Euro-Mediterranean nations adopt Athens Declaration on energy The energy ministers of the 25-member enlarged EU and 10 other Mediterranean and Eastern European nations yesterday adopted the Athens Declaration for Euro-Mediterranean cooperation, «a political framework aiming at the creation of an integrated and interconnected energy market,» according to Greek Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos. He said it had been agreed to promote convergence of energy policies on oil, natural gas and electricity, while both he and EU Transport and Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said the contribution of the private sector to investment was essential. Tsochadzopoulos said Greece’s natural gas pipelines with Turkey and Italy made it an important link in the whole scheme. The declaration makes special mention of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which expressed the intention of promoting bilateral cooperation in the field, with EU participation. Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia have also agreed to develop a single electricity market for future integration with the EU. The ministers also confirmed as a priority the development of renewable energy sources in the next three years. Tsochadzopoulos is to chair a two-day congress of SE European tourism ministers, starting today, aimed at promoting cooperation. OPAP takes a profit cut despite hefty rise in sales Soccer pools and lottery group OPAP reported a first-quarter net profit fall of 58.7 percent to 25.2 million euros year-on-year, despite a 35.7 percent rise in sales to 634.7 million. The firm said profits were hit by high provisions for compensation to gaming firm Intralot. Electronic appliances and telecoms retailer Germanos reported first-quarter group pretax profit growth after minorities of 15.2 percent year-on-year to 8.8 million euros. Sales rose 15.7 percent to 152.6 million euros with revenues from foreign subsidiaries constituting 11.5 percent of group turnover. Separately, aluminum profile maker Alumil Mylonas said it is setting up a 7-million-euro joint venture with an unnamed Italian company for the production of synthetic materials in Kilkis, and is in discussions with a large Turkish group for commercial and productive joint schemes. The firm expects to start producing polycarbon sheets in July. Delta Gulf Greek IT firm Delta Singular and Gulf Investment Corporation (GIC) have agreed to set up Delta Gulf Services, a joint venture in the processing of credit cards (outsourcing services in payment systems and security in transactions) in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman. Delta Singular already provides services to two banks in the Gulf. The finance ministers of the six countries are members of GIC’s board of directors. Tax returns An estimated 95,000 taxpayers annually expecting money back from the government will receive it much faster from now on; the Finance Ministry has decided that balances will be processed automatically by computers, eliminating previous delays of up to five months. OA Olympic Airways pilots yesterday voted in favor of their share participation in the privatization of the company. The Transport Ministry yesterday began discussions on the same issue with the airline’s union of cabin staff.