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Greece

Capital Athens
Time Zone EET (GMT+2)
Country Code 30
Mobile Codes 690,693,694,695,697,698,699
ccTLD .gr
Currency Euro
Land Area 131,990 sq km
Population 11.3 million
Language Greek
Major Religion Orthodox Christianity

In Uncertain Times, Greek Security Agencies Boost Monitoring Capabilities

By Ioannis Michaletos

Despite budgeting restrictions due to Greece’s ongoing financial crisis, the country’s major state security agencies responsible for monitoring and surveillance operations are continuing to upgrade their technological capabilities, ostensibly for the fight against terrorism, organized crime and corruption. This trend started around a decade ago and has primarily benefited the National Intelligence Service (NIS), Police State Security Directorate (DIKA) and Police-Anti-terrorist Directorate (DAEEB), boosting the real-time monitoring capacities of each.

These upgrades are coming at a time of increasing volatility and violence attributed to both far-right and far-left elements dissatisfied with the government and its foreign-ordered austerity measures. In an article on yesterday’s bomb blast at an Athens shopping mall, Reuters reported that the incident signified a “worrying escalation in political violence” that also included a recent Kalashnikov attack on the party headquarters of the ruling Nea Dimokratia party. According to the wire service, Greek police have turned first to surveillance video to try and identify any suspect in the bombing.

Although some Greeks regard the increase in security monitoring as excessive, it is apparent that the country could not sustain itself in terms of domestic security without a monitoring apparatus of significant size and capacity. In addition to keeping tabs on occasionally hostile neighbors, there are a plethora of visiting persons and groups of interest, including foreign diplomats, members of Eastern European criminal gangs, a huge illegal immigrant population which includes radical Islamist figures, left- and right-wing extremists and so on to be monitored. In addition, the deteriorating economic and social situation has led also to widespread monitoring of a wider spectrum of Greek society due to governmental anxiety over protests and potentially deadly attacks- as was witnessed in yesterday’s bomb attack.

Note on Sources and Limitations

The present article draws on a combination of recent interviews with Greek police officers, intelligence officers, political figures, attorneys in criminal cases, Greek journalists and academics who are specialized in the field, as well as reliable open sources including certain media reports and transcripts from Greek court trials regarding terrorism and organized crime cases.

Still, it has to be said that in the murky world of intelligence-gathering, nobody can be really sure of what exactly is going on. Indeed, while certain persons in Greece claim to be ‘intelligence experts,’ and even open quasi-institutions on this theme, in reality nobody can speak with certainty on the inner workings of the Greek intelligence system.

Although Greece is a medium-sized European country, it has over time amassed a plethora of intelligence-gathering authorities, which can be considered Byzantine in both their practices and excessive bureaucracy. The vagaries of political influence, the combination of a sizeable number of lingering ‘old guard’ officials and the imperative for utilization of cutting-edge technology makes any kind of assessment vague and somewhat subjective. It takes decades of careful observation, along with a distinct knowledge of Greek culture and history, for one to understand how the whole system works and, most importantly, to comprehend the underlying motives behind the associated intelligence organizations.

For the time being, the classic paradox remains: the real specialists will not comment publicly, while those who do are most certainly not real experts. Nevertheless, this article strives to present the most credible information currently available on the current state of affairs.

Operational Capabilities

Like other people in the region, Greeks are prone to suspicion and even paranoia about police activities, so they will no doubt be disturbed to know that according to estimates approximately 3,000 persons in Greece are being wiretapped on an hourly basis by the security authorities. Among other things, the intelligence services have identified and target specific ‘red alert’ geographical zones. These are areas (mostly in Athens, but also elsewhere) in which criminal activity often occurs.

When a suspected criminal is traveling through or staying in these zones, the system may notify Humint assets in the vicinity to start shadowing the target. A known software system provider used by Greek authorities is the American company i2, now owned and managed by IBM.

“Systems like i2 and lots of other software can identify not just the social network of any suspect, but combined with telephone wiretapping they can also map out their activity in real-time,” a Greek security official attests for Balkanalysis.com. “At least 20 high-profile criminal cases have been uncovered using such methods over the past few years.”

The i2 system and similar ones operate by inputting into the software any data available about the targets being monitored. Names, locations, travels, contacts, communications and so on are all combined to produce unique profiles. Profiling work that once would have taken dozens of police detectives days or even weeks to compile is now thus being done in an instant.

According to this and other sources, the Greek telecom wiring systems have the capacity to simultaneously tap approximately 1000 landlines, 1000 mobile phone numbers and 1000 internet connections. What is also interesting is that each target is monitored almost round-the-clock. The system informs mobile HUMINT teams located across the country and they can decide to take action if necessary.

The Greek weekly newspaper To Vima recently published an overview of the Greek security agencies’ operational capabilities and estimated that these bodies process an average of 10 GB of digital information per day on such activities. This amount can increase tenfold in case of emergencies.

The technological architecture could be described as “Echelon type one” since it is backed by a glossary of key words and phrases and with a steady upload of voice recognition capabilities. The risk of counter-surveillance by the targets themselves is non-existent, since all of the telecom companies operating in Greece are required to have a ‘back door’ for lawful interception of traffic. Once judicial authorization is provided, monitoring starts automatically, leaving no trace. This was required by a law voted on in 2008, but was also being applied unofficially even before the 2004 Olympic Games.

In addition, specially outfitted vans and other vehicles throughout the country (and especially Athens), carry out smaller-scale surveillance operations, with the capability to cover a few hundred meters and a dozen or so telecom lines, according to the report.

Further Background on Upgrade Process and System Threats

A list of the types of systems used by Greek authorities, and companies who make them, was given in a previous Balkanalysis.com article back in September 2011. All equipment mentioned therein was procured in batches. Items purchased between 2002-2004 came due to the need to safeguard the Olympic Games, and were overseen by then-Minister of Public Order Michalis Chryssohoidis and then-NIS Head Pavlos Apostolidis). Equipment ordered for 2007-2008 (when the new legislation came into force) was overseen by then-Minister of Interior Prokopis Pavlopoulos and then-NIS Head Yiannis Korantis. Finally, during 2010-2011 new equipment was ordered to modernize the system by then-Minister for Public Order Chryssohoidis and the then-NIS Head Konstandinos Bikas.

One should also keep in mind that looming behind the whole initiative are several major related potential threats. First is the possibility that sensitive information regarding individuals being monitored could be leaked. Similarly there is the possibility of blackmail through illegal dissemination of such information or illegal use of equipment by a group of corrupted officers, for example. Another issue is the length-of-storage period, according to law, two years at a maximum. In reality, however, no one can guarantee that digitalized information could not be stored indefinitely.

Finally, the cyber-warfare element is important because if there is an attack against the servers where information is being continuously saved, then a huge load of data could easily be stolen remotely, and used as a commodity or intelligence tool by hostile parties. NIS is “CERT Classified” by NATO, meaning that it has cyber-defense capabilities. Still, in today’s world, hackers have successfully attacked some of the most secure business and governmental sites in the world, so safety of NIS data is hardly guaranteed.

Day-to-Day Work

The surveillance agent’s job does not have the glamour of a James-Bond style movie. In the modern Greek security structure, as in most European countries, such an officer sits at a specially designed desktop, which is outfitted with hardware connected to various servers, and stays there for the usual eight-hour shift.

After being briefed on qualitative terms regarding the target involved (who, what, how, why) he might then sit back sipping his Nescafe frappe, waiting for a potential conversation to pop up. Once it does, the most interesting bits are immediately saved. In cases that take priority, a last-minute report might be written and dispatched, if the information suggests immediate criminal action is expected.

Telephone Registration Law Aids Security Agencies

Here it is essential to note that since 2008, all mobile phones in Greece have to be registered to an owner, and that owner must provide a physical address. Previously it had been fine to buy a SIM card with no registration, which was also the case in other regional countries like Bulgaria (which now requires a passport number for foreigners, though not an address, in order to buy a SIM card).

This prohibitive Greek legislation has thus made the work rather easier for surveillance officers who have a much better chance of ascertaining in real time who’s talking to whom. Of course, criminals and others with reasons to evade the law are not naïve and have adapted their communications strategies. For example, they may speak through code words/names, use phones registered to different persons, register SIM cards to ‘dummy’ addresses and so on. Nevertheless, the registration restriction has benefited the police in general.

Traveling with a ‘Suitcase’

A common surveillance tool used by Greek authorities is the so-called ‘Suitcase’ portable monitoring device (the nickname derives from its being concealed, in fact, in a suitcase). This device is capable of monitoring a smaller number of suspects in an inconspicuous manner. However, it must be noted that equipment like this is increasingly found in the hands of individuals across the world- making monitoring a sport useful to anyone with a big wallet and vested interests. It is also very useful for the training of ‘rookies’ in the espionage world since it requires moving around and learning to be more adaptive, before taking up a desk position.

Division of Labor

The NIS chiefly uses its monitoring capabilities in pursuing the actions of foreign agents on Greek soil, while placing its own assets abroad, particularly, in the region between the Danube River and the Levantine Basin, and the Black Sea and Adriatic Sea. Thus its monitoring actions have a greater depth and are associated with a strategic vision, not solely concentrated on police-type work.

Profiling of foreign leaders or VIP’s is considered crucial by the NIS. So too are long-term research projects developed in order to profile opposing organizations and their structures. Unlike the case in many other countries, the NIS has responsibilities for both foreign intelligence and domestic counterintelligence, making the agency very powerful. The people responsible and vetted for monitoring are estimated to be few, perhaps not more than three percent of the entire workforce. This compartmentalization is done in order to diminish leaks, even within the agency itself.

The Greek Police’s State Security Division is most famous for its highly detailed and analytical surveillance work based on HUMINT assets- it has historically not been oriented so much towards relying on technological capabilities. In most respects it adheres to the ‘Old School’ type of monitoring, with a particular focus on groups of people suspected of anti-state action such as hard-line and far-left and far-right groups and criminals associated with political figures.

However, it also has a mandate for the oversight of the other agencies in case of infiltration by enemy interests, so in this respect it has a counterintelligence dimension, having some aspects in common with the UK’s Special Branch. Estimating the percentage of officers associated with technological monitoring is difficult in this case; however, it is widely believed that a majority of involved personnel in the Division are occupied day-to-day with ‘tailing suspects.’

The Police Anti-terrorist Division has traditionally received the greatest attention from Greek politicians, due to its critical role in combating domestic terrorism. In the past, as with the infamous November 17 terrorist group, well-organized plots have cost the lives of politicians, foreign diplomats, businesspeople and other notable figures.

Therefore, the Anti-terrorist Division has always enjoyed access to high-end technological means and a substantial budget, estimated at several million euros annually. It has by far the largest percentage of officers capable of using the kinds of complex software described previously. The vast majority of its officers have passed specialized seminars abroad, mostly in EU countries, the US and Israel. In fact, court transcripts and media reports indicate that all of the domestic terrorism cases solved over the past five years (which led to the arrests of some 40 people) had a distinct technological ‘flavor’ to the investigations in question.

Mobile Command Units

Mobile Command Units (MCUs) are specially designed and outfitted minivans or similar automobiles used to tail a suspect, both through physical shadowing and with a software monitoring unit intercepting the target’s telephone calls and contacts. Inside the vehicle are also kept additional items such as micro-sensors, micro-cameras, long-range cameras, satellite links, night vision goggles, weapons and even medical supplies.

When active, MCUs are staffed by a small group of agents who are prepared even for combat in case of emergency. A Greek intelligence insider states for Balkanalysis.com that there are up to 10 vehicles of this type roaming around Athens and other major cities in Greece, especially during significant events such as political rallies, elections, global conferences, visits of foreign leaders, protests and other signs of domestic political crisis and so on. The purpose is to add flexibility to the technological security architecture and assist the police in case of emergency situations.

In most cases, activated MCUs are accompanied by two other unmarked vehicles or motorbikes, which stay at a close distance in order to protect the team involved. MCUs offer real-time situational awareness to the headquarters of the Police and the NIS in Athens, through coded satellite transmissions with a range of up to 500 km- in effect, covering much of Greek territory.

Another interesting aspect of MCU capabilities is that through long-range cameras they can safely monitor and film at distances of up to 10 km away, depending on weather conditions. This means that in a geographical environment such as Greece’s, dotted by numerous islands and islets, an MCU can safely monitor suspicious activity taking place for example, on a ship out at sea.

Open Source Intelligence Center

One of the first priorities back in the late 1990’s, when Greece’s security and intelligence forces were preparing for the 2004 Olympic Games, was to create an OSINT surveillance center that would continuously gather a full stream of information from TV, the press, radio, and internet broadcasting. Since then the progress of technology has made it possible to literally monitor and distil in real time millions of media outlets in hundreds of languages across the planet and create alerts for attention.

For instance, comments made by foreign leaders and officials about a particular subject of interest, when increasing in level (though unnoticed to many) alerts the service that an initiative is moving towards implementation by a foreign entity, and a report is thus sent to the political leadership alerting them of this. On a police level, this aspect of OSINT software combined with surveillance, could perhaps pinpoint the future intentions of a criminal or terrorist group, based on reversed crowd sourcing techniques.

An Overabundance of Information

These significant technological upgrades by the Greek intelligence and security agencies have also generated an ever-increasing mass of data to be analyzed. This incurs the need to invest yet more manpower and capital to follow the emerging trends. It has also increased the expectations of Greek executive and governmental figures who already consider it normal that a tremendous workload involving targets and their contacts has to be monitored on a daily basis, regardless of the possibility that this may limit a more qualitative approach.

Moreover, the need is increasingly being voiced in Greek intelligence circles to create ‘stove pipes’ within the system, and to proliferate agencies dealing with technological surveillance in the Greek intelligence community (as described above), as well as in the military and the rest of the state apparatus, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister’s office, the Coast Guard and the rest of the police forces. Last but not least (considering the government’s newfound interest in taxation) this also applies to the special state tax service.

Another dimension of all this is that, as everywhere else, Greece’s tradition of HUMINT is being contested by tech-wiz officials who prefer to target all information available from the tip of their mouse pad. The contrast and change has been noted around the world’s intelligence agencies. (A fictionalized but accurate representation of this came with the latest Bond film, Skyfall, in which the classic Q, an elderly gadget-maker, is replaced by a cocky young computer expert cracking codes and remotely guiding 007, played by Daniel Craig, while gazing at big-screen images of London’s Underground).

Mid-Level Capacities, ‘Black Funds’ and other Balkan Countries

The NIS (and other Greek agencies) have mid-level capabilities, compared to those of the leading countries. All Balkan countries (with the exception being perhaps Montenegro) have upgraded lately also their tech infrastructure like Greece- Turkey perhaps even more so.

Although these countries primarily purchase technology from Western companies, in some cases domestic production exists, as with Greece’s MILTECH, Intracom Defense and I.S.I, which have sold monitoring equipment since the mid-1990’s, reportedly even to the CIA.

In regards to SIGINT-ELINT capabilities, compared to countries such as the US or even China, Balkan-Mediterranean countries have much less capabilities, but are believed to still have enough to track a number of people with ease in a specific area. The difference between the US and a country like Greece is that the former strives for ‘total situational awareness’ – the ability to track everything, everywhere and all the time, on land, air, sea and space – whereas Greece has more modest ambitions, generally, to control its own territory and (in specific cases) the so-called ‘Near Abroad,’ the area between roughly Bosnia and Cyprus.

It is also known that Greece spends a lot of money on undisclosed intelligence operations. According to a Greek Parliament fiscal assessment, during the period 2007-2008 the Greek Police (the intelligence service was not specified) commandeered 120 million euros in “black funds.” That is substantial money for the Balkans. And the Greek Foreign Ministry – which some observers consider to have foreign intelligence ambitions comparable to the NIS – was allotted 152 million euros in “black funds” in 2010-2011.

It is also believed that the countries providing Greece (and others) with specialized monitoring equipment also benefit when they ask for favors (for example, to track specific nationals or radical figures). Some American services, for instance, have asked for such favors often from their Greek colleagues, who in turn can use the equipment provided by them. As with weapons systems, the country supplying them will ultimately ask for favors that are essentially in assistance of their foreign policy. If favors are not done, then upgraded models are not provided. The problem with software is that it has to be renewed because a newer version comes out every few years.

Conclusion: Part of a Global Trend

The developments in Greece are nothing particularly shocking, but they are indicative of a global trend in the acquisition of not only monitoring and tracking equipment but of all sorts of hacking and remote infiltration software, by states, companies, terrorist groups, organized crime rackets and wealthy individuals.

These transactions are increasingly being done not only between companies to governments in friendly states, but from Western companies to hostile or repressive states, both directly, or via middleman companies or on the black market. And states with advanced technology also use it domestically. Reporting on this trend has become popularized by the Wikileaks ‘Spy Files’ project of 2011, which released data about numerous companies involved in this multi-billion-dollar industry.

Despite the work of such investigative journalism entities and privacy advocates, the industry is simply too lucrative to be derailed and there is always a way for anyone with cash to find the equipment he seeks.

However, for the essential goal of state security, there will always be a role for human intelligence. Given the dangers of data loss/compromise and information overload leading to a lack of qualitative analysis specified above, it would be remiss for Greek security planners to do away with tried but true methods altogether in their quest for technological supremacy, in what is becoming a more and more level playing field globally.

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Book Reviews: The Cyprus Crisis, and The Making of the Greek Crisis

Balkanalysis.com Editor’s note: These two new books, reviewed by Balkanalysis.com Director Chris Deliso, shed new light on two of the most important events in Modern Greek history- the Cyprus crisis and end of the military junta in 1974, and the ongoing financial crisis that continues to bedevil the country heading into 2013. While the Republic of Cyprus has wrapped up its successful term as temporary EU president, the island remains divided. The books presently reviewed provide, if not solutions to these two problems, at least new ways of looking at them that will certainly help interested parties seeking solutions. They also provide useful background context for readers with a general interest in contemporary Greek affairs.

The Cyprus Crisis: Examining the Role of the British and American Governments during 1974

By Andreas Constandinos

University of Plymouth Press (2012), 407 pp. (Click here to buy from publisher)

This is a formidable book. Not only because it is thick enough and heavy enough to crush a small mammal, but also because it succeeds in demolishing some lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the role of US and British diplomacy and intelligence in the period up to, during and after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July 1974.

Based on recently declassified archival governmental sources as well as interviews with some of the figures involved, The Cyprus Crisis is required reading for scholars and anyone interested in this tragic period in Cypriot history, one that remains disputed and unresolved almost 40 years later. Having spent five years researching it, author Constandinos concludes with a plea for a renewed and more responsible take on these controversial events: “until both [Greek and Turkish] Cypriot communities are able to take responsibility for the events of 1974 and accept the roles played by their respective motherlands,” he writes, “the prospect of the two communities peacefully co-existing in a unified Cypriot state will continue to look bleak.”

More specifically, the conspiracy theories the author challenges in the The Cyprus Crisis, which have survived among some Greek and Greek Cypriot circles, hold that Britain, the former colonial controller of Cyprus, and the US assisted the military junta in Athens in its overthrow of Cypriot President and Archbishop Makarios, and then assisted a Turkish invasion of the island. The intensity of these feelings registered not only in protests but in the assassinations and threatened assassinations of officials from both countries in the days and years after the events, and in a legacy of anti-Americanism in Greek politics that had a negative impact on Greece’s diplomatic clout for many years.

In some ways, the truth is even worse than the theory. For rather than a malevolent and cunning master plan that would have at least required a certain amount of evil genius, the actions of the UK and US exemplified a range of less flattering attributes- cowardice, cynical disinterest, incompetence, arrogance and poor intelligence assessment, to name a few. Occurring as it did during a time of considerable external distractions (most conspicuous being the ignominious end of the Nixon presidency), this situation created the ideal conditions for both the Greek and Turkish governments to vie for control of the island.

The British come off as timid but righteous arbiters with a certain moral sympathy for the island they were legally obliged to protect, but little military capacity to do so, embarrassingly reliant on the Americans to influence the relevant parties. The US – dominated by the towering presence of Henry Kissinger – comes off as perceiving the conflict only within the grand geo-strategic parameters of the Cold War. The author proves how Kissinger’s ‘one-man show’ approach to diplomacy left him tone-dear to the views of more informed diplomats and led him to ignore important local intelligence from what he disparaged as a “third-rate island.”

Still, the voluminous amount of official transcripts cited indicate that both British and American officials followed events closely, but did not find sufficient ‘national interest’ to carry out measures that could have stopped the coup against Makarios, first of all, or the first and second Turkish invasions of the island thereafter.

As the author concludes, these allied governments were guilty only for sins of omission, not commission. Actually, the bulk of the blame is reserved for the recklessness and stupidity of the colonels in Athens, who incredibly did not believe that a coup in Cyprus would hand Ankara a golden opportunity for an invasion- one it had been planning in detail for over a decade.

According to the author, the US was apparently unaware that the previously existing direct communications channel between Athens and Ankara, which had successfully defused crises in the past, had been severed by de facto ruler Ioannidis. The exposition provided in The Cyprus Crisis is too complex to be summarized here, but in this and subsequent events, it seems that individuals (possibly, overeager Greek-Americans in the CIA supportive of the junta) rather than the Agency as a whole, were responsible for a communication breakdown that led Ioannidis to think that he had US support for overthrowing Makarios. (Indeed, as the author points out in further refutation of the ‘CIA vs. Makarios’ theory, on two earlier occasions the Agency had given Makarios specific warnings of assassination plots against him being planned by Greek Cypriot hard-liners).

Indeed, as much of the context-setting first half of The Cyprus Crisis emphasizes, it was the chronic internecine struggle between Greek Cypriots more than anything else that created the conditions for the Turkish invasion. The quixotic goal of enosis (unity with Greece) captivated and connected right-wing Cypriots and the junta in Athens, leading to bitter and bloody internal struggle. Whereas Turkey then and now has argued that it invaded the island to safeguard the Turkish minority, the author finds zero evidence for this (intriguingly, he notes that it was impossible to get any comments from a prior author who had supported the Turkish theory based on a document of dubious authenticity).

Rather, the sad truth that is reaffirmed time and again in The Cyprus Crisis is that none of the external protagonists – Turkey, Greece, the US or Britain – cared at all about the well-being of the Cypriot people of either ethnicity. The first two countries saw the island as a strategic element of their own power projection and as a symbolic element (with political application) for internal nationalist sentiment, whereas the latter two understood Cyprus as a host of strategic bases. And in dealing with the unfolding crisis, they understood the strategic role of Greece (and especially Turkey) as paramount in their policy-planning, which again had to do with other strategic bases and containing the Soviets.

At the time, it was deemed strategically unwise to use either diplomatic or peace-keeping means to prevent the junta from deposing Makarios, and/or to stop the Turkish armada from making landfall, and subsequently carrying out its orchestrated ethnic cleansing campaign against the Greek Cypriots of the north. In retrospect, Kissinger’s fear that an angered junta would ‘kick out’ the US 6th Fleet from Greek waters seems a paranoid fantasy, while the British reluctance to enforce a naval blockade when it had ships and soldiers on the spot unless the US join them comes across as pure cowardice (one could not imagine a leader like Margaret Thatcher having given up so easily).

And this is the great tragedy that The Cyprus Crisis reveals: that the unwarranted bloodshed in Cyprus could easily have been avoided. In hindsight, it does not appear that whatever temporary diplomatic hiccups would have occurred at any stage of the game could possibly have been worse than everything that has happened since, right up to the present day. Of course, there is ‘a reason for everything,’ and the author does admirably provide a very wide context that gives readers a broad view into what current events, past historical precedents, and future concerns influenced the decision-making of diplomats at the time, in a day-by-day treatment of the unfolding crisis.

The only question that does not seem to have been posed in interviews with diplomats active in 1974 for The Cyprus Crisis is that of cultural intelligence. A large part of the tragedy seems to have had to do with accidental or even willful ignorance of local realities. Transcripts of discussions between Kissinger and CIA Director William Colby, among other sources, indicate that the former had very little knowledge of the island (to the point of mispronouncing names of key towns) and very little interest in the mentality of the cultures involved. It does not take a genius in the art of diplomacy to know the precise ways in which Turks and Greeks will behave under certain conditions. It just takes the input of persons who know and understand these cultures. Unfortunately, the powers-that-were chose more often than not to ignore such sources of information, even when they were in their own employ. For future policy planners, this may well be one of the important unstated lessons of The Cyprus Crisis.

………………………………

 

The Making of the Greek Crisis

By James Pettifer

Penguin Shorts (May 2012)

Appearing in a unique new series format from Penguin, this e-book by British scholar James Pettifer discusses the causes of Greece’ current financial crisis, placing it within the broader context of past Greek history. The author informs the work with observations made from his four decades of research and travels in Greece, as well as from secondary sources in the contemporary press, and older scholarly works.

It is important to note that this Penguin Short is not meant to be a searching academic study. Rather, it is a useful, and at times entertaining read that summarizes in informal and quick-flowing prose the major issues and particularly the context in which the Greek financial crisis should be understood- perfect reading for, say, an Athens-bound EU financial enforcer to read while on the plane.

Throughout the book Pettifer resolutely throws in his lot with the common man and woman of Greece, sympathizing with their current plight and reminding that throughout history foreigners with little local knowledge have often played disproportionate roles in running the country. Foreign interference has been a chronic factor in the history of Greece since its independence from the Ottomans, as Pettifer notes. “The European Union and International Monetary Fund negotiators who sit in authority in Athens in 2012 have many antecedents,” he writes. “Men and women completely ignorant of the Greek language have played their parts in the making of modern Greece, with varying degrees of success.”

The author begins by pointing out the interesting contradiction between the current gloom and the optimism of just a decade ago, when things seemed to be going so right for the Greek economy. Yet while the Greeks should have been aware of what was to come for them, they were hardly the only ones who failed to imagine or anticipate their and other financial crises that have occurred over the past five years around the world. As the author humorously notes, “modern social-democratic European politics has little room for the imaginary, in any shape or form; it is a terrain of flipcharts, number crunching, endless economic forecasting, and mass production of technocrats.”

Thus, the Greek crisis “was made within capitalism as the illusions of political elites in both Brussels and Athens fed on each other. A hopeless over optimism about what the European Union was or could ever be dominated their judgements and a sweeping belief in their own propaganda overtook them.” This amusing aside manifests the typically British take on the EU and its often excessive ambitions. In an interesting detail, the author points out that a continent-wide monetary union has been dreamt up and even attempted several times going back to Napoleon, and never worked. At the same time, “recurring debt crises had punctuated political life in nineteenth and early twentieth century Greece.” The past does seem to be repeating itself in many ways today.

Indeed, as Pettifer describes it, the much-publicized concealment of Greek debt for which the country has been so criticized is endemic, not something that recent governments invented. “In the post-Civil War period, debt was contained within the New Deal and Marshall Plan framework, but was an ever-present problem in the background,” recounts Pettifer. “Many infrastructure bills, for instance those that involved strategic roads of military interest in northern Greece, or port and airport modernisation, were effectively paid for by the United States or NATO. With the end of the Cold War and the Warsaw Pact, this funding role was taken over by the European Economic Community and then the European Union. Ever since the Greek state was established in the nineteenth century, infusions of foreign capital have been required at regular intervals to support state economic viability.”

In the modern case, the author traces the year 1996, and the ascendancy of German-experienced technocrat Costas Simitis as the turning point. It was at this time that “the genuine, if sometimes eccentric internationalism of [the late Andreas] Papandreou was replaced by the ever increasing commitment of the government to a federal European future. Greek nationalism was to be subsumed within the new Euro nationalism of the European Union. At the heart of this major policy change was the forging of a new Greek-German relationship.”

At the time of Euro-entry, in 2001, “the fact that Greek budget data was significantly ‘massaged’ to meet the Maastricht criteria [for joining the Euro] did not seem to be a major issue for those involved,” Pettifer recounts. “The German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher had recently acquired a holiday home in Greece and relations seemed to be excellent.” Interestingly, he also posits that there were those around Simitis who saw the subsumption of Greek debt within the Euro as Germany’s tacit means of giving Greece WWII war reparations that had never been paid.

Along with general trends such as greed, consumerism and the effect of new Common Agricultural Policy marketing rules on small farmers, Pettifer notes the often unacknowledged effect of single events in exacerbating the crisis. The biggest of these was the 2004 Athens Olympics. Economists disagree on the impact Olympics spending would have on the later debt crisis, he notes, while adding that “normal government financial controls began to collapse in the 2003-2004 period as international pressure on Greece rose for Olympic work to be completed on time.” All in all, the price tag of the Games was billions of Euros beyond estimate, and debt repayment was not properly managed (Pettifer contrasts this with the case of Montreal, which is apparently still making incremental payments on debts incurred for the Olympic Games it held back in 1976).

While the author acknowledges the well-publicized role of tax evasion in Greece, he does not see it as a primary cause of the crisis, and suggests that the EU did not either: “not much tax was paid between 2001 and 2004,” he notes, “but no one in Brussels was concerned about it then when growth numbers looked good.” Rather, he sees this sort of discourse as a means for making the country “a scapegoat for the failures that were always inherent in the Euro project from its foundation. The Euro project was doomed because it is impossible to chain together 27 different economies to one currency and one central financial institution without any tax or revenue raising capacity. The fact that it is doomed to fail was not the fault of the Greeks. Their fault was to believe in it more than most European nations did.”

After laying the groundwork for his recounting of the crisis, the author outlines a concentrated presentation of events in the second half of the book. This narration of events starts with the media fixation over big financial crashes in 2009 (like Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock), which however distracted attention for a time from smaller countries like Greece. However, by year’s end the Greek budget deficit stood at 15.4% of GDP, with debt at 127% of GDP, along with “rapidly rising borrowing costs.”

By that time, the Papandreou government’s promised ‘opening of the books’ revealed for the first time the scale of statistical manipulation that had hidden Greek debt over the previous decade; “vast sums of international funds had been ploughed into Euro-denominated Greek government bonds in previous years, ever since Greek entry to the Euro zone in 2001. Yet it seemed to have vanished.” Internationally-enforced ‘austerity measures’ began, and the crisis worsened. Pettifer continues with a blow-by-blow account of credit agency downgradings starting in 2009, mass protests the following year, briefly touching on the evolution of bailout plans, ideas and negotiations in Brussels.

Following a short mention of the governmental crisis of 2011, he concludes with some general thoughts and speculations for the elections (which have since happened). However, regarding the latter he does not mention the growing power of the neo-fascist Hrysi Avgi, or what this might indicate for society though he does note that earlier periods of financial hardship resulted in periods of authoritarian military rule (this is precluded, he says, since the EU does not allow for such kinds of regimes). Still, considering that the author takes time to discuss the effects of the crisis on the Communist Party, the family, women, emigrants, the church and so on, the omission of an examination of the Hrysi Avgi is regrettable, considering its unprecedented success at the ballot box. Politically speaking, Pettier simply wrote that he foresees “a period of marked political instability and jockeying for position as old leaders retire and others try to take their place,” which would seem fairly obvious.

According to the author, there was in fact one solution that would have caused less suffering for the nation, but would never have been accepted by the international financiers and their political backers. “A Greek Euro exit in 2009 followed by a generous European aid and reconstruction programme could have done much for the real economy and confined the crisis,” he opines, “but it would have meant major losses for the banks and bankers.”

It is clear that the author is an unabashed fan of traditional Greece, and in the end, he seems to envision a brighter future as being possible due to the “extraordinary resilience” of the Greek people. The crisis, he points out, is already increasing self-sufficiency and sparking a return to traditional agricultural practices. He sees an enhanced role for the Orthodox Church as shepherd of the people, and even for a possible return to family values. Whether or not the Greeks will in fact come out of the crisis stronger remains to be seen, but it is for certain that there will be plenty more drama and uncertainty in the months ahead. This short survey provides a handy introduction for anyone seeking a basic understanding of the context and conditions that will inform coming events.

 

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Perceptions of the Greek Crisis: Dialogue with Greeks in the Czech Republic and in Greece

By Ludmila Kopecka and Ekaterina Batueva*

The financial and economic crisis in Greece has led to a variety of negative consequences in the economic and social spheres of life: the rate of unemployment is estimated to be 20 percent (even higher among the youth), the amount of homeless people on the street has risen dramatically, public spending cuts are increasing, and the pressing absence of hope and security for the future is damaging public confidence in government and society.

The current socio-economic situation in Greece thus reflects on Greeks themselves. And views of the crisis can differ between Greeks living in Greece and in Greek community in the diaspora- in the case of the present article, those in the Czech Republic. The Greek community in this country should be assessed in terms of its specific historical and cultural background. Against this context, contemporary interviews with Greeks – living both in Greece and in the Czech Republic – provide insight into the current perception of the crisis and how it is affecting the public.

Significantly, this evidence indicates that there is a discrepancy between what the world media tends to present as the infamous ‘Greek crisis,’ and the actual opinions of Greeks regarding the situation in their country in 2012.

The Greek Financial Crisis and its Impacts on the Population

Throughout 2012 the Greek crisis, and what it allegedly says about Greeks and the Greek political class, have been a major topic of discussion in world media and in everyday public life (particularly, in Europe). Greeks have generally been depicted as lazy workers, tax evaders, as expecting to retire earlier than other Europeans do, and finally as interested in working primarily in the public sector. This perception has influenced the proposals for action among European governments and banks to “rescue Greece”- namely, that terms should be severe.

Among the main causes of the Greek crisis are internal, connected with poor management and economical imbalances, and external (in regards to the lack of response while the crisis was escalating), as Georgios Kouretas and Prodromos Vlamis argued back in 2010 (.PDF). While talking about the internal causes one should mention populism, parallel economy, patronage and ethnocentrism which have contributed greatly to the socioeconomic state of Greece these days.

Impacts on the Population: Unemployment and Health Issues

While the economic impacts of the crisis (like state debt and austerity measures) have been discussed frequently by media and in the public discourse, the social impacts of the crisis have not been sufficiently highlighted. These social impacts should not be underestimated, as they can lead to dangerous and unpredictable consequences for communities and the nation in general.

One of Greece’s biggest problems has been unemployment, with all of its consequences. According to the Hellenic Statistics Authority earlier this year, the unemployment rate for the 15-24 age group is estimated at around 43 percent, and 23 percents for those between 25-34. If a large percentage of the youth is unable to enter the job market in the next few years, a choice will arise between staying in a Greece beset by long-term unemployment, or else going abroad to find a better future. Experts state that seven of 10 young people are considering leaving the country to work abroad. Robolis believes (.PDF) that this period probably will be remembered someday for an emigration wave, as was the case in the 1960s, when the unemployment rate was around 25 percent.

The situation with unemployment is worsened by the absence of any “support system” for the unemployed, in terms of skills trainings, requalifications, and psychological assistance.

Also with the crisis, many people have lost their jobs and with them, money, homes and hope for a better future for themselves and their children. Society has seen an increase in suicide levels and even traffic accidents; access to the health care services is limited, and the number of medical personnel insufficient to solve these issues and to respond efficiently.

Illegal Immigration, Segregation, Marginalization, and Shop Closures

The poor economic state of Greece nowadays is being influenced as well by the chronic flow of undocumented migrants through the Greek-Turkish border and by sea. Greece, together with the other Mediterranean countries is considered the “perfect transit country” for people searching for a better future somewhere in Europe. More than one million immigrants are currently living in the country, out of which 400,000 immigrants are estimated to be undocumented. With the crisis making jobs hard to find for everyone, immigrants are affected to the greatest extent. Joblessness has a tendency to lead to poverty, homelessness, depression and absence of legal ways to improve the situation, and in the end an increase in the crime rate.

In an interview with a local NGO in Thessaloniki that works with immigrants, the statement was made that the majority of immigrants from Albania, who are known for their hard work and integration skills, are trying to return to Albania if they do not have family in Greece. Immigrants from the other countries are trying to leave as well as soon as they have a chance.

The population in Greece is in a state of anger, absence of hope and insecurity. Nobody can be sure where the limit of the austerity measures lies, and with them the salary and pension cuts. Many people are living by limiting their food and other needs to a minimum. Segregation and marginalization have become the new faces of the Greek society: vulnerable groups are living below minimum standards, such as drug addicts, the unemployed and migrants. During a crisis such as the present one, such a situation can have serious consequence for a community in terms of creating parallel societies, absence of interactions, growing disparities and increasing dissatisfaction with the state, all of which can lead to large-scale depression and radical tendencies.

One more particularity of the socioeconomic situation in Greece today is the increasing number of homeless people on the city streets. Due to family networks and community connections, Greeks were long able to avoid this situation. With the modern era and its developing individualism, the bonds among people, their families and communities are becoming less important. The crisis has left a lot of people unemployed, and incapable of paying back outstanding loans for goods and properties; some can still sell and live from this, while others just find themselves on the outskirts of life, facing a new reality of homelessness.

Finally, all around Greece numerous businesses have been shut down or are at the edge of their capacity to survive. A capital city long known for its antique monuments and luxury shopping streets, Athens has changed dramatically. The flourishing trade and shopping centers are closed, and more and more often one can see the “for sale” tables on different assets. The ghettoisation of the city that began more or less 15 years ago is now acute, with an ethnically divided Athens now home to districts populated distinctly by Nigerians, Egyptians, Poles, Romanians and Pakistanis, and so on.

Volunteerism Makes a Comeback

At the same time, one surprisingly positive trend during the crisis can be seen, and that is a new spirit of volunteerism. This has become more visible and widespread, as suffering has led to compassion and a desire to help others. Some of the organizations are trying to promote volunteerism for people while they are unemployed, while other are trying to deliver assistance, food and shelter for those who are in need.

So, How Do Greeks See the Crisis?

To arrive at a clearer picture of the Greek perception of today’s crisis, the views of Greeks residing in the Czech Republic and in Greece will be presented below. These views derive from unique interviews taken by the authors during 2012.

First of all, however, it is necessary to give a brief overview of the Greek heritage in the Czech Republic, before moving on to an assessment of data gathered from new interviews with representative individuals.

The Greek Community in the Czech Republic: Historical and Cultural Background

The initial reason for emigration from Greece in the 20th century was the 1946-49 Civil War. By mid-1946 the Greek Communist Party (KKE), which had operated openly as a legal political party, came under heavy pressure from Greek right-wing elements, leading to an armed rebellion. Its underground activities intensified, and in those areas under KKE control, local administrations were established with quasi-governmental fiscal, security, and judicial functions. In December 1947, the KKE set up a Provisional Democratic Government of Free Greece in the mountains of northwestern Greece for the purpose of administering the Greek territory under Communist control. This “shadow government” collapsed with the failure of the Communist-led military campaign against the Greek national government in August 1949.

From these destroyed areas of Greece, citizens were expelled to different states like Poland, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and the USSR, often without the possibility of choice. Emigration was chaotic and in the majority of cases members of the same families were resettled in different countries.

Greek citizens arrived in Czechoslovakia through Yugoslavia; they had been settled at the beginning in Bulkes village, in Serbia’s Vojvodina region. But, after the split between Yugoslavia and Stalin, Tito decided to expel the refugees- considered potential opponents of the regime.  Czechoslovakia decided to take in the deported Greeks, who in total amounted to approximately 14,000 people. First came children up to 15 years; they had been transferred in freight trains to Sturov and then to Mikulov, where the Red Cross had established a receiving centre (Otčenašek, 1998). After a temporary stay in this centre, children were sent into different camps in Czechoslovakia. In the years 1948-1949, more than 100 ‘Greek children’s homes’ were established.

Through 1948, approximately 3,500 children had come to Czechoslovakia. By 1952, 2,719 children were living in children’s camps. Children were provided with assistance in regards to psychological problems and the general adaptation process.

For better adaptation, the staff was of both Czech and Greek nationalities. Usually, the latter were Greek women who had come as an accompanying escort and who tried to replace a mother’s care for these children.

A major part of these immigrants was originally from agrarian mountain regions of Northern Greece, where education and literacy were at a low level (Sloboda, 2002). Furthermore, during the Civil War it had not been possible to go to school in Greece, and thus many children began their studies only in Czechoslovakia (Otčenašek, 1998). After one year, adults from different countries started to come and finally the group of Greek immigrants had included all age categories; there were children, youth, adults and old people. In regards to social background, the group was homogenous, coming from the agricultural areas.

In the beginning, emigration from Greece to Czechoslovakia was considered a temporary measure. That was the reason why the government of Czechoslovakia was trying to isolate immigrants away from general Czechoslovak society. When the main part of immigrants had come to Czechoslovakia, Greeks were settled in the Northern Moravia region. It is interesting to point out here that Greeks were settled in places where Germans had previously been living- areas like Jesenik, Sumperk, Bruntal, Opava, Vsetin, Karvina, Ostrava and Novy Jicin. Greek refugees were employed mainly in the engineering, metallurgical and textile industries.

Greek migration can be understood in terms of forced migration of a political and military nature (Otčenašek, 1998). The completely new way of life which the exiles had to face challenged their political and ideological beliefs, their national consciousness and their social and family roles (Apostolidou, 2009). According to Sloboda, Greeks kept a very strong ethnic identity, which was based on the consciousness of common origin, language, emigration destiny, Greek dance and food (Liolios, 2002, Otčenašek, 1998) and strong relationship with Greece, even though due to alleged political and ideological reasons they would not be allowed to return to their state for a long time. Only with a 1982 law passed in Greece (that specified those who were Greek by ethnicity) did they get the right to return to Greece. Thousands of Greeks then used this chance because of the strong attitude to their country of origin.

Present Demographic

However, after 1990, in a totally new political climate, Greek businessmen and students had started to arrive to the Czech Republic and settled. The end of Communism meant new opportunities for Greeks in central and eastern European countries now ‘open for business’ to foreign investors.

According to the Czech Statistical Office, the Greek community in the Czech Republic stood at 3,219 people as of 2001. However, according to non-official data the size of the Greek community is estimated to be over 7,000.  This represented community is social diverse and according to Liolios (2002) intellectuals and businessmen are very actively engaged in minority issues.

The most significant organization which unites the Greek community is the Association of Greek communities in the Czech Republic (AGCCCR). This is a non-profit organization, which includes 11 Greek communities. Among the significant activities of this organization are intensive language courses, regular meetings of seniors from the whole country in Šumperk, visits to relevant monuments, courses in Greek dance, exhibitions and so on.

Compilation of Opinions on the Greek Crisis among Greeks in the Czech Republic and in Greece

The following information derives from interviews with the Greek community in Prague and with Greeks in Greece (five persons from each category). Respondents were chosen according to the snowball sampling methodology, and therefore factors such as age and gender of respondents were not necessary. Within the general framework of the research on this topic, it was however relevant that the respondents freely identify themselves as Greeks, and have the wish to express their opinion about the contemporary socio-cultural situation in Greece.

All of the respondents who live in the Czech Republic travel to Greece quite often (a minimum of 2-3 times per year) and are well informed about the situation there. Even in the cases of those born in the Czech Republic, the sense of belonging to Greece could still be seen in their answers: the crisis and bad socio-economic conditions seemed to be taken by respondents as a personal tragedy. Moreover, many of them have relatives and friends presently in Greece, from whom they often get the latest information about the current situation.

For all respondents, without exception, the current socio-economic situation seems catastrophically bad, hopeless and horrible. One of the respondents compared the situation to a war: “No doubt, we are at war here, maybe a ‘pacifistic’ one, a psychological one, a financial one, but for sure a war.”

Some blamed the politicians, others the banks (or both) for the bad things that have happened. Nevertheless, no one specific general opinion was voiced by Greeks living in the Czech Republic, nor those in Greece. Interestingly, one respondent saw the reason for the crisis as lying in the modern Greek mentality:

“The reason for this (crisis) is corruption and the ‘bonds mentality’ [i.e., an entrenched patronage system]: let’s say I have an uncle, who is working somewhere in a public sector on a senior position; therefore, I’m expecting from this guy that he’ll take care of all the family. This ‘theory’ applies to political parties as well- candidates promise potential voters things which would satisfy their private interests, not the common interests of the nation.”

One of the respondents living in the Czech Republic claimed that there is actually no crisis in Greece, and that it is just a political game designed to help Germany amass more exports through a devalued euro; nevertheless, this respondent accepted also that it is necessary to make changes, especially in the sector of state employment.

Perceptions of the Media

Other means of getting information about the current situation in Greece include the media, Czech and Greek alike. But what emerged from the respondents’ answers was that there is a big difference between the Czech and Greek media in regards to the presentation of the situation in Greece. One of the respondents stated: “in the Greek media you can get reliable information, but in the Czech, only what suits the whole ‘European concept about the Greek crisis.’”

Another respondent had a similar point of view: “the Czech media follows orders from the German media and gives ‘wrong’ information about the situation in Greece.” One of these respondents even claimed that the Czech media is on the side of the banks, Germany and France against the Greek side. Another respondent even didn’t want to compare these two resources because it made him ‘sad’ to think about it.

Respondents who live in Greece tended to usually get information only from Greek TV and newspapers because of the language barrier, but always remain curious about what’s written in the international mass media about the situation in Greece too. As mentioned, the common feature among our respondents is that they take the current situation as a personal tragedy and are very sensitive about their country’s image in the rest of the world. A few of the respondents who live in Greece constantly asked whether “bad things” were written and said about them in the rest of Europe.

It is important to mention that none of our respondents living in Greece believe in what their local media reports. One of the respondents even mentioned that the local Greek media is full of propaganda: “the TV media channels have used propaganda in favor of all the Greek governments of the past 40 or so years. The former government (PASOK) which was rather tyrannical and not even close to being socialistic as a political party, has controlled for decades at least one major Greek channel (MEGA).”

Quality of Life: Negative Assessments

All of the respondents compared the situation before the crisis and today, highlighting the huge deterioration of socio-economical conditions of the population. As one of the respondents noted:

“Before the crisis the quality of life was on a very good level, but all of the people were living at the expense of the future… and now it’s horrible, especially for the young people and for the future generations.”

The opinion that many people were living in a way they really could not afford was expressed by one more respondent. This respondent even compared Greeks with Americans in that lifestyle: “before we were like Americans; we put our dreams and hopes in money we didn’t have. And now most of the people realized how stupid it was to have five or 10 credit cards from every bank, to make the new cards pay off [the debt on] the old ones.”

Some of the respondents who live in Greece also noticed that the lifestyle has changed dramatically, not only in the connection to consumption, but also in relation to how people have started to act and spend their free time. Smiling, dancing, family gatherings and sustaining a general good mood are parts of Greek culture, which have been almost destroyed by crisis and poor socio-economic conditions, according to some of these respondents from Greece.

“Living under the Greek sun makes you think positive,” said one respondent from Greece. “Automatically the Greek climate boosts anyone’s mood. But now we’re not the same as we used to be four or five years ago. There’s no need to prolong what I am stating here, for it’s obvious that when people of a nation need to live in search of work and money in order to pay taxes and their current loan obligations, they have no life…. how can you be creative when you don’t have anything on the table to eat? How can you have a genuinely good time when you know that your neighbor is suffering?”

One of the most important parts of life for Greeks is the connection with the whole extended family. But according to the answers of respondents, especially those living in Greece that sphere of life has been affected by the crisis too. People who have at least a slight chance to emigrate or move to bigger cities within Greece seem to be trying to do so; therefore, family bonds have started to weaken. According to one respondent, “people start to vanish into the big cities, and when something goes wrong and they are lost or die, nobody cares or knows about it.”

Respondents also have mentioned how the bad economic situation influences the psychological condition of people living in Greece. Some of their relatives started to get ill more often, and to fall into depression due to instability and permanent money shortage.

Future Expectations

When we were talking about the future of Greece, most of the respondents were quite skeptical and pessimistic; however, they also offered few ways, from their perspectives, for the country to get out of the crisis and for the improvement of the socio-economical conditions of people living there. One of the solutions suggested was to find a strong leader who will not be afraid of the banks and who can lead the country in the right direction. Another solution was to get rid of debts and to change the government. One other idea was to change the Greek mentality in regards to corruption. And one family (living in Greece) did not see “any future,” but only predicted that the things would become worse and worse.

All of the respondents without exception agreed that the way things are going now is not leading the country anywhere and, even though respondents came up with a number of solutions, they were quite skeptical that changes could really happen. The majority of respondents see these ideas as unrealistically utopian. It is thus not a surprise that after desperate attempts to escape the crisis, some people seem to have lost faith. But not all of them: a few respondents from Greece were confident about a bright future for their country, stating that it just needs time and strong courage.

Only one respondent living in the Czech Republic stated that he believes in a bright future for Greece and that the Greek people can handle the situation, noting that similar challenges had already happened many times in history.

Conclusions

According to the available research data, around 87 percents of the sample Greek population understands the real situation together with the pre-conditions of the crisis. Moreover it disagrees with the government measures and does not see the solution to the crisis as being achievable in an easy way.

Further, it was expressed that the media’s image of Greeks, Greece and the Greek crisis have given birth to a new trend in stereotypes, which were mentioned above. However, manipulating such stereotypes in the political discourse or as a common general assessment of the population makes it almost impossible to talk about the Greek crisis from any other point of view than the majority has, due to media and official discourse.

Rather, politicians, media and officials would be better off using reliable data, such as statistics and knowledge of the Greek reality when talking about the sensitive issue of the crisis.

For the Greek population, whether in Greece or abroad, the crisis is broadly considered to be a great personal tragedy on an individual level, even though they do understand that their politics and behavioral models had to some extent led the country to such a state. The current mood of public anger, hopelessness and insecurity continues for the majority of the population. Segregation and marginalization may continue, as the current trends in Greek society can lead to dramatic and unpredictable consequences for a whole generation; therefore, while public discourse and media are largely devoted to talking about the financial and political crisis, the social impact of the crisis should also be a topic of primary focus.

……………………………………………

*Ludmila Kopecka is a researcher from Russia in the Social Anthropology Department at Charles University in Prague. Her PhD thesis is concerned with the topic of student migration from Russia to the Czech Republic. She also conducts research on other national minorities and migrant communities in the country, and works as a freelance journalist.

Also based in Prague, Ekaterina Batueva is a researcher and lecturer in the Regional Studies Department at the University of Economics. Her PhD research examines the impact of migration flows on the regional development of Northern Greece. Ekaterina also teaches seminars on development assistance, cultural anthropology, migration and minorities’ studies, regional sociology and management of non-governmental organizations. She is the co-founder and project coordinator at a Prague-based NGO that works on the social inclusion process and peace-building.

Bibliography

APOSTOLIDOU, Venetia, “The politics of memory in the fiction of Greek political exiles in Eastern Europe,” in Greek Diaspora and Migration since 1700: Society, Politics and Culture, (Ashgate, 2009), ed. Dimitris Tziovas, pp. 215-228.

BOTU, Antula, “Řecká etnická skupina v Československu,” in Český lid, 69 (1982), pp. 47-49.

HRADEČNÝ, Pavel, Řecká komunita v Československu. Její vznik a počáteční vývoj. Praha: Ústav pro soudobé dějiny (AV ČR, 2000).

OTČENÁŠEK, Jaroslav, “Řecká národnostní menšina v České republice dnes,” in Český lid, 85 (1998), pp. 147-159.

PAPADOPULOS, Lysimachos, Děti bouře, (Nemesis, 1998), pp. 80-88.

Report on the situation of national minorities in the Czech Republic in 2004, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic Secretariat of the Government Council for National Minorities (Prague, 2005).

SHRADER, Charles R, Withered Vine: Logistics & the Communist Insurgency in Greece, 1945-1949 (Praeger, 1999).

UHEREK, Zdenek, “Cizinecké komunity a městský prostor v České republice,” in Sociologický časopis, Vol. 39, No. 2 (2003), pp. 193–216.

Online Resources

Armed Conflict Events Database (ACED)

Association of Greek communities in the Czech Republic (AGCCCR)

HappensinGreece.com

“Human cost of Greek crisis,” CNN

KOURETAS, Georgios and Prodromos Vlamis, “The Greek Crisis: Causes and Implications,” (Panoeconomicus, .PDF). October 27, 2010.

LIOLIOS, Vangelis, “Podkladové materiály pro Radu vlády pro národnostní menšiny o situaci řecké menšiny v České republice,” in Dialogos (2002).

OTČENAŠEK, Jaroslav, “Migranti z Řecka v Česku,” in Migraceonline (2003).

PAPPAS, Takis, “The causes of the Greek crisis are in Greek politics,” OpenDemocracy.net, November 29, 2010.

PARAVANTES, Maria, “As Greece’s Crisis Deepens, Society Changes,” SETimes.com, April 9, 2012.

SLOBODA, Marián, Řecká a makedonská etnická skupina v Česku: lingvistické aspekty jejich vzniku a vývoje, in Migraceonline (2002).

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Reflections on the Future of Europe

By Maria-Antoaneta Neag

Balkanalysis.com Editor’s note: Europe is facing a complex situation going beyond the economic and financial crisis: a democratic deficit and a lack of accountability, diverging interests vis-à-vis migration, enlargement fatigue, nationalist and populist outbursts, a fairness gap and so. Since the June European Council, the EU has been striving to achieve a genuine Economic and Monetary Union, to envisage a banking union and reach a compromise on Multiannual Financial Framework.

In this context, Balkanalysis.com contributor Maria-Antoaneta Neag participated, on 11 October 2012, to the Friends of Europe’s 9th annual high-level roundtable, entitled “The State of Europe. Escaping the Doldrums”, in order to capture the views of top policymakers, business leaders and civil society elders, and so to update readers on the latest flow of ideas concerning the future of Europe coming from Brussels- which of course will have an impact on how they approach Balkan-related issues in the future.

Growth is the Way

Throughout Europe, austerity measures are being widely criticized for not representing the best exit strategy from the crisis, for failing to deliver growth and to address the stringent unemployment issue. Multi-speed Europe is another issue and, in this sense, Van Rompuy’s new concept of fiscal capacity for the Eurozone is not going to be easy to digest for by the non-Euro MS.

The “old demons” of division in Europe should be defeated, said EC President Jose Manuel Barroso.  Trying to address these concerns, he called for a federation of nation states that relies on credible instruments for social cohesion and more mechanisms for solidarity. Furthermore, he underlined the need for more discipline, taking into account the Fiscal Compact, the Stability and Growth Pact. The adoption of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) is essential as it could boost investment and pool public finances while making use of private finances to address the missing links, and comprehensively build a Single Digital Market.

According to Barroso, Europe needs to overcome the problems of sovereign debt and the flows of the financial system. It needs more growth, a deepened Single Market, a more democratic framework and, most importantly, a feeling of belonging for citizens.

The Need for “a Better Mix of Carrots and Sticks”

Catching up on a remark on the growing gap between North and South, Former Greek National Economy, Finance and Defence Minister Yiannos Papantoniou explained that there are two approaches to the competitiveness challenge. The current approach, translated into harsh austerity measures leading to more unemployment, has not worked for Greece. He proposed “a better mix of carrots and sticks” to include investment policies, structural reforms, stronger EU institutions, and more democratic control.

In a brighter tone, Mikael Hagström, Executive Vice President Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific for SAS and Chair of the Executive Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU, reassured that the US and Europe represent the most important and integrated markets in the world. US direct investment peaked in 2011 in Europe. The Single Market could represent a driver for investments and job creation in Europe, he noted. Hagström read the EU’s problem as the poor implementation of legislation and affirmed that further administrative reform is needed.

The focus should become the low-carbon economy and the Digital Agenda, given their competitiveness and innovation capacity, he added Data should be treated as the new asset and, in this sense, the free movement of goods, capital, persons and data is essential. Tweets could be treated as the social pulse and could serve as a basis for the design of effective and timely policies. “We have to stop trying to answer the questions of the future with the tools of the past. Business and government need to work together to foster sustainable growth,” Hagström concluded.

The Euro is on the Right Track and Van Rompuy’s Food for Thought

The conference was animated by President Van Rompuy’s presence and his statement that Europe is “heading somewhere new. And even if the exact destination will depend on many factors, there is an increasing confidence in the future of the Eurozone, a growing sense that we will get there.”  He explained that adjustment takes time. However, positive signals could be spotted; one example being the reforms in Spain, Portugal and Ireland, which have translated into improved export performances, increased competitiveness and the balance of payments.

With creating jobs and boosting growth as ultimate goals, Van Rompuy specified some of the issues that will help the EU exit the crisis: “prioritising investment in innovation, in skills, and in infrastructure, yet without compromising on sound public finances, and opening up new opportunities for international trade.” In order to achieve the growth targets, the single supervisory mechanism, the “golden rule” of the Fiscal Compact, the implementation of the European Semester, macro-economic surveillance, social minimum rights, and the completion of Single Market are essential.

Van Rompuy also presented his embryonic ideas complementing his stand for an integrated financial framework. One such new idea was that of a fiscal capacity (not a part of the MFF) designed to “absorb asymmetric shocks and to limit costs and unemployment” and make the Euro more resilient. Another idea proposed by Van Rompuy was that of “contractual arrangements for structural reforms aimed at increasing growth and jobs, which could be supported by targeted, temporary financial incentives”. While accepting that his new ideas might affect the balance of power, he mentioned his intention to ask for a mandate to further explore these ideas.

The Need for More Fairness and Trust

Returning to fairness, one of the conference’s topics for reflection, Irish MEP Guy Mitchell stressed that business is of paramount importance for social justice. However, businesses need to behave ethically. Businesses are important for the capital flow and their ability to create jobs but without ethics, crisis may prevail

In this sense, Mitchell recalled that companies in the US knew about the crisis about to occur, but did not communicate this and took no measures to contain it.

High-level policymakers seem to agree that the euro is an irreversible project. The Eurozone will not break down, but results are urgently needed in order to restore trust in this project. The emerging countries have a fast growth rate but challenges will come along and structural reforms will be needed as well. The more mature economies, such as the European ones, are growing at a slower pace. Solutions are needed to address social issues, descending demographic trend as well as the ageing population challenge.

The 2020 Strategy has set its growth targets, but reform is still needed for the EU to deliver results. With the prospect of the Eurozone stabilizing, foreign investment is going to be a key driver since banks and governments have limited resources for growth, as Robin Niblett, Director of the Chatham House’s Royal Institute of International Affairs pointed out.

The EU Should Stop Being so “Self-congratulatory”

Emma Bonito, Vice President of the Italian Senate and Former EU Commissioner, proposed a reality test, emphasizing that citizens have a divergent view on the issue of being on the right track. EU headline-makers have the tendency to be “self-congratulatory,” partially disconnected from reality and with poor communication channels. Therefore, the EU’s weakness is “totally political. We do not look at ourselves as a whole but from 27 different points of view.”

On the same critical line, many discussants warned that solidarity is still a tricky concept as stakeholders and regular people define it differently. Solidarity within MS is not the same thing as solidarity between MS, as Heather Grabbe, Director of EU Affairs for the Open Society Foundations at the Open Society Institute (OSI) also underlined.

Where To?

Where is Europe heading and is this the right direction? “The State of Europe. Escaping the Doldrums” conference, organised by Friends of Europe was a good occasion for top policymakers and business leaders, senior civil society representatives and opinion-formers to gather and reflect on these challenges. It gave a good signal that stakeholders understood the need for a thorough debate and appropriate actions (besides austerity measures) to address the remaining challenges of the crisis.

Many words popped-up during the debate, such as solidarity, union, the need for growth, the need to address the social crisis caused by austerity etc. The questions of how do politicians relate to these concepts and how to actually achieve these noble goals remain open. However, at least at political level, the “united Europe” remains the cornerstone of a successful exit strategy from the crisis.

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Greece and Turkey: Offensive and Defensive Balance of Naval Power in 2012

By Ioannis Michaletos

Balkanalysis.com Editor’s note: readers interested in this article will also want to see a recent article by the same author, Greece and Turkey: Offensive and Defensive Balance of Air Power in 2012.

The Greek and Turkish naval forces are two of NATO’s strongest and most experienced. The chronic antagonism between the two neighboring states has meant that their naval crews and officer corps have been trained and simulated wartime situations. The Greek Navy in particular has a longer tradition in maritime affairs due to the prevalence of a merchant marine culture and the numerous Islands, archipelagos and long stretches of coastline.

While Turkey also has a considerable coastline on three sides, it has traditionally had a much more continental orientation whereas Greece has traditionally looked to the sea. For example, during the rule of the Ottoman Turks, it was noted that the majority of their navy was manned by Greeks, while Turkish officers and soldiers were more effective serving in the land forces.

The following detailed report breaks down the inventory of these rival-but-allied naval forces for the year 2012. It also reveals that equilibrium of power has been established; the two countries have, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, reached an equal projection of naval power, something that partly depends on the threat perceptions military planners have regarding different fronts.

We expect this dynamic to remain as it is, at least for the mid-term, though pending acquisitions by Turkey could affect the balance in future. On the Aegean Sea front in particular, Greece for the time being enjoys a small level of superiority, since the Turkish Navy has obligations in the Black Sea as well, and it is considered that these forces would not be able to reach the Aegean in case of war, due to the difficulty in passing through the Bosporus Straits and Hellespontos without risking heavy casualties from the Greek air force, not to mention slowdowns due to the heavy presence of international maritime shipping in the Straits.

All data presented below derives from official information gathered from the Greek and Turkish Naval inventories, available in the archives of their respective military staffs and defense ministries.

History of Engagements and Balance of Power

The Greek Navy has a long tradition and, according to this, it has never been defeated in combat. Judging by its size, inventory and training it can be said that Greece’s navy is one of the most important world naval powers today. The Turkish Navy has traditionally had a more inward outlook and has been given a lower profile in the general heriarchy of the Turkish armed forces, where the Army and the Air Force had always had a much more important impact. However, the size and NATO-standard training of Turkey’s navy makes it one of the largest in the world.

The other top naval forces in the world today are the USA, UK, France, Russia, China, Japan, Australia, Italy, Germany and India.

The Greek Navy has a long history of battle experience and engagement, which has (as said), always tended to end victoriously. Since the establishment of the modern Greek state in 1830, there were war deployments in the Cretan War (1866-69), Greek-Turkish War (1897), the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912-13), and soon after in the First World War (1916-18). The navy was also used in Ukraine in 1919 and then in the spillover conflict with Turkey- the Asia Minor conflict (1920-22), which was in fact lost by the land forces in Anatolia.

The navy was again deployed in the Second World War (1940-1944) and in the domestic continuation of that conflict, the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). Moreover Greek Navy participated in the Cyprus armed conflicts between 1963, 64 and 1974. It is important to remember too that in several of these conflicts, such as WWII, Greek resistance utilized the local knowledge of fishermen and islanders, or particular related talents (such as the extraordinary ability of the sponge divers of Kalymnos to hold their breath for long periods underwater) to obtain a tactical advantage over numerically superior forces. (For a “true fiction” account of this sort of evasive action, see the literary memoir of Alexis Ladas, Falconera, published by Lycabettus Press in Athens).

While the Ottoman Navy’s most famous naval endeavors in Greek waters ended up in catastrophic defeat – such as the 1571 Battle of Lepanto, against the Holy League, and the 1827 Battle of Navarino, against the combined forces of France, Britain and Russia – the Turkish Navy is considered to have started from the time when modern Turkey became a state, in 1923.

Since Turkey was neutral in WWII, it was only employed in the Cyprus invasion (1974). However, as has been noted, both Greece and Turkey have (since 1974 and especially since the mid-1980s) been engaging in certain naval incidents that spill over into crises as was the case in 1976, 1987 and 1996, maritime showdowns that mostly involved the navies and coast guards of both countries. Some interesting insights on the maritime engagements of 1987 and 1996, and the military intelligence factors that influenced them, can be gleaned from Panagiotis Dimitrakis’ Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent (reviewed by Balkanalysis.com here).

Other (Recent) Peacekeeping or Non-Hostile Engagements

It should be remembered that as NATO allies, both Turkey and Greece have a history of participating in NATO and UN peacekeeping missions. Furthermore, Greece hosts an important naval NATO base, at Souda Bay in northwestern Crete. This base and its Maritime Interdiction Center are regularly used for multinational training exercises, as well as for allied operations (for example, in summer 2011 Souda Bay was used as a base for aerial assaults on Gaddafi’s Libya by foreign pilots). At about the same time, training activities at the Interdiction Center could be interpreted to tell which North African governments would survive the “Arab Spring”- for example, the presence of Morocco in training exercises during the Libya campaign indicated that the kingdom’s leadership would escape the fates of Egyptian, Tunisian and Libyan regimes.

Notable peacekeeping missions in which the Greek Navy has participated occurred in areas such as the Indian Ocean, Adriatic Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, and near specific countries such as Lebanon, Cyprus, Albania, Somalia and Mauritania. For its part, Turkey has also contributed naval support to most of the same places.

Navy Standing Personnel

The Greek Navy has 12,800 officers and petty officers; 2,400 professional mates, 3,000 national service mates and 10,000 reserves. Turkey has larger human capacities, with 20,000 officers and petty officers; 35,000 national service mates and 55,000 reserves.

Although Turkish naval personnel numbers are higher, the two countries differ in terms of their composition of privates. Greece has historically invested in recruiting professional personnel, while Turkey relies more on conscripts. In terms of naval training, both navies are NATO-trained but Greece enjoys the advantage of having an ideal sea region in which to exercise (the Aegean and Ionian Seas), which offer substantial training advantages due to the changing weather conditions, the thousands of islands and islets and the proximity with the mainland where multiple battle scenarios can be drafted and then tested. By contrast, Turkey’s Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea regions are largely bereft of islands, while their room to maneuver in the Aegean is severely constrained due to the proximity of Greek territory up and down much of the Anatolian coast.

The Greek Navy occasionally trains alongside those of the USA, UK, Israel, Holland and France. Such partners also view the Greek seas as good training regions. Lastly, it has to be noted than in case of war, all merchant and transportation vessels operating in Greek seas (ships which number in the thousands) would be compulsorily employed by the Navy’s General Staff, mostly for transportation and logistic purposes.

Submarine Fleets

The total number of (all types of) submarines possessed by the two countries is roughly equivalent. Greece owns nine submarines, and expects another three, while Turkey has 14.

The subs currently on delivery for Greece are of the newer, 214 type, which are manufactured by the German company HDW. The rest are of the 209/1100 and 209/1200 types. Turkey also uses the 209/1400 and 209/1200 types.

Due to Greece’s current economic woes, it is likely that the country will not procure additional submarines until 2015 at least. It is more likely that it will either buy used 209 models, or continue an upgrade program. Economically booming Turkey, on the other hand, has made plans for a massive procurement of up to six 214-type submarines, which will certainly affect the maritime balance of power in this sector.

The Greek Navy is oriented almost exclusively towards Turkey. The Turkish Navy, on the other hand, has to patrol the Black Sea and the East Mediterranean. Thus in practical terms, both countries tend to retain a balance of power, with the Greek Navy having the advantage of hundreds of submarine ‘hideouts’ within the multitude of natural underwater caves in many Greek Aegean islands. Greece was the first country worldwide that used a submarine in war, and that was in 1912. In WWII, Greek submarines fought across the Mediterranean, sinking a considerable number of Italian and German ships.

Naval Air Power

The Greek and Turkish navies also have their own tactical aircraft supporting their respective missions. Although Greece boasts a much larger navy, in terms of navy-owned planes, it lacks an advantage here due to the urgent need to replace its P-3B fleet. It is likely, according to all available information, that Greece will procure additional naval aircraft within the coming two years to attempt to redress the balance, or acquire used US Navy ones, probably of the S-3 Viking type.

In terms of naval helicopters, both countries use much of the same models and have a roughly equal balance of power, with the navy of Turkey owning six helicopters more than does Greece.

Helicopters in the navy play an important and varied role in tasks such as anti-submarine warfare, reconnaissance, military intelligence, seek-and-destroy missions against naval installations and small-mid-sized vessels, as well as Special Forces transportation.

Planes

Greece: P-3B: 6 planes

Turkey: CN-235: 6 planes; also 10 ATR ASW on order

Helicopters

 

Greece: S-70B, AB 212 ASW/EW, and SA Alouette III: 23 helicopters

Turkey: S-70B, AB 212 ASW/EW, AB 204, and Socata TB20: 29 helicopters

Main Battle Vessels

Greece uses 14 frigates and Turkey 17. Also, Turkey has 7 corvettes, while Greece has none. Lastly, Turkey has 27 fast attack boats, while Greece has 20, and also has 10 gunboats.

Frigates

Greece: MEKO 200, S-Kortenaer types: 14 plus 10 gunboats

Turkey: PERRY, MEKO 200 types: 17 plus 7 corvettes (D’Estienne D’Orves type)

Fast Attack Boats

Greece: Super Vita, Combatane III types: 20 plus 1 on order

Turkey: KILIC, DOGAN, KARTAL types: 27

Other Types of Vessels

Other types of vessels possessed by the two navies include patrol boats, coastal defense ships, coast guard vessels, landing craft and mine-hunting boats, hovercrafts, logistics and training boats, and so on.

Greece: 186 vessels, out of which six are coastal defense, 95 coast guard, eight patrol boats, three hovercrafts, five marine troop transportation vessels, 15 landing attack vessels, 10 mine-hunting vessels, three petrol fuel vessels and 41 others.

Turkey: 219 vessels- basically, in the same proportions as the Greek ones, with the exception of the hovercraft.

Coast Guard Air Forces

The coast guards of both countries play a vital role in not only military options, but also in humanitarian rescue operations such as the frequent interception of ships containing illegal immigrants in Greek waters, sent from Turkey, the Middle East or North Africa. They are typically on the ‘front lines’ due to the long and complicated coastlines separating the two countries, and thus see plenty of activity.

Greece: F-406, Cessna, AS 365 airplane types: 13 units; AS Super Puma helicopter type: 4 units

Turkey: CN-235 airplane type: 3 units; AB 412 helicopter type: 16 units

Coastal Defense Aircraft and Missile Systems

Coastal defense is of key concern to both countries, as large populated areas as well as vital military defenses are located virtually opposite one another up and down the shared Aegean frontier.

At times, the obsession with gaining intelligence on the whereabouts and identities of air defense systems has had spectacular and deadly results- as in the fatal collision between aircraft near Karpathos in the summer of 2006. As Balkanalysis.com noted in 2007, this collision occurred after a Turkish aircraft deep in Greek airspace clipped a Greek plane, killing its pilot. The Turkish intention seems to have been to gain intelligence on the placement of Russian-made mobile anti-aircraft missile systems in the Lassithi prefecture of eastern Crete.

Greece: MM40 Exocet missile systems: (an estimated 40 missiles), plus Crotale NG anti-aircraft: two systems along with 180 anti-aircraft artillery units

Turkey: 11 Stinger missile systems

The main missile systems used by Greek vessels are Exocet, Harpoon, RAM and Penguin missiles. The Greek Navy’s imminent procurement programme involves the acquisition of French Scalp NAVAL missiles, which have a range up to 800 km. To illustrate the significance of this upgrade, we should consider that currently the longest-range missile in the Greek arsenal is 180 km. The Turkish Navy, for its part, mostly uses Harpoon missiles.

Naval Special Forces

Both countries have special SEALs that are specialized in naval and coastal warfare. These units comprise only a few hundred men, each of whom is equipped with state-of-the-art armaments and transportation means. In case of any conflict, these elite forces would be activated first, undertaking missions of naval sabotage, attacks against command-and-control installations and targeted assassinations of officers.

It has also to be noted that both countries operate (and especially Greece) with an extensive maritime patrol observation-monitoring and targeting network of stations and bases that, through the use of technological means and human resources, constantly check the movements of the maritime adversary. It is assumed that both countries also operate spy vessels that travel as commercial or fishing boats, and that are used for telecommunications surveillance.

Appendix: Cyprus

Since the 1974 invasion of Cyprus and division of the island, Turkey has supported the development of offensive and defensive installations on the northern third of the island, the non-recognized ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.’

However, both countries have historically had direct involvement and devised long-term contingency plans for any possible future showdown that would require their participation. Greece and Turkey, should they go to war because of Cyprus, would most probably provide naval support, in addition to other military support needed.

The Republic of Cyprus has the definitive advantage, possessing a fleet of 15 patrol boats and three Exocet systems with 24 missiles. The Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus possesses one patrol boat.

In a hypothetical Cypriot Sea battle, the submarine fleets of Greece and Turkey would play an important role, with each one trying to disrupt the troop transportation lines of the other from the mainland to the Island. Moreover, the air forces of both countries would play a similar role in preventing the operations of the navies.

Finally, we should note that the current developments in Syria – where Turkish support for the rebellion has been noted, angering the Assad regime – and the breakdown of Turkish-Israeli relations has prompted new strategic questions for Turkish naval planners and strained the Turkish Navy’s capacities in the Eastern Mediterranean, which may be an emerging front for potential conflict.

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Expecting a Boom in Demand, Greek Shipowners Turn to LNG Tanker Acquisition

By Ioannis Michaletos and Chris Deliso

Emerging trends in the world energy involve an increase in natural gas usage as an emission-free and cost-effective energy product. Greece has an important role to play in this developing energy trend as well. Its is an especially unique one, considering the country’s historical identity as a major shipping country, with a plethora of powerful shipowning dynasties with a global reach.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is transported worldwide via merchant vessels, and perceived increases in future demand mean that shipowners are making more investments in this kind of ship. Japan, which has gas needs to be filled for the next decades because of the Fukoshima nuclear disaster and China, with its growing appetite for energy, are just two examples of emerging LNG markets.

The Greek vessel acquisition programme now underway also has major implications for continuing economic relations with South Korea, where the biggest and most important shipbuilding companies are located. These acquisitions also indicate, as Balkanalysis.com reported over a year ago, that shipbuilding trends in Greece can indicate future developments in the global economy.

Meet the Tycoons

The Greek maritime sector owns 17% of all merchant vessels capacity internationally. Now, Greece’s maritime tycoons are investing heavily in LNG tankers, though it is a costly procedure and requires enhanced security and training standards for the personnel involved.

In the following analysis, we discuss acquisitions being made now by the major companies of the Livanos, Aggelikousis, Prokopiou, Economou, Tsakos, Martinos, Kanellakis and Fostiropoulos families- the major dynasties in Greece today, with historic roots in shipping, in some cases for several centuries. Further note is made of the other shipping families (Restis, Koustas, Handris, Panagiotidis and Lykiardopoulos).

Such dynasties have major clout beyond just shipping, which can extent into the worlds of politics, media, education, banking and much more. However, the present report concentrates only on their fundamental business and LNG ship purchases.

Greek Shipping Purchases: A Change in Strategy towards LNG Tankers

As will be presented in this report, these investments signal a new and important trend in the Greek shipping world, which seems to be moving away from bulk carriers, and moving more towards the more specialized energy transport sector, where it will certainly face competition from primarily Norwegian and Japanese companies.

The investments in LNG vessels by Greeks are presently estimated at 5.5bn USD, representing primarily 25 main shipbuilding contracts. The average vessel on order will have around 150,000 cubic meters of gas capacity.

GasLog Company

GasLog is an international maritime company owned by the Livanos family shipping dynasty, which was started by Chios-born Stavros Livanos (1891-1963)- considered the ‘patriarch’ of Greek shipping.

GasLog, the leadership of which is located in Greece and Monaco, has ordered 6 LNG ships from Samsung Heavy Industries in South Korea, a deal reported as worth approximately 1.2bn USD. The Livanos family also owns the Sverys maritime holding and the Euronav oil tanker company, making their clout in the global shipping sector quite substantial. Their current purchases indicate the trend towards LNG to other Greek businesses.

Maran Gas

Maran Gas Maritime belongs to the Aggelikousi family, another traditional shipping family which also has roots in the island of Chios. This island (along with its satellite islands of Oinousses and Psara) has had a great reputation for maritime industry for hundreds of years.

Maran Gas has ordered more LNG tankers from another Korean company, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. “The two ships, which were on option for Maran Gas, bring to seven the number of 159,800-cbm LNG carriers that it has ordered from DSME, reported the Shipbuilding Herald on March 23, 2012.

“Scheduled for delivery in 2015, the two vessels take the company’s total LNG newbuilding programme to 11 units overall, with four 164,000-cbm vessels on order at Hyundai Samho Heavy Industries,” continued the report. The total funds being invested by the Greek company are around 1.5bn USD.

Cardiff Marine

The Cardiff Marine company, which is owned by the Economou family, has also ordered four LNG vessels and has an option for another two worth around 1bn USD. It is interesting to note that the total size of the fleet of all ships Economou owns exceeds 100 units, making him one of the most influential shipping figures.

According to well-placed sources, the company will invest heavily in LNG from 2015 onwards, predicting a rapid rise in natural gas consumption, not just in East Asia but also in Western Europe. In fact, a Reuters report of August 2011 discussed how not only Greek but many other international conglomerates placing orders had pushed the South Korean capacity to its limit, putting delivery back to 2015 (when the largest gas demand was projected anyway).

“The latest deal by George Economou’s Cardiff Marine group for four LNG tankers takes the number of vessels ordered by Greece-based owners since the start of the year to 21,” stated the report, which also quoted another shipping industry source as saying that the Greeks, who are coming into the LNG tanker world for the first time, “are investing in shipping because rates are rising and ageing ships face retirement as new product comes to market.”

The Thenamaris Acquisitions- from Oil to Gas

The Thenamaris Company is owned by another family long involved in maritime business family, the Martinos clan. Two LNG ships have been ordered by them from the Samsung shipbuilders in South Korea, at a cost of 400mn USD. The Martinos Brothers, who own a string of maritime related corporations, cumulatively possess over 110 vessels. They have been major players in world oil trade for decades, and with these new orders indicate the desire to move into natural gas as well.

In September 2011 it was reported by The Shipbuilding Herald that the company “has extended its LNG order placed in July for two 160,000 cu.m units in Samsung H.I. by adding one more unit for delivery in 2014 at a price region [of] $200 mil.”

The report noted that it seems Greek companies are serious about the long-term future of their role in LNG transport, by virtue of an absence: “Greek owners are again absent from the secondhand market, while they continue their newbuilding investments in Chinese and Korean shipyards.”

Dynagas

The Dynagas Company belongs to the Prokopiou family and has ordered four LNG ships from Hyundai worth 800mn USD. It is worth mentioning that since 2004 Prokopiou’s other maritime companies have ordered around 70 vessels and the total tonnage his fleet owns exceeds 10m DWT- a number larger than the entire fleet of countries such as France, Italy or Brazil.

In May 2011, market intelligence firm ICIS-Herren reported that “according to a broking source, Dynagas also reserves an option to build an additional vessel. The shipping sources estimated the cost of the deal to be around $600m.”

The report added that “both vessels will be fitted with the Dual Fuel Diesel Engine system which allows the vessel to use either bunker fuel or natural gas for propulsion.”

Later, in December 2011, Lloyd’s List reported that Dynagas “appears to have clinched a fifth 160,000 cu m newbuilding order at Samsung Heavy Industries,” which will further increase the Greek firm’s clout and competitiveness.

Alpha Tankers & Freighters

In September 2011, news broke that this company, which belongs to the Kanellakis family, had ordered an LNG ship from the STX Offshore & Shipbuilding of Korea, worth around 200mn USD, with an option placed for a second one. In reporting this development, Business Week stated that the intelligence had come from Lloyd’s List, “without stating where it obtained the information.”

Delivery of the tanker was projected for April 2015. The order was “the 25th LNG gas carrier ordered by shipowners in Greece in 2011, according to Lloyd’s List.”

Almi Tankers

Almi Tankers is a mid-sized Greek company owned by the Fostiropoulos family. It has ordered an LNG tanker worth around 200mn USD from Daewoo, and our information indicates that it will consider ordering another one in the near future.

Tsakos Energy Navigation (TEN)

The Tsakos Energy Navigation (TEN) company belongs to another highly-influential Greek shipping family, the Tsakos dynasty, which also hails originally from the Island of Chios. Although they have not proceeded to order LNG tankers yet, reliable information indicates that they are about to order two vessels worth over 400mn USD from Korea’s Daewoo.

The company has been registering healthy growth and is presently in a strong position for expansion. Its 2011 Q4 report was cited by international media, including MSNBC, which stated that the company “beat expectations on revenues and exceeded expectations on earnings per share.” TEN had “chalked up revenue of $100.8 million,” the report noted.

Demand Expected To Grow

According to all specialized maritime agencies in the sector of energy trade, demand will grow globally by 2020 of at least 35% for LNG trade. The closing down of nuclear stations in Japan and Germany over the coming years, the declining gas production in the British Isles and the steady appetite of China, Vietnam, Brazil and India for energy, paint a wildly optimistic picture for increases in this sector of business. All estimations are that at least until 2050, there will be a growing demand for LNG, making those who invest now in that sector, highly compensated for that investment.

As a final note, it is interesting to compare the current phenomena with a report published by Balkanalysis.com back in January 2011, which we noted well in advance that the moves of the Greek shipowning companies could be an indicator of their confidence in the economy and future growth, at a time when all seemed dark indeed.

This is being recognized now, as a NASDAQ article of 3 April 2012 indicates. The article, titled “Greek shipping shrugging off debt crisis,” stated that while the aftershocks of the global recession have negatively affected many shipping companies, “the Greeks mastered shipping millennia ago, and solid stocks like Tsakos Energy Navigation ( TNP, quote ) and Capital Product Partners ( CPLP, quote ) are on the way back up.”

Indeed, as we had reported back in January 2011, “Greeks bought more ships in terms of value than both the Chinese and Japanese companies combined during 2010- a clear signal of overall confidence from Greek ship-owners that global trade is soon to boom, and that they should therefore seek to acquire vessels in order to meet demand before their gigantic competitors.”

Appendix (1): Largest Greek merchant shipping owners by capacity

Aggelikousis: 21 million DWT – 120 ships

Prokopiou: 10.5 million DWT – 72 ships

Economou: 8.2 million DWT – 61 Ships

Tsakos: 8.2 million DWT – 82 ships

Restis: 6.2 million DWT- 70 ships

Koustas: 6 million DWT – 70 ships

Handris: 4.6 million DWT – 31 ships

Martinos: 4.4 million DWT – 39 ships

Panagiotidis: 4.4 million DWT – 25 ships

Lykiardopoulos: 4.4 million DWT – 25 ships

Appendix (2) Main figures of Greek-owned merchant shipping sector as of early 2012

-750 maritime companies are located in Greece and have imported capital in the country in excess of 170bn USD between 2001-2011, without having received any state subsidies or credit, and without counting the effect of domestic maritime businesses (i.e., shipping lines to the Greek islands).

-The Greek-owned fleet is around 4,150 vessels (over 1,000 DWT).

-The Greek merchant navy’s total dwt is 202 million.

-Taking into consideration Greece’s low-yield agricultural production and sizeable, rather unproductive public sector and ailing industrial sector, without the positive economic effects of maritime business and tourism, the country would be indeed in extremely bad shape. Without these two key industries, Greece would have to face not only bankruptcy on its public debt, but a dramatic drop of income, on par with the poorest regions in Europe.

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A Visit to Domaine Gerovassiliou: How to Enjoy Greek Wines, while Learning, Too

By Sofia Karasavvidou*

The Domaine Gerovassiliou Winery lies on the slopes of Epanomi, a village about 25 kilometers to the southeast of Thessaloniki. This family-run vineyard, the brainchild of oenologist Vangelis Gerovassiliou, enjoys a magnificent setting overlooking Thessaloniki and its harbor- on clear days, even far-off Mt Olympos can be seen in the distance. Along with great wine, the Domaine also contains one of the most intriguing wine-related museums anywhere, with a collection of rare bottles, corkscrews, and even ancient Roman amphorae once used for holding wines.

While the winery has always been open for visitors, new initiatives from the management now include participation in an organized monthly tasting – known as a ‘KrasTest’, punning on the Greek word for wine, krasi – that anyone can register for at the official Domain Gerovassiliou website. The event, which provides education about wine and numerous taste-testings, is held at 1PM on a Sunday each month, and costs 12 euros per person. Having taken part in a recent KrasTest, we can report back the following information about this most worthwhile event.

A view of the Domaine Gerovassiliou Winery, standing on a peak above its expansive vineyards (photo courtesy Domaine Gerovassiliou)

A Unique Tradition

Vangelis Gerovassiliou’s experience in winemaking goes back almost four decades. He studied Agriculture at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and later became specialized in Oenology, Viticulture, Wine Degustation and Technology of Oenological Equipment at the University of Bordeaux in France. From 1976 to the beginnings of 1999, he worked as an oenologist at Domaine Porto Carras, another famous Greek winery.

This is where he got the idea to start producing the famous Greek varietal of Malagousia. As wine expert Giantsidis Thrasivoulos narrated, Mr. Gerovassiliou was working in Porto Carras and took some of the rare varietal of Malagousia for experimental reasons to his vineyard, to see if the grapes would give a good quality of wine. It was thus he who saved this varietal from the extinction.

In 1981, inspired by his love, knowledge and experience in vine-growing and good wine, Vangelis Gerovassiliou started renovating the family vineyard and created the Domaine Gerovassiliou. The vineyard is spread out over 56 hectares. As Argyris Gerovassiliou, the son of Mr. Vangelis Gerovassiliou described it during the recent KrasTest, the Epanomi area’s mild winters and temperate summers constitute an ideal ecosystem for the cultivation of grapes.

Here, the production of grapes allows the family to produce all wines only from the vineyard’s yield, and thus there is no need to buy additional grapes from other farmers. The vineyard is cultivated according the standards of an Integrated Management System that aims at producing wine grapes following a certified cultivation procedure, meeting all relevant quality and safety requirements and respecting the environment, the vineyard’s employees and the consumer. Having as one of the main concerns the meticulous care of the vineyard, all agricultural tasks – vintage included – are done by hand.

The vineyard contains both Greek and international varieties of wine, such as Malagousia, Assyrtiko, Mauroudi Limnio Maurotragano and Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, Merlot and Grenage Rouge. The Domaine is open to all oenophiles and anyone wishing to get to know the world of wine. The people working there are, apart from the family, oenologists and experts in the chemistry of wine. Visitors in general are able to visit the Domaine, the wine- production area and the Wine Museum, while having the opportunity to taste the Domaine’s wine in the tasting room.

Visiting the Winery and Museum

At the KrasTest, we were welcomed by Argyris Gerovassiliou, son of winemaker Vangelis Gerovassiliou. We walked through the vineyard and he outlined for us the suitable conditions necessary for producing a good quality wine. Later, we entered the wine-production area, one specially designed for receiving the grapes straight from the harvest and for the smooth circulation of must and wine.

A view into the winery's hip, eclectic museum, which combines ancient wine-related finds with a great collection of historic glass bottles and colorful corkscrews (photo courtesy Domaine Gerovassiliou)

The area also houses all necessary equipment for the production of high-quality wines: the pneumatic press, special tanks for the pre-fermentation maceration (skin contact) of white wines, stainless steel fermentation tanks for white and red vinification with automated cooling system, oak fermentation vats for red vinification and stabilization tanks. In the room where you could smell the grapes, it was also so clean that all the guests were amazed.

Hundreds of bottles were “resting” in the ground-floor houses where they would be labeled and packed afterwards. Modern technology helps in creating a balanced preservation environment until they are released. The barrels used also play important role. The vintners imported them from France, and every year they are exchanged for new ones. This is something that most wineries do not do, our hosts explained, but at Domaine Gerovassiliou they strongly believe that new barrels give the best quality, and not used ones. On our tour we also viewed the room where the white wine barrels are kept.

After this, Argyris told us about the history of wine during our visit to the Wine Museum. Different kinds of bottles have been collected over time, and are displayed for visitors, in order for them to better understand the meaning and the need of a wine bottle. As Argyris said, “nowadays, the shape of a bottle is not important, and usually changes for marketing reasons. It is what is inside that counts.”

In another unique flourish, the museum also exhibits thousands of corkscrews which Mr. Vangelis Gerovassiliou has been collecting since 1980. The collection includes rare and unique pieces from across Europe, dating back to the 18th century, true symbols of the technological advances, high aesthetics and social structures of the era. “As a child I remember traveling to different places,” said Argyris. “My father was having these long walks and then after hours he would come home with two bags of treasures- corkscrews.”

At the KrasTest

He then opened some of the most famous wines of the Domaine, and treated us and the rest of the visitors to the official wine tasting. As a person with only a beginner’s knowledge of wines, I found myself amazed- and suddenly becoming well educated about the Domaine’s wine, its history and its secrets.  It is very important for a visitor to have the opportunity to actually see, touch and understand the exact procedure, the importance of the barrels, the differences between white and red and how much work and people are necessary to complete the whole production. Only then can one appreciate the complexity and professionalism of the vintner’s vocation.

This year, the family decided to organize a wine tasting period, giving the opportunity for people having no prior experience of wine tasting to know the procedure, the technique and all the secrets a bottle might keep inside.

Starting from the 12th of January, and continuing one Sunday per month until April, anyone can participate in a three-hour presentation by Giantsidis Thrasivoulos and Alexandra Papadaki about the basic steps one needs to know about wine tasting, the different varieties of wine and where one can find them, the flavors and aromas a wine might have and finally the colors and tastes of different wines.

“It is the first year that something like that is taking part in the Domaine,” Argyris Gerovassiliou explained. “In general, a lot of people visit our vineyard and museum, especially tourists, and we want to promote our work through that kind of involvement, by tastings and by creating events for those who like wine or want to learn more about it.”

“Anyone can participate,” he added. “It is not only for people who are experts. From students to professional buyers, we are more than welcome to have them here.”

The KrasTest begins with a warm greeting from Mr. Gerovassiliou and then a presentation from Mrs. Papadaki, an oenologist working in the Domaine and an expert on the chemistry of wine. After the introduction to the flavors of wine, all the participants take part in a different kind of game in which they check their ability to recognize different aromas by guessing what is inside the little bottles, using only their sense of smell. This game gives the opportunity to all 20 wine tasters to get to know each other and creates a warmer atmosphere for the second part of the KrasTest- the wine tasting.

It was hard to recognize all the aromas, but perhaps the more important development was that every table became a team, and people started to have fun and enjoy working together. People from 20 to 60 years old were participating in something different, but at the same time so important, while laughing and enjoying this entertaining type of education.

In the wine tasting six different varieties of wine were sampled: Malagousia, Syrah and the classic red wine of Domaine Gerovassileiou (three of them, known for their great taste and popularity among others). During the wine tasting Mrs. Papadaki and Mr. Giantsidis explained each wine color and flavor, and answered all the questions that visitors raised about the year of the wine or the history behind it.

Distinctions

The excellence of the Domaine’s wine has not been confirmed by merely us neophyte visitors, however. Over the years, Domaine Gerovassiliou has won lot of distinctions at national and international wine competitions. Most recent was the 12th Annual Thessaloniki Wine Competition earlier this month, in which the winery won five gold and one silver medals.  At the International Competition Decanter World Wine Awards 2011 in London, where the 2010 Malagousia won the Gold Medal, while the 2010 White, 2010 Chardonnay and 2007 Evangelo won the Silver Medal. Finally here, the Domaine took bronze for its 2010 Sauvignon Blanc-Fume, 2010 Viognier, 2007 Avaton and 2008 Evangelo.

Further, in 2009 Domaine Gerovassiliou’s 2007 Evangelo was distinguished as being among the 100 best wines in the world in the 23rd Annual Buying guide of Wine & Spirits Magazine. In 2010, the same prestigious magazine awarded Domaine Gerovassiliou the title “Winery of the Year.”

Upcoming Winery Events: April 1 and April 7, 2012

The first round of KrasTest wine tastings chronicled above continues on April 1, 2012.  To book a place and get more information, just write the winery at the following email address: guests[AT]gerovassiliou.gr.

Along with wine-tasting events, Domaine Gerovassiliou sees its wines as perfectly complemented by culture, and with this in mind they have already in 2012 hosted lectures from eminent Greek cultural figures such as  Costas Varotsos, a sculptor and Professor of Architecture at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and leading actor Antonis Kafetzopoulos. The next event, a fascinating lecture on music, will be held on Saturday, 7 April, in which Composer Dionysis Savvopoulos, will discuss “his love for the old polytonic system of the Greek language that invokes the sober inebriation of our language,” says the winery. “The Alexandrians transformed Greek into score with the use of the polytonic system.”

All lectures are held at the Gerovassiliou Wine Museum. As with all the other events and visits, please contact the winery first via the contacts on their official website. The winery is located just above the sea and the village of Epanomi, 25km southeast of Thessaloniki. Being just a 30-minute drive from the city, it is even possible to get to the village by city bus.
……………………………………………..

*Sofia Karasavvidou, a graduate of the Balkan, Slavic and Oriental Studies department at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki, has a passion for art, photography and travel, and has worked in the tourism industry in her city. In addition to taking part in many exhibitions and inter-cultural projects, she has worked with disabled children. In her work, Sofia seeks to highlight art and cultural diversity, pointing out the multicultural character of her native city.

Note: Readers interested in more details about Domaine Gerovassiliou, and other Greek wineries, should see the “Wineries of Northern Greece” section by Balkanalysis.com Director Chris Deliso, in the brand-new Lonely Planet guide to Greece, released on April 1, 2012.

Greece and Turkey: Offensive and Defensive Balance of Air Power in 2012

By Ioannis Michaletos

The Greek and Turkish air forces are two of NATO’s strongest and most experienced. The chronic antagonism between the two neighboring states has meant that their pilots have received significant training as they have for decades often engaged in dogfights over the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. Unlike planned exercises by NATO members, however, these dogfights have been deadly in the past and even risked a larger military showdown on several occasions.

The following detailed report will break down the inventory of the rival-but-allied air forces for 2012. This will also reveal that equilibrium of power has been established; the two countries have, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, reached an equal projection of air power, something that partly depends on the threat perceptions military planners have regarding different fronts. This dynamic is expected to remain as it is, at least for the mid-term, though pending acquisitions by Turkey could affect the balance in future. As with the case of India and Pakistan, an unwritten rule of preserving a balance of power has been set out by Western politicians and thus followed by industrial producers in Western countries.

All data presented below derives from official information gathered from the Greek and Turkish air fleet inventories, available in the archives of their respective military staffs and defense ministries.

History of Engagements and Balance of Power

Today, the Greek and Turkish air forces are considered to be among the best-trained and best-equipped in the world, along with (or after) those of the US, UK, Russia, Israel, France, China, India, Australia and South Korea.

As scholarly studies like Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent (recently reviewed here by Balkanalysis.com) reveal, Greece had historically enjoyed a qualitative advantage until the early 1990s, when Turkey increased its joint training program with the US and Israel and thus began to receive the high quality of training Greek fighter pilots had long enjoyed. The qualitative balance of power has remained roughly equal since then.

The Greek Air Force has a long history of battle experience and engagement. Greek pilots were deployed as early as the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912-13), soon after in the First World War (1916-18), and then in the spillover conflict with Turkey, the Asia Minor conflict (1920-22). Greek pilots were again deployed in the Second World War (1940-1944) and in the domestic continuation of that conflict, the Greek Civil War (1946-1949). Greek pilots saw action in the following years supporting US troops in the Korean War (1950-53).

The Turkish Air Force (considered as starting from the time when modern Turkey became a state, in 1923) was employed in domestic strife in the 1930s and, because it remained neutral in WWII, only was used again in the Cyprus invasion (1974), when Greece of course was involved (as it had been in 1964 too). In the modern era, Turkish air power has been used continuously since the 1980s, in the long battle with Kurdish guerrillas in the southeast, which in recent years has included cross-border raids into Iraqi Kurdistan.

As has been noted, both Greece and Turkey have, since 1974 and especially since the mid-1980s, been engaging in almost daily simulated dogfights, testing each other’s will and defensive systems.

Other (Recent) Peacekeeping or Non-Hostile Engagements

It should be remembered that as NATO allies, both Turkey and Greece have a history of participating in NATO and UN peacekeeping missions. Further, both host air bases, such as Incirlik in southern Turkey and the NATO base at Souda Bay in Crete that are regularly used for multinational training exercises as well as for allied operations (for example, in summer 2011 Souda Bay was used as a base for aerial assaults on Gaddafi’s Libya by foreign pilots).

Notable missions in which Greek pilots have participated occurred in countries like Afghanistan, Kosovo, Georgia, Bosnia, Albania, Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea patrolling, Kuwait, Congo, Chad, Indonesia, Libya and Cyprus, as well as NATO-member state exercises.

For its part, Turkey has also contributed air support to many of the same places, such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Albania, Iraq, Adriatic and Mediterranean Sea patrolling, Kuwait, Libya, Indonesia and Cyprus, as well as NATO-member states exercises.

Air Force Standing Personnel

The Greek Air Force has 17,000 officers and petty officers; 9,000 professional privates, 6,500 national service privates and 30,000 reserves. Turkey has larger human capacities, with 28,000 officers and petty officers; 31,000 national service privates and 35,000 reserves.

Although Turkish Air Force personnel numbers are higher, the two countries differ in terms of their composition of privates. Greece has historically invested in recruiting professional personnel, while Turkey relies more on conscripts. In terms of pilot training, both air forces are NATO-trained and also have their own bilateral agreements for training purposes. For example the Greek Air Force has been training with Israel (since 2008), the US, France, and some of the neighboring Balkan nations. Turkish pilots trained along with the Israelis (until 2008), as well as the US, Jordan and eastern neighbor Azerbaijan.

Tactical Fighter Jet Fleets

The total number of (all types of) fighter jets possessed by the two countries is roughly equivalent. Greece owns 318 and Turkey, 357 aircraft. These can be divided into advanced and older/used aircraft. Greece owns 205 modern jets and Turkey, 213 (both include older types as well as the latest models). Regarding other, older types of aircraft, Greece has 113 and Turkey, 144. The data below provides more details about the make-up of the two countries’ respective air force fleets.

Due to Greece’s current economic woes, it is likely that the country will not procure additional advanced fighter jets (the so-called 5th generation jets) until 2015. Instead, all available information points towards the procurement of used F-16’s and Mirage’s for a low price. Economically booming Turkey, on the other hand, has made plans for a massive procurement of up to 100 advanced-model F-35’s over the next decade, a move that may alter balance of powers in that sector.

Greece has recently decided to modernize its fleet of older modern jets, along with a possible procurement of an additional squadron of F-16’s. Moreover, there are plans for procuring 30-40 F-15’s. These will likely be contracted to a US manufacturer, and will provide Greece with long-range capabilities in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish plans in this sector are not available.

Both countries will rely on these types of aircraft for another decade; after the modernization programs they launched in the past 20 years, no further information regarding their future plans are available.

The Greek Air Force is oriented almost exclusively towards Turkey. The Turkish Air Force, on the other hand, has active obligations with the Kurdish conflict plus contingency plans for the Greek, Middle Eastern and Eastern Mediterranean fronts. It can be concluded that a balance of power exists in the air, with no side having a definitive advantage for the moment due to strategic geography.

Advanced types

Greece: F-16’s (Block 50 and Block 52+) and Mirage 2000-5 Mk2: 113 jets

Turkey: F-16’s Block 50: 30 jets on order (an estimated 10 have already arrived)

Older modern jets

Greece: F-16’s (Block 30/40/50) and Mirage 2000 EGM/BGM: 92 jets

Turkey: F-16’s (Block 30/40/50): 203 jets

Older types

Greece: F-4 PI2000, F-4E/2020, F-4 RF and A-7E/H: 113 jets

Turkey: F-4 2020, F-4E, RF-4E and F-5: 144 jets

Transport planes

Greece: C-130 and C-27J Spartan: 27 planes

Turkey: C-130 and C-235: 80 planes

Training planes

Greece: T-2E, T-6A, T-41D: 103 planes

Turkey: T-38A/B/C, T-41D, SF.260D: 189 planes

General-purposes planes

Greece: Canadair 215, Gulfstream V, EMB-135, PZL, G-16: 58 planes

Turkey: Gulfstream IV, C650 Citation: 7 planes

Helicopters

Greece: AS332C1 Super Puma, AB 205, AB 212, A-109: 23 helicopters

Turkey: AS532 Cougar, UH-1H: 79 helicopters

Relevant Weaponry

Greece and Turkey obviously have a keen curiosity in one another’s air defense systems and offensive capabilities. Since they use much of the same equipment, the specific qualities of such weaponry are often of less interest for the respective military intelligence services than is the question of where such equipment is physically located.

One such example was the fatal collision between Greek and Turkish fighter planes in the Aegean in 2006, near the island of Karpathos. It has since been attributed to Greek pilots’ interception of Turkish planes attempting to carry out surveillance on Russian-made mobile anti-aircraft units deployed in secret locations in eastern Crete.

In this area, it is interesting to note the almost perfect balance of power between Greece and Turkey regarding their air-missile systems, with the exception that Greece has some systems, such as the “Scalp” system with its 250km radius that Turkey lacks. This provides an advantage regarding long-range operations.

A further Greek advantage is in the field of early-warning systems. Although Turkey enacted an AWACS program before Greece, in the late 1990’s, it has still not operated them due to technical issues, thus providing Greece with a 100% advantage in that crucial sector of air control and surveillance.

Additionally, Greece boasts most probably the most dense air defense system infrastructure among NATO states, while Turkey does not place priority on that sector (though from time to time the Turkish Air Force has considered making investments of such a kind).

Air-to-Air missiles

Greece: AIM; MICA, Magic2, Super 530D, IRIS-T: 3,800 units

Turkey: AIM: 4,000 units

Air-to-Surface missiles

Greece: Scalp EG, AGM Harm, AM39 Exocet, AGM Maverick, JSOW, AFDS, GBU-50 Paveway, BLU-107, GBU-8/B HOBOS: 2,900 units

Turkey: Popeye, AGM Harm, AGM Maverick, Paveway I, BLU -107, GBU-8/B HOBOS, Harpy: 2,800 units

Early warning air systems (AWACS)

Greece: ERIYE EMB 145: 4 air systems

Turkey: Boeing 737 AEW: 4 air systems on order

Air defense systems (long range)

Greece: Patriot PAC-3: 6 units (with 1,400 missiles)

S-300 PMU: 2 units (with 96 missiles)

Turkey: None

Air defense systems (short range)

Greece: Tor M1: 4 units

Crotale NG :9 units

Turkey: Rapier: 83 units

Mid-range

Greece: Skyguard/Sparrow: 12 units

Turkey: HAWK PIP III: 8 units

Naval Air Power

The Greek and Turkish navies also have their own tactical aircraft supporting their respective missions. Although Greece boasts a much larger navy, in terms of navy-owned planes, it lacks an advantage here due to the urgent need to replace its P-3B fleet. It is likely, according to all available information, that Greece will procure additional naval aircraft within the coming two years to attempt to redress the balance.

In terms of naval helicopters, both countries use much of the same models and have a roughly equal balance of power, with the navy of Turkey owning six helicopters more than does Greece.

Planes

Greece: P-3B: 6 planes

Turkey: CN-235: 6 planes; also 10 ATR ASW on order

Helicopters

Greece: S-70B, AB 212 ASW/EW, SA Alouette III: 23 helicopters

Turkey: S-70B, AB 212 ASW/EW, AB 204, Socata TB20: 29 helicopters

Army Air Power

Unlike the situation with the navy, the conscript-heavy Turkish Army is much larger than that of Greece. It is also much more active, given the constant activity against the Kurds in the southeast. This has resulted in the interesting fact, as discussed by Balkanalysis.com several years ago, that the Turkish troops on the Greek Thracian border are actually less capable and less battle-hardened than those doing the heavy fighting against the PKK. Thus while from Greek eyes the Turkish front is the most serious threat, from the Turkish perspective it is a relative luxury to be stationed along the River Evros.

That said, it is interesting to note that while Turkey has a vastly larger fleet of Army transport helicopters, both armies have an identical number of attack helicopters.

Attack helicopters

Greece: AH-64D Apache Longbow: 31 helicopters

Turkey: AW Super Cobra: 31 helicopters

Transport helicopters

Greece: CH-47 Chinook, NH-90, UH-1H, AB205, AB 212, NH-300: 155 helicopters

Turkey: AS532 Cougar, S-70 Blackhawk, UH-1D, Mi-17. AB205: 392 helicopters

Army air-defense systems

Both Greece and Turkey have complex and varied air-defense systems.

However, Turkey does not possess Short- and mid-range systems, though its MANPAD system is two-and-a-half-times the size of Greece’s. Turkey’s mobile Stinger system is also twice the size of Greece’s.

Anti-aircraft artillery systems

Short-range systems

Greece: Tor M-1, OSA/AKM: 59 systems

Turkey: None

Mid-range

Greece: Hawk PIP III: 7 systems

Turkey: None

MANPADS

Greece: 630 systems (Stinger)

Turkey: 1,600 systems (Stinger)

Mobile Stinger systems

Greece: 54 mobile systems

Turkey: 105 mobile systems

Anti-aircraft artillery systems

Greece: Bofors, ZU-23, Mk 20 Rh202: 1000 units

Turkey: GDF-003, Mk 20 Rh202, Bofors: 1850 units

Appendix: Cyprus

Since the 1974 invasion of Cyprus and division of the island, Turkey has supported the development of offensive and defensive installations on the northern third of the island, the non-recognized ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.’ There has been strong international pressure, particularly on Greece at different times to avoid creating an ‘arms race’ on the island.

However, both countries have historically had direct involvement and devised long-term contingency plans for any possible future showdown that would require their participation. Greece and Turkey, should they go to war because of Cyprus, would most probably provide tactical fighter jets for battle. This is because neither the Republic of Cyprus nor the non-recognized Northern Turkish part has been able to procure any of their own. Also, given the relatively small size of the island, such jets would not be useful for this theater (barring any long-range extension of the conflict into Anatolia or Greece).

That said, when it comes to attack helicopters, the Republic of Cyprus has the definitive advantage, possessing a fleet of 15 aircraft of the types Mi-35P and Gazelle (HOT-2). The Turkish-controlled part of the island does not have any attack helicopters.

The transport helicopters numbers presents a more even balance, however. The Republic of Cyprus owns 4 such aircraft (of the Bell 206 and AW 319 types), while the Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus possesses 5 (of the AS532 Cougar and UH-1H types).

The respective deployment of air defenses indicates different threat perceptions. The Cypriot-republic’s short-range anti-aircraft systems are comprised of 18 units of the TOR M-1 and Skyguard-Aspide types, whereas the Turkish side has none. However, when it comes to MANPADS, the republic has only 30 Atlas and Mistral units, whereas the Turkish side has 170 Stinger and Igla units. It should be remembered that the Russian-made anti-aircraft units now in Crete were originally meant for Cyprus, but had to be relocated to Greek soil due to international pressure generated first by Ankara.

Finally, the anti-aircraft artillery totals between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus are roughly equal (80 GDF-005, M1 and M55 units compared to 100 GDF-003, M1 and Mk Rh202 units, respectively).

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Review: Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent

Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent. Estimating the Turkish Threat- Crises, Leadership and Strategic Analysis, 1974-1996

By Panagiotis Dimitrakis

University of Plymouth Press (2010), 224 pp.

Reviewed by Chris Deliso

This comparative analytical work discusses two memorable showdowns between Greece and Turkey, events that exemplified both countries’ balance of power and political and military strategic capacities and goals in the late 20th-century. These affairs – the first, a war of words accompanied by military buildups in 1987 and the second, the much more serious Imia crisis of January 1996 – occurred in an environment in which some of the same conditions that applied then apply still now.

Analysts will thus find a wealth of useful insight in Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent, which will help in assessing the Greek-Turkish relationship today. The book is, of course, also an engrossing read for the armchair historian or intelligence buff. The vivid recounting of the decision-making processes of Greek leaders, civilian and military intelligence, and the armed forces (particularly the Navy) is peppered with new commentary from former high-level officials who were active during the period in question, adding to the book’s appeal.

Introduction

The author, Greek historian Panagiotis Dimitrakis, starts his study with an introduction discussing themes like ‘key concepts in military intelligence,’ ‘leadership and intelligence’ and ‘intelligence and crisis management.’ This is a rather theoretical approach, but unquestionably it elucidates topics that are crucial to the narrative of both the 1987 and 1996 events, and thus informs the rest of the text.

The introduction also gives a broad overview of the following six chapters which constitute the bulk of Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent. Readers are thus made aware from the beginning of the overarching structure of the narrative, which fleshes out the concepts discussed in the introduction. Thus the book is of value both in the specific context of Greece and Turkey in the late 20th century, and in the general context of military intelligence and diplomacy at work. Conclusions can thus be applied or at least compared to other similar situations from elsewhere in the world. Indeed, the forward to Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent is written by Sir Lawrence Freedman, Britain’s Official Historian of the Falklands War.

Historical Context: the Importance of Cyprus, the Continental Shelf and Diplomatic Projections

Dimitrakis illustrates from early on the importance Greek military planners gave to specific formative events and to political/diplomatic issues that posed the risk, in their view, of a violent confrontation. The former was of course the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, creating a military occupation that still shows no signs of ending today. The latter refers to diplomatically disputed issues in the eastern Aegean, chiefly concerning the validity of territorial waters as compared to the extent of islands and coastline, as well as the continental shelf. Both Greece and Turkey have made claims for what they believe to be their rightful property based on differing interpretations of the international laws, agreements and principles relating to this issue.

The Cyprus debacle deeply affected Greek military planners. It proved, for the first time, that NATO ally Turkey was prepared to violently take over a Greek-populated country, and could reasonably expect to survive whatever diplomatic fallout such a daring deed might cause. The events of summer 1974 also caught the Greeks totally by surprise. This was an embarrassment of the highest order, and it meant that in future Greek planners considered it necessary to expect large-scale problems, a view that in hindsight led them to incorrectly estimate the nature of Turkish small-scale, ‘surprise attack’ hostile action in 1996.

However, by and large the intelligence assessments (and particularly from the civilian National Intelligence Service) were that Turkey merely sought to make low-level provocations in order to force Greece into bilateral negotiations over ownership of Aegean islands and economic rights, in particular, drilling for offshore oil. Confident that its case was legal and just, and having evidence even from Turkish maps indicating that they had long before accepted the ‘Greekness’ of certain disputed isles, Athens offered several times to resolve the issue according to the verdict of the International Court of Justice. However, Turkey always refused, often resorting to force to advance its territorial ambitions.

Technical Observations and Dogfights

One enduring aspect of this has been the sometimes fatal dogfights between Greek and Turkish pilots that still occur regularly over the Eastern Aegean. The author provides very solid information on the actual technical factors involved in Greek-Turkish military antagonisms. For example, regarding dogfights, he explains how Greek military intelligence estimates evolved over time, from the early 1980s, when Turkish pilots were considered to be mostly below average and not a threat, to the early 1990s, when they began flying in whole squadrons over multiple points simultaneously.

Aware of the gap, Turkish military planners had increased training, which notably involved participation in Israeli and American exercises. Thus “the Greek interception success rate decreased to 60%, compared to the 98% of the mid-1980s” (p. 94). Once again illustrating the shaping factor of Cyprus was the fact that Turkish airspace violations only became truly “massive” following the Greece-Cyprus Joint Defense Space Doctrine of 1993.

Assessing Hostile Intent

A key aspect of the book is its discussion throughout of Greek security planners’ understanding of Turkish intentions, on both the political and the military level. The author notes that “Greek intelligence had to assess the wording of hundreds of seemingly aggressive public statements and articles by Ankara’s active and retired politicians as well as by its military and diplomatic personnel and to try and make some real sense out of them”  (p. 82). This led on occasion to some exaggerations, particularly in the more heated moments between the two countries, but findings from other, secret intelligence often balanced these views.

The cumulative assessment of Turkey’s likely military actions depended on factors such as arms procurement programs, force deployment, violation of Greek air and sea space and hostile propaganda from Turkish officials or media. The likelihood of military adventurism tended to be pointed out by the military, but downplayed by the civilian intelligence officers and diplomats, something that is probably true in most countries.

Indeed, Dimitrakis quotes a former NIS officer who stated in the early 1980s that although Turkey had real offensive capabilities, it did not intend to use them “despite the high nationalist and semi-fascist rhetoric of Turkish politicians and generals” (p. 86). There was a sentiment that NATO or the US would step in at the last minute of any conflict, thus leading to an estimation based on Turkish reaction to any crisis, “and not on the hypothesis of a strategic surprise” (p. 86). This belief would be proven incorrect in 1996, when Turkish commandos briefly occupied the uninhabited Greek islet of Imia.

The Role of Turkish Domestic and Foreign Policy

Another of the historic Greek intelligence estimates was that Turkey’s internal politics often dictated its rhetoric and military footing against Greece. By 1991, Prime Minister Turgut Özal was calling for a foreign policy akin to a “New Ottoman Empire” and “claimed that the Dodecanese should not have been called ‘Greek’ but ‘Aegean’ islands” (p. 100). The construction of new military bases on the Aegean coast opposite Greece seemed to confirm the Greek military’s suspicions over such rhetoric. However, at the same time it appeared that the Turks’ desire to preserve good relations with Washington would prevent them from provoking a serious conflict.

One galvanizing factor (again, dating to the 1974 Cyprus experience) was the temporary imposition of an arms embargo on Turkey as a form of punishment for the invasion. Ankara attributed this to the power of the Greek-American lobby, and thus during the 1980s and particularly the 1990s built up a lobby of its own that today is possibly the second-most powerful in the US, after that of Israel. The embargo also led to a policy in Ankara to gain military superiority as soon as possible, and to develop an internal industry of its own. Both were to happen. As the author notes, “from 1992-1996, Turkey was second only to Saudi Arabia in arms procurement and first among the NATO countries (p. 83).”

The internal political factors that Greece perceived to be a threat included the Kurdish insurgency, which Turkey believed Athens to be supporting. But the major internal issue that the author notes is the animosity between the nationalist regime of Tansu Çiller, Turkey’s first female prime minister, and her Islamist adversary, Necmettin Erbakan. On December 24, 1995, Çiller won re-election and, seeking to build a coalition that did not include his Islamist Welfare Party, turned up the volume on the “Islamist threat” to the traditional secular state, while murky conspiracy theories were spread that Greece had a secret plan to divide Turkey. During this period of political gamesmanship, a crisis situation was being prepared that might popularize the prime minister and the military, with Greece as the target.

The 1987 Incident and the Imia Crisis of 1996: Fundamental Differences

Although both major incidents recounted in Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent are too complex to be fully discussed, a basic outline of the differences between them can be presented. The first, in March 1987, was largely a war of words that began when Turkish exploratory vessels, escorted by warships, conducted ‘scientific work’ in international waters, but also circled several Greek islands very far from Turkey. Such a provocation had occurred previously, in 1976, when Athens perceived it to have been meant to damage Greek EEC ambitions, while in 1987 it came as a direct response to Greek plans for oil drilling with a US company, Denison.

While the author devotes considerable attention to the tactical and strategic intelligence work that helped Greek planners get through the crisis, he also notes the qualities of then-Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, who was capable of pleasing the public with speeches condemning Turkey, and the US for allegedly supporting it, while at the same time keeping channels open with Washington, with which he cooperated more often than not. At the same time, his practically authoritarian leadership streamlined the decision-making process, making disagreement and failures in the chain of command less likely than in a more democratic regime.

By contrast, the political setting for the Imia crisis came when Papandreou was on his deathbed and considerable infighting between prospective PASOK successors was gong on. The new prime minister, Costas Simitis, was frequently not informed on time of key developments in the crisis and was distracted by party leadership battles. Further, Simitis seemed to have suspicions of his own intelligence officials, which sometimes manifested in disinterest or just discounting of advice. He was thus caught by surprise when events overtook him, unlike Papandreou.

Without central leadership, Greek reactions became more susceptible to intelligence failures, which were exacerbated by weather and other tactical conditions affecting the timely flow of information. Following a war of rhetoric and flag-planting on the uninhabited islets of Imia, the Greek government was thus surprised when Turkish commandos occupied one of the islands, considerably upping the ante. (However, the author notes cryptically that a Greek-American lobbyist, perhaps informed by US intelligence, had accurately predicted the hour and place of the landing).

Another key difference, on the tactical level, between 1987 and 1996 was weather conditions. In the latter case, this hampered accurate intelligence collection and communications for both countries and thus knowledge of what was going on in ‘the field.’ An example of Dimitrakis’ depth of detail in providing context for this is his technical discussion of typical geographic, climatic and sea conditions that tend to effect SIGINT technology in the Eastern Aegean. Such background information gives the reader a better appreciation of the operative conditions.

The 1996 incident reinforced Greek suspicions that Turkey was following a strategy of exploiting ‘grey zones,’ maritime areas where the ownership of similar islets could be questioned, and by force if necessary. This seemed to be confirmed when Omer Akbel, MFA spokesman, stated that the Imia example could be extended to “hundreds of little islands, islets and rocks” the status of which remained unclear due to the lack of a supposedly necessary “bilateral agreement.” A few days later, on February 3, outgoing Prime Minister Çiller (who had failed to form a government) raised this number to 1,000 islands and rocks that Turkey should claim.

Another part of the reason why a hostile confrontation was not expected, and definitely not from Europe, was that it had partially been caused by morbid Turkish suspicions that an innocuous EU conservation project in the Eastern Aegean islands was really a covert means of advancing Greek and European interests against Turkey. For intelligence prediction in general, this reaffirms the need to consider local realities and mentalities in assessing possible triggers: in this case, the chronic Turkish tendency to indulge in dark conspiracy theories was forgotten, with unfortunate results.

As in 1987, Turkish actions in 1996 resulted in a massive naval mobilization from the Greek side, and the media in both countries increasingly whipped up a frenzy, making it harder for diplomacy to succeed. The tense standoff was only resolved due to heavy US pressure on both sides, after President Clinton was made to realize that the future of NATO and the whole Western alliance system was in jeopardy.

Indeed, on January 30, Prime Minister Simitis was handed, but “seemed uninterested” in, a personal letter from CIA Director George Tenet. It had been passed on to NIS Director Leonidas Vasikiopoulos from the Athens CIA station chief. The letter stated Tenet’s view that “it would be disastrous for Greece, Turkey and NATO if war broke out due to escalation of the [Imia] incident” (p. 159).

Conclusions: Applicability for Today’s Situation

What can analysts today learn from the lessons given in Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent? While much has changed in relations between Greece and Turkey since 1996, as well as in the world in general, the number of factors remaining the same is almost uncanny.

Dogfights, for example, continue to this day and still present a possibility for spawning larger conflict. In 2006, one such event had deadly consequences when a Greek pilot died after a collision with a Turkish warplane. This occurred very far from Turkey, near Karpathos, and the suspicion was that the Turks were actually seeking to photograph mobile air defense systems in Crete. The irony is that the placement of these arms – originally, supposedly to have been installed by Cyprus – had been decided through international agreement, due to Turkish pressure on the Cypriots.

Cyprus remains a factor today too in current resemblances to the 1987 oil exploration cases. Just like then, an American company is now seeking to explore for oil in the Eastern Mediterranean, and once again the Turks have responded by deploying their own exploratory vessels, and by threatening the other side that it has no right to drill. The only difference is that the current high-stakes disagreement is with the Cypriot, rather than with the Greek government, but it remains essentially a Turkish-Greek standoff. And Turkey’s relations with Cyprus are sure to worsen further in 2012, as Ankara has said it will freeze certain EU-related processes when the Cyprus Republic takes over the EU honorary presidency in June.

Another intriguing similarity between the 1996 crisis and the situation today involves domestic politics. In 1996, the Çiller government was in a weakened state that made shows of nationalism an appealing option for self-preservation, while the Simitis government in Athens was weak and larger leadership struggles in the background clearly affected the country’s ability to react in an organized fashion.

Today, just as was the case 16 years ago, the interim Greek government is weak (distracted by the financial crisis), with the political leadership clearly undergoing internal challenges. And, on the Turkish side, Prime Minister Erdogan’s health is the subject of persistent rumors, and the influence of powerful Foreign Minister Davutoglu seems to be waning due to the perceived failure of his ‘zero problems with neighbors’ foreign policy brought on by factors like Syria’s disintegration.

The military, which sees itself as preserving secularism and which deposed the Islamist forerunner of today’s AKP government in 1997, has been on the defensive since 2002, and could seize the initiative to return to power if internal political confusion arises in the government. The AKP’s robust ‘Ergenekon’ case against the military accused it of planning a provocation with Greece (among other things) to justify a military coup; though the veracity of this is still not clear, it shows at least that the Turkish establishment still sees the same dynamics as in the past believable enough to sell to their public.

While many other factors in regional and global politics have changed since 1987 and 1996, it is thus clear that many have also stayed the same. If any new altercations occur between Turkey and Greece due to the ‘traditional issues,’ intelligence practitioners and politicians alike would be wise to pay close attention to the tactical lessons presented in Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent, as this might help to prevent past mistakes from happening again, and thus minimize the chances of needless conflict.

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In Greece, Renewed Interest in Exploratory Oil Research in 2012 and Beyond

By Ioannis Michaletos

Balkanalysis.com Editor’s Note: Greece’s financial and political weakness brings with it the inevitable redistribution of prime national assets, wealth and interests to multinational corporations influenced by, and influencing, foreign governments. The present report discusses the details of some of the relevant and more high-profile possible projects in years ahead, in the energy sector.

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While there is ongoing uncertainty over Greece’s finances and political future, the country’s Ministry of Energy has also revealed that there is growing international interest in several impending oil research exploration initiatives in Greece.

In fact, some 11 companies have expressed an interest, from countries such as the US, Canada, Norway, France, Russia, Italy, UK, Denmark, Israel and India, according to the most recent information available.

However, even though further explorations are in sight, all will eventually depend on the wider economic-political climate in Greece during 2012 and beyond. The specific companies that will be awarded the concessions for drilling will, more or less, get the majority of the revenues and will have better tax regimes than other industrial companies in Greece. This will likely be used as a bonus for their potential investment.

In a working forum on hydrocarbon opportunities held recently in Athens, more data was made available regarding the opportunities at hand for prospective investors. First of all, the Open Door invitation will officially commence on 1 January 2012, and the Greek government will notify all interested parties publicly about the progress of the research now being undertaken.

In October, the now deceased Papandreou government “gave the go-ahead for oil exploration in an area in the Gulf of Patras, a second area west of Ioannina, in Epirus prefecture, and in the region of Katakolo in Ileia prefecture, with an estimated potential of 250-300 million barrels over a period of 15-20 years,” reported Athensnews.gr at the time.

The alternate minister of energy, Ioannis Maniatis, recently stated that “the first research will be made in potential fields in the western part of the country and in the regions of [the] Patraikos Gulf, Ioannina area and Cape Katakolo, where it is estimated that up to 300 million barrels of oil can be commercially retrieved.”

Maniatis, speaking before parliament on 16 November, also confirmed that the proposed oil explorations will also concentrate south of Crete where a potentially significant undersea oil reserve exists, geologists believe. More specifically, the site in question lies south of Crete’s small satellite island of Gavdos- Europe’s southernmost point.

According to the Athensnews.gr report, Maniatis had pledged that “everything will be conducted with full transparency”- a value that Greeks have historically seen as deficient in their governing structures.

In a recent report on the subject, the Athens-based IENE Energy Institute relayed the main features of these regions and their hydrocarbon potential.

The Patraikos Gulf, according to relative recent seismic research, has the potential for some 200 million barrels in offshore locations of oil and at a medium depth, IENE reported. In the Ioanina area close to the Greek-Albanian border in the northwestern province of Epiros, the institute’s report also estimated that a high-cost seismic and research drilling process will be required and at a depth of more than 4,000 meters beneath the earth’s surface.

Here there are indications of between 50-90 million barrels, and the institute speculates that due to the proximity with Albania, international investors may be interested in investing in both countries, since already in Albania similar research drilling has taken place.

In addition, the Cape Katakolo field (a subject of exploratory research since 1982) has revealed an oil reserve of around 5 million barrels, at a depth of 2,300 meters. The sea depth in that area is 250 meters.

According to the estimations based on the current price of oil on the world market, the Greek state would be able to retain from $10-15 bn excluding the profits of the participating companies and the cost of exploration, research and other investments.

The method of exploration which is going to be used is that of the non-exclusive seismic survey. For the time being, a special governmental committee has been organized that will act as the liaison of the Greek ministry of energy with prospective investors. It will also gather and make available the results of all similar hydrocarbon exploration research made in the country over the past 30 years.

Lastly, the Greek minister of education, Anna Diamantopoulou, in a recent statement revealed that “Greece has a substantial scientific dynamic of geologists, oil experts and energy technicians, and the Greek state is pledging 20 million euros for geological research per year, by the education ministry alone.”

Therefore, she added, “the human resources that can assist in hydrocarbon exploration investments and potential production can be found locally, thus filling the gap for potential investors seeking to man their future operations in Greece.”

Much of the future of Greek energy exploration depends, not only on the country’s financial health and perceptions of its safety as an investment destination, but also on larger international ‘pipeline politics’ and energy trends.

For example, on 12 December the Greek-Russian Energy Committee met, according to Bloomberg, to discuss Bulgaria’s plan for “dissolving the trilateral agreement for a proposed 285-kilometer (177-mile) pipeline from the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas to the Greek port of Alexandroupolis on the Aegean.” Bulgaria has said it will withdraw (unilaterally, if necessary) in 12 months due to the chronic unpopularity of the pipeline among Bulgarians in Black Sea towns dependent on tourism, who fear that a pipeline would harm their livelihoods.

Maniatis, who is now the Deputy Environment, Energy and Climatic Change Minister in the new Papademos government, recently met with the Russian Ambassador to Greece, Vladimir I Chkhikvishvili, and both reaffirmed their support for the ill-fated pipeline.

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