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President Papoulias’s welcome speech at the 4th Greek-Azerbaijani Business Forum

Wednesday, 06 April 2011

President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias’s statement on his visit to Azerbaijan “Mr. President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here for today’s Business Forum, which is aimed at strengthening our bilateral commercial relations.

Azerbaijan holds a prominent geostrategic position in the Caucasus region and plays an important role in the new global geostrategic environment. In February 2009, I had the pleasure of welcoming President Aliyev to the business forum at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry. At that time, you called on Greek entrepreneurs to capitalize on the opportunities offered by the Azerbaijani market and pursue synergies with corresponding enterprises in Azerbaijan. That initiative met with a response, giving significant momentum to our commercial relations.

There is considerable room for improvement in our bilateral economic and trade relations. Dynamic export sectors of the Greek economy – including the food, construction materials, cosmetics and pharmaceutical sectors, which are distinguished internationally for the quality of their products – are going to contribute in the direction of strengthening these relations.

Representatives of 25 Greek enterprises are participating in today’s event. Their primary goal is to seek opportunities for bilateral cooperation and the conclusion of agreements with their Azerbaijani counterparts, who represent an wide range of activities. These sectors include energy, environmental protection, IT and consultancy services, as well as sectors in which Greece has a long and important tradition: shipping, construction, food, construction materials and pharmaceuticals.

The energy sector can and must be a field of reciprocal activities, with joint business initiatives. Renewable energy sources, green development and petroleum refining are priority sectors for strengthening bilateral cooperation. Greece has considerable know-how, and this guarantees productive cooperation in the sectors of economy and scientific activities.

The global economic and financial crisis has had a marked impact on the Greek economy. The immediate repercussions include drastic cuts in public spending and rapid promotion of serious structural reforms, in tandem with adaptation to a new, austere financial state of affairs. Nevertheless, we are working to put the Greek economy on the road to recovery very quickly. And that is why, in addition to putting our financial house in order, we are moving ahead with the implementation of development policies that emphasise our country’s comparative advantages and productive capabilities.

The new “Fast Track” law and the recent passing and implementation of the new investment framework for attracting strategic investments are useful tools in the development efforts Greece is making. Dynamic sectors – including tourism, infrastructure projects, renewable energy sources, green development, exploitation of mineral wealth – are part of the new institutional investment framework, ensuring major potential for investment initiatives.

It is my hope, Mr. President, that the business contacts carried out at today’s event will serve as an incentive for Azerbaijani entrepreneurs to focus interest on the Greek market. There are opportunities for business contacts and synergies that will benefit both sides.

In the certainty that today’s event will impart even greater momentum to Greek-Azerbaijani economic and commercial cooperation, I wish you every success in your proceedings and positive results from your business contacts.”