Books on Greece
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: 085 - (01/06/04)
The Greek conservatives have been back for just a few weeks. The Socialists were in for more than twenty years. But Costas Karamanlis, head of the New Democracy Party, is now in charge.
He is the first premier in Greek history to be under 50 in years. His government faces two key issues - the coming Olympic Games and renegotiating the reunification of the island of Cyprus. Many Greeks hope the new government will help jump-start the staggering economy and raise living standards which had fallen drastically since the adoption of the Euro two years ago.
The new premier has promised a smaller government, less bureaucracy and fewer taxes to fuel growth and cut an unemployment rate of about nine per cent. Karamanlis has also pledged more funds for social welfare, education and health.
Although Greece has one of the highest growth rates in the European Union, at 4.5 per cent, it is generated greatly by Olympic projects. He has said that Greece's economy could be stronger if the socialists had better managed European Union funds aimed at improving its infrastructure.
A task of equal importance to the successful hosting of the Games, Karamanlis had also been "assigned" to lead Greece in crucial negotiations with Turkey on the United Nations peace deal to reunite Cyprus before the island joined the European Union on May 1st.
Under the UN peace plan for Cyprus, after Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots ended talks on March 21st, their "motherlands" Greece and Turkey stepped in to negotiate any outstanding issues in time for a referendum on a deal on April 20th. As the world knows, the Greek Cypriots leader campaigned against the negotiated deal which subsequently failed, leaving their Greek sponsor decidedly flat-footed and embarrassed.
The Greeks have only one thing on their mind these days, the approaching Olympics, to be held in Athens and its surrounds in August. There have been innumerable delays, only 15 out of 29 projects being so far complete. But the Greeks have a knack of doing things at the last minute and pulling them off. The relevant Olympic committee expressed their confidence that there will be completion.
Greece's new prime minister, Costas Karamanlis, has personally taken charge of preparations for them. Karamanlis will head the culture ministry which oversees work for the Olympics, while several other senior members of his New Democracy party were named to key posts involved in the event.
New Democracy's number two, Yiorgos Souflias, aged 63, was named to the environment and public works ministry, which is in charge of key Olympic projects, such as the construction of a roof above the main Olympics stadium and the marathon track. New Democracy's spokeswoman for Olympic Games, Fani Palli-Petralia, was appointed alternate minister for culture and is expected to ensure day-to-day supervision of works under Karamanlis.
Yiorgos Voulgarakis, aged 44, known as an efficient
organiser, was named minister for public order, tasked with ensuring security during the Games.
The appointments reflected the new government's commitment to ensure that the Olympic Games from August 13 to 29 are a showcase for the country.
Alpha Bank keeps good record with Olympic Year
Greece's Alpha Bank recently boasted of its performance in the first quarter of the year, as a natural result of its impressive course the year before, New Europe reported.
Presenting the group's quarterly results, Chairman and managing director, Yannis Costopoulos commented: "Our financial performance benefits from our commitment to constant innovation, service excellence and productivity improvement. This sustains our market penetration drive in retail banking and asset gathering while securing our dominant position in SMEs."
The bank's chairman stressed that Alpha Bank is now established as the most versatile banking institution with the widest appeal for customers in Greece and South-Eastern Europe. "In the months ahead, we will continue to work hard to leverage our core competences in a demanding market environment so as to achieve even better performance in this Olympic Year," Costopoulos concluded.
Net profit after tax and minorities in the first quarter was up 64.5% to 99.6m Euro, against the previously recorded 60.6m Euro in the same quarter 2003.
Operating earnings before tax and excluding income from financial operations, other provisions and extraordinary items rose by 84.3%. Net Interest Income increased by 17.3% to 246.5m Euro. Fee and Commission income was up 32.4% to 85.6m Euro (64.6m Euro in Q1 2003). The bank's cost to income ratio fell to 47.8%.
Highlighting its performance over the quarter, Alpha Bank noted its retail and SME expansion strategy. Moreover, the successful completion of the Branch network restructuring gave the bank further productivity gains through the reallocation of employees according to their sales skills.
The bank further noted its leading ranking in the FTSE Eurotop 300 index.
As for Alpha Leasing's delisting from the stock market, the bank stated the procedure would follow over the coming few months. Alpha Bank now owns more than 98% in Alpha Leasing.
Gas liberalisation reforms about to kick off in Greece
Greece's natural gas market was recently put under a new privatisation concept, New Europe reported recently.
The newly elected government has appeared committed to its pre-election campaign for a more state-friendly approach to the entire privatisation process, especially when it comes to key economy markets for the country's further development.
Deputy Development Minister responsible for energy issues, George Salaghoudis, recently unveiled plans of the ministry to create a new legislative framework for the natural gas liberalisation market. Cited by the local press, the deputy minister disclosed a draft project that foresees the breaking up of the Natural Gas Corporation (DEPA) into four divisions - with the state retaining control on the corporation's transport unit.
Such a development, however, has led analysts to doubt the possibility of a strategic investor entering the country's gas market. It is recalled that Spanish energy conglomerate Gas Natural last February signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the former socialist government for the acquisition of DEPA's 35% share capital.
The deal, however, took place only a month before the Greek republic kicked off parliamentary elections. So its final ratification remained pending until a new government was put in power.
Until proven otherwise such a deal appears rather vague at present, given that both Greece and Gas Natural remain cautiously silent on the issue. Decoding the recently announced investment strategy of Gas Natural can easily lead to the above notion. Recently, the Spanish energy leader presented its investment strategy for 2004-2008 with no reference made on possible share acquisition initiatives taken in Greece's market, in contrast to decisions taken regarding France, Italy and Portugal.
The Greek cabinet is due to announce the country's complete privatisation strategy soon, so no prior development is expected. It is natural to infer that the Iberian group will get its time to review its approach, which could well entail an eventual drop out from DEPA's share acquisition.
FOOD & DRINK
Barba Stathis eyes Bulgaria
Greek food processing company, General Foodstuffs-Barba Stathis, has decided to buy out its Bulgarian subsidiary, General Frozen Foods (FF) OOD, and has renamed it Agroteam EOOD, the group stated recently.
GFF produces and trades with agricultural products and owns three real estate properties. The capital of the renamed firm will be raised by €116,500, New Europe reported.
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