Books on Greece
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Update No: 110 - (27/07/06)
President Papoulias appeals to international diplomacy to
end violence in Middle East
The Greeks are deeply concerned about developments in Lebanon and Israel. It is
all happening not so very far away after all. President of the Hellenic Republic
Karolos Papoulias on July 24 made a dramatic appeal to "international
diplomacy which has a responsibility to put an immediate end to the vicious
circle of violence" in the Middle East.
Addressing a reception at the Presidential Mansion marking the 32nd anniversary
of the restoration of democracy in Greece on July 24, 1974, the president said
that "after World War Two the international community hoped that the logic
of collective punishment would never return. Each child, each non-combatant
killed, each refugee is not simply a number in the list of victims, but a burden
on our conscience and a guilt for international diplomacy."
Papoulias also referred to the "Cyprus drama which began with the coup
against President Makarios and still persists because of the Turkish occupation
which still divides the island." On the occasion, he welcomed at the
reception students from two Cypriot high schools.
"The anniversary of the restoration of democracy," Papoulias said,
"is of particular importance...It obliges us to a process of political
self-criticism, to reflect on the years that elapsed since it occurred until
now. We owe to the people that fought against the dictatorship that are either
among us now or sorrowfully absent, a sincere and brave criticism on the
weaknesses of present-day democracy. For democracy to function correctly, active
citizens are needed, with a critical thought and interested in public affairs.
The distancing of citizens from public affairs constitutes today one of the main
threats against democracy."
The president also referred to educational issues saying that "what we want
is an education system which offers equal opportunities to the child of the
worker and the child of the industrialist, an education system capable of
forging healthy personalities and citizens with ideals and supra-individual
goals, who will not seek personal completion through accumulation of consumer
goods and material power."
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on the anniversary
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis also spoke on the anniversary: "On July
24, 1974, under critical conditions for the country and Hellenism, Constantine
Karamanlis (his uncle) and the Government of National Unity, was assuming, with
the support of all the democratic citizens and the contribution of all the
political forces, the difficult effort for the smooth transition to
democracy," Karamanlis said.
"We are celebrating today 32 years of the uninterrupted operation of our
democracy. This great achievement is a collective work. We all managed to render
the Greek state modern, orderly and well governed. We all managed to get Greece
out of isolation and make it a European country, a factor of peace, stability
and security in our broader region. An exemplary country for all our neighbours
who today follow the course which we first paved," the prime minister
"Today, with our constitution consolidated and strong, we Greeks are
obliged to follow unswervingly the road which we opened in July 1974. The road
of unity and unanimity. Of dialogue, the seeking of common views, of composition
and consensus," Karamanlis said.
Opposition viewpoints on the anniversary
In his message on July 24 main opposition Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK)
leader George Papandreou said it was "necessary that Greece becomes
powerful again, with strong institutions, development, progress, prosperity and
social cohesion, particularly in a period characterised by increased challenges
in the broader region with the ongoing war in the Middle East."
"In the years that followed until today, our country had a steadfast
democratic course. Our democracy has been consolidated. We have shaped a modern
parliamentary democracy with powerful democratic institutions. We have
strengthened the prestige and the presence of our country within the European
Union and in our region," Papandreou noted.
"The safeguarding of human and social rights, the deepening of democracy,
decentralisation, reinforcing local government, the effective participation of
citizens, social justice and solidarity and securing our national issues
constitute today a demand for the present and the future," the PASOK leader
In their messages the smaller left-wing parties on July 24 stressed that more
work needed to be done for greater democratisation, both within and outside
According to the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the rights of the working
class and lower classes were not recognised and even basic rights were
"under ruthless attack from the forces of capital and their political
"The conclusion is single and clear: the contemporary needs of the
working-lower class family cannot be met in the present socio-political
framework. An alliance of the working class with the lower classes of the city
and village is a necessary prerequisite for overturning imperialist
dominion," a KKE announcement said.
The Coalition of the Left, Movements and Ecology party (SYN) called for the
restoration of democracy in international relations, an end to wars, defeat of
the imperialist policies of the United States, reduction in regional
inequalities and action to deal with the consequences of neoliberal
globalisation, to establish and deepen the gains of social democracy, and a
rollback of 'anti-terrorist hysteria' among other demands.
Twenty-five years of EU membership
Costas Karamanlis chose the Acropolis hill as a backdrop for an open-air
address marking yet another anniversary, it being 25 years since Greece joined a
group of much wealthier countries in what has become the European Union.
As swallows circled above the podium, the prime minister explained how his late
uncle and namesake saw European integration as guaranteeing Greece's future
stability in a historically volatile region.
"Our destiny changed for the better," Karamanlis said. "Security,
consensus politics, social convergence - we've come a long way towards achieving
The elder Constantine Karamanlis, a veteran of military coups and cold war
politics who served four terms as prime minister, was less concerned with the
economic impact of accession. But for most Greeks, who are still strongly
committed to the union, the main benefit has been an unparalleled rise in living
The Acropolis, with its battered ancient temples, is still an iconic image of
classical Greece. But the number of visitors climbing the hill has shrunk by
almost 30 per cent since 1981. Tourists travel instead to dozens of Aegean
islands, sending property values soaring and creating jobs that help stem
migration to Athens.
Doing well out of the EU
Ireland has done spectacularly well out of joining the EU, which it did in
1973, with the UK. So has Greece, which joined nearly a decade later.
Grants from EU structural funds have helped underpin growth rates above 3 per
cent yearly since 2000. Ambitious infrastructure improvements, including a
series of showcase transport projects for Athens, became possible thanks to
structural aid amounting to more than 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product
Yet Greece still lacks administrative capacity needed to ensure timely
disbursement of EU funds. The government was embarrassed last year by having to
repay almost 500m Euro in aid that had been misspent. It was the first time that
an EU member state had been forced to return funds to the commission.
The finance ministry is struggling to meet spending deadlines for the current
22bn Euro structural package. After allocating just 47 per cent of the funds
between 2001 and 2006, the remaining 53 per cent must be absorbed in less than
Terms and conditions would be tightened further for the next structural package,
in which Greece's share amounts to 18bn Euro - the last sizeable lump sum in EU
aid the country is likely to receive, given the demand for funding from the
central and east European member states.
However, EU directives have become a catalyst to implement reforms that would
otherwise be blocked by political infighting and vested interest groups. While
delays and obstacles persist, market liberalisation id gradually making
progress, bringing increased investment in key sectors such as energy, as well
as improved competitiveness.
According to the Switzerland-based Institute for Management Development's latest
annual report on international competitiveness in 61 countries, Greece jumped
form 50th to 42nd place, the third biggest improvement after China and India.
Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Greek Industrialists' Federation, says:
"We are finally catching up. Greek business is no longer a matter of 50 big
family firms. It involves several thousand companies run by professional
managers that can compete on equal terms with international peers."
For small and medium businesses, the sharp decline in interest rates that
accompanied Greece's entry to the eurozone has provided growth opportunities
through access to cheap loans. Interest rate convergence has also brought a boom
in mortgage lending, sustained by pent-up demand for modern housing and
intensifying competition among Greek banks.
Middle-class developments of red-tiled Mediterranean-style mezonettas sprawl
across former olive groves and vineyards east of Athens. A suburban railway and
the Attiki highway, both legacies of the 2004 Olympics, have opened up new areas
for residential development south of the capital.
As Greeks move out to fast-growing suburbs, immigrants from Albania, Ukraine and
Georgia who have legitimised their presence by acquiring work and residence
permits, are buying apartments in central Athens neighbourhoods.
Rapprochement with the Turks
Greece has also reaped political benefits from its membership of the
eurozone in the form of a deeper sense of security, which is particularly
evident in relations with Turkey, according to Takis Ioachimides, professor of
European affairs at Athens University. "Belonging to a strong currency that
is shared by large countries like Germany and France is a protection for Greece.
Eurozone membership has a political dimension. It is one of the reasons that has
enabled us to embrace wholeheartedly Turkey's candidacy for EU membership,"
For Greece, rapprochement with a historically hostile neighbour is opening up a
host of opportunities. Cross-border trade has doubled to about 2bn Euro over the
past four years. Increasing numbers of foreign tourists make trips between the
east Aegean islands and the Turkish coast. The change in young people's
attitudes towards Turkey has triggered a surge in applications to study Turkish
at Greek Universities.
The first joint Greek-Turkish infrastructure project, a 280km gas pipeline
constructed by Botas and Depa, the Turkish and Greek state-controlled gas
utilities, is due for completion this year. The 600m Euro pipeline will carry
Azerbaijani gas from Anatolia to Thrace and, from 2010, beneath the Adriatic Sea
to Italy as an alternative supply route to western Europe.
National Bank of Greece's acquisition of Finansbank, the eighth-largest Turkish
bank, marks a breakthrough for Greek investment - although a decline in share
prices and falling exchange rate have reminded investors of the risks associated
with emerging markets.
Yet the medium-term outlook for NBG's venture is bright, given Turkey's strong
growth prospects. As Greece's flagship bank, NBG is expected to provide an
umbrella for medium-sized companies seeking to penetrate the region's biggest
For Turkish companies, Greece is a small neighbouring market compared with those
of the Caucasus and Middle East. But executives at Turkey's large family-owned
conglomerates keep in touch with Greek business organisations. Retailing is one
sector with potential - several Turkish clothing outlets have opened in a new
Athens leisure complex, The Mall, that includes both local and international
Two obstacles have to be overcome, however, before Greece and Turkey can develop
a partnership. One is the long-standing disagreement over sovereignty in the
Aegean Sea, which has expanded form a single dispute - the delineation of the
continental shelf - to a bundle of about 15 related issues.
A mid-air collision recently between Greek and Turkish military aircraft in the
south Aegean highlighted a continued stand-off between the Turkish and Greek
military, which has been contained mainly through diplomatic manoeuvring by the
Both Athens and Ankara moved quickly to avert possible tension over the
incident, in which the Greek pilot was killed. But it has revived calls in
Athens for the continental shelf issue to be referred to the international court
of justice in the Hague - a process that in itself is disputed because of
Greek-Turkish differences over which issues should be presented for
The Greek and Turkish governments have agreed on a simpler process: implementing
confidence-building measures, among them setting up a telephone hotline between
the Greek and Turkish armed forces chiefs, avoiding military exercises in the
Aegean during the tourist season and co-operating on air-sea rescue training.
Cyprus is the other sticking-point in the Greek-Turkish relationship. The Athens
government is supportive of Greek Cypriot insistence that Turkey should
recognise Cyprus and should lift a ban on Cypriot-flagged shipping calling at
its ports. At the same time, Greece is anxious to head off the possibility of a
Greek Cypriot veto that would suspend Turkey's accession negotiations.
Given the brightening prospects for bilateral trade and investment, Greece
stands to lose much more than Cyprus would if Turkey's EU accession process
stumbles. Increased Greek exposure to Turkey should encourage the politicians to
move forward, according to Mr Daskalopoulos.
"The Greek business drive into the Balkans in the 1990s facilitated better
political relations with those countries. But this is a different case. There
are important political issues with Turkey that can't be solved by business
people," Daskalopoulos says.
Credit Agricole offers 3.1bn Euro for Emporiki Bank
Paris-based Credit Agricole recently submitted a bid for the purchase of
Emporiki Bank at 23.5 Euro per share, or 3.1 billion Euro for acquiring the
Greek bank. The French bank, a strategic partner of Emporiki Bank, at Credit
Agricole's board meeting - chaired by Credit Agricole group chairman Rene Carron
- unanimously voted in favour of the public bid to buy 100 per cent in Emporiki
Bank, New Europe reported.
The price offered by Credit Agricole is 0.3-per cent higher than Emporiki Bank's
closing share price on June 9th (23.44 Euro), 0.6 per cent higher compared with
the weekly average market price of 23.36 Euro, and 17.9 per cent higher compared
with the average price from January 1st 2004. The price is 50 per cent higher
from the current P/E ratio of the four largest Greek banks for the period
2006-2007. ANA quoted Credit Agricole as saying its bid would be the largest
foreign investment in Greece.
The acceptance period for the bid will last from the end of June to early August
2006, with more information expected after the approval of an information
bulletin by the bank. "The bid is a friendly approach the transaction will
be made in cash and covers all of Emporiki Bank's shareholders. It will be the
largest foreign investment in Greece and clearly reflects our trust in the Greek
market and its prospects," Carron said, adding: "Additionally, this
transaction is fully compatible with our international expansion strategy,
announced in December 2005, and fulfils all criteria set for our acquisitions.
"As a strategic shareholder in Emporiki Bank since 2000 we look forward to
continuing our partnership with the aim to further enhance and expand Emporiki
Bank's activities." On his part, Georges Pauget, Credit Agricole's chief
executive, said: "By combining Emporiki Bank's existing capabilities and
Credit Agricole's know-how in various business activities, we will have the
opportunity to develop a more productive Greek bank, focused on domestic and
neighbouring markets with the support of one of the largest international
financial groups. We believe we can create added value for Emporiki's customers
and boost the bank's competitiveness to higher levels."
Commenting on the French bank's bid for Emporiki Bank, Economy and Finance
Minister George Alogoskoufis said it was a positive development and stressed
that the government would examine this bid, as any other bid in the framework of
Energy sector to change drastically by 2010
The energy sector in Greece is expected to change drastically by 2010 as
measures and policies introduced by the government could lead to one million
Greek households using natural gas, at least three new private electricity
production units projected to be included in the country's electricity grid and
a total of 3,000 MW of energy by renewable energy sources added to the system,
ANA quoted Nikos Stephanou, secretary-general at the development ministry said
recently, New Europe reported.
Addressing an 8th Athens Forum of Energy Community in Southeastern Europe,
Stephanou said Greece would see its position in the global energy map upgraded
in the future through completion of a Greek-Turkish natural gas pipeline
(expected in early 2007), a Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline and a new
electricity interconnection line between Greece and Turkey (expected in the
second half of 2007). The Greek official stressed that a second electricity
power line with Macedonia would be completed by the end of the year.
The Athens Forum is the first to be held after the signing of an Energy
Community treaty last October in Athens. Government officials from nine
countries (Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, UNMIK, Bulgaria, Romania,
Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina) have signed the treaty, while five EU
member-states (Greece, Austria, Italy, Hungary and Slovenia) have also signed
The energy community aims to create a single energy market in the wider Balkan
market and its interconnection - at a later stage - with the EU's energy market.
Stylianidis discusses energy in Kazakstan
Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Evripides Stylianidis, on an official visit to
Kazakstan, underlined the mutual will for strengthening trade relations and
investments between the two countries, particularly in the energy sector.
"We received this assurance during the signing of an Economic and
Technological Cooperation Protocol, with which a joint Inter-ministerial
committee ended its session," he said from Astana, New Europe reported.
Referring to the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline project, the deputy foreign
minister said Kazakstan's participation in the implementation phase should widen
bilateral relations. "We, both at the beginning of the agreement with
Bulgaria and Russia and during negotiations, were open to the participation of
Kazakstan; this intention is also reflected in the document signed on July
3rd," he added. The protocol anticipates the completion of agreements on
the mutual protection of investments and the avoidance of double taxation.
Tourism cooperation agreement
Tourism Minister, Fani Palli-Petralia, and her Chinese counterpart, Shao Qiwei,
signed a tourism cooperation agreement recently that constitutes one more step
toward closer bilateral relations in the sector of tourism, ANA reported.
Bilateral cooperation in the organising of the Olympic Games was a distinct
chapter in the agreement and within this framework Greece will be the honoured
country in the annual China International Travel Mart (CITM) tourism exhibition
held in Shanghai in November.
ANA quoted Petralia as saying Greece can become a number one European
destination for millions of Chinese tourists. As it was pointed out, a Greek
National Tourism Organisation (GNTO) office opened in Beijing a year ago
providing information to the Chinese who wish to visit Greece, while detailed
tourist guides written in Chinese are also available.
Meanwhile, Petralia also held a meeting with Air China general director Ma Xu
Lun and agreed on the need for a direct flight service between Greece and China.
An invitation was issued to the airline management to visit Greece in August and
discuss the prospect with the responsible government ministers, while until then
the option of chartered flights is being considered.
The Greek tourism minister in comments she made during her visit to the Olympic
Stadium in Beijing stressed that the success of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games