In Brief

Bankers seek new ground for negotiations after deadlock Efforts to settle the major problem of integrating and financing bank workers’ social insurance funds have not ended after the deadlock at a meeting of banks and unions on Tuesday, as no one can shoulder such heavy responsibility, Emporiki Bank President Giorgos Provopoulos said yesterday. He said that banks consider certain points of their proposal, including that the unified fund, have the legal status of a public rather than private organization, as non-negotiable. He also noted that the unions are not diametrically opposed to bank proposals, which revives hope for a settlement. Provopoulos said he has proposed a resumption of negotiations on more technical matters. Minimum prices for cigarettes, electronic games return A more balanced pricing of cigarettes is sought by the Finance Ministry, which will table an amendment by the year’s end specifying the lowest and highest price a packet can retail for from January 1, 2005. By charging a specific amount of tax, packets will not cost less than 1.40-1.50 euros or more than 2.70-3.00 euros, ending the current price war among manufacturers. Another amendment will harmonize Greek legislation with European law by ending the ban on electronic games. They will return in specially cabled parlors, electronically linked with the ministry to ensure those who operating games rooms pay their taxes. These amendments will secure some much-needed extra revenue for the 2005 budget and finance the second part of tax reform. Maritime accidents The European Commission yesterday decided to refer eight member states, including Greece, to the European Court for failing to comply by February 5, 2004 to a directive requiring them to improve information systems on the movements of commercial vessels, designed to bolster safety in navigation and prevent accidents from polluting the sea. Separately, the Commission warned Greece for violating Directive 92/106/EC, concerning the institution of common rules for certain types of transportation of goods. MLS Talk & Write Greek continuous speech recognition by computers is now a reality: Its application is the product of cooperation between Thessaloniki-based MLS Multimedia SA and Philips Speech Recognition Systems, allowing users to work on their computer in Greek just by speaking to it without using a keyboard. «MLS Talk & Write,» presented yesterday, is directed at all IT users while specialized applications for specific professional groups will soon be in circulation. MLS Multimedia announced it plans to develop speech recognition products with Philips for other European markets as well. Proodos The board of investment fund Proodos was accused yesterday by Laxey Partners Ltd (UK) of violating principles of transparency and company administration. The British firm, which represents institutional portfolios that own about 25 percent of Proodos, called for the intervention of the Capital Market Commission. It alleged that Proodos has not provided information about its policy and intra-company investments and transactions in its portfolios for the last three years.