NEWS

In Brief

NAFPLION SUMMIT

Protests planned for today as EU ministers discuss jobs and health Two thousand police officers will be on standby at Nafplion today to tackle scheduled anti-globalization protests this evening, on the second day of an informal meeting of EU labor and social affairs ministers. At yesterday’s summit launch, Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas said Europe’s employment strategy should be better coordinated with the economic policy of member states. Boosting employment should be the key focus of European economic policy until 2010, General Confederation of Greek Workers’ President Christos Polyzogopoulos noted. European Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou stressed the need to improve the quality of the welfare state in view of an aging world population. INTEREST RATES Supreme Special Court to rule on state debt repayment The Supreme Special Court is to arbitrate between the Supreme Court and the Council of State over conflicting decisions as to whether the State should be allowed to pay a lower rate of interest than citizens when repaying its debts, court sources said yesterday. The Council of State ruled that the State paying back its debts at a rate of 6 percent – instead of the rate of 11.25 percent imposed on citizens – is unconstitutional and violates human rights. But the Supreme Court had ruled last November that a privileged interest rate for the State was constitutional. KALAMATA OLIVES ‘Unfair Turkish competition’ Greek packaged olive exporters yesterday asked the Agriculture Ministry to intervene in what they called unfair competition from their Turkish counterparts whom they accused of exporting locally produced goods carrying the title of Kalamata olives. The intense competition from Turkey coincides with a drop in demand for Kalamata olives, the Panhellenic Union of Packaged Olive Exporters said yesterday. Rome recants Comments this week by Italian Deputy Interior Minister Alfredo Mantovano, who accused Greece of taking no measures to prevent illegal immigrants from leaving its shores for Italy, are «by no means the official position of the Italian government,» a Greek Foreign Ministry statement yesterday quoted Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Roberto Antonione as telling his Greek counterpart, Andreas Loverdos. A meeting between the two yesterday focused on fighting illegal immigration. Foreign council Legislation for the establishment of a cross-party National Foreign Policy Council to advise the government on foreign affairs was tabled in Parliament yesterday. The collective advisory council – to be headed by Foreign Minister George Papandreou – would comprise two members of all political parties represented in Parliament, the Foreign Ministry’s general secretary and the president of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, among others. The council would meet every four months and the subject of its debates would be confidential. No credit Athens pharmacists will start charging state-insured patients full price for medicine subsidized by the State from March 1, despite yesterday’s assurances by the Economy Ministry that outstanding payments would be made over the next few days, unionists said. Even if the State repays all its debts by March 1, pharmacists will stop giving medicine on credit until June 1 to ensure the government does not make a habit of late payments, Attica Pharmaceutical President Constantinos Lourantos said yesterday. Quake forecasts Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou yesterday criticized «rivalry» between seismologists offering conflicting forecasts regarding the eventuality of an earthquake in western Greece over the next few years. «We would be very happy if it were possible to predict earthquakes, but that has not been achieved to date,» Papandreou remarked. «Every ordinary citizen could come out and say there will be an earthquake over the next two or three years. That’s hardly a prediction.»