Greece today

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GreeceGreece is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and has a well-spring of superb natural resources. Greece’s extraordinary topography, with dramatic mountains, lush valleys and groves, and a coastline that extends more than 16,000 kilometres, provides residents and visitors with a wealth of leisure and recreation options that are unequalled in the Mediterranean. Combining a modern infrastructure and the stark beauty of the ancient world, the birthplace of Western civilization is one of the leading tourism destinations globally that satisfies young and old, the adventurous spirit and the academic researcher, the wandering Odysseas and the urban habitué.

General Information about Hellenic Republic (Greece)
Area: 131, 990 sq. km.
Length of State Border: 1,228 km
Border Countries: Albania (282 km), Bulgaria (494 km), Turkey (206 km), FYROM (246 km)
Climate: Temperate, mild, wet winters, hot, dry summers
Terrain: mostly Mountains with ranges extending into the sea as peninsulas or chains of islands
Elevation Extremes: Lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m -Highest point: Mount Olympus 2,917 m
Geograghic Importance: Strategic location dominating the Aegean Sea and the southern approach to Dardanelles Straits, a peninsular country possessing an archipelago of about 3,000 major islands
Natural Resources: Lignite, iron ore, bauxite, lead, zinc, nickel, magnesite, marble, salt
Legal System: Based on Roman law, judiciary divided into civil, criminal, and administrative courts
Time Zone: GMT +2
Official Language: Greek
Currency: Euro
Capital: Athens
Government Type: Parliamentary democracy
Legislative Branch: Unicameral Parliament– 300 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to four-year terms
Chief of State: President
Head of Government: Prime Minister
Membership in important international organizations: EU, NATO, EBRD, EIB, IBRD, IMF, IMO, Interpol, OECD, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, WHO, WTO, CERN
Population: 11,171,740
Density: 84.46/km2
Major Greek Cities: Athens (3,761,180), Thessaloniki (1,057,825), Patras (191,058), Iraklio (137,711), Volos (85,001)
Transportation & Telecommunications: Railways total: 2,600 km – Roadways total: 117,000 km
Major highways: Egnatia Highway, PATHE Motorway, Ionian Motorway, Attiki Odos Motorway, Rion-Antirrion (Bridge)
Major Ports: [12 international ports] Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Volos, Patra, Alexandroupoli, Elefsina, Igoumenitsa, Iraklio, Kavala, Kalamata, Lavrio, Chalkida, Astakos
Major Airports: [15 international airports, 25 domestic airports, 20 million passengers annually] Athens International Airport (Eleftherios Venizelos), Thessaloniki, Iraklio (Crete), Rhodes, Corfu, Kos, Chania, Zakynthos, Samos, Mykonos, Santorini (Thira).

Greece is highly appealing as an investment location because it offers businesspeople a wide variety of investment opportunities that take advantage of the country’s strategic geographic location and unique competitive advantages. Greece is a natural gateway to more than 140 million consumers in Southeast Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, a region with a GDP of almost 1 trillion Euro. As the hub of diverse emerging markets, Greece provides access to populations with a strong demand for consumer goods, infrastructure modernisation, technology and innovation networks, energy, tourism development, and light manufacturing.
Greek companies have a strong foothold in the region and are among the top three investors in every market. Over the last few years, more than 4,000 Greek companies have invested more than 15 billion Euro in Southeast Europe. In financial services alone, more than 3,000 branches of Greek banks are active in the region.
Investors are discovering that Greece has a combination of characteristics that are unequalled in Europe. Greece is a leading global tourism destination, an emerging regional energy hub, and possesses human capital that is outstanding.
As the birthplace of the nine muses, Greece lies at the root of Western culture. Poetry, theatre, music, dance, art and architecture of the West all derived from the ancient Greeks. In addition, scientific inquiry—what began as philosophy—has its origins in such thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. Poets, historians, and medical pioneers—think of Sappho, Herodotus, and Hippocrates—began their trade in Ancient Greece, as did lawyers such as Solon, architects such as Phideas, and mathematicians such as Archimedes.
Today, Greece is a treasure trove of museums, archaeological and historical sites, theatre, dance, and musical performance, The Acropolis, perched on the Parthenon in Athens, is the crown jewel of Greece’s archaeological splendour. And museums, such as the National Archaeological Museum, the New Acropolis Museum, and scores of others throughout the country house collections that chronicle the evolution of Western civilization. Sites such as Knossos on Crete, Ancient Olympia, Delphi, and Vergina in Northern Greece are easily accessible for day trips or weekend excursions, and make living in Greece a true pleasure.
In Athens and Thessaloniki, superb concert halls present world-class performances throughout most of the year. In the summer months, visitors from around the world flock to the ancient theatres of Epidaurus and Herod Atticus and to other international and local festivals to partake in a rich offering of artistic events, Opera is also well represented and Athens is soon to be home of a spectacular new waterfront opera house and library complex designed by the renowned architect Renzo Piano.
In addition, more popular forms of culture such as rock concerts, nightclubs, jazz and pop abound throughout this land, with venues ranging from urban settings to island festivals.
It has often been said that the true Mediterranean diet is based on traditional Greek cuisine, with its emphasis on vegetables, fruits, grains, seafood, fresh meat and dairy products, and pure wine.
Greece offers a bountiful array of raw ingredients and traditional products and a cuisine that is healthful, simple, yet rich and varied. Based on the olive, the staple of the Mediterranean, Greece’s cuisine can be enjoyed in simple tavernas, at traditional ouzeries, or in modern restaurants that offer daring interpretations of time-tested classics.
One of the joys of living or travelling in Greece is the ability to eat, drink, and be merry at sidewalk cafes, cozy estiatoria, or along a seaside quay. Locals and visitors enjoy meze of freshly caught seafood, cured and smoked meats, blazingly fresh salads, and favourites such as moussaka, souvlaki, roast lamb, and grilled specialties prepared to order.
Well-known items such as feta cheese, yogurt, and honey please millions of people daily, whether in Greece or abroad. Not surprisingly, though, interest in exploring new facets of the Greek table has led to a robust and exciting movement among younger chefs who are redefining age-old recipes and re-establishing an interest in creating new, bold, yet satisfying foods. These trail blazers are helping to elevate Greek cuisine to a level that is appreciated by gourmets around the world.
Tipples including ouzo and retsina have become identified as the quintessential accompaniments to a host of Greek specialties. Nevertheless, oenophiles around the world are taking note of Greek wine being made today from unique grapes and are heralding the fine quality and interesting character of the wines, whether made from the volcanic soil of Santorini or the rich soils of Nemea.
Without a doubt, the climate in Greece makes living in this Mediterranean destination a year-round joy. In the south, and many of Aegean islands, the temperate weather allows residents to enjoy hiking, sailing, and sports such as golf throughout the year. Likewise, winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding are within easy reach of Athens and Thessaloniki, when snows fall on nearby mountains. Lovers of the outdoors can choose from a wide variety of activities in some of the most spectacular locations in Europe. Sailing, rafting, hiking, paragliding, biking, and spelunking are enjoyed by young and old alike in the varied landscapes of Greece. In addition, more traditional sports such as tennis, golf, basketball, volleyball, and soccer are part of everyday life in Greece.
In both Athens and Thessaloniki, a charming and vibrant lifestyle offers a large selection of leisure venues with entertainment suitable for every taste and preference. The personalities of the cities are a mixture of Eastern and Western cultures with a dynamic intertwine of modern and ancient structures. Greece offers history and sights, sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, nightlife and entertainment. Exciting options vary from the hustle-and-bustle of international nightlight life to the many activities of a large expat community. A dynamic restaurant scene offers cuisines from around the world and Greece is justly famous for its “café society.” Shopping is now equal to major European cities and services, from shoe repairs to IT needs, are readily available. A huge selection of accommodation is also available with establishments ranking high among the leading in the world for business, romance or family leisure.
Weekends are easily used to escape to the islands in the summer or a variety of mountain destinations year round. The sea is never more than 80 kilometres (50 miles) from any point on the mainland. Greece has relatively little crime, even in the major cities. The wide selection of excellent Greek and international schools, teaching in numerous languages, responds to the needs of the substantial foreign community. Many foreign institutes, clubs, and associations help pave the way to integration for newcomers.

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The Economy
The Greek economy expanded at an average annual rate of 4% from 2004-2007 and 2% during 2008 (at constant prices of 2000), one of the highest rates in the Eurozone. International economic uncertainty has had an impact on Greece in 2009; growth rates of GDP (-1.9%) were slowed. The inclusion of Greece in the EU – IMF support mechanism, with restrictive economic measures that have been taken for fiscal consolidation, has negatively affected GDP development in 2010 as well, during which a decrease of GDP by -2.5% to -4% is estimated.
However, reforms and restrictive policy implementations have already begun to bear positive results. The public deficit decreased by 46% during the first semester of 2010, allowing for the expectation that Greece will return to the bond markets in 2011. A significant improvement in the development trends of GDP is expected in 2011 through further reforms aimed at the development of a more attractive investment and business environment, including liberalisation of a number of markets, faster licensing procedures, the new investment law, flexibility in the labour market, and others.

Major Economic Indicators

2006

2007

2008

2009

    GDP

4.5%

4.5%

2%

– 1.9%

    Inflation: Annual Average

3.2%

2.9%

4.2%

1.2%

    Inflation: Percentage Change December to December

2.9%

3.9%

2.0%

2.6%

    Labour Productivity (EU-27=100)**

99.7

99.8

102.2

103.8

    Unemployment Rate

8.9%

8.3%

7.6%

9.4%

    Public Investments (%GDP)

3%

2.9%

2.8%

2.9%

    Exports (Goods – Current Prices)

20.5*

21.4*

22.8*

19.2*

    Imports (Goods – Current Prices)

56.4*

61.4*

62.5*

52.5*

*billion €
** Source: Eurostat
Source: Hellenic Statistical Authority, 2010

In 2010 fiscal stabilisation and consolidation in Greece are a priority; however private investment (both national and international) and exports are primary growth drivers, rather than an increase in public spending, as was the case in the past. Notable is that labour productivity in Greece continues to show an increase in 2009 and remains at higher levels than the EU-27 average.

Employment – Unemployment
Unemployment in Greece, up to 2008, was rather low at 7.6%, approximately the mean value of the Eurozone. During 2009, unemployment rose as a result of the international crisis that affected Greece as well and reached 9.4%. In 2010 a further increase of unemployment is expected due to the restrictive fiscal policy. Unemployment also increased in the EU-27 due to the international crisis. EU unemployment in December 2009 reached 9.6%.

Investment
In 2008, fixed capital formation in Greece reached 44.8 billion Euro in constant prices, and stayed at almost the same levels of 2007, while in 2009, as a result of the financial crisis, there was a decrease, reaching 39.9 billion Euro. The net FDI inflow, according to recent revised data, reached 3.1 billion Euro in 2008, showing an increase of 100% compared with 2007. In 2009, both total and net investments remained at rather high levels despite the increasing financial crisis. In 2009 net FDI inflows into Greece showed a decrease of 21% compared with 2008. However, this decline was much lower than that of international FDI inflows which, according to the recent UNCTAD Report, reached 37%. Total foreign capital inflows, which reflect the real performance of the country, reached 4.496 billion Euro in 2009, double the net inflows for the same year (2.145 billion Euro). Given that investors from the EU, China, and Arab countries have already expressed significant investment interest, there are promising prospects for FDI inflows to remain at satisfactory levels in 2010 despite the international and national financial crisis.

International Trade
The export of Greek goods rose in current prices by 11.2% during the period 2006-2008, while in 2009 showed a decline reaching 19.2 billion Euro from 22.8 billion Euro, in 2008. This decrease is considered acceptable given that the international financial crisis directly affects international trade. It should be noted that imports showed higher percentage decrease in 2009, and in this way the impact on the balance of trade of Greece is limited.

More information:
A year of consolidation and reform – Greece meets ambitious targets in 2010 (PDF)