|Friday, 17 January 2020|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 05-07-12
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>July 12, 2005
 Deputy FM attends 10th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre
SARAJEVO, 12/07/2005 (ANA/N.Melissova)A Greek delegation, headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre on Monday, together with dozens of delegations from Europe and the US.
"The Greek government and the Greek people condemn any act of violence that offends human rights, regardless where it happens," Stylianidis said upon his arrival in Sarajevo, shortly before departing for Srebrenica.
On Tuesday, Stylianidis will be inaugurating the Common Institutions building in Sarajevo, which will house Bosnia & Herzegovina's government agencies.
Construction of the building is financed 80% by the Greek government within the context of the Greek Plan for Economic Reconstruction in the Balkans.
Stylianidis will attend the contract signing and will hand over a check for ¨ 2.5 million to local authorities as advance payment. Greece's total participation in the project will amount to ¨ 13.5 million.
"We are here to express our solidarity and support to the people of Bosnia & Herzegovina and to all Balkan peoples who have suffered in past years, with actions, political programs, initiatives, even funding, in order to support the reconstruction of the Balkans and the establishment of peace and democracy throughout the greater region," he said.
 FM to chair UN Security Council meeting on international peace and security
NEW YORK, 12/07/2005 (ANA/P. Panagiotis)Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis will chair Tuesday's UN Security Council's open meeting on "The framework for maintaining international peace and security, as well as the Security Council's role in handling humanitarian crises." The issue was selected by the Security Council's Greek presidency.
Molyviatis will be meeting UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Wednesday, while he will also be giving a working luncheon for the Security Council's members on Tuesday.
The issues of Ethiopia and Eritrea were due to be discussed during the Security Council members' consultations on Monday and a briefing was to take place on the work of the Independent International Research Committee on the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister.
 Gov't unveils candidacy file for 2012 Euro
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)The government on Monday announced a total of 11 stadiums, eight of which are the primary venues, included in a candidacy file for the 2012 Euro football championship.
The venues include the Athens Olympic Stadium (OAKA), which hosted the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Olympics as well as the Games' athletic events, along with the new Karaiskaki stadium in the southern Athens coastal district of Faliro. The latter serves as the home field of the Olympiakos Piraeus football team and hosted many of the quarter- and semi-final soccer matches during last year's Summer Olympics.
Another four stadiums listed in the bid - Pankritio in Irakleio, Crete; Panthessaliko in Volos, central Greece; the Patra National Stadium in western Greece, and Kaftatzoglio in the northern city of Thessaloniki - also hosted preliminary Olympic soccer matches last year.
Another two primary venues are located in the mainland cities of Ioannina (northwest Greece) and Larissa (central Greece). The three alternate venue sites are located in the northern town of Serres, the well-known Toumba pitch in Thessaloniki, the home field for PAOK Thessaloniki, as well as a sports complex in the under-developed Votanikos district of central Athens -- a facility that is projected as the home field for the Panathinaikos Athens club.
According to the candidacy file unveiled by Deputy Sports Minister George Orfanos, some 115 million euros will go towards upgrading all of the venues, sans OAKA and Karaiskaki. The Votanikos project, meanwhile, is considered as a self-financed scheme, with the state providing only the tract of land.
UEFA mandates the inclusion of a 50,000-, two 40,000- and five 30,000-seat venues. Other criteria set by Europe's top football body are related infrastructure, airports within a close proximity of venues, adequate hotel space and nearby hospitals.
Greece's bid will be submitted on July 21, with three finalists to be selected in December. UEFA will announce the winning bid in December 2006.
Souflias comments on new football venues, expanded park space in greater Athens: A handful of major urban development projects revolving around the construction of new football stadiums as well as increasing green spaces in the highly congested greater Athens areas dominated statements by the relevant public works and town planning minister on Monday.
Among others, Minister George Souflias noted that a new venue for the popular but "homeless" AEK Athens club will be built "near the Attiki tollway", a relatively new, semi-circular highway that stretches from the Elefsina toll station in west Attica prefecture to the Athens International Airport and the Markopoulo township in east Attica. Souflias made the announcement after meeting with AEK president Demis Nikolaidis, a former Greek international striker with the team he now heads prior to a brief stint with Atletico Madrid.
"A reverse countdown has begun. Truly, something good has been located. We met with Mr. Souflias for the first time and we noted that there was a positive mood on the part of the state. After cooperating with relevant officials, we concluded on two sites, one of which is east of Attiki Odos (the tollway) and the other to its west. A new meeting with the minister will take place at the end of July. What's certain is that a stadium won't be built in Nea Philadelphia," Nikolaidis said, referring to potential building sites and the near-Athens district where AEK's home field stood for decades before being demolished.
Additionally, Souflias noted that a metropolitan park will be created in the east Athens district of Goudi -- on the foothills of Mt. Hymettus -- where a group of military camps and warehouses once stood. The same district also features two sports complexes that hosted the badminton and modern pentathlon events for the Athens 2004 Games.
Finally, Souflias, a civil engineer by training, called on officials of Panathinaikos Athens to quickly decide whether they accept a proposed site in the central Athens district of Votanikos for construction of their new stadium. The minister said an affirmative response by Panathinaikos' management will open the way for redevelopment plans centering on the substantial Helliniko site -- a large tract of land in southern coastal Athens that encompasses both terminals and runways of the former Athens airport, maintenance hangers, customs buildings, two airbases (one operational and the other disused), along with a handful of Olympic venues, the most notable being the canoe/kayak complex.
 Greece receives two warnings regarding EU environmental legislation
BRUSSELS, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Greece received reasoned opinions from the European Commission on Monday, following its failure to incorporate two European Union environmental directives into national law.
Specifically, Greece failed to incorporate the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive, whose aim is the assessment of the environmental impact of various plans and programs, such as land use, road construction and waste management.
The deadline for adopting the directive was July 21, 2004.
Aside from Greece, the following EU member states also received reasoned opinions - the final stage before a case is sent to the European Court of Justice: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Spain, Finland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovakia.
According to a commission press release, the SEA "seeks to ensure that national decision-makers examine the environmental effects of plans and programs before approving them. It thereby contributes to better management of finite natural resources and reduces the possibility of environmental harm."
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "The SEA Directive is an important step forward in achieving sustainable development in the EU and gives the public more influence on decisions affecting the environment. The fact that 12 Member States have still not finalized their national legislation is just not good enough."
The second reasoned opinion Greece received on Monday, concerns its failure to adopt a directive aimed at ensuring citizens' access to environment-related information, such as gas emissions' health effects, the results of environment assessment studies regarding the environmental impact of public works, etc.
In this instance too, Greece was not the only member state to receive a final warning. Other member states which failed to adopt the above directive by the February 14, 2005 deadline were: Belgium, France, Italy, Hungary, Spain and Luxembourg.
 European Commission sends Greece warning letter for flouting EU noise pollution laws
BRUSSELS, 12/07/2005 (ANA - V. Demiris)The European Commission has sent Greece a warning letter, the first stage in the procedure for taking an EU member-state to the European Court of Justice, for flouting EU rules concerning the assessment and management of noise in the environment.
The Commission has also sent warning letters to Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Britain for failing to incorporate EU regulations on noise pollution into their national legislation.
Greek Commissioner for the environment Stavros Dimas said that the Commission's goal is to greatly reduce the number of people exposed to high noise levels by the year 2012, while he appealed to the member-states to speed up processes to incorporate the directive on noise in their national legislation in order to achieve this.
Each of the countries has two months in which to reply to the Commission. If they fail to reply, or if their reply is deemed unsatisfactory, then the Commission can then proceed to the next stage of the procedure and send a 'reasoned opinion'.
 Head of Italian parliamentary foreign affairs commission meets with Deputy FM and ND's parliamentary group SG
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis and head of the Italian Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission Gustavo Selvo discussed European Union developments and bilateral relations during their meeting on Monday.
Valinakis presented Selvo with Greece's position regarding EU developments, particularly after the 'no' votes of the French and Dutch referendums for the ratification of the European constitutional treaty.
He also briefed Selvo on issues related to the Greek presidency of the United Nations Security Council and on issues which currently concern the UN.
Valinakis also reiterated the particular emphasis Greece places on the Balkans' European prospects.
Finally, the two officials also discussed bilateral issues and confirmed the excellent climate surrounding the two countries' relations.
Selvo also met with Apostolos Stavrou, Secretary General of New Democracy's Parliamentary Group and also discussed developments in the EU and relations between Greece and Italy.
Stavrou and Selvo re-confirmed the excellent relations the two countries maintain as well as the common views they share on EU-related issues.
Specifically, Italy is opposed to EU enlargement occurring at the expense of the older member states and is pushing for a compromise regarding the percentage of the EU's GDP to be earmarked for structural funds.
Both officials also agreed on the need for peace and stability in the Balkans and emphasized the need for coordinated efforts on an international level regarding the fight against terrorism.
 Macedonia-Thrace minister to visit Cyprus
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Macedonia-Thrace Minister Nikos Tsiartsionis is to carry out an official visit to Cyprus at a date to be set and announced shortly. The invitation was extended by Cyprus Trade and Industry Minister George Lilikas, who visited Tsiartsionis in Thessaloniki on Monday.
The two ministers discussed cooperation between the trade and industry chambers of Cyprus and Thessaloniki and the prospects for joint action in the Balkans and the Middle East.
 Ecumenical Patriarch to meet European Commission president on Tuesday
ISTANBUL, 12/07/2005 (ANA - A. Kourkoulas)Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I departed for Brussels on Monday, where he is scheduled to meet European Commission President Josť Manuel Durao Barroso and European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn on Tuesday.
In his meetings with EU officials, the Patriarch will discuss issues concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek minority in Turkey, as well as issues that have been included in the process of Turkey's adoption to the European acquis.
 Ombudsman's annual report delivered to Coalition party's leader
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)The ombudsman's annual report was delivered on Monday by G. Kaminis to the leader of the Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party Alekos Alavanos, who said that the report is valuable for public administration and the political parties.
Alavanos also said that difficulties existing in the complete implementation of his work must be pointed out and which primarily concern the fact that public administration is not reacting in a positive manner.
As regards references being made in the report to local administration, Alavanos said "the Coalition party believes that mayors and candidate mayors must study a great deal the observations made by the ombudsman on problems facing the citizen in his contact with local administration authorities."
 Event held at Constantine Karamanlis Institute of Democracy on future of united Europe
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)The Constantine Karamanlis Institute of Democracy held an event on "The future of united Europe" on Monday night, while speakers predicted the "freezing" of the European Union's Constitutional Treaty, its conditional further enlargement and the fact that the national field is becoming a crucial sector for solving a series of reforms on whose outcome much will depend for the future of the EU.
Athens University professor Loukas Tsoukalis diagnosed economic hardship in Europe, particularly in France, Germany and Italy. He also pointed to the bad functioning of the EU of the 25, clarifying that problems exist in managing unified policies which he primarily attributed to continuous enlargements and the continuous transfer of powers.
Tsoukalis further said that the main problem is "weak governments", while also ascertaining a more general disdain for politics and saying that "Europe is appearing like something distant which citizens do not understand."
The professor said characteristically that "referendums are not necessary for us to realize the 'distancing' of Europe."
 Greek driver of London bus attacked by terrorists under tight security cordon
LONDON, 12/07/2005 (ANA/L. Tsirigotakis)The Greek driver of the bus attacked by terrorists in London last Thursday has been taken, according to reports, to an unspecified location together with his family and is under police protection since he is a valuable eyewitness who can provide decisive help for British authorities in their investigations as to what happened in the ill-fated bus on the morning of July 7.
Information and descriptions by the Greek driver are considered useful and important since the closed-circuit television system placed in the bus had been out of order for a month and was not operational on that morning.
The British authorities, according to Interior Minister Charles Clarke, fear that a new wave of terrorist attacks might follow in Britain and security measures in London primarily are at the highest degree and at the same level imposed after September 11 in New York.
The newspaper "Daily Mail" published information on Monday, confirmed by former Scotland Yard chief Sir John Steven that Al Qaeda has infiltrated Moslem communities in Britain to such a degree that today, according to existing evidence, there are 3,000 Moslems of British origin who have been trained in Al Qaeda camps and are circulating freely in Europe and are ready to assume terrorist missions.
As noted recently in the British press, they are a new generation of terrorists who have a good education and training and they come from the middle social class of British Moslems, but they are much fanaticized religiously and they are against England for its military presence in Iraq.
 Greece to sign 3.0-bln-euro loan with EIB for port projects
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Greek Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis on Tuesday will sign a protocol agreement with the European Investment Bank for financing a project to upgrade the country's major ports, a deal worth three billion euros.
The protocol will be signed in Luxembourg, the EIB's headquarters.
The merchant marine ministry has estimated that port upgrades will cost roughly six billion euros and has agreed to a loan of up to 3.0 billion euros with EIB at very favorable terms.
The 25-year loan has a grant period of seven years, a low interest rate and does not need the guarantee of the Greek state. EIB's money will cover a wide gamut of projects. The money from the loan will be used exclusively to fund investment programs included in a National Port Policy, drafted by ministry for the period 2005-2015.
The national program was based on individual programs submitted by the country's 12 major ports. The ministry also plans to hold a tender to find a consultant for the project.
 PM and merchant marine minister discuss EIB loan for port and harbor upgrades
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had a meeting on Monday with Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, during which they discussed the imminent signature of a funding protocol for the sum of three billion euros with the European Investment Bank, to be used for developing the country's ports.
Emerging from the meeting with the premier, Kefaloyiannis said the program would help make Greece's ports fit to be gates of entry into the country and would also help maintain the less busy and economically viable ferry lines.
According to the minister, the protocol may even be signed as soon as Tuesday, while funds will first go to the 12 largest ports in the country and then to the rest.
 Development minister refers to activities aimed at publicizing Competitiveness Year
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, referring on Monday to activities carried out or under way to give the widest possible publicity to Competitiveness Year, said that in cooperation with the transport ministry and the Greek Post Office Service (ELTA) two million stamps in Greek bearing the Competitiveness Year sign and 500,000 vignettes in English have been circulated and are available at all the central post offices in the country.
A study has also been prepared on approaching the Lisbon Strategy and a report on Competitiveness during the year 2004.
Sioufas further said that a series of events has been scheduled throughout the country, in cooperation with social and social partner agencies, while the Competitiveness Year's sign is also being displayed outside the building housing the development ministry.
In a related development, the main opposition PASOK party's development, competitiveness and consumer policy sector chief Anna Diamantopoulou said on the occasion of Sioufas's statement on Competitiveness Year that "competitiveness with social cohesion, something that does not exist as a conception in the government, is the great challenge of European countries," adding that "this target requires a plan, program and the achievement of social consensus and not decorative moves and fragmental measures at the same time."
 Gov't, unions fail to agree over liberalization of labor market plan
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)The government and the country's largest trade union, GSEE, apparently failed to find common ground on Monday regarding the former's intention to liberalize the labor market and slash the cost of overtime pay, following a closely watched same-day meeting between Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos and the union's leadership.
The minister, in fact, noted that discussions and talks over the issue cannot last forever, leaving open the possibility that a draft law will soon be tabled in parliament. He also noted that a national collective bargaining agreement is still in force, regardless if he hasn't signed it.
In exiting the meeting, GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos said that no dialogue was possible over demands tabled exclusively by employers' representatives, and especially not with the threat of legislation unilaterally changing the labor regime.
GSEE's refusal with the government's long-expected initiatives apparently is supported by all political groupings represented on its board, according to reports, while a nationwide 24-strike is expected to be announced in the next few days.
Greek SMEs protest against extended shopping hours draft law: GSEBEE, the association of Greek small- and medium-sized enterprises, on Monday announced a series of mobilizations protesting against a government-sponsored plan to extend shopping hours around the country.
The association said that shops would remain closed in the island of Crete on Wednesday, 13 July, while its members would hold a symbolic blockade of road networks in Tempi, Central Greece, Rio-Antirrio and the Korinth Canal.
In a circular to its members, GSEBEE noted the need to intensify protest action and called on regional unions to decide their own actions.
The Development ministry tabled to parliament on Friday a draft legislation envisaging, among others, the extension of shopping hours in the country.
PASOK's Venizelos calls govt's labor reform 'one-sided': Main opposition PASOK MP and head of the political council's labor, social affairs and health division Evangelos Venizelos accused the government of being one-sided regarding changes in the labor sector, in comments he made on Monday.
"In matters concerning labor relations, and particularly length of workdays, the government is taking a 'one-sided and class' approach," Venizelos said.
"It [the government] is eliminating fundamental institutions and guarantees, such as the eight-hour workday, overtime and collective negotiations," he accused, adding that the government has taken no measures to address the major problem of unemployment.
In closing, Venizelos said: "The government has an obligation to respect collective negotiations and to let social partners find solutions."
 Three amendments to government commerce bill
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)The government on Monday added three amendments to its bill on revitalizing the commerce sector.
The changes are as follows:
 Greek merchandise trade deficit eased to 2.285 bln euros in May
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Greece's merchandise trade deficit eased to 2.285 billion euros in May from 2.551 billion euros in the same month last year, the National Statistics Service said on Monday.
NSS, in its monthly report on merchandise trade, said the total value of import-arrivals in May fell 3.3 percent to 3.355 billion euros from 3.463 billion euros in May 2004, while the total value of export-deliveries jumped 16.7 percent to 1.070 billion euros from 917 million euros over the same periods, respectively.
The statistics service said the figures covered only merchandise trade and did not include trade in services.
 Eurogroup to discuss oil, fiscal developments
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Developments in international oil markets and fiscal developments in the European Union would top the agenda of a Eurogroup meeting on Monday evening in Brussels.
Other topics to be discussed were foreign exchange rates, Eurozone member-states' growth rates, an updated Stability program by Portugal and proceedings against Italy's excessive fiscal deficit. Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis would participate in the meeting.
The Greek minister will also participate in an ECOFIN meeting on Tuesday. The meeting will discuss the UK presidency agenda and a plan to boost development aid to poorer countries.
 Govt fines petrol stations with 973,509 euros
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas on Monday signed two new decisions imposing fines, totalling 973,509 euros, to fuel stations around the country on fuel fraud charges.
The fines were imposed after ministry inspections found that the petrol stations' fuel did not meet standards set by the ministry. Speaking to reporters, the Greek minister reiterated the ministry's policy to protect consumers from fraudulous acts. "We protect legitimate trade, encourage healthy business activity, intensify inspections to combat fraud and support Greek consumers," he said.
 ASE suspends trading in Korasidis, Elephant, Themeliodomi, Korinth Spin Mills
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)The Athens Stock Exchange on Monday announced the temporary suspension of trading in Radio Korasidis, Elephant, Themeliodomi and Korinth Spin Mills shares in the market.
The decision was taken after consultation with the Capital Market's Commission. All four companies failed so far to publish their first quarter's results.
 Kavala, Drama to get higher rate of EU funding
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)The northeastern prefectures of Kavala and Drama are to receive a higher rate of European Union funding under a new regional subsidies map.
Moving from the third to fourth zone of the map, the two prefectures are eligible for 45.5%-50.0% funding, up from 33.2%-50.0%, effective until December 31, 2006, the finance ministry said in a statement on Monday.
 Commerce showed growth in 2004, survey shows
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)The domestic commercial sector maintained growth in 2004 on the basis of company results, a survey released on Monday said.
Provisional results posted by a sample of 3,402 commercial SA and limited liability companies tracked by ICAP showed a satisfactory rise in sales, earnings and capital.
The firms' assets increased by 11.3% to total 27.4 billion euros.
The highest returns on shareholders' equity were posted by the automobile sector at 30.3%, followed by the wholesale trade 22.1%, and the retail trade at 16.1%, ICAP said.
 Creta Farm expands activities in pizza market
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Creta Farm on Monday announced that it was expanding its activities in the pizza market introducing three new products, "pizza in Greece", "pizza 0-3%" and "pizza Family".
The listed company also plans investments totaling 8.68 million euros this year, down from 14 million euros in 2004. Creta Farm said it would complete a radical restructuring of operations next August and said its priorities include boosting exports to around 1.0 billion euros in 2005.
The company expects this year's turnover to rise by up to 10 percent, with parent pre-tax profits to rise by more than 20 percent.
 Intralot acquires betting company in Poland
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Athens-quoted Intralot SA has acquired control of Poland's Totolotek, a fixed-odds sports betting operator, through its subsidiaries Pollot and Intralot International.
In Poland's liberalized betting market with sales of ¨ 150 million per annum, three betting companies hold a roughly 33% share each; and Totolotek has a network of about 400 agencies, half of which are owned by the company and the rest managed by agents, Intralot said in a statement on Monday.
The acquisition price was ¨ 3.4 million for payment in three annual installments.
"The acquisition of a dynamic network of agencies in the country (Poland) is a very important factor for Intralot's penetration in the Polish betting market. It will gradually expand the sales network of Totolotek and upgrade its betting operation technological infrastructure," the statement said.
Intralot will contribute know-how to Totolotek's operations.
"This acquisition aims to strengthen Intralot's presence in the global marketplace. The Polish market is a very prominent one and Intralot will contribute to its further development and the expansion of fixed odd betting games", the Greek company's CEO, Constantinos Antonopoulos, noted.
Intralot is a supplier of integrated gaming and transaction processing systems, innovative game content and value added services to state-licensed gaming organizations worldwide. The firm has 31 subsidiaries, seven business offices and 1,500 staff in 28 countries, ranking third in revenue and second in profits among lottery suppliers worldwide, the statement said.
 More Italian tourists to visit Greece this year, Italian magazine says
ROME, 12/07/2005 (ANA/L. Hadjikyriakos)More Italian tourists will come to Greece this year, according to the magazine "Venerdi" contained in "LA Repubblica." This increase is expected to exceed 7 percent, the Greek Tourist Organization's (EOT) director in Italy P. Katsavelos said in a statement and an upward trend exists.
The Italian magazine's report provides comparisons between certain seaside tourist resorts in its country with similar ones located in France, Spain, Croatia and Greece, with regard to services and amenities, while comparative prices are presented at the end.
The report lists the problems faced by the Italian south, since roads have not yet been completed, and notes "our South without roads and Greece with its airports."
 Gov't steps up inspections of ferry boat snack bars
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Authorities stepped up inspections of snack bars and self-service eateries aboard ferry boats servicing the numerous island destinations in the east Mediterranean country, as the all-important summer tourism season is in full swing.
According to an announcement by the relevant development ministry on Monday, inspectors checked 90 such outlets over the past month or so, with six violations recorded.
Authorities nevertheless estimated that the vast majority of vessels' mess halls are adhering to fixed price lists and a standard line of products.
 Domestic consumers spend 7.5 bln euros through Visa in Q1
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Holders in Greece of a total of 5.6 million Visa credit, debit and corporate cards spent more than 7.5 billion euros in the first quarter of 2005, up 29.4% from the same period a year earlier, the company said on Monday.
The number of cards in circulation rose by 7.1% in comparison with the same quarter of 2004, Visa said in a statement.
The steepest rise was shown by the company's debit cards, which surged by 125.3% in the first quarter to total 10.8 million transactions.
First-quarter spending through Visa debit cards jumped by 154.6%.
Gov't reports steep Q1 rise in farm exports:
Farm exports surged in the first quarter of 2005 with sector imports falling tangibly, Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Evangelos Basiakos said on Monday.
Citing provisional data from the Greek National Statistics Service, Basiakos told a news conference that the rise was aided by a publicity drive funded by the government for quality agricultural products.
In the first quarter, farm exports rose by 25% to total 659 million euros in comparison with the same period a year earlier, accounting for 21.9% of the country's overall exports.
A record increase of 63.3% was posted by the foodstuffs and livestock category; beverages and tobacco rose by 16.8%; and oils and fats jumped by 164%, Basiakos said.
 Seaplanes link Corfu with Ioannina
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)AirSea Lines' seaplanes will begin operating regular routes on Tuesday, linking the island of Corfu with the city of Ioannina in western Greece.
According to a company press release, Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis has signed the permit allowing AirSea Lines seaplanes to use the airport at Lake Pamvotida.
AirSea Lines will operate two return flights daily, except Wednesdays, while only one return flight will run on Saturdays and Sundays.
 Thessaloniki gets summer ferry link to Dodecanese Islands
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)A passenger ferry will link the city of Thessaloniki to the Dodecanese islands throughout the summer in a move to ease travel for tourists in the north wishing to visit the eastern Aegean islands.
The Penelope, which has a capacity of 958 passengers, plied the route to Samos, Rhodes and Kos for the first time on Monday. The service ends in mid-September.
 Olive oil trade group welcomes government publicity drive
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)SEBITEL, an olive oil producers' trade group, on Monday welcomed a government-funded drive to promote olive oil around the world.
The campaign endorsed by the finance ministry is targeted at countries including the USA, Australia and Canada.
"This campaign has been sought by SEBITEL since 2003," the group's president, Gregoris Antoniadis, told reporters.
The national endeavor accompanies other programs funded by the European Union that are run by SEBITEL and the Exports Promotion Organization.
 Greek stocks end off highs on Monday
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)Greek stocks ended Monday's session slightly higher as investors took early profits halting an early sharp advance of prices.
The composite index, however, managed to end above the 3,100 mark, at 3,115.41 points, up 0.54 percent. Turnover was a moderate 180 million euros.
The Textiles (7.60 pct), IT Solutions (2.38 pct), Base Metals (1.38 pct) and Construction (1.17 pct) indices scored the biggest percentage gains of the day, while the IT (0.52 pct), Holdings (0.31 pct), Insurance (0.13 pct) and Retail (0.12 pct) indices suffered losses.
The FTSE/ASE 20 index for blue chip and heavy traded stocks rose 0.46 percent, the FTSE/ASE MID 40 index ended 1.46 percent higher and the FTSE/ASE SmallCap 80 index rose 0.64 percent.
Broadly, advancers led decliners by 168 to 98 with another 70 issues unchanged.
 Media study: Domestic political news thoroughly dominate stations' newscasts
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)A recent study by the Athens University focusing on local newscasts shows domestic political developments dominating the "evening news", with "human interest" stories, the crime beat and social welfare issues coming in a distant second.
The results are detailed in a specially commissioned study undertaken by the university's communications department, with content and the "quality" of newscasts in the country of 11 million coming under scrutiny -- part of an overall research project that is expected to continue for a period of between three and five years.
The study took place from Nov. 22, 2004 to Dec. 31, 2004, with 1,878 individual news items analyzed out of a total of 89 weekday newscasts broadcast by the country's eight nationally televised stations (Alpha, ANT1, Alter, ET-1, ET-3, Mega, NET and Star).
With the exception of the devastating tsunami that hit Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean archipelago, most newscasts during this period concentrated on domestic issues, especially political developments. The entire period under scrutiny was nevertheless termed as "usual", with no out-of-the-ordinary news story dominating the local scene.
While all of the eight stations' newscasts focused on the domestic political scene, the greatest emphasis was given by Alpha and the state-run channels ET-1, NET and ET-3.
News items falling within the "info-tainment" category were also prominently featured on many newscasts, according to the study, especially on the Star and Alter stations.
Mega and ANT1, respectively, recorded the most news items generated by those stations' correspondents, in comparison to other stations.
Interestingly enough, the leader of the main opposition, George Papandreou, appeared on newscasts during the specific period much more frequently than Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, the study finds. As far as other political party leaders are concerned, references and stories related to former Coalition of the Left leader Nikos Constantopoulos also appeared on news-casts more frequently during the same period than those related to Communist Party of Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga or the former's successor, Alekos Alavanos.
 Big band nights at Herod Atticus Odeon
Athens, 12/07/2005 (ANA)The music of world-renowned jazz musicians Glen Miller and Duke Ellington filled Athens' Herod Atticus Odeon on Sunday and Monday evening, within the context of the Athens Festival, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
The performance, titled "Big Band Nights: Duke Ellington Orchestra - Glen Miller Orchestra", featured jazz music spanning several decades.
 Greece 'guest of honor' at 2008 Beijing Games
BEIJING, 12/07/2005 (ANA/S.Aravopoulou)Greece will have the exclusive distinction of 'guest of honor' at the 2008 Beijing Games following the request made by Alternate Culture Minister Fani Palli-Petralia and the agreement of Chinese Culture Minister Sun Jiazheng.
Petralia received approval of her request during a working lunch she had with Jiazheng on Monday in the Chinese capital.
The request was made in the context of promoting Greek culture and the Olympic Spirit during the Beijing Games.
The agreement is of particular importance for both sides as it signals the beginning of a new era in cultural relations between the two countries, based on Olympic ideals.
Greece and China will work together in formulating a series of proposals, while the agreement between the two countries is to be signed during Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' upcoming visit to China.
"The agreement is very important and it will place particular emphasis and add a new dimension to the great Olympic bridge we are building between Athens and Beijing," Petralia said.
"We have already agreed on a large-scale exhibit to be held at Beijing's National Archaeological Museum with Olympic Culture as its theme," she added.
On his part, Jiazheng said that, "With Mrs. Petralia's visit to Beijing we are turning a new page in the two countries' cooperation in the cultural sector."
He added that, "With the staging of the Olympic Games in Beijing the Olympic Spirit will spread throughout China. Because Greece is the birthplace of the Olympic Games, for us it is a priority that we borrow from Greece's wisdom. It's natural that the spirit of the Olympic Games is the spirit of Greek civilization, which is why 2008 is the year of the Beijing Olympic Games but also that of Greek civilization."
Additionally, Petralia and China's Sports Minister Liu Peng signed a memorandum of cooperation regarding the creation of a Joint Committee of Olympic Cooperation.
Petralia also met with the Vice President of Beijing's Olympics Organizing Committee Liu Jingmin and other committee officials as well as with officials responsible for the Olympic Torch Relay and the Olympic Truce.