Greece has long way to go to meet standards, EU commissioner says Markos Kyprianou, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said yesterday that Greece still had to make considerable improvements in terms of food safety. «If we are brutally honest, Greece has not yet reached the level that the European Commission would like,» said the Cypriot commissioner after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in Athens. He also referred to a number of «problems that have been outstanding for years,» with particular reference to the fruit and vegetable market in Rendi. Returning immigrants Valid residence permit will not be necessary, police say Immigrants living in Greece who are planning to visit their homelands for Christmas may do so between December 10 and January 31 without fear of being refused re-entry even if they lack a valid residence permit, police said yesterday. However, they must have a valid passport, their expired residence permit and a document certifying that they have applied for a new work or residence permit, police said. Chinese citizens going home for Chinese New Year, in early February, will be permitted re-entry into Greece up until March 15, under the same conditions, police said. Replanting trees Drive on to reforest fire-hit region The process of replanting 10,000-15,000 trees around the area of Kalyvia, east of Athens – hit by wildfires this summer – is set to begin tomorrow with the support of Skai TV and Radio. A number of local schools, environmental organizations and municipal officials have put their names down to take part in the replanting but the process, due to begin at 10 a.m., will be open to volunteers who want to come along and take part. Anyone wishing to participate is requested to bring along some gardening tools if they have any. More information is available by calling 22990.48.332, 22990.48.665 or 22990.47.290/1. Flying high Greece yesterday officially incorporated 15 Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets into its air force in a ceremony attended by Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis and his French counterpart Herve Morin. The airplanes were purchased as part of a 1.2-billion-euro deal with France’s Dassault Aviation in 2000. The agreement includes the upgrading of 10 older Mirage jets currently at Tanagra air base. Pollution rap Prefectural officials in western Attica yesterday closed down a manufacturer found to have been dumping toxic waste in an olive grove in Elefsina. Officials took action after discovering barrels bearing the company’s name, Stak, in the olive grove. Police seized a truck belonging to the company that is believed to have been used to transfer the toxic waste. As for the waste, it has been sitting in the olive grove for two months as municipal and prefectural officials refuse to move it, saying that it is the responsibility of regional authorities. Illegal migrants A group of 26 illegal immigrants were yesterday detained on Leros after being rescued from a boat, believed to have come from neighboring Turkey, that foundered off the island’s coast. Five coast guard vessels and a Super Puma helicopter contributed to the rescue effort. Late on Thursday, coast guard officials on Patras detained three illegal immigrants who had tried to board a boat to Western Europe. Ship collisions A Cambodian-flagged cargo ship collided with a Greek fishing boat off Lesvos yesterday. Also yesterday, a small passenger ship ran aground off Aegina. No injuries were reported in either case. Topi visit The president of Albania, Bamir Topi, is due to arrive in Greece on Sunday for a three-day official visit following an invitation from his Greek counterpart Karolos Papoulias. The two men will meet on Monday morning. Topi is due to meet Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis later the same day.