Sharp jump in Greece’s spending on pensions Contributions to Greece’s pension system rose from 11.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1993 to 13.3 percent in 2001, according to Eurostat data. The rise represents an average annual rate increase of 7.6 percent since 1997. Greece and Portugal are the only EU members where such an increase has been recorded. The development, which has lifted Greece from 11th position among the old 15 EU members to third in terms of spending on pensions, is largely attributed to an aging population. Italy and Austria topped the table. Greece ranks first among the 15 in terms of spending on early retirement pensions, which absorbs 22.5 percent of the total. Basle II rules seen to affect global banking and lending rates The high cost of transition to much more sensitive credit risk assessment models, being introduced by the global Basle II Accord on banking supervision, may become too heavy for certain banks, which will be forced to abandon certain market sectors, National Bank of Greece President Takis Arapoglou said yesterday. Speaking at the International Banking Summer School, taking place on the island of Kos, he said the changes in credit risk assessment are bound to affect lending rates which will benefit private borrowers and small firms. Also to benefit are firms with a high credit rating which will have easier access to borrowing, while banks will be able to tie down lower amounts for their capital adequacy. By contrast, firms with low ratings will be forced to borrow from banks that apply less sensitive models, in order to avoid paying higher rates, Arapoglou said. The new rules, which will apply as of 2007, are expected to be announced on Saturday. The European Commission will soon follow with a directive for the phased adaptation of national legislation to the accord. Euro Experts from 14 European countries, including Interpol officials, are attending a four-day conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, on the coordination of the fight against the production of counterfeit euro banknotes. In the last 15 months, Bulgarian police have discovered 24 workshops producing counterfeit euros, dollars, passports and other documents. Tourism Internet provider OTEnet’s www.travel.gr portal displays detailed information on prices and booking facilities for all types of tourist accomodation throughout Greece, updated weekly, as well as real-time updates on arrivals and departures from Athens International Airport. Separately, tourism officials said the ministry is drafting the institutional framework for the development of ecotourism in Greece, starting with 26 areas in Greece’s six Olympic cities. Chipita Food company Chipita International has bought a 15 percent interest in chocolate products manufacturer Cream Line from Emporiki Venture Capital Emerging Markets (a subsidiary of Emporiki Bank), bringing its total stake to 57.6 percent. Cream Line, based in Kilkis, northern Greece, has large market shares in Bulgaria and Romania, where it operates under the Finetti trademark.