EIB plans to expand long-term funding for Greek projects The European Investment Bank (EIB) plans to develop partnerships with domestic and foreign banks in Greece with a view to expanding long-term funding to small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), officials said. EIB already has such partnerships with the National Investment Bank for Industrial Development (ETEBA) and French-based BNP. In 2002, EIB granted loans in Greece totaling 1.1 billion euros, of which 500 million went for projects in urban transport, protection of cultural heritage and the environment and upgrading urban areas, with a further 320 million for highways. The amount absorbed in 2001 was 1.6 billion euros, due to the spate of large projects under construction then. The amounts to be disbursed in 2003 are projected at 1.4-1.5 billion euros, focusing on eight to 10 large projects which include the metro systems of Athens and Thessaloniki, tourism infrastructure (mainly in Attica), SMEs and wind parks in central Greece; other areas of interest include audiovisual media, schools and hospitals. According to the last five-year average, Greece absorbed EIB loans three times its participation in the bank’s equity capital. Coastal shippers to press demands with ministry Coastal shipping firms are insisting on the abolition of letters of guarantee they are required to submit annually in order to operate their vessels, and that the age limit of ships not be lowered from 35 years to 30, a general assembly decided yesterday. Other demands to be pursued with the Merchant Marine Ministry include a deregulation of fares in economy class, a reduction in crew requirements and measures against unfair competition from vehicle-only ferries. Sources said the demands will be considered by the Coastal Transport Council on February 27. Info-Quest IT and telecoms group Info-Quest reported a 12-million-euro loss for 2002, as a result of the launching of its fixed and mobile telecom subsidiary Q-telecom. Turnover reached 416 million euros. Group Chairman Theodoros Fessas spoke of mistaken investment options in the sector as a whole during the stock market boom and said investment in mobile telephony would continue to have a negative effect on profitability in the next two years, but that the target of 5 percent market share by 2005 remained. The firm’s information technology division reported profits of 2.9 million euros in 2002, compared to 6.6 million in 2001. Exhibitions Expo Clean 2003, the show for professional cleaning equipment and technology, opens today at the Athens Exhibition Center on Kifissias Avenue, at 3 p.m. The show runs until February 24. Tourism Panorama 2003 will be held at the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) exhibition center between March 28 and 31. The event this year focuses on the Ionian islands, while foreign countries represented will include Turkey, Thailand, Serbia, S. Africa, Malta, Hungary and Ukraine. Anti-war The General Confederation of Greek Workers has proposed to the Confederation of Trade Unions the staging of a general strike throughout Europe if war breaks out in Iraq.