EU to decide on fiscal rules as gov’t is facing spending overruns The European Union summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday is to adopt its final decisions on a proposal by Germany, Italy, Poland and Greece that enforcement of the fiscal rules of the Stability Pact not be strengthened in the EU Constitution. The four countries have asked that the present system, whereby a minority of countries suffice for the Commission’s recommendations in respect to members’ fiscal situation not to become mandatory, be maintained. A Commission «proposal,» as envisaged in the Constitution, would require unanimity for it to be rejected. On July 5, Greece is to be formally added to the list of countries, including Germany and France, which have violated the pact on account of having exceeded the 3 percent of GDP ceiling for fiscal deficits. According to reports yesterday, ministers are facing serious public expense overruns related to Olympic projects and social spending commitments made by the previous government. Ferry operators say they are free to decide fare increases The Greek Coastal Shipowners Association (EEA) yesterday issued a strict open warning to the Merchant Marine Ministry to avoid any penal or administrative proceedings against any of its members over increased fares, threatening that this would lead to collective action. EEA said in a statement it «insists on its permanent position that after the end of regulation on January 1, the system for free provision of services and competition applies, always in the framework of national and Community legislation.» It called on its members to have their fare increases reflect operating costs and the particular characteristics of routes. The ministry maintains that for social reasons it reserves the right to impose a ceiling in economy-class fares. Speaking in Parliament recently, Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis warned about 300 ferry operators that any unilateral increases were against the law. In its statement, EEA urged its members to also take into account, beyond the purely economic criteria, the social repercussions of fare increases. Natural gas The European Union’s Energy Ministers Council yesterday approved for priority funding the construction of a natural gas pipeline running from Greece to Slovenia through the western Balkans, and downgraded a proposal for a pipeline from Italy to Bulgaria. It also expressed funding interest in two liquefied gas terminals on Crete and mainland Greece. Further, it referred to a Greek proposal to ECOFIN for a temporary cut in the special fuel consumption tax during the August Olympics. American Bank of Albania The American Bank of Albania, based on a US foreign policy initiative to foster private enterprise in the former communist countries, yesterday launched its first branch in Greece (44, Emmanouil Benaki, Athens). «There is a dynamic relationship between Albanians in Greece and their families back home, and we want to offer them efficient, transparent and legal movements of capital and transfers,» the bank said. It also offers mortgage loans for up to 25 years and Web banking (www.albambank.com).