Cotton – EU decision expected to drop cotton prices to around production In a decision expected to cause strong reactions among restive Greek cotton growers, the European Union yesterday issued provisional cotton prices yesterday that are considerably lower than these promised to farmers by the Greek government. Following protracted haggling, which reportedly included a telephone call from Prime Minister Costas Simitis to Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler, the EU decided to accept Greek claims that this year’s crop reached 1,146,787 tons, but effectively worked out prices as if production were 1,272,934 tons. On Tuesday, the EU had expressed serious misgivings over Greek cotton production figures. Following yesterday’s decision, minimum prices will be about 20 drachmas lower than those promised by the government last week, and will just cover production costs. Earthquake suit Ricomex survivor sues company for 1.2 billion A woman who survived the destructive earthquake that struck Athens in September 1999 after spending 34 hours trapped in the wreckage of the Ricomex factory has sued the factory owners for 1.2 billion drachmas in damages. Evi Sofilou, a clerk with the sound insulation material producer, lost the use of one eye as a result of her ordeal. The case will be heard on February 12. WWII reparations Greece to ratify treaty Greece will ratify an international convention on jurisdiction and foreign judgments signed in Basel, Foreign Minister George Papandreou said yesterday after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and Justice Minister Filippos Petsalnikos to discuss compensation bids by Greek citizens against the German State for World War II atrocities. If Parliament does ratify the convention, which is seen as crucial to the standing of such cases, it will not apply retroactively. Trolley strike. Athens trolley bus drivers will hold a four-hour strike from 11 a.m. today, in order to attend a union meeting. Ministers meet. Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou met yesterday to discuss EU common foreign and defense policy, Greek participation in Balkan peacekeeping missions and developments in Afghanistan. Grounded. A Boeing 737 passenger jet belonging to Axon Airlines, a private Greek company, was released for service yesterday by Athens airport officials who had kept it grounded for over a day on instructions from Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority (YPA) because the company allegedly owed money to the airport. Axon is one of the two companies bidding for a majority stake in Olympic Airways High-risk investment. A Postal Savings Bank employee on the island of Thasos is being investigated on suspicion of having embezzled some 20 million drachmas from savings accounts, sources on the island said yesterday. The 40-year-old man, whose name was not made public, allegedly used the cash to play the stock exchange. Contraband haul. Police in northern Greece yesterday morning confiscated a lorry carrying 250,000 packs of contraband cigarettes. The driver, who drove through a police checkpoint, managed to escape on foot after abandoning the vehicle on the road between Thessaloniki and Nea Moudhania. Tax returns. Tax authorities yesterday posted the last batch of tax returns for correctly compiled tax declarations. Taxpayers who do not receive them should visit their local tax authorities, as the only outstanding returns concern declarations found to contain serious mistakes. So far, 4,799,932 tax declarations have been processed. Euro cruise. Sixteen navy ships will carry out a series of visits to a total of 52 islands and coastal towns between December 3 and 20 to brief local inhabitants on use of the euro, the Ministry of Defense said yesterday. Petrol station robbery. A young man stole a plastic bag containing 14 million drachmas yesterday morning from the owner of a petrol station at Aspropyrgos, on the national road from Athens to Corinth. Michalis Georgariou, 54, said the thief had been lying in wait for him, and ran away on foot.