In Brief

Athens airport sets new ‘Olympic’ record in 2004 Last year was a record year for the Athens International Airport (AIA). Boosted by the summer’s Olympic Games, the airport was used by a record 13.7 million passengers departing or arriving on 191,000 flights, up 11.5 percent compared to 2003. Domestic passengers rose by 17.1 percent, reaching 5.1 million. International passengers posted an all-time record, numbering 8.5 million. The greatest increase came from America, the Middle East and Africa. London remained the most popular destination, followed by Larnaca and Paris. The most popular domestic destinations were Thessaloniki, Iraklion and Rhodes. AIA added six new destinations abroad and seven new airlines, becoming the third fastest-developing airport in Europe, according to the International Airport Council. Bulgaria’s opposition leader would keep currency board SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria should keep its currency board in its present form until 2009, when the EU aspirant aims to adopt the euro, opposition Socialist Party (BSP) leader Sergei Stanishev said in weekly Capital yesterday. But he stopped short of a full guarantee, saying that if the BSP took power in summer elections, the party would still have to agree on exactly how to deal with what is the bedrock of stability for the Balkan state’s economy. Leading opinion polls ahead of a general election expected in June, the BSP appears well placed to supplant the centrist government of ex-king Simeon Saxe-Coburg. Analysts and investors are watching the party for policy signals ahead of the vote after its last term in power ended with the 1996-97 financial meltdown that brought Bulgaria’s economy to its knees. «The currency board should be kept in its present form until 2009 when we join the eurozone,» Stanishev told Capital in an interview. «This is my personal opinion, and that of most of the experts I’ve discussed this with.» Last Sunday, Stanishev told Reuters the party would keep the regime that pegs the lev currency at 1.9557 to the euro at least until Bulgaria joins the EU, expected in 2007. He declined to specify whether that also included keeping the regime intact in the two years Bulgaria must spend in the ERM-2 waiting room ahead of euro adoption. A currency board prevents a country from issuing more notes and coins than can be matched by its holdings of foreign currency, and thus acts as a deterrent to inflation caused by printing too much money. Evrobank Piraeus Bank is reportedly very close to acquiring Evrobank, Bulgaria’s 16th largest. Piraeus, which already has a subsidiary in Bulgaria with 16 branches and controlling 2.5 percent of the market, is expected next week to finalize the deal, worth about 40 million euros. Evrobank has 40 branches and controls about 3 percent of Bulgaria’s market. Expo The hotel and tourism exhibition «Xenia 2005» will be held from January 28-31 at the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) exhibition center, aiming this year at showcasing the modernization of Greek tourism. A series of events will be held concurrently with the exhibition, which is under the auspices of the ministries of Tourism Development and Merchant Marine, and the Greek National Tourism Organization.