Finance minister forecasts expansion to remain at current rate Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis forecast that the economy in the second half of the year will expand at a 3.5 percent clip, revising down the government’s previous 3.9 percent annual target. The minister said yesterday that growth in the first half of the year reached 3.5 percent and that this is expected to continue in the second half. PRICE MONITORING Machines in use to crosscheck stores’ shelf and cash register prices Development Ministry inspection teams yesterday began using new portable machines which can crosscheck the prices on supermarket shelves with those charged at the cash register. The ministry said officials are now able to see whether customers are being duped by supermarkets by scanning the bar codes on items. A total of 100 such machines will be put into use. THESSALONIKI RAILWAY EU contributes 800 million euros Greece has secured over 800 million euros in EU funding for improvement work on the Athens-to-Thessaloniki railway line, the Athens News Agency said yesterday. Some 565 million euros will be spent on constructing 54 kilometers of a new high-speed line between Tithorea and Lianokladi, while another 274 million euros will go toward upgrading the track between Athens and Thessaloniki. The work is due to be completed by 2008 and will cut the current travel time of 4.5 hours between the two cities by 40 minutes. Flight delays Four Olympic Airline flights were delayed for up to four hours yesterday due to technical problems and a lack of technical staff on hand, the company said. Worst hit was a flight from Athens to New York, which had been due to leave at 12.30 p.m. Passengers had to wait until 4 p.m. for a different plane before they got off the ground. Czech talk The prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Greece met in Prague yesterday and discussed future EU expansion and the Union’s budget. «We talked about the Union’s budget for 2007-2013… and we agreed that negotiations about the budget should be completed this year,» Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said after the meeting. «The proposal from Luxembourg was not the best for us, but we accept it as a starting point for further negotiations,» Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said. (AP) Gasoline burden The average family budget has been burdened by at least 15 euros more every month since August 2004 due to higher gasoline costs, the Hellenic Consumer Center said yesterday. Given that Greek drivers average 1,250 kilometers per month with a car that has a 1,400cc engine, then monthly petrol costs have now hit 108 euros, from 93.40 euros in August last year. The higher figure assumes that unleaded petrol – which recently passed the 1-euro mark in many parts of the country – is at 0.96 euros per liter. Spectacular chase Police in northern Greece yesterday arrested a man found to be in possession of 90 kilos of cannabis after he drove through four police roadblocks. Police said the man failed to stop at a routine police checkpoint before speeding through another three blocks in Kozani and Kastoria and kept driving for another. The man, who drove on for 6 kilometers even after police had shot out his tires, was eventually caught. Road fatalities Two road accidents yesterday resulted in four fatalities and six serious injuries. Two Cretan youths, aged 14 and 17, were killed when the car they were traveling in along the coastal highway of Iraklion veered off the road and struck a street lamp. Two other passengers, both aged 18, were seriously injured. A head-on collision near Alexandroupolis caused the death of two people while another four were seriously injured. Cub killed A 20-month brown bear cub was found dead at the roadside in Prespes, northern Greece, authorities said yesterday. A veterinarian said the animal had died six days earlier, probably after being hit by a car. There are only an estimated 170 bears in Greece, and their killing is punishable with a jail sentence.