Books on Greece
Area (sq km)
% of GDP
Update No: 114 - (28/11/06)
The Pope went to Turkey at the end of November to mend fences
after some tactless remarks about Islam made in September, the more hurtful for
being quite true. Ankara itself needs to mend fences with Athens, its most
important interlocutor in the EU, to which it aspires to join.
PM Karamanlis opens off-the-agenda debate on foreign policy issues
Turkey's hopes of entering the EU depend heavily on Athens, as everybody knows.
The ancient enmity between Greece and Turkey is a thing of the past. But there
is still a deficit to make up.
The political paradox of candidate EU member country Turkey refusing to
recognise EU member-state Cyprus cannot continue indefinitely, prime minister
Costas Karamanlis warned on November 17th, during an off-the-agenda debate in
parliament on foreign policy issues, taking place at political party leaders'
level, and addressed a message to Ankara that the rate and outcome of its
European course depended entirely on Turkey. "The political paradox of
non-recognition of a member state by a candidate country" cannot be
perpetuated indefinitely, Karamanlis said, adding that "the rhythm, as well
as the final outcome, of its European course depends entirely on Turkey
"Implementation of the Customs Union Protocol, for the opening up of the
neighbouring country's ports and airports to Cypriot ships and aircraft is an
explicit contractual commitment on the part of Turkey towards the European Union
and the entirety of the EU members," Karamanlis said, stressing that
"this obligation is self-evident and cannot be linked with matters that
concern the internal operation of the EU."
The prime minister elaborated that the Trade Regulation between the EU and the
Turkish Cypriot community was an internal matter of the EU, noting that Athens
supported the ongoing effort by the Finnish EU presidency "supporting the
Cyprus Republic's approach, for achievement of the best possible result."
On Turkey's EU accession course, Karamanlis explained that although Europe had
put in place "the tracks and the road signs leading to accession,"
however, "the train driver on its own course is Ankara itself," adding
that "the rhythm and final outcome of its European course depends entirely
on Ankara itself," and warning that "refusal of the necessary reforms
is outside the spirit governing the operation of the EU, and consequently this
refusal cannot continue in perpetuity."
Referring to the question faced by the EU of whether Turkey, in the first stage
of its accession process, was meeting the obligations it has undertaken towards
the EU '25', Karamanlis said that certain reforms have indeed been made, but
"Turkey's attitude so far falls short of its commitments."
Noting second thoughts by some EU member countries of a special relationship
between the EU and Turkey, the prime minister said that "the attempts to
improve the situation, concerning the respect of religious freedoms and minority
rights, have, unfortunately, remained merely attempts, while on the issues of
the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Halki Seminary, the foundations' properties and
the minorities properties, its obligations still remain obligations."
Karamanlis further warned that "the maintenance of the unacceptable
anachronism of the 'casus belli' does not help" towards achieving firm
relations of good neighbourhood, while Turkey's "obligations to the EU
member states, among them the Republic of Cyprus, cannot be ignored."
He said the European track was the only route that would ensure for Turkey a
steady European course. "It is the only track that guarantees that the
train will not be derailed on its route to Europe," he said, adding that
"we do not want such an eventuality." However, he stressed, it was up
to Ankara to rule out that eventuality.
"Europe has clearly placed, just as in every other case, both the tracks
and the road signs that lead to accession. The train driver, however, on
Turkey's course is Ankara itself. Both the rhythm and final outcome of its
European course depends on Ankara. Refusal of the necessary reforms is outside
the spirit governing the operation of the EU, and that is why this refusal
cannot continue in perpetuity," the premier underlined.
Turning to the FYROM name issue, Karamanlis said that "even at this date,
the neighbouring country's leadership is obliged to assess the situation and
respond to Greece's positive stance".
"A mutually acceptable name is required on the road to the EU and
NATO," Karamanlis said, stressing that "this is a condition for its
accession to be ratified by the Hellenic Parliament."
Assessing Greece's 2-year seat on the UN Security Council for the two-year
period 2005-2006, and particularly its presidency of the Security Council during
the month of September, Karamanlis said that "we proved in action our
interest in a resolution of the Middle East problem. Our efforts culminated with
the holding of the extraordinary meeting of the Security Council, at foreign
ministers' level -- the first to be held at that level in more than 20 years --
on the issue of restoring and consolidating peace in this strife-ridden
region," the premier said. Greece, he continued, had made its own positive
contribution in all the international issues faced by the international
community during those two years, from the Iranian nuclear programme to the
Middle East and to the Kosovo issue.
Concluding his presentation, Karamanlis said that the experience of the past,
the problems of the present, as well as the challenges of the future
"indicate, to all of us, the need for joining forces behind common goals.
They require understanding, collaboration, political responsibility. They
require unity and unanimity on the major national issues, and not sterile
disagreement. They require boldness and prudence that, above all else, we place
and serve the collective, the social, the national interest, the premier said,
stressing that "whenever we Greeks unite forces and follow a common
national strategy, we achieve great goals".
"This is our standing aspiration. This is the certain and secure path to a
dynamic and proud Greece," Karamanlis concluded.
Greek-Turkish Aegean economic summit starts in Marmaris and Rhodes
Greek and Turkish businessmen are getting together and arranging deals ahead
of the politicians. The scope for trade and joint projects is forever widening,
making economic cooperation a reality before any formal union in the EU.
Of course the Greeks and Turks share the Aegean Sea, with its innumerable,
mostly Greek, islands. The seventh Turkish Aegean Coasts and Greek Aegean
Islands Economic Summit started on November 17th with great hopes for the future
of relations between Greece and Turkey. The summit, organized by the Izmir
Chamber of Commerce (IZTO) and held in Marmaris and Rhodes, brought together
businessmen, chambers of commerce members, politicians, journalists and writers
from both sides, including more than 150 Greeks.
During the three-day meeting every aspect, economic, political and cultural, of
Turkish-Greek relations were discussed. IZTO Chairman Ekrem Demirtas, evaluating
the summit for the Turkish Daily News, said that both countries' businessmen
would come together to seek further trade. "This is the seventh summit, and
the trade volume between the two countries is increasing with each one. We have
reached US$2 billion of trade volume in 10 years; our new target is US$5
billion," he added.
Stating that the summit attracted a great deal of attention, Demirtas said:
"Governors, mayors, professional chambers' presidents, businessmen and
journalists are attending the summit. We, as the Turkish side, will bring 350
people to the summit; there will be a total of 500 attendees."
Pointing out that the summit, organized in cooperation with Greek professional
chambers, has in the past hosted very important decisions in terms of the
economy, Demirtas gave some examples of these decisions, saying: "With the
decision taken in Samos in 2002, Turkish citizens started visiting Greece on any
Schengen visa. At the meeting on Crete, we accelerated the signing of an
agreement to abolish double taxation between our two countries."
Mentioning that they had decided to launch two significant projects during the
Athens summit, Demirtas said: "The first project was the Business Aegean
Bank. This bank is a Turkish-Greek joint venture. We are pretty close to
completion of the bank's establishment. The second was to bring together Turkish
and Greek businessmen on the Internet. This project, named the 'Aegean Portal,'
was aimed at giving the opportunity to both countries' businessmen to engage in
trade on the Internet. There is currently a great deal of interest in this
portal from both sides."
Noting the positive and prolific results these summits have brought, Demirtas
said: "People on both sides of the Aegean are becoming close friends.
Bilateral trust has started to increase: As they trust each other, bilateral
economic relations also increase. We believe that not only governments but
everybody who believes in Turkish-Greek friendship should struggle to remove the
barriers to economic relations between the countries. The Aegean would be a sea
of wealth and friendship."
Touching on a controversial link between the two countries, Demirtas added:
"We had different ambitions for this summit; we invited Turkish and Greek
chambers from Cyprus to this meeting. However, we were unable to bring together
businessmen from both sides in Cyprus." He said that nonetheless, they
expected landmark decisions on finance, banking, tourism, transportation and
marine matters from this meeting.
Greek Consul in Izmir George Katapodis also said that this summit, uniting the
Turkish coasts and Greek islands, was an important step towards the further
development of Greek-Turkish economic relations: "It gives the opportunity
for both sides to show their resolve in continuing to promote their commercial
ties. It is a forum where views can be exchanged and where any specific issues
of concern can be addressed and solved. As has been noted on many accounts,
there is great potential for our economic relations. Indeed, if we have a closer
look at our trade balance and compare it to the balance between Greece, Turkey
and third countries, we will note there is a big leeway."
Providing details about the economic relations of both countries, Katapodis
said: "According to the statistics we have, and more specifically according
to the Turkish Statistics Institute (TUIK), for the period January-September
2006, Greek exports to Turkey reached 0.8 per cent -- they were 0.6 per cent for
the same period in 2005 -- of Turkey's total exports, whereas Turkey's exports
to Greece amounted to 1.8 per cent of the country's total exports; they had been
at 1.5 per cent in 2005. In absolute numbers, Greek exports were approximately
US$800 million and Greek imports US$1.16 billion, bringing the bulk of our
bilateral trade to US$1.96 billion.
"For the first time in months, the trade deficit for Greece registered a
slight increase of 4.1 per cent. For the January-September 2005 period, Turkey's
exports stood at US$60 billion, with an increase of 16.3 per cent compared to
2005, whereas Turkey's imports exceeded US$100 billion, with an increase of 25.2
per cent over 2005, thus bringing Turkey's trade deficit to almost US$40
billion. So we see that although there was a significant increase in Turkey's
trade deficit in 2006, Turkey's trade deficit with Greece for the same period
has decreased by around 4.1 per cent. Commercial ties should develop in a
balanced way if we want to witness a steady increase in our economic relations.
It is also crucial that principles such as free and fair competition govern
these relations, since these are the basis of both the EU and the World Trade
Syrian Minister of Economy in Talks with Greek ambassador
The Greeks are also increasingly interested in Syria, especially as it is
perhaps coming out of the diplomatic cold.
Syria and Greece on November 14th discussed means of boosting current and future
cooperation on the commercial and economic levels.
Minister of Economy and Trade Amer Hosni Lutfi held talks with the new Greek
ambassador to include preparations for the 6th session of the Syrian-Greek joint
committee that would be held next year in a date to be set later on.
The road to Damascus beckons, albeit a more prosaic conversion than St Paul's,
of goods and money, is in question.
The following is available in printed form only in the International Herald
Tribune's Greek and Greek Cypriot editions.
Lack of incentives turns Greek shipowners away from investment
By Nikos Bardounias - Kathimerini, The English-language business journal for
Greece, incorporated in the IHT
Cutting red tape and providing investment incentives could attract a large part,
if not all, of the available capital in the hands of Greek ship owners, which is
estimated at US$200 billion.
Shipping contributes US$12.4 billion to the national economy, about 7 per cent
of gross domestic product (GDP). It also accounts for 37 per cent of the current
account inflows. Taxes from shipping also account for 5 per cent of the budget's
Most of the shipping companies' money, however, is not invested in Greece.
The country is simply not an attractive place to invest, and this holds true of
Greek shippers as well as foreign investors.
In 2004, for example, there were inflows of US$13.3 billion from the shipping
sector, but only US$4 billion was invested. Officials at the Shipping Chamber
said that there is a widespread view among Greek ship owners there are too many
bureaucratic obstacles to be surmounted, making investment in Greece a high-risk
"Aiding the shipping sector to invest in Greece, by offering support
services and cutting red tape, will attract significant direct investment and
will contribute to economic growth as well as to export growth," a Shipping
Chamber official told Kathimerini.
The General Secretariat for Competitiveness had recently proposed three measures
that could attract more shipping-sector investment.
First, the creation of a shipping centre in Piraeus that would, along with the
second measure, the deregulation of the market, convince more Greek-owned (but
also foreign-owned) shipping firms to move their headquarters to Greece. Third
would be creating a cluster of services that would be internationally
competitive and operated by highly specialized personnel.
The Shipping Chamber itself has made a few proposals, some of them longstanding
demands by ship owners. First of all, it proposes scrapping the regulations
regarding the composition of ships' crews, especially officers. It also asks
that the state be responsible for funding the crews' pension fund. A third
proposal is the ability to list a long-haul shipping company more easily,
without the current restrictive terms.
Ship owners also ask for an upgrade of merchant marine officer training, the
subsidizing of unprofitable domestic shipping lines and, from the Greek banks,
financing on better terms. They demand that all Greek ports be available as
terminals for cruise ships, after upgrading terminal infrastructure, including
passenger terminals. They also support the privatisation of port services, which
port employees vehemently oppose
Mega-mergers by Greek banks unlikely
Any "mega-mergers" in the domestic banking market, after the sale of
previously state-run Emporiki Bank, is unlikely, a report by Kantor Capital SA
stated recently. The annual report on the Greek banking market said any merger
moves in the market would focus on smaller banking institutions, New Europe
The Post Savings Bank is the first takeover "target" for larger banks,
followed by Cyprus Bank and the Marfin Group, Kantor Capital said in its report,
adding that the purchase of Post Savings Bank would add significant value to
NovaBank, Aspis Bank and Geniki Bank, while of significant value would be
generated from mergers between NovaBank and Cyprus Bank, or between NovaBank and
Aspis Bank. The report noted that foreign players were interested only in the
"big five" Greek banks, and particularly in their international
Kantor cited a 40 per cent improvement in profitability last year in the banking
sector, with interest revenues the biggest revenue source (with an average 73-81
per cent of total revenues).
The three largest banks reported a 6.0 per cent increase in assets last year,
with average asset return of up to 1.2 per cent in 2005 from 1.0 per cent in
2004. Spending on personnel fell an average 2.0 per cent, while the average
branch productivity rose by 1.7 per cent.
Large Greek banks' added value fell by 39 per cent in 2005 to 30 million Euro,
from 50 million Euro in 2004, while smaller banks continued reporting negative
added value. Local banks' workforce totalled 91,044 last year, up 16 per cent
from 2004, reflecting mainly a trend in takeovers abroad by Greek banks.
Titan confirms cement construction in Albania
Greece's Titan company confirmed that it has filed a request with the Albanian
government to construct a cement plant in the country, news website reporter.gr
The cement plant follows the creation of a new distribution centre in the
southern Albanian port of Avlon, which just came into operation. Further
financial or time targets were not provided. Titan already operates cement
plants in Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria.
Turkey-Greece gas line to be operational by year end
Turkey's state gas importer and pipeline operator Botas announced it has
completed construction work on its section of the 12-billion-cubic-metre per
year capacity Turkey-Greece gas pipeline and is expecting the line to be
operational by the end of the year, news website reporter.gr said on October 24.
The line, which is 300 kilometres long, runs from Karacabey in northwest Turkey
to Alexandropolis in northeastern Greece, where it connects with Greece's
existing gas transmission infrastructure. Under an agreement between Greece and
Turkey signed in 2003, Greece signed up to take an initial 249 million cubic
metres of gas this year rising to 492 million cubic metres in 2007 and 737
million cubic metres thereafter until 2020. The gas supplied is to be taken from
volumes supplied to Turkey under its existing gas pipeline supply contracts with
Russia and Iran and LNG supply contracts with Algeria and Nigeria. However, the
12-billion-cubic-metre capacity line is the first stage in the planned Southeast
Europe Gas ring under which Greece's gas transmission infrastructure will
eventually be linked to that of Italy, which in turn will be connected to Turkey
through the long planned Nabucco gas line via Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Romania
and Bulgaria. Under the terms of the 2003 agreement, following the extension of
the line to Italy, throughput via the Turkey-Greece line will increase to 11
billion cubic metres per year, of which three billion cubic metres will be taken
by Greece and eight billion cubic metres transited on to Italy.
Athens, Sofia ink oil pipeline agreement until the end of 2006
Bulgaria and Greece are to speed up negotiations on the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis
oil pipeline project, New Europe reported.
Bourgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline will be 280 kilometres long and will carry
Russian petroleum through the Bulgarian city of Bourgas to the Greek
Alexandroupolis, where it will be processed. Tankers will deliver the petroleum
to Bourgas. The International Herald Tribune (IHT) quoted Bulgaria's Economy and
Energy Minister, Roumen Ovcharov, as saying that Bulgaria has been waiting for
more than a month for a Russian suggestion on the final agreement. "Now we
are ready to come up with our own proposals, because we cannot wait any
more," he said.
Greek development minister, Dimitris Sioufas, said that Greece would also
prepare its position. The Bourgas-Alexandroupolis project is more than 13 years
old but has met numerous impediments. It was revived during a meeting of Russian
President, Vladimir Putin, Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, and
Bulgarian President, Georgi Purvanov, in Athens in September 2006.
FOREIGN BILATERAL COOPERATION
Greece, Romania discuss cooperation in EU
Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyannis, and her Romanian counterpart, Mihai
Razvan Ungureanu, met in Athens on November 8th for talks on Greek-Romanian
bilateral cooperation within the European Union and regional affairs.
Among these were developments in Kosovo and the European prospects of the
western Balkan states. Ungureanu was also received by Prime Minister, Costas
Bakoyannis expressed satisfaction with Romania's successful accession process -
which culminates with the country's joining the EU on January 1, 2007 - and
noted Greece's steadfast support for the European prospects of southeastern
Regarding the negotiations for Kosovo, Bakoyannis repeated Greece's position
calling for a multi-cultural Kosovo and a solution that was not externally
imposed but was the product of dialogue and agreement of the sides involved,
thus guaranteeing security and stability in the region. She also noted her
satisfaction that the Greek and Romanian positions on this issue were largely
Ungureanu thanked Greece for supporting Romania during the processes that led to
its entry into the EU and NATO, stressing the excellent cooperation between the
two countries on both a political and economic level.
Regarding Kosovo, he called for a solution that arose from within the region and
not outside it, while noting that all neighbouring countries must contribute to
the effort to find a just solution.
Asked about restrictions that Britain and Ireland intend to impose on the number
of workers they will accept from Romania once it joins the EU, Ungureanu
stressed that he understands the reasons that make some member-states adopt such
a position. At the same time, he clarified that it was his duty to insist on the
full opening of labour markets in all the EU.
"I have reasons to believe that there are no longer many Romanians that
will abandon their country to work abroad since the rate of joblessness in
Romania is low. Therefore, there is no risk from opening labour markets. It
would not surprise us if it were Germany or Austria that imposed such
restrictions; these countries have such a tradition. But for Britain and
Ireland, we had the impression that they were satisfied with the specialised
workers that come from Romania. All those that have another image about those
coming from Romania are not politicians, they are captives of stereotypes from
another era," the Romanian minister stated.
Bakoyannis said that the Greek government was examining the situation and
Greece's capacity to absorb more workers given the high rate of unemployment,
while expressing understanding for the Romanian demand.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Greece, China to promote closer economic relations
Greece and China were forging closer economic and trade relations, Economy and
Finance Minister, George Alogoskoufis, said recently, New Europe reported.
Speaking to reporters during a presentation of results of his official visit to
China, the minister said his talks with Chinese officials in Beijing and
Shanghai focused on starting direct flights between Athens, Beijing and Hong
Kong, the opening of the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki to Chinese products
and cooperation between the Athens Stock Exchange with the stock markets of
Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Alogoskoufis, accompanied by Economy Deputy Minister, Christos Folias, met in
Beijing with the governor of the Bank of China, and the ministers of finance and
He announced that a Chinese national carrier would begin direct flights between
Athens and Beijing in the next few months and noted that Greek cargo ships were
currently transporting 50 per cent of China's imports and 60 per cent of China's
imports in oil. He stressed that Greece's two largest ports, Piraeus and
Thessaloniki, are envisioned as transit cargo hubs between China and
Southeastern Europe as well as the Mediterranean.
In Shanghai, the Greek minister met with the president of the stock market and
agreed to promote cooperation between the two cities' capital markets through
"stock basket" trading. Alogoskoufis said the Hong Kong's commerce and
financial service would soon open a representation bureau in Greece and noted
that progress was made in talks to avoid double taxation between the two
Athens, Beijing seek to boost shipping ties
Greece and China are seeking to further improve their ties in shipping, visiting
Finance Minister, George Alogoskoufis, said on October 24th, New Europe reported
China has shown especial interest in the creation of infrastructure, initially
at the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, for its transit goods to the Middle
East, Europe, the Black Sea countries etcetera," the minister told
reporters. "There is interest not only from Chinese companies in the
creation of infrastructure in Greek ports, but also on the part of Greek ship
owners for facilities at Chinese ports," he reported. In addition, work had
begun on resolving minor difficulties between the two sides. Open tenders would
be called for port improvement projects, with financial criteria taken into
account, a bidding floor, and guarantees for cargo in transit, Alogoskoufis
said. Accompanying him, Deputy Finance Minister Christos Folias underlined that
he saw opportunities for alliances in all sectors. "We proposed backing the
creation in the two countries of joint ventures between Greek and Chinese
firms," Folias noted.
OTE sets pace for new era
The Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) is seeking "a strategic
partner who can add value to the company," according to the chief executive
of the company Panagis Vourloumis, New Europe reported.
Addressing journalists at a breakfast meeting, Vourloumis termed the deadline of
seven months to clinch a deal "a realistic target although quite
tight," adding that the market conditions in the telecom industry are quite
Vourloumis, however declined to comment on the percentage of the stake the
government intended to sell. The government will get money and the company will
benefit with the introduction of a strategic partner, the CEO noted.
Talking about the early retirement scheme offered earlier Vourloumis who has a
banking background said this was offered to 5,500 workers out of which 4,750 had
made the choice to take up the offer.
With the implementation of the scheme, the labour costs came down from 33 per
cent to 25 per cent but Vourloumis lamented, "This is still high by
European standards," which hover around 18-20 per cent. The OTE spent
around one billion Euro on this scheme and the Greek government wants to share
25 per cent of this burden. The European Commission is looking at it to decided
if this amounts to state aid or not. Vourloumis said he did not know when the
commission would make its judgment but he believed the money was justified
because OTE had to shell out extra cash as the employees had civil servant
Asked about the future strategy to trim staff strength, Vourloumis said there
will not be repetition of the retirement scheme but the company is planning more
"targeted" departures and "targeted hiring," to fulfil
special technical requirements.
Going down memory lane, Vourloumis said, "Five years ago, there was no need
for marketing: we didn't sell. People had to beg for a telephone," while
today many companies using the infrastructure of the OTE are in the market.
Commenting on the broadband expansion, the CEO said, "There were 7000
connections before 2004 and today there are 425,000 which make OTE the fastest
growing in Europe and may be fastest in the world after India."
Tourism revenues up greatly in last decade
Tourism-related foreign exchange revenues significantly exceeded the inflation
rate over the last decade, growing by 134.4 percent at a period when economic
output grew by 44 percent, evidence of the tourism sector's increasing
importance for the Greek economy, a report by EFG Eurobank stated on October
24th, New Europe reported.
The report, signed by the bank's chief financial consultant, Gikas Hardouvelis,
said Greece was a "mature tourism destination," but faced increased
competition from emerging Mediterranean destinations, particularly in terms of
Greece's market share, in terms of tourist arrivals, declined in the last two
years, from 1.9 per cent in 2003 to 1.6 per cent in 2005, while its share of
tourism revenues remained unchanged at 2.0 per cent.
The report said tourism revenues per arrival grew to 862 Euro in 2005 from 739
Euro in 2003. The report underlined that the average size of a Greek hotel unit
rose to 75 beds in 2005 from 65 in 1990, but remained smaller compared with
other competitor countries.
Tourism revenues per hotel unit and per bed significantly lagged behind other
competitors, at 1.22 million Euro in 2005 and 16,200 Euro, respectively, in
2005. In Croatia, the figures were 6.1 million Euro and 30,400 Euro over the
The report also said that seven in 10 Greek households chose June, July or
August for their vacations, with Attica (the greater Athens area), Cyclades
islands and Halkidiki of northern Greece as the top destinations. Most
households' overnight stays were at their private vacation home, or in friends'
and relatives' houses.
Annual tourism-related spending by Greek households totalled 1.54 billion Euro,
or 1.0 per cent of GDP (in current prices). Including spending on travel abroad,
the figure totalled 1.3 per cent of GDP.