Archive for May 2007

Energy security: The Panama Canal

May 31, 2007

Location: Panama; connects the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean

Oil Flows (2004): Panama Canal 0.5 million bbl/d; Trans-Panama pipeline 0.1 million bbl/d
Concerns/Background: The Panama Canal extends approximately 50 miles from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean to Colon on the Caribbean Sea. The largest vessel that can transit the Panama Canal is known as a PANAMAX-size vessel (ships ranging from 50,000 – 80,000 dead weight tons in size). A long-term program is underway to widen the narrow, eight-mile stretch of Gaillard Cut to allow unrestricted two-way traffic of PANAMAX-size vessels.

The United States is the dominant country of origin for all commodities transiting the Panama Canal, and it is also the single largest destination as well. Shipments to and from the east coast of the United States accounted for almost half of all canal traffic, with shipments between the east coast of the United States and Asia comprising the largest single trade route. However, the neighboring countries of Central and South America are proportionately more dependent on the Panama Canal for their trade.

In fiscal year (FY) 2004, petroleum and petroleum products were the second largest commodity (by tonnage) shipped through the Canal after grains, accounting for 12% of total canal shipments. Petrochemicals and coal (including coke from coal) are also shipped through the canal, accounting for 2% and 6%, respectively, of total Canal traffic. About 73% of total oil shipments went south from the Atlantic to the Pacific, with oil products dominating southbound traffic. The United States is not heavily reliant on the Panama Canal for its petroleum imports. In 2004, slightly more than 1% of total U.S. petroleum imports (crude oil plus petroleum products) transited the Canal en route to American ports. On the whole, very little crude oil destined for U.S. shores (55,000 bbl/d or 0.6% in 2004) passes through the canal. As a share of U.S. imports, however, the Canal is more important for petroleum products. In 2004, a little over 4% of all U.S. imported petroleum products came to the United States through the Panama Canal.

The Trans-Panama pipeline (Petroterminal de Panama, S.A.) is located outside the former Canal Zone near the Costa Rican border, and runs from the port of Charco Azul on the Pacific Coast (near Puerto Armuelles, southwest of David) to the port of Chiriqui Grande, Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean. It was opened in October 1982 as an economical alternative to the Panama Canal for transporting Alaskan oil across Panama en route to Gulf Coast ports. More than 2.7 billion barrels of Alaskan crude oil were transported through the 81-mile pipeline at peak rates exceeding 860,000 bbl/d. However, the pipeline was closed in April 1996 after Alaskan oil shipments to the Gulf Coast declined with falling Alaskan oil production and increased oil consumption on the west coast of the United States, especially in California. In addition, the decision to allow Alaskan oil to be exported outside the United States reduced the incentives to ship Alaskan oil to the Gulf Coast. The Trans-Panama pipeline re-opened in November 2003, and began shipping over 100,000 bbl/d of Ecuadorian crude oil to US Gulf ports.

Source: EIA


Greek-Romanian economic relations

May 30, 2007

Product groups of Greek exports to Romania exceeding 2%:

Automobile vehicles, totalling 43.51 million Euro at 7.3%

Aluminium, totalling 42.50 million Euro at 7.1%

Telecommunications equipment totalling 41.49 million Euro at 7%

Iron construction, totaling 32.49 million Euro at 5.4%

Copper, totalling 25.56 million Euro at 4.3%

Fruit , totalling 22.54 million Euro at 3.8%

Plastic slabs and strips, totaling 21.83 million Euro at 3.7%

Petroleum oils and asphalt minerals, totaling 79million Euro at 2.8%

Stones, sand and gravel, totalling14.66 million Euro at 2.5%

Perfume and cosmetic products, totaling 13.62 million Euro at 2.3%
Product imports from Romania exceeding 2%:
Petroleum oils and asphalt minerals, totalling 91.02 million EURO, at 18.01%

Iron and steel scraps,, totalling 44.14 million Euro, at 8.74%

Aluminium, totalling 38.9 million Euro at 7.7%

Electric energy, totalling 35.33 million Euro at 7%

Iron or steel rolling products, totalling 28.63 million Euro at 5.67%

Processed wood, totalling 27.27 million Euro at 5.4%

Electricity distribution material, totalling 22.53 million Euro at 4.46%

Livestock, totalling 19.36 million Euro at 3.83%

Machinery parts and equipment, totalling 17.20 million Euro at 3.41%

Handiworks for investments, totalling 15.46 million Euro at 3.06%

Telecommunications equipment, totalling 15.21 million Euro at 3.01%

Electric production equipment , totalling 10.29 million Euro at 2.04%
Greek exports increased by 45.7%, to 595.82 million Euro compared with 408.86 million Euro in 2005. Romanian exports to Greece increased by 16.3%, from 434.27 million Euro to 505.26 million Euro. Trade volume increased by 30.6% from 843.13 million Euro in 2005 to1.10 billion Euro in 2006.

During 2006 Romania absorbed 3.6% of total Greek exports, ranking 10th among the most significant markets for Greek products.

Greek Investment in Romania
According to data from the Romanian Commercial Registry, Romanian businesses with the participation of foreigners in their share capital were 119,120 at the end of 2005 and the accumulative value of foreign investments in Romania totaled 15.3 billion Euro, with a total of 131,943 registered businesses.

Greek capital invested in Romania exceeds 3 billion Euro (stock – 31/12/05) placing the country among the first three foreign investors. The largest Greek investments in the Balkans have taken place in Romania. On a global scale, Romania is one of the most significant receivers of Greek investment capital and Greek investments are aimed mainly at services, ( 31.4%, primarily telecommunications), manufacturing (27.7%), wholesale trade (23.3%) retail trade (3.5%), construction (7.5%) and agriculture (4.2%).

Greece achieves pension agreement with Australia

May 28, 2007

By George Megalogenis

AUSTRALIA will pay old-age pensions to Greeks returning to their homeland under a landmark agreement to be signed on Wednesday by John Howard and Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis.
The two-way deal is one of the biggest of its kind and has taken more than two decades to negotiate.

Australia will calculate pension entitlements based on a pro-rata formula for each year that Greek immigrants lived here. The maximum payment will go to those who have been Australian residents for 25 years.

But those who have already resettled will receive a smaller amount than those who follow after Wednesday’s signing ceremony in Canberra.

Australia’s Greek-born population peaked at 160,00 in 1971, but had fallen to 116,000 by the 2001 census as the old guard either passed away or went back to Greece to retire.

Each year, up to 34,000 overseas-born residents leave Australia for good, with the largest group (about 7100) being New Zealanders who head back across the Tasman, followed by the British (5400). The Greek component was less than 1000 in 2005-06.

The Prime Minister flagged the pensions deal in a brief media statement yesterday. “Our governments also intend to explore mechanisms to aid the mutual recognition of family law orders in our respective court systems,” Mr Howard said.

Mr Karamanlis, who is due to arrive in Sydney this evening, is the first Greek prime minister to visit Australia – an unusual record given the Greeks formed, along with the Italians, the backbone of Australia’s post-war immigration program.

In an interview with The Australian, the centre-right Mr Karamanlis detailed how Greece was presenting itself as an honest broker between Europe and the Middle East, and between western Europe and the Balkan states, as part of a foreign policy drive that is akin to Australia’s diplomacy in Asia.

“Our greatest assets are our friends and allies,” Mr Karamanlis said. “At the crossroads of three continents, we are viewed by governments and peoples alike as a credible interlocutor, a fair and honest partner.

“This holds particularly true in southeastern Europe, where Greece is present as a factor of stability, development and security, and in the Middle East.”

As an example of his nation’s crossroads alliances, Mr Karamanlis called on all Palestinians factions to support their President, Mahmoud Abbas, to negotiate a two-state solution with Israel, while also urging Israel to maintain a dialogue with the wider Arab world.

“Israel is entitled to security for its citizens and has absolutely the right to defend its territory and people from terrorist attacks,” Mr Karamanlis said. “Nevertheless, security is not a matter of just military supremacy. It can only be obtained by a viable political compromise.”

Greece had been a socialist stronghold, with the Pasok party ruling for all but one three-year term between 1981 and 2004.

Mr Karamanlis’ New Democracy party won power at the general elections of March 2004, six months before the Athens Olympics.

But unlike NSW, which suffered a slump after Sydney hosted the 2000 Games, Athens has continued to surge.

The Greek economy achieved a 3.7 per cent growth rate in 2005, and a further 4.3 per cent last year, “which is very robust by European standards”, Mr Karamanlis said.

Yet Greece remains well behind Australia’s full-employment nirvana. Mr Karamanlis counts his government’s economic successes by its ability to reduce bad numbers: the unemployment rate has fallen from 10.5 per cent in 2004 to 8.9 per cent last year. And the budget deficit has more than halved over the same period.

Source: The Australian

Commission approves Greek-Italian request over gas pipeline

May 28, 2007

The European Commission on Tuesday conditionally approved a joint application tabled by Greece and Italy for the exclusive use of a Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline.

The regulation is foreseen in Article 22 of Community Directive (2003/55/EK) and safeguards, for Greece’s DE.PA (Public Gas Corp.) and Italy’s Edison, exclusive control and management of the natural gas pipeline.

The project envisions the linking of the two countries’ natural gas grid via an underwater pipeline the southern Adriatic connecting the northwest Greek port town of Igoumenitsa with Otranto, with a capacity of 8.8 billion cubic metres of natural gas per annum. The construction of the pipeline is expected to begin in 2008 and be completed in 2011. 

Source: Macedonian Press Agency

Contract signed for creation of International University of Greece

May 28, 2007

contract on the creation of the International University of Greece, as well as the utilisation of real estate belonging to the municipality of Nea Mihaniona, near Thessaloniki, was signed on Monday by the municipality and the State Real Estate Company, in the presence of Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou.

The signing of the contract in essence paves the way for the beginning of the University’s construction, since according to the State Real Estate Company’s managing director Costas Gratsios, the first awarding of a study will begin at the end of 2007 and the first awarding of a project in the second half of 2008.

The first facilities are expected to operate in 2010 or 2011 and until then the University will be operating temporarily at the installations of the PASEGES confederation (as of early 2008).

Source: Athens News Agency

Greece signs a Memorandum on the promotion of the mission of Francophonie

May 28, 2007

Foreign Minister Ms. Dora Bakoyannis met in Paris, with the Secretary General of the International Organisation of French-speaking Communities (Francophonie), Mr. Abdou Diouf, and signed a “Memorandum on the promotion of the mission of Francophonie and the promotion of the French Language”.
After the signing of the Memorandum, Ms. Bakoyannis made the following statement:

“With particular satisfaction, I signed today with the Secretary General of the International Organisation of French-speaking Communities, Greece’s participation in an organization whose objective is, of course, the spread of the French language, but also the promotion of the principles and values that connect all these countries who believe in democracy and human rights.

Greece is present. Our role, particularly in our region, is important, and we believe that our participation will be particularly useful.”

During the 10th Summit meeting of the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF) , held in Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, on 26-27 November 2004, Greece s accession to the OIF was unanimously approved.

Greeces decision to accede to the OIF was taken after assessing the possibility to accede to an important forum with a common language French and an area of common values and solidarity that has as its basic elements: the promotion of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, the promotion of peace and security, protection of cultural heritage, and support for cultural and linguistic diversity. Even the survival of national cultures is mainly predicated on safeguarding these principles.

Greece became a full member of the OIF, during the 11th Summit meeting in Bucarest, on 28-29 November 2006. 

The International Organization of Francophonie includes 63 states in total (constantly expanding) from all five continents, and its institutional framework consists of different political institutions and agencies.

Source: Greek Embassy in the UN


May 28, 2007

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by expressing my delight in speaking before such a distinguished audience! Mr. Sitilides, special thanks to you and all the staff at the Southeast Europe Project for having me. Everyone, thank you indeed for coming.

While in college here in the States (and, trust me, that was quite a few years ago), I had the chance to take a step back and look anew at my country. And although beauty certainly is in the eye of the beholder, I could see what some found not always appealing about Greece. Of course, my country is loved, and admired and respected for its remarkable ancient civilization. This has been chronicled, after all, in a tremendous wealth of books and even in the revival of Ancient Greek Drama in America. By the same token, there is no doubt that every single person that visits Greece is truly captivated by her landscape and natural beauties. Such positive feelings, however, were often shadowed over, for three reasons.

First, Greece was not considered a front-liner, in terms of economic performance. Although she was growing steadily, there certainly were things to be done on her part in order to ensure a brisker and more durable growth rate. In order to build a more forward and outward-looking economy. Secondly, Greece was perceived to often be confrontational in her neighbourhood. In other words, not always seeing the big picture, and, therefore, not contributing to the solution of various issues. Last but not least, occasional incidents of domestic terrorism were a thorn in Greece’s relations with countries like the United States, where the fight against this loathsome phenomenon is a matter of foremost importance and a top priority for national security.

But like I said, that was quite a few years back. Today, ladies and gentlemen, Greece is different. Greece has changed for the better. And although I am the first to admit that there are things that need to be done and, trust me, will be done, Greece now offers brand new reasons why to be respected. And I think you will agree with me that this is not just in my eyes!

Let me take a few minutes to explain. I will begin with everyone’s favorite: the economy! To start with, Greeks have implemented bold domestic reforms to achieve both an impressive economic performance and fiscal consolidation. To name just a few:

 the New Tax Reform Act that simplifies the tax system and reduces corporate tax rates
 the Investment Incentives Act, with the approval of applications worth more than  $7bn so far
 or the Public-Private Partnerships Act that has approved projects amounting to  $3,3bn.
A member of the Eurozone, the most exclusive group in the European Union, Greece enjoyed a brisk GDP growth rate of 4,3% in 2006. She is expected to almost match this rate in 2007. And this, my friends, is way more than twice the average Eurozone growth rate.
Other figures also speak loud and clear about the state of Greek economy today:
 budget deficit down to 2,6% of GDP from 7,8% in 2004
 unemployment rate reduced from 11,3% in early 2004 to 8,9% in 2006 (creating 250.000 new jobs, 80% of which in the private sector!)
 receding inflation rate, at 2,6%.

With these macroeconomic figures as the background, let me give you some specific examples of the way Greece grows—capitalizing, in part, on the tangible and intangible heritage of the Olympic Games. Tangible in terms of infrastructure, know-how and specialized human capital; intangible in terms of perceptions. What I mean here is that the Athens Olympics were a major factor in enhancing the reputation of Greece internationally. Despite widespread predictions of doom, Greece demonstrated to a watching world that a small but proud country can rise to difficult challenges and acquit itself with honor, a fact very much appreciated by Greeks around the world. At the same time, Greece had the chance to unveil comparative advantages of hers that were not widely known. In the process, her partners came to perceive her anew as a credible strategic player with great qualities and great potential. As a country that enjoys a very special status in a region that extends from the Balkans to the Black Sea and the Caucasus.

So, let me proceed with the examples I told you about. First, recent developments have rendered Greece an energy hub, benefiting her economy and her international status alike. Specifically, in an elaborate ceremony in Athens in March 2007, Greece, Russia and Bulgaria signed the final deal for the construction of the “Burgas-Alexandroupolis” oil pipeline, expected to transfer 35-50mn tons of oil per year by 2012. In fact, it is the first oil pipeline to be built in Europe after 40 years. Offering economies of scale and complementing the Dardanelles, it will be a cost-efficient way for cheap and fast oil to be transferred to Europe and the Americas, in an environmentally-friendly way. At the same time, the Greek-Turkish gas pipeline under-completion, which has been agreed to extend towards Italy, is also bound to reposition Greece on the world energy map. Last, my country played an important role in the creation of the European Energy Community (in October 2005) that establishes a single energy market in South-Eastern Europe and promotes cooperation and solidarity.

Second, Greece has maximized her distinct advantage in shipping and the maritime industry, with great economic results. With the Greek-owned fleet being the largest in the world and more than 260 new ships currently being built, Greece transfers an increasing number of commercial goods and oil globally. She, thus, provides an important strategic asset. At the same time, she is turning herself into an important distribution hub. In fact, the  $4bn Protocol with the European Investment Bank to upgrade our ports adds to the list of promising developments that draw growing investment interest from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Asia. 

Third, Greece is a credible financial and business center in her neighbourhood, holding the position of the leading foreign investor in Albania and F.Y.R.O.M. and ranking among the first three in Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia. With more than 3.600 Greek companies in the area and Greek investments exceeding so far  $16bn, she is the base for reaching out to a market of 160mn consumers, in all of Southeastern Europe. At the same time, Greek exports in the area rose by 10% in the period 2004-2005. It is only telling that, in Turkey alone, there was an almost 25% increase in 2006 compared to the average overall exports increase of 18% in the same year. 

In addition, her banking sector, which holds 16% of the region’s banking market share, has invested millions of euros to acquire and build networks in countries like Albania, Bulgaria, or Romania. More than 1000 branches now operate in the region, while the National Bank of Greece is among the first five banks in terms of activity in Southeastern Europe. At the same time, Greek banks are progressively penetrating such promising markets as these of Turkey and Egypt.

It becomes clear that the solid performance of the Greek economy attracts our partners’ attention. It is only indicative, for instance, that foreign direct investment was eight times higher in 2006 compared to 2005! Most importantly, however, Greece is a vivid example of how a country can accomplish for her self at the same time that she is a positive influence for others. Greece, ladies and gentlemen, is justifiably perceived as a beacon of stability, progress and prosperity in her neighbourhood. She enjoys, for that reason, great leverage and significant “soft power” to promote the shared goals of the international community in the region: economic development and integration to the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
And this brings me right to Greek foreign policy, which is directly linked, after all, to economic diplomacy. In that field too, it becomes apparent that my country has, in some ways, “shifted gears”. Now thinking more globally, we better contribute to the solution of problems in a spirit of cooperation and with much increased credibility and regional influence. Specifically, we are building networks of cooperation that foster mutual trust as well as set the ground for the further development of our region. For instance, the Greek Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans, a 5-year development aid program, allocates $700mn from the national budget. At the same time, it fosters economic development, supports the democratic institutions and the rule of law and facilitates the European orientation of the Balkans.
Along the same lines, Greece plays a decisive role in the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization and actively supported both Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the E.U.. As to Turkey’s European perspective, we offer our full support provided, of course, that Turkey fully complies with her European obligations. The active Greek participation at the U.N. Security Council in 2005-2006, the constructive way we handled the presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2003 and our significant role in humanitarian missions around the world all add to the reasons why Greece is now respected as a reliable player on the international scene. As a strategic partner in peace and progress.
Last, Greek authorities were successful in eradicating the deadly November 17 terrorist group in the summer of 2002. The absolutely safe Olympic Games, of course, came to confirm that Greece takes security seriously and cooperates closely with other countries to that end. At the same time, she doesn’t grudge putting in the money and the energy necessary to guarantee that our country is as safe as she can be. The world has once again, taken notice: tourism, which represents around 18% of GDP and contributes almost $16bn a year to government revenues, showed a 10% increase in 2006. With arrivals in 2005 being the highest ever, we now offer Greek hospitality to more than 16 million tourists annually! In fact, we count a growing number of friends here in the States, too: the number of American tourists in the Athens International Airport showed an almost 400% increase between 2005 and 2006.

Ladies and gentlemen, every time I am abroad, and as Secretary General of Information I do get to travel quite often, I do exactly what I used to do as a college student: I take a step back and look anew at Greece. Today, I see a different Greece, with great self-confidence, more optimism and much faith in itself. And I am not the only one. The whole world now recognizes a strategic partner with a strong economy, a strong vision, and a strong mission in the world.
I invite you all to rediscover Greece.

-As American citizens of the world who want to spread the word on Greece, either because you have roots and family there or simply because you share our common humanitarian values of peace, freedom and democracy.

-As businessmen who want to reach the broader region of Southeastern Europe.
-As tourists who want to enjoy high-quality services and be exposed to one of the greatest ancient civilizations.
Ladies and gentlemen, no matter which hat you choose to put on, Greece awaits you all! Thank you for your attention.