Deputy Minister of
PM Communications: Mr. Stylianidis, first and foremost
allow us to thank you for taking the time to meet with
us. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has played an incredibly
important role since the creation of the Hellenic Republic.
Could you share with our readers the current policy
priorities for your Ministry?
Mr. Stylianidis: In the past, and especially during
the Cold War, Greek foreign policy was all international
politics, the so-called "political diplomacy".
Currently, in a globalized world, where market economy
is no more "reserved" for the privileged few
societies, and where competition is the driving force
behind the world's quest for wealth, Greece's foreign
policy is based on three different pillars:
- The first is the classic pillar of political diplomacy,
through which we build bridges and develop relations
between Governments and between peoples;
- the second is economic diplomacy, through which
barriers between markets are removed; and
- the third is development cooperation, through which
bridges between societies, citizens and cultures are
The Foreign Minister is in charge of the overall strategic
planning of our foreign policy. Three Deputy Ministers
have been entrusted by the Prime Minister with three
large sectors of foreign policy respectively: Deputy
Minister Valinakis, responsible for European Affairs,
Deputy Minister Skandalakis, responsible for the Hellenes
abroad, and myself, responsible for economic diplomacy
and development cooperation.
As far as the latter sectors are concerned, foreign
policy is combined with the need to promote Greek business
interests abroad. Greek businesspeople who have shown
an interest to deal with their counterparts in third
countries, are constantly informed about openings and
opportunities in countries where there are Greek Embassies
and Greek Trade Offices. Recently we inaugurated a website
- www.agora.gr - which proved to be an invaluable source
of information for the Greek business community in 15
countries. It is a pilot programme, soon to be expanded
to 30 countries. We aim to develop this database in
each market in the world, so that any Greek company
can have access to our services and to important business
information. Naturally, our diplomatic missions in the
respective countries are also mobilised to facilitate
the Greek companies' entrance into the market.
Our Government has proclaimed three major targets for
the coming years:
· To attract foreign investment to Greece;
· To increase the volume of Greek trade with
third countries, mainly, of course, to increase Greek
· To encourage the extroversion of the Greek
business community through joint ventures with foreign
companies or through any other way they deem appropriate.
This new strategy cannot but have as its basis a proper
dialogue between the Greek Government and our business
community. Our Prime Minister, Mr. Kostas Karamanlis,
has set the following four priorities as far as the
importance of the markets is concerned:
· The South-East European market
· The Black Sea area market
· The Mediterranean market with emphasis in
the Arab world
At the same time, China, the US, Japan, India and several
African developing markets are equally important targets
for our Government, and this is the reason why either
we have already visited these countries or we are scheduling
to visit them together with Greek businessmen.
Our policy, which I have just described, has already
produced some important and tangible results: Greek
business presence has made the country one of the strongest
or the strongest player in the Balkans. Over the last
ten years, more than 3,500 Greek companies are already
present in the Balkan peninsula; more than €8 billion
has been invested; more than 200.000 jobs have been
created. We are transferring a lot of know-how in many
areas. For instance, more than 800 branches of Greek
Banks have been established in the SE European area,
representing at least a 14% of the region's market.
This number is constantly increasing, as Greek Banks
keep looking to expand their network and proceed to
mergers and acquisitions.
Today, Greece is the biggest investor in Albania, Serbia
& Montenegro and FYROM. She represents the second
biggest investor in Bulgaria, while in Romania she ranks
among the top five biggest investors.
PM Communications: Greece is positioning itself
as the leading economy in an emerging region. You are
the first country from this region to join the EU. How
will you use this experience?
Mr. Stylianidis: For a long time, Greece was a European
island in the midst of the Balkan Peninsula. We do not
want to be an island any longer and this is why we support
the countries around us to participate in the E.U.
Greece supports the European perspective of Bulgaria,
Romania, the Western Balkans and naturally Turkey. We
strongly believe that only if all countries of the region
could start working according to the rules of the "acquis
communautaire", will they have the opportunity
to overcome their difficulties and build their democratic
and economic development on solid foundations.
The Greek economy is certainly benefiting from this
trade network. The average growth in exports from 2000-2004
in this region was 1.12%. Between the years 2004 and
2005, an increase of 10.16% in Greek exports in the
area has been remarked.
PM Communications: How would you promote Greece
as an ideal investment destination?
Mr. Stylianidis: We have a different philosophy vis-à-vis
the previous Greek Government. We are not trying to
convince foreign investors to come to Greece to invest
to a local market of 11 million consumers. Instead,
we are promoting Greece as a business centre for the
whole region. We say to our partners and friends in
the West that they can and should invest in the East.
Fore instance, British investors can use Greece as their
strategic centre in the region, using our research capabilities,
our infrastructure, our technology, our experience and
our highly educated and skilful workforce, while at
the same time Greece herself expects to benefit from
the comparative advantage of the Balkan market in terms
of low cost of materials, labour and low taxation. We
promote the Balkans as a unified market which is ripe
to receive investments, and emphasise the massive potential
for development in the Black Sea, Turkey and the Eastern
Another comparative advantage of Greece is her infrastructure.
The Olympic Games were a great advertisement for the
country in this sense. For instance, we have now completed
Via Egnatia, which links all Italian ports in the Adriatic
Sea with Istanbul, through Greece. The road connecting
Igoumenitsa with Albania, the roads from Thessaloniki
to Sofia, from Alexandropoulis to Bulgaria, are all
in place. The decision to connect the ports of Thessaloniki,
Kavala and Alexandropoulis with the ports in countries
in the Black Sea area was taken during Greece's recent
Chairmanship of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC).
Greece's competitive advantages do not cease here.
Stability and security, as proved during the Olympic
Games - prerequisites for successful business activities,
are two more important factors the business community
has to factor in. Stability means law enforcement, transparency,
modern and pioneer laws and a new stable taxation system.
Security means that Greece boasts one of the lowest
crime records in Europe, already very low internationally.
Another comparative advantage of the Greek market is
that companies can have access to special European financial
programmes designed to assist new investors in the area.
Most probably, the most important advantage that Greece
possesses is its close political relation with the countries
of the area. Greek people understand the mentality of
the peoples of our region and know how to communicate
and do business with them. We are familiar with and
for centuries integrated in this environment, which
is naturally a key element when doing business in our
area. For example, Greeks coming from the Black Sea
may have a good network in the market of their origin.
The Muslim minority of Thrace provides a stable bridge
of cooperation with the Turkish markets. Nowadays, Greek
universities even have faculties specialised in these
markets, as for instance faculties of Balkan, Black
Sea, Turkish and Mediterranean studies. The graduate
students of these institutions acquire a very deep knowledge
of their domain and to foreign investors who wish to
do business in these difficult and often unchartered
markets they may prove extremely useful as collaborators
As far as the energy sector is concerned, we are very
active in building a new energy network in the Black
Sea area which may be of importance to foreign investors.
Once the project linking Azerbaidzan, Georgia, Turkey,
Greece and Italy is completed, we will be able to provide
significant quantities of natural gas from the Caspian
and Central Asia to the high-consumption markets of
Western Europe. Domestically, we are developing alternative
sources of energy, as hydropower and solar energy. Thus,
a constant supply of low-cost energy is available to
foreign investors doing business in Greece.
The Turkish market is another market where Greek business
is very active; the current political environment helped
a lot. We strongly support the European perspective
of Turkey, which, although not without its own difficulties,
follows a reasonable and realistic strategy. The first
economic results vis-à-vis Turkey can be seen:
an increase of Greek exports to Turkey, increase of
23%, has already been attested. I am convinced that
bilateral political relations can greatly benefit from
a close economic cooperation between our two countries.
I believe that trade is the best way to destroy nationalism
and fundamentalism. It may not solve all the problems
by itself, but it will definitely become a strong weapon
to this end.
We hope that Turkey will take all the required steps
in order to improve its political environment and fully
participate in the European family. As you know, this
country will have to fulfil all preconditions set to
it by the European Union, in order to proceed and finalise
all 35 EU Chapters.
It is my sincere hope that Turkey will adopt all the
necessary domestic reforms, in order to join the Union.
PM Communications: You will be attending the BHCC
conference "Greece - Your Strategic Partner for
Investment in South East Europe" in March next
year. What are your expectations for this event?
Mr. Stylianidis: Our first target is to promote the
new image of Greece in the post-Olympic era. By hosting
successful Olympic Games, Greece has proved her capabilities
in many different levels. We realise that we can further
promote and advertise our achievements and capitalize
on the positive advertisement of my country. After all,
so much time and effort has been spent for these Games
that I would consider it foolish not to try to capitalize
on it. The only way to achieve this is by promoting
internationally Greece's first-class facilities, infrastructure,
as well as our modern law system. I think that we should
send the message that there is a new mentality in Greece,
a new generation of politicians and businessmen.
Our second priority is to highlight our national strategy,
compatible with the European strategy and the national
strategies of Member States. I believe that if foreign
investors explore the possibilities to invest in our
area, then the safest way to do so is by using the Greek
experience and networks. It is a true fact that sometimes,
when a big company tries to invest in a smaller country,
it is faced with some kind of suspicion and mistrust
from the local society. Greek investments are welcome
in the Balkan countries and an investment from a big
company through Greece may prove more beneficial both
for the investor and for the recipient country.
Greece's access to the Mediterranean area is also notable,
especially to the Arab countries. With the latter, Greece
has been maintaining the best of ties for centuries,
as the Greeks who used to live in these countries up
until the '60's and the '70's became the natural and
friendly bridge uniting the Arab countries with Greece.
I therefore believe that foreign companies wishing to
establish themselves in Arab countries can also use
our networks and experience.
PM Communications: You mentioned the new generation
of politicians and businessmen in Greece. Nowhere is
this better symbolised than by the dynamic private sector.
What is your evaluation of the work they are doing,
in particular the banks, in terms of attracting foreign
Mr. Stylianidis: Although Greek banks have been modernised,
they are understandably going forward with a more conservative
pace than any other business. In our case, it has been
observed that the Greek business community has paved
the way, in a bold and pioneer way, to establish themselves
in our immediate region (Balkans, Black Sea) to be followed
by the banks.
When the aim is to establish a presence in a foreign
country, this aim can be promoted in various levels.
The first step is to establish healthy bilateral political
relations with the Government of the country in question.
The second is to establish strong and steady institutional
relations through intergovernmental meetings; collaboration
between representatives of different Ministries is also
helpful. Every company wishing to export or invest abroad
seeks to find a secure and stable environment and the
only guarantee for security and stability are our bilateral
agreements. It is the obligation of the political leadership
of each country to protect the free market economy and
the business representatives of their own country when
they venture abroad.
Organising business forums and participating in thematic
expositions is also a good practice to promote business
abroad. As far as we are concerned, I think that we
have achieved remarkable results in this field. In September
2005 I visited Russia accompanied by 170 representatives
of the strongest and healthiest Greek companies active
in Russia or wishing to do business in this country.
Our people in the Embassy managed to prepare over 500
meetings with Russian business people and we could see
their financial outcome on the spot. Our effort is to
promote the principles and values of democracy in any
country we visit.
PM Communications: Mr. Stylianidis, as the youngest
minister in the cabinet, what aspect of your responsibilities
has given you the greatest satisfaction?
Mr. Stylianidis: I am responsible for two different
fields. The first covers the economic diplomacy and
the second the development and humanitarian aid. Both
fields form an integral part of our foreign policy;
as a young politician, I am proud to be able to promote
the universal principles that have sprang from my country,
such as democratic governance, rule of law etc, when
I represent Greece abroad. For instance, when I travel
to an African country or to our Balkan neighbourhood,
I try not only to promote business, but also the principles
of democracy, cooperation, stability and respect for
human rights. I then realise that I am not just a politician
but also a representative of my country's history and
tradition, surprisingly alive as ever.
The fact that Greece has never been a major power makes
people more open to us and willing to hear our message.
It is a matter of sensitivity. If the European family
takes also into account this important factor, all developing
countries and their societies will be better and more
equitably served. Our development and humanitarian assistance
is always channelled to countries in need without financial
or other economic ulterior motives and with utmost respect
to the individual's dignity.
Our cultural links extend as far as Pakistan and Afghanistan,
India and China. When Greek humanitarian aid recently
arrived in a small Pakistani village destroyed by the
devastating earthquake of last November, the local people
expressed their respect for Greece and Alexander the
Great ad they used the ancient Macedonian dialect! Our
humanitarian assistance is primarily channelled to cover
basic needs of the population (schools, hospitals etc),
in a constant effort to improve the people's standard
of living, while at the same time trying to eradicate
fanatical and fundamentalist views and avoid clashes
PM Communications: Looking specifically at the UK,
what potential synergies and commercial opportunities
would you highlight to the potential investors amongst
Mr. Stylianidis: There are traditional ties between
the British and the Greek business communities. One
of the greatest leaders of the modern Greek nation,
Eleftherios Venizelos, was the one who established really
close links with Britain, using as foundation the fact
that both our countries are maritime nations. Thanks
to Venizelos' political legacy and Britain's close cultural
ties with Greece and many Britons' affinity to my country,
we forged an exceptionally strong alliance with Britain
during the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Our two maritime
communities have always worked closely together. The
very essence of our nation's psyche is trade and this
is a wonderful tradition which should be maintained
and further developed.
Tourism is undoubtedly another potential synergy for
British investors in Greece; and let's not forget that
Britons consider Greece as their top tourist destination.
I'm certain that we can find many sectors where we
could work together and make a wonderful progress. It
is my honest belief that our peoples' ties are rooted
on solid ground. It is in our hands to promote this
relationship even further.