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17 February, 2000
National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said on Wednesday the United States and the European Union are pressuring oil-producing countries to restrain oil prices, adding that the passing of winter will decrease the demand for oil.
Speaking to the Antenna radio station, Papantoniou said for the time being there are no fears of a crisis, since it does not appear that the high level of oil prices will continue.
"No increase, provided it lasts for a few days, creates conditions for a crisis," he said.
Commenting on the repercussions for the Greek economy, Papantoniou said the inflation criterion for euro zone entry would be fulfilled since the European Union's other member-states are also facing the negative impact of the pressure on inflation.
However, he said the increase in oil prices is a "very disagreeable fact" because it leads to an increase in inflation and removes substantive income from Greece in favor of those producing oil. The only hope, he added, is for the price of oil to return to more realistic levels.
Papantoniou ruled out any further decrease in a special fuel consumption tax, since the EU forbids this. He added that if a decrease in the special consumption tax was brought about, the European Court would impose fines, which will be many times higher than the tax.
Referring to the Athens Stock Exchange, he said it would follow an upward trend because the economy is doing well; interest rates are falling; the Stock Exchange is being upgraded; and it will soon be ranked among mature markets.
Speaking on whether new tough measures will be taken for the post-European Monetary Union (EMU) era, Papantoniou said Greece made a great leap from 1993 until now to join EMU. It improved its indicators, brought about structural changes and restructured public finances.
"The difficult times are now behind us. Efforts, which should be made from now on, have nothing to do with efforts, which have already, been made," he said, adding that "of course, we should not demand things which lie outside the limits of our economy's endurance."
Source: Athens News Agency