Text: Žikica Milošević
Some20 years ago, I was in Skopje reading an analytical article about the Greek strength and audacity, and their resilience not to acknowledge the name Macedonia for the southernmost former Yugoslav republic. At the time, Skopje-Athens quarrel reached its peak, immediately after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Journalists from Skopje tried to figure out what makes Greece so bold, and what makes the rest of Europe so susceptible to Greek claims and wishes. Predictably, as noted in the Trivia section, Greece is disproportionally super strong when it comes to merchant fleet.
Sea! Oh, Sea!
According to figures, Greek economy is stable. It relies on three pillars – merchant fleet, agriculture and tourism. Greek ships make up for 70% of the European Union’s total merchant fleet. According to the Greek law, 75% of a ship’s crew must be Greek. It is quite obvious that the European fleet would be decimated and ground to a halt with no Greek ships. History obviously repeats itself – Ancient Greek sailors and captains travelled the world and the seven seas and formed colonies on distant shores, such as Budva and Korčula. It is intersting that, at some places in Southern Italy two thousand years ago, culture flourished, trade was thriving and theatrical performances attracted thousands of spectators. Today, there are only a few thousand people in half-empty villages. Greece managed to preserve its title as a naval superpower, while the other nations were not that sucessful. Italy was pretty good. Even though 50% of the Mediterranean is inhabited by Arabs, they tend to keep away from the sea (apart from Persian Gulf Arabs). The naval superpowers include Spain, Portugal, the UK and the Netherlands. However, it is quite surprising that Greeks are so strong.
Shipping has traditionally been a key sector in the Greek economy since the ancient times. In 1813, the Greek Merchant Navy was made up of 615 ships, which was a huge number at the time. Its total tonnage was 153,580 tons. In 1914 the figures stood at 449,430 tons and 1,322 ships. The Greek Merchant Navy is the largest in the world, with Greek-owned vessels accounting for 15% of global deadweight tonnage as of 2013. The increased demand for international maritime transportation between Greece and Asia has resulted in an unprecedented investment in the shipping industry. The Greek Merchant Navy’s total DWT of nearly 245 million is comparable only to Japan’s, which is ranked second with almost 224 million. In the 60s, Greek fleet nearly doubled, primarily through the investments made by the shipping magnates Onassis, Vardinoyannis, Livanos and Niarchos. The basis of the modern Greek maritime industry was formed after World War II when Greek shipping businessmen were able to amass surplus ships sold to them by the United States Government through the Ship Sales Act of the 1940s. Greece is ranked fourth in the world by number of ships (3,695), behind China (5,313), Japan (3,991), and Germany (3,833). The Greek flag is the seventh-most-used internationally for shipping, and second in the EU. Greek power is here to stay. Apparently.
The Three Pillars. OK, the Other Two.
The economy of Greece is the 46th largest in the world with a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of $195.2 billion per annum. Greece is a developed country with an economy based on the service (82.8%) and industrial sectors (13.3%). The agricultural sector contributed 3.9% of national economic output in 2015. With 18 million international tourists in 2013, Greece was the 7th most visited country in the European Union and 16th in the world. This is a remarkable result too, even the sceptics must admit it.
The country is a significant agricultural producer within the EU. In 2010, Greece was the European Union’s largest producer of cotton (183,800 tons) and pistachios (8,000 tons) and ranked second in the production of rice (229,500 tons) and olives (147,500 tons), third in the production of figs (11,000 tons) and almonds (44,000 tons), tomatoes (1,400,000 tons) and watermelons (578,400 tons) and fourth in the production of tobacco (22,000 tons). Agriculture generates 3.8% of the country’s GDP and employs 12.4% of the country’s labour force. Between 2000 and 2007 organic farming in Greece increased by 885%, the highest percentage change in the EU. Furthermore, we should not forget fish. Greece accounted for 19% of the EU’s fishing haul in the Mediterranean Sea. Idustry is also doing great. Greece is a big stone producer, at least when it comes to marble. It ranks third in the European Union, after Italy and Spain.
And the investments? Of course, the Greeks rule the Balkans. Greece, as the largest economy in the Balkans, is an important regional investor. Greece was the largest foreign investor in Albania in 2013 and the third in Bulgaria. It was also amongst the top three investors in Romania and Serbia, and the most important trading partner and largest foreign investor in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Greek telecommunications company OTE has become a strong investor in former Yugoslavia and in other Balkan countries.