NEWS

Clean slate for register

Vasso Papandreou, in the presence of Costas Laliotis whom she succeeded as minister of the environment, planning and public works, yesterday accepted the resignation of the board of Ktimatologio SA, the state-run company handling the land register project that Laliotis had defended strenuously over the past months. This was the second time that Ms. Papandreou seemed to show up the present PASOK general secretary (following her declaration earlier this month that some of the Olympic projects the ministry had undertaken would not be ready for the 2004 Games). Thus, in one clean sweep of the company’s administration, Papandreou is trying to absolve the government of political responsibility, by pointing the finger of blame at its seven-member board. The work of Ktimatologio SA has been plagued with problems and has prompted criminal charges and embarrassed Greece at the European Union. Last month, before the Cabinet reshuffle, Laliotis declared that the prosecutor who had filed corruption and fraud charges against officials of the company had to prove that he was not working in cahoots with the opposition New Democracy party, a statement which prompted judicial officials to say they such attacks would drive them to have recourse to international and EU bodies. Laliotis yesterday said nothing. Prosecutor Giorgos Gerakis came under heavy fire from Laliotis after he pressed charges on September 28 against the board of Ktimatologio SA as well as top officials in two of the contracting companies. The original 44-billion-drachma budget, to which the EU contributed 75 percent, for a pilot scheme involving a fraction of the register has more than doubled since 1994, while only a quarter of the envisaged work has been completed. This prompted EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier to say that Brussels will seek back a substantial part of the funds. Yesterday’s development also allows Papandreou to be seen as having shed the sins of the company’s past in her December 12 meeting with Barnier and Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom. The European Commission will make a final decision on whether to seek the reimbursement of the funds on December 20. Irrespective of the Commission’s decision, the government has earmarked 21.9 billion drachmas from the 2002 budget, in the form of a capital increase for Ktimatologio SA. Flood prosecutions. The public prosecutor has issued charges against all those responsible, through negligence, for the recent flooding in eight areas of Attica, the Athens News Agency reported yesterday. The charges are directed at all those who implemented either incomplete measures or none at all. Apart from Attica, five areas of Oropos were affected, two at Marathon, as well as the national highway at Malakasa which was swamped with debris from a nearby construction site lacking a protective barrier.