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GREECE


 

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 173,000 132,834 117,200 27
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 13,720 11,660 11,430 45
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Greece

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq km)
131,940

Population 
10,647,529

Capital 
Athens

Currency 
Euro

President 
Costas 
Stephanopoulos

Private sector 
% of GDP
over 60%



Update No: 102 - (27/10/05)

Karamanlis remains popular
Eighteen months after coming to power Kostas Karamanlis remains popular. Many adults in Greece are satisfied with their current head of government, according to a poll by VPRC released by SKAI Radio. 48 per cent of respondents believe Karamanlis is the most qualified person to serve as prime minister, up three points since September.
Karamanlis led the conservative New Democracy (ND) to a victory in the March 2004 election, securing 165 seats in the Greek Parliament. The Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) had administered the government since January 1996. 25 per cent of respondents would prefer current PASOK leader George Papandreou-a former foreign minister-as head of government. Support for Papandreou increased by two points since September.
During a cabinet meeting, finance minister George Alogoskoufis said that the government would focus on boosting competitiveness, developing technology, and protecting the environment. 
Unemployment in Greece fell to 9.9 per cent last March, down from 11.3 per cent two years earlier.

Polling Data
Who is the most qualified person to govern Greece?
                                                     Oct. 2005     Sept. 2005
Kostas Karamanlis (ND)                48%             45%
George Papandreou (PASOK)       25%             23%
Neither / Other                                20%             24%
Not sure                                              7%                 8%
Source: VPRC / SKAI Radio

Methodology: Interviews to 950 Greek adults, conducted on Oct. 10 and Oct. 11, 2005. No margin of error was provided.

National foreign policy council focuses on EU-Turkey ties, 'name issue'
The big issue for Greek foreign policy at the moment concerns Turkey and Cyprus, now that the former is in accession talks with the EU. But that leads directly on to the issue of Macedonia, now more likely to have entry talks too. The Greeks object to its name, calling it the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).
The National Council on Foreign Policy, chaired by Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, met on October 18th for talks reportedly focusing on neighbouring Turkey's EU prospects, the FYROM "name issue" as well as a recent UN report on Kosovo. Afterwards, Molyviatis told reporters that he touched on Turkey's EU prospects by noting that the "commencement of accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU was achieved under conditions that fully ensure both Greece's and Cyprus' positions and goals". 
Turkey does not recognize the Greek government of Cyprus in Nicosia, but it will have to budge on this issue or its chances of entry will be zero. The French and others have made that quite clear. Athens is now generally positive about Turkish entry, aside from the Cyprus affair.
Regarding the recent proposal by a UN mediator over a possible solution to the "name issue" still plaguing relations between Athens and Skopje, the Greek FM reiterated that the Greek side flatly rejected the proposal, while continuing to view the entire matter "calmly and responsibly".
On his part, former EU Commissioner Christos Papoutsis, a high-ranking main opposition PASOK cadre and deputy, cited what he called a lack of "insight, boldness and decisiveness" on the part of the government vis-a-vis major foreign policy challenges.
Nevertheless, Papoutsis said efforts to find consensus on foreign policy issues was a political choice for PASOK, although he clarified that "we cannot, however, speak of carte blanche or consensus to cover-up responsibilities in specific decisions."
Finally, he reiterated his party's support for Balkan countries' European prospects while again stressing that the "name issue" should be resolved under a mutually acceptable proposal envisioning a unified name, "with respect to cultural, historical and political elements of the region".
Former Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology (Synaspismos) party leader Nikos Constantopoulos stressed the need to avoid past mistakes in foreign policy issues, as well as to avoid petty partisan political battles on such matters. He also said proposals envisioning possible referenda and threats to use Greece's veto power were "off-the-mark". 
The Council was convened following a request by Synaspismos. The Council is comprised of senior representatives of political parties represented in Parliament, along with high-ranking diplomats and academics. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) has said it will not attend such meetings.

Pressure over FYROM 
The Americans are putting pressure upon Greece over the name issue, just as the Europeans are on Turkey over the question of Cyprus. US Undersecretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns came out in favour of the membership of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in NATO and the European Union and said Greece should not oppose its entry in either of the two organizations.
In an interview published in the FYROM newspaper Utrinski Vesnik, Burns, who served as US ambassador to Greece from 1997 to 2001, was quoted as saying that "it would be a shame for Greece to oppose a veto" in FYROM's effort to join the EU and NATO.
"Something like that would not be right. Macedonia has the right and an interest to become a NATO and EU member and it would be a shame to create problems in this direction," Burns was quoted as saying, referring to FYROM with its constitutional name, to which Greece objects.
Greece believes that the name "Macedonia" conceals designs on the Greek province of Macedonia and objects to FYROM being recognized under that name in international organizations. The name FYROM itself is a temporary compromise reached by the two states in 1995. However, more than 100 states have recognized FYROM as "Macedonia" in their bilateral relations and, practically, the appellation is widely used everywhere, except in Greece.
Opposition Socialist politicians immediately jumped in to denounce, not the US, but the Greek government for its "weak" foreign policy and mock it for its assertion that relations with the US have tightened to the point where Greece is considered a "strategic partner."
"Mr Burns's remarks - I remind you he is a 'strategic partner' of the New Democracy government - reveal the weakness of (Prime Minister Costas) Karamanlis's foreign policy strategy," said Christos Papoutsis, the Socialist party's spokesman on foreign affairs, security and defence.
The Greek government did not react directly, but foreign minister sources said Greece reserves the right to block FYROM's EU and NATO entry, unless it uses a name acceptable to Greece. Foreign minister Petros Molyviatis, at a meeting of Balkan states in Rhodes, said "all the countries of the region should join the EU, without exception."

Greece expects economy to grow 3.8 per cent in 2006
Greece's economy is doing well, helping to explain the rising popularity of Karamanlis and the new government. 
It will grow by 3.8 per cent next year, while the budget deficit will fall to 2.8 per cent of GDP, according to the draft budget plan the Greek government presented on October 17th. Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said growth of GDP for 2005 was expected to reach 3.6 per cent - missing its target of 4 per cent, but still the highest in the 12-state euro zone - while the budget deficit will be just over the 3 pe rcent limit dictated by EU rules, at 3.6 per cent. Next year, the deficit will be at 2.8 per cent of GDP, Alogoskoufis said. 
Alogoskoufis said economic policy priorities for 2006 would be to restore fiscal balance, ensuring long-term sustainability of fiscal condition, improving productivity through solving structural problems, improving business environment and competitiveness and boosting employment. He explained that the deficit would be reduced through containing public spending and combating tax evasion. 
Bloated by greatly overrun spending on the Athens Olympics, the 2004 deficit soared to more than double the ceiling allowed by the EU, at 6.6 per cent, a figure announced by eurostat and confirmed by Alogoskoufis. The minister said the final bill for the most expensive Games in history - preliminarily set at 13 billion euros (15.5 billion US dollars) - would be announced when the final 2006 budget is tabled later this year. 
The draft 2006 budget allows for unemployment falling to 9.8 per cent, from an estimated 10.4 per cent in 2005, and inflation standing at 3.2 per cent compared to an estimated 3.5 per cent for 2005. 

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BANKING

NBG H1 net profit up 62%, 28% return on equity 


The results for the first half of 2005 serve to reaffirm the capacity of the National Bank of Greece (NBG) Group to improve its efficiency and meet the challenges of the times effectively, even under adverse conditions. Despite the impact of the banking sector strike in June, growth remained dynamic and the group's profitability rose strongly, the bank said in a press release recently, New Europe reported.
The very substantial growth in profits in the first half reflects the sustained effort that "has gone into building up our core revenue sources and systematic efforts to contain operating costs, particularly administrative expenses. At the same time, wage-bill increases in 2005 were offset by the impact of the voluntary retirement programme of the previous year. This excellent performance drove the group's return on equity to a record high of 28 per cent," the bank said.
The group is in the process of changing its structure. Accordingly, National Investment Company and National Real Estate are currently in process of merging with National Bank, while the international tender to appoint a specialised operator for the group's hotel units has got off to a good start, with a view to better utilising its assets in Astir Palace Vouliagmenis.
"In view of these results, as well as the encouraging progress in implementing our strategy, we are confident that our performance for the rest of the year will be no less upbeat," the press release read.
The increase in the group's core revenues is attributable primarily to rising interest income. Specifically, group net interest income totalled approximately 803 million Euro, up 15.3 per cent year-on-year, on the back of substantial expansion in retail lending in Greece and SE Europe. For instance, group retail loan balances stood at 16.5 billion Euro at the end of the first half, up 26 per cent year-on-year. 

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ENERGY

Greece, Italy ink gas pipe deal 

The inter-state agreement in support of the construction of the Greek-Italian underwater natural gas pipeline will be signed in Rome on November 4, according to Greek Development Minister, Dimitris Sioufas, who opened the Ministry of Development pavilion at the 70th Thessalonica International Trade Fair, Ansamed reported. 
Italian Deputy Minister of Development Mario Valducci was present at the inauguration ceremony. Valducci conveyed the interest of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the expansion of bilateral cooperation in sectors beyond energy, such as, new technologies, stressing that this is a sector that could strengthen considerably the role of Thessalonica.

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FOOD & DRINK

CCHBC and Coca-Cola target Fresh & Co 

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCHBC) recently announced exclusive talks to purchase jointly, with the Coca Cola Company, the Serbian fruit juice producer Fresh & Co, New Europe reported. 
The potential acquisition involves a production facility at Subotica as well as three leading brands of Fresh & Co, the company said in a statement. Regardless of the outcome of the acquisition effort, CCHBC will immediately start distribution of Fresh & Co products in Serbia and Montenegro, the statement said.
CCHBC said that Fresh & Co is a very young company, launched in 1996. "Next," the brand name of juice products, are exported to 27 countries from which CCHBC operates in 15 of them, the statement said.
The media quoted Marfin analysts as saying they believe the persistence of management towards further expansion through successful non-CSDs brands is a good sign. But because of Fresh & Co's small size (estimated total volume production of c. 15 million unit cases), Marfin doesn't expect an effect on CCHBC's figures in the medium term, according to media reports. 

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TOURISM

New impetus to tourism 

Enlargement of the European Union should bring a fresh impetus to travel, Greek Tourism Development Minister, Dimtris Avramopoulos, said recently in Brussels, New Europe reported. 
Opening an exhibition on Greece, Europe and tourism towards growth and cooperation at the Europarliament, Avramopoulos said more tourism would spur growth and prosperity, also widening cooperation in economic, social and cultural activity.
"Tourism should be a tool to widen cooperation and bring contact with many countries, while evolving conditions for economic growth and prosperity for all citizens, without exception," he said.
The minister also called on Euro deputies whose countries were tourist destinations to contribute to growth and promote sustainable development in the sector, and he noted Greece's leading role in advancing tourism diplomacy.
Arranging the exhibition, which was timed to coincide with World Tourism Day on September 27, was ruling New Democracy Party Member of European Parliament, Rodi Kratsa, with the Greek National Tourism Organisation. 

 

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