Southeastern Europe moves toward adoption of common energy rules Countries of Southeastern and Central Europe, including all Balkan nations, Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Moldova and Turkey, yesterday signed in Athens a memorandum of cooperation in the development of the region’s energy market, committing themselves to instituting common rules in the production, transportation and distribution of electric power and natural gas, and to introducing rules concerning market organization and operation according to EU directives. The memorandum also provides that non-EU states appoint an independent energy authority, fully autonomous of business interests, to exercise regulatory power in the two sectors. Harmonization with the above provisions must be effected by July 1, 2005. Separately, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos signed two protocols of cooperation with Syria in the fields of energy, and research and development, respectively, during a weekend visit to Damascus. The two countries are to cooperate in hydrocarbon exploration and production in Syria. Foreign investors increase interest in Greek stocks Foreign investors increased their share in the Athens Stock Exchange’s (ASE) total capitalization to 30.80 percent at the end of November from 29.91 percent a month earlier and 28.65 percent on December 31, 2002. Foreign institutionals held a share of 17.24 percent, while Greek private investors accounted for 30.20 percent. By the end of November, 99,684 trading accounts in ASE had been opened this year and 3,006 had been closed, bringing the total to 2,319,344. Greek business diaspora The Foreign Ministry, the Exporters’ Association of Northern Greece (SEVE) and the Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) are holding an event on «Business Networking of Expatriate Greeks» in Thessaloniki tomorrow and Thursday. «It is time we found ways of networking all Greek business people, both at home and abroad, so as to enable the Greek economy to better tap this potential,» said SEVE President Evgenios Plalis. The event will include the «matchmaking» of expatriate with local Greek business people and presentations on four of Greece’s main economic sectors – tourism, new technologies, foodstuffs and construction. The initiative also aims to boost Greek exports and facilitate joint investments in Greece and its Balkan neighbors. Gov’t bonds The average yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds narrowed to a historic low of 11 basis points in November from 13 in October, the Bank of Greece said yesterday. Government bond prices fell as economic data continued to provide evidence of a pickup in global growth, suggesting higher yields in the future. Volume fell to 70.07 billion euros last month after surging to an all-time high of 79.52 billion in October. Employment improves The number of new hirings rose 12.1 percent to 126,000 in October, while layoffs were up 5.4 percent to 96,900.