What Greece Wants in Southeastern Europe

by G. G. Zafeiropoulos [*]

(“Ependytis”, February 24-25, 2001)

[…] At present, companies serving Greek interests which operate in the Balkans and around the Black Sea number approximately 3,000 and have investments totaling U.S. $ 3,5 billion in commerce as well as in production. The spread of the Greek banking networks into this area is also noteworthy. At the same time there has also been a spectacular increase in commercial transactions between Greece and this area.

[…] In particular, as far as Southeastern Europe is concerned, conditions have been favorable since the long drawn out crisis came to an end […] What I mean exactly is the taking of initiatives with objectives which go beyond, and are more significant than, merely repairing damage and which will contribute to progress in these neighboring countries of ours and also to establishing a climate of peace, democracy and prosperity in the whole region.

The Greek government was the first to draw up a Plan for the Re-construction of the Balkans, made with the close co-operation of the country’s production sector. This plan is still the only serious, reliable attempt to list all those steps which must be completed if continuous economic development in the wider region is to be achieved. The plan aims to actively involve Greek companies through developing those areas of activity where they are comparatively at a significant advantage. It is a five-year plan, covering 2001 –2005, and foresees initial national funding to the tune of 180 billion Drs. (approximately 550 million euro).

The most significant factors taken into account were versatility in implementation and self-sufficiency, but also correspondence to the needs of the recipient countries, Albania, Bulgaria, Rumania and FYROM, as well as the FRY. Areas of intervention are economic and social infrastructure as well as production, while great importance is attached to the timely informing of the authorities involved and to securing the expected economic activity.

Contact has been made with diplomatic authorities of the recipient countries in Greece, concerning the implementation of the Re-construction Plan, as well as with the ministers concerned, with a view to informing them about the activities covered by the plan. We have also gathered together proposals for projects in these countries which have priority ranking on the basis of their needs. A special committee set up at the Ministry of National Economy has already almost completed its study of these proposals, so that it will be possible to go on to the next stage of drawing up bilateral agreements for the implementation of that part of the plan which concerns each country. The bill designed to define the framework within which the Re-construction Plan will operate is also nearing completion.

It is clear that private sector enterprise as well as funding authorities should concentrate on the development of infrastructure projects […]

A special department called the Bureau of International Economic Relations for Southeastern Europe is expected to be formed and will have its headquarters in Thessaloniki. As well as implementing the Re-construction Plan, this bureau will undertake the general co-ordination and support of Northern Greek business enterprises in Southeastern Europe.

[…] Greece’s position as a member state of the European Union on one hand and a Southeast European state on the other, results in its having particular significance in the process of the economic development of its northern neighbors, especially as far as bringing the countries closer to the European Union is concerned. Greece could become the catalyst in a process whose aim is the successful integration of the region’s communities and economies into a new European entity with cohesion and solidarity.

G. G. Zafeiropoulos is Deputy Minister of National Economy.

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