jump to navigation

Athens holds its ground in name dispute March 31, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Politics.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
comments closed

Greece and FYROM still at odds as US ups pressure before NATO summit

The Greek government yesterday insisted that it would not be pushed into accepting a compromise on the Macedonia name dispute before Wednesday’s NATO summit, as Western pressure for an immediate solution intensified.

«No solution means no invitation for Skopje to join NATO» Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis told Parliament on Saturday, stressing «only a mutually acceptable solution… can form the basis for constructive relations within the alliance.»

Meanwhile US officials cranked up the pressure on Athens to agree to a settlement so that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) can join NATO. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned Greece’s Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Friday night to stress Washington’s resolve. And, sources said, US President George W. Bush is considering inviting Karamanlis and FYROM’s Premier Nikola Gruevski for talks on the matter before the NATO summit gets under way.

Bakoyannis has stuck to her guns, dismissing Rice’s description of the name spat as «something that has to do with antiquity» and stressing, in an interview published in yesterday’s Ethnos, that «we are not a country that takes orders from anyone.» Bakoyannis added that «the pressure of time will not lead us to accept proposals in the form of an ultimatum.»

The Greek FM said she believed United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz might make a fresh proposal before Wednesday but said, «It will be difficult to reach a solution before the summit.»

But her FYROM counterpart Antonio Milososki said he thought a deal could be struck by then. «We are running out of time but I think the possibility (of an agreement) still exists,» he told reporters on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Slovenia on Saturday. He said FYROM’s parliament will today discuss Nimetz’s latest proposal for a solution to the name dispute – Republic of Macedonia (Skopje) – which is said to have appealed to FYROM.

Milososki and Bakoyannis had been due to hold talks in Slovenia at the weekend but the Greek side canceled the meeting after US pressure intensified.

Most European Foreign Ministers at the Slovenia summit avoided taking a stance on the FYROM accession issue. But Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned of the regional repercussions of blocking Skopje’s bid to join NATO. «This summit does not have the right to fail and must not replace more stability for less stability,» he said.

31-03-08_poster1.jpg  In the meantime Greece has strongly condemned the appearance of offensive billboards featuring the Greek Flag in Skopje. Greece handed over a protest note to FYROM, requesting an immediate removal of a billboard in Skopje showing a Nazi swastika attached to Greek flag.

Greece’s Ambassador to Skopje, Alexandra Papadopoulou, has been instructed, within the day, to make a strong demarche to the Foreign Ministry of FYROM, requesting the immediate removal of the offensive billboard.

31-03-08_poster2.jpg  “This unacceptable poster, which was circulated via a private initiative and raised on Skopje’s streets, directly insults our country’s National Symbol and our struggle against fascism and Nazism,” Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Koumoutsakos said.

“This incident demonstrates the huge mistake made by those who invest in nationalism and bigotry. It also confirms, once again, the correctness of Greece’s position that a necessary condition for the establishment of relations of solidarity and allied relations is, in practice, respect of good-neighborly relations between countries and peoples,” he added.


Name dispute talks to continue tomorrow March 24, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Politics.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

There was a climate of cautious optimism in Athens and Skopje over the weekend ahead of fresh negotiations on the Macedonia name dispute in New York tomorrow.

In Athens, diplomats said that a compromise could be reached ahead of NATO’s summit on April 2-4, where the possible accession of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is to be discussed. Officially Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis was more reserved, saying, after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, that she “felt neither optimistic nor pessimistic.”

Bakoyannis is to meet her FYROM counterpart Antonio Milososki on the sidelines of a European Union summit in Slovenia on Friday to discuss any headway made in New York by the two country’s representatives in United Nations-mediated talks.

On Saturday, FYROM’s President, Branko Crvenkovski, stressed the need for a “logical compromise” to the name dispute. FYROM’s envoy Nikola Dimitrov told reporters he had been given “precise instructions” but did not elaborate.

Will Greece warm to renewable energy? March 22, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy.
Tags: , , ,
comments closed

Wind power generators in Greece currently produce 746 megawatts, while a further 1,600 MW are presently under development > Renewable energy generation in Greece is still at low levels, despite the country’s excellent potential, according to a survey by Kantor Management Consultants SA.

Wind power accounts for the largest share of renewable energy in Greece (excluding the major hydroelectric plants operated by the Public Power Corporation), with a wind generator capacity amounting to 746 megawatts (end 2006 data).

The domestic wind power market is operated by only a few but large groups which have the necessary expertise and capital. Some of the major players include Rokas-Iberdrola, Kopelouzos-ENEL, PPC Renewable-EDF and Terna. Currently under development are another 600 MW by Terna and 1,000 MW by Kopelouzos.

European Union targets are to double the gross primary energy generation from renewable sources to 12 percent of total production in 2010 and to 20 percent in 2020. But this target would be hard for Greece to achieve under current conditions, as it would require the country to almost double its renewable energy generation in just three years.

The main reasons for Greece’s lower-than-expected penetration into renewable energy sources, according to Kantor’s survey, include complex and time-consuming licensing procedures, network and connection problems, ineffective incentives and the lack of a comprehensive town-planning program for development of energy production regions.

Despite having incorporated EU directives, Greek legislation provides a rather vague framework. In addition, subsidies for renewable energy investments are excessively high.

For instance, photovoltaic systems in Greece are subsidized up to 45 percent of the required amount, and this, Kantor says, has invited oversupply in small-scale projects, which are not capable of creating the required impetus for a shift to large-scale photovoltaic development.

To speed up the penetration of renewable energy in the country’s energy balance, Kantor believes that policy should revolve around the following main axes: the reduction of subsidies for small-scale investments and the channeling of funds to larger-scale renewable energy projects; the designation and, where appropriate, expropriation of expanses of land to be used for renewable energy installations; plus the better organization of licensing and town-planning procedures.

FYROM talks in the final stretch March 9, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Politics.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
comments closed

As United Nations mediator Matthew Nimetz prepares to invite diplomats from Athens and Skopje to the next phase of talks in a flagging effort to resolve the Macedonia name dispute, Greek government officials are preparing for a flurry of diplomacy.

Nimetz is to invite Adamantios Vassilakos and Nikola Dimitrov, the representatives of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) respectively, for talks in Geneva this week. The envoy, whose latest proposals were rejected by Skopje, is not expected to make any new suggestions but to press FYROM to shift its stance, sources said yesterday. The same sources said talks will continue until the very last moment.

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who on Thursday threatened Athens will use its veto against FYROM’s NATO bid, is preparing for a series of talks with European counterparts on the sidelines of an EU summit on Monday. She will then fly to Paris for talks with her French counterpart Bernard Kouchner. Premier Costas Karamanlis will join the summit on Thursday.

Meanwhile FYROM has been promoting its NATO bid with a full-page ad that appeared in several international newspapers yesterday. It argues FYROM’s case for joining NATO and criticizes Greek pressure.

US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried arrived in Skopje last night for talks on the name dispute. Before his trip he called for “outstanding issues” to be resolved by the first week of April when the NATO summit will begin.

No movement on FYROM March 6, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Politics.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
comments closed

EU, NATO push for Skopje compromise; UN envoy’s latest talks inconclusive

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday dug in his heels over the Macedonia name dispute, stressing that Athens will not hesitate to block Skopje from joining NATO unless the disagreement is resolved.

“Greece’s stance is very clear as regards Skopje and we have clarified it absolutely to allies ad partners,” Karamanlis said. “I do not feel that I am under pressure from anyone,” he added, apparently dismissing speculation regarding US attempts to influence Greek policy in this area.

But there was pressure on Karamanlis at home. Thousands of Greeks rallied in the northern city of Thessaloniki yesterday evening, urging the government not to accept a name for the Former Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) that could lead to territorial claims on Greece’s northern region of Macedonia.

The main rally in Thessaloniki, a street protest organized by the far-right LAOS, was not attended by politicians from other parties. Thessaloniki’s Bishop Anthimos led a separate rally in a local sports stadium.

The United Nations envoy entrusted with solving the name dispute, Matthew Nimetz, arrived in the northern city last night to brief Greek negotiator Adamantios Vassilakis following his talks with political leaders in Skopje. Nimetz said the talks had failed to make any headway but delivered an upbeat assessment nonetheless. “I got a lot of encouragement to keep at this task,” Nimetz said. “There is a great interest here to solve this problem,” he added.

Meanwhile, European Union and NATO officials both appeared to nudge Skopje over the name issue. “If we can’t settle this issue, I’m afraid it will have negative ramifications (for EU accession),” the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said. And NATO representative James Appathurai remarked: “Greece has made it clear that it wants to find a solution and that it will participate in talks with an open mind – we hope Skopje’s government does the same.”

Sources said yesterday that US President George W. Bush may drop Skopje from the itinerary of his scheduled tour of Balkan states next month. According to the original plan, Bush was to visit Zagreb, Tirana and Skopje following a NATO summit in Bucharest on April 2-4.

Greece on course for Europe’s Lisbon Criteria March 4, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy.
Tags: , , , ,
comments closed

Greece is doing fairly well in its efforts to meet the European Union targets of progress and development until 2010, known as the “Lisbon criteria,” according to a report submitted yesterday by the Council of Lisbon and Allianz insurance company.

The report, “The European Development and the Employment Observatory: Success Indices in the Economy of Knowledge” monitors the progress of the 14 biggest economies toward meeting those targets. It has found Greece ranks seventh among them with 1.23 points, against an average of 1.05.

Topping the chart is Finland with 1.69 points, followed by the Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Sweden. On the other side, Italy lies lowest on the chart with just 0.66 points. Italy, along with Austria and France, are the only countries that currently appear unable to meet their Lisbon targets.

The main obstacle in this course is seen as the uncertainty in the global economy, and, as the chief economist of Allianz, whose signature the report bears, suggests, “the worst response to global unrest would be to abandon the policies that have brought success to Europe just as these are beginning to bear fruit.”

The analysis of the partial indices of Greece shows that the high scoring the country has earned is due to the positive course of the “economic development” and “productive development” indices, recording scores of 1.38 points and 2.87 points respectively, against an EU-15 average of 0.52 and 1.31 points.

Solar power sector looks set to shine February 25, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy, Technology.
Tags: , , , ,
comments closed

Solar power sector looks set to shine despite financing difficulties from credit crunch > Demand from institutional investors for large-scale renewable portfolios remains strong, now reaching into new markets, such as Greece. 

Solar power will be a bright investment prospect, as the appetite for green energy grows, even though the global credit crisis is making banks more wary of providing financing. In the short term, the sector will also have to contend with a shortage of silicon, a key ingredient for solar cells that turn sunlight into electricity, and possible changes in political support as elections take place.

“This year will be a very volatile one,” said Sven Hansen, chief investment officer at clean technology investor Good Energies, which has about 7 billion Swiss francs ($6.38 billion) under management. “The industry will see fantastic growth, but it will be a bumpy ride in terms of how financial markets value photovoltaic companies.”

The number of new large-scale solar energy plants has been growing rapidly particularly in sun-drenched countries like Spain and Italy, but also in Germany and the United States, where regulatory conditions offer incentives and stable returns for investors. Conditions could change because of a presidential election in the United States and general elections in Spain in March. “Whether there are support programs in place has a strong impact on markets’ development,” Hansen said.

Growth is still expected to be strong, driven by increased interest from institutional investors, such as pension funds and insurers, which are seeking alternative stable and long-term opportunities. Experts also expect the silicon shortage to ease next year as silicon makers hike up capacity and production.

“Leverage ratios are more difficult, but we will ride out the storm. The business is not shut,” said Peter van Egmond Rossbach, director of investment at Impax Asset Management. The firm provides finance for renewable energy projects around the world and has $2 billion under management. Thirty percent is invested in solar, 40 percent in wind and the rest in other renewable energy projects, it said. “It just means that (project financing) is getting more expensive and we have to bridge with equity,” he added.

Tighter liquidity on global financial markets resulting from a crisis in the US subprime mortgage market last year has made banks more risk-averse. As a result, conditions have become tougher, pushing up interest payments for loans and other financing costs, which reduces the cashflow and leads to higher purchase prices for investors.

“We notice it in the purchase prices,” said Barbara Flesche, head of equity sales at Epuron, a project developer, which is fully owned by German solar group Conergy. Epuron develops, finances, develops and operates large-scale renewable energy projects, bringing together investors, banks and equipment producers. It has completed deals worth about 800 million euro ($1.18 billion) since 1998, it said.

Banks were less willing to provide high gearing for such major projects, which dampened investor hopes of a higher return on equity, Flesche said. But she added, “The risk for purchase prices is not something that’s hurting us dramatically – so far.”

Flesche said demand from institutional investors for such large-scale renewable portfolios was still strong and was now also reaching into new markets, such as Greece or Italy. “It will become more difficult to get bank financing, but not impossible,” Epuron’s Flesche said.

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) expects the global market to be five times bigger than it was in 2007 within the next five years. It said it expected annual installations to reach a 10.9-gigawatt peak by 2012 globally, up from a peak of about 2.2 gigawatts in 2007, adding that annual growth rates of well above 25 percent could be expected.

The European Energy Council has forecast that by 2010 about 1.6 percent of total energy generation will derive from photovoltaic sources, which compares to a share of 0.01 percent in 2003. By 2010 the council expects about 19 percent of generation will derive from renewables, 15 percent from nuclear and 66 percent from fossil sources.