ECONOMY

In Brief

Tourism entrepreneurs welcome flexible employment approach The Greek Tourist Enterprises Association (SETE) expressed satisfaction with the spirit in which the EU Labor Ministers council approached employment issues during their weekend meeting in the eastern Peloponnesian town of Nafplion. «The recognition of the need for reform leading to a flexible labor market is a positive step toward improving the competitiveness of the Greek economy and of the Greek tourist product in particular,» it said in a statement. SETE had commissioned the University of Piraeus to prepare a study on tourism and employment which will be presented at the «Tourism and Development» conference at the Astir Palace Vouliagmeni Hotel on February 11. The study estimates the industry has the potential of creating at least 200,000 jobs until 2010. Yesterday, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos chaired a broad meeting on tourism policy and issues, including the impact of a possible war in Iraq. The Greek National Tourism Organization has undertaken to prepare a study on tourism prospects in the next three years. Christodoulakis wants speedier probe into ETBA Finance Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis has asked for Supreme Court prosecutor Evangelos Kroustalakis’s intervention to speed up an investigation into a 3.5-million-euro scandal in ETBA Finance, uncovered by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) in March last year. Sources say this is not the first time the government has urged the acceleration of the probe but the investigating magistrate has cited an excessive workload. SDOE officials have also expressed concern as to why progress has stalled. The firm is a subsidiary of formerly state-controlled ETBA Bank, privatized last year. IKA benefits An Athens administrative court has ruled that the Social Security Foundation (IKA) has to pay one of its pensioners 6,600 euros in family benefit going back five years, opening the way for women pensioners to lodge similar claims. If the ruling stands, IKA monthly pensions will go up by between 60 and 120 euros, creating an extra total burden on its budget of 2 billion euros. Vodafone Mobile operator Vodafone-Panafon is reducing charges for fixed-line calls to its network from 0.21 cents per minute to 0.19 cents as of February 1. Also, the minimum time period to which the lower charge applies will be lowered, from one minute to 42 seconds. Shop hours The Private Employees Federation has said a government plan to liberalize shop hours during the Olympic Games next year is «an excuse for overturning the present regime, dictated by the interests of the big multinationals;» any change will lead small enterprises to shrink and to a deterioration of working conditions for its members, the federation said. Fish deal cooking Euroholdings Capital & Investment and Seafarm Ionian yesterday confirmed in letters to the Athens bourse they are in talks for a possible alliance or merger. Any agreement is considered likely to be followed by further realignments as several firms in the sector hold minority interests in one another. Alumil Aluminum profile producer Alumil has received the ISO 14000 certificate from standardization firm TUV Hellas.