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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 99-06-30

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] EU selefts Thessaloniki as base for Balkan reconstruction agency
  • [02] Greece nearing eurozone threshold, IMF says
  • [03] Stocks nose up in wary trade
  • [04] Karamouzis to head new EFG Eurobank subsidiary
  • [05] Rate flat in 12-month T-bill auction
  • [06] Attica Enterprises launches new fast ferries
  • [07] Gov't signs agreement with BA subsidiary for Olympic's management
  • [08] Athens Foreign Exchange
  • [09] Iranian, Armenian and Greek representatives to meet in Athens in July
  • [10] Simitis, political parties condemn Ocalan death sentence
  • [11] James Brown in Greece for 2 concerts
  • [12] Eurobank counters Ergobank charges, says share buyout offer attractive

  • [01] EU selefts Thessaloniki as base for Balkan reconstruction agency

    RIO DE JANEIRO, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    European Union leaders' endorsement of Thessaloniki as the base for their Balkan reconstruction agency will upgrade northern Greece's role as a link between the region and the Union, Premier Costas Simitis said here after the end of the EU-Latin America summit yesterday.

    The decision was taken on the sidelines of the summit.

    "Our aim was for northern Greece, and Thessaloniki in particular, to become a bridge for our country's presence in the Balkans, but at the same time to become a bridge for the European Union's presence in the Balkans," he said.

    "The decision adopted here in Rio confirms this prospect for Thessaloniki, and we shall gradually build on this relationshipIWe have achieved a success, if we consider what Greece's relationship with the surrounding region was a few years ago, and how much stronger a role we have today, with investment, very significant exports, with a presence in the democratisation processes in these countries, with a presence now in the reconstruction process in some countries, but also with the role we are playing in forging closer links between this region and the EU," he added.

    The prime minister said the Greek people should not lose focus of the fact that the most important developments for the country were taking place on the international stage, stressing that despite the fall in the value of the euro in recent months, the European Union would be stabilised as one of the strongest economic poles in the world, something which creates favourable conditions for Greece's future.

    "Our effort has already born fruit. If I may cite a small example, Greece participated in the stabilisation effort when the crisis broke out in Brazil. Therefore, the more important fact is that the income, the purchasing power, the savings of the Greek citizen is now more secure and more stable. We have disentangled the country from a past of crises and negative performances," he said.

    Summing up the conclusions of the summit, the prime minister said that continuing to strive for economic growth in political stability and social cohesion was an important condition for participation in international economic developments.

    "In this way, the country is facing stable prospects. We are attaining our goals and can achieve more in the future. The discussions in Rio confirm that this is the way forward," he said.

    Sources said that during his contacts with Latin American and European leaders on the sidelines of the summit, Mr. Simitis promoted the idea of Athens' active participation in the emerging role of the Union as a major trading player in Central and South America.

    Among others, the Greek prime minister met with Cuban leader Fidel Castro, with whom he discussed ways of promoting closer ties between the two countries.

    Gov't on Thessaloniki selection : The government and regional officials also welcomed the EU's decision.

    Acting government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou said the decision was proof of the role Greece could play in economic and peaceful development in the Balkans.

    Macedonia-Thrace Minister Yiannis Magriotis hailed the selection of Thessaloniki the second most important achievement recently posted by the government and the premier, following the successful negotiations over the third Community Support Framework.

    Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos issued a written statement stressing that the decision certifies the new role of the city as the "economic capital" of the Balkans.

    Conversely, main opposition New Democracy (ND) spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos said the decision reached by EU leaders at the Rio summit is not what "ND is struggling for". He added that ND will continue its efforts for "Greece and Thessaloniki to be reco gnised for the leading roles they can undertake in the Balkans".

    Athens News Agency

    [02] Greece nearing eurozone threshold, IMF says

    Athens, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    Greece has shown major progress in aligning its economy with the European Union, taking the country close to entry into the eurozone, the International Monetary Fund said.

    "We would note that the achievements to date are impressive, and have allowed Greece to approach the threshold of joining its EU partners in the historic process of European integration represented by EMU," the IMF said in a report.

    At the same time, the IMF cautioned that inflation was the most difficult target that needed to be attained, and its outlook remained of some concern.

    "Although observance of all the Maastricht criteria (notably on inflation) is not yet secure, a positive outcome of Greece's drive to EMU participation is now widely anticipated," the report said.

    It urged that the authorities must continue their efforts to implement structural changes in the economy, and that central administration should be reformed into a modern and efficient unit.

    The IMF urged wage cuts for newcomers to the labour market, and improvement in the quality of vocational training to combat unemployment among youth.

    The report also noted that higher state revenue had eased convergence towards the general government deficit criterion for EMU entry, and urged that any loss in revenue should be offset by equal spending cuts.

    Tax-exempt ceilings should be reviewed for reasons of social equity, but better tax inspections were needed to prevent loss of income tax revenue.

    At the same time, the government's incomes policy had facilitated the battle against inflation.

    The IMF recommended for adoption a labour cost per unit product ratio as a measure for new wage claims, a measure adopted by most EU member-states.

    State enterprises should be restructured and certain economic sectors (telecommunications, electricity) should be opened to competition, the report said.

    "With continued and resolute action across the broad spectrum of economic and structural policies covered above, Greece will be able to embark on monetary union in a strong position and fully reap its benefits," the IMF concluded.

    Athens News Agency

    [03] Stocks nose up in wary trade

    Athens, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    Equity prices moved cautiously higher yesterday helped by renewed buying interest in smaller capitalisation stocks.

    The general index ended 0.34 percent higher at 3,990.23 points, unable to hold on to its earlier gains above the 4,000 level.

    Turnover was a heavy 199.509 billion drachmas with 30,842,045 shares changing hands, including block trades in National Bank of Greece.

    The Leasing and Investment sectors outperformed the market to end 7.10 and 4.89 percent higher respectively.

    Other sector indices ended as follows: Banks (-0.46 pct), Insurance was unchanged, Construction (-2.78 pct), Industrials (+0.89 pct), Miscellaneous (+1.06 pct) and Holding (+5.10 pct).

    The parallel market index for smaller capitalisation stocks ended 1.03 percent off, while the FTSE/ASE 20 index for heavily traded stocks and blue chips rose 0.52 percent to 2,326.86 points.

    Broadly, decliners led advancers by 155 to 125 with another 19 issues unchanged.

    National Bank of Greece, Ergo Invest, Vis and Urban Properties were the most heavily traded stocks, while National Bank, Ergobank, Piraeus Bank and Alpha Credit Bank led in value.

    A total of 30 issues ended at the day's 8.0 percent limit up, while another five ended at the day's limit down.

    National Bank of Greece ended at 20,200 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 19, 995, Ergobank at 32,100, Ionian Bank at 16,695, Titan Cement at 28,780, Hellenic Petroleum at 2,895, Intracom at 20,570, Minoan Lines at 5,450, Panafon at 7,600 and Hellenic Telecoms at 6,700.

    Bonds pick up on demand, turnover edges up (PK) : Demand gained some momentum in the secondary bond market yesterday with securities gaining 60- 70 basis points in higher turnover.

    Electronic trade totalled 36 billion drachams from 16 billion drachmas in the previous session and 105 billion drachmas on Friday. Buy orders outpaced sell orders in value.

    The ten-year bond showed a yield of 6.15 percent from 6.23 percent a day earlier.

    The yield spread over German bunds was around 164 basis points, down from 167 basis points in the previous session and 174 basis points at Friday's close.

    At the central bank's daily fix, the euro slipped against the drachma. It was set at 324.650 drachmas from 324.690 drachmas in the previous session.

    Athens News Agency

    [04] Karamouzis to head new EFG Eurobank subsidiary

    Athens, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    Nikolaos Karamouzis, who resigned recently as a deputy governor of National Bank of Greece, is to head a finance subsidiary being created by the EFG Eurobank Group.

    EFG Eurobank said in a statement yesterday that Mr. Karamouzis will become the chairman and managing director of EFG Finance, which is to incorporate the bank's investment banking and capital market operations.

    EFG Finance is to have start-up capital of 10 billion drachmas. It will be active in Greece and abroad, working with banks in the Latsis Group, of which EFG Eurobank is a member.

    Mr. Karamouzis will also become a director on EFG Eurobank's board.

    Athens News Agency

    [05] Rate flat in 12-month T-bill auction

    Athens, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    The interest rate was stable in yesterday's auction of 100 billion drachmas of 12-month Treasury bills, the finance ministry said in a statement.

    The average weighed rate rose narrowly to 8.69 percent from 8.68 percent in the previous auction of 12-month T-bills on May 25.

    Bids submitted totalled 263.6 billion drachmas, 2.6 times more than the asked sum.

    Athens News Agency

    [06] Attica Enterprises launches new fast ferries

    Athens, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    Attica Enterprises, a listed passenger shipper, yesterday announced the launching of six new "Superfast" ferries at the Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG shipyards in Kiel, Germany.

    The six ships worth 650 million US dollars are the biggest order ever made by a Greek passenger shipping firm.

    The new fast ferries at 31,000 tons each have been designed to carry passengers, vehicles and trucks at a travelling speed of 28 knots.

    The first pair of ships will be delivered in the first half of 2000 and will be put into service on the Greece-Italy route.

    Attica Enterprises operates two Superfast ferries serving the Patras-Ancona route and another two the Patras-Igoumenitsa-Bari line.

    The remaining four new ships will be delivered in 2001.

    Attica Enterprises is seeking, unsuccessfully up to now, to enter domestic routes in the Aegean Sea.

    Following delivery of the six new ships Attica Enterprises' fleet will total 10 fast ferries, the youngest and most modern passenger fleet in the world, the company said in a statement.

    Athens News Agency

    [07] Gov't signs agreement with BA subsidiary for Olympic's management

    Athens, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    The Federation of Civil Aviation Unions (OSPA) cancelled a scheduled meeting with Transport Minister Tassos Mantelis yesterday after the signing of a contract late on Monday between the government and a British Airways subsidiary, allowing the latter to a ssume Olympic Airways' management.

    OSPA's board has already called a 24-hour strike for tomorrow.

    Olympic Airways and British Airways officials late on Monday signed the agreement, whereby the British carrier's Speedwing subsidiary will undertake the management of the debt-ridden Greek national carrier for a period of 30 months.

    The agreement was signed by OA president Giorgos Zygogiannis, Speedwing managing director Steve Dunning, BA's director of strategic alliances, John Patterson and Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, representing the Greek state, the sole owner of OA .

    The government has sought to improve industrial relations at the troubled airline by calling for consensus talks between OA's many unions and the company's new British manager.

    In a joint statement, National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Mr. Mantelis said they backed talks between the two sides and the formulation of a new collective labour agreement.

    The government has said that labour and social insurance rights will not be affected by the Speedwing management contract, a move already endorsed by Parliament.

    Under an existing agreement in principle, Speedwing's assignment is to make Olympic profitable, as well as take the ailing Greek carrier into an international alliance. British Airways will also have an option to buy a 20 per cent stake in OA.

    Under the law passed in Parliament, Olympic's unions will retain their two members on OA board.

    Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party reacted strongly to the signing of the agreement with Speedwing.

    "The government acting according to its familiar method, in a night-time surprise move; signed a carte blanche to surrender Olympic Airways, handing it over to British Airways without any commitments and specific obligations on the latter's part," said MP Vangelis Meimarakis.

    "The premeditated crime was committed by direct assignment to a competing company without an international tender, without assessment criteria, without the new managers investing any of their own funds, without a commitment on their part for rehabilitat ion and development, and chiefly, without any penalty clauses in case the contract is executed poorly," he added.

    The Coalition of the Left and Progress (Synaspismos) noted that the "same government officials who used to provide assurances on the effectiveness of previous streamlining plans, now hasten to sign during the night, without parliamentary control, the fu ll denial of their commitments".

    Synaspismos further said that far from beneficial, as the government claims, the agreement is a "sellout," and called for radical changes in the airline, including a rationalisation plan.

    Athens News Agency

    [08] Athens Foreign Exchange

    Athens, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    Bank of Greece closing rates of: June 29, 1999

    Parities in Drachmas

    Banknotes             Buying  Selling
    US Dollar             310.992 318.202
    Can.Dollar            211.395 216.297
    Australian Dlr        204.044 208.775
    Pound Sterling        491.298 502.689
    Irish Punt            408.922 418.403
    Pound Cyprus          557.504 570.430
    Pound Malta           731.538 762.019
    Turkish pound (100)     0.068   0.071
    French franc           49.097  50.235
    Swiss franc           201.133 205.796
    Belgian franc           7.984   8.169
    German Mark           164.663 168.481
    Finnish Mark           54.165  55.421
    Dutch Guilder         146.141 149.530
    Danish Kr.             43.321  44.325
    Swedish Kr.            36.803  37.656
    Norwegian Kr.          39.632  40.551
    Austrian Sh.           23.404  23.947
    Italian lira (100)     16.633  17.019
    Yen (100)             257.077 263.037
    Spanish Peseta          1.935   1.980
    Port. Escudo            1.606   1.643
    Foreign Exchange      Buying  Selling
    New York              310.992 318.202
    Montreal              211.395 216.297
    Sydney                204.044 208.775
    London                491.298 502.689
    Dublin                408.922 418.403
    Nicosia               557.504 570.430
    Paris                  49.097  50.235
    Zurich                201.133 205.796
    Brussels                7.984   8.169
    Frankfurt             164.663 168.481
    Helsinki               54.165  55.421
    Amsterdam             146.141 149.530
    Copenhagen             43.321  44.325
    Stockholm              36.803  37.656
    Oslo                   39.632  40.551
    Vienna                 23.404  23.947
    Milan                  16.633  17.019
    Tokyo                 257.077 263.037
    Madrid                  1.935   1.980
    Lisbon                  1.606   1.643
    Athens News Agency

    [09] Iranian, Armenian and Greek representatives to meet in Athens in July

    TEHRAN, 30/06/1999 (ANA/Irna)

    National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos told reporters here that representatives of Greece, Iran and Armenia will meet in Athens on July 12 within the framework of the three countries' efforts to further coopera tion.

    Speaking after talks on Monday with his Iranian counterpart, Vice-Adm. Ali Shamkhani, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said cooperation between the three countries was based on the fundamental principles of international law and their interest in peace, security and cooperation between peoples.

    He also stressed that this cooperation was not directed against any other country.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos arrived in Tehran on Monday for a four-day official visit, the first to Iran by a European Union defence minister since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

    He said on Monday that the purpose of the visit was to exchange views on issues of mutual interest with Adm. Shamkhani and that Greece was willing to develop cooperation with Iran in the defence sector.

    Mr. Tsohatzopoulos added that Greece and Iran were broadening their bilateral possibilities for defence and military cooperation, while "bearing in mind the international framework which applies to the implementation of such forms of cooperation".

    Commenting on his Tehran's relations with NATO, Adm. Shamkhani said Iran had very good political and economic relations with certain members of the Alliance, while Greece could further strengthen the Mideast country's ties with other NATO countries.

    "The issue for us is that we want peace and security in our region and it is on this basis that our future relations with the United States and NATO will be determined," the Iranian minister added.

    Regarding the Kosovo crisis, he said all matters relating to the strife- torn Yugoslav province should be handled on the basis of the decisions of international organisations, "and the war in Kosovo was not based on a United Nations resolution".

    Meeting with Khatami : Mr. Tsohatzopoulos was received yesterday morning by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and also had talks with Parliament President Ali Akhbar Nuri.

    Mr. Khatami said defence talks between Iran and Greece were not directed against the interests of any country but were aimed at establishing security and stability in the two countries, the region and the world.

    He regretted that throughout the 20th century, "human beings had failed to talk to each other in the language of culture and logic but through war, discrimination and exploitation, the results of which have been the outbreak of two world wars, regional clashes and numerous misunderstandings".

    On his part, Mr. Tsohatzopoulos said ties between Athens and Tehran were long-standing, adding that both Iran and Greece were considered to be among the important factors for regional stability. He further voiced Athens' interest in cooperation with Iran to create peace and security.

    Finally, the Greek minister also discussed an initiative developed by Mr. Khatami for the promotion of "the basic philosophical principles, ideas and values of the past" on the present-day, in order to formulate answers to some of the world's most nagging problems. The initiative is backed by four countries which retain a significant historical standing: Iran, Italy, Egypt and Greece. The second meeting of representatives of the four took place in Delphi two months ago, with the third session scheduled for the beginning of the year in Iran.

    Today Mr. Tsohatzopoulos will travel to Isfahan to visit an aircraft manufacturing centre.

    Athens News Agency

    [10] Simitis, political parties condemn Ocalan death sentence

    RIO DE JANEIRO, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday condemned the death sentence imposed on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan by a Turkish court, saying the decision was a political and served political expediencies.

    "This was a political trial. The decision is a political decision and serves political expediencies. The death sentence does not resolve any problem, it merely complicates it. We hope that Turkey will realise at last that one solution exists: Implementation of human and minority rights," Mr. Simitis told reporters on the sidelines of an EU-Latin American countries in Rio de Janeiro.

    In Athens, acting government spokesman Yiannis Nikolaou expressed the government's opposition to the death sentence.

    "Turkey must show that the way its justice operates is in line with practice prevailing in the countries of the European Union," Mr. Nikolaou said.

    He added that the Kurdish issue was an internal issue for Turkey and should be resolved through political means.

    Justice Minister Evangelos Yiannopoulos, in a statement, strongly condemned the Turkish court's decision, saying the death penalty has been abolished in all European and other countries, "therefore, Turkey is outside of civilisation, outside of democracy." He also condemned the trial, saying that it could not be termed fair.

    On his part, main opposition New Democracy party spokesman Aris Spiliotopoulos expressed his regret at the decision handed down to Ocalan, but said it was to be expected as "the end-result of a rigged trial."

    "Turkey has used the Ocalan trial to manufacture charges against Greece," he said.

    He noted that Turkey lacked an institutional framework which would consolidate and guarantee respect for human rights in the country.

    In a statement, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said the decision of the Turkish court was not only aimed against the individual, Ocalan, but against the Kurdish people.

    "The Ocalan affair is being used to pursue imperialistic plans in the region," the KKE statement said.

    A Coalition of the Left and Pro-gress (Synaspismos) statement said the death sentence after "an unprecedented parody of a trial" revealed the undemocratic face of the Turkish regime.

    Synaspismos called on the Greek government and the governments of all EU countries to immediately undertake intiatives to put pressure on Turkey to commute the death sentence, and to acknowledge the rights of the Kurdish people.

    Synaspismos Eurodeputy Alekos Alavanos said the capture of Ocalan, his trial and sentencing by a country "presenting itself as a candidate for inclusion in the European Union" was "shameful for Europe".

    "...battle should be done everywhere, including the European Parliament, to not let this death sentence be carried out and that talks beginning on a political resolution of the Kurdish problem be one of the leading preconditions for Turkey's future relati ons with the European Union."

    Democratic Social Movement leader Dimitris Tsovolas said the sentence was "the result expected from such a show-trial".

    "(The sentence) is a stain on the civilised world and proof once again of the brutality of the state-military regime in Ankara," Mr. Tsovolas said in a statement.

    Kurdish reactions : Dozens of Kurdish protesters gathered outside the Turkish embassy in Athens yesterday, holding a peaceful sit-in protest to mark the sentencing of Abdullah Ocalan to death.

    Kurds living in Athens and supporters of the Kurdish cause also staged a march to the Turkish and US embassies last night.

    The approximately 60 Kurds who had gathered outside the Turkish embassy for four hours dispersed and left the area when the court decision became known.

    One Kurd, Arhat Sahar, who earlier this year attempted to set fire to himself in a protest outside the Greek parliament, said: "If it's war they want, war they will have."

    A Kurdish National Liberation Front (KNLF) spokesman in Athens said the death sentence handed down to Ocalan was a verdict aimed against the Kurdish people and its very existence as a nation.

    He said the objectivity of the Turkish court was acknowledged only by the Turkish state.

    "We shall do our duty..." he said.

    "This marks the beginning of a period of great turmoil and instability in the greater region of Turkish territory, at a time when the PKK as an organisation and the Kurdish people in general are strongly united, determined and of a single mind," the KNLF spokesman said.

    Roshad Lasher expressed the view that even if the death sentence was not carried out, it would be used as a 'sword of Damocles' to deter the Kurds from continuing their struggle.

    The Kurdish spokesman thanked the Greek people for their stance on the Ocalan issue and the support they have expressed to the Kurdish people.

    He also urged Greeks to stand at the side of the Kurds "so that all the necessary steps can be taken which will lead to the attainment of our objective".

    Athens News Agency

    [11] James Brown in Greece for 2 concerts

    Athens, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    Legendary singer James Brown arrived in Athens yesterday for two concerts in Greece, one in Thessaloniki today and one in the Greek capital tomorrow.

    Mr. Brown left immediately afterwards for Thessaloniki by plane, where later he gave a press conference.

    Answering in short and succinct sentences, the "Godfather of Soul", among others, announced that he plans to retire in two years from the stage.

    However, he added that he'll still be active in show business, but from the producer's end. The 71-year-old funk phenomenon also stressed that soul music will continue far after he's gone, "because it comes from the heart and from God".

    Asked about the war in Yugoslavia, Mr. Brown stressed that wants peace for all such troubled regions, emphasising that the greatest repercussions fall on the children. "The Funky President", as he's also called, added that he wants to perform in Serbia, just as he's done in the past in Africa, Korea and Vietnam.

    His concerts in Greece are the first stop in a European tour.

    Travelling in style : James Brown arrived in Greece in true rock-star style, his first performances in the country in 12 years.

    Replete with 80 personal suitcases, James Brown requested three suites - one for himself, another for his companion and a third for their "personal moments".

    He had to make do, however, with only a simple Rolls Royce for transport, after organisers convinced him it was difficult to find a seven-metre and six-door white limousine.

    Another two limousines, three mini-buses, two coaches and a truck have all been put at the disposal of the Brown entourage.

    Mr. Brown will perform on a 250-square-metre stage divided into seven levels for his 30-member orchestra and dancers.

    Dressing rooms for soul legend and his entourage will provide the requisite 20 full-length mirrors, 10 steam irons, 78 bath sheets, 30 boxes of shampoo and cosmetics and a fully-equipped press office for the exclusive use of James Brown.

    Also available will be a ping-pong table, and during his stay in Thessaloniki's Hyatt Regency Hotel, he will have the exclusive use of a roulette wheel, housed in a room next to the presidential suite, where be be staying.

    On standby during the concerts will be two hairdressers and two mobile hair dryers, as well as oxygen masks and bottles.

    The fresh juice and soft drinks also on hand will go nowhere near James Brown. His contract stipulates that at least seven bottles of Dom Perignon champagne be on hand at any one time.

    Another 50 people have been added to his security detail, which already comprises eight bodyguards.

    Athens News Agency

    [12] Eurobank counters Ergobank charges, says share buyout offer attractive

    Athens, 30/06/1999 (ANA)

    EFG Eurobank executives stressed yesterday that an offer by their parent company to purchase Athens-based Ergobank shares was and remains attractive.

    Consolidated Eurofinance Holdings (CEH) has offered 2.2 shares along with 4, 000 drachmas per Ergobank share, although executives of the latter on Monday issued a statement to their shareholders termed the offer as not attractive, saying Ergobank posted higher profits, had more assets as well as market share than EFG Eurobank.

    EFG Eurobank General Director N. Nanopoulos responded to Ergobank's statements by saying the two banks can develop a cooperative system that will be complementary and not competitive.

    Responding to criticism by Ergobank that EFG's trade ablility and dispersal are not satisfactory, Mr. Nanopoulos said in both cases that conditions are adequate.

    It should be noted that EFG Eurobank will distribute a 45-drachma dividend per share for the 1998 fiscal year by the end of July.

    Athens News Agency

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