EU ministers back Cyprus, Malta eurozone entry LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – European Union finance ministers (Ecofin) gave an initial green light yesterday for Cyprus and Malta to join the eurozone on January 1, 2008, an EU official said. «The council (Ecofin) has welcomed proposals on Cyprus and Malta’s euro entry,» the official attending the meeting said. The 27 ministers’ endorsement of the Mediterranean islands’ euro entry plans was expected after the European Commission said last month the countries met all economic criteria for ditching their pound and lira currencies in favor of the euro. «We are very delighted with this development. This really represents a significant signpost for us. We are looking forward to reap the benefits of joining the eurozone,» Cypriot Finance Minister Michalis Sarris told Reuters. On July 10, Ecofin will give the applications a final stamp of approval and set the rate at which the Cypriot pound and Maltese lira will be exchanged for the euro. EU leaders will also discuss the issue at a June summit. Industry weakens Greek economic sentiment in May Greek economic sentiment softened in May as weaker business confidence in industry saw the index drop to 110.7 points from 112 in April, the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE) said. Greece’s overall economic climate index is based on business expectations sub-indices covering industry, construction, retail trade, services and consumer confidence. The index remained above its 2000-06 moving average and was significantly improved from a 102.9 reading in the same month a year earlier, IOBE said yesterday. «The decline in the index resulted from a correction of the marked optimism in the industrial sector in the previous month. Conversely, the positive outlook in services and in particular retail trade were strengthened, as did consumer confidence,» IOBE said. Industry’s projections of future output and orders were weaker, with inventories on the increase. Romania crop crisis Romania expects to harvest a four-year record-low wheat crop of 2.9 million tons in 2007, its first in the European Union, due to a prolonged drought, the agriculture ministry said yesterday. The ministry said earlier this year it expected a cereal crop of around 5-5.5 million tons, against 5.4 million last year, when extensive floods and cold snaps damaged around one-third of the Black Sea state’s grains production. «The wheat crop is forecast to fall by 46 percent to 2.9 million tons,» a ministry official handling crop data told Reuters. «Around 165,000 hectares were totally damaged.» Romania put around 2 million hectares under wheat but drought and excessive temperatures earlier this year have slashed yields to around 1.5 ton.s per hectare against 2.7 tons in 2006. (Reuters) Aer Lingus starts flights Irish carrier Aer Lingus yesterday launched a weekly service connecting Dublin with Athens, Athens International Airport said. The carrier will fly to Dublin three times a week.