- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2006

European reform

A top Greek official warned this week that Europe must adopt “serious” economic reforms to make the continent more competitive in a global marketplace.

“We need more research and development, efficiency and better coordination,” Christos Folias, the deputy minister for economy and finance, told the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“We need innovative products and services to compete successfully in an increasingly competitive global market. We must also continue to pay attention to our social model in order to finance pensions and health care, to safeguard the sustainability of labor markets and improve our environmental policy.

“In other words, Europe is in need of serious reforms that will boost its competitiveness to higher standards and revitalize its declared goals. Europe is in need of jobs. Europe is in need of competitive educational institutions.”

Mr. Folias also noted that the French and Dutch rejection of the proposed EU constitution exposed a rift in European societies over the future of the European Union.

“Our vision for a political union still lacks the necessary popular consensus and needs to be both re-examined and disseminated to public spheres for an open and productive debate and exchange of ideas,” he said.

Mr. Folias said Greece has learned lessons from globalization and is working to make the country more attractive to foreign investment, including laws to provide grants of up to 55 percent of the total investment from foreign firms and tax-free profits up to 100 percent of the initial investments.

“We aim to support the citizens and enhance entrepreneurship, transforming the state into a force that boosts and does not block any investment initiative.”

Chavez’s outbursts

The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela is calling on left-wing President Hugo Chavez to stop calling President Bush nasty names such as “Mr. Danger” and “murderer.”

“Hopefully in the future, we can express our differences and discrepancies in a manner that doesn’t include rhetoric like ‘donkey,’ ‘drunkard,’ ‘murderer,’ ‘demented person’ and ‘terrorist,’ ” Ambassador William Brownfield told Venezuela’s Televen television station.

“Those kind of words don’t contribute to mutual understanding, and I hope differences can be expressed perhaps without getting into words as strong as those.”

Mr. Chavez also referred to Mr. Bush as “Mr. Danger,” as the tensions between the two countries continue to worsen. U.S. officials have accused Mr. Chavez of destabilizing the region.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington next week include:

Wednesday

• A delegation from Scotland comprising First Minister Jack McConnell; Finance Minister Tom McCabe; George Reid, the presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament; and parliament members Bill Aitken, Scott Barrie, Brian Monteith, Jeremy Purves and Andrew Welch; Alex Salmond and Pete Wishart, members of the British Parliament; and Ian Hudghton, a member of the European Parliament. They will participate in National Tartan Day activities, which include the inaugural lunch of the House Friends of Scotland Caucus.

• Abbas Maleki, director general of the International Institute for Caspian Studies in Tehran, Iran. He participates in a panel discussion on Central Asia at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

Thursday

• Kapil Sibal, India’s minister for science and technology, who meets State Department officials to discuss a proposed India-U.S. science and technology commission and addresses a meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Friday

• French Trade Minister Christine Lagarde, who addresses the Center for Strategic and International Studies about the state of foreign investments in France.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

washingtontimes.com.

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