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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)

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Update No: 116 - (25/01/07)

High Support for Karamanlis 
The government in Greece is not suffering from mid-to-late term blues - quite the reverse. In what almost amounts to a presidential system it is the prime minister who really counts. As it so happens, Premier Kostas Karamanlis is hugely popular.
He led the conservative New Democracy (ND) to a victory in the March 2004 election, securing 165 seats in the Greek Parliament. The Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) had administered the government since January 1996. 
Karamanlis remains the preferred choice to lead the Greek government, according to a poll by VPRC published in Kathimerini. All of 49 per cent of respondents believe Karamanlis is the most qualified person to serve as prime minister in the European nation. Only 23 per cent of respondents would prefer current PASOK leader George Papandreou-a former foreign minister-as head of government. In other words, he is more than twice ahead of his rival, nearly three years after beating him in the elections.

Polling Data
Who is the most qualified person to govern Greece?
                                                   Jan.2007 Dec.2005 Nov.2006
Kostas Karamanlis (ND)               49%          49%          47%
George Papandreou (PASOK)      23%          26%          22%
Neither / Other                              22%          20%           31%
Source: VPRC / Kathimerini
Methodology: Interviews with 960 Greek adults, conducted on Jan. 4 and Jan. 5, 2007. No margin of error was provided.

Plenty of politicians elsewhere in the Western world would envy him these statistics. Chirac on 38%, Bush on 36% and Blair on 30% certainly would, all trailing in the polls today.

Opening up the EU to the Western Balkans
Karamanlis is aiming to use his popularity at home to enhance his stature abroad and become a true world statesman, as each of the above fancy themselves as being. Greece has acquired a new international profile since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, which everyone knows is the original home of the games. They went off very well, with the Greeks dispelling any myth that they are sunk in Balkan inefficiency. 
Karamanlis has the noble idea of championing the Balkan region as a whole for European Union (EU) membership. Who better to lead the way than the country that was cradle to Western civilisation?
He began with a tour of the Western Balkans in mid-January. 

Karamanlis heaps praise on Croatia's Euro-Atlantic progress, meets with PM Sanader 
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on January 14th reiterated Greece's support for Croatia's Euro-Atlantic course, after a meeting in Zagreb with Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader. Karamanlis expressed support for the expansion of the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into the Western Balkans, saying, "Greece supports strongly the Croatian road to the EU and NATO, as well as the expansion of EU to all countries in this region, because it will serve as the best guarantee for its stability."
Karamanlis, who arrived in Zagreb on the first leg of a visit to Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia, said bilateral political relations between Greece and Croatia were excellent, while calling for additional efforts so that bilateral trade ties reach the excellent level of political relations.
Croatia, Karamanlis said, was ahead of western Balkan countries in the course towards incorporation into Euro-Atlantic institutions. Greece, he added, stood at the side of Croatia on its road to European Union accession, and considered "significant" the progress and reforms that Croatia has made in order to complete its accession negotiations. With respect to the membership criteria for joining NATO, Karamanlis said Croatia has made substantial progress, adding that Greece looks forward to the prospect of an invitation being extended to Croatia during the next NATO summit in 2008. 
He also said that he and Sanader discussed developments in the Balkans, with a particular emphasis on Kosovo, noting that Croatia's role was acquiring particular importance at this time, as it currently chaired the SE Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP). "Looking back on Croatia's 15-year course, from its establishment during the turbulent period of the break-up of Yugoslavia to the present, which finds Croatia on the threshold of the European Union, I cannot but express my admiration and congratulations for the progress accomplished," Karamanlis said. Sanader, in turn, said Greece was a firm supporter of Croatia's Euro-Atlantic prospects, and that premier Karamanlis had committed himself to backing Croatia for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Sanader also said he accepted an invitation by Karamanlis to visit Greece in the first half of 2008, stressing that he would be accompanied by entrepreneurs on that visit.
Finally, the Croatian prime minister further stressed to Karamanlis that his country will complete preparations for joining the EU and NATO by the end of 2008.
Karamanlis later met with Croatian president Stjepe Mesic, while afterwards he addressed a panegyric meeting of the Croatian cabinet marking the 15th anniversary of the country's independence.

'The EU is open to all those who adopt its rules,' as Slovenia shows
Prime Minister Karamanlis on January 15th stressed that Slovenia serves as an example for all the countries aspiring to join the Union and wishing to "share with us the benefits of European integration." Addressing an event in Ljubljana celebrating Slovenia's entrance into the euro-zone, Karamanlis, noted that Slovenia's case is an "example that clearly demonstrates that our Union is open to all those that adopt its rules and fulfil all the conditions and criteria (for membership)."
Karamanlis arrived in the Slovenian capital on January 14th -- following his official visit to neighbouring Croatia -- to attend celebratory events commemorating the country's highly prized entrance into the euro-zone, as the one-time former Yugoslav republic on Jan. 1, 2007 became the 13th member-state to introduce the single European currency.
Karamanlis joined European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- whose country currently holds the EU presidency -- and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, among others, at a reception hosted by Slovenian Premier Janez Jansa. Slovenia's euro-zone membership also coincided with the 15th anniversary of the country's independence.
"This development (Slovenia's euro-zone entry) sends a message that continuing European integration is more attractive than ever. It is a very significant message in the current junction vis-a-vis the blueprint for the European edifice, whereas it is also a positive message of confidence in the European economy and currency," he said in his address.
The Greek PM also stressed that Slovenia serves as an example for all the countries aspiring to join the Union and wishing to "share with us the benefits of European integration".
Karamanlis, in fact, indirectly touched on neighbouring Turkey's increasingly complicated EU course, as he noted that Slovenia's case is an "example that clearly demonstrates that our Union is open to all those that adopt its rules and fulfil all the conditions and criteria (for membership)."
Finally, Karamanlis congratulated the Slovenian people and leadership over the country's historic membership in the euro-zone, reminding that Athens vigorously backed the country's accession as the 13th euro-zone member. The country of two million introduced the euro on Jan. 1, becoming the first of the 10 countries to join the bloc two years ago that satisfied economic criteria needed to join the eurozone. 

PM backs Belgrade, wary on Kosovo 
Athens supports a settlement for the status of Kosovo that is "acceptable to all sides" and promotes the Balkan province's multinational character, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said during a visit to Belgrade on the last leg of his tour, which was hardly world statesmanlike in terms of bold leadership. 
Karamanlis, whose trip came ahead of Serbian elections on January 21st, also reassured his counterpart Vojislav Kostunica of Greece's backing for Belgrade's European Union and NATO accession bids.
Asked by reporters whether Kosovo should be granted independence, Karamanlis appeared reluctant to strike a clear stance until United Nations special envoy for Kosovo Martti Ahtisaari has submitted his proposals for the province's final status, expected on January 26. Kostunica said he had forgotten what Ahtisaari looks like because the envoy has not visited Belgrade for six months.
Serbian President Boris Tadic was more tactful, but clear on Serbia's stance on Kosovo. "We defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity and we exercise this right in a European, diplomatic way," he said. Serbia cannot agree to redraw its borders "as this would destabilize the whole region," he said. But he added, "We do not want war or violence."
Karamanlis said all sides should avoid unilateral actions and allow the current process to take its course. But he stressed that any solution "must guarantee the rights of the (Serbian) minority in Kosovo and protect the Serbian Orthodox Church."

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BANKING

National Bank against raising offer for Finansbank

The Greek National Bank on January 2nd said it has requested that Turkey's Capital Markets Commission reconsider a decision asking the Greek bank to raise its offer to buy out Finansbank's minority shareholders. National Bank completed the acquisition of 46 per cent of Finansbank's common shares and 100 per cent of founding shares on August 18th, 2006, while applying to Turkey's Capital Markets Commission to approve a binding public offer to purchase the remaining 44.3 per cent of Finansbank's shares. On December 28th, Turkey's market watchdog said National Bank must raise its offer to US$4.14 for each 10 shares, up from US$4.04 paid for the acquisition, citing accounting differences on valuations for the Turkish lender.

Marfin eyes Piraeus Bank

Marfin Popular Public Co, the second-biggest lender in Cyprus, said it plans to buy Greece's Piraeus Bank SA. Piraeus Bank said it wasn't notified ahead of Marfin's intentions, Hellenic News Agency (HNA) reported. 
Dubai Investments Group is to participate in Marfin with US$ five billion in new capital. Marfin Popular Bank said it would make a public offer to buy rival Piraeus Bank and the Bank of Cyprus, a day after Piraeus launched a bid for Marfin Popular. Piraeus' move is seen as a defensive, pre-emptive move to block an imminent bid by Marfin for Piraeus and the Bank of Cyprus, which is about 10 per cent owned by Piraeus Bank, market observers said. The Athens stock exchange temporarily suspended trade on shares of the banks, saying it wanted to give investors more time to digest the fast-breaking news.

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ENERGY

Gazprom discussing direct gas deliveries 

Gazprom is discussing the possible development of direct gas supplies to Greece through the alternative supplier Prometheus Gas S.A., the Russian gas giant said in a press release. Gazprom CEO, Alexei Miller, and President of Prometheus Gas, Dimitris Copelouzos, met in Moscow on December 20th to discuss plans and prospects of further cooperation in supplying natural gas to the Greek market with the participation of the joint venture Prometheus Gas, the release said, Interfax News Agency reported.
The main buyer of Russian gas in Greece is the Greek state gas corporation DEPA.
Prometheus Gas is a joint venture between Gazprom Export and Copelouzos Group. It is the main builder of a number of energy facilities in Greece. However, with the liberalisation of the Greek gas market, it now has the possibility to supply gas to consumers by taking over some contracts of Greek gas monopoly DEPA.
Gazprom Export supplied around 2.4 billion cubic metres of gas to Greece in 2005. It plans to supply 3.1 billion cubic metres a year until 2016 and around seven billion cubic metres a year after 2016.
Greece does not produce any of its own gas. Gazprom supplies 100 per cent of the pipeline gas Greece imports, which is 82 per cent of the country's total need for this fuel. Gazexport supplied around 2.5 billion cubic metres of gas to Greece in 2005. The remaining demand is covered through liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from Algeria.

Greek electricity utility planning bid on Negotino

Greek electricity utility Public Power Corp (PPC) is planning to bid for 100 percent of the Negotino 320 megawatt power station in Macedonia, MRT Online reported. 
It plans to do so through its SENCAP consortium, which also includes Italian energy group Enel and US group Contour Global, sources were cited as saying. According to the sources, Macedonia's Finance Ministry will call a tender for the Negotino power station and bidders are due to install a new unit which will burn natural gas or coal.

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