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Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kostas Fragogiannis’ speech at the 8th Business Forum of the Arab-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (Athens, 27 November 2019)
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Athens and to the 8th Business Forum of the Arab-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce. Your presence here is a clear statement of our countries’ interest in moving ahead together on the path of dialogue and economic cooperation.
Across the millennia, Greece’s strategic geographical position in the Eastern Mediterranean has secured for it a privileged relationship with the Arab world.
This relationship served as a bridge of communication between the East and West, North and South, encouraging exchanges and interactions that facilitated dialogue and led to our building strong ties of friendship and cooperation.
From the very outset, economy and trade were at the centre of the history of this special relationship, as attested to by a multitude of archaeological finds.
This trade tradition continues in our day, with economic cooperation progressing constantly and clear prospects for very dynamic development in the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The government elected this past July has a clear investment-friendly profile.
One of the first reforms instituted by the Mitsotakis government in the sector of international economic relations and enhancement of the country’s openness was manifested in the upgraded role of Economic Diplomacy in the new architecture of the government.
All of the state services and agencies focused on openness and attracting foreign direct investments have now been moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and operate under one roof.
A few weeks ago, we passed the bill transforming Enterprise Greece into an open, modern and dynamic structure that contributes to the country’s economic, social and environmental development.
Enterprise Greece, through the Commercial Sections of the Greek Diplomatic Missions abroad, now has ‘antennas’ throughout the world that contribute substantially to implementing its actions and targets.
Also, of vital importance is the Greek government’s initiative for adopting structural and fiscal reforms aimed at encouraging investment activity by streamlining the relevant procedures.
We are already seeing the first positive results.
For the first time, Greece borrowed treasury bills at negative interest – fiscal responsibility and a lighter tax burden are creating new investment opportunities.
In this way, Greece is reasserting itself on the international investment map, including the investment map of Arab countries, as a fertile ground for business opportunities and – of particular importance now – a country of low political risk.
I will mention a few examples of recent successes:
• In the tourism sector, the regional council of the South Aegean has already approved the plan for the “Mykonos Project”. A €50 million hotel investment from Abu Dhabi and Kuwait’s “AGC”.
• In the agrifood sector, the “Amerra Capital” and “Mubadala Investment Company” groups have already invested in the critical sector of aquaculture, through the company “Andromeda”. Up for approval from the Competition Commission is the merger of the companies “Selonta” and “Nireus” under the Andromeda group.
• In Crete, just a few weeks ago, the green light was given for an iconic project on the island of Crete: A solar thermal power station that includes construction of a central concentrated solar power (CSP) tower using molten salt storage technology, which will cover 10% of the island’s needs.
Looking forward, Greece is implementing an extensive privatisation programme. Greek-Arab cooperation is welcome in this sector as well.
• The privatisation of Athens International Airport – Eleftherios Venizelos – is already in its early stages, and very soon the concessions will be awarded for operation of 10 regional ports until 2042.
• A public-private partnership is opening the way for development of another 23 regional airports and concession of seven major marinas to private companies.
• A 24% stake in the Thessaloniki Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYATH) will also be made available to private investors.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the unstable environment of the current global economic state of affairs, there is a need to capitalise fully on all potential for further development of economic cooperation, in such a way that the excellent level of political relations is also reflected in economic relations.
Recently, Prime Minister Mitsotakis presented a plan for complete elimination of lignite from Greece’s energy mix by 2028.
I take the opportunity of today’s event to invite you, too, to take part in this vital initiative.
The six-year investment (2019-2025) will exceed €20 billion.
Two major projects are being promoted in Northern Greece.
The depleted natural gas deposit in Kavala is now being converted into an underground gas storage facility, with a budget of €240 million.
An LNG gasification plant is being built in Alexandroupoli, requiring capital of close to €400 million.
In the renewable energy sources sector we are promoting:
• a hydroelectric storage complex in Amfilochia, with a capacity of 680 MW and a budget of €500 million.
• a hybrid complex in Sitia and Rethymno that will combine wind and hydroelectric energy. It will generate 304 MW annually and absorb €280 million in capital.
• At the same time, private energy initiative – wind parks, photovoltaic parks and hydroelectric projects – are at €4.2 billion, with the aim of providing over 2,300 MW of new power.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The longstanding interaction between Greece and the Arab world – and by extension, between Arab countries and Europe – has always promoted stability and peace.
In our day, the challenges emerging in the context of increasing geopolitical instability are complex and require joint and coordinated solutions.
Based on the increasing dynamic governing Euro-Arab and, specifically, Greek-Arab relations, we are convinced that we will succeed in responding to these challenges in a spirit of innovation and resolve.
Through the economic cooperation at the center of this dynamic, we hope to bring to pass the joint development effort for the countries and peoples of Europe and the Arab countries.
Having overcome the painful economic crisis of recent years, Greece guarantees its continued role as a bridge of understanding between Europe and the Arab states, with a sense of responsibility and with the will and faith required to perform the task entailed by this role. "