Tsochadzopoulos pursues EU-Russia energy future in Moscow The European Union is interested in long-term energy contracts with Russia, including financial support for related projects, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said in a statement after conferring with Russian Energy Minister Igor Yusufov in Moscow yesterday, in his capacity as presiding energy minister for the EU. He said the ongoing bilateral dialogue will be completed with an official protocol, probably within 2003. Both sides expressed strong hope that Russia will also be able to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climatic change within 2003. Regarding the planned oil pipeline linking the Bulgarian port of Bourgas with Alexandroupolis on the Aegean coast, Tsochadzopoulos said further progress depended on Russian companies guaranteeing specific quantities of oil and hoped this would materialize in two to three months. He is due in Brussels to chair the EU Competitiveness Council today and Energy Ministers Council tomorrow. FYROM welcomes improved prospects for resolving OKTA dispute The Cabinet of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) yesterday reported «significant progress» in the resolution of «certain disputed issues» regarding the terms of operation of the country’s biggest refinery, OKTA, as a result of last week’s visit to Skopje by Greek Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos. Greek state-controlled Hellenic Petroleum acquired 70 percent of OKTA in 1999. The present FYROM government has been pressing for months for a revision of the contractual terms it argues grant OKTA monopolistic privileges. «The resolution of such differences in a direct and constructive way constitutes an expression of willingness to strengthen cooperation and good neighborly relations,» a statement said. Shipping loans The Coastal Shipowners Union (EEA) and the Maritime Chamber of Greece (NEE) have protested in letters to the minsters of economy and merchant marine of commercial banks’ imposition of a 0.6 percent levy on loans for the modernization of fleets. The practice has been adopted since the introduction of the euro, with banks claiming that shipping operators were exempted from the levy – according to Law No. 128 of 1975 – if they repaid loans with foreign currency earnings. «For the benefit of the Greek economy, lending to shipping enterprises must continue according to established practice, without the 0.6 percent levy,» said NEE Chairman Spyros Alexandratos. Media Village The government plans new legislation to bypass a Council of State ruling that has stalled construction of the Media Village in the Athens Olympic Stadium complex, sources said after a Cabinet meeting yesterday. ELTA The Greek Postal Service (ELTA), a public utility company, yesterday reported 23.04 percent net profit growth to 19.1 million euros in 2002, the highest in four consecutive years in the black. Turnover rose 13.09 percent to 430.1 million euros, while the company invested 22.1 million in fixed capital. Benetton Textile group Klonatex said it has agreed to expand a new partnership with Italy’s clothing firm Benetton.