Greece’s 2003 budget deficit lower than EU average Greece’s fiscal deficit in 2003 represented 1.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), against a projection of 1.4 percent by the previous government and a 2.6 percent EU average, according to data released by Eurostat in Brussels yesterday. The biggest deficits were in France (4.1 percent), Germany (3.9 percent) and the UK (3.2 percent). The Greek budget showed a primary surplus (revenue minus expenses without debt interest payments) of 3.9 percent of GDP, against a 0.6 percent EU average, while the public debt represented 102.4 percent of GDP – second highest in the EU after Italy’s 106.2 percent. Luxembourg’s was the lowest, at 4.9 percent. Eurostat noted that due to ongoing discussions with Greece’s National Statistics Service, mainly over surpluses by social security funds, deficit and debt data must be considered provisional and may be revised downward. Crvenkovski fears unfavorable resolution of OKTA dispute The prime minister of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Branko Crvenkovski, yesterday reiterated the charge that the sale of a majority stake in his country’s main refinery, OKTA, to Greece’s Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) by a previous government in 1999 was «disastrous» for the public interest. Speaking at a forum in Skopje, sponsored by The Economist magazine, he said his government’s efforts for a revision of certain articles of the agreement have not borne fruit and it is likely that if the issue is led to international arbitration, «the country and the people will pay for a big mistake of the past.» FYROM complains that the sale agreement gave OKTA monopolistic privileges. Power shortages? The Public Power Corporation’s (PPC) labor union yesterday accused the chairman of the Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE), Pantelis Kapros, of scaremongering for warning in a confidential report of possible power shortages during the Olympic Games in August. «Essentially, Kapros wants to reiterate his positions for a privileged entry of private investors in the energy market, being indifferent to the cost this will entail for Greek consumers,» the union (GENOP) said in a statement. Packaging The 9th International Exhibition on Packaging, Equipment, Printing and Storage, «Syskevasia 2004,» organized by Branch Commercial Exhibitions, opens at the Expo Athens center in Anthousa, today and will run until March 22. For further information, tel 210.805.6205 or log on to www.syskevasia-expo.gr. Network training The Vocational Training Center of the Association of Exporters of Northern Greece (SEVE) will implement a new training program for network technicians in Thessaloniki, in collaboration with Cisco Systems’ Networking Academy. The program, which is open to students of secondary and tertiary education, will begin later this or next month and involves 280 hours of training in planning, installing and maintaining computer networks over six months.