ECONOMY

In Brief

Minister blames predecessors for EU probe into Olympic Airlines Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis yesterday charged the previous government with accumulating debts of more than 3 billion euros in the process of reconstituting Olympic Airways (renamed Olympic Airlines) with a view to privatizing it, leading the European Commission to order a probe into the legality of the scheme. «We are forced to follow Community directives for OA’s privatization, but also to safeguard the national interest, including that of the employees,» he added. Separately, Liapis’s predecessor, Christos Verelis, sniped that EU Commissioner Loyola de Palacio’s recent order for a second round of auditing of OA, aimed at ensuring that the carrier became operational without any indirect state subsidies, has been heavily influenced by competitors’ complaints. «The aim of such complaints possibly is, through this process, to force OA into bankruptcy and gain its business,» Verelis said in written statement; an additional aim could be to block the privatization of the airline which has been under way through talks with credible investors, as a judicial resolution of the dispute between the Greek government and the Commission over state support could take months or even years, he said. Verelis noted that Greek courts have provisionally approved the previous government’s handling of OA privatization. New GSEE council to elect president and executive board General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) President Christos Polyzogopoulos is expected to be re-elected today by the newly constituted, 45-member administrative council of the umbrella organization. In the new GSEE council, which was elected during its weekend congress, the main opposition PASOK party-affiliated grouping (PASKE) lost one member but remained the largest with 21 members, while the ruling New Democracy’s affiliated DAKE grouping increased its strength by two members to 11. The Communist sympathizers (DAS) elected 10 members. PASKE said in a statement that the 45 percent of delegates’ votes it received was «a mandate for continuing the policy based on the autonomous strategy of the labor union movement.» The council will also elect a new executive board. Tourism Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos told Parliament the new government will pursue deep changes so that the industry, «after decades of delays is upgraded into one of the top priorities of growth policy.» He said he will table relevant proposals in about two months’ time. Pharmacies The Bank of Cyprus has launched its SmartPay program, which automates pharmacies’ economic transactions with personal care products firm Johnson & Johnson. Theon Sensors High-tech firm Theon Sensors said it won a $4 million contract with Australia’s Tenix Defense Pty, to supply 350 periscopes for the country’s M113 AS multipurpose army vehicles.