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April 2001

The quarterly magazine of the actors of regional development

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On the ground
Greece banks on competitiveness

A new gateway

Competitiveness has been identified as one of the top priorities for the economic and social development of Greece during the 2000-2006 programming period. In March, the European Commission adopted a specific Operational Programme (OP) on competitiveness, geared primarily towards the manufacturing, research and technology, tourism and energy sectors. Its main objectives are to promote new business start-ups, strengthen the sustainable competitiveness of businesses and integrate them in the global market, and improve the services for small and medium sized enterprises.

The Greek macroeconomic situation has improved, thus enabling Greece to join the euro zone this year. Structural reforms in the capital, product and labour markets are promising signs. However, Greece still suffers from low productivity, mainly due to 1) underdeveloped or not up to date systems for science, technology and innovation, 2) quality level of human resources and availability of skilled workforce, and 3) a low level of entrepreneurship. Productivity is a key factor determining a sustainable long run growth which at the same time provides the conditions for improved living standards. It also plays a key role in international competitiveness.

Promoting the development of the business environment

The Operational Programme seeks to remedy in part these weaknesses. It is structured around 8 priorities and one priority for technical assistance measures, all of which revolve around the aim to promote the sound development of the business environment in Greece. They are grouped along the following thematic areas:
  • Improving business infrastructure and the general business environment with measures to support infrastructure projects, upgrade the national quality certification system, simplify the business environment, and create integrated business support networks.

  • Promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial excellence in the energy, manufacturing, tourism, technology and research sectors. This includes modernising the organisational methods of businesses, providing adapted financial products for the proper development of businesses, and promoting entrepreneurship among the young, women, and the disabled.

  • Enhancing technological innovation and research through research and technology transfers and international co-operation, supporting spin-off activities, and raising public awareness.

  • Promoting Greece as a tourist destination and diversifying the tourism product with support to investments in tourist facilities, the development of alternative forms of tourism, tourism promotion and measures to combat the side effects of seasonality.

  • Ensuring a sustainable energy supply and promoting the liberalisation of the energy market, mainly with measures on natural gas, renewable energy and energy efficiency, energy supply to the islands, to cities and the industry, environmental and public safety measures regarding oil products, and actions against the greenhouse effect.

  • Support human resources development through education and training actions in tourism, industry, research and technology.
Nearly EUR 2 billion from the Structural Funds

Total financing for the programme will be nearly _6.4 billion. The Structural Funds will co-finance nearly _2 billion, 45% of the funding will come from private funds and the remainder will come from national contributions. The signing of this new Operational Programme comes shortly after the Greek Parliament adopted a new law governing the Structural Funds which establishes the foundation for the implementation of projects funded by the EU in Greece.

A new gateway

The opening of the new Athens International Airport at Spata on 28 March 2001 marks a historic step in modern communications and opens a new gateway to Greece in the 21st century.

The state-of-the-art airport symbolises a new era in the international importance of Greece as a link between Europe, the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa. It is named after Eleftherios Venizelos who, as Greek Prime Minister early in the 20th century, played a vital role in the revival and modernisation of Greece.

In its first phase, the airport will have a capacity for 16 million passengers and 220 000 tonnes of cargo a year, increasing to 50 million passengers a year in the future, giving it a leading position in air transport.

International expertise has been brought together through an innovative partnership between the public and private sectors to enable the financing, planning, design and construction of this project. The result is one of the biggest and most prestigious infrastructure projects co-financed by Community funds, with enormous commercial prospects for the European economy.

The partnership between the Hellenic Republic and a private consortium has led to the creation of the privately managed company, Athens International Airport SA, which will own and operate the new airport for 30 years. The Hellenic Republic holds 55 percent of the new airport's shares, while the majority of the remaining 45 percent are held by the leading international construction company Hochtief AG. Other companies within the private consortium include ABB Calor Emag Schaltanlagen AG, and Flughafen Athen Spata Projektgesellschaft mbH. The airport is expected to show profits after three years of operation and to begin paying dividends to shareholders after 7 years.

The airport has been built to a fixed construction cost of EUR 2.155 billion, of which 12% has been financed by Community Funds and 46% by European Investment Bank loans.

Construction work on this massive project took place between July 1996 and September 2000, followed by a six-month trial operation period.

In the first phase, the "Eleftherios Venizelos" Airport will have a capacity for 16 million passengers a year.
the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport


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