ECONOMY

In Brief

Greece to raise issue of impact of high fuel taxes on EU competitiveness Deputy Development Minister Giorgos Salagoudis yesterday repeated that Greece will ask the EU to approve a possible cut in the fuel special consumption tax, so that it may have the flexibility to reduce it if necessary during the Olympic Games in August. He said the proposal, to be submitted at the forthcoming Energy Ministers Council in Luxembourg, will be part of a broader issue it will raise, concerning the erosion of European competitiveness due to the high energy taxes firms have to pay in comparison to those of US and Japan. «If the proposal for a tax cut is not endorsed, we may have to revise the Lisbon target of leading global competition by 2010,» Salagoudis said. He said the responsible Commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, has been notified of the proposal and seems prepared to endorse its consideration at the highest level. Earlier, Salagoudis warned fuel-marketing companies he would «use other means» if they failed to bring down the cost of fuel at the pump in line with falling international oil prices. «We must break the rule prevailing in Greece that ‘what goes up does not come down’,» he said. Separately, the Competition Commission imposed fines totaling 218,300 euros on six gasoline stations for harmonized price practices in 2002. SDOE plans major operation against tax evasion in the tourism sector The Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) plans to carry out more than 12,000 inspections of firms in the tourism sector in the July-September period, sources said. These will include souvenir shops, charter flight companies and cruise boats – given that illegal fuel distribution has assumed rampant dimensions in recent years. The islands of Zakynthos, Rhodes, Corfu, Kos, Myconos and Santorini will be given priority. SDOE will also target nightclubs and artists’ contracts. Eurobank The General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) yesterday charged EFG Eurobank Ergasias with attempting to instil a climate of insecurity among members of its staff, with a view to forcing them accept conditions in violation of existing labor regulations. GSEE said in a statement the bank refused to revoke a number of layoffs of protesting staff, and called on the government to force it comply with the law. The bank described charges of blackmail as ridiculous, GSEE said. Motor Oil Refining firm Motor Oil’s 350-million-euro investment program for the 2003-2005 period will enable the company to produce environmentally friendly fuels according to EU specifications as of next year and increase the production of diesels and kerosenes which are in short supply in Europe, officials said at a presentation yesterday. The program, to be mainly financed through a 275-million-euro bond loan, is also aimed at reducing environmental emissions. The refinery at Aghioi Theodoroi near Corinth was linked with the natural gas network last year, which will make possible the production of hydrogen and electric power. Motor Oil is Greece’s second largest refiner, with a market capitalization of 848.6 million euros.