Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-26
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 26/01/1999 (ANA)
- 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
- 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
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.
"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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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