Banks’ social insurance issue still full of sticking points Considerable differences among the major bank groups arose in yesterday’s first tripartite meeting of government, bank and bank employee representatives on resolving the pressing issue of the sector’s auxiliary pension funds. According to sources, the differences concerned mainly the legal form of the proposed single fund for all banks, which the government appeared eager to promote. The representative of Emporiki Bank, which has the largest unfunded social insurance liabilities, urged serious consideration of whether the proposed public legal character of the new fund is compatible with EU law. The representative of the National Bank of Greece, which had raised most of the earlier objections to a single scheme, did not do so this time. There was no discussion on the difficult point of the particular financial contributions of each bank. The Piraeus Bank representative said he will submit a new proposal at next week’s meeting that will contain a compromise among banks. Commission demands return of state aid from Skaramangas Shipyards Skaramangas Shipyards will have to return to the state significant amounts of money paid for staff compensations as part of its privatization scheme in 2002. The European Commission (EC) decided that this money constituted a state subsidy that is incompatible with EU law. To comply with EC rules, the government has added an amendment, on the return of the money with interest, to the bill on manufacturing companies’ permits. The problem, arising from the agreements that the then HDW firm had made with then ministers Nikos Christodoulakis and Akis Tsochadzopoulos over the company’s sale, now falls on the shoulders of the new and unsuspecting shareholders of the shipyard’s owner, the Thyssen Group. Not peachy The Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SVVE) expressed its concern over the US intention to increase the tariff on peach preserve imports from 17 percent to 55 percent as of March 1. SVVE asked the Greek government to intervene immediately to protect peach producers and Greek export activity. It adds that more than 10,000 tons of the product are stocked in factories destined for the US, and such a measure would spell disaster for peach preserve exports that normally exceed 40,000 tons per year. Bulgaria opportunities Greek investment interest in Bulgaria remains strong. Already, most Greek banks and some 700 large and medium-sized enterprises, employing about 80,000 people, have invested there, Greece’s commercial attache in Sofia, Dimitris Zomas, told the Athens News Agency yesterday. Tomorrow, he will present the investment opportunities in large ongoing infrastructure projects in Bulgaria, during a one-day event at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Aspis Pronia-Swiss Life Greek insurer Aspis Pronia and Swiss Life are considering expanding the 17-year-long cooperation, said a press release. At a recent meeting in Zurich, discussion centered on the further development of joint insurance programs, adding to group policies.