EU ministers lay basis for common tourism policy European Union ministers and senior European tourism officials from all 25 countries of the enlarged union yesterday laid the bases for the formulation of a common policy on tourism, entailing initially specific measures as regards promotion and communication, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said at the end of the informal meeting in Aghia Pelagia, Crete. He said participants expressed agreement toward the inclusion of a reference to tourism’s significant contribution to sustainable development in Europe’s Constitutional Charter, due to be unveiled next year. Commission objects to uniform toll rates on new Greek highway The European Commission said it will ask the Greek government for clarification regarding its charging of uniform road toll dues of 1.80 euros – irrespective of the type of vehicle and distance traveled – on the Attiki Odos, the new highway running east-west north of Athens, Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said in a written reply to a question by Greek Euro-MP Alekos Alavanos. The commissioner said that, according to Directive 199962EC, toll rates have to differentiate according to distance traveled and between vehicles under and over 12 tons of gross weight. Closure final Labor Ministry officials yesterday failed to persuade Swiss company Schiesser Palco, which announced the closure of its Greek underwear manufacturing concern on Monday, to reconsider its decision. Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas said mass dismissals were unacceptable and urged the two sides to reach a viable compromise but company officials refused to balk, citing 75 percent lower labor costs in Bulgaria where the factory is to transfer. The closure, effective from May 30, will affect about 500 workers, mostly women, who said they plan legal action on the grounds that the company did not hold consultations with them beforehand, as required. Vardas Theodoros Vardas, chairman of clothing retailing chain Vardas, received the Retailer Manager 2003 award, for the successful implementation of his firm’s investment program after its listing on the Athens bourse in April 2001. Vardas had expanded its outlets from 17 to 32 up until December 2002 and now says it is seeking exclusive representation agreements with foreign brand names. Defense contracts State-controlled Hellenic Armaments Industry (EBO) will manufacture 5.56mm Minimi machine guns for the Greek army’s special forces, under license from Belgium’s FN Herstal, according to a deal signed yesterday. The current order is worth 10 million euros and is expected to to be followed by further larger orders. The two firms already cooperate in the production of guns for new army helicopters. Separately, telecoms equipment firm Intracom signed a 2.6-million-euro deal to manufacture and develop sub-systems for Ericsson’s Helicopter and Aircraft Radio Detection three-dimensional (HARD 3D) radar over three years. Delta dairy Delta Holdings yesterday inaugurated a fresh milk pasteurization plant in Thessaloniki’s industrial park which cost 25 million euros and employs 200 people. The firm targets doubling its turnover in northern Greece in the next three years.