Educate. Connect. Inspire

Educate. Connect. Inspire

Feb 2, 2012


Greece is located in south-eastern Europe, on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula; it lies at the meeting point of three continents – Europe, Asia and Africa. Greece borders on Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Turkey; to the West it is washed by the Ionian Sea; to the South by the Mediterranean Sea and to the East by the Aegean Sea.
Eighty percent of the country consists of mountains or hills, making Greece one of the most mountainous countries of Europe and around 6.000 islands and islets, most of them grouped in clusters, constitute the unique Greek archipelago. Crete, Rhodes, Corfu and the Cyclades are some of the best known islands and tourist destinations in Greece.
The Greek civilization is one of the oldest and most famous in the world. Arts such as architecture, sculpture, pottery, weaving, music, jewelry making and painting have a long tradition in Greece, while folk culture, rich in music, dances, poetry and theatre, is part of Greeks’ everyday life. The Greek traditional heritage and their accomplishments in arts and technology from the Prehistoric Era to modern times remain a constant touristic attraction. Today’s visitors to Greece have the opportunity to trace the “fingerprints” of Greek history in the hundreds of archaeological sites, as well as in the archaeological museums and collections that are scattered throughout the country.
Environmental challenges in Greece
Greece's pollution problems stem from a severe disregard for environmental protection measures during the rapid industrial growth of the 1970s, characterized by unbalanced development and rapid, unregulated urban growth.
  • Industrial smog and traffic-related air pollution in big cities, especially Athens and Thessaloniki are among the most significant problems in Greece. Over half of all industry is located in the greater Athens area, while the increased traffic led to a high level of congestion. Although the coverage of the public transport system is satisfactory, the citizens of Athens have a rather negative image of public transport due to the large delays and the low frequency of transport means. The Athens Metro has relieved some of the pressure in terms of car pollution.
  • Water pollution is a significant problem due to industrial pollutants, agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides, and sewage. The Gulfs of Saronikos and Thermaikos are unfortunately the best-known examples, as untreated industrial wastes, sewage, and municipal wastewater are discharged there. Greece also plays a major role in the declining quality of water in the Meditteranean. 
  • Acid rain is a widespread problem throughout Greece, which affects the environment (particularly Greece's lakes) as well as the man-made buildings. Acid rain has had a detrimental effect upon the Parthenon and other Ancient Monuments in Athens.
  • In the summer of 2008 Greece suffered heavily from arson induced forest fires which stripped the country of a significant proportion of its forests.
  • As a result of the droughts, in addition to uncontrolled use of fertilizers and soil erosion, the quality of the Greek soil has also been affected. This has caused great desertification in many agricultural areas, resulting in many farmers’ losing their business. 
  • When it comes to climate change, Southern Greece could be one of the regions most affected by increase in year-to-year variability in summer climates and thus a higher incidence of heat waves and droughts. Mediterranean droughts would start earlier in the year and last longer. Greece will experience a lengthening and a flattening of their tourism season by 2030. Water stress and sea level rise can be further threats.
Citizens’ community involvement
The analysis of the structure of civil society reveals a low degree of citizen involvement in civil society activities. The majority of Greeks do not participate in non-partisan political activities, nor do they engage in voluntary work (with the exception of the Olympic Games). Young people are less engaged with civil society activities than would be expected.
In terms of environmental activism, compared with corresponding western European cases, the Greek environmentalism is more a quasi-movement rather than a well-established and deep-rooted green movement. Greek society as a whole has not become more sensitive to environmental issues owing to civil society activities which aim to protect the environment. It is notable that only 33% of Greeks credit environmental Civil Society Organisations with solving environmental problems.
Government policies
According to OECD there are about 9 environmental taxes in Greece, among which 2 regard vehicles and fuel, 2 regard water, 2 regard waste and 3 regard biodiversity and habitat protection. Moreover, there are various subsidies for environmentally sound practices:
  • General subsidy for environmental investments to support environmental investments favouring regional development
  • Subsidy for clean technologies and products to promote environmentally sound and clean technologies, and new and innovative products
  • Subsidy to sustain the installation of ecological areas
  • Subsidy for landscape and nature
  • Subsidy for pesticide-free cultivation to promote pesticide-free cultivation of cereals
  • Subsidy for waste treatment facilities on farms to promote installation of waste facilities on farms for protection of water quality.
The role of environmental taxes has been decreasing over recent years in Greece: their share in terms of GDP has declined by a cumulative 0.5 percentage points since 2001. This decline was driven by shrinking revenues from energy taxation, for which Greece records the lowest value among the EU-27. In 2009 the ratio of environmental taxation stood at 2.0 % of GDP, a value among the lowest in the Union (the EU-27 average is 2.6 %). The new tax from 2011 includes a specific provision for VAT applicable to GHG emission allowances under Directive 2003/87/EC.
Other programs and instruments for environmental protection:
  • Since 2001 the Programme for the recycling of waste tires, end-of life vehicles, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), waste batteries and accumulators and waste oils has established the polluter-pays principle. Additional waste streams such as construction/ demolition waste have been added to the program in recent years. 
  • In 2010, the Action Plan for energy conservation in urban/commercial housing for the period 2010 – 2015 was launched where energy conservation measures in buildings are financially supported and implemented. 
  • The overall promotion of renewable sources of energy is accelerated: financial instruments were launched in 2010 and have recently started to be implemented for investors interested for renewable sources.
  • Green Public Procurement Programmes are set up in new legislative measures for whole public sector in Greece. 
  • Promotion of the purchase of new “resource efficient” vehicles by withdrawing from the market those cars which were produced up to 1998 and giving economic incentive (reduction of taxes) for the purchase of new technology.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
The concept of corporate social responsibility has started to develop in Greece over the last five years, mainly because of EU pressure. However, six out of ten Greek citizens are not aware of even the existence of CSR.
A recent survey reveals that sports, protection of children and the environment are the sectors in which Greek companies have initiated their CSR initiatives. In the framework of CSR certain banks offer the possibility of supporting NGOs through various programmes. Another study also showed that the concept of corporate social responsibility is in an early stage of development in Greece. While some private companies have funded cultural and sports activities organised by CSOs, in general, the relationship between civil society and the private sector leaves a lot to be desired.
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