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GREECE


 

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq km)
130,800

Population 
10,623,835

Capital 
Athens

Currency 
Drachma 

President 
Costas 
Stephanopolous

Private sector 
% of GDP
over 60%

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Background:
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: 072 - (17/04/03)

EU presidency
There could not be a more sensitive time for the Greeks to hold the revolving EU presidency. They have comported themselves well so far, even if they failed to effect a compromise between the EU of 'old Europe' and that of 'new Europe' over Iraq, let alone between the former and the US.
At grave crises in the West's history the Greeks always seem to be present in a prominent manner. Its very origin in modern guise came in 1830-34, when the UK and France buried the hatchet once and for all, agreeing to the independence of Belgium from Holland in 1830, the liberation of Greece from Turkey by 1831 and the Quadruple Alliance of both countries with constitutional monarchies in Spain and Portugal. Tallyrand, French ambassador to London at the time, and Palmerston were the chief architects of a new Franco- British co-unity of nations on the Atlantic Shore of Europe, plus the low countries, over against the autocratic powers of the Holy Alliance, Russia, Prussia and Austria, but with Greece as a suitable Mediterranean outpost, the cradle of European civilisation, the home of the classical West of antiquity. 
Today what is at stake is the cradle of human civilisation itself, Mesopotania, with Greece in the forefront of international diplomacy. The Greeks are themselves on neither side of the controversy, although they have a traditional affinity with Russia. But this is tempered by the fact that Moscow backed the communist side in the Greek civil war of 1944-47, the first battle fought in the Cold War that saw the modern West reach fruition and adulthood after Churchill's rousing address at Fulton in January 1946. The UK and US intervention he helped to organise at the instigation of Queen Frederika of Greece tipped the balance in favour of the nationalist cause and led to the Truman Doctrine of 1947, pledging US protection of Greece and Turkey against Soviet designs upon them. When the crunch comes, the Greeks tend to give up flirting with the Russians and come down on the US side, where indeed their true interests lie.

Rounding up November 17
This is particularly appropriate today because a far leftist terror organisation, November 17, is being finally dissolved, 19 of its leaders being put on trial in Athens, where its headquarters has been busted. The operation could not have been more timely, coming after 9:11 and showing Greek police in a better light than previously when they appeared unable to make headway against the terrorists. The complicity of rogue elements in the police with the miscreants was widely suspected. That is now a thing of the past, if it ever existed.
Revealing evidence that high-up figures in Greece's business establishments were implicated in buying off the terrorists has been coming in at the trial. There is now the chance of a new deal, encouraging the return of Greek tycoons who left Greece from 1975 onwards, prominent figures among their numbers being victims, as well as US and UK security people resident in Athens.
The Olympic Games in 2004, to be held in Greece, gives it an opportunity to create a new international profile, a far more favourable one than prevailed in the 1980s and 1990s, plagued by terrorism and tarnished by its pro - Moscow foreign policy antics. The Greeks are coming into their own.

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AVIATION

Transport minister inaugurates second phase of limited demand route programme


Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis has inaugurated the second phase of the limited demand air route programme with reduced fares in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, Athens News Agency has reported. 
Speaking during the event, Verelis announced that his ministry is orientated towards linking Thessaloniki by air with cities in southeastern Europe and the Black Sea with ticket subsidisation. 
The second phase of the programme anticipates the incorporation of 12 destinations from Athens, Thessaloniki and other regional cities with 70 flights and 1,500 bookings a week. 
''Benefits will appear for local regions and their wider areas with the implementation of this considerable programme, since their continuous and unimpeded air linkage with a low fare will be established which will contribute to the handling of the islands' social and economic isolation,'' Verelis said. 

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CONSTRUCTION

IOC top official pleased with progress at Schinias site

A high-ranking IOC inspection team continued its crucial visit here in early April by visiting a handful of under-construction venue sites, including the Schinias complex, the Athens News Agency has reported. 
"We are very much impressed by the progress. Schinias was one of the venues where we had difficulties," Denis Oswald, who heads-up the IOC team, said after a brief tour of the Shcinias site. The venue, east of the Greek capital, will host the 2004 Olympic Rowing and Canoeing/ Kayak flatwater competitions. 
Earlier, the IOC team had inspected the Markopoulo shooting and equestrian venues. 
Oswald noted that the pace of progress attained at the Schinias site should be kept up at all the other construction sites and even increase. 
Legendary pole-vaulter, Sergei Bubka, said that this was his first time on the team inspecting Athens 2004 facilities, before praising progress. The Ukrainian former track star said time was of the essence and that "everything had to be precise," in reference to the preparation. 

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ENERGY

Oil pipeline talks moving forward quickly

Greece's Development Minister, Akis Tsohatzopoulos and Bulgarian Regional Development and Public Works Minister, Valentin Cerovski, have discussed the latest developments regarding the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline in Thesaloniki in Norther Greece, New Europe has reported. 
Greece and Bulgaria declared themselves ready for the creation of a consortium of companies to undertake the construction of the project and what remains to be done is the completion of cooperation processes with the Russian side. Referring to this issue, Tsohatzopoulos said: "What remains to be done now is, in the course of visits both Cerovski and I will be making to Moscow in April and early May, is for us to complete this cooperation with the agreement of Russia on the creation of a single consortium which will utilise the construction of the project and its operation. We are optimistic about the outcome."

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ENVIRONMENT

Ministry launches biochem protection plan

Greek Health Minister, Costas Stefanis, recently chaired a meeting of the National Council for the prevention of Biological and Toxic Hazards, which focused on the council's role in setting up systems of protection that were as effective and wide-reaching as possible for the 2004 Olympics. After a briefing, the council discussed the actions planned by the ministry and its bodies and its Operations Plan for securing the Olympics against radioactive, biological and chemical threats was presented. "The ministry will take all action within its sphere in order to make the required and expected contribution to hosting the Olympic Games in Athens," Stefanis was quoted as saying by Athens News Agency.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

OTE's MTS gets licence for FYROM market

Greece's leading telco OTE said its mobile subsidiary in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), MTS, and the country's fixed-line services company, Mak Tel, have signed a deal interconnecting their networks and opening the way for MTS's expected launch of operations in May. MTS, for which OTE received a licence in 2001, will be the second mobile operator in FYROM, New Europe reported.

OTE speeds up Greek broadband roll-out

The Transport Ministry has announced that the incumbent operator, OTE, has brought forward its timetable for the provision of broadband services. OTE representatives have promised that the telco will provide high-speed internet access by the end of April 2003, pending talks with the regulator, Europemedia.net has reported
The statement followed reports of Transport Minister Christos Verelis' displeasure with OTE's lethargic attitude to providing digital subscriber line (DSL) technology. 
Internet penetration in Greece is significantly below the European average and Veleris is adamant that broadband services should be launched as soon as possible. 

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