EURO – Bank employees satisfied, will not strike at debut An agreement between banks and the bank employees’ union OTOE, brokered last night by Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas, has averted a strike during the holidays. Under the agreement, all bank employees will receive a bonus of 450 euros (153,337.5 drachmas) for extra work stemming from the impending introduction of euro banknotes and coins as a replacement for drachmas. The sum does not include overtime pay and will be paid indiscriminately to all employees, not just those directly involved in the transactions, as the employers had wanted. On their part, OTOE retreated from their request for a full month’s salary as a bonus. Earlier yesterday, talks between the banks and OTOE had reached an impasse, leading the union’s executive to call unanimously for a strike. Land Register EU confirms decision to reclaim misspent funds Greece will pay back to the European Union some 58 million euros out of the 104 million provided for the bungled national land register project, the European Commission decided yesterday. A first installment of 32 million euros will be withheld in April 2002 from the funds of the Regional Development Fund specifically earmarked for Greece. The rest will be repaid in 2004; however, if EU experts determine that the project has progressed sufficiently, the sum to be withheld will be smaller. If, on the other hand, they determine that the project is even further behind than the government has already admitted, then the sum to be withheld will exceed 25.9 million euros. Recently, the board of Ktimatologio SA, the agency responsible for carrying out the project, was forced to resign en masse. Kiosk strike Owners protest outside City Hall The majority of Athenian kiosks were closed yesterday as their owners met outside the City Hall to protest against the recent cutthroat decisions of the municipality. Kiosk owners have been riled by the ban on spreading fridges all over the pavement and the new stiff penalties – as much as 543,000 drachmas – they face if they go beyond their allotted territory. They say they will continue their protest unless concessions are made. News strike. The Athens Journalists’ Union (ESIEA) yesterday called on publishers to rescind recent layoffs, threatening protracted strikes otherwise. Journalists working in all Athens media yesterday staged a three-hour work stoppage, from 1 to 4 p.m. to protest against the layoffs. Spongiform tests. Greece will need 1 billion drachmas to finance tests for spongiform encephalopathy on sheep and goats which have been deemed necessary for animals over 18 months old, following a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Brussels this week. Half of the sum will be provided by the EU, according to the Agriculture Ministry which provided the estimate, but Greece, relatively untouched by the mad cow crisis, has not made preparations to conduct the tests on 66,000 sheep and goats in 2002. Traffic police. Traffic police will be out in full force over the holiday period, the Deputy Minister of Public Order Vangelis Malesios said yesterday. Patrol cars will be stationed every 15 kilometers on major roads and traffic police squads every 20 kilometers with unmarked police cars on constant patrol. An extra lane will be opened for traffic leaving Athens before the holidays and returning to Athens in the New Year. Hunting ban. A ban on hunting has been imposed on the whole of mainland Greece (including Attica) and Crete as rare and protected species have been weakened by the recent harsh weather conditions, Agriculture Minister Giorgios Drys announced yesterday. Phone bill reprieve. The Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) said yesterday it would not cut off the telephone lines of customers in debt until January 20, 2002. The purpose of the reprieve is to allow customers to get to grips with the euro, OTE said. Patriarch. Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios yesterday concluded his chairmanship of a interdenominational meeting in Brussels, saying there was a willingness by all parties to cooperate in the common aim of achieving peace through tolerance. The meeting was organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate under the auspices of the EU.