ECONOMY

Kroes puts her foot down on competition lapses

Visiting European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes yesterday appeared adamant that Greece should tidy up its act over a number of outstanding issues. Kroes was said to have made it clear to Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis that extraordinary tax-free reserves granted to enterprises under the previous government for 2003 and 2004 must be returned, as they were illegal and constituted adulterations of competition. The issue concerns about 4,000 enterprises but is serious for about 200 large ones, which based their financial plans on legislation voted in by Parliament. Alogoskoufis indirectly acknowledged the problem afterward, referring to «past problems originating in legislation that was not fully compatible with the spirit of competition.» Kroes also raised with Alogoskoufis the issue of state support to the Hellenic Shipyards at Skaramangas, where the return of a sum exceeding 200 million euros is demanded for the period 1996-2002. Alogoskoufis promised to speed up sending a full file on Skaramangas to Brussels. The meeting also dealt with issues relating to charges of cartels in fresh milk and fuels that have recently been aired. «We consider that the effect of cartels on the consumer is criminal,» said Kroes, adding that the Commission aimed at neutralizing them. The commissioner said Brussels was taking a favorable view of the newly set-up supplementary pension fund for bank employees which made a major contribution to the settlement of social insurance problems in the sector and the privatization of Emporiki Bank. Kroes is due to speak before Parliament’s Commerce Committee today.