Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-15
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 15/01/1999 (ANA)
- Parliament debates no-confidence motion against education minister
- Opposition parties respond
- Student protests increase
- Certain EU states criticised over stance on Cyprus' EU accession
- Missouri Governor Carnahan in Greece
- Greece moving closer to EMU entry, OECD says
- Alpha may bid for Ionian Bank
- Stocks jump in wake of previous slump
- Themeliodomi-Vardinoyiannis give details of cooperation
- Capital for new fish farming firm in UAE
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
Parliament debates no-confidence motion against education minister
The government yesterday accused main opposition New Democracy leader
Costas Karamanlis of cultivating a climate of confrontation within the
educational community in order to save the threatened unity of his
"He is trying to create a political front, prompted by developments in the
education sector, in order to fence-off his party," embattled Education
Minister Gerasimos Arsenis told a Parliamentary debate yesterday evening on
a motion of no-confidence against him, submitted by New Democracy "due to
the explosive situation" in many high schools, where continued occupations
by students have developed into outdoor scuffles in many instances.
Mr. Arsenis said "the sumbission of the motion against a minister for
implementing government policy is a phenomenal gaffe," adding that Mr.
Karamanlis, after having expelled two of ND's former education ministers
from the party - Messrs. Kontoyiannopoulos and Souflias -- has now decided
to deal with ruling PASOK.
He attributed the move to the opposition leader's inexperience and panic in
the face of what he referred to mounting speculation that Athens Mayor
Dimitris Avramopoulos, a ND cadre, may create his own political party.
Replying to the charge that the recently introduced law on education reform,
which has sparked widespread students' protests, was his personal creation,
Mr. Arsenis said: "it is the product of many years of work in PASOK,
included in the party's book on educational reform since 1993".
"The reform will progress, whether you like it or not," he stressed.
He also lashed against the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), claiming that
its cadres organised the sit-ins, as well as against a section of the
teaching community "who belong to particular political parties."
Opposition parties respond
In response, ND rapporteur Anna Psarouda-Benaki blamed the prime minister,
Costas Simitis, for not assuming the initiative of removing Mr. Arsenis,
and the education minister for not assuming the political responsibility
for the situation in schools, an d for sending public prosecutors and
police to arrest students. "We used all Parliamentary means, with questions
and draft bills regarding a national education council," she said.
Replying to charges that his party was instigating the sit-ins, KKE
rapporteur Apostolos Tasoulas said the main issue at hand was that all
students, teachers and most parents were opposed to the reforms.
Coalition of the Left rapporteur Petros Kounalakis expressed the view that
responsibility for the situation in education lay with the entire
government and not just with the minister.
The three-day debate will continue this afternoon and Saturday, depending
on the list of speakers, and will end with a roll-call vote on Saturday.
If the motion is passed with a simple majority, Mr. Arsenis will be obliged
to resign as education minister.
Student protests increase
Tension and minor scuffles reigned again yesterday as high school students
opposed to sweeping changes to the structure of secondary education
continued to clash with parents and teachers over the occupations of their
Students blocked roads in Athens and Piraeus, in defiance of a judicial ban,
infuriating passing motorists and, at times, coming to blows with
An hour-long blockade of major Alexandras Avenue in the morning caused
serious traffic congestion in the city centre.
One driver, frightened by students climbing on to the hood of her car and
banging on the vehicle, attempted to reverse in a panic, knocking over a
state-owned television crew.
A student committee in Thessaloniki said 15 junior and senior high schools
in the city were under occupation.
Parents and students came to blows at three schools in the city over
opening the schools for classes.
Certain EU states criticised over stance on Cyprus' EU accession
Cyprus' accession to the European Union is independent of the political
problem on the island republic, Prime Minister Costas Simitis reiterated in
an interview with the Spanish daily "El Pais", published yesterday.
He also criticised, in the interview, certain countries over their stance
on the issue.
Mr. Simitis said certain countries -excluding Spain - appeared not to want
to implement the EU's 1995 decision for Cyprus to become a member of the
"We cannot now say there is a political problem, the solution of which is a
condition for Cyprus' EU accession" when the decision for Cyprus'
membership was taken when the Turkish troops' occupation of the northern
part of the island was already in its 20th year, Mr. Simitis said.
Missouri Governor Carnahan in Greece
Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan yesterday began a three-day official visit
to Greece during which he will have talks with National Defence Minister
Akis Tsohatzopoulos and other government officials, focusing on trade
relations between his state and Greece .
According to reports, Mr. Carnahan will lobby for the award of several
military aircraft and construction contracts to Missouri-based companies,
such as Boeing.
Greece moving closer to EMU entry, OECD says
Greece has made progress in achieving targets to enter European economic
and monetary union (EMU) by January 1, 2001, the Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development said yesterday.
"Thanks to continuous efforts in recent years, the target seems to be
feasible for Greece," Paris-based OECD said in a report.
The general government deficit dropped below 3.0 percent of gross domestic
product in 1998, sliding from 7.5 percent of GDP in 1996. It forecast the
deficit would fall further.
The report attributed fiscal improvement to the successful implementation
of structural measures, such as expanding the tax base and combatting tax
But the government needed to carry out remaining measures at a brisk
"In order to support the drachma's parity in the trial period before
eurozone entry and ensure positive macro-economic results after entry, the
government must proceed rapidly with the structural changes it deems
essential, despite objections from inter est groups," the report said.
At the same time, inflation had dropped drastically despite a drachma
devaluation in March, paving the way in the near future for attainment of
the European Union's inflation criterion for EMU entry, OECD said.
It underlined that the government's macro-economic policies and structural
measures were moving in the right direction, and the public debt also was
The drachma's entry into the EU's exchange rate mechanism had enhanced the
credibility of the country's monetary policy abroad, in turn boosting
domestic financial markets.
In addition, the OECD report said that Greece's growth rates had exceeded
the EU average in the last few years.
The improvement reflected a rise in public investments that had led to an
increase in domestic demand. OECD expected the trend to continue in the
near future with public investments rising by 10 percent in real prices in
The report noted that private investments had also risen due to higher
Alpha may bid for Ionian Bank
Alpha Credit Bank yesterday received a package of investment data on Ionian
Bank, which the government plans to privatise by mid-March, Mr. Kostopoulos
"We will decide (if we will bid) in the near future. Nothing can be ruled
out," he said.
The bank governor was replying to a reporter's question on whether his bank
would bid in the international tender called by the government.
Also asked if the bank is to seek listing on Wall Street, Mr. Kostopoulos
said: "This is something any large European bank must consider."
The Alpha Credit Bank Group's pre-tax consolidated profits for 1998 after
provisions and depreciation are expected to be around 113 billion drachmas,
up 18 percent from 1997, Mr. Kostopoulos said.
The Group's assets in the same year were 4.4 trillion drachmas, up 26
percent against the previous year, and equity capital was 415 billion
drachmas, up 48 percent.
Deposits were 3.3 trillion drachmas, up 29 percent, and loans 1.9 trillion
drachmas, also posting a 29 percent rise against 1997, Mr. Kostopoulos
The parent company's net pre-tax profit is expected to exceed 86 billion
drachmas, up 19 percent.
Management will propose a dividend at least 10 percent higher than the
previous year, Mr. Kostopoulos said.
Deposits rose 30 percent, assets 18 percent and loans 31 percent.
Stocks jump in wake of previous slump
Equities rebounded strongly yesterday, recovering half their previous day's
sharp losses on the Athens Stock Exchange.
Traders said stability in international markets combined with domestic
interest rate declines encouraged buying.
The general index ended 3.51 percent higher at 2,896.40 points. Turnover
was heavy at 101.2 billion drachmas on volume of 19,423,000 shares.
Foreign investors were particularly active in banking blue chips, along
with Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation and Panafon, reaffirming
strong confidence in the market's outlook.
Sector indices scored gains.
Banks soared 4.64 percent, Leasing was 2.60 percent up, Insurance increased
2.11 percent, Investment jumped 3.87 percent, Construction rose 2.97
percent, Industrials ended 1.91 percent, Miscellaneous rose 3.22 percent
and Holding ended 0.63 percent up.
The parallel market for small cap stocks ended 4.81 percent up, while the
FTSE/ASE 20 index ended 3.89 percent up at 1,827.34.
Forty-eight stocks hit the daily 8.0 percent limit up, including General
Bank, Macedonia-Thrace Bank, Bank of Central Greece, Hellenic Sugar, Ideal,
Euromedica, Singular, Klonatex and Keranis.
Remek, Mohlos, Minerva, Technodomi, Xifias, Petzetakis, Yalco, Galis and
General Warehouses suffered the heaviest losses.
National Bank of Greece ended at 65,100 drachmas, Ergobank at 35,500, Alpha
Credit Bank at 31,450, Ionian Bank at 15,680, Titan Cement at 21,490,
Hellenic Petroleum at 2,310, Intracom at 14,100, Minoan Lines at 7,000 and
Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation at 8,100 drachmas.
Themeliodomi-Vardinoyiannis give details of cooperation
The administration of the construction contractor Themeliodomi and its new
vice-president Pavlos Vardinoyiannis yesterday announced the reasons
leading to cooperation between them at a press conference, given at the
company's headquarters near Thessaloniki.
On Jan. 8 the transfer occurred of 1.2 million of the company's ordinary
nominal shares (at the price of 3,300 drachmas each) from the company's
main shareholders to Mr. Vardinoyiannis, who now holds 15.53 per cent of
the company's shares and occupied the position of board deputy president.
Board members, and managing director and general director Nikolaos Economou
in particular, said the move has a "strategic character" which provides the
company's potential with a new impetus.
It also announced the company's forthcoming share capital increase to
enable it to exceed 15 billion drachmas in own capital and rank among the
country's five top construction companies.
Mr. Economou said Mr. Vardinoyiannis' successful business activities in
Balkan countries, Bulgaria and Romania in particular, as well as in former
Soviet countries, combined with the capabilities of Themeliodomi and the
know-how and potential of its cad res, create very positive prospects for
its further activation both in Greece and abroad.
Mr. Economou said the participation of the new shareholder was considered
necessary to enable Themeliodomi to increase its capabilities in handling
complex projects such as projects being planned in light of the 2004
Olympiad, infrastructure projects co ntained in the Santer package and
projects the company hopes to undertake in Balkan and eastern European
Themeliodomi was founded in 1976 and is headquartered in Thessaloniki. It
is active in construction projects specialising in foundation works,
environmental projects and ports.
Its own capital currently amounts to 10 billion drachmas and it holds 50
per cent of the Nestos company which is a 7th class construction company
having own capital amounting to 10-11 billion drachmas. It also created the
company Perivallon (Environment ).
In 1997 its turnover amounted to 12 billion drachmas and its profits to 2.1
billion drachmas, while in 1998 its turnover is expected to be in the
region of 14 billion drachmas and its profits 2.3 billion drachmas.
It employs about 300 people of which 85 are university graduates (engineers,
financial analysts etc) and constructs about 100 projects a year.
The company is already active in Romania, where it is constructing one big
and three smaller projects, as well as in Albania through the PHARE
According to board members, their future concerns include the company's
participation in project auctions, amounting to 200 billion drachmas, for
the Egnatia motorway which will take place in the next two months.
Capital for new fish farming firm in UAE
The accumulation of capital through public subscription for a new firm,
entitled International Fish Farming Co., was successfully completed in the
United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The amount gathered totals US$82 million, which will constitute the
company's share capital.
The development concerns an ambitious investment programme in fish farming,
implemented by the Nirefs company, with the participation of 15 other
companies and personalities from UAE. In the investment scheme, in which
Nirefs has the largest stake (5 per cent), also includes Dassault in the
context of countervailing benefits which it has undertaken towards
The new company will produce fish and shrimps in UAE and Oman, and will
distribute them in European and Far East markets. In the future it will
found or participate in further auxiliary ventures to the fish farming
Overcast weather with scattered showers in Thrace and eastern Macedonia
will prevail in most parts of Greece today. Winds, northerly, northwesterly,
moderate to strong. Scattered clouds with sunny spells in Athens and
temperatures between 6-14C. Same in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 3-
Friday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 276.768
Pound sterling 456.657 Japanese yen (100) 242.742
French franc 49.157 German mark 164.866
Italian lira (100) 16.653 Irish Punt 409.427
Belgian franc 7.993 Finnish mark 54.232
Dutch guilder 146.321 Danish kr. 43.319
Austrian sch. 23.433 Spanish peseta 1.938
Swedish kr. 35.299 Norwegian kr. 36.952
Swiss franc 202.180 Port. Escudo 1.608
Aus. dollar 175.286 Can. dollar 181.278
Cyprus pound 552.544