Books on Greece
Area (sq km)
% of GDP
Update No: 092 - (01/01/05)
The event of the year in 2004 for the Greeks was undoubtedly their successful
hosting of the Olympic Games. In mid-August, more than 10,000 athletes from 202
countries gathered in Athens for the summer Olympics.
Many had feared Greece's facilities would not be ready. But in the end, the
games were considered a triumph of organization and style.
It is singularly appropriate that 2004 also saw a new opening to Ankara. The
ancient Olympic Games coincided with a truce to conflicts and wars for their
duration, allowing diplomats to negotiate lasting peace. This is what has been
happening between the new government in Athens under conservative Premier Kostas
Karamanlis and the moderate Islamicist government in Ankara.
Rapprochement with the Turks
Back in 1996, Greece and Turkey came to the brink of war in a dispute over a
pair of uninhabited rocky outcrops in the Aegean Sea. Now Greece is an
enthusiastic supporter of Turkey's membership of the European Union. In 1999,
Turkey's most wanted man - the Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan - was found
hiding in the Greek embassy compound in Kenya.
But now the days when a Greek foreign minister described the Turks as
"murderers, rapists and thieves" seem to have gone for good. There had
been pressure for years from within Nato and the EU for the two countries to
resolve their differences in a more mature fashion.
When Turkey and Greece were hit by devastating earthquakes in quick succession
in the second half of 1999, politicians were quick to send rescue teams,
clothing and food supplies. "Earthquake diplomacy" was born and
ordinary people on both sides suddenly realised how much they had in common.
It set the mood for practical political co-operation on issues like tourism and
environmental protection and over the last few years relations in the eastern
Mediterranean have moved onto a more secure footing. Greece in particular
decided that encouraging Turkish membership of the European Union was in its
interests. Better, the politicians reasoned, than an angry Turkey shut out of
the European process and looking for someone to blame.
They have not convinced everyone, though. An opinion poll released in Greece in
December showed ordinary people divided pretty evenly over whether Turkey should
eventually be allowed into the EU. There was only a narrow majority in favour.
On both sides of the Aegean, residual nationalist suspicions linger on.
Things are not perfect. Turkey and Greece still have very real differences about
Cyprus and about territorial disputes in the Aegean. But on both sides,
strategic decisions have been taken that they should make an effort to get
The Greek Prime Minister has supported and continues to support Turkey's bid to
join the European Union as a full member. At a press conference he gave in
Brussels after the end of the European Council Summit meeting in mid-December,
he said that the European Council decided the opening of accession negotiations
on October 3, 2005, aiming at Turkey's full accession into the EU. However, he
clarified that Turkey's EU accession cannot be regarded as certain, because it
depends on Turkey's will and ability to meet its obligations during the long
process of its adaptation to the European standards. Mr. Karamanlis stated
characteristically that Turkey, based on the text of conclusions, will not be
able to become a full member of the EU before the year 2014.
Erdogan said on the Greek MEGA channel that Karamanlis and he established good
friendly relations before coming to power as Turkish prime minister. In 2004,
Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis, was the guest of honour at the wedding in
Istanbul of the daughter of his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. ''Our
friendship got better with time. Both Mr. and Mrs. Karamanlis attended our
daughter's wedding in Turkey. This was something that could not have been
imagined ten years ago,'' said Erdogan.
In response to a question on the Aegean matters, Erdogan stated that meetings
between technocrats are still going on. ''Once technocrats complete their task,
it will be the politicians' turn to deal with these matters,'' said Erdogan. In
reference to ''violations'' in the Aegean, Erdogan told that Turkey supports
bilateral discussions. ''We have to protect peace. Both Turkish and Greek media
must act responsibly. We should not escalate tension between our peoples,''
But if Turkey still has a real Greek "enemy" in the EU then he
does not live in Athens. The Greek Cypriot President, Tassos Papadopoulos, is a
wily hardliner who now sits at Europe's top table. Since the enlargement of the
EU on 1 May, he holds a long-term veto over Turkey's EU application, and he will
continue to apply pressure in various forms over the next few years.
When the two sides of Cyprus voted on a United Nations peace plan earlier this
year it was the Turkish Cypriots, with the encouragement of Mr Erdogan's
government in Ankara, who said yes. The Greek Cypriots, influenced by Mr
Papadopoulos's tearful pleas on television, rejected the plan overwhelmingly.
Ironically, it meant the Turkish Cypriots were kept out of the EU, and away from
the benefits it would bring. Any move to ease the embargo on the self-declared
Turkish Cypriot state has been blocked by Mr Papadopoulos and his diplomats.
So there are still plenty of obstacles for the Turks to overcome in their
efforts to enter the EU. Cyprus, and disputes in the Aegean, will have to be
sorted out sooner or later.
It does not have to happen immediately, but both issues will continue to cast a
shadow as long as they remain unresolved. Compromise will not be easy, but with
better relations between Ankara and Athens, at least it no longer looks
Karamanlis in Russia; posthumous award for Greek Beslan hero
The Greeks have always had good relations with fellow Orthodox Russians.
This was true right through the communist period, excepting under the colonels'
Karamanlis paid an official visit to Russia in December; he presented the Golden
Palm Order, which is a state Greek award, to the son of teacher Yannis Kanidis,
who was killed in Beslan, North Ossetia, this past September.
The whole world shuddered because of the terrible Beslan tragedy; the people of
Greece mourned on a par with all terrorist act victims' and the dead teacher's
family, the Greek Prime Minister said.
The Government of Greece ordered the national Foreign Ministry to elaborate
measures that would help build a new school in Beslan, Karamanlis stressed.
"Moreover, we would like to build a small church of St. Stilian, the
guardian of children, there," Karamanlis added. "We will also try and
accommodate up to 2,000 children, who were taken hostage together with Yannis
Kanidis, on holidays," the Greek Prime Minister went on to say.
The Government of Greece is getting ready to support Greek diasporas in Russia
and other CIS countries, as well as Russian-speaking emigrants on Greek
Yannis Kanidis, 74, a PE teacher at the Beslan school, became one of the Beslan
tragedy's heroes. The terrorists offered to release him because Kannidis was the
oldest hostage; nonetheless, Kannidis refused from the very outset. He
fearlessly defended other hostages before terrorists; unfortunately, Kanidis was
shot dead, while trying to prevent terrorists from detonating explosive devices
that had been planted by them all over the gymnasium (where the children were
Kannidis, who was a Greek national, had lived in Beslan together with his family
since the 1950s; he continued to teach, even after reaching retirement age.
The teacher had spent two years in Greece back in the early 1990s, subsequently
returning to Beslan. Kanidis believed that he could help the town and his
Public Power Corp shows solid 9-month performance
Public Power Corporation (PPC), the leading utility in Greece, recently
announced financial results for the first nine months of 2004, based on
international financial reporting standards (IFRS). In a statement, the power
group said its revenues were up 4.9 per cent to 3.08bn in the reported
period. Revenues from energy sales were 4.7 per cent higher because of the
relatively mild weather conditions and export restrictions in order to secure
maximum reserve capabilities for the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, the company
said, New Europe reported.
"Nine-month results were impacted by the extraordinary costs related to the
2004 Olympic Games, which amounted to approximately 60m," PPC chief
executive Stergios Nezis said in a statement. "These extra costs reflect
PPC's contribution to the successful organisation of the games. Should this
contribution be excluded net profits would have increased by 13 per cent,"
he said. "I am therefore pleased to note that PPC continues demonstrating a
solid financial performance to the benefit of its stakeholders."
EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) amounted
to 929.5m from 901.6m, representing a rise of 3.1 per cent. Operating
profit climbed 2.7 per cent to 513.5m, against 499.9m in the same period
of 2003. According to PPC, the increase was primarily due to revenue growth.
Earnings growth for the third quarter of last year was affected by one-off
costs, totalling some 60m; these costs were related to the Olympic games. The
EBITDA margin dropped 30.2 per cent from 30.7 per cent in the nine-month period
PPC said total financial expenses surged 19.1 per cent because of negative
foreign exchange differences of 13.5m, against the corresponding positive
result of 34.2m in the first three quarters of 2003. The share of loss in
associated companies fell to 9.9m in the first nine months.
FOOD & DRINK
Strong Q1-Q3 financial showing at Coca-Cola HBC
Coca-Cola HBC (Hellinic Bottling Company) recently reported a solid financial
performance in the first nine months of the year. Earnings before interest,
taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased 10 per cent to 613m Euro
in the reporting period, ending September 30th. Operating profit (EBIT) was 12
per cent higher on the year to 310m Euro. The figure was also up 18 per cent
compared to the same period in 2003, excluding the subsequent recognition of
pre-acquisition tax losses, CCHBC said in a statement, New Europe reported.
The company said its volume amounted to 1,085m unit cases, up 4 per cent. A
strong improvement in earnings to a net profit of 178m Euro in 2003 also
resulted. This represented a jump of 34 per cent year-on-year, the company said.
Cash flow generated from operating activities less capital expenditure amounted
to 168m Euro compared to 134m Euro for the comparable period in 2003.
For third-quarter results, the company said volume totalled 402m unit cases, up
2 per cent on the year. EBITDA grew 6 per cent to 249m, while EBIT surged 6 per
cent to 142m Euro, and 9 per cent ahead of 2003 excluding the subsequent
recognition of pre-acquisition tax losses.
According to the company, the continued focus on earnings helped the results,
with net profit growing to 93m from a net profit of 84m in 2003, accounting for
a rise of 10 per cent.
"Coca-Cola HBC performed well in difficult conditions to deliver these
positive results," said Doros Constantinou, managing director of Coca-Cola
HBC. "Despite low volume growth, which was caused by external factors in
many of our territories, margins were improved across the group as a result of
successful pricing and mix initiatives and our commitment to effective cost
management," he added.
"We continue to invest for growth and value, critically review our
manufacturing infrastructure and at the same time focus on generating strong
cash flows," Constantinou said.
Stephanopoulos visits Bosnia
Greek President, Constantinos Stephanopoulos recently paid a one-day official
visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, New Europe reported.
After the meeting in Sarajevo with the tripartite Bosnia-Herzegovina's state
presidency, he said Greece would support Bosnia's progress towards Euro-Atlantic
integration. Stephanopoulos also met Bosnian Premier, Adnan Terzic and
Egyptian president holds talks with Greek premier on mid east developments,
President Husni Mubarak held talks recently with visiting Greek Premier,
Konstandinos Karamanlis, MENA News Agency reported.
Talks between the two covered the latest developments in the Middle East, the
Palestinian and Iraqi conditions and assistance that can be offered by Greece,
in its capacity as a member of the European Union, to enhance efforts to realize
peace and stability in the region.
The two leaders also discussed means to boost bilateral ties and
Euro-Mediterranean cooperation along with several other issues of mutual
Karamanlis is the first Greek premier to visit Egypt in 18 years.
The Egyptian delegation to the talks involved Prime Minister, Ahmad Nazif,
Foreign Minister, Ahmad Abu-al-Ghayt, Chief of the Presidential Cabinet,
Zakariya Azmi, Presidential Spokesperson, Magid Abd-al-Fattah and Egyptian
Ambassador to Greece, Majdah Shahin.
Karamanlis' delegation included Foreign Minister, Petros Molyviatis, and Greek
Ambassador to Egypt, Panayiotis Vlassopoulos.
The Greek premier agreed during the talks with his Egyptian counterpart on the
signing of two agreements on the prevention of dual taxation, forwarding
investments and the enhancement of technological and scientific cooperation and
exchange of university scholarships.
Egypt and Greece cooperate very much in the gas and oil sectors. Greece's
imports of gas and oil from Egypt constitute 60 per cent of the joint balance of
trade that is presently estimated at US$140m, including 90m in Egypt's favour.
The two countries also cooperate in the tourist field, and figures put at
between 80,000 and 100,000 the number of Greek tourists visiting Egypt every
They also addressed the situation in Iraq, and agreed that achieving stability
in the war-ravaged country would benefit the broader Middle East region.
When asked about the Iraq conference recently held in Sharm al-Shaykh, the Greek
prime minister said the UN and the whole international community should play a
role in the political process in Iraq.
Karamanlis said he briefed the Egyptian president on the Greek ideas regarding
the Cypriot issue, in light of his recent visit to Cyprus. Cyprus is ready to
settle the issue on the basis of a plan forwarded by the UN secretary-general,
Talks with Mubarak also dwelt on Turkey's EU membership, the Greek premier said.
As for Greek-Egyptian relations, Karamanlis stressed his readiness to promote
relations in the various domains.