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Greeks sustain historical and cultural ties with Arabs

Thursday, 04 April 2013

Chronis Polychroniou

Consul General of Greece


JEDDAH — March 25 is a day of celebration for all Greeks, a day that honors all those who fought heroically and gave their lives for freedom and independence.

Those who overcame the skepticism of outsiders and established a sovereign new state, based on the democratic principles of classic and modern Greece.

The effort to defend a sovereign state continues and nowadays our coalition government is implementing a bold program of structural reform with the goal of improving macroeconomic prospects, boosting growth and creating employment opportunities.

This effort has so far had impressive results. In January, instead of the predicted 413 million euro primary deficit, a 398 million euro primary surplus was achieved. Between the years 2010 to 2012, 75 percent of our competitiveness was recovered compared to the year 2001.

In 2013, 100 percent recovery is expected.

Since antiquity, the Greeks have maintained historical and cultural ties with the peoples of the wider Middle East and the Arabic peninsula.

These are not just ties of friendship, but often ties of brotherhood. This region is a part of the wider neighborhood of our country and is therefore given priority in our foreign policy.

Our mission is to take advantage of the longstanding cooperation between Greece and Saudi Arabia to further strengthen ties between our two people.

As part of that effort, we also aim to improve our relations with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) given its growing role and importance in world affairs.

Greek economic relations with Saudi Arabia are defined by the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as agreements between the European Union (EU) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

On a bilateral level, the Agreement on Economic and Technological Cooperation foresees the convocation of Mixed Ministerial Committees in order to deal with issues of mutual interest.

As a matter of fact, we intend to invoke such a committee this May, in order to give new momentum to our bilateral trade. In 2012, the volume of trade between Greece and Saudi Arabia reached 1.9 billion Euros, with Greece recording almost one billion euro as bilateral trade deficit. These numbers show that a greater effort is needed to balance trade relations.

Our imports from Saudi Arabia mostly revolve around crude oil and derivatives, while our exports are generally made up of processed fuels, foodstuffs, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

In practice there has been a growth of joint ventures between Greece and local companies in the agrarian and food industries as well as in construction. At the same time we are witnessing a technological transfer from Greece to Saudi Arabia with the arrival of various Greek experts, particularly in the field of aquaculture.

I would also like to mention that in Jeddah we have several international groups of Greek origin that have had a presence in the Kingdom for over 50 years. These groups take part in business activities on an international level and play a key role in shaping our country’s image and enhancing ties between the two countries.

I would like to commend all of the Greek nationals who live and work in this hospitable country, particularly the professors at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the researchers of the Hellenic Centre of Marine Research, for their scientific research in the Red Sea in collaboration with Saudi authorities.

Despite recent economic problems, Greece is still one of the 30 largest economies in the world in absolute numbers, and remains a country with great growth potential that is part of the European Union and the Euro Zone.

Greece is a country that is playing a key and dynamic role in the Maritime transportation sector, a sector that is vital to the world economy, given that around 90 percent of world trade is carried out by ships.
The Hellenic Merchant Shipping fleet has a leading role at the global and European levels.

The fleet under Greek management continues to occupy first place in the world in both absolute numbers (20 percent of the world’s fleet) and in transportation capacity.

The tourism industry of our country constitutes a vitally important economic sector, occupying the most prominent place in the Greek economy by contributing to its development. At the same time, the industry is elevating the country to one of the top 10 destinations worldwide.

Greece’s unique tourism resources are comprised of a mild Mediterranean climate, superb cuisine, perfect beaches, unique monuments, archaeological sites, imposing mountains, spectacular landscapes pleasantly combined with tradition, culture, values and a tradition that comes alive during events that take place all year around.

Despite the recent financial crisis and its consequences for the international market, the season in Greece is going on and, according to the tourism market statistics; it is marking positive numbers in some of the most famous destinations. This year, we are expecting more than 17 million tourists. This proves the strength of Greece as a brand name in the international market, as well as its leading place among the most popular tourist destination worldwide.

For the markets of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, our aim is to cooperate with tour operators who promote specialized market packages in accordance with the interests of tourists. The new vision of Greek tourism highlights the differential quality tourism product by attracting more tourists and experienced travelers. The thematic axes forming the foundation of the country’s tourism product for the next years are: Sun & sea, culture, diving, health & wellness tourism, luxury tourism and city tours.

Dear friends, Athens is very close to Jeddah, via a direct flight, as far away as Dubai. You can enjoy your vacations in Greece even for an extended weekend. This summer, you are welcome to spend your holidays in Greek islands. Meanwhile, let’s celebrate the 192nd Anniversary of Greek Independence Day. — SG

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