Area (sq km)
% of GDP
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: 079 - (01/12/03)
There was a big demonstration in Athens in November that brought out more than 10,000 Greeks to protest against the US's policy in Iraq. They marched past the US embassy. They are certainly representative of Greek opinion generally, which was overwhelmingly against the war in March and April.
The Greeks are certainly not going to be sending troops to Iraq and Greece is not going to be on Bush's travel agenda shortly. Athens lent discreet support all the same to the US by giving it use of several Aegean bases for its aircraft. But as was said by a government source:" please don't thank us publicly."
The Greek presidency of the EU ended in June without the Greeks leaving a major mark. The adhesion of the ten admission countries is going ahead anyway. Fellow Balkan states will have to wait until 2007 at the earliest for inclusion. Serbia and Macedonia will probably have to wait longer. The very success of the Greeks in extracting large aid and credits from Brussels would be put in jeopardy by an undue enlargement so that Athens is not unduly upset. The transition arrangements for the newcomers give Greek olive-tree and citrus fruit growers and grain farmers a reasonable reprieve, but the days of milking the EU for special funds, that in its heyday saw 6% of GDP funded from Brussels, are drawing to a close.
Tourism to be the money-spinner; Olympics the lure
Tourism already contributes 2% of GDP in Greece. The aim is to raise this proportion to 3% at least by 2010. Next year should be vital here, the year when the Olympic Games come back to Greece.
Many initiatives are being taken to widen awareness of the impending games in the EU and beyond. For example, Greek artist Mina Papatheodorou-Valiraki's 'Olympic Games 2004 - dialogue with Art' exhibition was recently opened at the European Parliament in Brussels with great success. The works depict Olympic athletes while competing, including Greek Olympic champion, Costas Kenteris and current MEP, Pietro Menea.
The organisation of the exhibition was an initiative taken by Greek ruling party PASOK MEP, Anna Karamanou. Addressing the display, Karamanou noted that "the works of the Greek artist are part of a wider effort our country makes to host not only the best games ever but also offer something unique such as the bond between sports with art, peace, dialogue, solidarity and human ideals."
The preparations for the games, however, are not being well handled at home. The inveterate Greek habit of starting on a new project before an original one is complete is making it a close-run thing whether all the work will be done in time. This is by May next year.
The country will in all probability have a new government by then. The Pasok party has been in power for much the most of the last twenty years. It is generally thought that it is time for a change, as with the Conservatives in the UK in 1997. Their Greek equivalents, led by opposition leader Papandreou, are well ahead of the socialists in the polls and widely expected to win.
The Elgin Marbles
The one thing that might just help the governing party is if they can persuade their fellow socialists in Britain to 'lend' the Greeks the Elgin Marbles for the duration of the games. A temporary loan would of course become permanent.
But socialist solidarity has its limits, especially where New Labour is concerned. An embattled Blair in the aftermath of the Iraq war is not likely to be that generous. He can always shelter behind the legal fact that the marbles are not government property in the UK, but belong to the British Museum. His friend, Alistair Campbell, the master of spin, would tell him to beware the tabloid reaction at home; "Now he has really lost his marbles."
EBO-Pyrkal merger draft gets principle approval
The bill on the merger between the Hellenic Weapons Industry (EBO) and the Pyrkal ammunition company was ratified in principle in the Greek parliament recently, Athens News Agency reported. Deputy Defence Minister, Theodoros Kotsonis promised that the new company to emerge from the merger between the two previous companies will remain in the wider public sector and the majority of jobs will be retained. He added that the rest of the employees will not be dismissed from their jobs, but incentives will be given for voluntary withdrawal from the company and pensions will be given to those employees who can be pensioned off.
Olympic Airlines tender attracts 12 bidders
Greece's Economy and Finance Ministry recently stated that a total of 12 business formations had "submitted non-binding interest" to buy Olympic Airways, the country's national carrier, as part of a government plan to privatise the company. According to ANA, a ministry announcement said that the privatisation procedure would enter the next stage of submitting binding bids after the government delivers all information material regarding the airline company.
The Greek parliament recently approved a government-sponsored bill envisaging the creation of a new national carrier. Olympic Airlines will replace Olympic Airways and will have exclusive flight operations after the merger between Olympic Airways, Olympic Aviation and Macedonian Airlines. Olympic Airways will be broken into separate autonomous companies, scheduled to be privatised, leaving the national carrier with only flight operations.
The ministry said the interested groups are Wexford Capital LLC (represented by Nikos Vernikos); 7 Group Plc (Azzura Air); Chrysler Aviation Inc; BCI Aircraft, Leaing; Century Aeron Aviation Group; Cuzcatlan Partners LLC; Airline Consultants Consortium; Golden Aviation Holdings SA; Olympic Investors LLC; Westwood Holding; Iberia and the European Economic Development Corp-EEDC (represented by Rodolfo
Fitch raises Greece sovereign rating
International rating agency, Fitch, recently upgraded Greece's sovereign rating from A to A+ aligning its rating with Moody's and Standard & Poor's, New Europe reported. It is noted that S&P raised the country's rating to A+ in June 2003 while Moody's upgraded its rating to A1 last Autumn. According to Fitch, the rating upgrade reflects the progress in the Greek economy, which is growing at a high and sustainable rate. Fitch estimates that the Greek economy does not seem to be affected by the upcoming elections due next spring.
OTE announces new rate note issue due 2006
Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation SA, the Greek full-service telecommunications provider, announced recently the launch on October 29th, 2003 of a 250m Euro floating rate note issue due 2006, by its wholly owned subsidiary OTE PLC under its 1,500,000,000 Euro Global Medium Term note programme guaranteed by OTE, New Europe reported.
The issue price of the notes was declared as 99.971% and they will bear interest from the closing date at a margin of 0.45% above the offered rate for three month deposits in the Eurozone inter bank market (EURIBOR). The net proceeds of the issue of notes will be used to refinance existing debt of OTE.
Moreover, the company pointed out that as the announcement did not constitute an offer to sell or issue, or constitute the solicitation of an offer, the notes were not, and would not be, registered under the US securities Act of 1933, as amended (the "Securities Act"), and may not be offered or sold in the United States or to or for the account or benefit of US persons (as such terms are defined in Regulation S under the Securities Act) unless registered with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission or pursuant to an exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act. There would be no offering of the securities in the United States.
OTE is a provider of public, fixed switch domestic and international telephony services in Greece. In addition, OTE has a number of International investments in the southeast European region and addresses a potential customer base of 60 million people.
Government says okay to energy project savings
Greece's Development Minister, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, recently signed a ministerial degree to approve subsidies for 36 investments in the framework of an EU-funded Third Community Support Framework project. The investments, worth €138.8m, cover projects in energy saving and supporting renewable energy sources, like wind power, small hydro-electric projects, solar systems and others, the Athens News Agency reported.
FOOD & DRINK
Tsantalis seeks grant for expansion
E.Tsantalis, the Greek wine and spirits producer, wants to invest five million Euro (US$6m) between 2004 and 2006 in an effort to increase production. Greek press reports said the wine-maker would use the money specifically to modernise its technological equipment and expand its wine-making factory in Rhodope, northern Greece. In order to raise the money, the company is planning to seek a subsidy under the Agricultural Ministry's Development programme.
Tsantalis produces 18 million bottles of wine a year in seven Greek regions.
Moscow invites Greeks to take part in tourism investments
Russia is looking for Greek partners interested in participating in investments concerning hotel buyouts or construction in Russia, as well as activities regarding the tourist exploitation of old monasteries, Russian Undersecretary of Economic Development and Commerce, Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, stressed recently, whilst visiting Greece's second biggest city, Thessaloniki, The Macedonian Press reported.
The Russian official pointed out the considerable shortcomings in his country as far as tourist infrastructure is concerned (mainly hotels), pointing out that this reality creates the right environment for the activation of foreign investors in the specific sector to cover the existing void.
During a press conference given on the occasion of Russia's participation in the recent Philoxenia 2003 Tourist Exhibition in Thessaloniki, as the honoured country, Strzhalkovsky stated that tourist sector activities had entered a recovery course since the year 2000 for both countries as opposed to previous years.
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