Turkish industrialists drum up support for EU membership Turkish industry leaders in Athens yesterday thanked Prime Minister Costas Simitis for supporting their country’s target to begin negotiations for European Union membership. Earlier, a communique issued after a meeting of the boards of the two organizations, the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) and the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD) said, «The Turkish candidacy for membership must be dealt with on an equitable basis as those of other countries as regards the benefits and obligations.» The two organizations expressed hope that «the simultaneous progress in the harmonization of Turkey with the acquis communautaire and the continuous contacts of all segments of the two societies will contribute to an acceptable solution to the chronic problem of Cyprus.» They also noted that 2002 data showed a clear improvement in bilateral trade after a slump since a high of 800 million euros in 1999. «The trade balance is particularly negative for Greece, and the two organizations believe that measures are needed for improvement. One of these is the completion of the long-pending agreement for the prevention of double taxation.» The TUSIAD visit was the first to an EU capital in support of the process of Turkish EU membership. Arms makers confer ahead of military equipment show Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou called for mergers and partnerships between European defense industries to counter the competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis US armaments makers. Speaking at the third conference of the Greek Association of Manufacturers of Defense Equipment, he said the government was promoting a broad program of privatizations and mergers among Greek defense industries and wished to see an increase in their participation in direct orders from the Greek armed forces from 12 percent presently to 20 percent. The conference was in the framework of the 12th Defendory International show of military equipment, which opens today at the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) complex. DEPA Nine non-binding bids were submitted in the initial phase of the tender for a 35-percent stake in the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), sources said. The bidders are Gaz de France, Spain’s Gas Natural, Italy’s Edison (controlled by France’s EDF), ENI-SNAM and ENEL, Russia’s Gazprom, France’s Elf/Total, Germany’s Ruhr Gas jointly with the Greco-Russian concern Prometheus Gas, and Algeria’s Sonatrach. Maillis Packaging group Maillis said it has completed the merger of UK subsidiaries Samuel and Payne, which makes it a major producer of metal and plastic strapping materials, and is now expecting «a significant increase in our market shares in one of Europe’s largest markets.» The group consists of 38 subsidiaries in 19 countries and had a turnover of 270 million euros in 2001. Attica highway The European Investment Bank (EIB) approved the last, 106.6-million-euro installment of a 998-million-euro package for completion of the west-east Attica highway under construction, which will connect Elefsina with Athens airport and the city center via Mount Hymettus.