Books on Greece
Area (sq km)
% of GDP
Update No: 105 - (30/01/06)
Latest poll in Greece shows continued ruling party lead
over main opposition
The new government is doing well in Greece, in the opinion of those who most
matter, the people. Greek ruling New Democracy (ND) fielded a 2.5-point lead
over main opposition PASOK, 42% to 39.5%, in the latest opinion poll unveiled on
January 12th, the Greek ANA agency reported.
This is a considerable achievement for a party that has been in power for more
than eighteen months now. In terms of smaller parties, 8% of respondents in the
poll picked the Communist Party of Greece (KKE); 3.5% opted for the Coalition of
the Left (Synaspismos) and 4.5% for the out-of-Parliament LA.OS party.
Regarding the question of who is more capable to govern, 49% of respondents
chose Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis; 24% picked PASOK leader and former
foreign minister George Papandreou, whereas 19% said neither. Again a very good
rating for the incumbent.
On the question of which of the two major parties can best deal with the
country's problems, ND was chosen by 33% of the respondents to 15% for PASOK. A
majority, 38%, said neither.
The agency comments that two other questions queried respondents on whether the
ND government is keeping its pre-election promises and on whether the main
opposition party is undergoing renewal.
Regarding the first one, 51% of the respondents said the government is
"probably not" meeting its pre-election pledges; 26% it "probably
is"; and 17% gave a mixed answer.
Finally, the disillusion with the socialists, who were in power for more than
twenty years previously (bar the odd year or two), is clear. 53% of the
respondents said they did not believe PASOK was undergoing a renewal; 27% said
it was, and 6% gave a mixed answer.
KKE leader holds talks with PM
The great trauma for Greece was the civil war of 1944-47, between the
monarchists and the communists, the forerunners of the socialists. The former
won. Queen Fredericka of Greece came to London in 1945 and persuaded Churchill
to back the Greek monarchist cause. That was decisive.
This is the poignant fact behind the latest developments. The Communist Party of
Greece (KKE) leader Aleka Papariga on January 11th called on Prime Minister
Karamanlis, with whom she discussed the planned revision of the Constitution and
the anti-communist memorandum currently before the Council of Europe.
After the one-hour meeting, Papariga said she asked the prime minister that the
ruling New Democracy party's (ND) delegation at the Council of Europe vote
against the "fascist memorandum", noting that the ND delegation had
already voted against the memorandum at the Council of Europe's Political
She further said that all political parties should reject the memorandum
regardless of their ideological convictions and their own positions with respect
to communist parties.
The KKE secretary general said that at stake was whether the people will have
the right to struggle and pursue, and whether the communist parties will have
the right to act and struggle for the rights of the people.
Papariga said that there were "powers that wish to put the people in a
cast" with the draft resolution that was before the Council of Europe's
She also expressed the KKE's opposition to the revision of the Constitution
proposed by the government, explaining that her party opposed the revision
"not because a revision is not necessary, but because the reactionary
measures will be increased with the revision." She added, however, that
when the proper time came, the KKE would state its position formally.
Regarding the Constitutional revision per se, the question was what direction it
would take, Papariga said.
She said there existed reactionary laws which needed to be abolished, and
referring to the issue of the alleged abduction and interrogation of Pakistanis,
said "they were carried out under agreements that had been signed by the
preceding (PASOK) government, which gave the right to the Americans and the
British to act in our country."
Papariga said the KKE did not agree with observance of legality given that
reactionary laws were being passed every day, stressing her party's position on
the need for abolition of the reactionary laws.
There was no legality when the collective, but also the individual, rights of
the citizens are violated, she said.
The economy is doing well
The secret of the success of the new government is that the economy is
performing well, GDP growing along at nearly 4% per annum.
Moreover, Greece will increase efforts to boost exports in 2006 amid the
sector's increasing contribution to gross domestic product growth, Finance
Minister George Alogoskoufis, said on January 12th. "The growth rate of
exports in the first 10 months of 2005 rose faster than the nominal GDP growth,
lifting the contribution of exports to GDP," Alogoskoufis said. "This
constitutes a basic condition for the progress and development of the (Greek)
economy," he added.
Greek exports grew nearly 13% in the January-to-October period compared with the
Greece's 2005 budget estimated GDP growth at 3.6%, while the 2006 budget
predicts a growth rate for this year of 3.8%. In 2006, Greece will participate
in 81 international exhibitions and send 31 trade missions abroad, up from 38
and 16 respectively in 2005.
Greece will also encourage Greek companies who aren't currently exporting to
participate in trade missions that will promote products and services from all
sectors, not just food and drink. The country will concentrate its efforts on
key target markets including Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan,
Russia, Saudia Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US
An olive oil export promotion programme is currently being developed for the
Chinese market for the 2006 to 2010 period, ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games
in 2008 and the 2010 Expo in Shanghai.
Greece renews GM corn ban in defiance of EU order
Greece said it was renewing a ban on the sale and cultivation of genetically
modified corn seed for another 18 months, in defiance of a European Union
ultimatum ordering Athens to lift the ban by January 10th, New Europe reported.
The Greek agriculture ministry said that its Deputy Minister, Alexandros Kontos,
had signed a government decree banning the sale of 31 types of seed derived from
the MON810 variety of genetically modified maize. The government decree
increased the variety of banned seeds from 17 to 31 and included updated
scientific findings which informed the decision to extend the ban.
On January 11th, the European Commission ordered Greece to lift a ban on
planting genetically modified maize seeds made by US biotech giant Monsanto
because Athens had failed to prove they were dangerous.
MON810 is one of 18 genetically modified organisms (GMOs) authorised for use in
the European Union and it was devised to resist an insect which can cause
considerable damage to maize crops. According to the government decree, Greece
said that the MON810 variety of genetically modified maize caused the disruption
of biodiversity among non-harmful and beneficial insects in the Greek
countryside. Greece also claims there is a heightened danger that genetically
modified pollen will contaminate non-GM cultivations due to the high prevalence
of bee-keeping in Greece. Environmental group Greenpeace applauded Greece's
decision to renew the ban on the GM corn strains developed by Monsanto and
another 14 new varieties that the European Commission "secretly" added
to the European list on December 30th, without informing the public.
"Greenpeace applauds the decision of the Greek government to remain
steadfast in its position to protect the Greek environment and agriculture and
condemns the European Commission for lack of transparency regarding its
decisions for mutant products," Greenpeace said in a statement.
Athens signs strategic agreement with Microsoft
The Greek government and Microsoft recently signed a strategic agreement
offering preferential financial terms for the purchase of software licenses by
the Greek state, free software use rights for Greek civil servants (including
home use) and training by Microsoft on the use of new technologies, New Europe
The agreement was signed in Lisbon by Economy and Finance Minister, George
Alogoskoufis, on behalf of the Greek state. It is part of a government plan to
promote a new digital strategy for the period 2006-2013 and to forging closer
cooperation between the public sector and private enterprises in the IT sector.
Under the agreement, Microsoft will set up an innovation centre in Greece with
the aim to support the local academic community as well as Greek software
companies in developing cutting-edge technologies and to improve their
international competitiveness. Microsoft will also set up at least 10 computer
labs for the vocational training of unemployed people, seniors as well as
offering scholarships or free software to Greek universities. The agreement also
envisages the introduction of pilot electronic governance programme and support
of small- and medium-sized enterprises. The Greek minister urged Microsoft
founder and chairman Bill Gates to hold a future government officials'
conference on information society in Athens, while stressing that the agreement
offers significant opportunities to a new generation of Greek students,
researchers and businesspeople.
SEECP signs rail cooperation memorandum
Transport ministers of the SE Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) signed a
landmark memorandum of cooperation for the establishment of a new
high-specifications rail network linking the major hubs of SE Europe, during a
meeting in Athens recently, chaired by current SEECP chairman Greece's transport
and communications Minister, Michalis Liapis, New Europe reported.
SE Europe may be situated in the periphery of the European Union, but it should
not find itself in the periphery of development, Liapis told the meeting, adding
that the goal of the current Greek presidency of the group (for the period
2005-2006) was to boost the competitiveness of the region's rail transports,
which in turn would attract more passengers and cargoes.
He welcomed the agreement as a "bold venture for upgrading the transport
infrastructures in SE Europe, the promotion of the railway as an
environment-friendly means of transport, the promotion of tourism, and also the
sustainable economic development of the region, as well as rendering Greece a
protagonist in developments in the region.
The in-principle agreement, which was signed by the transportation ministers of
Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Greece, Moldova,
Romania, Serbia-Montenegro and Turkey, ushers in a new era in rail communication
among the countries of the region, with the goal being to boost the
competitiveness of rail transports in SE Europe, improve the quality of services
offered, and substantially reduce travel time along the strategic sections of
the region's rail network.
The first stage of the ambitious scheme, which covers a network of 14 rail axes,
is due for completion in 2013, while the second stage is envisaged to be
completed in 2020.
According to the memorandum, "mild" interventions will be made in the
first stage aimed at increasing the speed of passenger trains to 130 kilometres
per hour, with the prospect of speed reaching 160 and even 220 kilometres per
hour along certain stretches of the network, while the speeds of the cargo
trains will also be accordingly adjusted.
The goal of the Greek presidency (of the SEECP) was to boost the competitiveness
of rail transports in SE Europe, which would attract more passengers and goods,
To achieve that goal, it is necessary to increase the speed of rail transports
(from 60 kilometres per hour to 160 kilometres per hour in the intermediate
term), reduce delays, particularly at the cross-border crossings, and upgrade
the quality of services provided to passengers, Liapis said, adding that all
these elements were contained in the memorandum that would be signed at the end
of the conference. Regarding the financing of the networks, the memorandum
provided for investigating the prospects of national and international, public
and private resources.
Addressing the conference in turn, Stylianidis said that the modernisation of
the region's road and rail axes was expected to contribute substantially to
improving the economies of SE Europe, and he cited recent activities aimed at
opening up new cross-border axis and crossings with neighbouring countries and
the materialisation of major road projects of European-wide interest.
Stylianidis noted that Greek premier, Costas Karamanlis, was running a strong
"economic diplomacy" campaign, adding that during his recent visits to
the US, China and Japan, the Greek effort had focused on the Balkan region, with
the aim of encouraging investments in the region and assisting the development
of entrepreneurship through the projection of Greece as a part of the whole
called SE Europe. "Our proposal is the establishment of headquarters of
international business groups in Greece, with production units in the Balkans,
thus encouraging cooperation among our countries and growth," Stylianidis