Euro-IR Project Main Index

The APC European Internet Rights Project

Country Report — Greece

By Maria Anestopoulou and Alan McKenna

Telecommunications Infrastructure

The Greek telecommunications market was formally opened up to full competition on 1st January 2001, having previously been run as a state monopoly through OTE. The Greek telecommunications infrastructure consists of standard fixed telephony networks and wireless networks; it currently has no cable networks. Greece has 52.81 main telephone lines per 100 inhabitants, which compares favourably to Belgium and Portugal, which have similar sized populations, and whose figures come out at 49.94 and 43.05 respectively.[1] Currently Greece has three mobile networks with a fourth licence to be granted in the near future. At the end of December 2000 there were just under 6 million mobile subscribers, approximating to 55% of the population.[2] The first fixed telephony licence was subsequently granted to FORTHnet, an ISP, on 20th April 2001.[3]

OTE itself has made a number of significant strategic investments in the South-East European telecoms market, acquiring 20% of Telecom Serbia, 90% of ArmenTel (Armenia) and 35% of Romtelecom (Romania) with management control. Through its subsidiary COSMOTE, it has acquired 85% of the Albanian Mobile company, AMC. OTE has also been awarded in December 2000, the 2nd GSM licence in Bulgaria.[4]

Availability of Internet Access and Access Comparisons

In 2000 it was estimated that there were around 750,000 PC’s in use in Greece. With a population of 10.65 million, this averages out to just over 7 PC’s per 100 inhabitants. In comparison, Germany averages 33.64 per 100 inhabitants, Portugal 10.48, Italy 20.94 and Switzerland 50.25.[5] It is unsurprising that considering these comparisons, Greece’s percentage of citizens who have Internet access at home is well below the EU average. In October 1999, the percentage of Greek Citizens with home access stood at just 3% compared to an EU average of 12%, by April 2000 the figures were 5.8% and 18.3% respectively and by October 2000, 11.7% and 28.4% respectively.[6] A recent survey put the number of public Internet access points at just 110, that is 0.01 per 1000 inhabitants.[7]

By October 2000, Greece had 137,000 Internet Hosts, Secure Servers increased from just 8 in July 1998 to 87 by July 2000.[8] In its May 2001 Report, Communications Outlook, the OECD provides analysis showing that internet access charges in Greece are lower than both the EU and OECD averages and have been falling at a faster rate than the EU and OECD average. This is despite the fact that Greeks pay a higher charge to their Internet Service Providers than the average charged by ISP’s in EU and OECD member states. On the basis of 40 hours usage at off-peak times using discounted PSTN rates, Greeks would pay under the OECD purchasing power parity formula, $20.52 for their PSTN usage, compared to the OECD average of $31.10 and an EU average of $28.39. The Greek ISP’s charge would be $21.38 compared to the OECD average of $15.10 and EU average of $15.76. The overall charges come out at $41.90 for Greece, the OECD average at $46.20 and the EU average $44.15.[9] The fall in prices between 1999 and September 2000 for 40 hours off-peak use shows a 53% decline in charges for Greek citizens, with the OECD average fall being 27% and the EU average fall being 28%.[10]

Amongst the EU Member States, Greece is currently lagging far behind other states in crucial Internet access indicators. In respect of schools linked to the Internet, at the beginning of academic year 1999-2000, Greece had just 1% of its primary schools linked and 18% of its secondary schools. The next worst linkage figures amongst member states were Luxembourg with 25% of their primary schools linked and in respect of secondary schools, Germany with 81% linked.[11] A recent update on this position still shows only 1% of primary schools connected, with secondary schools up to 45%.[12] The number of pupils per PC is 30 for secondary schools, no figures being available for primary schools. Only Portugal has a higher figure with a ratio of 65. All other EU member states have ratios below 20.[13] What is possibly even more worrying is the fact that only 6% of teachers are regarded as being IS literate.[14] Another area in which Greece is failing to keep pace in the digital world is in respect of the use of computers for work. 25.3% of the working population use computers at work, compared to an EU average of 45%.[15]

An area in which Greece does have favourable averages is in respect of radio stations on the Web. Greece has 69 on the web, averaging 6.5 per million inhabitants, compared to a EU average of 1.4 and an OECD average of 2.6.[16]

Governmental Efforts concerning the Information Society

Privacy and Data Protection Issues.

The Greek Government implemented the 95/46 EC directive on data protection with the enactment of Law No. 2472/97 for the protection of the person in respect of personal data processing. This Law also founded the Hellenic Data Protection Authority[17] (herewith DPA), which functions as an independent public body, not subject to any administrative control. The rationale behind the creation of the DPA was an acknowledgement by the Greek Government of the need for a specialised regulatory body to oversee data protection, especially with the potential for data processing abuse facilitated by the high-speed transmission of information via the Internet[18].

Article 19 of the Greek data protection law[19] encapsulates the role of the Authority to supervise the application of the Law and other provisions in respect of the protection of personal data processing. Specifically, the Authority is the issuing body of general guidelines aimed at the harmonisation of data protection provisions, while assisting and encouraging self-regulation with the drawing up of codes of ethics from professional associations, natural persons or other legal entities, which maintain files of personal data. Additionally, the Hellenic Data Protection Authority examines complaints concerning the application of the law and can impose administrative sanctions when the law is violated. Every year the Authority issues an Annual Report appraising its mission; the last report being in 1999[20].

Revision of the Greek Constitution-Provisions on the Information Society

A major revision of the Greek Constitution has just been undertaken included in which is the proposed addition to the existing Constitution of a new Article 5A[21]. This Article provides for the right to information and the right of access to the sources of information. Significantly, the second paragraph of the proposed Article establishes the right of participation in the Information Society and the right of persons to access digitally transmitted information[22].

Greece is regarded as a pioneer in this field being the first country to include such a provision in its Constitution. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how the article, when the revision procedure is completed, will be interpreted by the Greek Courts and legislative system.


Greece currently has not enacted specific legislation to deal with the issue of defamation on the Internet. Nevertheless, the Greek Penal Code[23] contains provisions concerning defamation. The Freedom House, an independent not-for-profit organisation in its most recent 2001 annual report, includes Greece in the countries regarded as free concerning media freedom[24]. The report shows that Greece is one of the countries in the world that does not carry out censorship of Internet material [25].

Other Governmental Initiatives and Future Plans

In late 1999, the Ministry of Development founded the National Committee for Electronic Commerce, assigned with the task of designing, coordinating and regulating the development of e-commerce infrastructures in Greece[26]. The participants on the Committee include Government agents, representatives of the I.T and Financial Sectors and Academics and reflect the Government’s desire for a wide cross-section of interests. To date the only issued Report of the Committee came out in February 2000, which set out a number of proposals for the development of the Greek I.T infrastructure in differing sectors[27].

A decisive step to create a legal framework concerning electronic commerce will be made when the Greek government implements the two recent E.U Directives on Digital Signatures[28] and Electronic Commerce[29]. The compliance date for implementing the Directive on Digital Signature is 8th of July 2001 and the Greek Government through the Ministry of Transportations and Communications has drafted a presidential decree, which implements the Directive and it is currently being processed in the Council of the State[30]. It is believed that the E-Commerce Directive will be implemented in 2002.

In March 2001 the European Commission approved structural funds for a major development Operational Programme, “Information Society” for Greece for the period 2000-2006[31]. The Programme is aimed at promoting the development of an Information Society for Greece. The total budget for the programme will be around € 2.8 billion, of which the Community support is € 1.7 billion, approximately 8% of the total financial assistance granted to Greece through the Community Support Framework. The allocation of this funding will have the following priorities: Education and Culture, Services to citizens and improvement of the quality of life, Employment and the Digital Economy, Communications and Technical Assistance[32].

May 2001

[1] ITU -

[2]     http://www.panafon/en



[5] Note 3 ibid.

[6] Source - European Commission DGINFSO - Single Market Council of 30 November 2000 doc. 13493/00 ECO 338. Catalogue no. 1-24010pc -EN.     These figures are for those aged over 15 years old.

[7] http://europa-eu-int/comm/employment-social/soc-dial/info-soc/esdis/     February 2001 Update to Benchmarking Report Following Up the “Strategies for Jobs in the Information Society”

[8] OECD - 2001 Communications Outlook - May 2001.

[9] Ibid footnote 3. These figures are for September 2000.

[10] Ibid. footnote 3.

[11] European Commission - Benchmarking Report Following-Up the “Strategies for Jobs in the Information Society” - SEC(2001)222. http://europa-eu-int/comm/employment-social/soc-dial/info-soc/esdis/

[12] Note 7 ibid. - February 2001 update.

[13] Note 11 ibid.

[14] Note 11 ibid.

[15] Note 11 ibid.

[16] OECD - Local Access Pricing and E-Commerce - DSTI/ICCP/TISP(2000)1/Final - 27th July 2000.

[17] Accessed on the 20/05/01

[18] Ibid.

[19] Accessed on the 20/05/01

[20] Accessed on the 20/05/01

[21] A translation of the proposed Article reads as follows: “Article 5A 1. Everybody has the right to information. The Law will provide the relevant provisions in respect to the access to the sources of information. Limitation to this right can be imposed by national law only if it is absolutely necessary and justified by reason concerning national security, crime prevention or the rights and interests of third parties. 2. Everybody has the right of participating in the Information Society. The facilitation of accessing digitally transmitted information as well as the production, exchange and distribution of such information constitutes a duty of the State, so long as the guarantees established in Articles 9, 9A and 19 are preserved.”

[22] Accessed on the 20/05/01

[23] Art. 191 of the Greek Penal Code: Dissemination of false news via the press. Art 363 of the Greek Penal Code: Defamation and the L. 5060/1931, 1092/1938 is a special penal law concerning crimes carried out through the press with special emphasis to obscene publications.

[24] See p. 21 of the Report for a special reference to Greece

[25] See tables at p. 41 of the Report

[26] Accessed on the 21/05/01

[27] Accessed on the 21/05/01

[28] Directive 1999/93/EC O.J L013

[29] Directive 2000/31/EC O.J L178/1

[30] Accessed on the 21/05/01

[31] DN: IP/01/349 Regional Policy Directorate Press Release 12/03/01.|0|RAPID&lg=EN

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