Government pledges to revive Balkans assistance program Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis told a Greek-Serb business forum yesterday that the government would revive the stalled Greek Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans, a program with a planned budget of 550 million euros, more than half of which targeted Serbia and Montenegro. «The implementation of this plan has been delayed for several reasons, but our position is not to look into the past but to the future,» Stylianidis told an audience of businesspeople and government officials. Greek-Serb trade has more than doubled in the past five years and Greek investment in Serbia exceeds 700 million euros. PPC joins EEX energy exchange, plans to export energy to Germany FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The German EEX energy exchange has expanded its list of Southeastern European members, signing up the first Greek company and another Slovenian firm to deal in its spot electricity market, the bourse said yesterday. The two are Greece’s leading power utility Public Power Corporation SA (PPC) and Slovenia’s Istrabenz-Gorenje. «Handing out a license to the first trading participant from Greece is a further step to strengthen the link with the Eastern and Southeastern European markets,» an EEX statement said. Christos Poseidon, Public Power Corporation’s director of energy management, told Reuters that Public Power Corporation was planning mainly to export electricity to Germany. «We did not join the spot market to speculate. We joined as a Greek generator,» Poseidon said in a telephone interview, adding that Public Power Corporation had not yet started trading. European electricity trading is expanding as wholesale markets have overcome earlier credibility risks and as bourses standardize products, a consultancy report said last week. Germany, continental Europe’s leading power market, last year traded 2,500 terawatt hours (TWh) of which 2,100 were in the OTC market and 400 TWh on bourses. The volume was equivalent to five times the underlying physical demand of 500 TWh. Traders forecast an overall volume rise to 2,500-3,000 TWh this year and possibly approaching 3,000 TWh in 2005. Rising sales Retail sales in July rose 7.8 percent compared to the same month last year, data from the National Statistics Service showed yesterday. The average rise in the first seven months of the year has been 7.3 percent and is due to rises in the sales of big supermarkets (10.1 percent), hypermarkets (8.3 percent), bookstores and stationery stores (8.3 percent). On the other hand, clothing and footwear stores have seen their sales increase by an average of 3.6 percent. Illegal trade Sales from illegal trade amount to 1.2 billion euros annually, or about 30 percent of total trade, according to Sotiris Magopoulos, president of the Thessaloniki Chamber of Artisans and Merchants. Magopoulos said small and medium-sized enterprises are facing problems even of survival because of illegal trade and called for a crackdown by authorities.