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GREECE


 

 

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: 112 - (26/09/06)

Crisis in the Lebanon 
The Greeks are naturally very concerned about the crisis in the Lebanon, a country where Greeks have been prominent as merchants and professional people for centuries. Greeks in Beirut were brought back to Greece for the duration of the fighting.
The big question here is - should Greece intervene further, in the company of European and UN peacekeepers? It is already involved in the existing UN interim force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

Putin visit
Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis also said that Russian president, Vladimir Putin's visit to Athens in early September for a trilateral meeting with Greek prime minister Karamanlis and Bulgarian president Georgi Purvanov to discuss mainly advancement of the construction of the Burgas-Alexandropoulois oil pipeline was an "important event". It certainly is that. Athens always tilted towards Moscow in the later years of the Cold War after the departure of the dread colonels in 1974.
It is doing so in a pragmatic way today, although the affinity between their common Orthodox churches is of course a close bond. This does not exclude quiet cooperation with Washington, as in the Iraq War (on the strict stipulation that no open thanks were given), which has been deeply unpopular all along throughout the Mediterranean. 
Asked if the long-awaited oil pipeline project would proceed, Bakoyannis said that "all will go well", noting that Greece has evolved into an energy hub in the region, due to the significant work accomplished by the development ministry, and noted the importance of this to the country's foreign policy.
Putin duly arrived in Athens on September 4th for a trilateral meeting with Karamanlis and Purvanov, at the Russian president's initiative, for talks mainly focusing on the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline. The agenda of the meeting concentrated on energy issues, with the main thrust on the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline.
Greece, Bulgaria and Russia signed a political agreement for the cross-border pipeline, budgeted at approximately 700 million euros, on April 13th 2005 in Thessaloniki. The 285-kilometre pipeline to carry Russian oil from Burgas in Bulgaria to Alexandroupolis in northern Greece has an estimated investment cost of 750-800 million US dollars with an annual capacity of 35 million tonnes of oil. It will supplement a sea route through the Bosphorus for transportation of the product in the region. It is anticipated that the pipeline will forge a new outlet for Russian oil and for oil from the Caspian Sea to Europe and America.
An estimated 35-50 million tons of crude oil would flow through Alexandroupolis in end-2008, while Greece will profit between 30 and 50 million dollars annually from the transportation of oil via the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, according to 2005 estimates.
In response to extensive Greek press coverage of the Karamanlis-Putin-Purvanov meeting, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos clarified that the exact level of each side's participation in the oil pipeline project remains to be decided, something expected to be cleared up at yet another meeting, in Athens, of relevant energy Ministers of the three countries and representatives of interested companies within the year. 
For his part, Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, who holds the energy portfolio, said the joint commitment by the three leaders to sign a final inter-state agreement within the year upgrades Athens' international position. "In March 2004 we (the incoming government) found the plan in a state of complete inertia, while since the summer of 2004 all three governments have worked closely to promote the plan," he added, referring particularly to the development boost expected to be reaped by the Thrace province.

Greece considers Russia as "strategic partner" 
Prime Minister Karamanlis wanted to give the meeting a less mundane tone by the end. He told Putin that Greece will further promote bilateral relations with Russia, which Greece considers as a strategic partner. 
Karamanlis underlined that Athens views Moscow as a "partner of strategic importance," saying bilateral issues, regional cooperation and international matters are on the agenda of talks. "Greece places particular emphasis on the further development of relations with Russia in all sectors, as well as in the boosting of relations between the European Union and Russia," he said. 
Putin replied to his host during the press conference after the tripartite summit that the Athens meeting will allow the two sides to discuss bilateral, multilateral and international issues, especially in the fields of energy sector and financial cooperation. Putin told reporters that the relations between Greece and Russia have a strategic character and do not concern energy alone. 
He stressed that there is ground for more balanced and qualitatively better trade and economic relations, military and technical cooperation and coordination between Greece and Russia in the international field, where their views coincide to a great degree.

Defence Minister on Putin visit
Greek Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis was the latest top Greek official to comment on the high-profile visit. He took a more cautious line than the premier and other ministers.
Meimarakis called the Putin visit "very useful", while he nevertheless termed various local press reports citing purported "new deals" for Russian weapons systems as "exaggerated".
"Greece is a country with open and transparent procedures for weapons purchases. In every arms procurement programme we use international tenders open to everyone ... and we, based on what serve Greece's best interests, the available quality and the price, select the one that best one for the country's defence," Meimarakis said.
Greek defence officials are keen not to threaten their very close ties to the Pentagon, which is why they discreetly allowed the use of Aegean island bases in the Iraq War by US forces and planes. Greece was a low-profile combatant in effect that consequently escaped any terrorist backlash, unlike Spain and the UK.

EU Commission approves regional support plan for Greece
Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis said that Ministry agencies would accept the submission of investment projects - based on an existing development law - by October 15th and stressed that approval of dismissal of project would have been completed by December 31st 2006 before new increased financial support was offered to private investors from January 1st 2007.
Speaking to reporters, the Greek Minister said the European Commission approved a new charter of regional support for the period 2007-2013, the first country to have the Commission's approval. Alogoskoufis said financial support to investment projects reached 60 per cent, with support for larger enterprises at 40 per cent, medium-sized enterprises 50 per cent and smaller enterprises (97 pct of total Greek enterprises) at 60 per cent. 
The Greek Minister said the Commission approved new higher financial subsidies on investments after tough negotiations that lasted almost two years.
The upper limit of regional investment subsidies was set at 40 per cent for the regions of eastern Macedonia-Thrace, Epirus and Western Greece, at 30 per cent for Thessaly, Ionian Islands and Crete and 40 per cent for the Peloponnesus and Northern Aegean (to be reduced to 30 per cent from January 1st, 2011).
Financial subsidies for investments in central and western Macedonia and Attica were set at 30 per cent (to be reduced to 20 per cent from January 1st, 2011) and for the south Aegean region 30 per cent and 15 per cent, over the same periods, respectively.
Alogoskoufis said a total of 1,456 investment projects have been submitted so far, budgeted at 2.3 billion euros, and that Ministry agencies have approved 682 projects.
A draft plan of a new development law is expected to be completed by October 15th and to be tabled to parliament as soon as possible to be valid from January 1st, 2007.

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BANKING

National Bank expansion in SEE continues


National Bank recently announced that it was continuing its drive towards further expanding activities abroad, and in particular, southeast Europe. Greece's largest financial institution stated its intent in a letter sent to the Athens Stock Exchange, New Europe reported.
National Bank said it has submitted a binding offer for the takeover of Serbian bank Vojvodjanska Banka and CEC in Romania. Serbian privatisation authorities have also declared National Bank as a first-ranked bidder and the two sides were currently in negotiations over the sale of Vojcodjanska Banka.
In the privatisation of CEC in Romania, National Bank - along with a Hungary-based bank - have been included in a short-list of candidates and were expected to submit improved offers. 
In its letter to the Athens Stock Exchange, National Bank said it planned to apply with Turkey's Capital Markets Commission for a public bid to buy minority stakes in Finansbank AS and Finans Finansal Kiralama AS (Finans Leasing).
Turkish market authorities are expecting National Bank to ask for an exemption from submitting public bids to buy minority stakes in Finans Yatirim Ortakligi.
Finanasbank recently completed the sale of its international stockholdings, Finans International Holding NV and Finansbank Romania, to FIBA Holding AS for 600 million US dollars and repurchased 99.9 per cent of Finansbank Malta Ltd from Finans International Holding NV for US$48m

NBG reports net profit growth 65%

The National bank of Greece said recently that net profit in the first six months of the year rose 65 per cent because of growth in retail lending and the sale of subsidiaries in North America. The bank, Greece's biggest, said net profit in the first six months rose to 546.2 million Euro compared with 330 million Euro in the same period a year ago, New Europe reported.
The figure was helped by the sale of its Atlantic Bank of New York and National Bank of Greece Canada, which resulted in 113 million Euro in profits. The bank's operating profit rose 20 per cent to 1.28 billion Euro from 1.06 billion Euro, while net interest income rose 17 per cent to 886.9 million Euro. Takis Arapoglou, NBG chairman and CEO, said: "The group's performance reflects above all an improvement in the Group's core income, given that in the second quarter of 2006 adverse circumstances prevailed in international markets, which did not allow for trading gains during the said period."

Subsidised interest rates for SME loans

The Greek government will begin a programme on subsidising borrowing interest rates for small- and medium-sized enterprises from September 1st, Development Minister, Dimitris Sioufas, said recently, New Europe reported.
Presenting the programme, Sioufas said the programme would run until end of 2008 and would include around 2,500-3,000 enterprises, while he stressed that more funds would be earmarked under a Fourth Community Support Framework programme. The programme will cover enterprises with a work-force of up to 20 persons and self-employed with an annual turnover of 10 million Euro. Under the programme, the government will subsidise 50 per cent of interest rates on loans and leasing contracts on the precondition that loans would be used for development-modernisation investments. The Greek minister said that only 20 per cent of Greek SMEs sought borrowing from banks to cover their financial needs, a rate smaller compared with the EU average. The development ministry has set up a commission to monitor bank interest rates on corporate loans.

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

Bakoyannis meets with India's Sharma

Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyannis, met in Athens recently with Indian Minister for External Affairs, Anand Sharma, as talks expectedly focused on implementation of UN resolution 1701 for Lebanon and the situation throughout the Middle East, New Europe reported.
Bakoyannis stressed, in fact, that Greece, which will hold the rotating UN Security Council chair in October, "will do whatever it can to contribute to this direction, and in general, to efforts for stability and peace in the Middle East." She also briefed Sharma over her recent trip and contacts in the Mideast, noting that "the time has come for vigorous diplomacy, both in terms of Lebanon as well as over the Palestinian issue." On his part, Sharma emphasised the need for increasing and boosting bilateral cooperation in the fields of technology, communications, IT services, agriculture, science, shipping and, of course, cultural exchanges.

Bilateral ties discussed with Albania PM 

Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, received his visiting Albanian counterpart, Sali Berisha, on September 13th for a meeting and official dinner, during which they discussed bilateral relations and also the Greek minority in Albania, news agency ANA reported. 
In statements afterward, Karamanlis said the meeting had been interesting and constructive and had helped foster better understanding of the positions of both countries on various issues. "The prospects for our relations are great and I am satisfied, because today we confirmed our will to make further use of these possibilities," he told reporters. The Greek premier said that there had been significant progress in trade and economic ties, military and police cooperation between the two countries, while he emphasised the signature of an agreement on energy issues between Greece and Albania during Berisha's visit. In addition to the problems of the Greek minority in southern Albania, the two men also discussed problems faced by Albanian immigrants in Greece and those of Greek businesses operating in Albania.
Karamanlis emphasised that Greece supports Albania's course toward EuroAtlantic structures, to which it attaches great importance: "We are ready to assist our neighbouring country in the effort to carry out the necessary reforms and commitments to the EU it has undertaken," he stressed. Discussion during the dinner between the two premiers focused on regional and international issues, such as that of Kosovo, which Karamanlis described as important for peace, stability and cooperation in the region.
On his part, Berisha thanked Greece for its support of Albania's efforts to "realise its European vision" and for the Greece's contribution from the 1990s until the present day to Albania's efforts to become a democracy based on a market economy and to join the EU and NATO. The Albanian premier stressed that the meeting had been marked by a spirit of understanding and determination to further promote relations in economic cooperation, military cooperation, education and culture and cooperation between legislative and executive organs.

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