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Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-26

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

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr>

NEWS IN ENGLISH

Athens, Greece, 26/01/1999 (ANA)


MAIN HEADLINES

  • Simitis: schools must open, problems dealt with through dialogue
  • Drachma jumps, buoyed by demand for today's bond auction
  • Ergobank to boost share capital ahead of Ionian sale
  • Agricultural Insurance begins IPO today
  • Steep rise in demand seen for financial services - bank
  • Thessaly farmers warn of protests if demands not met
  • Arsenis-OLME contacts again set for today
  • Pangalos: EU favours political solution to Kosovo, not military
  • V. Papandreou invites energy investments from US firms
  • Manos outlines aims of new party
  • Use of synthetic drugs increases chances of infectious diseases
  • Greek Olympics chief: 'Athens has nothing to hide'
  • Resolution for 'Grecanika' in Calabria schools
  • Weather
  • Foreign exchange

NEWS IN DETAIL

Simitis: schools must open, problems dealt with through dialogue

Prime Minister Costas Simitis last night stressed that all schools should open and operate, while all problems arising from the government's education reform should be dealt with through dialogue by all sides involved.

Speaking during an interview with a private Athens television station, Mr. Simitis said "reactions are natural and expected when reforms are being implemented." He added that the present structure of the Greek educational system should change.

"The education reform is necessary and needs time since it starts from kindergarten and ends with the university," he said during the interview on the 'Antenna' tv station.

Reform-implementation issues should be examined with schools operating and through dialogue which the education ministry has already started, Mr. Simitis added.

"We are not dogmatic, since our aim is to have productive schools and the education reform cannot progress through partisan and unionist confrontations, " he said.

The prime minister reiterated that the government had proceeded with more reforms, such as in the local government, despite the initial political cost.

Commenting on recent poll results indicating that the main opposition New Democracy (ND) party is ahead of ruling PASOK, Mr. Simitis said polls may provide a picture but are not "determining, since the mandate given by the citizens is for progress."

Mr. Simitis said every reform faces reaction but if the government considers political cost or reactions, it will not yield anything and Greece will be in a quagmire, adding that there were some politicians insisting "we should do what is pleasant."

He cited an entirely different economic environment existing in Greece today, since inflation has dropped significantly, as he said.

The prime minister said inflation, which was at 9 per cent three years ago, had dropped under 4 per cent and it is expected to decline to 2.5 per cent by the end of the year, which he called unprecedented for Greece.

He stressed there would not be general elections at the same time as the June Euro-elections, since, as he said, he had an obligation to lead the country to EMU entry and would not be "playing games on this issue."

Drachma jumps, buoyed by demand for today's bond auction

The drachma firmed again yesterday buoyed by demand from abroad by investors planning to buy into around half a trillion drachmas' worth of 10- year bonds being auctioned today, traders said.

The euro hit a new low against the drachma, prompting the central bank to intervene by absorbing 280 million euros to curb the drachma's unbridled ascent.

The Bank of Greece stepped in when the euro was trading at 322.10-322.30 drachmas, but the national currency rose again due to demand for cash from abroad to buy into the bond issue.

The euro ended at 322.100 drachmas at the central bank's daily fix from 322.780 drachmas on Friday. In late trade it slid to 321.70 drachmas.

Trade was scant in the secondary market with primary dealers keeping to the sidelines ahead of the auction.

The 15-year bond was flat at 103.35 and the 10-year bond at 116.10- 115.95.

Electronic trade totalled 8.0 billion drachmas, sharply down from 44 billion drachmas on Friday, focusing on 10-year bonds.

Ergobank to boost share capital ahead of Ionian sale

Private sector Ergobank's shareholders yesterday approved a share capital increase of 93.14 billion drachmas in order to prepare the bank to bid with associates in a new tender for the privatisation of Ionian Bank.

Ergobank chairman Xenofon Nikitas told shareholders the new capital will be used to extend the bank's domestic network, expand in the Balkans, increase its London branch operations and promote private banking services through Ergobank International Private Banking.

Part of the new capital will also be used to form a venture capital company, strengthen the equity capital of several subsidiaries, and probably set up new firms.

Mr. Nikitas said that following the share capital increase the bank's equity capital will exceed 200 billion drachmas.

New shares are to be offered to shareholders at a ratio of three new for 10 old at 12,000 drachmas a share.

A limited stake is destined for purchase at the same price for employees.

The rights issue will be completed on February 22 to March 23.

Agricultural Insurance begins IPO today

Agricultural Insurance, a subsidiary of state Agricultural Bank of Greece is to launch an initial public offer today, which ends on Friday.

The firm is seeking to enter the Athens Stock Exchange's main market through the issue of 2,531,600 shares at 3,500 drachmas each.

The main underwriter is the parent company.

Steep rise in demand seen for financial services - bank

National Bank of Greece, a blue chip on the Athens bourse, yesterday forecast a sharp rise in domestic demand for financial services in coming years.

In a financial and statistical bulletin, the bank said that despite the rapid growth of brokerages, there was still a largely untapped market that banks could exploit.

Thessaly farmers warn of protests if demands not met

Farmers will proceed with mobilisations on Feb. 1, according to a Pan- Thessaly Farmers' committee representative, who spoke after yesterday's meeting with agriculture ministry officials.

Agriculture Minister George Anomeritis said he will reply to farmers' demands by the first week of February.

Farmers said their demands concerned mainly the increased problems they are facing in Thessaly, but they were given no answers.

Tomorrow, a meeting of farm associations' representatives will be held in Karditsa to work out an action programme, which includes rallies in many Thessaly towns and occupations of public buildings and Agricultural Bank branches, all lasting until Feb. 8.

In the meantime, a meeting has been scheduled for today between the Agricultural Bank's board and the agriculture minister to discuss a settlement of farm debts, a major demand by protesting farmers.

Farmers are demanding a higher production ceiling for cotton and government intervention in Brussels to prevent what they claim will be a 30 per cent reduction in cereal crop prices this year if the European Union does not alter its regulations.

They warned that the farmers' response would be "harsh" if their demands were not met but said they were open to dialogue with the ministry and were hoping for a meeting with the minister when he visits the northern city later this week to attend the 'Agrotica' trade fair.

Large-scale protests by farmers in 1997 - against new tax laws, in support of demands for cheaper fuel and higher prices for their products - caused widespread traffic chaos on provincial Greek highways and rail lines, hampering transportation between north and south, preventing trucks from delivering supplies and on occasion forcing plants to shut down due to shortages of fuel and raw materials.

Arsenis-OLME contacts again set for today

Drivers in the Greek capital had no respite yesterday from snap road blocks by protesting secondary school students, as Education Minister Gerassimos Arsenis began meeting with the secondary education teachers' federation (OLME) to seek ways to defuse the crisis sparked by education reforms.

The marathon meeting, the second in a month between the education minister and OLME, began at four in the afternoon and ended in the evening, while it will be repeated today at 11 a.m.

In the six-hour meeting, teachers' representatives raised two basic issues, exams in the 11th grade and matters pertaining to Technical and Vocational Colleges (TEE).

Mr. Arsenis said after the meeting that he heard the views expressed by OLME members and that the dialogue will resume and conclude today.

According to sources, both sides described the prevailing atmosphere during the meeting as positive.

An hour after the start of the meeting, two OLME members walked out of the meeting, saying their proposal to postpone the government's reform programme was not approved.

According to the ministry, the number of schools under occupation fell further yesterday, by at least 100, half of those in the Attica region.

The picture was much the same in Thessaloniki where no more than 300 teachers came out for a march and rally.

Thessaloniki authorities said the participation in the strike yesterday morning was 8 percent in one region under its jurisdiction and 17.4 per cent in the other.

Pangalos: EU favours political solution to Kosovo, not military

Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos stressed yesterday that European Union member-states unanimously agreed that a political not a military solution should be sought for the Kosovo problem.

He told reporters at the end of an EU foreign ministers meeting, that they agreed to a tough warning being sent to both Belgrade and Kosovar leaders which, however, will not take on the form of an ultimatum.

Mr. Pangalos, participating in the EU's General Affairs Council together with Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou, said the Kosovo Albanians should realise that the proposal contained in the Petric-Hill texts "is the best possible that they cou ld hope for."

Mr. Pangalos said both Greece and the remaining member-states disagreed with proposals for additional sanctions to be slapped on Yugoslavia, adding that from now on sanctions must be imposed on whoever obstructs a peaceful solution from being found and not unilaterally against Belgrade, as was the case to date.

He also said efforts will be made in coming days for a contact group ministerial session to be convened (US, Russia, France, Germany, Italy and Britain), while the EU's next target will be to organise a big conference on the Kosovo issue.

Mr. Pangalos clarified that Greece disagrees absolutely with any concept of military intervention in Kosovo by foreign forces and said that if this solution was chosen Greece could not participate, since the Greek Parliament would never approve of such action without prior ratification being achieved by the UN Security Council.

V. Papandreou invites energy investments from US firms

Development Minister Vasso Papandreou yesterday invited US firms to invest in Greece's energy networks, large power production projects as well as in industry and tourism infrastructure projects.

Ms Papandreou, speaking at a reception hosted in her honour by the Foreign Policy Association, said the Greek economy is at the threshold of Economic Monetary Union (EMU), and has adjusted to the guidelines of the unified European market, particularly regarding competition.

Manos outlines aims of new party

Former New Democracy economy minister Stephanos Manos yesterday announced that the aim of a new party he will establish will be "to create a political force" able to decrease the influence of political parties in Greek society.

Mr. Manos, expelled last year from main opposition ND for not following the party line, said this new political force "will rally for a positive vote by the Greek people at the next national elections, aiming at changing Greece, lessening the influence of parties and their mechanisms in Greek society."

Mr. Manos stressed that the political system needs to be overturned, adding that should his party progress correctly, it can make a claim to government.

Finally, he said his goals include Greece's equal participation in the European Union, changing the Greek state by introducing fewer laws to replace several old ones, high-quality state services, sensitivity for the weaker strata of society, decentralis ation and liberalisation of the economy, among others.

Use of synthetic drugs increases chances of infectious diseases

A California-based university psychology professor emphasised in Athens yesterday that synthetic drugs are now a "new world threat", as their use has been associated with an increase in AIDS infections.

Igor Grant stressed that use of such drugs results to a rapid change in a person's behaviour, which in turn means that the person does not think properly and cannot take the necessary precautions against diseases.

He further underlined that synthetic drugs, such as amphetamines and "esctasy", have been found to have a dramatic effect on the cardiovascular and nervous systems.

Greek Olympics chief: 'Athens has nothing to hide'

Athens has nothing to hide in its successful bid to host the 2004 Olympic Games and welcomes any probe stemming from a bribery scandal that has rocked the Olympic movement, Greece's Olympics head said yesterday. "The doors are open and the dogs are tied up, as we say in Greece," Lambis Nikolaou, the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, told Reuters television. Mr. Nikolaou was speaking after six members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were suspended after an internal investigation int o claims that Salt Lake City had offered bribes during its bid to host the 2002 Winter Games.

"Anyone can come in and do any kind of investigation they want...I believe and know that Greece doesn't have any problem," Mr. Nikolaou said, adding that he had no concerns about Athens being tarnished by the current scandal.

Resolution for 'Grecanika' in Calabria schools

A delegation of Italian mayors has asked Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema to take all necessary actions for the preservation of "Grecanika", the Greek dialect spoken in Calabria. Local governors of Italy, who part icipated in a symposium organised by the Greek-Italian Chamber in Athens, along with the cultural society "Apodiafazzi", asked Rome to introduce "Grecanika" as an elective subject in the public schools of Calabria.

WEATHER

Partly cloudy weather will prevail throughout Greece today with the possibility of light rain in the southeast. Northern and western Greece will be sunny. Winds variable, light to moderate in the Aegean. Partly cloudy in Athens with temperatures ranging between 4-14C. Fair in Thessaloniki with temperatures from 0-10C.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE

Tuesday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 275.756 Pound sterling 457.074 Japanese yen (100) 240.739 French franc 48.711 German mark 163.370 Italian lira (100) 16.502 Irish Punt 405.711 Belgian franc 7.921 Finnish mark 53.740 Dutch guilder 144.993 Danish kr. 42.964 Austrian sch. 23.221 Spanish peseta 1.920 Swedish kr. 35.700 Norwegian kr. 37.103 Swiss franc 200.007 Port. Escudo 1.594 Aus. dollar 173.833 Can. dollar 181.080 Cyprus pound 548.378

(C.E.)


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