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Greece achieved its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it gradually added neighbouring islands and territories with Greek-speaking populations. Following the defeat of communist rebels in 1949, Greece joined NATO in 1952. A military dictatorship, which in 1967 suspended many political liberties and forced the king to flee the country, lasted seven years. Democratic elections in 1974 and a referendum created a parliamentary republic and abolished the monarchy; Greece joined the European Community or EC in 1981 (which became the EU in 1992).
Update No: 067 - (19/11/02)
Greece ranks as the natural leader of the Balkans and the key diplomatic interlocutor of Turkey. The new government in Turkey, of an Islamcist stamp, is keen to re-establish the good relations which have been maintained of late, built up by Greek Foreign Minister, George Papandreou, and his former counterpart, Ismail Cem. The leader of the Justice and Development Party, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, made a point of having Athens as his first port of call.
The Balkans beckon
The Greeks are the one Balkan nation in the EU and the only one in NATO as well. They are also the number one foreign investor in Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria, with a growing role in Serbia to boot.
In the key case of Bulgaria, investments by Greeks are expected to reach US$1bn by year-end, employing 80,000 people. Bulgarians working in Greece send home more than US$150m annually, while Greeks are the second most frequent tourists in Bulgaria after Germany. Serbia is the next big prize along with Romania. In the much smaller countries of Macedonia and Albania, the Greeks predominate by reason of their proximity as neighbours and their knowledge of local conditions.
Greece the magnet
People are coming to Greece in the millions as the most attractive and historic country in the region. The tourist industry was hit by 9:11, but is now recovering in what is of course an off season.
The real prospect for tourism is 2004, when it hosts the next Olympic Games. For the country that invented the Games two thousand five hundred years ago, it is of course a major event. The EU, the EBRD and others are helping to finance the big infrastructural developments required. They include not just the construction of stadiums and marinas, but also of hotels and facilities for visitors that will be there for use after 2004. A big fillip to tourism for the long run can be expected from the Games.
The results of a survey by a market survey company, Pricerunner Research, reveal that Greece has amongst the lowest food and services prices of 13 European countries. This also reinforces its allure as a country to visit. The market basket reached 43.71 Euro in Norway, more than twice the 20 Euro of Greece. But Spain and Portugal are even cheaper, both massive tourist attractions.
Economy on track
The modesty of Greek price levels is due not a little to a successful taming of inflation that has allowed it to join the Euro, which happened in January. But this event paradoxically gave a renewed boost to inflation.
Government statistics merely show it inching up from 3.3% earlier in the year on an annual basis to 3.5%. But the population are convinced that this is nonsense, as prices soared by over 100% recently on some items. Street demonstrations resulted. But prices are still way below those in most other countries of the EU. GDP growth at 3.4% remains highly satisfactory, compared to an EU average of 0.7%.
Greece is assuming the presidency of the EU in the first half of next year, just when South Africa is that of the African Union. An EU-Africa summit is billed for 2003.
Greek president, Kostis Stephanopoulos, visited South Africa, the first Greek head of state to do so, in October, accompanied by a large business delegation. President Mruyelwa Mbeki, is to visit Greece on an official visit in 2003. The development of an Athens-Capetown axis should be the result.
Success against terrorism
One bright spot is that the terrorists in 'November 17,' an organisation of the far left dedicated to killing US and UK personnel and Greek businessmen has been largely and probably fatally broken. Their Athens headquarters has been raided and 16 operatives apprehended and charged.
It is speculated that November 17 may have had 'protection' from certain high-ups in the Socialist party PASOK, ruling Greece for most of the last twenty years. The new mood post-9:11 was fit for a successful prosecution of the campaign against them. The last thing Greeks would want is to be thought as soft on terrorists at this time when they are to host the next Olympic Games.
Lockheed Martin selects Altec for strategic cooperation project
Altec and Lockheed Martin have signed an agreement of strategic collaboration, thus confirming the international orientation and expansion strategy of the Greek company's activities by taking on significant projects in the international market, New Europe reports.
Altec's selection was based on the specialised solutions designed by the R&D department and thereafter completed by the company's Department of Defence Sector, which has been active since 1996. The agreement concerns the design and development of the Integrated Battle Wing Information System. The importance of this work requires high standards and strict processes, as well as top notch technology - criteria that Altec ensures.
The initial phase of the agreement concerns a project that will exceed US$11m, and should be finalised within 18 months. However, possible extensions of the project have already been streamlined. The specialised applications that are developed in the framework of this project ensure the smooth operation and maintenance of aircraft, as well as the total support of the administrative services of Battle Wings.
Prospects presented by this collaboration relate to the installation of Altec's specialised software and the co-exploration of this model with Lockheed Martin for the computerisation of corresponding Battle Wings all across Greece as well as abroad.
With the undertaking of this project, Altec highlights its potential and confirms the accuracy of its entrepreneurial choices made up to now, as well as the high performance of its investments realised in Greece and abroad.
Olympic facilities for international press
A series of modern and comprehensive facilities in Athens will be welcome to 20,000 press personnel from across the globe in the summer of 2004, offering the opportunity to observe and report to their own countries the atmosphere of the Olympic Games. These facilities will be located in the northern town of Maroussi, right next to the main Olympic axis, the Athens Olympic Sports Centre (AOSC). The facilities will accommodate the International Broadcasting Centre (IBC) and the Main Press Centre (MPC). According to the Ministry of Culture, construction work on the press centres is progressing at a satisfactory pace, New Europe reported recently.
The International Broadcasting Centre is to house all the television and radio stations that will provide live coverage of the Olympic Games. It will act as the centre and heart of the Games, as billions of viewers and listeners will be able to watch and hear details of the Games from the programmes the stations will produce there. Costas Cartalis, the Secretary General for Olympic Games at the Ministry of Culture, commented on the IBC, saying, "This building, and the function of it, is one of the key points of the Olympic facilities." Cartalis also noted that the Athens Olympic Broadcasting Organisation will set up operations in the building and will be responsible for the synchronisation and delivery of the radio and television signals of the broadcasting stations that will be granted the relevant rights (Right Holding Broadcasters).
The building is being expanded with two basement levels, with parking facilities for 5,000 cars and a basic ground level with studio space. In addition, a middle level (1st floor) is envisioned for studios and an independent area for offices in the centre of the building constructed over four levels. Completion of the IBC, which spreads across an area of some 64,000 sq m, is scheduled for February 2003. The budget for all necessary construction amounts to 13.3m Euro.
It is expected that in December next year the Main Press Centre will also be completed and fully operational. This facility will function in parallel and in combination with the IBC. The MPC will be housed in a building complex that will be made of the existing HELEXPO exhibition centre - located on Kifissias Avenue, which is in the vicinity of the AOSC - and will include another two new multi-storey buildings. The overall surface of the building complex totals approximately 52,000 sq m, with costs estimated at 43.5m Euro.
This building complex is designed to cater for all the support services of the international press, it will provide all work related facilities for journalists, the International Press Agency, and the International Photographic Agency. Furthermore, it will include welcome and certification areas, halls for interviews, conferences, management offices, as well as food and beverage services.
Surge of interest in new gas pipeline network
A vision of Greece becoming a hub in a pipeline network stretching from the Caspian Se and central Asia to western Europe has stirred international interest in developing the country's fledgling natural gas market, the Financial Times has reported.
The state-owned Public Gas Corporation (Depa) was set up to manage a contract for natural gas from Russia, fed through a high-pressure pipeline to Athens from the Greek-Bulgarian border, as well as he import of liquefied natural gas from Algeria. About 70 per cent of Greece's yearly gas consumption of 2bn cu. metres is purchased by the partly-privatised Public Power Corporation (PPC) to generate electricity at three gas-field plants.
The remainder is consumed by industry, with household use accounting for only a small percentage. Development of the domestic and commercial market has been entrusted to three gas distribution companies, with Depa holding a 51 per cent stake in each.
Two distribution companies in partnership with Etalgas over the Thessaly region and Thessaloniki, while the third cover Athens and the surrounding Attica region with a Cinergy-Shell joint venture as the international partner.
In all three companies, the foreign partner is responsible for management. Next year, Depa will tender for three more distribution companies to supply districts north of Attica and Thessaloniki and the region of Thrace and Easton Macedonia.
The transformation of Greece into a transit country for gas, besides providing pipeline fees, could help develop the internal market which is due to be fully liberalised by 2006. IN preparation, Greece has sought expressions of interest for a 35 per cent strategic stake in Depa. Nine big international energy companies, including Ruhrgas of Germany and Electricité de France has responded.
"We need a strategic investor to support Depa's international role, provide capital and more market experience and also to help increase the market in Greece," says Aristidis Vakirlis, Depa's managing director. Advised by JP Morgan with National Bank of Greece, EFG Eurobank and Kantor management consultants, Depa plans to choose the investor by June next year. Analysts have valued the stake offered at about US$500m.
Depa's other main shareholder is Hellenic Petroleum, the partly privatised state oil group with a 35 per cent stake, while PPC is about to exercise an option on the remaining 30 per cent.
Savvas Seimanides, ofAthens-based network energy consultants, says international pipeline plans make the Depa stake attractive.
He points, in particular, to a contract signed in October with Botas, the Turkish state-owned gas group, to build a pipeline connecting Greece and Turkey across the land border in Thrace. It will involve the construction of 85km of pipeline in north-east Greece and 200km in western Turkey.
"Greece is slowing becoming a significant link in the chain - and international companies would like a say in how the chain is used," says Mr Seimanides.
Greece has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Iran with a view to ensuring additional gas supplies, as well as a joint declaration with Azerbaijan for cooperation in the gas sector.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Intralink inks Iran chemical distribution deal
Intralink SA has signed an agreement with Iran Petrochnical Commeracia Company (IPCC) to distribute Iranian petrochemicals in the Balkans. IPCC is the commercial representative of the National Iranian Petrochemicals Company, Athens News Agency reported. Products to be imported to Greece include chemicals and raw materials for the production of fertiliser and polymers.
Greece ranks No. 1 on list of foreign investors in Bulgaria
The Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister of Bulgaria, Nikolay Vasilev, addressing representatives of Greek companies and banks operating in his country at a meeting held in the Greek embassy in Sofia recently, said the Greek investments to Bulgaria are expected to reach US$1bn by the end of the current year.
Investments made y Greece in the first half of this year amounted to a total of US$72m, thus placing the country at the top of the list of foreign investors in Bulgaria. Vasilev, who revealed this information at the Investment Forum on southeastern Europe held in Sofia recently, is confident of additional Greek investments in the sectors of banking, light and heavy industry and tourism.
The Bulgarian minister and representatives of 70 Greek firms discussed tax systems reforms and priority infrastructure projects, New Europe reported. Vasilev told journalists that he also familiarised the Greek businessmen with his government's plans to set up industrial areas.
Greek data shows that companies boasting Greek involvement secure around 80,000 jobs annually, while bank remittances by Bulgarians working in Greece surpass US$150m.
In the first nine months of the year, a total of 266,458 Greek tourists, 4.9% up from 2001, visited Bulgaria, ranking Greece second after Germany in the number of holidaymakers in Bulgaria.
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