Greeks Expect Y2K Disruptions While Government, Banks Confident

By Louis Economopoulos | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

Athens, Greece ( - Although most Greeks expect problems from the "millennium bug" in three days' time, the Greek government has expressed confidence that everything will operate without a hitch come January 1st.

An opinion poll earlier this week showed that more than 70 per cent of Greeks believe the Y2K computer glitch would have adverse effects on their power, water and telephone lines.

Interior Minister Vasso Papandreou told a press conference on Tuesday that all computer systems at state-run utilities were Y2K-compliant and that she expected no malfunctions when the clocks strike 12 to start the new year.

She urged the public to place its trust in official announcements and not to fall prey to rumors.

"The financial sector, the air transport sector, the sectors of energy and health are well prepared and we do not expect any problems," Papandreou said.

Just to be on the safe side, Papandreou added, all public services would be on full alert from 10 PM on Friday until 12 noon on Sunday, January 2nd.

This will include the police force, the fire brigade, coast guard, hospitals, the ambulance service and all ministries. More police officers will be posted to foot patrols and more ambulances will be on call for any circumstances, Papandreou said.

She added that Greek authorities would also be in touch with counterparts in Australia and New Zealand, who will greet the New Year before Europe, to stay ahead of any possible malfunctions.

Papandreou said she was more concerned about the possibility of blackouts caused by the overuse of power and telephones over the year-end period than of the "bug" itself. Energy consumption on New Year's Eve is expected to increase three-fold.

The Greek Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement that all necessary measures had been taken and all possible side effects anticipated for problems with air traffic control and with scheduled flights.

Nevertheless, a subsidiary of national carrier Olympic Airways -- Olympic Aviation -- has grounded its planes at Athens Airport between 8:30 PM on December 31st and 6 AM on January 1st.

The secretary-general of the Greek Banks Union, Ioannis Manos, told a press conference on Tuesday that the country's banks had adapted their information technology in order to avoid any malfunctions. In line with other financial institutions throughout Europe, Greek banks will be closed on Friday

Manos said banks also had drafted contingency plans to deal with any possible problems from the change of date and were prepared to meet demands for cash from automated teller machines over the transition period.

Manos said there had been no reports of excessive cash withdrawals and members of the public appear calm.

Development Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who is in charge of tourism, assured tourists visiting Greece there would be no problem in the tourism sector from Y2K as tourism authorities had taken all necessary measures.