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The 2014 Greek Protests over Syrian Chemical Weapons Destruction and their Political Impact, with Complete Timeline of Events

By Chris Deliso

The internationally-negotiated decision that saw the Syrian government’s chemical weapons stock neutralized by hydrolysis in the Mediterranean Sea in August 2014 caused widespread public anger in Greece and Italy, from the moment it was announced several months earlier. However, under strong pressure from the Samaras government, major domestic media were discouraged from reporting about it. The issue was also relatively underreported in the international mass media, as well, particularly in the crucial early months before the event became a fait accompli.

Given the media’s relative indifference, the issue was kept alive, and did receive considerable public attention, primarily through the work of grassroots activists. The Greek popular outcry took the form of public protests and criticisms from everyone including common citizens, fisherman, marine biologists, politicians and other public figures. The protests peaked in July and August, when the actual operation was carried out on the US Navy vessel MV Cape Ray, in an area southwest of the island of Crete, in international waters between Greece and Italy.

At the time, the controversial nature of the mission was exacerbated by the US military’s acknowledgement that since such a process had never been attempted, an ideal result could not be guaranteed- though everything would ‘probably’ end safely. Greeks and Italians, particularly those who live near the southern coasts, considered this plan irresponsible at best and demanded their governments cancel a project they believed to be dangerous to the environment and to their livelihoods.

A Political Issue during the Political Off-Season

During the politically-slow summer months, the chemical weapons issue was one of the few major points of criticism (other than the ruling coalition’s tax and economic policies) targeting the Samaras government. However, after the US Navy and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced on 13 August that the mission had gone according to plan, with no apparent environmental damage, the issue was quickly forgotten and disappeared from the media altogether.

Nevertheless, despite the disappearance of the issue from daily politics after the summer recess, the following previously-unpublished list of all Greek protests and similar actions against the chemical weapons destruction policy indicates that the organized resistance did have a sustained and significant role in increasing latent mistrust of the unpopular Samaras government, which is now facing forced elections on 25 January.

Therefore, while Greek activists were in the end unable to change their government’s sponsorship of the hydrolysis plan, the nationwide publicity that their public protests and social media campaigns generated indeed helped bring together a wider range of citizens to the side of the opposition SYRIZA, which jumped ahead in the polls after European Parliamentary elections of early summer.

Thus, in the cumulative analysis, the opposition-led protests and public actions seem to have helped in sustaining support for SYRIZA, and even winning it new voters, during the typically slow summer months, when opinion polls were put on hold. One result of this was that Samaras and his team received a rude shock when, returning from vacation in early September, they were confronted with new data that put SYRIZA even further ahead of the Nea Dimokratia-PASOK coalition.

The Chemical Weapons Issue and Larger Perception Shifts

The prime minister, fearing further protests over his unpopular economic and financial agreements with international creditors, was forced to move Troika talks to Paris; immediately after this came the spectacle of police in riot gear shutting down large parts of Thessaloniki, ostensibly to safeguard Nea Dimokratia luminaries who came to speak indoors to their own staged audience, at the annual HELEXPO opening in September, despite a lack of any significant protesters on the streets outside. Such activities indicated the kind of paranoia gripping the government.

Samaras’ decision to offer up Greece as the willing recipient of toxic chemicals became a self-serving stratagem: he used it to project an image of Greece (and his government in particular) as being a ‘key NATO ally.’ However, this decision was also made at a time of general pressure on the country due to the slow pace of mandated economic reforms and privatizations. Therefore, the same economic predicament that Greece found itself in at the time eliminated any leverage the government might have had to prevent the operation from occurring. As such, the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons off of Greek shores indicated the government’s relative weakness, not strength.

Institutional Arrogance and the Further Politicization of the Issue

Interestingly enough, however, even though the reportedly successful naval hydrolysis operation had been forgotten by media by November 2014, Foreign Minister Venizelos went out of his way to bring it up again in an op-ed for the pro-government Kathimerini (republished on the Foreign Affairs Ministry website here).

In the 2 November piece, the widely despised politican pontificates on ‘national consensus on foreign policy’ and the meaning of ‘true patriotism,’ tacitly denigrating SYRIZA (and the many ordinary citizens who shared their environmental concerns in the hydrolysis matter). After citing examples of what he considers cases of positive national consensus in action, Venizelos specifies the chemical weapons concerns as a contrasting one:

“…the reckless public debate carried out a few months ago regarding the supposed environmental hazards in the Mediterranean from the operation for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, under the control of the UN itself and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – an operation that was accomplished in complete safety – is a reverse example.”

The total condescension evident in this statement indicates again why so many Greeks have had enough of their current leaders and their mindset of unquestioned superiority over their citizens. It should be remembered that while many people who protested or expressed concerns about the chemical weapons plan were not members of SYRIZA, the party is set to win many more votes than otherwise might be the case, and especially in Crete and the Peloponnese, specifically because of the government’s inability, or disinterest, to understand that this was an issue that motivated even apolitical Greeks to act.

An ‘Atmosphere of Distrust’

The most widespread public concerns over the Samaras government’s plan were felt in the area closest to the destruction: Crete. This large and independent-minded island has historically always demonstrated a mistrust of authority, whether it was the Venetians, Ottomans or today’s government in Athens. The chemical weapons affair only drove the island more towards the opposition. But environmental concerns were felt elsewhere in Greece as well, and helped form international alliances with communities sharing their concerns, particularly in southern Italy. Indeed, the Italian (along with the Spanish) left has become one of SYRIZA’s key allies, and in 2014 the chemical weapons issue was one of those that had an effect on increasing their mutual cooperation.

Primarily, as sources indicate, a large part of the damage the Greek government sustained was unnecessarily self-inflicted. The problem was the perceived absence of participatory democracy- something further enhanced by Venizelos’ definition of public debate as ‘reckless.’

Indeed, one senior SYRIZA foreign policy advisor told recently that “the local community was not consulted or informed about the chemical weapons decision- they were entirely marginalized in the process. This includes not only the local political leaders, but also regular citizens, fishermen whose livelihoods depend on the sea, people in the tourism business, environmentalists and others. This lack of consultation created an atmosphere of distrust of the Samaras government.”

The SYRIZA advisor further characterized the hydrolysis imbroglio as a ‘tactical defeat’ but one with positive effects for party activity, especially in Crete. “While the public’s opposition did not lead to a change in the government’s policy,” noted the advisor, “it did increase the existing widespread public distrust of the Samaras government, and the desire for a different kind of leadership.”

SYRIZA has put an emphasis on local activism and maintains an image of listening to local population’s needs, something that the aloof incumbent government is often criticized for not doing. The fact that the chemical weapons issue had such a strong local focus made it one that was ideal for political strategists to use, to emphasize the differences in approach between the ruling and opposition parties.

Activists Achieve a Measure of Success, Despite a Lack of Media Exposure

As the following previously unpublished list of public activities surrounding the chemical weapons issue reveals, there was a steady and sustained stream of events that had an effect on changing opinions, from Crete to Brussels to Italy. However, the result could have been much greater, activists believe, had the mainstream media covered the issue more seriously. The suspicion that the government through the first half of 2014 influenced media to downplay the dangers of the operation, or not to report on it altogether, was widespread. One dispatch from Cretan activists in July, made available to, indicated what they felt this meant for the national awareness of the issue:

“People in Crete thought that the Greek mass media would be sensitive to such a serious issue and give publicity to it, but the mass media did not. In many places in Greece, people do not know about the hydrolysis in the Mediterranean Sea, even though it affects them too. The news reported on TV does not cover the gatherings in Crete. As a result, people in other places in Greece have no idea about the issue.”

Activists at the time stated that the Greek government had quietly but forcefully urged the media to not report on the issue. By July 2014, the situation had become farcical: locals pointed out that even at a moment when an unprecedented international military operation was about to take place near their island, the most widely-reported news story from Crete concerned a missing pet crocodile that turned up in a lake.

This offbeat (and irrelevant) story was breathlessly reported in several major international media bodies, as well as in the Greek ones. Nevertheless, despite the relative lack of media coverage in Greece (and in the rest of the world), the following list does attest to the fact that a significant and sustained campaign of activities did occur in 2014, and that it did have a galvanizing effect on local political activism as well.

Whether or not the currently opposition SYRIZA prevails in this month’s elections, it is certain that the drama over chemical weapons destruction has had an important, if underreported, role in bolstering their voter base in specific areas of Greece and among specific electorates

Full List of March-July 2014 Events and Activities in Greece against the Chemical Weapons Destruction Plan (in reverse chronological order)

28/7/2014: A press conference is held to present the review of the activists’ movement with the three boats which had gone to find the US Naval vessel transporting the chemicals in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Crete.

27/7/2014: The three boats that had gone to find the US Naval vessel transporting the chemicals arrive back at the old port of Chania.

26/7/2014: Two of the three following boats reach a point at sea of 120 miles west of Crete.

26/7/2014: The boat called Agios Nikolaos returns to Palaeohora because of bad weather.

25/7/2014: Two boats leave from the old port of Chania (in northwest Crete) while another one, Agios Nikolaos, leaves from Palaiohora (in southwest Crete). All of them go to find the US Naval vessel transporting the chemicals to be destroyed by hydrolysis. Many people come to the ports to support the movement.

22/7/2014: At an open assembly in the Labor Centre of Chania, local people decide on the details about sending three small boats, manned by local Greeks, to try and locate the large US Navy vessel transporting the Syrian chemicals, as a symbolic show of opposition. The assembly nominates a group of people who will be responsible for the communication with the people on the boats and for dealing with any problems that might arise.

20/7/2014: For a second day, local people block the entrance to the NATO naval base at Souda Bay, near Chania.

19/7/2014: Demonstrators congregate in the center of Chania, at the agora, and from there are transported to Akrotiri and the NATO base at Souda Bay. A symbolic blockade of the naval bases starts.

17/7/2014: The group of people who are leaders of the whole movements against the hydrolysis of Syria’s chemicals visit the Russian and the American Embassies in Athens.

11/7/2014: A demonstration is held in Syntagma Square in central Athens.

28/6/2014: Greek mayors send a letter to the US president, expressing their concerns about the chemical weapons destruction program.

25/6/2014: A benefit concert is held in Heraklio, Crete for financial support of the movement against the destruction of chemical weapons off the Cretan southwestern coast.

21/6/2014: Greenpeace and the WWF Hellas communicate with OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemicals Weapons) in order to be informed by OPCW about the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons at sea.

The representatives of WWF underline the following four concerns.

  1. No estimation of hypothetical environmental danger has been made regarding the scenario that the hydrolysis of chemicals weapons at sea goes wrong. No estimate has been made concerning whether the operation could have any adverse consequences for the environment.
  2. There is a general absence of legislation concerning this operation.
  3. There is serious danger of an accident, disorder in the operation and environmental dangers for the Mediterranean Sea as a result of this operation.
  4. There is a need for much more information about the operation’s progress. There has been a demonstrated lack of negotiations with local authorities and local institutions.

Further, representatives of Greenpeace from Greece and Italy underlined the security measures for the operation that should be taken. They have sent a letter to OPCW regarding this. They also underline the need for early and valid information about the operation.

Representatives of both Greenpeace and WWF Hellas underline that the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs must take responsibility, and must disclose the relevant information. These representatives state their opposition to any operation that would have environmental dangers. They ask OPCW to give information to the public about the operation and to act with transparency, according to the relevant international treaties.

17/6/2014: Konstantinos Pylarinos, head of the Association of Former Members of the Hellenic and of the European Parliaments, has a meeting with Karolos Papoulias, President of Greece. Two days before, Pylarinos and this Association had passed a resolution declaring that the operation of hydrolysis of chemicals weapons would be in violation of Greek and international law. It noted that the Greek government is also responsible for this case.

10/6/2014: An event titled, “the impacts of chemicals weapons on people’s health” is held at the College/association of Doctors in Crete’s capital, Heraklio. The event has been organized by the Heraklio movement against the destruction of Syria’s chemicals weapons and by the Maragopoulou Institute for Human Rights.

10/6/2014: The mayor of San Ferdinando, an Italian town in Italy near the port of Gioia Tauro where the Syrian chemicals had been held, announces his opposition to the destruction of chemicals weapons at sea, and his comments are noted in Greece.

8/6/2014: A group of protesters assemble in the port of Heraklio, Crete. It is organized by the student body of the local sailing team, the 47th open sea school of Heraklio.

6/6/2014: A major movement “Zakynthos renaissance” supports people from Crete who protest against the hydrolysis plan for destroying the Syrian chemical weapons.

5/6/2014: A protest is held in Gythio port by the Association of Fishermen from East Mani (southern Peloponnese).

5/6/2014: A mass congregation of thousands of local people opposed to the hydrolysis operation gathers in Chania.

5/6/2014: An Italian group named “Mesogeios SOS” (or Mediterranean SOS), based in San Ferdinando, in Calabria connects with Greek citizens to protest against the misinformation being given to them about the danger of hydrolysis.

011/5/2014: An open discussion is held in San Ferdinando, Italy about the planned programmed for destroying Syria’s chemicals weapons in the sea between Greece and Italy. Vangelis Pissias, a Greek candidate for MEP from the Green Party, takes part in this discussion through an internet feed. The coordinator is journalist Alfredo Cosco.

10/5/2014: An educational event is held in Gythio port in the south Peloponnese. People from Lakonia who are against the hydrolysis of chemicals weapons encourage the fishermen of the region to take an energetic part in the movement.

9/5/2014: A group of 50 SYRIZA parliamentarians in the Greek Parliament the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate change and the Minister of National Defense the following questions:

  1. Has the maritime region of the Eastern Mediterranean in fact been chosen for the hydrolysis of Syria’s chemicals weapons? Where exactly and when is hydrolysis planned to occur?
  2. Does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs plan to officially and completely inform the opposition, the other parties and the relevant commissions, and if so, when?
  3. Which measures have the Ministry of Foreign Affairs taken for the dangerous operation of hydrolysis, especially now that Greece is holding the EU presidency? Have coordinated movements with other Mediterranean countries been organized in order to prevent the hydrolysis? Has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs taken any initiatives, and how is it planning to make the best of Greece’s EU presidency as far as the hydrolysis issue is concerned? Does the ministry have the intention, even at the last moment, to take action in order to prevent the hydrolysis operation?
  4. Why is the destruction of chemical weapons not to be held in a country with the relevant technology and the technical know-how to execute it? How dangerous is hydrolysis to the maritime environment?
  5. Why is the destruction of these chemical weapons not going to happen in the country where these weapons are produced or in a country which sells them? Or, why will the hydrolysis not happen in the maritime space of countries which have the relevant technical know-how, if the operation is as sensitive as is being said?
  6. How many total tons of chemical gas are going to be destroyed?
  7. What is the constituent and predominant content of these chemical weapons? What is the amount of this content? How is this content going to be destroyed, since some of this content cannot be destroyed by hydrolysis?


4/5/2014: In a four-day event in Rethymno (north-central coast of Crete). Informational material on the chemical weapons issue is distributed in many languages.

3/5/2014: Citizens meet Ms Vlahou, a lawyer and prosecutor. They seek a judgment to research if the Greek government has penal responsibilities for the outcome of the hydrolysis operation, or if there is a legal government exemption.

29/4/2014: A report on the hydrolosis issue, which has been presented to the Areios Pagos (Greece’s Supreme Court), is given to the public prosecutor of East Crete in Heraklio.

27/4/2014: A congregation of citizens concerned about the possible hydrolysis program meets in Hora Sfakion, on the southern coast of Crete.

24/4/2014: A letter by Maria Damanaki, Greek commissioner in the European Commission for maritime affairs, questions the proposed chemical weapons destruction plan.

11/4/2014: A group of commissioners from Crete gives a report to Areios Pagos. The Greek Supreme Court. This report concerns the transportation, the temporary containment and the management of Syria’s chemicals weapons. It is also about the specifications of the operation of the ship in which the hydrolysis operation will be conducted.

This group of Cretan commissioners, after the meeting in Areios Pagos, goes to the Parliament. The group had asked Greek political parties to meet them and discuss the hydrolysis issue before the question of a SYRIZA MP in parliament. However, the only parties who accept to meet this group are SYRIZA and the Anexartiti Hellines (Independent Greeks). The ruling Nea Dimokratia and PASOK refuse to meet the concerned citizens.

After the official discussion in Parliament about the question SYRIZA’s MP had made, the group of Cretan commissioners asked to see the undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He accepted but he did not give to them any specific or solid answers to their questions. The group insisted it be given a responsible answer regarding why the hydrolysis should be conducted in this way (in Mediterranean Sea), and what the official opinion of the Greek government about the issue was. The only answer the undersecretary gave them was that the Greek government would closely oversea the whole operation.

10/4/2014: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in cooperation with the Spanish government, organizes an informative event on the US Navy vessel Cape Ray, which is in the Spanish naval base in Rota. It is announced that the hydrolysis of Syria’s chemicals weapons is going to be done on this ship.

23/3/2014: More than 10,000 people take part in a mass gathering in historic Arkadi Monastery in Crete. Groups representing the local authorities, universities, church, scientists, political parties, labor organizations, activist movements take part in this event.

9/3/2014: The first mass gathering occurs near the NATO base in Souda Bay near Chania, Crete.

Southeast Europe 2014: Emerging Security Threats

By Ioannis Michaletos

2013 has been a year of global “transition.” It represents a later stage in the post-recession and upheaval era since 2008, in which major geostrategic shifts of power took place, in the midst of revolutions, destabilization and economic downturn nearby.

Southeast Europe was a relatively stable region during that period when compared to the neighboring Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Nevertheless, a set of emerging security threats looms across the Balkans and mainly derive from the aftermath of the aforementioned global developments.

Below is a brief summary of emerging security threats in and involving the region. The threats described are hypothetical examples of how situation could unfold in the Balkans based on several present day indicators. The summaries are provided for forward planning only, but are based on a large and complex set of analyzed data.

In addition to the three threats discussed below could be added the lingering threat of ethnic nationalism and its effects on politics in most Balkan states, the rise of cyber-crime, cyber-espionage and challenges to states by tech-savvy young generation of commercially and sometimes politically-minded activists, with anonymous internet commerce and cryptocurrencies usage increasing, in line with global trends that rapidly developed in 2013; there will be an increasing divide between the technological ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ which crosses generational and establishment lines, and represents a more pronounced gap than in Western countries where educational levels are higher (at least in the focus on technology).

1.)    The Syrian Connection

“European jihadists” who traveled from Western and Northern Europe, generally via Turkey, to fight in Syria on the side of the Al-Nusra Front and other Islamist militias will eventually leave the area, in larger and larger numbers. Many are likely to get “trapped” in the Balkans on their way back from the Syrian battlefront, as they make illegal crossings via land and sea as they will be wary of flying home.

French, British, Belgian, Dutch and similar authorities will likely not permit them back and/or revoke their passports. Thus they will be forced to remain in limbo on their transit routes. Yet, whatever their ethnic origin, those jihadis who hail from Western Europe do not fit the description of typical illegal immigrants- hence, they will not want to work manual labor or settle down in areas where large numbers of immigrants currently settle, such as Athens.

In this state, and given their socio-religious orientation, we might find such persons utilizing the same networks of sympathetic jihad supporters from the Balkans, some of whom they have met in the field. Indeed, over the past two years Western security agencies have become increasingly concerned as the number of Balkan Muslims from all EU candidate countries in Syria has risen.

Following the established routes, we can expect these persons to find shelter in Bosnia, as well as Albania and Kosovo, and perhaps the Sandzak region of Serbia and Montenegro. Here they could certainly stir up trouble. Already well-established Salafi-Wahhabi infrastructure in the Western Balkans has been in place for years and links have been maintained with Western-based “brethren” through joint links in cities such as Vienna and Milano.

Since 2011, more than 2,000 EU citizens ventured into Syria and security agencies estimate that 400-700 Balkan Islamists joined them as well.

In general, the number of Jihadists fighting presently (December 2013) in Syria is estimated at 100,000 people, out of which 30,000 is the “hardcore nucleus.” This is going to be increasingly supplemented by “leftover” jihadists from Libya and perhaps radicalized individuals from Egypt.

Fighters have come from at least 75 different countries across the five inhabited continents in the largest and most diverse congregation of mujahideen the world has experienced.

2.)    The long Eastern caravan

More traditional forms of illegal immigration into Greece and other Balkan transit routes will continue to rise as Syria’s humanitarian worsens. Already more than 1 million Syrian citizens are in transit through Turkey to the EU, moving across the Balkans. Border controls are not able to withstand such pressure which comes both via land routes and sea routes. At the same time and in conjunction with the previous threat, an unknown number of jihadists from the Middle East enter the Balkans “hidden” within the refugee caravans.

In general, there are at least 400,000 Syrian refugees presently (December 2013) in transit in Turkey from Syria without access to housing, jobs or medical insurance. Furthermore another 1 million of internally displaced Syrian citizens is close to the borders with Turkey and may become refugees seeking an entrance to Europe.

3.)    Cheap weapons, anyone?

The Libyan black market in second-hand small arms will see massive sales to the Balkan organized crime syndicates, due to the ending of fighting in Syria. A rapid decrease in wholesale prices of weapons such as automatic weapons, anti-aircraft missiles and plastic explosives will expedite this.

These shipments will enter the Western Balkans and assist in fuelling a resurgence of paramilitary groups, hyper-nationalistic networks, criminal enterprises, and terrorist groups. Arms profits will also result in more official corruption as organized crime gains more leverage. In the face of this, and with the continuation of existing pressures, ordinary citizens will also be more likely to arm themselves and be ready to protect themselves from perceived threats in countries like Greece.

In general, more than 70 state armament warehouses have been looted since the ousting of Libya’s Col. Gadhafi from power at the end of 2011. The weapons missing could arm a regular force of more than 20,000 men, according to some estimates. On top of that are the large amounts of weaponry donated by Qatar to Islamist militias in Libya, which no longer needed are finding their way to hotspots in Africa, Yemen and (by sea) to Greece and Italy.

At sea, it is estimated that at least 100 maritime vessels have been engaged for years in cross-Mediterranean arms contraband along with at least 1,000 intermediate companies and individuals. Intelligence indicates that a complex network of front companies expedites this illegal trade, with international and local networks also involving Southeast Europe. The world’s illicit arms market is estimated at 32 billion USD per annum.

Left-wing Terrorist Attacks and Organized Violence in Greece, 2008-2012

By Ioannis Michaletos

Greece has a colorful history of domestic terrorism and urban guerrilla warfare, going back to the early 1970’s. This period has seen a multitude of groups active, most of them with leftist or anarchist ties and typically known for small-scale bombings and shootings against international companies, public infrastructure, political parties and the police.

Historically, the deadliest of these was the Revolutionary Organization 17 November. This far-left group founded in 1975 had a reputation for secrecy and internal discipline-indeed, it was disbanded by police only in 2002. Among its 103 attacks, the group was most infamous for high-profile assassinations of foreign officials, including a CIA station chief in Athens, US Army, Navy and Air Force officers and a British diplomat.

Since 2008, regular terrorist attacks, shootings and other acts of organized political violence have occurred, drawing on a reservoir of hostility that the ongoing financial crisis has created, particularly against government, state security and foreign firms.

The following study presents a chronology of 85 attacks from 2008 through 2012, including both those in which the perpetrators are known and unknown. First, however, is an assessment based on the cumulative data and basic information about the major groups behind these attacks.

Numerical Personnel Estimates and Linkages

The number of “radicalized” persons belonging to far-Leftist groups in Greece is estimated at 3,000 people, most of them fairly young, and concentrated in Athens and Thessaloniki. Out of these, 350 to 500 are suspected by the local authorities to have taken part either directly or indirectly in urban guerrilla-style attacks.

A hardcore nucleus of 50 people (still at-large) is suspected of being regular and full-time operatives for terrorist groups. Another 44 have been arrested over the past four years and are either incarcerated or pending trial.

According to information provided by the Greek Police, the Italian police and Europol, Greek extremists have ties with similar groups in Italy, Spain and France and have also been in irregular contact with German and Dutch networks. Moreover unconfirmed reports by Greek press have noted connections with Lebanese figures who have provided training paramilitary facilities.

Operational Capacities and Arms Sources

The operational capabilities of left-wing terrorist groups in Greece tend to fluctuate from month to month depending on arrests made or changes within the inner ranks of these extremist networks, as well as finances and access to arms. The disbanding of 17 November dealt a major blow to the most infamous such group, however, it is believed that some N17 members or sympathizers have simply become involved with the newer groups behind today’s attacks.

It is also known that Greek and Balkan organized crime figures are in contact with Greek terrorists, helping to arm the latter with weaponry (mostly AK-47, grenades, Scorpio semi-automatic and Beretta pistols). Police sources also indicate that multinational organized crime involved with drugs trafficking and human trafficking of illegal immigrants from Muslim countries, with ties to Islamist networks are getting weapons from the latter. It should be remembered that far-left groups have traditionally seen a common cause with immigrants, both for ideological reasons and because the arch-enemy (that is, Greek far-right groups) are violently opposed to illegal immigrants. The latter thus sometimes become ‘fodder’ in internal urban warfare between Greek left- and right-wing extremists.

Data on Left-wing Groups and Activity

The following groups have become most prominent in the last few years. Their actual involvement is probably much higher than the official figures given here, considering that the perpetrators of many of the 85 attacks remain unknown, or will become known soon following various investigations and trials.

Name of Group: Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (also called ‘Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei’); in Greek, Synomisia Pyrinon Tis Fotias (SPF)

Leader: Unknown; non-hierarchical group

Structure: Autonomous cells

Active from: 2008

Ideology: Radical Anarchism, Neo-Nihilism

Number of Attacks carried out 2008-2012: 12 (pending trials, actual number may be significantly higher)

Percentage of total attacks in this period: approx. 14%

Name of Group: Revolutionary Struggle; in Greek, Epanastatikos Agonas (EA)

Leader: Nikos Maziotis (suspected)

Structure: Close-knit group

Active from: 2003

Ideology: Anti-Capitalist; Radical Anarchism

Number of attacks carried out 2008-2012: 10

Percentage of total attacks in this period: approx. 11.5%

Name of group: Revolutionary Sect (also called ‘Sect of Revolutionaries’); in Greek, Sekta Epanastaton

Leader: Unknown

Structure: Paramilitary combat structure

Active from: 2009

Ideology: Anti-Capitalist; Radical Anarchism, Neo-Nihilistic

Number of attacks carried out 2008-2012: 4

Percentage of total attacks in this period: approx. 3.5%

General Notes

Note (1): The review does not include committed or suspected robberies by leftist terrorists group or any other illegal action made simply to raise funds for their actual operational aim.

Note (2): Although the majority of arson attacks since 2008 are widely attributed to the group “Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (SPF)”, trials have not been concluded yet as of February 2013, so the final actual numbers may differ.

Note (3): Incidents regarding arrests of suspected terrorists which involved violence are not mentioned. Neither are various routine or irregular searches of police forces or discoveries of weapon caches and hideouts mentioned.


January 21: A series of arson attacks against bank branches and parked luxury cars in several locations in Athens. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire

October 31: A series of arson attacks against banks, the offices of the New Democracy party and luxury cars. Perpetrators unknown

November 10: Small-scale bombing of the office of New Democracy in a suburb of Athens. Perpetrators unknown

November 13: A series of small-scale bombings in banks in the city of Thessaloniki. Perpetrators unknown

December 13: Small-scale bombing of the French press agency in the center of Athens. Perpetrators unknown

December 7-14: Large-scale riots with significant damage to public and private buildings during the demonstrations over a police killing of a 16 year old-student the previous night in Athens. Several extremist groups participated, including incoming Albanian, Romanian, German, Spanish and Italian “comrades.” Along with the rioters resident illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Algeria and Afghanistan participated in lootings that occurred with an estimated damage of 250 million euros.

Police sources noted that based on evidence, at least 1.5 million euros were “invested” for the purpose of recruitment and ‘armaments’; bombs were mostly Molotov cocktails. A typical “asymmetrical threat.” Around 300 persons were arrested, belonging to various groups.

December 20: A series of attacks with arson material in stores in the center of Athens. Perpetrators unknown

December 21: A small-scale bomb attack in the office of the financial police in Athens, and against two banks and a luxury car dealership. Perpetrators unknown

December 23: Attack with AK-47 against a police bus. Revolutionary Struggle

December 25: Arson attacks against stores in Athens. Perpetrators unknown


January 5: Attempted AK-47 attack on a police officer in Athens. Revolutionary Struggle

January 9: Violent demonstration in the center of Athens, dozens of arrests made of persons from different groups

January 29: BMW dealership in Athens hit by arson attack. Perpetrators unknown

February 3: AK-47 and grenade attack against a police station in Athens. Revolutionary Sect

February 5: Arson attack against the office of the alternate Minister for Public Order. Perpetrators unknown

February 12: A series of arson attacks against offices of magistrates in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

February 17: Arson attack against Greek TV station Alter. Revolutionary Sect

February 18: Large-scale bombing of Citibank branch in Athens. Revolutionary Struggle

March 3: Arson attack against a railway wagon in a suburb of Athens. Perpetrators Unknown

March 19: Bomb attack against a public real estate company. Popular Will

March 25: Arson attacks against banks and a telephone company in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

March 30: Arson attacks against offices of New Democracy, banks and a luxury yacht office. Perpetrators unknown

March 31: Arson attacks against banks and luxury cars in Athens.Perpetrators unknown

April 9: Arson attacks against a church in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

April 13: Arson attacks against randomly selected cars in Athens and Thessaloniki. Perpetrators unknown

May 12: Small-scale bombing at a bank branch. Revolutionary Struggle

May 18: An arson attack against a parked police motorcycle in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

May 20: Bomb attack against offices of private company in Athens. Popular Will

June 2: Arson attack against the building of the general secretary of media and public information in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

June 4: Arson attack against a police station in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

June 17: Assassination of an anti-terrorist police officer in Athens. Revolutionary Sect

July 3: Arson attack against the private office of an ex-public order minister in Athens. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire

July 3: Arson attack against a McDonald’s in Athens. Revolutionary Struggle

July 4: Arson attack against building of the Ministry of interior in Athens. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire

July 11: Arson attack against the house of ex-alternate Minister of interior. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire

July 28: Series of arson attacks against office of New Democracy, PASOK and LAOS political parties in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

July 26: Small-scale bombings in municipal police buildings in Thessaloniki. Perpetrators unknown

September 2: Large-scale bombing against the stock market in Athens and the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace building in Thessaloniki, with no casualties. Revolutionary Struggle (suspected)

October 28: Attack with AK-47 and grenades against a police station in Athens, leaving six officers wounded. Proletarian People’s Self-defense

October 30: Bomb attack against the house of a former education minister in Athens. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire

November 5: Arson attack in vehicles in center of Athens. Perpetrators unknown

November 14: Bomb attack against the house of a PASOK MP. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire

November 20: Arson attack against municipal police building in suburb of Athens. Perpetrators unknown

November 30: A series of arson attacks in public building and banks in Thessaloniki. Perpetrators unknown

December 5: Small-scale bombing in magistrate building in the city of Heraklio, Crete. Perpetrators unknown

December 6: Arson attacks in the center of Athens against cars. Perpetrators unknown

December 28: Large-scale bomb attack (no casualties) in the offices of the National Insurance Company in Athens. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire


January 9: Small-scale bomb attack near national parliament. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire

January 28: Arson attack against the private office of a former Greek Prime Minister. Perpetrators unknown

February 11: Attack with stones-rocks against passing police officers in the center of Athens. Local anarchist group

February 16: Bomb explosion outside of a JP Morgan Bank in Athens. Revolutionary Struggle (suspected)

February 28: Stoning of passing police officers in the center of Athens. Local anarchist group

March 18: A series of arson attacks in several vehicles in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

March 22: A series of bomb attacks against the offices of the Golden Dawn party, a police station and the house of the vice-president of the Pakistani community in Athens. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire

April 14: A series of arson attacks in two offices of MP’s in Thessaloniki. Perpetrators unknown

April 14: Arson attack against office of a PASOK MP in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

May 5: Arson attack during a public demonstration against a bank branch in the center of Athens, with three employees killed. Radical anarchist network suspected after police investigation in late 2012

May 13: Bomb attack near Athens central correctional facilities, one civilian wounded. Revolutionary Struggle

May 14: Bomb attack against a Thessaloniki magistrate building. Revolutionary Struggle

June 24: Parcel bomb explosion in the Ministry of Public Order, killing a police officer who was assistant to the minister. Revolutionary Struggle suspected

July 19: Assassination of a Greek investigative journalist. Revolutionary Sect

November 1-4: Parcel bombing in a series of attempts to send bombs via international and local mail to multiple targets, including embassies in Athens, the governments of France and Germany, Europol headquarters and others. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire

December 30: Athens courthouse bombed. Conspiracy of Cells of Fire


January 12: Small-scale bomb attack against office of the LAOS political party in Thessaloniki and another one against the office of the union of retired political officers. Perpetrators unknown

January 16: Series of arson attacks against banks and PASOK offices in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

January 25: Small-scale bombing of the offices of the judges’ union in Thessaloniki. Perpetrators unknown

February 16: Arson attack in a university building in center of Athens. Perpetrators unknown

March 18: Small-scale bombing in the private office of the minister of health in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

April 17: Series of arson attacks in public building and vehicles in Athens and the island of Salamina. Perpetrators unknown

April 18: Small-scale bomb in the political offices of New Democracy and PASOK MP’s in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

April 19: Arson attacks against buildings of the Metro railway system in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

December 13: Small-scale bombing of the private office of a PASOK MP in Athens. Perpetrators unknown


January 21: Arson attack against offices of the Ministry of Culture in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

January 31: Small-scale bomb attack against a supermarket in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

February 13: Arson attacks against two cinemas in the center of Athens during a violent public demonstration in Athens. Local anarchist networks (suspected)

February 27: Arson attack against a wagon in the metro rail system in Athens. Urban guerrilla group

April 3: Small-scale bombing in the private office of a former Greek prime minister in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

April 19: Arson attack against randomly-selected vehicles in the center of Athens. Perpetrators unknown

June 27: Large-scale arson attack against the offices of Microsoft in Athens. International Revolutionary Front

September 2: Small-scale bombing of a municipal police building in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

October 8: Arson attack against wagon of tram network in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

November 26: Arson attack against the house of former general secretary of ministry of public works in Athens. Minority Struggle

December 7: Small-scale bombing in the house of former finance minister in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

December 8: Large-scale bombing of an office of the Golden Dawn party in the outskirts of Athens. Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI)

December 30: Small-scale bombing in a local magistrate’s office in Athens. Perpetrators unknown

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Emerging Water Industries in Greece

By Ioannis Michaletos in Athens

Water management is attracting the attention of businessmen in Greece, especially when it is related to the water cycle and energy production. Dams, water transmission pipelines, water depots, and seawater desalination plants are all included in the five-year plan that the Karamanlis administration has relayed recently to the press, as a plan to develop this very lucrative sector.

Greece‘ss national plan was drafted by the Ministry of Public Works, along with the national Directorate of Hydro-management and the Athens National Technical University.

This national program includes both large and small hydro-projects, since Greece has significant hydrodynamic potential, most of which is concentrated in the western and northern sections of the country, where major rivers such as the Acheloos, Arachthos, Aoos, Haliakmon, Stymonas and Nestos flow. At the same time, Greece makes excessive use of electricity, almost 40% more than any of its Balkan neighbors. Greece also imports substantial amounts of electricity per annum, especially from Bulgaria.

Most European countries have reached the highest potential of their hydrodynamic reserves. Greece is an exception; only one-third of the economically exploitable hydrodynamic resources are being exploited. Therefore, the country has significant unused domestic reserves, and can thus create a long-term strategy in this field.

The National Program Management and Protection of Water Resources includes measures for better distribution of water in the 14 designated water departments in the country, which, as announced by Minister George Souflias, include large and small projects for water diversions or transfers and for electricity production. These projects include around 22 large hydroelectric structures and about 300 small hydropower ones.

In order to meet the needs of the more arid regions of the country, a system of small and large dams along the rivers and pipelines transporting water from one water compartment to another will be constructed. For coastal areas and islands, seawater desalination plants have already started to be built, some of them using hybrid technology, meaning they are powered by renewable energy resources such as solar and wind power.

These major projects will be designed so as not to disturb the water balance areas. Yet all the evidence suggests that this is inevitable, as water in the coming years will become a more precious and expensive commodity than oil.

The diversion of the Acheloos River to the Thessaly region has almost been completed, at a cost of over 700 million euros. As a consequence Thessaly’ss farmers will enjoy a significant boost in their production (mostly wheat, corn, potato and cotton), with a 300 MW electricity production facility.

The water department with the largest surplus is West Central Greece, while the deficit is evident in Thessaly. Other departments with water deficit are the Eastern Peloponnese and the Aegean islands.

With Greece’ss current pace of growth, it is calculated that by 2030 the northern Peloponnese, eastern and central Greece, Attica, central Macedonia and Thrace will start facing problems, if the government’ss envisioned plans are not implemented. For the time being, the wet winter of 2008-09 has resulted in a spectacular increase in water reserves to such an extent that there are plans to export water to the Middle East. Last year Greece exported water to Cyprus when the latter faced a drought.

Today, the main issues associated with water management in Greece are:

-unequal distribution of water resources in western Greece due to heavy rainfall in comparison with the eastern parts;

-the uneven seasonal distribution of water resources, winter being the only significant rainy period;

unequal distribution of water demand in the country, with Attica, Thessaloniki and Patras requiring most of the resources during winter, in addition to the most visited tourist islands of the Aegean in the summer;

-leaks in water distribution networks, affecting up to 20% of pipeline networks, pose an additional problem and require new pipeline infrastructure.

Already, Greece has reached scientific and bi-governmental agreements with the EU countries plus Iceland in order to import much needed know-how regarding water management issues.

It is telling that the country is ranked in the last place among 24 European and Mediterranean countries, having at present only 46 large dams. Spain (ranked 1st) has 1196, followed by Turkey with 625, France with 569, and Italy with 524.

The Greek government moreover is now geared to privatize segments of the hydro-infrastructure. The water and sewerage companies in both Athens and Thessaloniki are high on the list next to privatization.

The Ministry of Finance seems to be planning a gradual reduction in the percentage held and in the state companies EYDAP (Athens) and EYATH (Thessaloniki). Currently, the government holds 70% of the share capital of EYDAP (60% government and 10% of the ATE state bank) and over 70% of EYATH. According to all available information those percentages will fall to 40% by next year. The capitalization of the former is around 400 million euros, and of EYATH, around 200 million euros.

Already, French multinational Suez Environment has expressed keen interest to invest in Greek companies. Since both of them hold significant real estate along the two biggest Greek cities, there are ample opportunities for investing in the sewage management sector, the next big thing in the contemporary “Green business” trend. Certainly, the water business is going to become a well known feature in Greece and elsewhere in the Balkans, as major investors start to move into an emerging and very lucrative sector.

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Bio-fuel Business Catching On in Greece

By Ioannis Michaletos in Athens

Greek businesses today are increasingly looking into the prospects of further investments into waste management and possible applications for the bio-fuels industry. Already, some of the bigger companies are making plans for incorporating bio-fuel production into their portfolios, and the general trend towards renewable energy sources and the generous state and European support towards that aim also add to the appeal in this sector.

The current turnover of the waste management market, according to reports from the Ministry of Development in Athens, is around 100 million Euros. Within the next 3-5 years, estimates are that it will grow to 300 million. Over the next 7-9 years, this figure is estimated to have soared to 700-800 million Euros annually. Overall, this means that at least 25 new recycling units must be constructed in the short term, and there are serious considerations calling for the investments to proceed.

The EU has repeatedly fined Greece for its inability to draft a conclusive plan regarding garbage recycling, and according to Giorgo Angelli, a journalist covering environmental issues, “that provides a strong impetus for great investments and assistance by the state in the near future for this sector.”

The Greek state has already started forming public tenders for the new waste processing installations that will be built using Private-Public-Consortiums- whereby private companies will construct the plants, and then be able to exploit them under a leasing agreement with the state.

The necessary funds for this work will derive in most respects from the EU’s 4th Assistance Package, which describes a broad array of handouts from Brussels to Greece within the period 2009-2014. Furthermore, as Christos Ioannou, an independent business consultant notes, “it is more than certain that Greek corporations will seek the collaboration of experienced foreign multinationals, since this industry is rather new to the country and the know-how deemed essential is still limited.”

The Players

The current market structure is composed of the big players in Greece, which will most certainly strive to acquire larger market shares in the future as well. The first such company, Helector, is a part of the Ellaktor construction group, which is active in multiple locations in Greece, the Balkans and the Middle East.

Another involved business, Helesi, operates a recycling plant in Northern Greece which specializes in motor tire process. Its shares are listed in the AIM stock index in London.

Third is Lobbe-Tzilalis, which constitutes a joint venture between the German group and a Greek representative that specializes in hospital waste management in Athens.

Further, the Greek construction group Hellenic Technodomiki, itself a Ellaktor affiliate, operates a household recycling plant near Athens- the first of its kind in the region. It also has a similar one in the Trier -Mertesdorf area of Germany. Recently it established a power station operating with biogas in Northern Greece. According to its press office “the company is interested in promoting this power generating technology in the country and in other markets abroad.”

Bio-Power on the Rise

The energy derived from biomass in Greece has also ignited a series of investments in the biofuel sector. Since mid-2006, the state has provided substantial subsidies of up to 50 percent of an investment, in order for plants to be created that will produce biofuel.

According to the 2003/30 EU Directive on the Promotion of the Use of Biofuels and other Renewable Fuels for Transport, Greece should conform by increasing biodiesel consumption to 5.75 percent by 2010, and 10 percent by 2020 of the total transport consumption. Currently, it is estimated at only 3 percent.

The decline of the oil price index has already cast a shadow on the viability of a multitude of investments-to-be that had at inception calculated a different price range for their bio-fuel product.

Therefore, as chemical engineer Ioannis Papamichail notes, “the annual diesel consumption in the country is approximately 2.7 million tones per annum, whilst the interest of constructing new plants will lead in theory into the production of more than 3 million tones of biodiesel. For 2008 biodiesel production was 100,000 tones so it’s far from the expectations of many prospective investors.”

It is understood that most plans will not proceed at all in the foreseeable future. If one wants to predict how the market will develop, it’s best to look at the already established businesses that have rooted themselves in the market and, in theory, can thus fend off the potential competition.

The first such company, Agroinvest, owns a plant with a maximum production capability of 252,000 tones a year. Further, the Pettas Company operates a factory in southern Greece with a total capacity of 60,000 tones. The Hellenic Biodiesel company owns an installation with a total 40,000-ton production capability in Northern Greece. Lastly, Vert Oil recently established a 44,000-ton plant suitable for such industry.

All of the above companies are Greek-owned and are likely going to be hotly pursued by larger investors which seek an entrance into the market, but do not want to establish new plants due to the limited profit margins related to the oil price decrease. An example is the joint venture named Biodiesel-Greece, created by Hellenic Petroleum and Viohalco Holdings, two of the top Greek multinationals.

Another potential strong player is the Elin Biodiesel Corporation that belongs to an energy group linked with influential Greek shipping interests. Both of them have relayed to the local press that they will proceed with investment plans that include market entrance through the already established players, and in the mid-term complete their own installations in Greece and in the neighboring Balkan countries.

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Remnants of Byzantium in London

Editor’s note: this special report comes to us from Dr. Jonathan Harris of Royal Holloway, University of London. It recounts the proceedings of an absorbing workshop recently held at London’s Hellenic Centre, which brought members of the general public into contact with some of the world’s leading experts on Byzantium- this time, in the unique context of its little-known, but lengthy relationship with the British capital. Photos appear courtesy of the author.


By Dr. Jonathan Harris

On Saturday, February 28, a special public seminar was held at the Hellenic Centre. Attended by some forty people, the workshop aimed to explore the links between Byzantium and London by investigating the ways in which the two societies interacted in the past and by exploring the reminders, remnants and reflections of Byzantium that can be found in London today.


Christchurch, on London

The five talks delivered during the day approached that task from different angles.

Anthea Harris of the University of Birmingham looked at Byzantine artefacts that have been found in datable contexts in London and the Thames valley.

While the evidence from London itself is sparse, finds from burials both to the north and south of the Thames suggest that Byzantine luxury objects were reaching Britain during the so-called Dark Ages (c.450-c.650).

Silver spoons and bronze bowls of Constantinopolitan manufacture have been found interred in high-status graves, probably those of chiefs or kings.


Byzantine spoon from an Anglo-Saxon burial site in Prittlewell, Essex

For his part, Scot McKendrick, Head of Western Manuscripts at the British Library, described some of the Byzantine manuscripts in the library’s collection and how they came to be there.

He ended with a description of the BL’s Codex Sinaiticus online project, which is making the text of the oldest complete copy of the New Testament available on the internet.

In the afternoon, Geoff Egan of the Museum of London’s archaeological service recounted how an excavation on the foreshore of the River Thames had revealed some unexpected finds: Byzantine coins and lead seals.


The Codex Sinaiticus

When these were sent to experts for identification, they proved to be of eleventh-century date. One of the seals bore the Greek word €šÃ„òGenikon,’s suggesting that it was once attached to a document issued by the imperial treasury in Constantinople.

The presence of these objects in London might have been connected with the recruitment of English mercenaries for the Byzantine army, and the famous Varangian guard.

Eugenia Russell, who recently completed a doctorate at Royal Holloway, University of London, looked at Andronicus Kallistos, a Byzantine scholar who died in London in 1476 in circumstances that are slightly obscure. His lonely end is almost foreshadowed in a lament that he wrote for the fall of Constantinople in 1453, and which highlights the themes of exile and dislocation.

Finally, George Manginis of the Archaeological Museum in Ioannina looked at neo-Byzantine architecture in London. As well as discussing the well-known monuments such as Westminster Cathedral and St Sophia in Bayswater, he showed pictures of obscure buildings such as a Primitive Methodist chapel that show a pronounced Byzantine influence. His presentation left the audience eager to learn more about London’s neo-Byzantine survivals.

Among the many satisfied participants at the event was Londoner Martin Hall, currently embarking on a post-retirement MA in Crusader Studies at Royal Holloway. Mr. Hall says that he was “particularly impressed” by George Manginis’s discussion of Byzantine remnants in London, considering it “a highly professional presentation which caused you to look at London buildings in a new light and with a new understanding.”


This Primitive Methodist Church on Caledonian Road in London boasts Neo-Byzantine windows

The workshop was funded by the London Centre for the Arts and Cultural Enterprise and by the Hellenic Centre, and organised by the Hellenic Institute, Royal Holloway, University of London.

The Lucrative Electricity Trade in Greece: Profits and Problems

By Ioannis Michaletos in Athens

The electricity sector in Greece has expanded recently, and remains characterized by substantial profits made by companies due to the high system marginal prices. Currently there are several companies active in electricity trade in the country that mainly deal in imports of electricity from the Balkans and Italy to Greece. The country has an actual production capacity of around 10,100MW but its needs during the burdened summer season exceed 10,800MW. Recently, the issue has risen to the attention of the public because of losses caused to the Greek power corporation.

A Trader’s Paradise

Haris Floudopoulos, an energy analyst has assessed that energy trading is a ‘very profitable business in the country and many of the companies involved actually employ just a few managers, in some cases not more than two or three people, based in small premises in the center of Athens.’ Thus with a minimum investment, higher return is assured.

The difference between the Greek market in terms of system marginal price (SMP) and that of Scandinavia, for example, is significant. For 2007 in the Scandinavian countries, SMP was at 34.53 Euros/MWh whereas in Greece it reached 78.36 Euros/MWh according to information put forth by the Greek power company. In Spain, the price was 61.38 Euros/MWh, while in Germany it was 58.5/MWh, and in France 64.71/MWh.

Moreover, there has been a trend over the past four years of increase in the Greek SMP. In 2005 it was at 43.14 Euros/MWh, but had jumped in 2008 to almost 90 Euros/MWh- more than a 100 percent increase, representing a unique case in Europe.

The Greek network manager, Hellenic Transmission Systems Operator (DESMIE), has informed that according to its database, ‘the Greek market currently operates the most expensive electricity system in the EU, although household prices are much lower than the rest of EU countries bar Portugal.’

The reason for this is that ‘the SMP increase correlates with the electricity production deficit in the country, along with the rising demand.’

Another issue is the rule made by the Greek regulatory authority (RAE) that sets a limit of up to 150 Euros/MWh for the marginal price a trader can gain. Since the peak periods are limited to just a few days a year, there are considerable gains to be made by exploiting cracks in the production system of the Greek power corporation.

Although it cannot be verified for the moment, there were cases over the summer of 2008 in which it appeared that trade companies managed to extract the maximum marginal price. The regulatory authority has stated that, ‘presently there is no trend concerning the exploitation of the maximum set price, although that cannot be excluded for the coming season.’

Problems for the Greek Power Company

The electricity production deficit in the country, in combination with the decreasing production capacity of the power stations that operate using lignite, has made it possible for trading companies to exploit their opportunities to make profits unimaginable in other markets.

The Greek power company which controls almost 93 percent of the domestic market has delayed plans to modernize its plants or construct new ones. Further, private enterprises have also stalled their own investment plans, due to political or financial reasons. On the other hand, a 4 billion Euro investment plan by the power company that calls for the construction of new natural gas sites and the expansion of renewable energy systems will reduce dependence on energy traders (along with their fat profits). Yet this will not be achievable before 2015.

According to public statements by Chris Poseidon, a senior manager in the semi-state Greek power corporation, ‘in Greece, electricity bills are regulated by the state, whereas the trading corporations operate liberally. Thus the Greek power company is obliged in many cases to buy electricity at much higher prices than it actually sells to its customers.’

The Greek power company increased its bills for household users by 9.5 percent in July 2008, and is petitioning the government to proceed with another 5-7 percent hike from 2009 onwards. For the moment, the troubles of the company have grasped the attention of the media, since it is losing tens of million of euros per month, a windfall now ending up in the pockets of trading companies.

The whole issue has steadily become a political hot potato for the Greek administration. On November 3, 2008, some 34 MP’s from the Socialist opposition requested an official response from the minister of development, presenting data for the first quarter of 2008 showing that the Greek power company had paid 461.4 million Euros in order to cover its electricity balance.

A sure prediction for the near future is that the activities of trading companies will come further to light and become part of a public discourse on the issue. It is more than certain that they have been able to exploit liberalization of the market better than either the government or the Greek power corporation and will continue to do so for the coming years.

The Main Players

In total there are 21 active traders, holding licenses of around 4,150 MW.

Mytilineos (Greek). Trading license of 310MW

ATEL Hellas (Swiss-Greek). Trading license of 300MW, and has reserved 50MW capacity in the Greek-Italian cable, through an auction by the Italian network manager TERNA.

VERBUND-APT (Austrian-Greek).300MW

Edison Trading (Italian). 300MW. Has reserved a 10MW capacity in the Greek-Italian cable.

ENEL Trading (Italian). 250MW

EDF Trading (French). 243MW. Has reserved a 10MW capacity in the Greek-Italian cable

NECO (Greek-Bulgarian owned). 200MW, and has reserved 30MW capacity in the Greek-Italian cable.

EGL Hellas (Swiss). 200MW, and has reserved 5MW in the Greek-Italian cable, and another 5MW in the Greek-Bulgarian one.

Hellenic Petroleum (Greek).200MW

EFT Hellas (British-Greek).150MW and has reserved a 5MW capacity in the Greek-Italian cable.

Other companies that have trading licenses but average low or minimal trade are: RWE (350MW), Eon (350MW), Cinergy (200MW), Entrade (200MW), Danske Commodities (100MW), Ezpada (200MW), Terna Energy (100mw), TCB Energy (80MW), ITA Energy (50mw), Ener Greece (50MW) and Athens International Airport (25MW).

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Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia: the Rural Settlement of Refugees 1922-1930

Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia: the Rural Settlement of Refugees 1922-1930

By Elisabeth Kontogiorgi

Clarendon Press (Oxford) 2006

Reviewed by Melina Grizo*

Over a decade ago, an anthropological study of Greek Macedonia conducted by scholar Anastasia Karakasidou resulted in violent reactions from Greek nationalists, and also generated great interest among the community of Balkan researchers. In her book, Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood: Passages to Nationhood in Greek Macedonia 1870-1990 (University of Chicago Press, 1997), Karakasidou pursued an inquiry into the ethnological origin of certain rural inhabitants in Greek Macedonian and challenged the myth of the Greek national homogeneity of the region.

Elisabeth Kontogiorgi centers her analysis a bit differently. She is concerned specifically with the issue of Greek refugee settlement in post-Ottoman Macedonia, but unlike near-contemporary presentations she considers the political and the diplomatic intricacies of the time merely as one of many other significant factors at work. (Some of these useful contemporary works include: Stephen P. Ladas’s The Exchange of Minorities: Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1932; E.G. Mears’s Greece Today: The Aftermath of the Refugee Impact, Stanford, Calif. and London, 1929; and Henry Morgenthau’s I Was Sent to Athens, New York, 1929).

Nevertheless, she does show how European diplomats considered the compulsory exchange of population as the only way to maintain a lasting peace between Greece and Turkey. Despite the grandiose rhetoric with regard to minority issues that prevailed in the 1920s, the European Great Powers thus permitted a process that was tragic or at least traumatic for most of those affected.

For Kontogiorgi, the work of the Refugee Settlement Commission and the national governments which were involved is but a part of the question. Her main contribution lays in her efforts to pursue a detailed inquiry of the multiple aspects of the settlement, with research supported by numerous statistics from various sources.

A number of archival sources are cited in the book, most from the Greek archive collections, but also others from the Public Records Office in London, the League of Nations Archives and the US State Department. The author’s research also draws on varying historical sources, such as the writings of diplomats, administrators and members of the Refugee Settlement Commission, as well as the contemporary media.

This research is largely based on English and Greek sources; the bibliographies available in other regional languages are not represented. However, the material from the Greek archives and Greek historiography in general make this study valuable for the diverse community of Balkan historians who do not read Greek and who thus do not have access to sources not translated from that language.

Elisabeth Kontogiorgi begins her book by introducing the reader to the geography of Macedonia, its economy and history, and the various people who lived there (Part I). After explaining the political and diplomatic background of the issue, she moves with ease among varying aspects of the problem, pursuing an inquiry into the work of the Refugee Settlement Commission, the history of land ownership in Macedonia, (Part II) the social, political and ethnological impact of the migration (Part III) and its economic aspects (Part IV).

Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia would have probably benefited had the author dedicated more space to a general analysis of the minority problems in the period after World War I in regards to their regulation under different international treaties. Still, she makes an effort to explain the role of the League of Nations, which undertook the responsibility of planning and undertaking the resettlements, but left its financing to governments, banks and individual economic organizations, on an ad hoc basis.

The main value of the book lies in the detailed analysis of the less obviously political aspects of the problem. A separate heading is dedicated to the refugees, who came to Greece in large numbers from different parts of Turkey, with a varying professional and cultural background and who even spoke varying dialects of the Greek language. Their misery upon arrival is well illustrated by the accounts of all sorts of witnesses, diplomats, journalists and politicians.

For example, Ernest Hemingway wrote on their exodus in October 1922, describing the long trail of refugees as comprising “twenty miles of carts drawn by cows, bullocks and muddy-flanked water buffalo, with exhausted, staggering men, women and children, blankets over their heads, walking blindly along the rain beside their worldly goods” (p. 56).

The second part of Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia concerns the land reforms in Greek Macedonia in the years after the Greek-Turkish War. It begins by providing insight into the Ottoman system of land tenure and continues with an analysis of the Greek postwar legislation on the land reform, the partitioning of the big estates and their redistribution to the refugees under the patronage of the Refugee Settlement Commission.

One interesting section in this part is the chapter on the migration’s demographic aspects. In 1912, the Greek population of Macedonia was recorded as being 42.6 percent. With the expulsion of Turks and Slavs, in 1926 it amounted to 88.8 percent (p. 100). The region’s general demographic growth was equally dramatic; due to the wars and general instability, Macedonia had become sparsely populated, and the arrival of the refugees was generally beneficial, according to the author.

However, there seemed to be another reason for this rapid growth. Namely, as the legal regulation of the land reform stated that only married couples could obtain land, the rate of marriage in Macedonia rose extremely fast. Contemporary sources claimed that Greece, otherwise a country with one of the lowest birthrates in Europe, had obtained a high fertility due to the ‘superior biological characteristics’ of the refugee population. Still, after the process of land distribution ended, the levels of marriages and fertility fell.

The third, and probably most intriguing part of Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia is dedicated to the social, political and ethnological impact of the refugee resettlement process. The author pays special attention here to the issue of political and national considerations. She explains the place of land reform in Macedonia in the general agenda of the Greek state, and its efforts to solve problems related to agriculture through it.

After analyzing the work of the Commission entrusted with refugee resettlement, and its diplomatic, political and financial aspects, she moves to a consideration of resettlement’s social impact. Kontogiorgi offers numerous examples of friction between Macedonia’s poor pre-existing inhabitants, and the even poorer refugees who were resettled there. Further on, she continues with an analysis of the Greek state’s motivations and strong efforts to populate its northern borders with Greek-speaking refugees. This was intended, she upholds, partially for security reasons, as these parts of Macedonia were a frequent target of the IMRO (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization) bands, and a potential source of dispute with Greece’s northern neighbors.

Equally interesting is the author’s account of the kind of political propaganda carried out in Greek Macedonia during the refugee resettlement period. Here she explains how the Agricultural Party, as well as the Communists, failed to attract sufficient supporters, and how the Venizelist and Anti-Venizelist camps skillfully exploited the conflicts between the old inhabitants and the newcomers.

Interestingly, although the Convention for the exchange of the population was signed by Eleftherios Venizelos himself, he was not held responsible for its tragic results in the eyes of the refugees. Thus, they regularly supported him in the elections. The anti-Venizelist camp sought to stir up the pre-existing population by darkly insinuating the alleged perils of the ‘refugee dictatorship’ and advocated an interruption of the payment of grants. Their press described the refugees as lazy and unproductive.

Still more interesting perhaps is the author’s analysis of how the settlement of Greek-speaking refugees impacted the nation-building process conducted by the Greek state in the region of Macedonia, which it had acquired less then a decade before their arrival (in 1913). The Turks from the newly Greek areas moved to Turkey and the ‘Slavophones’ (as Kontogiorgi calls them), especially those from eastern Macedonia, largely moved to Bulgaria.

The Greek government thus was presented with a unique opportunity to settle the Greek-speaking refugees on the lands vacated by these prior inhabitants. The new ethnological map of Macedonia which emerged encompassed Greeks from all four major regions of origin: Asia Minor, the Pontus, eastern Thrace and the Caucasus. It was simply a matter of time before all of these people acquired a clear Greek national identity.

The fourth and final part of Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia is dedicated to infrastructure and logistics. It shows how the rural settlement was planned by the state and how the former Turkish chifliks were populated. The health services, animal husbandry and land use were organized. The names of the villages and rivers were exchanged for Greek ones (p. 293).

Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia makes for a worthwhile read for those interested in Balkan history in general, as well as for specialists in migration studies and issues of nationalism. As the Conventions for the exchange of population have been largely considered from the point of view of political and diplomatic history, this book offers fresh insight from another perspective. It considers the consequences of a purely political inter-state agreement in the context of issues of land law, demography, nation-building and infrastructure development.

Readers of Balkan history accustomed to simple political accounts may find it somewhat bewildering to read about topics like the impact of the refugee resettlement on agriculture and animal husbandry. However, this embodies the main quality of the work, as it shows lesser-known aspects of the forced migration and its impact on the land where the refugees were settled.

Nevertheless, Population Exchange in Greek Macedonia would have been more complete if the author had dedicated more space to those who were obliged by the Greek government to leave the region. Despite its title, the work merely mentions the Neuilly Treaty and the Convention which arranged for the exchange of population between Greece and Bulgaria. Other exoduses are left unmentioned.

The demographic change which occurred in Greek Macedonia became possible due to the legally voluntary, but in practice obligatory removal of the Slavic population from that region. The author does not deal either with the complicated issue of the nationality of this population – merely calling it ‘Slavophone,’ in the best tradition of Greek nationalist historiography.

In short, this book draws a portrait of Macedonia, its sad history and the refugees who settled it. It is a book that studies an episode of unparalleled suffering, even measured by the standards of Balkan history. It shows how the landscape of Macedonia was allowed to change, with the League of Nations’s approval of the forced migrations, the determination of the Greek state to encompass the refugees in their own nation-building processes on the northern frontier, and the conduct of the political parties. The reader obtains a thorough insight into the problem, starting from the consideration of the diplomatic cabinets to the ordinary people’s struggle for daily survival.

……………………………………. guest reviewer Melina Grizo,  PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Law Faculty Justinianus I in Skopje, Macedonia, and concentrates on diplomatic history and EU law. She also holds a  postgraduate degree in EU law from the University of Oxford.

Snow Descends on the Balkans, to the Relief of Ski Resorts

( Research Service)- The first New Year’s gift of 2009 to the citizens of many Balkan countries has come in the form of the season’s first significant snowfall, blanketing large areas in Macedonia, northern Greece, Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Albania.

In the Macedonian capital of Skopje, some 16cm of snow has accumulated in the past three days- posing a challenge for motorists as city officials, caught dozing by the holidays and an insufficiency of snowplows, have been unable to clear major central streets. In Sofia, Bulgaria, similar conditions have been encountered, but authorities have a more formidable fleet of snowplows (137, to be exact) at their disposal.

Despite a handful of minor accidents, however, Macedonian citizens have generally been enjoying this unusual chance to sled in the center and to see the giant faux Christmas tree in the square, distastefully topped by a giant pink T (a gesture to likely sponsor T-Mobile), adorned by actual snow. Forecasts call for snow to continue falling until Tuesday, and resume later in the week.

Snowfall has been enabled by freezing temperatures across the region. So far, the standard has been set in ever-chilly Erzurum, Turkey. This eastern Anatolian town recently recorded temperatures of minus 36 Celsius.

Snow has also made things interesting in northern Greece, where officials have called on drivers to use chains amidst freezing temperatures as low as minus 13 Celsius and snowfall of up to 25cm across Epiros and the province of Macedonia.

Aerial footage from northern Albania shown earlier this week showed the mountainous region completely snowed under. Already hard enough to navigate in the best of times, this sparsely populated area has become inaccessible in large parts due to snowfall of up to half a meter.

Nevertheless, the sudden snowfall has also meant relief for some ski areas that had until now been hit hard by the lack of snowfall. In Serbia, the snowfall has been a boon for ski areas such as Mt Kopaonik, currently full of skiers and with 45cm of snow coverage.

Macedonia’s main ski area, Mavrovo in the west, was bare until a few days ago, causing concern among company officials. One official stated last week that since snow-making equipment was too expensive, they have been left at the mercy of the elements- which had been proving uncooperative, until this week. Now, however, the center reports over 40cm of snow coverage, many visitors, and predicts that the snow will remain for the duration of the season.

Macedonia’s other major ski center, Ski Centar Kozuf on the Greek border, did not open earlier due to cold temperatures, a company representative stated on December 30, adding that the resort would be opening soon. This new operation claims to have the most modern equipment in the Balkans, including artificial snowmaking guns and a state-of-the-art, six-person German-made lift.

Still a work in progress, the resort which opened just last year has yet to finish paving the 30km-long access road from Gevgelija, let alone to finish construct all of the facilities (though all of the allocated space for ski lodges has long since sold out). Here, the goal is to make an environmentally- and aesthetically-friendly resort; for example, while there will be a movie theater, it will be built underground.

The previous lack of snow, coupled with the general global economic downturn, have meant ski resorts in the region have been late to open or are seeing lessened demand. In Bulgaria’s leading resort area of Bansko, for example, there were still plenty of reservations available during the usually packed holiday period. The reduced number of skiers thus far has also meant declining profits for travel agencies booking tours and local hoteliers. Other, smaller Bulgarian resorts include Chepelare in the Rodopi Mountains (set to open on Jan. 7), are less hectic and cheaper as well- good for bargain-seekers.

Indeed, with no end in sight to the economic recession, regional ski centers can only adjust prices and hope that the skies at least will cooperate for the remainder of the winter season. However, the strange weather patterns of the past few years, perhaps caused by global warming, mean that nothing can be taken for granted and skiers should enjoy the conditions while they have them.

Top Balkan Ski Resorts

Want to make use of the good weather? The following Balkan ski resorts can be found online here.


(See here)







Ski Centar Kozuf


(See here)

Greeks and Italians Developing Southeastern European Regional Electricity Trade

by Ioannis Michaletos in Athens

Perception of an emerging Southeastern European electricity market is providing impetus for the creation of new companies seeking to take advantage of regional trade, and especially an increase in demand. In this pursuit, Greek and Italian interests are proving especially active.

Already, the Italian energy company Edison has made the first step into this field. Edison has entered into a strategic partnership with the semi-state-owned Hellenic Petroleum Company. The partnership is aimed at developing a strong presence in the electricity sector.

Edison, and its Greek partners, are also interested in the ongoing liberalization of the domestic market. By 2014, the Greek Power Corporation will have to decrease its market share below 70% of the currently 90% it holds.

A Company in the Making

Currently, both companies have applied to the Greek regulatory authority on energy in order to change the production licenses for the ‘Thesaloniki energy’ unit that belongs to the Greek company, and the ‘Electroparagokiki Thisvi’ that belongs to Edison.

The first one is a facility that operates using gas in Northern Greece, with a power capacity of 390 MW; the latter is a unit (currently under construction) using gas in Southern Greece, which will have a 420 MW capacity.

The new business scheme will be as follows: 75% of both units will be transferred to the Edison Nederland BV, a joint venture between the Greeks and the Italians. Moreover, in the ‘Thesaloniki’ unit, another two Greek companies named HE&D and Halcor will have shares of 22.5% and 2.5% respectively. Regarding the ‘Thisvi’ unit, HE&D will also own 22.5% and the remaining 2.5% will be acquired by Halcor.

The EU has already decided that the new company conforms to the existing rules regarding competition and the commencement of its operation will take place around March 2009, as soon as the regulatory authority gives the green light for the changes requested, and the name of the company is publicly announced.

The agreement also contains future plans for the creation of a trade company owned 100% by the holding company, and the acquisition or construction of units with a capacity up to 2,000mw.

The Edison CEO, Mr. Umberto Quandrino recently stated in a press conference in Athens that “this cooperation creates the second largest electricity company in Greece and Edison firmly roots its presence in Greece aimed at expanding into neighboring countries.”

According to an independent source closely monitoring the proceedings, “Edison’s entrance into Greece [through] siding with state companies and major private ones clearly illustrates their success in penetrating the local market, which is characterized by frequent changes of plans. Moreover, they gain a serious advantage for expanding in the Balkan region.”

Electricity Trade

The electricity trade is an important factor influencing the aforementioned agreement. Ioannis Soukioroglou, a Greek energy consultant, tells that this trade “hasn’t been developed mainly due to the Greek regulations. It reaches a maximum of 500 MW a year. In case a 2,000mw production is established by the new company it may have the necessary export capacity, but it will have also to deal with the complex regulations of the Greek network management authority. The Greek electricity system is severely affected by the summer season due to the substantial increase in consumption, thus there are restrictions on sales.”

Presently, the export rates from Greece to Italy for August 2008 went from a minimum 84.25 euros/MWh (on 12 August) to a maximum of 107.56 euros/MWh (on 28 August), with a mean average of 97.514 euros/MWh. In some cases, significant earnings could be made, up to 100% net profit, but the auction prices fluctuate by hour; therefore, any attempt to establish an export electricity base in Greece to Italy has to be meticulously planned in advance.

On the other hand, there are significant earnings to be made in the mid-term if one takes into account the potential of the region. A World Bank report notes that the Southeastern European market in 2005 consumed 215TWh and that will increase to 315TWh by 2020. For the Greek market the values were 50TWh in 2005 and an estimated 80TWh in 12 years.

Furthermore, the electricity prices in the Greek market will increase by approximately 20% between 2008 and 2009, and this is a serious incentive for foreign firms to invest in electricity commerce for household clients and businesses alike.

Lastly, Albania is a neighboring state that is in need of electricity imports, and is experiencing a steady increase in consumption that can be met by Greek-based production facilities in the future.

For the moment, the Italians are the first to have established a production base in the country. But the likes of RWE, Gaz de France and Gazprom are lining up too.

Strengths and Weaknesses

A corporate presentation recently held in Athens provided interesting points regarding the potential of the electricity trade. First of all, present cross-border transmission capabilities are now deemed to be insufficient, due to national bottlenecks caused by regulations and seasonal load variations. Furthermore, there is a general estimation by industry professionals that security criteria are often not completely followed, and that there are insufficient monitoring, metering and communication facilities.

On the other hand, the available power capacity and service performance are both seen as satisfactory at present, comparable to the EU criteria.

The future projections are optimistic, since there are continuous deregulation efforts in the areas of generation and supply by all countries, but competition on internal markets has not been fully effective yet.

Further, this presentation revealed, there are growing net imports of electricity in the region, split between exporters such as Bulgaria and Romania, importers such as Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia, and countries more or less in between like Serbia, Greece and Italy.

One of the main obstacles is the political pressure exercised with a variety of methods on regulators, causing uncertainty for prospective investors in the regional electricity trade. There are plans for further infrastructure investments, although funding constraints have to be dealt with quickly.

Further, network manager authorities, as in the case of Greece, are often accused by businesses of hindering the electricity trade due to lack of perception of the availability of their own electricity networks. On the other hand, the organizations responsible for the operation of the networks point out that it is their task to make sure that the electricity keeps flowing, unconstrained by commercial dealings that may hinder market supply when most needed.

The bottom line, it can be said, is that there is still a long way to go before a “fully functional regional electricity network” can be created. However, for analysts such as Soukioroglou, the energy consultant, such a network “is a feasible target though.”

All industry experts in Greece agree that once regulation and infrastructure issues are dealt with in the next few years, the electricity trade will multiply within Southeastern Europe- a crucial aspect for the success of the new Greek-Italian business endeavor.

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