Athens News Agency: News in English (AM), 99-01-28
NEWS IN ENGLISH
Athens, Greece, 28/01/1999 (ANA)
- US firms indicate interest in Greek energy projects
- Greece preparing for post-EMU era, Simitis says
- Gov't to plough Dr12 bln into port of Piraeus
- Stocks post new high after early profit taking
- Drachma stays firm, 10-year bond price noses up
- Bill on economic cooperation with Albania approved
- Clinton considering visit to Greece in November
- AFSOUTH commander in Athens
- Swedish defence minister in Athens
- Students'road blocks continue to hamper traffic in Athens
- Ombudsman institution in fourth month of operation
- Pricewaterhouse Cooper signs contract for Athens 2004
- Pangalos harshly criticises KKE during debate on Amsterdam Treaty
- Tsohatzopoulos visits Larissa military installations
- Simitis on Schengen compliance
- Papantoniou lists gov't economic priorities for '99
- Foreign exchange
NEWS IN DETAIL
US firms indicate interest in Greek energy projects
Senior executives of eight US energy multinationals held contacts with
Development Minister Vasso Papandreou in Houston on Tuesday, showing
interest in achieving closer cooperation with Athens in the energy
Specific proposals and plans paving the way for integrated investments in
energy programmes in Greece and their involvement in the entire range of
development projects in the natural gas industry were made by representatives
of Conoco, Amoco, Enron, Briton, Texaco, Unocal, Pennzoil and El Paso
Discussions on the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline within the framework of
Hellenic Petroleum's study and in general the transfer of energy sources
throughout Greece were also held.
Interest was focused on programmes linking Greek natural gas transportation
networks with the East and West to western countries through the Italian
network, securing the necessary link for supplying Greece and other
neighbouring countries - Turkey, Bul garia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia (FYROM) and Albania - with natural gas of multiple origin and so
creating a high level of security for the procurement of energy. In the
East, the link is expected to take place with Turkey's network. Due to its
position, Greece can secure the possibility of procuring natural gas for
Turkey from the Italian network.
The possibilities of producing electric power with natural gas after the
market is deregulated in 2001 were also discussed, as well as plans for the
joint production of energy and other investments linked to the use of
natural gas such as underground storage, the development of new technologies
for application in various production sectors, new equipment, etc.
Greece preparing for post-EMU era, Simitis says
Greece is already preparing for the period after entry into European
economic and monetary union by 2001, but complacency should be avoided,
Prime Minister Costas Simitis said yesterday.
Despite major progress, the road towards EMU needed caution, Mr. Simitis
He was speaking after a meeting with the board of state-run National Bank
of Greece, the country's largest commercial bank and a blue chip on the
The prime minister visited National Bank's headquarters - the first visit
by a premier to the bank in 55 years - accompanied by National Economy and
Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and the bank's governor, Theodoros
Mr. Simitis also said that a sharp decline in interest rates on long-term
state bonds had brought the country even closer to the Maastricht bond
criterion, another sign of progress in the economy.
The prime minister also predicted a further decline in the spread between
deposit and lending rates.
He said that the country's banking system was evolving through mergers,
alliances and the creation of new banks.
There was no danger that a recent wave of bank mergers would hinder free
competition in the market, he added.
Gov't to plough Dr12 bln into port of Piraeus
The national economy ministry has earmarked 12 billion drachmas to allow an
immediate start to improvements for the port of Piraeus, Merchant Marine
Minister Stavros Soumakis said yesterday.
Mr. Soumakis also said that parliament will debate next week a bill on the
transformation of Piraeus Port Authority into a societe anonyme.
The minister noted that the money to upgrade passenger and cargo facilities
at Piraeus was part of European Union funds the government had allocated to
upgrade ports around the country.
He said the projects would help both the city of Piraeus and the country's
economy by enabling the port to cope with increasing passenger traffic
ahead of the 2004 Olympics, to be hosted by Athens.
Stocks post new high after early profit taking
Equities surged to a new record high yesterday, continuing the previous
day's rally on the Athens Stock Exchange despite some profit-taking.
The general index ended 0.44 percent up at 3,045.50 points, off the day's
highs of 3,100. Turnover was 124.3 billion drachmas.
Sector indices mostly scored gains.
Banks rose 0.49 percent, Leasing was 0.12 percent higher, Insurance
increased 2.51 percent, Investment ended 0.09 percent up, Industrials rose
0.52 percent, Miscellaneous ended 0.25 percent up, Holding rose 0.56
percent but Construction bucked the trend to end 0.26 percent off.
National Bank of Greece ended at 71,300 drachmas, Alpha Credit Bank at 32,
500, Ergobank at 37,900, Ionian Bank at 15,900, Titan Cement at 23,190,
Hellenic Petroleum at 2,370, Intracom at 14,155, Minoan Lines at 7,355,
Panafon at 8,650 and Hellenic Telecoms at 8,230.
Drachma stays firm, 10-year bond price noses up
The drachma remained firm in the domestic foreign currency market to end at
the central bank's daily fix at 322.150 against the euro from 321.700 in
the previous session, trading at 321.65 against the euro late after the
The price of 10-year bonds auctioned on Tuesday edged up to 116.45-116.40,
with past 10-year paper trading at 116.45-116.40.
Electronic bond trade totalled 27 billion drachmas.
Short-term rates in the interbank market crept lower with the overnight
around 10.20 percent and one-month funds 11.60 percent.
Bill on economic cooperation with Albania approved
A Parliamentary committee yesterday gave unanimous approval to a bill
ratifying an economic cooperation protocol between Greece and Albania
containing an agreement for a 20-billion-drachma loan to Tirana.
Of the total loan amount, two billion drachmas has already been disbursed
Of the remaining sum, five billion will be granted for social infrastructure
programmes, five billion for housing programmes, three billion to help
support the neighbouring country's balance of payments and five billion as
assistance to the private sector.
Clinton considering visit to Greece in November
US President Bill Clinton has expressed a desire to visit Greece in
November for talks with the Greek leadership, diplomatic sources claimed in
According to the sources, which underlined that it was still too early to
say with certainty that the visit will eventually take place, Mr. Clinton
will be in Istanbul on Nov. 18-19 to attend an OSCE summit.
The same sources said Mr. Clinton wants to take advantage of this occasion
to hold talks on the region's problems, including the Cyprus problem and
The Greek side, according to the same sources, is however very guarded
about whether such a visit would have a successful outcome, particularly in
the absence of the necessary groundwork. The sources say Greece has
proposed to the White House he also visit Cyprus.
An earlier meeting between Greek PM Simitis and Mr. Clinton cannot be ruled
out in April, on the sidelines of events marking the 50th anniversary of
the establishment of NATO. The events will be held in Washington from April
AFSOUTH commander in Athens
NATO AFSOUTH commander Lt.-Gen. Jack Nicks will pay an official visit to
Greece from Feb. 3-5.
Mr. Nicks will pay courtesy calls on National Defence General Staff Chief
Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis as well as Lt.-Gen. Efthymios Petinis.
He will also visit the battleship "Averof" and the special forces training
centre at the Megalo Pefko camp.
Swedish defence minister in Athens
Swedish Defence Minister Bjorn von Sindoff will pay an official visit to
Greece on Feb. 1-2, according to an ANA dispatch from Stockholm.
The minister's talks are expected to focus on security and cooperation
issues as well as regional cooperation within the framework of NATO's
Partnership for Peace programme.
Students'road blocks continue to hamper traffic in Athens
The government said yesterday that it will ensure the law is enforced,
referring to violence from young protesters during road blocks in Athens
and other parts of the country.
"These acts are to be condemned...and the government, which has up to now
chosen to keep its distance, has demonstrated extraordinary sensitivity,"
government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said.
"The government is not neutral observer but will ensure the normality of
Students again set up road blocks on yesterday, despite indications that
the number of occupations of school premises had fallen since the beginning
of the week.
Infuriated motorists clashed with protesters at road blocks.
More traffic chaos is expected today when students hold a rally and march -
the third in as many weeks - through the city centre. Supporting the march
is the General Confederation of Greek Workers which has called a four-hour
Mr. Reppas said the government regretted the behaviour shown to passersby
and motorists by the young protestors, saying that the government was
committed to resolving the problem.
Referring to the breakdown in talks between the ministry and teachers'
representatives on Tuesday night, Mr. Reppas said teachers had only damaged
their own cause by their intransigence.
The collapse of the talks seemed to kill hopes for a quick end to the
crisis after teachers refused to consider modifications by the ministry to
its contentious reform law.
Teachers insisted on a return to the old system of examinations, Education
Minister Gerasimos Arsenis said after the meetings ended.
Students have been calling for the abolition of the reforms with objections
focusing on provisions that include second senior high school grades being
taken into consideration for university entrance.
"The government is open to dialogue and the education minister has his door
open 24 hours a day so that this dialogue can proceed," he said.
Ombudsman institution in fourth month of operation
More than 1,662 Greek citizens have filed for help in their dealings with
the state with the new office of Ombudsman in the first four months of its
operation, Nikiforos Diamandouros told a news conference yesterday.
Mr. Diamandouros said an extra 500 people had phoned the office for advice,
but had not officially filed a request.
The majority of cases centred on pension and social insurance issues, town
planning problems and conflicts with the tax bureau and public utilities,
The role of the ombudsman is to intervene between the public and services
with the aim of dealing quickly and effectively with complaints and
He stressed that the office was "no Robin Hood" but an institution designed
to assist state administration in meeting the needs of citizens.
He also said the state sector had reacted positively to date to the
office's efforts, attempting to resolve any problems arising primarily from
ineffective communication between the public and the overstaffed and
impersonal state sector.
Pricewaterhouse Cooper signs contract for Athens 2004
A contract between the firm Pricewaterhouse Cooper and the 2004 Olympics
organising committee "Athens 2004" was signed yesterday in Athens.
New York- and London-based Pricewaterhouse Cooper was selected as the
financial consultant for concession contracts for the 2004 Olympics.
Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos stressed that the tender for the
selection of the "Athens 2004" financial consultant had set a dual example
of observing a time limit and for employing transparent procedures.
"Athens 2004" managing director Costas Bakouris said that the self-
financing projects presented certain particularities and that Pricewaterhouse
staff had already started relative studies.
Pangalos harshly criticises KKE during debate on Amsterdam Treaty
The first day of debate at parliamentary committee level of the Amsterdam
Treaty was cut short yesterday, following a no-holds-barred attack by
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos on the Communist Party of Greece
"The Communist Party of Greece questions, both politically and theoretically,
Parliamentary democracy. It questions it in practice, organising the
upheaval of social life, through mob rule, which supposedly expresses the
best interests of the people, as this is perceived by minorities, of course,
" he told the committee meeting.
"Such procedures led to callous dictatorships, in which ruthless bureaucracies
exterminated entire peoples in eastern Europe," he added.
The Communist Party of Greece has long opposed Greece's membership in the
European Union and has called for a national referendum to be held on the
prospect of European unification, which the Amsterdam Treaty represents.
Mr. Pangalos' introductory remarks to the debate by the special Parliamentary
committee - made up of members of the foreign affairs and defence committee,
the European affairs committee and others - immediately drew fire from KKE
deputies, who called his remarks "unacceptable" and a "distor-tion" of the
KKE's positions on European Union.
The committee suspended deliberations after the clash between Mr. Pangalos
and the KKE deputies and will reconvene again on Tuesday.
The committee's discussion will be followed shortly after by a three-day
debate by the parliamentary plenary and ratification of the Treaty by the
Tsohatzopoulos visits Larissa military installations
National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos paid a visit to Larisa
yesterday afternoon where he revealed the government's intentions to
proceed with the construction a NATO air force subheadquarters in the
Mr. Tsohatzopoulos told local and military officials that the Koutsohero
HQs in conjunction with the Tyrnavos HQs will greatly contribute to the
His first stop was the Tyrnavos Town Hall, before visiting the Schinas army
barracks where the HQs will be built. He was briefed on the progress of
works under way.
The defence minister further told local authorities that he approved of a
demand for the construction of a civil airport to cater to the needs of
both local residents and NATO officials visiting the headquarters.
Simitis on Schengen compliance
Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday stressed that Greece will have
fulfilled all conditions prescribed by the Schengen Treaty. Answering a
relevant question, the prime minister said experts considered "our efforts
to comply to the treaty positive." Mr Simitis also said airports are
already in compliance with regulations of the treaty, but admited that
there is work to be done on sea and land borders, which should be
accomplished in a few months, with the hiring of the necessary personnel
and necessary equipment.
Papantoniou lists gov't economic priorities for '99
National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, speaking at the Foreign
Press Association yesterday, said that a stronger social policy, privatisations
and structural changes in the public sector as well as improvement in
competitiveness were the government's economic policy priorities.
The minister stressed that the "war against inflation" was still on-going
and he invited the business world to decisively contribute in lowering
He said the changes in all areas during the past five years were "revolutionary"
and that they resulted in Greece adjusting to Maastricht treaty criteria
faster than other European countries.
Mr. Papantoniou placed special emphasis on the policies to combat
unemployment, pointing out that 500 billion drachmas will be spent for the
creation of 400,000 new jobs between 1998-2000.
Cloudy weather will prevail throughout the country today with rain in
western central Greece and in the north. Snow in the mountainous regions.
Winds southerly, strong to gale force. Rain expected in Athens with
temperatures ranging between 8-16C. Similar weather in Thessaloniki with
temperatures from 4-11C.
Thursday's rates (buying) U.S. dollar 277.185
Pound sterling 458.344 Japanese yen (100) 242.604
French franc 48.719 German mark 163.395
Italian lira (100) 16.505 Irish Punt 405.774
Belgian franc 7.922 Finnish mark 53.748
Dutch guilder 145.016 Danish kr. 42.993
Austrian sch. 23.224 Spanish peseta 1.921
Swedish kr. 35.932 Norwegian kr. 37.021
Swiss franc 198.678 Port. Escudo 1.594
Aus. dollar 174.691 Can. dollar 182.330
Cyprus pound 549.568