In Brief

Commission to table new proposals on common market for sugar In the face of strong reactions from 11 member states, including Greece, new EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said yesterday she will table new proposals regarding the common market for sugar in May or June, with a view to achieving a political agreement by December 2005. Fischer Boel’s initial proposals envisage a reduction in the existing production quota, the abolition of the intervention price, a cut in the institutional price, and one in the price of sugar beet per ton from 27.4 euros to 23.6 euros as of the 2007/2008 period. Greek Agriculture Minister Evangelos Basiakos said the withdrawal of the initial proposals is a positive move, and creates the conditions for negotiations with better terms than today’s. Also on the agenda is the chronic problem of the treatment and transportation of animals destined for slaughter. Basiakos discussed with new Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kyprianou the issue of the threatened referral of Greece to the European Court of Justice over the dismal state of its slaughterhouses. Oil drives up prices of building materials The general price index of construction materials for new buildings continued rising in October, posting a 0.4 percent increase from September, National Statistics Service (NSS) data show. This has brought the yearly change (from October 2003 to October 2004) to 4.5 percent, the greatest in recent years. The rising price of oil brought a 6.4 percent increase in construction machinery fuel prices, while electrical materials became 2.1 percent more expensive. By contrast, the price of ready concrete rose by only 0.2 percent, and that of gravel and related materials by just 0.5 percent. Construction company officials fear that the rise of the index may reach 12 percent if oil prices stay at this high level for a long time. This would mean a 5-6 percent increase in newly constructed house prices. RES licensing simplified The procedure for obtaining licenses to install electricity-producing units from renewable energy sources (RES) becomes simpler and shorter after a circular issued by Deputy Minister for Development Giorgos Salagoudis to all regional authorities. The new guidelines specify the cases in which an amendment of the operating license is no longer required, eliminating the delays caused today. Regional agencies will have to forward files immediately without asking for a new license or approval of technical plans by the Regulatory Authority for Energy. Germanos Phone and accessories retailer Germanos said yesterday nine-month pretax profit after minorities rose 21 percent to 50.1 million euros, in line with market expectations. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 14.7 percent to 58.8 million euros on sales growth of 21.1 percent to 599.8 million euros. Nine-month results, according to Greek GAAP, are not directly comparable with last year’s figures as they include the 24.7 percent stake in Hellenic Duty Free Shops that Germanos started consolidating in June 2003. The company has around 830 outlets in Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland and Macedonia and plans to increase the network to around 1,000 by the end of 2005. (Reuters)