debate between Mr. Simitis and Mr. Karamanlis, Mr. Spiliotopoulos said:

    "If the government assumes its responsibility and replies unequivocally with a 'no' to ND's proposal for a televised debate with the participation of all political party leaders and takes the responsibility for excluding the other political forces, some thing which we would regret, we would be obliged to accept its proposal..."

    Athens News Agency

    [12] G. Papandreou in Moscow, Beijing for talks on Yugoslav crisis

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Foreign Minister George Papandreou leaves today for Moscow for talks with Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov.

    Diplomatic sources said Mr. Papandreou would also hold consultations with Russia's special envoy on the Yugoslav crisis, Viktor Chernomyrdin, who will brief the Greek minister on the results of his marathon deliberations with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

    He has also asked to meet with Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, who were due in Moscow yesterday for deliberations.

    On Saturday night, Mr. Papandreou will leave for Beijing, for talks Monday morning with his Chinese counterpart. He leaves Beijing Monday evening for New York via Frankfurt.

    On Tuesday evening, Mr. Papandreou will hold talks with diplomat Richard Holbrooke, US President Bill Clinton's nominee for US representative to the UN who brokered the Bosnia peace deal, and meet with members of the Greek- American community.

    He then flies to Washington for talks Thursday with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defense Secretary William Cohen, CIA chief George Tenet and other officials.

    Mr. Papandreou will be in Brussels next Friday for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in preparation of the EU summit in Cologne scheduled for June 3- 4.

    Diplomatic sources yesterday expressed "contained optimism" on the diplomatic initiatives for a peaceful settlement of the Kosovo crisis after the first indications of Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin's marathon deliberations with Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade Wednesday.

    Sources said optimism was raised by the fact that both Russia and the US were positively viewing Mr. Papandreou's proposal for a 48-hour halt of NATO bombings in Yugoslavia at the first positive indication on President Milosevic's part on a G-8 draft proposal, and for a simultaneous meeting of the UN security council.

    In the adverse event that Mr. Milosevic rejects specific proposals put forward that are based on the G-8 draft, the Security Council would be convened without requiring Yugoslavia's consent, in accordance with Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, the sources said.

    In any event, the sources added, Greece would take part with approximately 1,000 troops in an international peacekeeping force in Kosovo.

    Mr. Papandreou on Wednesday presented copies to Mr. Chernomyrdin, President Ahtisaari and Mr. Talbott of a draft resolution for the Security Council drawn up by the Greek foreign ministry to assist the multilateral efforts being made to formulate a resolution text acceptable to all sides.

    Athens News Agency

    [13] Athens calls on Belgrade to press for peaceful Kosovo settlement

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Greece said yesterday that it had sent a message to Belgrade calling on the Yugoslav leadership to seize the opportunity for a peaceful settlement of the Kosovo crisis presented in the form of proposals which emerged from tripartite talks in Helsinki.

    "The Greek government has sent a message to the Yugoslav leadership recommending that it make use of this opportunity for a political solution to be found and for a way out of the impasse," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.

    Mr. Reppas said the message was sent by Foreign Minister George Papandreou to his Yugoslav counterpart Zivadin Jovanovic.

    Tripartite talks in Helsinki on Wednesday between the United States, Russia and the European Union resulted in proposals for peace in Kosovo which were later conveyed to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade by Russia's Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin.

    Athens News Agency

    [14] Greece declines Turkish request for passage of military air transports

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Athens yesterday rejected Ankara' application for the use of Greek airspace by Turkish transport planes destined for Italy, sources said.

    According to reports, the Turkish government submitted an application at noon to the Greek foreign ministry for passage of two or three planes. The aircraft were to transport personnel and spare parts to Italy for Turkish fighter jets taking part in the NATO operations against Yugoslavia.

    The rejection came after consultations with the ministry of defence, and on the grounds that Greece does not participate in military operations or provide facilities to countries taking part in them.

    Athens News Agency

    [15] Kosovar refugees flown out from Thessaloniki

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Some 377 Kosovars arrived in Thessaloniki yesterday en route to temporary refuge in Australia.

    The refugees - mostly women and children - are the first of an estimated 20, 000 which will transit through Thessaloniki's Macedonia airport.

    The group was in Thessaloniki only a few hours before leaving for Australia. They were accommodated at a specially outfitted hangar at the northern Greek city's airport.

    The operation is being coordinated by the UN High Commission for Refugees and the Greek foreign ministry.

    Coordinators said that the entire operation had gone smoothly, with a chartered Qantas 747 taking off from Thessaloniki for Sydney at about 3:30 p.m.

    One of the refugees, a 57-year-old woman, was taken to a Thessaloniki hospital after tests at the clinic set up at the airport showed she had a heart problem. Her son and daughter-in-law have stayed with her and are being housed at a local hotel.

    Officials said the 374 refugees comprised 225 adults (few of them men), 133 children and 19 infants. Fifteen children received preventive care at the clinic after the 2.5-hour trip from the border.

    Australian embassy and Qantas personnel were on hand throughout the operation to conduct procedures for the refugees' entry to Australia. Their final destination has not been made known as yet.

    International Organisation for Migration representative Daniel Ezdras said the refugees were family groups, and had been chosen to go to Australia because they had relatives there and that their stay would be temporary.

    Thessaloniki's airport is being used as an alternative transit point, as is Rome, Frankfurt and London, he said.

    Athens News Agency Athens 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Panathinaikos won the Greek basketball championship last night by prevailing over Olympiakos Piraeus 62-53 in the fifth play-off (29-29 at half-time) at the Peace and Friendship Stadium.

    Athens News Agency

    [16] Onassis Foundation trustees press campaign against Swiss court decision

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    The Athens-based trustees of the Onassis fortune said yesterday they would press further their recourse against a Swiss guardianship authority decision to assign management of the assets to a Lucerne-based firm.

    The Onassis Foundation said it had sent KPMG a questionnaire designed to validate its suitability for the task, saying the firm had refused to answer.

    "We shall press our recourse against the unlawful and unfounded decision which appointed KPMG as curators," a foundation press release stated.

    The Onassis Foundation, which administers the partimony of teenage heiress Athina Roussel and is pitted in a three-year battle with her father, Tierry, won a stay of execution of the decision from a Swiss court in March. The decision upheld the last wishes of Christina Onassis in her handwritten will, namely, that her husband be excluded from the administration of Athina's legacy.

    The trustees said they had also decided to make public the questionnaire and the written reaction of KPMG.

    "For the sake of our own credibility and because we have often been the victims of slanderers and perjurers, have decided to make public the questionnaire and the written reaction of KPMG to it, so that the matter be presented with transparency," the release read.

    Mastic producers on the eastern Aegean island of Hios have asked the agriculture ministry for support in cultivating the island's exclusive product, following reports that it can aid in the cure of ulcers. Researchers at the Nottingham University Hos pital and Barnet General Hospital have found that Hios mastic is an effective treatment against ulcers.

    The research findings were published in the latest edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

    The findings showed that even in small doses of one gram a day for two weeks, mastic gum could cure peptic ulcers.

    The mastic gum has anti-bacterial properties that are particularly effective against the bacteria which lead to gastric and duodenal ulcers.

    The mastic tree which produces the resin for the gum is exclusive to Hios.

    According to reports, some of the researchers involved in the study may attend a seminar on the island in September and the agriculture ministry is reported to be preparing a programme to support and advertise the product.

    Athens News Agency

    [17] Gov't points to very clean Greek beaches

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    Close to 99 per cent of Greece's beaches are suitable for swimming, placing the country in first place among European countries, the government said yesterday.

    Environment Costas Laliotis said a water quality measuring scheme run by the ministry had tested 1,737 beaches in 609 municipalities and communities and found that only 17 had waters unfit for bathing.

    The entire programme cost 170 million drachmas.

    Athens News Agency

    [18] British backing for Greek wine exhibition

    Athens, 21/05/1999 (ANA)

    The Brintex company, which organises the International Wine Trade Exhibition in London (LWITF), has announced its backing for the Greek Trade Exhibition "Oinorama", due to take place in Athens next February.

    "British buyers are showing interest in Greek wines and in this way our involvement in 'Oinorama' is justified as organisers and marketing advisers, " LWITF director Andrew Evans said.

    Brintex will undertake the European sales and the marketing of the "Oinorama" exhibition for wines from Greece, the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean, according to a announcement.

    Athens News Agency

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