Ομιλία του Πρωθυπουργού κ. Αντώνη Σαμαρά, στο Ελληνο-Ισραηλινό Επιχειρηματικό Forum


Τρίτη, 8 Οκτωβρίου 2013


First of all let me thank everyone for being here, which is really warm, very warm greeting that we get and we want to thank you for your hospitality. Over the last years, dear friends, Greece and Israel, have developed a strategic partnership. A partnership that underlies a shared system of values. We each have a unique History, which is a blend of traumas and glory. We both have strong Diaspora’s all over the world. Our peoples share a charisma in entrepreneurship, in trade and in creativity. Above all, in an unstable region and in a turbulent era, our two nations can become pillars of regional stability and of democratic values. Upon this shared perspective, I call upon the leaders who are here tonight of Greek and Israeli entrepreneurship to make the difference.


Ladies and gentlemen,


Both on behalf of Vangelis Venizelos and the entire delegation I want to thank you very much for being here tonight. It is a clear indication of the prospects for the future. It is also a strong evidence of the territory we have covered, since the early 90’s, when Greece made a long, very long, overdue step forward with the “De Jure” recognition of the State of Israel by the Hellenic Republic. I was Minister of Foreign Affairs then. And this was one of my most proud signatures.


Dear friends,


I would like to tell you that following a number of difficult years, stability has returned in Greece. Firstly, Greece itself stabilized, both economically and politically; And secondly, our domestic stabilization already had repercussions beyond the Greek borders. Last year Greece, you remember, was considered by many to be a “trouble spot” for Europe; many voices then predicting or even advocating the infamous “Grexit”, that Greece exiting the Eurozone. Now there is no “Grexit” any more! Greece has confirmed and stabilized its position as an integral part of the European Union and the euro; and today everyone expects us to have a recovery next year, after 6 consecutive years of a very recession.


Last week I was in the United States of America. I had a very productive meeting with Vice- President Baiden, two months after I had the pleasure of a meeting with President Obama. I also met with the Senate leadership and House leaders. And finally, I met with distinguished representatives of the American Jewish Community and with the Hellenic and Israeli Caucus which we have built on the Capitol Hill.  So, for the first time, there is a Greek-Israeli Caucus in Washington, which implies a lot of diplomatic and political synergy and weight that can be given for the prospects of both countries. And I had the opportunity to update them on the progress we have made. And to present to them the “new Greece” we are building. And to elaborate on the challenges that Greece is facing, most importantly, on the promising perspectives and the opportunities that our economy can offer. And I saw there the same thing that I experience here, tonight: A deep respect for a nation that had to suffer a severe crisis. And a genuine appreciation for the efforts of a country which sacrificed so much to safeguard its European identity and its prospects for a new, growth oriented, economic comeback.


Indeed, in the last 6 years, Greece has lost 25% of its pre-crisis GDP; the average Greek citizen has lost about 35 to 40% of his standard of living in just four years, if you are to add taxes’ implementation. And we have plunged into a 27% unemployment for the general population and over 60% for our youth! However, thanks to the sacrifices and thanks to the bravery of our people, what has been achieved is really impressive. As Vangelis Venizelos told, this is a record fiscal adjustment among all OECD member countries in the history of the OECD organization. And let me just give you a small fact-sheet of the Greek accomplishments so far: We have cut our deficit by more than 15% of our GDP in just three years.  In the mean time, our overall debt increased only marginally, due to the biggest “haircut” that took place in Greece ever, plus an additional and also unprecedented debt buyback. We are currently producing a primary surplus for the first time in about 10 years. Put it in another way, Greece, today, as it stands, has the largest cyclically corrected surplus in the Eurozone, about 6% of our GDP, according to separate surveys by the IMF, the European Commission and the OECD. According to the same surveys, we are currently having a structural surplus. When in the Eurozone overall they have a structural deficit!


What do those numbers tell us? That if we were to reach our current potential, we could cover all our expenses, including the interest payments, and still have some surplus to reduce our debt annually. In other words, the trend has been clearly reversed and Greece is about to get out of the crisis. In fact, all analysts predict that recovery is going to start any time now and that the year 2014 will be a positive one.


Updated official reviews show that the 2013 recession will be smaller than earlier predicted. Official data show that for the first time in four years, unemployment is marginally decreasing from the first to the second quarter of 2013. Another important sign is our trade deficit, which had climbed to 15% of our GDP by 2009, and is now down to zero, for the first time in decades! In an even broader perspective, our January to July results show this year that our current accounts are also in a surplus, for the first time after 30 years! And this underlines the major structural rebalancing of the Greek economy already achieved.


This structural rebalancing is fully verified by the OECD “Going for Growth” survey, according to which Greece already ranks in the first position among all OECD countries in implementing growth oriented reforms. I am talking about structural reforms. Not only fiscal consolidation, but structural changes as well.


And I would like to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that Greece is open for business. We focus on improving trade and investments, aiming at achieving 50% of GDP through exports of goods and services by the year 2020. We are changing our culture, from a lot of “Red Tape” to the best “Red Carpet” treatment an Investor can have. We already took steps with our New Investment Law, to improve the business environment, focusing initially at strategic investments, as they are important for improving the sentiment in the economy. More specifically:


We have created a Central licensing authority for all large Investments, reducing substantially the time and complexity of the licensing process.


We have established an account manager for each strategic investment, to support each project for the beginning to completion.


We have created a new legal instrument, a Special Space Development Plan for Strategic Investments, in order to solve planning issues with certainty and in a timely manner.


Finally, we now provide residence permits for all strategic investors and buyers of fixed property above €250.000 (contract value). This is an opportunity especially to potential investors from non-EU countries, to benefit from our country’s strategic location.


We already have had positive results. Allow me to give you some; FDI in Greece has more than doubled in 2012 and remains high in 2013. New major investments include the TAP pipeline (€1,5bn., 478 k/m, Greece, Albania, Italy), which will create 2.000 direct & 10.000 indirect jobs in manufacture and industry. A project of significant strategic and economic importance, not only for Greece, but for Europe as a whole. Very recently, for instance, Hewlett Packard agreed with our national railways (TRAINOSE) and the Chinese Cosco company in Piraeus, which manages the basic Greek port, on the movement of its products to Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa. Other companies are looking to make similar agreements, establishing Greece as a logistics center. We have also seen new investments or domestic production increases from a number of leading players like Unilever, Phillip Morris, Henkel, Nestle, Barilla, Bic, KRAFT, Nokia – Siemens Networks, Vodafone. In short, what we are doing is we are turning the ship around and we have reversed the negative trends. Both quantitatively and qualitatively! Both in terms of fiscal consolidation and in terms of structural reforms. We have stabilized our economy and we have started to ascend. We have also stabilized Greece politically!


As we all know, in periods of severe economic crisis, agony, pain and deprivation fuel populism and extremism in any society. In our case, unfortunately, we even witnessed an abominable neo-Nazi party.  It is a real shame when such a party shows up in any part of the world.  Even more so, it is a shame for Greece, a country that lost 10% of its population during its occupation by the Nazis.


However, we give them zero tolerance! Following some bloody incidents of violence, we are in the process of eradicating Golden Dawn from our political life! Many leading members of this party have been brought to Justice. Their top leaders are already in jail!  And recent polls indicated dramatic fall in their influence. We have been decisive and effective.


What’s equally important, we are in the process of deracinating this phenomenon strictly within our constitutional framework, that is fully abiding by democratic standards. Democracy and the rule on law are stronger than extremism! Our people is mature enough to prevail over populism. The Greek people already see the first results of our efforts. And the more hopeful they become, the more stable the country gets.

But dear friends,


Stabilizing Greece, both economically and politically, has a major potential impact also which extends beyond our borders. We live in a region, the Eastern Mediterranean, which is currently, as we all know, in a turmoil. Developments in the Arab world, Syria and other trouble spots generate instability. We can become, more than ever, a “beacon of stabilization”.  In partnership and close collaboration with other countries, like Israel and Cyprus.


Actually, Greece, Cyprus and Israel are democracies and growth oriented societies in our region. So they have common perspectives on regional stability and common concerns on security. But, nowadays, they have another major thing in common: There are huge energy resources in their sea in the Eastern Mediterranean. Resources than can actually give new momentum for growth and prosperity for the whole region, as Silvan Shalom, my friend just indicated, and of course water determination and further regional cooperation in open in the region. These are resources that can provide strategic energy supplies to Europe. So there are new incentives for long term cooperation between our countries: to untap, develop and transport energy resources.


All and all there are energy issues, there are geopolitical issues and there are common values and cultural ties that bind us together. It is along those lines that we should combine our efforts. Because there is no Freedom without Security, as there is no Peace without Justice. And in the same manner that long term Prosperity cannot be achieved without Peace and Stability.


So it is only natural to establish communication links between the entrepreneurial communities of our two countries.  To get to know each other better, to exchange information on investment or research projects and to lay solid foundations for future working together. This is what makes so important tomorrow`s program of sectoral visits, from Medicines and Healthcare to Financial Markets, from IT and Telecomms to Agriculture, to Energy opportunities, to water management technology. And I note with great satisfaction the fact that more than 300 B2B meetings have already been arranged, more than 400.


The direction is clear.


Greece has all the comparative advantages to become, for instance, a commercial and a regional hub, one of the most competitive tourism destinations in the world, the global leader in Mediterranean food products, an energy powerhouse for Europe and the region. I ask you to join us in this irreversible growth trend. To discover Greece as your home.


Greece feels like home to Israelis and to the global Jewish community. I also ask you to become partners in financing projects in real estate development, in tourism services, in high tech, in research and development, in the field of sustainable energy resources. We need your expertise and we also need your start-up culture, especially hi tech start-ups.


I ask you finally to actively participate in re-launching Greece and helping us shape a more dynamic future in our region. I believe opportunity is here and now.


Our nations know very well the recipe of making history.


They know the meaning of the word perseverance. We are both nations of survivors! So we can walk together, the road to Growth and Peace!


Thank you very much.