The announced merger of the country’s two banking heavyweights, National and Alpha, on the whole met with a favorable response from both trade unionists and stock market leaders yesterday. We accept the challenge and the opportunity. The crucial financial prerequisites are there and so are the best people in banking, said Yiannis Panagopoulos, representative of employees on National’s board of directors. He said the merger would have catalytic political, economic and social effects on the country and, given that the new company would account for more than half of employment in the banking sector, it could contribute to a satisfactory solution on the issue of bank workers’ social security. The Federation of Banking Employees Unions (OTOE) gave qualified approval, noting that the move would create a bank large enough to compete in the international environment but that its success would partly depend on guarantees for existing jobs and employees’ rights. A solution to the social security problem in the industry with the creation of a single fund for bank workers emerges as the basic prerequisite for a successful outcome of the merger. If this is met, along with OTOE’s participation in the merger process, bank workers are prepared to contribute decisively to the success of the effort, OTOE Chairman Dimitris Kouselas stated in an interview on the NET radio station. Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) Chairman Panayiotis Alexakis said the merger helped to improve the climate on the bourse and predicted that more positive news lay in the pipeline. He urged listed companies to proceed to new partnerships and mergers in order to meet the demand of international competition. Union of ASE Shareholders Chairman Dimitris Karagounis described the merger as a tremendous event which ushers in an era of effective maturation in the Greek financial sector. Avlonas said the creation of a national award for quality could encourage companies and organizations to pay more attention to this aspect of business. To date, Greece is the only country in Europe not to have such an award. The adoption of a European business excellence model for the public sector could stimulate interest in the topic.