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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: 121 - (27/06/07)

The next parliamentary ballot in Greece is tentatively scheduled for March 2008. This might seem rather a long way away. 

But one just has to think of the US, the acme of democracy for the Greeks. Everybody is already obsessed about the October 2008 presidential election, which is, indeed, likely to decide the fate of the world, if anything can.

ND, PASOK Almost Tied in Greece
The situation in Greece is as follows. Its governing party since 2004 has fared pretty well; but it is barely ahead in public standing of the main opposition political organization, according to a poll by Metron Analysis. 33.4 per cent of respondents would support the governing New Democracy (ND) in the next legislative election, while 32 per cent would support the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which ruled on and off for twenty years.

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE), which at least is still an electoral force, is third with 6.8 per cent, followed by the People's Orthodox Alarm (LAOS) with 4.4 per cent, and the Coalition of the Left and Progress (SIN) with 3.6 per cent.

In the March 2004 parliamentary election, Kostas Karamanlis led the ND to victory, securing 165 seats in the Greek Parliament. PASOK had administered the government since January 1996. Current PASOK leader George Papandreou served as foreign minister under Premier Kostas Simitis.

The Turkish angle
Relations with Turkey have improved greatly of late. But contentious issues remain unresolved, above all Cyprus.

The Turks are in a tangle in more ways than one at the moment, being hard-pressed by Kurdish insurgents in the southeast. The last thing they need is a new squabble with Greece to their west, a reasonable moment for Athens to up the pressure upon Ankara.

On June 7th, Karamanlis addressed the Economic Forum on the Balkans and urged Turkey to withdraw from Cyprus, saying, "We want a Turkey that rejects practices of unilateral demands, that respects its neighbours and responds to the commitments that it has undertaken itself, towards all the members of the European Union (EU). It cannot, in the 21st century, maintain an occupation force against the Republic of Cyprus that is separating the island with the last wall remaining in European territory." 

Karamanlis reaffirms reform course
"Nothing will stop the ongoing changes and reforms, the government's reforms strategy is continuing unwaveringly", Karamanlis reaffirmed on June 10th, speaking in the central city of Larissa at his ruling New Democracy (ND) party's pre-congress for Central Greece and Thessaly.

He said that the substantive reform in the agricultural sector was ensuring a new developmental prospect, creating new opportunities in the productive process, and adding new jobs, and outlined in depth the relevant actions his government was taking in all the peripheries.

Karamanlis explained that the government was encouraging and actively supporting the organisation of the agricultural sector on the basis of the principles of entrepreneurship, the creation of competitive farming exploitations, the production of organic farming and animal-breeding products, the implementation of integrated management systems, the projection and promotion of farm products, the strengthening of the human capital through appropriate orientation and systematic state assistance, the foundation of inter-professional organisations and boosting of the producer groups, the creation of the necessary infrastructures through the construction of reservoirs and irrigation works, protection of the environment and the natural resources, adaptation of production to the particularities and advantages of each region, the restructuring of large cultivations, support of local cultivations that produce traditional quality products, and the development of parallel economic activities such as agro-tourism and standardisation of farm products.

The prime minister referred to the intensive pace at which the projects on the national highway network were progressing, stressing that the lethal "horseshow" on the Malliakos Gulf stretch of the national highway was being converted into a modern highway of European standards, while the tender for the major project at Tempi and Platamonas was in the final stage, the contract for the construction of the Central Greece axis has been signed and construction would begin in September, the "strategic" project that will cross the Thessaly plane was set to commence, the Larisa-Trikala and Larisa-Karditsa sections of the national highway were being upgraded, and a bypass of the town of Volos was also under construction. 

Considerable reforms already producing results, Premier Karamanlis says
The Greek economy has in fact been faring reasonably well of late. Prime Minister Karamanlis, addressing over 500 senior executives of powerful international fiscal organisations, in the framework of the Institute of International Finance (IIF)´s spring 2007 meeting in Athens, was able to refer to the positive steps taken by the Greek economy over the past three years. "Considerable reforms have already been implemented and are already producing tangible results. Our option is to continue in the same direction. What we have achieved until now is only a sample of what will follow in the future," the prime minister said, outlining the achievements of the economy. 

Karamanlis placed emphasis on fiscal stability, "which was attained in a reliable and sustainable way in only 3.5 years, since the deficit was decreased from 7.8 percent in 2004 to 2.6 percent of GDP and pointed to the new goal of achieving balanced budgets by the year 2010." "It is, indeed, an extremely important fact that fiscal adjustment was combined with strong development, which remained one of the highest in the eurozone, reaching 4.6 percent in the first quarter of 2007. And it is also important that development is based mainly on exports and investments," the prime minister further said. 

Karamanlis also referred to the drop in unemployment below 9 percent, which is the lowest rate to be achieved in the past 12 years and to the increase in exports, which increased over 18 percent in 2006, that is the biggest increase in the past 20 years, as well as to direct foreign investments that exceeded 2 percent of GDP in 2006. Focusing on the Greek economy's extroversion, the prime minister said that investments abroad amounted to 3.3bn Euro, with emphasis being placed in southeastern Europe, and stressed the important role played by the Greek fiscal sector. 

"Chronic problems, such as the sector´s social security issue, found a viable solution at last. As a result, the sector is expanding considerably today and, in parallel, considerable buyouts and mergers are taking place," he added, while mentioning that Greek bank branches in the wider region exceed 2 300 and form a strong network of services. Karamanlis also focused on agreements and infrastructure projects that are being promoted in the energy sector in Greece, with the aim of securing energy adequacy for the future, promoting renewable energy sources and protecting the environment. 

Commenting on issues examined by the meeting, such as the possibility of problems being conveyed from one fiscal market to another, Karamanlis said that "the response to this challenge requires a collective effort, both by national governments and fiscal organisations." 

The IIF currently has over 350 members from over 70 countries and has been operating for 25 years.

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ENERGY

Putin propels Bourgas-Alexandroupolis construction


Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has voiced hope for the soonest possible construction of the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. "I think that this project, which is important not only for our countries, but also for the entire European energy market, will be implemented within a short time," he told a press conference on May 31st in Moscow following negotiations with his Greek counterpart, Karolos Papoulias, Interfax News Agency reported.
Greece is "a key energy partner for Russia. Russia meets 40 per cent of Greek crude needs and 80 per cent of Greek gas needs," Interfax quoted him as saying. "It is possible to enlarge energy cooperation with electric power," he added. The energy tandem of Russia and Greece is very promising. "Russia has an impressive energy potential, while Greece has a beneficial transport structure and geographic location. This tandem certainly has prospects, in particular, in the provision of European energy security," he said.
Russia, Greece and Bulgaria need to establish a company to manage the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis project, Papoulias told the press conference. "This project will not only be useful for the three states concerned, but will also make a weighty contribution to the diversification of energy transport routes and, consequently, the energy security of Europe," he said.
The Bulgarian parliament on May 30th ratified the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline deal. Ratification of the agreement by the Russian Duma is expected to take place over the coming days, while the Greek Parliament has already ratified the agreement. Representatives of the three countries will soon be meeting in order to set up the international company that will construct and operate the pipeline.

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TOURSIM

Athens, Beijing agree to boost tourism activity

Greece and China on June 6th agreed to a series of actions aimed at boosting bilateral tourism relations, beginning with a finalised date on holding a joint Greek-China commission on tourism in October, ANA reported. 
The issue was discussed during a meeting between Greek Tourism Development Minister, Fani Palli Petralia, and her Chinese counterpart, Shao Qiwei. The two ministers agreed that Greece would host Chinese journalists and tourism school students from China during the summer.

Supporting tourism development in the South Aegean

Tourism has been able to overcome organising hurdles and, during the last three years, was placed at the epicentre of both the country's and South Aegean Region's development planning, Southern Aegean Periphery chief, Charalambos Kokkinos, said, New Europe reported. 
"Our Region's approach towards tourism development is absolutely compatible with the objectives set by the National Policy for tourism, therefore it is based on the enrichment of the classic tourism product, targeting special markets and having as preconditions the provision of high quality services and the existence of suitable infrastructure. The strategy of the South Aegean Region for tourism development is implemented primarily through the South Aegean Regional Operational Programme (ROP) co-financed by the European Union and the Greek State," Kokkinos said.
In the context of the programme, the funds for tourism are directed primarily to the development of alternative and special forms of tourism and to the constant upgrading of the quality of the provided services, aiming particularly at:
* The attraction of higher income tourism 
* The improvement of the tourism product's competitiveness
* The diffusion of the tourism flow throughout the territory of the South Aegean Region and over a longer time period
* The support of promotion through the composition of a Regional Tourism Identity
* The reformation and improvement of tourism further education and training.
The South Aegean Region has allocated 2.5 million Euro for the promotion of the tourism product of Kyklades and Dodecanese, an un-precedented project both in size and in scope. The main objective of the project is to promote the Region's 48 islands, as a complete destination with special attributes, ideal for tourism all year round, the Southern Aegean Periphery chief said. The programme already has two successful years of operation and continues in 2007, as it includes, participation of the region in all the major international and Greek Tourism exhibitions, an advertising campaign through Greek and international print and electronic media, the construction and uploading of a special Internet site for the Region's islands providing information to potential visitors and a series of other promotional tactics, he added.
"Today, the South Aegean Region has entered into a dynamic development phase," Kokkinos said. Currently, within the Region 1350 projects are implemented funded through the Regional Operational Programme, the development programme instituted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs "THISEAS", the Sector Operational Programmes and other European Programmes and Initiatives. "These projects do not stay on paper but are indeed materialised, considering that the South Aegean Regional Programme's expenditures represented only 12.5 per cent of the ROP's resources in March 2004 while currently, after three years of intensive efforts have reached 56 per cent," Kokkinos said. The implementation of these projects contributes immensely to the development of the Region and therefore, to tourism and economic development.

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TRANSPORT

New Athens metro extension opens

The Monastiraki-Egaleo metro Line 3 connecting the centre of Athens with the outlying southwest working-class district of Egaleo was declared open by Public Works Minister, Giorgos Souflias, recently although the operators were still due to run some tests before the line would be open to the public, New Europe reported.
Souflias hailed the project's completion and the new underground mass transit link between the centre of Athens and its western suburbs. The long-awaited expansion of the metro service to Egaleo includes three stations -- Keramikos, Eleonas, and Egaleo -- while the 4.2-kilometre-long distance separating Egaleo with Syntagma will be covered in seven minutes and finally link Athens' western suburbs directly with the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, Greece's largest facility. 
In addition, noted archaeological findings during construction will be displayed at the Egaleo and Eleonas stations. The expansion of the metro service to the adjacent Haidari district will be ready by the end of 2008, while an 8.2 kilometre-long metro line expansion to the port of Piraeus -- Greece's primary commercial and passenger shipping hub -- is also underway with seven stations planned. After the metro service expansion to Piraeus is eventually completed, Line 3 from the airport to Piraeus will be 50kms long, while next year additional Line 2 stations in Peristeri will be ready, namely, the City Hall and the Anthousa Stations.

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