Books on Greece
Area (sq km)
% of GDP
Update No: 099 - (26/07/05)
Athens offers London its security expertise after deadly
Just a day after it was congratulating London and offering advice on hosting the
2012 Olympics, Greece on July 8th was offering condolences and help in security
matters to the British government after a terrorist attack on the city left at
least 55 people dead. "This act of blind violence underlines the fact that
the threat of international terrorism is still real. Faced with this common
threat, our commitment to confronting it effectively remains strong," said
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in a letter of condolence to his British
counterpart Tony Blair after three bomb blasts on underground trains and one on
a public bus in the centre of London rocked the city less than 24 hours after it
had been awarded the 2012 Games.
Security at the British Embassy in Greece, Athens International Airport, the
metro and other potential terrorist targets was immediately boosted. Authorities
in Cyprus, where Britain has two military bases, also stepped up their police
presence. However, Public Order Minister, Giorgos Voulgarakis, said that Greece
was an "extremely safe country" and offered Britain the services of
skilled Greek officers who were highly trained in anti-terrorism matters in the
build-up to last summer's Olympics in Athens.
Greece had received substantial help from Britain in security matters as it
prepared for the pressures of holding the world's biggest sporting event last
year, spending 1.2bn euros in the process. Voulgarakis said he had informed the
British Ambassador to Greece, Simon Gass, that the government was ready to
reciprocate by sending officers to London "if it is deemed useful."
Meanwhile, Gass thanked Greece for its support. "I am thankful for the
expressions of condolence that have inundated the embassy from the Greek
government, political parties and normal citizens," he said, "I
believe that the democratic way of life, which is valued so highly in Greece as
it is in Britain, is made stronger by the desire of terrorists to spread death
Security sources, involved in the operation during the Athens Olympics, told
Kathimerini that the attack on London was "unique" because the city
was prepared for a hit, yet there was little chance of it being avoided.
Voulgarakis, meanwhile, said that he would be travelling to London soon to meet
with his British counterpart.
Karamanlis to visit Ankara soon
There is nothing like having a common enemy to bring old enemies together.
Greece had long had its own terrorist organisation called 'November 17,' bred of
the disastrous junta of the Greek colonels in 1967-74 and the animus against it,
while the Turks have had to face a brutal terrorist movement among extremist
Kurds. They were both of them among the first to express solidarity with the
British in their predicament.
Karamanlis will pay an official visit to Ankara in the near future, Greek
Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Yorgo Kumuchakos, said on 7/7 itself, as it is now
being called. ''Although the date of the upcoming visit is not certain yet,
Karamanlis' visit will help find new avenues to develop existing ties between
Turkey and Greece,'' Kumuchakos told a news briefing.
Asked by a journalist if Karamanlis' visit to Ankara will be before or after
October 3rd (when entry negotiations will begin for Turkey), Kumuchakos remarked
that he sees no relationship between Karamanlis' visit and the beginning of
Greece pledges commitment to economic reform, spending cuts
As regards domestic matters, Greek PM, Costas Karamanlis, at a cabinet meeting,
which focused on energy policy and the judicial official's promotions, appeared
determined to proceed with the radical changes and the reforms his government
Karamanlis asked his Ministers to raise productivity levels and pointed out that
the reactions to the reforms come from those who have been benefited by the
current situation for years. He also stressed that radical changes and reforms
are the only solution against Public Sector's malfunctions.
At the same meeting, Development Minister, Dimitris Sioufas, referred to the
major energy works as well as the study the government prepares with a view to
unifying the excise duty on diesel and heating fuel to avert tax.
Finance Minister, Giorgos Alogoskoufis, said on 7th July that the government is
committed to adopting measures that would bring its large budget deficit under
control. Alogoskoufis said Athens is determined to bring the deficit below
3 % by the end of 2006, from 6.1% at the end of 2004.
He admitted Greece faces many problems, particularly an overhaul of the pensions
system. His comment was in response to a report by the OECD that said Greece
faces "huge challenges" in the years ahead.
Cabinet approves farm bill to spur growth
Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, and his cabinet recently approved a
farm bill that aims to spur growth in the sector and align with the European
Union's new common agricultural policy. The wide-ranging legislation is destined
for parliament in the near future. "It will support young farmers, reduce
bureaucracy and deal with farmers' day-to-day problems," ANA quoted the
architect of the bill, Agricultural Development and Foods Minister, Evangelos
Basiakos, as saying. "A series of moves contained in the ruling New
Democracy party's manifesto will be implemented that target growth of the
agricultural economy," Basiakos told a news conference.
Among innovations in the bill are short-term, interest-free loans to aid
operational spending for young farmers in mountain and deprived regions of the
country, and medium-term lending in the same categories for the acquisition of
key equipment and machinery. Interest-free loans will also be awarded for the
purchase of farmland. In other categories, a loan-subsidy of 70% is to be
In addition, the bill will legally sanction the creation of agricultural
development centres around the country that the government has begun to set up
in line with EU policy from 2007. Each prefecture will open one centre,
employing a nationwide total of 325 farming specialists. Falling under the
jurisdiction of central regional authorities, the centres will provide
scientific, professional technical and technological support for farmers, the
minister said. Services will also help farmers to keep up to date on European
sector programmes and adapt crop cultivation. One of many aids on offer are data
provision on the type, variety and quality of crops available to farmers.
The fountainhead of democracy; Athens to Washington
Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, recently visited the United States,
a visit that included a meeting with US President George W. Bush at the White
House - the second such meeting in a year. If Athens was the origin of democracy
and of its forcible promotion to other states in Ancient Greece, as it was, why
should it not back its avatars today in the shape of the neo-cons in Washington?
Government spokesman, Theodoros Roussopoulos, noted that the premier first
briefed the president of the republic over results of his talks with US
leadership, followed by briefings of the country's political leaders.
Roussopoulos accompanied Karamanlis on his US visit.
During his regular press briefing, the spokesman highlighted Bush's comment of a
"strategic partnership" with Greece, as well as the latter's praise
for the two countries' bilateral cooperation. "We hadn't been accustomed
(in the past) to seeing such gestures, quite the opposite, I would say,"
ANA quoted Roussopoulos as saying.
Queried about closer ties with Washington vis-à-vis the fight against
international terrorism by Islamist groups, Roussopoulos said: "An
international effort has existed since the end of the 1980s to expand democracy.
Our country, which gave birth to democracy, has played a significant role in
this effort, both in the Balkans and in the wider Middle East region… Greece
considers that this effort should not be restricted only to the greater Middle
East, but should be of a longer duration and involve a greater geo-political
He added, "This initiative is developing in numerous ways, and it's a happy
coincidence that Greece has just concluded its successful chairmanship of the
Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation (BSEC) while at the same time
assuming the rotating presidency of the South East Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP).
Roussopoulos also stressed Athens' continuous efforts at ending the Balkan
peninsula's unfavourable portrayal as "Europe's powder keg."
Finally, Roussopoulos again emphasised Athens' disagreement with Washington's
abrupt recognition last November of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)
as simply "Macedonia," a name sternly opposed by Athens and the only
remaining thorn in otherwise excellent Greek - Macedonian relations. "We
trust that the United States will buttress the United Nations' effort at finding
a solution (to the name issue)," he added.
Alpha Bank posts Q1 gains, expansion abroad bears fruit
Alpha Bank, a leading bank in Greece, reported a 4.8 per cent jump on net profit
for the first quarter of 2005, totalling 96m Euro, the bank said in a statement
recently, New Europe reported.
Earnings per share was 0.41 Euro in the reported period, against 0.39 Euro, the
bank said. Recurring earnings climbed 9.2 per cent to 109.8m compared to 100.5m
Euro in the same period last year.
Alpha Bank said net interest income totalled 273.1m Euro, up 10.8 per cent,
against 246.4m Euro.
The bank statement said that key developments for the boost in profits included:
strong capital adequacy even after its recognition of the pension fund deficit;
retail banking momentum underpinning fast organic growth; international
expansion at the forefront of our strategic objectives; costs adjusted for
one-offs grow only by 2.9 per cent supporting underlying strong profitability;
and head office organisational changes driven by retail strategy and corporate
"Our bank expands rapidly in retail banking in Greece and invests abroad,
in order to maintain strong profitability over the longer term. By encouraging
growth and innovation at all levels of the organisation, we create a large and
powerful bank that will eventually become the point of reference in the
financial services sector in the wider southeastern European region," said
Alpha Bank's Chairman Yannis S. Costopoulos. "Our vision is to replicate
the strong franchise we have in Greece in all the countries in which we
establish a presence. In the process, we create more value for our
shareholders," he added.
"In the first three months of 2005, we made significant progress in
building our retail business, gaining market share in consumer credit and
mortgages. With the acquisition of Jubanka, we made a big step forward to
strengthen our position in southeastern Europe," noted Demetrios P.
Mantzounis, managing director, Alpha Bank. "At the same time, we continued
to contain costs despite rising expenses related to retail business volume
growth, as well as to opening branches and hiring personnel abroad," he
added. "Following the application of international accounting standards,
our sound financial and strong capital position is confirmed. In this context,
prospects for a more dynamic advancement in the future are being strengthened
while we all at Alpha Bank work for the next day with vision, plan and
As regards loans and advances to clients, the bank said they grew 13.5 per cent
year-on-year to 24.2bn Euro by March 31, 2005. Customer assets climbed 4.7 per
cent to 34.1bn Euro in the same period, while liquid customer balances (repos,
synthetic swaps and money market mutual funds) continued to decline.
Greek-Turkish pipeline to carry Caspian gas to Europe
With crude oil prices hitting another record high above US$62 a barrel recently,
a decision to build a natural gas pipeline connecting Turkey and Greece to
transport Caspian and Central Asian natural gas to Europe seems more relevant
The inauguration of works on July 3 by Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis,
and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was, as expected,
overshadowed by the political dimension of the project.
But there is the practical side of the pipeline project: The pipeline aims to
diversify resources. "Beyond this flamboyant show of friendship, this
project may actually lead to diversification of energy sources at a time when
oil prices are soaring," former Greek Energy Minister, Eleftherios
Julian Lee, an energy analyst with the Centre for Global Energy Studies, said it
will take time for the diversification of gas supplies to Europe. "I don't
think it will be particularly quick. What it does do is open southern Europe in
particular to alternative gas supplies from the Caspian region that in the past
have not be suppliers to Europe," he said, New Europe reported.
The 300-kilometre pipeline from Bursa in Turkey to Komotini in Greece is
expected to be operational in 2006. Construction was scheduled to start at the
beginning of July.
The pipeline is initially expected to transport four billion cubic metres of gas
a year, with capacity eventually increasing to 11.5bn cubic metres once it is
connected to two other planned pipelines, and as demand for Caspian gas - an
alternative energy source to the politically volatile Middle East - expands in
The plan for the first pipeline is that it will run for 600 kilometres across
northern Greece from Komotini to the northwest Greek port of Stavrolimena where
it will connect with a 220-kilometre pipeline under the Ionian and Adriatic Seas
with Italy as part of an extensive pipeline initiative known as the Southern
Europe Gas Ring Project.
Greece and Italy signed a protocol of cooperation in June foreseeing the
construction of the underwater natural gas pipeline connecting the two EU
member-states. The underwater pipeline is to be constructed by Greece's natural
gas supplier Depa and Italy's Edison and is expected to be completed by 2010.
Lee said that the gas pipeline should benefit all parties involved. "It
gives Russia an alternative export route into southern Europe; it clearly
provides Italy, Greece and perhaps eventually other European countries with
diversified supplies; it allows Turkey to re-export some of the additional gas
it has contracted to buy and now finds that perhaps it has no domestic use of;
and in time it will give Azerbaijan certainly a route to selling gas into
Europe. So I think that in that sense all of the countries involved in this
project will see benefits from it," the London-based analyst said.
European countries are eager to reduce their reliance on Russian gas. "I'm
sure that diversification is a part of the reason behind this (Greek-Turkish
pipeline) and I'm sure that some governments feel perhaps slightly more
comfortable as a result of this. But I don't think that anyone has suggested
that (Russian gas monopoly) Gazprom has been an unreliable supplier of gas in
the past," Lee said.
Turkey's Botas is expected to use some Russian gas to fill the pipeline to
Greece. "Turkey will be on-selling presumably some of the gas that it has
bought and doesn't have a domestic market for. That would predominantly be
Russian gas from Blue Stream. Once the gas is in Turkey it may be more difficult
to work out actually whose gas it is that's getting shipped on because Turkey is
currently buying gas from Russia, Iran and very shortly it will be taking gas
deliveries from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field," Lee said.
Greek officials at the office of Deputy Development Minister, George Salagoudis,
said that under the agreement signed with Greece, Turkey will act both as a
source and a transit country for natural gas.
"Depa has signed an agreement with Botas where it will receive
approximately 700-800m cubic metres of natural gas. In this case Turkey will act
as a source," an official from the development ministry told New Europe,
referring to the contractual agreement that has drawn fire from some Greek
politicians. Moreover, former Energy Minister Verivakis said the deal
"grants to much economic and political control to Turkey."
At the same time Depa has signed two memoranda with Iran and Azerbaijan which
means that gradually Depa will also receive gas from these countries via Turkey.
In this case Turkey will function as a transit country, the development ministry
Turkey has been trying to expand its role as an energy conduit, connecting
Europe to the oil and gas riches of the Caspian Sea area in Azerbaijan and
Kazakstan Central Asia. In May, the presidents of Georgia, Turkey and Azerbaijan
opened a pipeline that will transport up to one million barrels a day of Caspian
oil and gas through the southern Turkish port of Ceyhan. Greece, in turn, is
looking to become an energy junction in the Balkans. Russia, Bulgaria and Greece
signed a memorandum in April in Sofia for the construction of a pipeline to
carry Russian oil from Bourgas to Alexandroupolis.
Greece, Turkey sign justice cooperation protocol
Greek Justice Minister, Anastasios Papaligouras, and his visiting Turkish
counterpart, Cemil Cicek recently signed the first cooperation protocol between
the two ministries since 1974, New Europe has reported.
The protocol concerns the transfer of know-how in matters of justice and
administering justice. More specifically, it was agreed to commence an
educational programme for Turkish justices and to set up special training
programmes for candidate Turkish judges, which will be held in Thessaloniki and
in Turkey. Meanwhile, a programme for the twinning programme was underway for
the founding and organisation of the institution of ombudsman in Turkey, with
the provision of know-how by the Greek ombudsman, and with EU funding. In
addition, the signing of a twinning programme on copyright matters with the
European Centre fro Public Law was also imminent.
Strong Greece-Russia ties
Greek Foreign Minister, Petros Molyviatis, recently visited Moscow and attested
the strong ties that Greece and Russia have, the Greek Foreign Ministry's
spokesman, Georgios Koumoutsakos, said recently, Itar-Tass News Agency reported.
On the agenda was a meeting between Molyviatis and his Russian counterpart
Sergei Lavrov. The entire range of bilateral relations, including economic
relations, were discussed during the meeting, according to the spokesman.
Koumoutsakos told reporters that regional problems were also be examined, taking
into account the situation in the Balkans and in the Middle East. "In this
framework, the debate touched upon the Black Sea Economic Cooperation
Organisation," the ministry's representative was quoted as saying.
"The United Nations activity, Russia's relations with the European union
and NATO also came up for discussion," he noted.
Avramopoulos vows to bolster tourism
Greek Tourism Minister, Dimitris Avramopoulos, recently stressed the importance
of upgrading the quality of Greece's tourism product during a ceremony for the
annual awards given by the Hellenic chamber of Hotels at the Hotel Grande
Bretagne in central Athens, ANA reported.
Avramopoulos stressed that the ministry's efforts were aiming in this direction
and that quality would give Greece a competitive advantage over other tourist
destinations. He also stressed the need to change shortsighted, price-gouging
attitudes by certain businesses in the tourist sector, which sought to gain
maximum profits in a short space of time, and said the ministry will crack down
on profiteering. The minister announced that the National Tourism Council will
be held for the first time in Thessalonica on July 4th with the participation of
all tourism bodies and pointed to the benefits of the new developmental law,
while he called for the closure of uncompetitive hotel units. Also presented at
the awards was the result of a survey by the magazine Money and Tourism,
according to which Greek hotels were marginally cheaper than their western
European competitors, sometimes even than their equivalents in Turkey.
Avramopoulos meets China tourism administration chief
Greek Tourism Minister, Dimitris Avramopoulos, on June 21 met the head of the
China National Tourism Administration, Shao Qiwei, during an official visit to
China. In statements afterward, Avramopoulos said that important facts had
emerged during the meeting and that a visit by a Chinese minister to Greece
might be expected in this context, New Europe reported.
The two men discussed future estimates of tourist traffic between Greece and
China, with Greece anxious to increase the numbers of Chinese tourists visiting
the country. According to Avramopoulos, the Chinese show a great interest in
Greek culture but Greece had failed to make it onto the "map" of
favourite destinations for the Chinese in recent years. Later that same day
Avramopoulos inaugurated an exhibition of contemporary Greek art in Beijing
entitled "The Art of Greece meets China." He also inaugurated the
tourism trade fair BITE, at which Greece is the honoured country, as well as an
office of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) in Beijing.