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

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

By Chris Deliso

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

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

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

A Political Issue during the Political Off-Season

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

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despite the disappearance of the issue from daily politics after the summer recess, the following previously-unpublished list of all Greek protests and similar actions against the chemical weapons destruction policy indicates that the organized resistance did have a sustained and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

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

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

The Chemical Weapons Issue and Larger Perception Shifts

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

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

Institutional Arrogance and the Further Politicization of the Issue

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

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

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

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

An ‘Atmosphere of Distrust’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The representatives of WWF underline the following four concerns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China Eyes Greece Investment as a Staging Post for EU Operations

By Ioannis Michaletos

The Chinese state and private corporations are literally stocked with US dollars, having in excess of $4.2 trillion foreign currency reserves as of November 2014, while also being in the process of diversifying their asset portfolio from finance (the stock market, bonds and securities) to tangible, physical assets, which have suddenly become bargains around the world.

Greece, along with the rest of the Balkan states, has been eyed by Beijing for quite some time as an ideal route for commercial, industrial and other purposes into the EU. The present report sheds light to the most important companies, and some key deals being prepared between Athens and Beijing. Projects selected herein are those that seem likely to go ahead and those that enjoy substantial backing from both countries’ political and business elite.

The Maritime Sector

Activity is witnessed between the China Development Bank, the ICBC, Export-Import Bank of China, with the following Greek companies: Costamare (a leading owner of containers), Libra Group, Thenamaris (a cargo delivery company), Diana Shipping, Ocean Bulk Shipping and Veritas Ship Management.

The total sum of deals which includes low-cost credit lines for the construction of ships exceeds 3 billion USD.

The Energy Sector

From the Chinese side, the above-mentioned ICBC is involved, along with Sinohydro Corp and SUMEC with the following Greek companies: TERNA, EDF EN Hellas with a total sum of around 1.5 billion USD for the construction of renewable energy projects in Greece and the Balkans.

Real Estate Sector

In this sector, along with the China Development Bank, FOSUN Group is working with LAMDA Development and Enterprises Greece, on deals totaling 500 million euros for the construction of hotels, residential zones and shopping centers.

Agricultural Sector

COFCO, China Light Resource, U-Feel, Anhui Wine Mall, Shanghai Meditela, Shanghai Chao Shang and the Greek companies: Boutari Exports; Pavlidis; Mavrofidopoulos SA; Alpha Estate; Μediterra, and EMELKO.

The deals refer to exports of mostly wine and olive oil from Greece worth around 165 million USD.

All the above are in the process of either completion or commencement.

Listed below is another set of even grander projects that are currently being discussed but have been derailed from their original timetable due to likely early elections in Greece, most probably to be held in early 2015.

In one, the Chinese Development Bank is to hand out a 1.4 billion USD low-cost credit line for Greek small- and medium-sized companies wishing to expand their business in China.

Shenzhen Airport and Friedmann Pacific Asset Management have a declared interest to buy around 50% of the Athens International Airport shares from the Greek state in a deal estimated to be worth 1.3 billion USD.

Meanwhile, Chinese state shipping company COSCO, already long present in the port of Piraeus near Athens, would like to acquire a 67% share in the port from the Greek state for a reputed 750 million USD, along with a total 1 billion USD infrastructure investments. The same company is interested in buying up from the Greek Railway (OSE) the Thriassion land plot, paying up to 200 million USD and conducting 400 million USD of investment thereafter. The Thriassion plain is ideally planned by COSCO to be used as its main logistics base for the container cargo to be imported to Piraeus port before being re-exported via Greek railways to other EU markets and vice-versa, through the Balkan routes.

Recently, however, new information has surfaced indicating that COSCO is encountering bureaucratic obstacles in pursuing its 230 mn. euro investment in the port, relating to the construction of a dedicated container pier that would secure its presence in the port. According to well-placed sources, it will take a few months to overcome these issues, whilst the possibility of early elections in the country may further derail the whole deal.

China State Grid is also interested in investing by buying 66% shares from the Greek state of the national electricity transmission network company; this can be estimated to cost around 1 billion USD.

Private Citizens and Companies: from China to Europe, via Greece

In the meantime, there is repperorted interest from 10,000 Chinese citizens to acquire real estate in Greece, worth 350,000 USD unit, so as to get them a five-year residence permit that will allow them to travel around the Schengen Zone. Along with business networking, this could be a coup for Chinese intelligence services in Europe.

Similar regulations have been recently implemented by Portugal and Cyprus in order to revive the struggling construction and real estate markets in those countries. It has to be noted that directly and indirectly the Greek state would get more than 20% of each housing unit transaction, thus the total amount on the table could exceed 700 million USD into the state coffers.


As can be readily understood, the Greek economy – struggling to survive amidst the greatest economic recession in its recent history – stands to gain a considerable amount of export opportunities and inward foreign direct investments through the interest being shown by Chinese companies. Greek GDP for 2014 is estimated at 235 billion USD, thus the total amount of capital involved relating to the aforementioned would be a serious boost for many local industrial and service sectors.

On the other hand, the likelihood of early elections and possible subsequent political instability, as well as, the limitation of the market due to a rigid tax regime, high regulation clauses in most economic sectors and limited room for growth in terms of infrastructure projects, can be seen as negative points.

Thus it can be expected that the Chinese interest will rest for a while, until early to mid-2015, when Athens will be in a better position to either negotiate or offer favorable economic prospects.

Tobacco Smuggling in Greece: an Overview

By Ioannis Michaletos

Over the past decade, contraband tobacco sales and facilitation of transnational tobacco smuggling in Greece have flourished, due to a combination of factors. Although not considered as a particularly ‘sexy’ sector of organized crime, compared to narcotics or arms dealing, tobacco smuggling still represents a threat to state security, in that it empowers organized crime rings engaged in multi-level activities, and drains the state coffers of considerable tax revenue.

Key Factors in the Increase of the Contraband Tobacco Trade

The substantial increase in taxation which made one of Greeks’ favorite pastime, smoking, an expensive hobby is the primary factor behind the increase of a contraband market. The economic downturn due to the ongoing crisis further fuels a willingness of locals to invest and work in contraband networks. Thirdly, the increase in tobacco smuggling relates with the overall merging of operational capabilities of regional Balkan criminal groups with Greek ones, and especially those of Bulgaria, along with more distant interests, such as Georgian outfits.

The trend all across the EU of increase in the demand for contraband (and cheaper) tobacco has further boosted the phenomenon and the use of Greece as a peripheral hub for that purpose. The multilayered threats in terms of organized crime and terrorism, which need to be combated by the local authorities, have however put confronting this kind of smuggling on a lower priority in the security agenda than other pressing responsibilities.

A final factor here is the decrease in profitability of the so-called ‘hard drugs,’ such as heroin, due to the tremendous current oversupply from Afghanistan. This situation has led narcotics dealers and traders to shift towards tobacco by using and facilitating their business through existing logistics infrastructure, such as vessels, trucks, warehouses and other facilities.

Throughout the European Union, it is estimated that national budgets lose at least 17 billion euros annually due to contraband tobacco products. In Greece alone, the number stands at 750 million euros minimum, and is still growing. There are several types of tobacco smuggling operations that must be outlined so as to get a clearer picture.

Major Operators; Buy Low, Sell High; Dangerous Knock-offs

First and foremost is the large-scale contraband traffic, which involves significant shipments. This is generally done via large vessels and involves high-profile criminals and mafias of various ethnicities. Corruption in customs, police and the coast guard is paramount for this kind of commodity trafficking.

Moreover, the use of auxiliary service professionals such as attorneys, accountants, transport company owners and front companies is also important. In most cases shipments are of a value above one million euros per shipment and involve many intermediates. In the case of Greece most shipments originate from Odessa, Ukraine and from East Asia, using the UAE as an intermediate stop and re-distribution center.

A second feature is the so called “ant smuggling” tactic, involving small groups of individuals buying cigarettes from a country of low taxation and selling them to another of a higher one, reaping a profit in between. In the case of Greece this is a method used mostly with Bulgarian groups.

The selling of fake tobacco products is another form of contraband and one with potentially disastrous health consequences for consumers, since it involves tobacco produced according to low industrial standards. In this case shipments mostly come via merchant vessels from ex-Soviet states, China and India. Greece is used both as a hub and a destination market.

Tobacco Smuggling Networks: Conditions for Success

In order for an organized crime network to be systematically involved in this kind of trade, there are five basic conditions that need to be met.

Firstly, the network should have the capacity for transporting the merchandise either via vessels or trucks. This requires having the necessary recruitment abilities for the personnel working in such transportation companies.

Secondly, the vast majority of cigarettes currently sought by consumers illegally are those of well-known brands such as Marlboro. Thus a top smuggling network should be able to obtain and supply the markets with such well-known brands, which enjoy consumer loyalty and can be easily resold.

Thirdly, the network should be able to have its fair share of interpersonal connections with law enforcement agencies and customs personnel, so as to be able to ship and move bulks of illegal tobacco cargo across borders without fearing confiscation. In contrast to the narcotics trade, tobacco needs to be sold in big quantities in order to offer a considerable return on investment, and thus also requires larger (and slower) infrastructure and transport to be profitable than does the drugs trade. Thus any international tobacco smuggling operation that manages to operate for long periods without being disbanded has assumedly retained its own people inside customs operations in order to evade detection.

Fourth, an international smuggling group should be able to operate within a range of local markets in which there may be high differences in taxation rates. Further, they must be flexible enough to adapt to market changes and price fluctuations. That means maintenance of a local network of representatives, and lots of intermediates.

Finally, the smugglers should have first-person contact with street vendors and small market stores that function dependably as the last chain of operations, before the cigarettes find their way to the consumer.

Infrastructure Issues and Tobacco Smuggling Regions

The sheer volume of road and marine traffic in Greece, as well as the opening up of new motorway corridors with Bulgaria and especially with Turkey, have greatly benefited smugglers- not only those involved with tobacco, but also those involved with illegal immigrants and counterfeit products contraband. Penalties for cigarette smugglers are in essence much lower than for any other type of criminal activity, and police and security cooperation amongst Balkan countries for this issue is at a low level.

The focal points in Greece for such activities are the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, when large shipments are concerned. Also, the southern part of the Peloponnese is a hotspot when it comes to mid-scale contraband; here, fishing boats unload the product offshore to smugglers, who then carry it onwards to the mainland. Local corrupted networks greatly facilitate such trade by alerting smugglers to police and coast guard patrols.

In addition, western Greece (from Igoumenitsa’s port southwards to that of Patras) is a major hub of activities concerning transfers to Italy via small boats, and also for storing the tobacco in large quantities.

Some Statistics on Contraband Tobacco Confiscation by Greek Law Enforcement

In 2011, some 417 shipments were confiscated by Greek authorities. However, in the following year this number exploded, with confiscations reaching 1,151 shipments.

Between 2008 and 2013 the consumption of contraband tobacco products of all kinds in Greece increased by 400%. For 2014 it can be estimated that more than 25% of local tobacco consumption will be of an untaxed, that is, illegal, nature.

Chinese Triads are now very active in Greece’s tobacco contraband, according to police sources, and they seem to have formed ties with local and regional ethnic groups. One of the most popular counterfeit brands in the country currently is ‘Gold Mount,’ one of the Illicit ‘Whites’ type, costing 25% of the price of a Marlboro pack at today’s prices.

In 2012, local authorities confiscated 28 million cigarettes of that brand, along with 34 million of the ‘Kingdom’ brand, 25 million of TS, 19 million of Vertus, 16 million of Rubi, 14 million of Eros, 12 million of Palace, 35 million of Tabaccus, 51 million of Raquel and 54 million of Cleopatra. Chinese Triads greatly facilitate the distribution of the above brands, reaping an estimated 30 million euros annually from the Athenian black market alone.

In the first nine months of 2013, the Greek authorities and particularly the special tax service (SDOE) confiscated 130 million cigarettes, nine tons of tobacco, 18 trucks, seven private vehicles and four merchant ships. They also raided more than 300 premises. The numbers for the current year are expected to show increases of 20 percent across the board, while illicit consumption seems to be rising in parallel.

Illegal Migration and Distribution Network Facilitation

The large number of illegal immigrants in Greece, and especially in the metropolitan centers, many of whom are unemployed and endure grim living conditions, provides ample human resources to deal tobacco contraband on the street level with regularity, thus facilitating distribution on a significant scale.

Destitute migrants are also a market of consumption of counterfeit, low-quality brands (those costing 0.5 euros per pack), whereas an established legal brand costs 4 euros, with 85% of this price being due to state taxation.

Economic and Crime Ramifications of Tobacco Smuggling

The effects of the illegal contraband on the legitimate economy have already been felt. More than eight factories have shut down, 8,000 kiosks and small shops have closed, 150 distribution centers have been bankrupted and around 25,000 jobs have been lost in this sector. At the same time organized crime is thriving and amassing considerable amounts of cash, thus being able to penetrate social and business networks and acquiring steadily and forcefully a major role in economic life, while at the same time fueli0ng further investments in other interrelated criminal activities such as drugs, human trafficking, weapons smuggling and counterfeit products shipments.

Although the issue has been perceived for a long time as a trivial one by local authorities, it is becoming more and more obvious that tobacco smuggling is indeed a major domestic security threat and a peril for the further empowerment of criminal kingpins and their assorted networks.

Although a decrease in taxation would surely help address the problem, the need for a steady flow of capital to the state budget and the EU dictates high cigarette prices in general, preventing the Greek ministry of economy from lowering taxes.

Nevertheless, if the projection of illicit consumption continues to increase, by 2016-2017 more than 50% of it would derive from contraband commodity, with the proceeds going directly to local mafia heads and their international partners. Considering the likelihood of such an increase, creating strategies to decrease tobacco smuggling would seem to be an essential national security goal for Greece- and something that would no doubt enjoy the enthusiastic support of the legitimate tobacco producers and retailers.

In London, Greece Promotes New Offshore Hydrocarbons Investment Potential

By Chris Deliso 

As it tries to promote economic growth following an extended economic depression, the Greek government is looking to the country’s untapped offshore hydrocarbons reserves to attract foreign multinational energy companies, and other relevant industries. A high-profile and well-attended event at London’s Hellenic Centre on July 1-2 most recently gave the government an opportunity to highlight the new opportunities in this sector.

A comprehensive report on the relevant offshore and onshore potential hydrocarbons reserves in Epiros, the Ionian Sea and the Libyan Sea south of Crete appeared in May on In the analysis, author Ioannis Michaletos presented anticipated figures, locations and potential investors involved, as well as the schedule of bid announcements, along with notes on political and social factors affecting further oil exploitation. The report built on previous predictions now verified from, in an article published in December 2010.

Event Proceedings

The July gathering in London constituted an official pre-launch event for the upcoming Offshore Licensing Round 2014 for new hydrocarbon blocks in the Ionian Sea and the Libyan Sea, south of Crete.  Sponsored by Norway’s Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS), which has conducted undersea surveying of the blocks in question for the past two years, the event brought together more than 180 people from oil companies, service companies, law firms and funds. Among these were 34 international oil companies (seven of them majors).

In addition to presentations by PGS on the geology, and an oil potential report by Beicip Franlab, the event allowed for numerous private meetings between representatives of these companies, interested attendees and Greek energy officials. The Greek ministry has confirmed that it will submit a call for tenders to the EU Gazette in the next few days. The next step in the bidding process should then take place in mid-September.

The pre-launch event, organized by the Greek Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, and the Greek Embassy in London, also featured prominent Greek officials and experts. Constantinos Bikas, the Greek ambassador in London, provided opening remarks and was followed by the minister, Yiannis Maniatis. The legal and regulatory issues regarding the offshore blocks and licensing was next discussed in a presentation by Dr Sofia Stamataki, the president of the Hellenic Hydrocarbons Resources Management SA (HHRM) and also the director of the Laboratory of Applied Geophysics at the National Technical University of Athens.

Following these presentations, potential investors were treated to in-depth presentations that got to the heart of the issue – the results of offshore block surveying and geological factors – from PGS’ Sales and Marketing Manager Øystein Lie and Beicip-Franlab’s Veronique Carayon and Bernard Colletta, respectively.

Mr Lie’s presentation disclosed the general results of PGS’ two-year survey, which includes over 32,000 sq km of 2D data (12,500 sq km of new data, plus 9,000 sq km of reprocessed data and 9,000 sq km of reconstituted data), data which “showed characteristic lines with their corresponding geological cross sections in areas such as west of Corfu and south of Crete,” according to a ministry press release. The French experts meanwhile presented the results of the interpretation of the survey, plays, oil potential and the methodology followed.

Greek National Energy Strategy- Matching EU Energy Strategy on Diversification

In his keynote speech, Minister Maniatis deemed the pre-launch event “a historic day” for Greece’s hydrocarbons development. With the anticipated projects,Greece is upgrading “its geopolitical role in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Europe,” said the minister, noting that this will benefit energy security in the European Union.

Indeed, said Minister Maniatis, “this national effort is at the heart of European strategy for developing indigenous resources, diversifying resources and their routes and upgrading the energy infrastructure. With perseverance, transparency, efficiency and consistency in time schedules, the Government has claimed and won an important vote of confidence today for Greece. In this national effort we should be and we are all united,” he concluded.

A large part of the government’s goal is, like any government in the same situation, to play up the potential undersea oil reserves to gain attention. However, considering the as-yet-unproven nature of the finds and difficult geological conditions of at least some of the blocks, could they be too optimistic?

“In general, geologists over-estimate reserves/resources with a view to engage investments,” says Slav Slavov, Regional Manager for Europe & Central Asia at the UN-accredited World Energy Council, an organization based in Geneva. Geologists also tend to hope “that with the energy price increases, a great share of today`s resources will become exploitable reserves tomorrow,” says Mr Slavov for

At the same time, the WEC expert agrees with Minister Maniatis’ stated objective here, telling that “there is no doubt that any potential exploitation will provide not only diversification of routes but also diversification of supply sources.” Generally, but particularly since the Russian annexation of Crimea this spring, the word ‘diversification’ has been repeated by EU officials, not to mention the US government. Greece, which is strategically located in the Eastern Mediterranean between Italy, the Balkans, Turkey and the MENA, hopes that it can play a leading role in the EU’s diversification strategy. With the east-west TAP pipeline projected to open by 2019, and north-south interconnectors to Bulgaria and Albania, Greece sees offshore hydrocarbon development as an addition to its existing energy policy as both a producer and energy corridor.

A New Focus on Epiros

The offshore hydrocarbon potential targets spread through an area of over 225,000 sq km, ranging from north of Corfu in the Ionian Sea to the Libyan Sea south of Crete. Incidentally, along with the Ionian Sea’s offshore deposits (and some potential onshore areas inland) the ‘Epiros Riviera’ looks set for further tourism development, as Russian and Arab investors are tipped to open new hotels in years ahead. The Emir of Qatar famously purchased several private islands off the Epiros coast in recent years, and maintains logistics support for his enterprises from the expanding Epiros port of Preveza, which has also sought to attract more foreign yachtsmen by making the central one of its several ports free to dock in.

The cumulative result is hoped to be an economic boost for what has historically been one of the poorer regions of Greece. The Greek government, with heavy support from the EU, took the first major step towards integrating this mountainous and relatively isolated region with the creation of the Egnatia Odos highway several years ago, an engineering marvel that connects the Ionian Sea with Turkey across the provinces of Epiros, Macedonia and Thrace, substantially reducing driving times and access to the former.

There is another factor potentially playing a role in oil deposits in northern Epiros and the northern Ionian; their proximity to a foreign border, in this case, Albania. Oil deposits straddling borders have led and continue to lead to disputes between nations, and some politics experts point to nationalist anger among some political actors in Albania over this specific issue as a harbinger of possible bilateral disputes. In recent years, oil majors have brought in ‘consultants’ with perceived political clout, such as former British officials, to extend their influence in Tirana, though the results of such overtures are rarely publicized.

Nevertheless, energy experts like Mr. Slavov do not see cross-border energy disputes in the Ionian Sea and Epiros as a major area for concern. “I do not believe that there would be any dispute problems with neighbors,” he says for “Albania is very cooperative and involved in common projects with Greece, for example TAP,” the World Energy Council official notes, adding that elsewhere in the region “Greece has gas interconnections with Bulgaria, and Bulgaria wants to import (potentially) gas through Greece.”

Future Potential and Analytical Guidelines

All of the foregoing attests that Greece does have untapped potential in the offshore hydrocarbons field, though only time will tell to what extent the country can woo foreign investors. Numerous factors beyond the perceived difficulty of exploration, exist that will affect decision-making, such as market conditions, politics and policy-making, and the security concerns companies and governments are currently facing in a wide swath of territory – from the Black Sea to Iraq and the Middle East – where volatile and fluid security situations are altering conditions in the energy game.

Thus while the hard work of undersea research and creation of a legal framework has been done, Greek officials will also have to monitor and evaluate a whole range of other, rapidly-changing factors that affect the decision-making of corporate executives and feasibility of exploration projects. In this light, analysts will want to keep a close eye over the next few months on the relative volume of data acquisition and interest of companies in bidding. From September, the picture will become somewhat clearer, but the process will still be a long-term one.

Analysts and other interested parties will be watching keenly in coming months to see the tenor of progress on the Greek bids. Timur Topalgoekceli, an energy analyst at the Directorate of Global Energy Economics at the International Energy Agency, indicates what kind of corporate behavior analysts should look out for.

“Companies are expected to submit bids already (before the set deadline), but before that time they will start analyzing geological data and make an assessment of the business environment (regulation, taxes, upfront commitments, local content requirements),” he says for

But how will observers be able to tell just how much interest potential investors have? “An indication about how serious they are would be to see if they are putting a team together (technical experts and business development) in order to assess the opportunities, in which case you would see an increase in visits to regulators or license issuers,” notes Mr Topalgoekceli. “Also, sometimes it is required to register interest to participate in the licensing round, and get access to the data (purchasing,” adds the analysts. “The data comes at a small cost but gives an indication about whether or not companies are considering it at all.”

All things considered, therefore, it seems clear that government and corporate interests alike will be watching the situation closely, as Greece attempts to diversify and increase its energy supply and get back on the road to economic recovery.

After Two Years of Undersea Surveying, Greece Readies for Marathon of Hydrocarbons Exploration

By Ioannis Michaletos

In a December 2010 article that was widely read by energy professionals worldwide, a glimpse into what lays ahead in terms of potential hydrocarbon explorations in the country was offered. The article concluded by noting that:

“certainly, in the financially dire straits that the Greek economy finds itself nowadays, the energy sector in the country, and specifically hydrocarbons research, may well provide an exciting source of investment activity, since it may provide a great boost for the troubled Greek economy.”

It seems that after almost four years, the exploration and research projects in that energy sector are about to become a reality, clearly validating both the article and the necessities for such actions. More specifically, the Greek energy ministry has recently announced that 10 ‘sea blocks’ are about to be handed out in a licensing round to prospective investors in July 2014. The extracted hydrocarbons from these blocks can potentially deliver to $150 billion into the Greek state’s coffers.

Norwegian Maritime Seismic Surveys Completed

Almost two years of two-dimensional seismic surveys have now been conducted by the Norwegian PGS company. The maritime zone the company investigated is a vast one, stretching from Corfu to Southern Crete, including Ionian Sea areas along the western mainland and Peloponnese. The scene has thus been set for research drilling to commence. Nevertheless no practical results should be expected before late 2016, due to the technical difficulties, Greek bureaucrats and corporate presentations state.

By mid-June 2014, the energy ministry, headed by Ioannis Maniatis, an engineer by training, will receive the final results of the survey from PGS, a survey which encompassed 31,000 km in total of offshore seismic researched lines. This constitutes the largest research project of its kind ever conducted in Greek waters.

By the end of June the environmental viability research findings ordered by the Greek state should have been concluded in order to specifically mention several offshore locations that should not be drilled due to eventual harm to the aquatic ecosystem; most of these are expected to be located close to the shores of western Greece.

Concurrently the exact positions of the sea blocks will be announced to the public, and a week later international and domestic investors will be called to submit their proposals. This does not give the public much time to react to the results, and it is certain that whatever the government announces, pro-environment NGOs and political parties will protest any new drilling plans.

By mid-September 2014, three onshore blocks in Aitoloakarnania and Preveza should also be receiving submissions of interest. Here, the Italian ENEL has already declared its willingness to commit to such research. If all goes smoothly, exploration drilling could commence by spring 2015, depending on which barges are ready to be shipped to Greece, along with recruitment of mostly international professional personnel specialized in such projects.

Magic Numbers, Leaked Locations

The Greek government often repeats its ‘magic number’ of $150 billion, a figure based on the assumptions that the aforementioned blocks contain three billion barrels of oil. At today’s world price index, these blocks are estimated to produce $330 billion.

Already, Greek scientists have been providing, through Op-Eds in popular Greek newspapers, the exact locations where mass amounts of oil are believed to be located. These include the region of northwestern Ileia in the Peloponnese and the area north of Corfu-Paxoi islands. This is significant for international affairs because this reaches the maritime borders with Albania, while at the same time just inland a geological formation stretches up through Epiros, and close to the Albania land border. Further, the so-called ‘Epirot Riviera’ is also the location of coming Russian- and Arab-sponsored resort ventures. Further, the emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani paid €8.5 million for six private islands in the Ionian Sea opposite, in 2013.

Energean in Action

In previous handouts of exploration licenses the Greek Energean company (which currently produces around 2,000 barrels per day in the Prinos reserve in Kavala offshore region in Northern Greece) has teamed up with the UK’s Trajan Oil and Gas for the Katakolo area. Back in the early 1980’s the then-state Greek oil company had estimated that around three million barrels of oil could be found in the exact same spot which was deemed as too little to be involved with. Energean executives are confident of finding large amounts of oil, however, as they are using techniques which were not available in the 1980s.

Energean has also appeared with the Canadian Petra Petroleum, carrying out onshore research in the aforementioned Epiros region close to Albania, where from time to time estimations of even 80 million barrels have been claimed. However, the area is rough and mountainous, partly comprised of an important national park, and this geology makes drilling here difficult.

Furthermore, in the Patra Gulf, close to one of Greece’s largest ports, the Greek semi-state company ELPE, along with the Italian Edison and the Irish Petro Celtic, are betting on a 200-million barrel reserve, which if validated will be the largest ever found in Greece. (The Prinos discovery was 150 million barrels, and extraction here has been going on since the mid-1970’s). Energean is betting on a $250 million short-term investment project to recover more offshore reserves near Prinos, with reliable estimations indicating that an additional 100 million barrels is to be recovered.

At the same time, the company seeks a license in the upcoming Montenegro offshore licensing round, collaborating with the British company Mediterranean Oil & Gas. Montenegro, like Greece, is betting a lot on its future economic development in finding any hydrocarbons reserves.

Possible Problems and Technical Issues

Offshore explorations have very significant hurdles, a detail that has been overlooked for purely political reasons by Greek policy makers, electoral satisfaction notwithstanding. They require high capital expenditure, highly-specialized and costly scientific and technical personnel, stringent environmental protection procedures and expensive logistics facilities.

In that respect even if oil is found it will not be extracted unless the quantities are sufficient to enable a serious endeavor. There are plenty of other offshore locations around the world where oil has been definitely found – or at least estimated – but where plans have not been carried out due to these reasons.

With today’s prices (Brent-priced oil is at $110 per barrel), offshore drilling in Greece could be just feasible and viable in economic terms. However, a business plan in such projects requires at least a decade of either stable or even upward price indexing in order to remain on track. The quality of oil is another factor to be assessed. Enough oil that is high on sulfur or contains unwanted extra ingredients is priced much cheaper than sweet or light oil.

Furthermore, tax issues, state paperwork and legal framework have to be addressed neatly well before any serious investment project is accomplished. Also to be assessed are political or currency risks involved, although one can speculate that if Greece is indeed a major oil power, the international energy interests would surely like the country to drop the ‘hard’ Euro and revert to the ‘cheap”\’ Drachma so as to make extraction cheap, whilst reaping the benefits of selling it on the world market in dollars. In that sense taxes and dues to the Greek states, as well as, worker’s wages would be paid in a depreciated Greek currency, while export profits would be received in international currencies. On the other hand, in such a case Greece would be able to overcome the unpleasant aspects of an exit from the Euro in having a steady demand for its currency, backed by powerful corporate interests. Certainly, Greece leaving the Euro now is an unlikely scenario, but the possible ramifications of currency on oil investment are still important factors for the larger analysis.

Lastly, the psychological factor has to be assessed. The public’s likely uplifted sentiment over the coming months could boost somewhat the shaky governmental coalition of the ND-PASOK parties, which is being battered by strong challenges from both Right-wing and Left-wing parties, Golden Dawn and SYRIZA, respectively. In that sense, the longer the exploration process drags on, the better it is for the governing politicians, who can continue to present an optimistic storyline to the electorate, depicting hydrocarbons investment as the likely way to triumph over years of austerity measures still being implemented. The influx of necessary capital for the research drilling stage would certainly boost local economies in the Ionian islands and the nearby regions, which are relatively poor outside of tourist season, while foreign funders will likely inject much needed capital into infrastructure work or buy up shares of the companies involved.

However, as previously said, another psychological factor to keep in mind is public association of foreign companies and oil exploration with a kind of social and environmental exploitation, brought on by the bailout. Depending on the success of leftist parties in communicating their message, this factor may continue to spark a debate in the country. Greeks are fiercely proud of their country and its natural beauty, which is a key factor in preserving the all-important tourism industry, and any industrial activities that threaten to endanger this existence will arouse public ire. Indeed, it is interesting to note that among the splintering and new prominence of the Leftist parties in Greece today, more and more of them have the environment as one of their fundamental party issues.

Finally, the upcoming exploration rounds will also be the focus of finance professionals who deal with the Greek economy, since they represent a parameter of both economic and political value and play a part in the overall dynamics of the Greek economy.


The Greek Economy, Privatizations and Foreign Investment: an Update

By Ioannis Michaletos

The Greek economy nowadays appears to indicate a distinct “Janus-type” future. On the one hand, the rising unemployment index of 27% (a figure even higher regarding youth unemployment, at 57%), as well as an approximate 23% drop in GDP since 2009 appear to show a negative trend at work. This is amplified by blows to specific economic sectors such as construction (an 80% decline), retail commerce (a 40% decline), and the fuel trade (down 45%) that were particularly hit by the recession and the concurrent debt crisis.

On the other hand, a set of developments, mostly associated with direct “cash injections” into particular Greek companies, presents another, and positive facet. Below are listed the most important examples. They may prove to be useful in developing an all-around analysis of the Greek economy, focusing on corporate entities that have seemed to somehow evade the crisis; they in fact are being backed by international capital funds. The latter are betting on their future performance, either on the domestic market, or more importantly on the regional ones.

Taking a Gamble

In late 2013 the Greek semi-state betting company OPAP was privatized. The state earned 712 million euros by selling off its 33% share to a consortium of investors that included the Netherlands-based fund PPF Group, the Greek-Czech fund Emma Delta and the Italian Lottomatica company. OPAP has maintained steady profits despite the worsening economic outlook, but most importantly has a business plan prepared for expansion in the South East European markets, including a desire to expand into online betting, lotto and retail-based gaming services. However, it should also be noted that in February 2014, reports emerged that the privatization is being investigated by the Greek state on possible transparency and conflict-of-interest issues.

During the course of 2013 the Azeri state oil company SOCAR bought 66% of the Greek DESFA state company, the national gas transmission operator. The cost of the deal was 400 million euros, and is inexorably related to the Trans-Adriatic pipeline (TAP), a route that will link the Azeri-Turkish backed Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) with the Albanian and Italian gas markets through Greece. Socar’s executives also stated that they aim to further expand into the Balkan market and also use DESFA’s access to the Greek Revythousa LNG terminal, which currently imports Algerian gas, but is on the verge of being upgraded due to a 150-million-euro project, so as to expand its customer base and be able to export gas using the country as a trading hub.

Banking on Tourism

Further, the battered Greek banking sector managed, through the National Bank of Greece (NBG), to receive 653 million euros from the Invel real estate company, by selling off its 66% share of its Pangaea real estate holding entity. According to local market experts, the freefall of Greek real estate, which has seen its value by up to 50% over the past five years, has aroused the interests of a number of well-capitalized funds and individuals betting on a mid-term recovery of value, and an increased return on capital for those who invest now.

Furthermore, the NBG sold off its 90% share in the Astera hotel complex in the Vouliagmeni district of Athens, for 400 million euros. Interestingly, the buyers were a consortium of the Turkish magnate Ferit Shahenk the chairman of the Doğuş Group, along with a fund from the United Arab Emirates. The project of this group is to invest in creating a 7-star hotel, which would be the only one in Southeastern Europe of its sort, catering to the needs of the ultra-rich, in one of the most scenic places in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Additional Foreign Investment: Construction, Real Estate, Energy, Retail and Agriculture

Another prominent investment was the 26-million euro buyout of 4% of the Mytilineos industrial holding group by the Canadian fund Fairfax, owned by a Vancouver-based Indian, Prem Watsa. Mytilineos has managed over the years to secure contracts for energy and engineering projects in a diverse set of countries such as Algeria, Romania, Pakistan, Russia, Iraq, Germany and others, while maintaining a dominant position in the local market.

Further, the interests of Fairfax expanded with its 220-million euro capital injection into the real estate company Eurobank Properties. With this investment, it gained 42% of shares in a corporation which holds mainly an office-space portfolio in Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. Moreover, Fairfax is gearing up to invest a substantial 1.2 billion euros in order to gain the majority of shares in Eurobank– one of Greece’s main banks, with outlets across the Balkans and Cyprus.

A Greek company named GEK-TERNA, active in construction, energy, motorway concessions and real estate was also on the list of incoming capital from York Capital Management, which provided 100 million euros for a five-year convertible corporate bond. And, the Greek Energean Oil & Gas Company also received 60 million euros of investment from the US hedge fund Third Point; this amount will be used to cover its 150-million-euro investment plan to extract more oil from the Kavala-Prinos oil field located off the Northern Greece mainland near the island of Thasos. Energean also managed to pre-sell (for around 400 million euros) its next six years’ worth of production to the BP Company, and it aims now to expand abroad for exploration and research attempts in oil and gas.

It is also interesting to mention that the Greek Folli Follie jeweler and retail group sold off its 100% share of the Greek Duty Free chain to the Swiss Dufry international travel retailer, for a reported 528 million Euros in successive parts since 2013 and up to date. At the same time, Follie Follie is accelerating its investments in China, Japan and the booming Asia-Pacific markets.

Lastly, one of the oldest Greek companies (established in the 18th century, even before the establishment of the Greek state) the Loulis flour mills sold off 20% of its shares to the UAE’s Al Dahra fund, for around 14 million euros, and secured long-term contracts with that Gulf country. Al Dahra also invested $400 million in Serbian agriculture last year.

Reasons for Optimism

Overall, since early 2013 and up to the present date, there seems to be optimism regarding the prospects for the Greek economy, as certain capital gains by the aforementioned companies were achieved. Tourism revenues are also increasing steadily with an additional 7% estimated for 2014, after a similar rise in the previous years, boosted by incoming cruise line visitors and the opening up of the source markets of Russia and China. If we take into account that the merchant shipping sector, which is vital for the Greek economy is also progressing steadily, then an end to the financial depression may be on the horizon.

A Divergence of Fortunes

Nevertheless, the key structural problem in Greece remains the sheer burden of the state’s external accumulated debt, which is around 175% of its GDP as of April 2014, and the heavily constrained internal consumer market due to a rapid increase of taxes on property, consumption and income over the past three years.

Thus it can be said that at least several Greek internationalized companies will enjoy smooth sailing in years ahead, while the rest of the economy will hardly get by, unless a dramatic yet positive upturn is noticed in the debt issue and regarding the overall overhaul of bureaucracy, taxation and market conditions for the domestic market. Certainly there seem to be plenty of thrills and surprises ahead for investors in the country, which is characterized by disappointment and opportunity alike.

Southeast Europe 2014: Emerging Security Threats

By Ioannis Michaletos

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

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

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

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

1.)    The Syrian Connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.)    The long Eastern caravan

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

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

3.)    Cheap weapons, anyone?

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

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

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

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

Greek Minerals Sector Potential in 2013 and Beyond: an Overview editor’s note: as Greece’s economy remains moribund amidst the aftershocks of ‘austerity measures,’ the drive to privatize state assets and develop new industries is gripping the country. One such industry, mining, seems to have promise but is very controversial among locals due to environmental and other concerns. In this new study, we take a look at the sector, the international players involved, and the issues that could affect the development of this industry in Greece.

By Ioannis Michaletos

The Greek mineral sector is an overlooked, but developing industry in the country. Greece’s varied soil and geomorphic layers host a variety of minerals and metals. Some are rare, others are not, but all still have different industrial uses and financial value.

However, looming not far in the background of the public and political discussion of the mineral sector is the issue of how the perceived profitability of mineral exploitation is being affected by possible currency changes in years ahead. Although this aspect deserves a study of its own, it is interesting to keep in mind when considering why certain investments have or have not been made in the minerals sector at this time.

Strong Public Reaction to Mining Plans

The strong degree of public opposition to mining resurfaced recently, in the form of protests against ongoing gold investment by a Canadian company, Eldorado Gold. The company’s operations are in the Halkidiki region of northern Greece, an area noteworthy as a summer-tourism destination on the beaches of Kassandra and Sithonia peninsulas, and as host of the secluded monastic community of Mt Athos on the eponymous peninsula. The latter is the closest to the recent mining protest scene, in Ierissos village.

There, a fierce political battle ensued last month between protesters against the gold extraction project, including environmentalist groups, Leftist parties and supporters, as well as local residents protesting the potential destruction of the local tourist industry, which would be severely affected by mining in their view.

On the other hand, employees of the companies, the incumbent Greek government and most business associations supported the Canadian investment, and similarly are calling for a general boost in investments in the Greek mineral sector.

Still, the opposition has developed to a point where “commando-style” attacks by opposition activists occur against the premises of the companies, while the whole affair has divided the country between two sides, each having its own set of arguments and ferociously backing its claims in the national media. Thus the sectoral overview below will shed light not only on future investment opportunities, but also on other potential opportunities for political brinkmanship, as was the case recently at Ierissos.

Great Potential: Gold, Betonite, Lignite, Copper, Magnesium and More

The Greek state Institute for Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME) has recently estimated the monetary value of the mineral reserves in the country as around $200 billion, with a distinct concentration of highly sought-after industrial minerals such as nickel, bauxite and gold.

The Eldorado Gold Corporation mentioned above is already developing a $1.8 billion project through 2016. Apart from gold extraction, it includes the exploitation of 700,000 tons of copper from its field. Also the Thrace region, and especially the Evros prefecture in the east near Turkey is estimated to contain another 420 tons of gold. However, public opposition is growing strong in this largely agricultural area as well.

Lignite is another mineral used mainly for consumption in electricity power stations of the DEI public power company, with Greece being both one of the largest producers and depositors of that type of coal in Europe, with around 55 million tons of annual production, and more than 7 billion tons of reserves.

Betonite and perlite are another two minerals used for the production of cement, and a Greek company named “A& B Argyrometalavmata Varytini”, is the global leader in their production. This is mostly from its sites on the islands of Milos and Kimolos. This mineral, a by-product of volcano geological formations, is mainly exported to the Asian markets. Another similar mineral is the “light stone,” with similar physical features. The island of Nisyros and the nearby island of Gyali have estimated reserves of 150 million tons (being entirely volcanically-formed islands). There production is carried out by the LAVA Metal Company.

Moreover, as of 2013 around 70 regions in Greece produce marble and other stone-based products, with an annual production (2012) of 28 million tons. In 2008, when the country’s construction sector was booming local extraction exceeded 90 million tons; however, the current 75% drop in housing investment has shifted the product towards foreign markets.

Regarding metal production and more specifically bauxite, magnesium, nickel, zinc and similar products, the 2012 output was at 5.5 million tons, the vast majority of this being exported. Further, betonite, perlite, asbestos and other similar minerals had a production volume of 6 million tons during the same period.

New Discoveries in Evros: Zeolite and Gold

Apart from the established production units, new discoveries have attracted interest. One of these, zeolite, is again in the Evros region. There are estimated reserves of 100 million tons of this aluminosilicate mineral, used for industrial processes including water purification, detergent manufacturing and even nuclear reprocessing.

Here, a company named Geo-Vetis is in the process of investing, though various local interests – including a Greek competitor – have managed to stall the project. It is of interest to note that up until now Greece has been importing approximately 50-70,000 tons of the mineral, while it could by now have become one of the largest producers of it worldwide. If that particular project now envisioned does move on, this might occur. The tentacles of bureaucracy and the intermixture of influential political figures with opposing business interests have for the moment been in favor of imports instead of production.

In the same region, the company Hellenic Gold is vying to invest $250 million for gold production, although public opposition is already on a high level, presumably obstructing the implementation of at least the major part of the company’s business plan in Evros

Thinking Outside of the Vault

Greece’s gold reserves, in the state vault and in the central bank, are estimated at around $7 billion, according to today’s prices. This is a substantial amount, but barely enough to make a serious difference when it comes to issues like the national debt.

On the other hand, if the gold reserves in the country were fully exploited, this could produce 500,000 ounces per year for the next 30 years. At today’s prices, that equals around $800 million USD- or, $24 billion in 30 years. In fact, should Greece leave the eurozone, either voluntarily or if forced, these mineral resources would be of great importance regarding the capability of importing foreign exchange, mostly US dollars or euros from the international companies trading in them.

Nickel production is currently under the control of state company LARCO, which constitutes an illustrative example. LARCO is currently on the brink of financial collapse and is ready to be sold, probably for less than 300 million euros. The company produces around 300,000 tons of nickel per year. Further, its actual reserves are around 100 million tons, which at today’s prices equals 20 billion euros. The company also owns a private port that can accommodate vessels up to 150,000 tons in size, and has tens of thousands of hectares of land in its portfolio, including a small town where the majority of its workers reside.

Yet with the euro being the official currency of Greece, production cannot be increased, due to rising costs of all sorts. In contrast a return to the drachma will make Greek nickel especially cheap, creating a huge incentive for the boosting of production volumes, with a subsequent increase in jobs, foreign investments and much-needed foreign exchange.

The Real Deal

In reality, despite the country nominally having considerable amounts of minerals, Greece has two serious obstacles for their exploitation. One is public opposition, which seems to be only getting stronger and which has already led to a convergence of worried local residents with radical anarchists. Another perhaps greater obstacle is the euro itself, since the profits to be made by any company are seriously hindered by the appreciation of the euro against the dollar, with the latter being the value of transaction for all minerals in the international markets.

In fact, apart from investments in gold, there has been relatively little interest in other minerals. This is due partly to gold’s historical high price, and rising demand for it by countries such as China and India. With today’s prices at $1,600 per ounce and a production cost in Greece of $1,000, a substantial profit could be made with new investment.

Still, little is to be expected in terms of any mass introduction of capital into the country that would also ease the debt burden and create jobs, so long as Greece remains in a zone of countries (that is, the eurozone) that are consumers of minerals. Such a group thus needs an appreciated currency versus the dollar. On the other hand, while the re-introduction of the drachma will lead the banking-financial system into collapse and nationalization, minerals, agriculture shipping and tourism will boom.

This interesting observation raises the topic for a potential study that will examine the hardening of the battle lines in the country: between the local finance and import-related world (the pro-euro faction) and the production and export interests (generally anti-euro).

Looking for More Publications?

Find articles in the Central And Eastern European Online Library (CEEOL)

Buy articles and e-books for Amazon Kindle

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

By Ioannis Michaletos

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

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

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

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

Numerical Personnel Estimates and Linkages

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

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

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

Operational Capacities and Arms Sources

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

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

Data on Left-wing Groups and Activity

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

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

Leader: Unknown; non-hierarchical group

Structure: Autonomous cells

Active from: 2008

Ideology: Radical Anarchism, Neo-Nihilism

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

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

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

Leader: Nikos Maziotis (suspected)

Structure: Close-knit group

Active from: 2003

Ideology: Anti-Capitalist; Radical Anarchism

Number of attacks carried out 2008-2012: 10

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

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

Leader: Unknown

Structure: Paramilitary combat structure

Active from: 2009

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

Number of attacks carried out 2008-2012: 4

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

General Notes

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for More Publications?

Find articles in the Central And Eastern European Online Library (CEEOL)

Buy articles and e-books for Amazon Kindle

Images of Turks in the Greek Press during the 1996 Imia (Kardak) Crisis editor’s note: readers who enjoy this insightful analysis of Greek media representation of the Imia crisis are strongly recommended to also read our review of Greek Military Intelligence and the Crescent, a book which concentrates on the military and political aspects of the 1996 crisis.

By Oana-Camelia Stroescu*

Stereotyping the Turks and Turkey has been an enduring and unfortunate feature of the Greek press since the Cyprus conflict of 1974. This article analyzes the media discourse that contributed to the development of Turkish typification in the Greek daily political newspapers during the Greek-Turkish crisis of 1996.

The article also takes into consideration the position of the Greek dailies on the Aegean crisis, in order to assess to what extent Greek print media used ethnic stereotyping to exaggerate the conflict and the crisis. It becomes clear that during the crisis the Greek daily press produced and perpetuated stereotypes about Turks, conveying such messages via front page articles of the major Greek dailies.

The relevant articles are analyzed here according to their concentration, frequency and omissions. The methodology applied for this particular research is the qualitative analysis of the content of the major Greek newspapers’ front pages, for the first three months of 1996.

Note on Methodology and Limitations

This article examines the construction of Greek ethnocentric discourse during the 1996 Imia/Kardak crisis in the Greek press coverage of events, through textual analysis. Included are news stories and features from several high-circulation daily Greek newspapers.

The selection of these newspapers relied entirely and or partially on circulation figures and representation of the political spectrum. The Greek newspapers that were selected for examination, therefore, are Ta Nea, Eleftherotypia, Eleftheros Typos and Kathimerini. As of February 2013, all of these remain active. It should also be remembered that in the mid-1990s the internet was still in its infancy and therefore print media had a much greater impact on public opinion than might be the case today.


The view from the placid Turkish coastal getaway of Gümüşlük: tiny but troublesome Imia/Kardak peeks from behind two large rocks. Photo: Chris Deliso

These publications were selected according to certain criteria that will be mentioned below. For the present article newspaper articles in the pre-crisis period, during the crisis itself, and during the post-crisis period were all examined, in order to increase the validity of the results.

The selection criteria also took into account the national circulation of the newspapers by time of release, thus morning (Kathimerini) and evening circulation (Eleftherotypia, Eleftheros Typos, Ta Nea). Content analysis units (front-page headlines and leads) are discussed categorically as are linguistic elements such as wording, sentence structure and phrasing.

At the same time, while the article identifies and analyzes elements of stereotyping (words, expressions and other language constructions), it does not aim to strictly use the basic elements of content analysis, whether qualitative or quantitative. It does not explore how the Greek public perceived the crisis or how Greek-Turkish relations were at that particular moment in time. Still, it is possible to argue that the discourse displayed on the front pages of these selected newspapers may have had an important role in shaping the reader’s perceptions about the ‘Other,’ in this case, the Turks.

This particular dispute created an excellent instrument to create stereotypes with ‘negative’ features. So while the present article does not concentrate on Greek-Turkish relations broadly, but on the reactions of the Greek press regarding the events in the spring of 1996, statements on the external policy of the two states are not made. Nor is it claimed that the stereotypes about the Turks are reasonable or truthful. They simply expressed the views that were chosen (for whatever reason or under whatever influence) by the editors during the event in question.

Readers should also note that the article employs the historical present of verbs to report and narrate the events. Although few similar studies have been found (see Giallouridis, Kourkoulas, Panagiotou), the present article attempts to identify and record typification aspects on the front pages of the Greek newspapers during the 1996 Imia crisis. The connection between the mass media and the foreign policy and the role of the first in the construction and rebirth of ethnocentric discourses are well known and of high importance.

A Topical Rationale

One may ask: is this issue worth researching at all? Why should people around the world be concerned about a small local conflict in the Aegean? It is because Greece and Turkey are NATO’s strategic pillars in the Eastern Mediterranean, and a worsening of the Aegean dispute could have had a negative impact on the stability of the region.

Relevant questions thus emerge from the conduct of media in crisis time. Is ethnocentric and nationalistic discourse a means of displaying patriotism and national pride? Does this type of discourse use stereotypes and negative images of the ‘Other’? Do Greek editors need these stereotyping phenomena as a supplementary element in reporting an incident or a bilateral conflict?

If patriotism means attachment to a set of national values and symbols which are particular to every state or nation, the question arises as to what happens when this set of national values comes into conflict with the values of a neighboring country, and the struggle to impose one’s patriotism on the others occurs. As a political instrument, patriotism functions on the dichotomy of ‘Us’ versus ‘Others’; history shows many cases wherein someone who is not like the ‘Other’ must be brought onto the ‘right road.’ Thus, patriotism is not a flexible feeling, but a rigid concept: it may degenerate into nationalism, intolerance, chauvinism and xenophobia.

The alterity in this study refers to the Turks as they are described by the Greek daily newspapers during the diplomatic episode in 1996. In times of bilateral tensions during the second half of the 20th century, one may observe the revival of this categorization of the Turks in the Greek newspapers. The language influences the collective perception of alterity by creating simplified and negative images of the ‘Other.’ This perception may be induced to the public and may perpetuate negative feelings regarding the neighbors.

Historical Context

Greece and Turkey are two neighboring states with lengthy Aegean Sea coastlines. Their history reveals periods of occupation, conflict and peace. After World War II, the stability of the region was weakened several times because of the uneasy relationship between Greece and Turkey and negative intercommunal episodes in Cyprus, which affected this relationship. This led to the crucial moment: the 1974 Cypriot coup d’état that overthrow Archbishop Makarios, the democratically elected leader of the country. The coup had been organized by the Greek military junta in Athens. This in turn provided a convenient pretext for the Turkish military to launch its own invasion of Cyprus. The island remains divided to this day.

Since 1974, Greece and Turkey have passed through one crisis or another almost every decade; most prevalent in this regard have been disputes related to oil exploration and exploitation rights in the Aegean Sea, and thus to the issue of national sovereignty over certain areas in the Aegean. In 1976, 1987 and 1996, Greece and Turkey reached the threshold of an armed conflict that could have destabilized the already fragile Eastern Mediterranean region. The tensions were directly related to sovereignty issues in specific areas of the Aegean Sea, which Turkey considered to be under uncertain sovereignty. The dispute over the Aegean Sea encompasses five distinct, yet interrelated, issues:

1. Sovereign rights over the Aegean continental shelf;

2. Territorial waters limits within the Aegean Sea claimed by both sides;

3. Jurisdiction over airspace zones;

4. Demilitarization of the Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean;

5. Sovereignty over certain or unspecified Aegean islands/islets.

After 1974, the dispute took on the shape of an energy dispute, centering on a disagreement over the interpretation and application of international law. On the one hand, Turkey’s position was that the Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean were not entitled to a continental shelf region and therefore that the delimitation line of the continental shelf should pass, from north to south, through the middle of the Aegean. The Turkish government has always maintained that the Aegean should be shared in equal parts between the two states, in order to have equal economic and defense opportunities in the area.

On the other hand, Greece’s position has favored delimiting the continental shelf by using the median line between the Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean and the western shores of Turkey, which of course is not a straight line but follows the varying contours of this highly elliptical area. At some points, distances between islands and mainland are substantial but in others – like the uninhabited islet of Imia (Kardak in Turkish) – they are barely a couple of kilometers apart.

In 1976, two years after international mediation created a frozen conflict in Cyprus (and democracy was restored to Greece), the tensions took on renewed crisis proportions when the Turkish research vessel Sismik I was sent out in the Aegean to conduct oil research in the disputed continental shelf – considered by the authorities in Athens to be Greek.

Consequently, Greece and Turkey appealed to the United Nation Security Council and to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. By the end of the year, both international bodies had urged the two states not to make use of violence in solving the Aegean issues, and to continue bilateral negotiations in order to achieve a solution in the best interest of both countries. Yet, in 1987 and 1996, after years of failed bilateral negotiations (or simple inactivity at some points), the Aegean dispute rapidly caused new diplomatic tensions, which could have had a negative impact on the peace and security in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The 1987 crisis occurred in March, after the Greek government announced its intention to nationalize North Aegean Petroleum, a company that was preparing drilling operations in the most-contested Aegean continental shelf area. The authorities in Ankara announced their intention to drill in the same region, east of the Greek island of Thasos; being within the continental shelf considered to be Greek, this announcement thus stirred up old animosities.

Such disputes have caused the unnecessary buildup of armed forces over the years. In some incidents the two countries came to the brink of war. Indeed, a former ambassador, Dimitris Kosmadopoulos, made the wry comment that “in the Mediterranean, people easily get their blood up,” in his Greek-language memoir Odiporiko enos Presvi stin Ankira (‘The Journey of an Ambassador in Ankara’).  The chronic disputes thus not only hold the potential for disastrous wars between the two countries, which also are allies and members of NATO, but also have the potential to pull other countries into this conflict, destabilizing the whole region.

Politically, perspectives have always differed regarding the distribution of blame for the tensions in the Aegean. Leaders and policy-makers refer to a “just and lasting solution” which rarely accommodates any understanding of what represents a fair outcome according to the other side.

As a matter of policy, Greece has consistently claimed that a legal settlement at the International Court of Justice is the proper way to come to a solution, as it does not want political negotiations for such an important issue as Greece’s sovereign rights. Contrary to Greece, Turkey prefers a negotiated settlement achieved through dialogue between the two neighboring states. Turkey prefers negotiations because it believes a decision by a third party (such as the International Court of Justice) would not fully appreciate its interests. Today, Greece and Turkey remain far from agreement on a solution to the dispute.

Background to the Imia/Kardak Episode

The Imia episode arose due to a naval accident in December 1995, when a Turkish vessel, Figen Akat, ran ashore on a small rock that is part of the Imia islets complex, located near the Greek island of Kalymnos in the Eastern Aegean. The captain of the ship refused to be rescued by the Greek coast guard, claiming that he was on Turkish territory. The incident was hardly reported by the Greek press and it was not known until January 1996, when a Greek magazine ran a story, leading to the escalation of events.

As said before, the Imia issue is related to territorial claims in the Aegean, which were first made public by Turkey in early 1974. The problem of the continental shelf was brought into discussion by the Turkish government in a diplomatic note sent to the Hellenic Embassy in Ankara and dated February 27, 1974. The Turkish position refers to the alleged non-existence of the continental shelf of the Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean, close to the Turkish coastline; Ankara claims these islands are protuberances of the Anatolian Peninsula. (Further information regarding these details is available online at the International Court of Justice website, and on the US State Department website).

After two decades of uneasy relations and negotiations, the question of the sovereignty of the Aegean islands, islets and rock outcroppings emerged in 1996. In the days following the Figen Akat boat accident, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted the Greek Embassy, stressing that the rocks of Imia/Kardak were part of Turkish territory.

The Greek Embassy in Ankara rejected the claims, reminding them that Turkey had recognized the islets as belonging to Italy by virtue of a bilateral agreement concluded in 1932; they were subsequently ceded by Italy to Greece, along with the rest of the Dodecanese islands, by the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947. (For more information, see The Foundation of the Modern Greek State: Major Treaties and Conventions, 1830-1947). To this, Turkey asserted that with respect to the Aegean, it would abide only by those international agreements that it considered valid, and then only by those that both Turkey and Greece signed.

Turkey has traditionally suspected that Greece would like to transform the Aegean Sea into a Greek ‘lake’ and that Greek claims to Imia/Kardak are thus due to the proximity of these rocks to the Turkish mainland; many Turkish leaders have maintained that the more land Greece ‘owns’ near the Turkish coastline, the more easily Greece could act militarily against it, and the more difficult it would be for Turkey to economically exploit the Aegean, because of territorial restrictions. Greeks have voiced precisely the same fears about Turkish designs on taking islands to win military and economic advantages against Greece.

Media Involvement and Escalation of Events

When the Greek press discovered the story, they raised the controversial question of sovereignty over the Imia chain. In January 1996, the mayor of nearby Kalymnos island raised a Greek flag in order to stress that the rocks were in fact Greek territory. A few days later, a team of journalists from the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet were flown (it is believed, by the military) to Imia and replaced the Greek flag with the Turkish one. On the next day, the Greek flag was raised again, by Greek commandos deployed to the larger of the two islets, in order to protect the national symbol.

Tensions boiled over when Turkish commandos landed on the smaller of the two islets in a stealth operation leading to the death of a Greek pilot. Fortunately, the crisis was eventually defused – as earlier similar ones had – through US pressure, by ‘telephone diplomacy’ between Washington, Athens and Ankara. The status-quo ante was thus restored.

The Greek government depicted the withdrawal as a victory, as sovereignty was maintained, but it was criticized by the political opposition, which considered the situation as a ‘national humiliation’ because Greek sovereignty was not in fact defended.

Stereotyping Phenomena: Eleftherotypia and Eleftheros Typos

Eleftherotypia in its contemporary coverage seems preoccupied with whether the Turkish flag on Imia/Kardak “would be removed or not during the Turkish withdrawal.” The flag seems to be a strong symbol of national pride and sovereignty for both neighboring states. The editors often refer to the Turks as “claiming new frontiers in the Aegean,” and as fomenting a “rebel uprising,” intimidating the Greeks with the threat of war. On its February 6 edition, the same newspaper emphasizes: “[Turkish Prime Minister Tansu] Ciller now wants 3000 islands. This has raised her appetite.”

The center-right Eleftheros Typos expressed rage at the raising of the Turkish flag and wrote: “undisturbed, they raised the Turkish flag in Imia. Shame! The Turks humiliated us.” The editors blamed the Greek government for submitting to Richard Holbrooke’s orders: ‘they pulled the national guard out of 25 rocks!’”

The word ‘humiliation’ is again brought into the discussion in the paper’s February 14 edition, when the editors use a pun in the front page headline ‘Ξεβράχωμα στο Αιγαίο’ (‘getting off the rocks in the Aegean’): the Greek word ξεβράχωμα (ksebrahoma), meaning ‘to get off a rock’, usually is used in reference to fishing. It refers to getting a fish out of its hiding place. Here, employed in place of it is the similar-sounding word ξεβράκωμα (ksevrakoma) which stands for somebody’s public humiliation.

In its March 27 edition, Eleftheros Typos invoked heroes of the 1821 Greek Revolution by writing that “[…] the bones of Kolokotronis, Diakos, Karaiskakis, Papaflessas and Makrigiannis would crack now if they’d know we answered with such defeatism to the Turks,” trying to underline that the government’s moves towards defending national sovereignty were weak. In its March 30 edition, the same newspaper added that the status of the Dodecanese islands, which had been assigned to Greece by the above-cited 1947 agreement, was the subject of discussion between Clinton and Demirel at the White House: “Clinton-Demirel: Bazaar for our islands.”

Depiction of Events in Ta Nea and in Kathimerini

Both Greek centre-right and centre-left newspapers present the Imia/Kardak crisis as an attack on Greek national sovereignty. However, Ta Nea is the only paper to present the whole chronicle of the crisis, starting with the incident in December 1995. Ta Nea specifies in its March 18 edition that the Turks permanently contest Greek sovereignty over the Imia rocks, trying to create a fait accompli in the area: “the question of Greek sovereignty is permanent. The Turks set up a second Imia (i.e. incident).”

The February 16 edition leads by declaring: “double Turkish provocation on Imia,” and writes that Turkey is continuing the war of nerves by asking a Greek vessel near Imia to leave Greek territorial waters.

Further, the February 23 edition headline states: “as Ankara recalls its ambassador, the CIA sees war in the Aegean.” The editors state that Turkey is escalating the tension and threatens Greece if it takes actions against Turkey’s interests, but Greek PM Kostas Simitis, threatens back that there will be consequences for Ankara in terms of its path to the European Economic Community.

At that moment in time, the situation in Greece was difficult due to farmers’ strikes and other domestic and external problems. The Simitis government had also only been recently created. It is worth mentioning Ta Nea’s political cartoons that illustrated the particularities of the economic situation. The main cartoon of the March 21 edition depicts a Greek couple in their living room; while reading the newspaper, the man says to his wife that ‘the farmers thresh Athens, the Turks plow all over the Aegean and the tax evaders reap the VAT!’ The women, who seems quite shocked, answers: ‘is there anyone sowing?’

Both the newspaper’s February 3 and February 10 editions carry concerning headlines: “worries about a second episode” because of “a great concentration of naval forces in the Aegean and military movement in Turkey.”

In its March 22 edition, Ta Nea also publishes a political cartoon showing how Greeks perceived the Turkish-EU relation. The cartoon depicted Süleyman Demirel and a waiter (representing the European Commission) at the European Union’s waiting room for Turkey. The waiter asks Demirel what he would like to order, and Demirel answers: ‘a rock.’

Both cartoons and the technique to display violent front page headlines to demonstrate the diachronic threat coming from Turkey lead to stereotypes, because, in time of crisis, Turkey is perceived as a state that raise claims and is ready for conflict and war.

While most of the Greek daily newspapers with national distribution were passionate about Imia and ethnic stereotypes on Turks, Kathimerini, a center-right oriented newspaper promoted a cooler, yet firm attitude regarding the Greek national rights: “no step back to pressures!” In its January 30 edition, a very neutral headline states: “the case of the islets is getting complicated.”

However, the next day’s headline synthesizes the difficult moment in the bilateral relations thus: “[we are] small during huge moments. No one felt the need to quit after the national defeat to which they led us recklessly.”

The editors of Kathimerini seem unwilling to reinforce the victimization mentality, the overdose of the ‘threat from the East’ and the populist content characteristic to the other publications analyzed.

Cumulative Assessment of Media Depictions

Interestingly, in the case of Imia/Kardak, the Greek press was not as passionate about this crisis as it had been with others in the past. The writing is in general more balanced and tempered than during the crises of 1976 and 1987 (not to mention Cyprus in 1974). Yet, the national feeling of pride is still present on the front pages of most of the publications analyzed here.

This seems to indicate that when it comes to questions of national sovereignty, the Greek press cannot be fully tempered, though it must be said that it did not go so far as to respond to the actions of the Turkish journalists by raising the Greek flag on Imia.

Overall, the writing is reminiscent of populist political discourse, simplistic though rigid, ethnocentric, very reactionary and defensive- the sort of writing that leads to inflexible decisions and opinions.

A strong typification aspect is related to the comparison used to evoke great men and glorious national moments, and to minimize or downgrade the image and the position and role of the ‘Other.’ The employment of war vocabulary (assault, invasion, aggressive, landing) transforms the press into a conflict zone: ‘Us’ versus the ‘Other’ in a militaristic sense.

Conclusion: Prospect for Resolution

The Imia/Kardak issue is related to other issues of the Aegean dispute with potentially great geopolitical and strategic impact in the region. The owner of these islets could extend territorial waters around them to 12 miles, as provided by Maritime Law, restricting travel through the straits in which they are located and bringing areas of international waters under national control. This could then bring into play claims of ownership over the continental shelf under these territorial waters and the airspace above.

Moreover, ownership of Imia/Kardak and its ties to the continental shelf and territorial waters could have great impact on each country’s sense of national prestige, honor and pride and on the inherent mistrust of the neighboring state and population. Ownership of the rocks themselves would not yield much economically, but symbolically they could and would mean more sovereignty over the Aegean. And concepts like patriotism and nationalism provide that more sovereignty a country has over an area, in this case the Aegean, the more national prestige and honor that country gets.

In modern history, these two neighboring states have been on the verge of conflict at least two other times (in 1974 and 1987), but always stopped short. Greece is and has been considered a weaker power militarily and it is believed that in the aftermath of a war, its government would have to negotiate from a disadvantageous position with Turkey. Further, Greece and Turkey do not want war, because war would hurt them both, though both feel obliged to claim they are ready to fight, and it seems that if became absolutely necessary they would.

Defusing the 1996 crisis was favorable to Turkey, a country that needed Greece’s vote to accede to the European Community forum. A peaceful resolution to their dispute would bring more political and military stability and security to the region and, therefore, to NATO and the European Union. After all, war between Greece and Turkey would also harm the credibility of these bodies. In the end, both countries would gain more political respectability internationally by keeping the peace.

An interesting and perhaps fruitful avenue for future research would be to compare the Greek newspaper coverage of the Imia/Kardak case with that found in the Turkish print media during the period in question. This would indicate to what extent patterns of coverage and mentality were similar or distinct, and why. It could lead to lessons for both parties for the future.

In any case, given the likelihood of future crises, media editors wishing to prevent nationalistic approaches on different issues should seek to avoid stereotypes and prejudices, while giving the facts or drawing conclusions and to give resolution-oriented coverage. Indeed, avoiding stereotyping and ethnic categorization could eliminate sources of conflict and pave the way for reconciliation.

During the period covered by this study, the newspapers emphasize the positive self-presentation of ‘us’ and the negative representation of the ‘Other.’ The misrepresentation of the latter may be considered to be a hidden obstacle in the reconciliation process. Media discourse must be built as to overcome stereotyping phenomena and create good attitudes towards other nations.

Negative images of the ‘Other’ create negative public perception. Instead of promoting stereotypes and widespread but antiquated views, media must work in favor of eliminating the obsolete stereotyping phenomena from its discourse. The local media coverage of the Imia/Kardak crisis indicates that media professionals and educators should seek to avoid forms of ethnocentric discourse, propaganda, prejudice and stereotype. Rather, the should present the events as they are or draw conclusions in order to prevent nationalistic approaches to different topics, and to contribute to rediscovering the identity of ‘us’ and ‘the others’ through culture and education.


*Oana-Camelia Stroescu is a researcher at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Iaşi, Romania. This article is a result of the project Transnational Network for Integrated Management of Postdoctoral Research in Communicating Sciences. Institutional building (postdoctoral school), and fellowships program (CommScie)- POSDRU/89/1.5/S/63663, financed under the Sectoral Operational Programme Human Resources Development 2007-2013.



Unpublished Archives: Diplomatic and Historical Archives of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hellenic Embassy in London Collection: 21, 1.


Eleftheros Typos, Eleftherotypia, Kathimerini, Ta Nea: January, February and March 1996.


Bilig, M. (1995). Banal nationalism. London: Sage.

Brad, Ion. Avatarurile democraţiei. Bucharest: Viitorul Românesc, 2002.

Constantopoulou, Fotini. The Foundation of the Modern Greek State; Major Treaties and Conventions, 1830-1947. Athens: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Service of Historical Archives/Kastaniotis, 1999.

Dogan, T. (2000), Journalism in Greece and Turkey, (in Greek), Athens: Papazisi.

Foreign Relations of the United States, XXX- Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, 1973-1976. Washington: US Government Printing Office, 2007.

Giddens, A. (2000). Sociologie. Bucharest: BIC ALL.

Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kosmadopoulos, D. (1984). Odiporiko enos presvi stin Agkira, 1974-1976. Athens: Elliniki Evroekdotiki.

Articles and Online Resources

Hogg, A. M., Terry, D. J. & White, K.M.  (1995). “A Tale of Two Theories: A Critical Comparison of Identity Theory with Social Identity Theory.” Social Psychology Quarterly, 58, 255-269.

Stephan, S.G., S.J., Ybarra, O. & Rios Morrison, K. (2009). “Intergroup Threat Theory.” In T. D. Nelson (Ed.), Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination (pp.43-59). New York: Psychology Press.

International Court of Justice at The Hague, ‘Aegean Sea Continental Shelf Case’, (accessed April 2012)

Looking for More Publications?

Find articles in the Central And Eastern European Online Library (CEEOL)

Buy articles and e-books for Amazon Kindle