Greece’s international economic relations are further widened

Joint statements with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea

Alexis Tsipras:  I would like to welcome the Prime Minister of South Korea in Greece. The occasion of his visit is the lightening of the Olympic Flame for the organization of the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea in 2018. A very important event, which we know will be crowned with absolute success, similarly to the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

On the occasion of his visit, however, we had the opportunity to have a very substantive discussion regarding a number of key areas of cooperation and we have found that there is wide ground for strengthening this cooperation between the two countries. Despite the fact that we are thousands of kilometers apart, there are many elements that bring us closer.

Today, sports and the Olympic Spirit brought us together. However, beyond the Olympic Spirit and the ever-present message of its universality, I must emphasize that we are also coming closer due to the fact that we share common concerns about international peace and security and about the international challenges, in general.

Actually, the challenges we face together bring us closer, in an increasingly globalized economy, where, for example, dozens of Greek ship-owners build their ships in Korea, and more and more Korean consumers become interested in high-quality agro-food products, in the Greek diet, Greek cuisine or another example is that dozens of Korean companies, high technology companies invest in Greek startups, as well as Korean experts transfer knowledge to develop e-government processes in our country.

In this context, we have extensively discussed with the Prime Minister about the developments on the Korean Peninsula. I have expressed Greece’s deepest concerns about North Korea’s ballistic and nuclear tests, which jeopardize global and regional peace and security. And I pointed out our efforts in the European Union, but also in the United Nations, in order to put an immediate end to these threats.

At the same time, I stressed the importance we attach to the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, aiming at a nuclear-free world, with the ultimate goal of securing and ensuring world peace.

I, also, had the opportunity to thank the Prime Minister for the support his country provided to Greece during the unprecedented refugee crisis.

Of course, the most important area for our relations, there is no doubt that it is the economy. And this visit takes place at a time when our cooperation in this field can gain a special momentum. A period in which not only diplomatic but also international economic relations of Greece are further widened beyond its narrow borders.

In this context, we talked about the significant margins that exist in order more Korean companies to invest in Greece in the near future, particularly in the fields of infrastructure, energy, innovation and high technology.

But we, also, discussed about the great prospects of expanding our own exports to South Korea, beyond the agro-food sector, which I have already mentioned, as well as in the field of shipping equipment.

I am sure that the current business forum, which will be attended by the largest, Korean companies, will make an important contribution towards deepening our bilateral cooperation.

We discussed, as I mentioned before, the issues of our cooperation and the transfer of expertise from the Korean side, e-government and the great effort we are making to digitize the public sector in Greece.

The Memorandum of Understanding, signed today, I believe will make a significant contribution to the implementation of our national strategy for administrative reform aimed at the digital transformation in Public Administration.

Finally, we talked about the forthcoming signing of the Science & Technology Agreement between our countries, but also about the great potential opened up through the cooperation between universities and research centers.

We also stressed that the modified Air Transport Agreement will make a significant contribution to further reinforcing tourism once it is implemented in the next period.

The Prime Minister has told me that he is a fan of the Greek islands, especially of Santorini, as it is also rather famous in Korea. I invited him to visit the island sometime, whenever that is possible.

I am confident that tomorrow he will enjoy an extremely important ceremony in Ancient Olympia, in this sacred place. Regardless of the weather, the Flame will remain lit until it is transferred to the winter sports facilities where the Winter Olympics will take place in February 2018. A Flame, however, symbolically I would say it represents, beyond the actual process, but also the ever-lit Flame of the Olympic Spirit, which conveys the global, the universal message of peace, cooperation, prosperity, noble rivalry, which I think has always been of great importance since ancient times. Especially nowadays, especially in the Korean Peninsula. This is a very important message.

Therefore, I wish every success in organizing the Games. And I thank once again the South Korean Prime Minister for his presence. I welcome him, once again, in Greece. I am sure that beyond the Lighting of the Olympic Flame, the opportunity that we have been given to discuss the strengthening of our relations will not be lost. On the contrary, I believe, we will have the opportunity to further intensify the deepening of our relations.

Lee Nak-yon: In February 2018, as you mentioned, Your Excellency, the Winter Olympics will be held in the Republic of Korea. And, you really showed a sincere interest in the Games and I thank you for that.

I would, also, like to thank you for hosting myself and the whole delegation. When I return to my homeland, I will mention the hospitality spirit of Greece to everyone.

Greece and Korea are linked with very close ties of friendship. In the 1950s, Greece sent more than 10,000 soldiers to fight for the freedom and democracy of my country. And precisely, due to the help of all the soldiers, we were able to stay alive, stand on our own feet and achieve what we have achieved so far. The Korean people will never forget the help that Greece has provided.

In 1961, when we established diplomatic ties with your country, we established partnerships in many areas. And in the 1970s we started building large shipyards and Greece, Greek ship-owners were the first to build their ships in Korean shipyards. With the help of the Greeks, we were able to develop our yards.

Now that we are facing the threats from North Korea, Greece is at our side. Thank you very much for the message you are sending to North Korea.

Tomorrow, we will witness the Olympic Flame Opening Ceremony. And I would also like to thank the International Olympic Committee and the Greek Government, because with your help and with the bonds of friendship, we have been able to develop our cooperation.

21% of our shipyard orders come from Greece. The trade balance between Greece and Korea is very much affected by the shipbuilding sector. We still cannot say that the balance is stabilized. That is why we want to have more imports from Greece: agro-food products, wine, oil, other agricultural products, because we believe that this will also contribute to raising the standard of living of the Korean people as well.

As you mentioned, Your Excellency, these are all the areas where Korea is showing great interest in working closely with Greece. Another area is e-Government. We have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Greek Government. The governments of the Republic of Korea have applied e-government too early and a lot of countries visit us to learn from our system. We have great experience. And I believe that this assistance can also be mutual. Because all countries, even Greece, can help us have a clearer, more transparent e-Government system. Greece can quickly implement an e-Government system in all areas and Korea can contribute to this.

We are at your disposal and share everything with Greece. And we will work together and discuss, during our visit in Greece, about other areas of cooperation. We need to broaden our trade, reduce the deficit in our trade balance.

We must not forget that Greece is the cradle of civilization. And it is the country from which the message of Peace and Democracy began and spread all over the world. This is something we should not forget. The Olympic Spirit was born here in Greece. And we believe we will pass it on to the Korean people next year. We have about 100 days until the beginning of the Games. We will do our best so that the Games can be a success. And we believe that our country will be a safe country that can welcome all citizens from all the countries that want to attend the Games.

And we hope that we will, also, welcome you, Prime Minister, there. I hope we will be able to meet again whenever the conditions allow it, either for us to come here or you to come to Korea. I hope you will honor us with your presence at the Winter Olympics. Of course, it’s cold, you should know this, so be prepared!

Thank you very much, once again, for hosting both myself and my country’s delegation. Our relations with Greece will be broadened, and become tighter. And I think we can really find new ways to work together in other areas. Thank you very much.

Yiannis Fasoulas (ERT): Prime Minister of South Korea, welcome to Greece. You said in your statement that the Greek ship-owners were the ones who supported your industry and your country. I would therefore like to ask you, in your own perspective, in which sectors of the economy and trade will you focus your practical interest in Greece, which will also mean further strengthening of bilateral relations.

And for the Greek Prime Minister: Mr. Prime Minister, after China, is a new path for the Greek economy opening?

Alexis Tsipras: We are firmly committed to having substantial relationships in the context of a multidimensional and active foreign policy, which we have been implementing as a doctrine over the last two and a half years, with all countries playing an important role on a global scale in critical areas, especially in economy, and trade.

South Korea, however, has a distinctive feature: It is a country that rather early predicted that the evolution of technology will play a key role in the evolution of the global economy. And so, the choice of the governments in South Korea to invest in innovation, new technologies, human capital in the broadest sense, because all these are the results of the knowledge and practice of people, scientists on the subjects of new knowledge and research. South Korea, then, has gone a long way in applied research, the everyday use of technology. And in that sense, we have too much to take.

I would not say that our relationship may be a contractual one in the future, in the sense that it will be so valuable to estimate the investments only financially. But it will be of great value to see how we can gain experience, knowledge, expertise and, at the same time, strengthen the trade sector of the two countries’ relations.

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea referred to the trade balance. Indeed, the trade balance is uneven. And it is inequitable as far as the exports of Greece to South Korea are concerned, compared to imports, but it is, also, uneven in terms of investment. Because, while we have few exports, we have many significant investments by Greek ship-owners in South Korean yards.

It is our common will to even this balance. And how can we do that? Not by seizing importing new technology from South Korea, this is not our goal. On the contrary, the technology of the most important South Korean companies of global reputation will be welcomed. Almost in every home, possibly, there is an electronic device that has been produced in South Korea. What we are interested in, however, is to even the balance by exporting more agricultural products, high-quality agricultural products, exporting products related to shipbuilding, because there many Greek ships are repaired, so it is important that the parts with which these ships are repaired, the machines that use the parts, and to take advantage of the Greek industry for exporting these products, which will contribute to shipbuilding in South Korea as a whole. Additionally – and this is what we are interested in – is to increase the investment of major businesses and new technology in Greece. And on this matter, we have discussed in depth and I think that cooperation between the Research Centers and the University Institutions can promote this through investment in new technology and new knowledge through start-ups that we want to be close to the Greek Research Centers and Universities.

In this sense, to your question, I answer that our relationship with South Korea is extremely important. A different kind of relationship, however, because you compared it with China. I will tell you that it will be a specialized relationship in areas where the deepening of cooperation will be mutually beneficial for both sides.

Lee Nak-yon: My answer to your question: In the shipbuilding sector, my country has been greatly supported by Greece. As I said before, shipbuilding is an area where our cooperation can be even closer, because Korean shipyards can use spare parts and tools from Greece.

Another domain is the agricultural sector. Oil and other products, which are healthy and in fact delicious can attract Korean consumers. What is also very important is to find areas where we can have immediate results from our cooperation. For example, I refer to e-Government and new technologies. We also want to promote e-commerce.

How can we introduce e-Government in a large number of areas? This is something we have to deal with and can improve within our cooperation. These, though, can be done immediately.

I will do everything within my power so that we can see immediate results and this cooperation to be realized. In the field of technology, I believe we should be able to share more technology with you. Korean companies, I believe, can work with Greece, because, either way, we know that the Greek economy has gone through difficult paths in recent years. But now we are on the path to economic growth. So, our trade relations, I believe, they can help in this direction. And either way, the Korean people must also repay their debt to the Greek people.

Korean journalist: Thank you for your wishes regarding the Winter Olympics. Allow me to tell you that we also address to you our wishes for the financial situation in Greece. We wish that you see the economic recovery bearing fruits in the near future. What we want is to hold safe games. What can Korea and the international community do to ensure that the Olympic Games are actually safe?

Alexis Tsipras: I spoke before about the universal spirit of the Olympic Games, a spirit that comes from the ancient times. Allow me to remind you that during the Olympic Games in the ancient Greek world there was a moratorium, there were no conflicts. And in this sense one could say that the modern version of the Olympic spirit forces us to focus on a permanent moratorium and not only at the time of the Olympic Games. So, beyond the wish of the Olympic spirit to touch us all, I would say that the international community should specifically turn to the North Korean side, demanding the implementation of United Nations resolutions on control of ballistic weapons. I would also say that it is a reason for all of us to reflect on how the use of new technologies can lead to prosperity and progress, good use, proper use, but also how the misuse of new technologies can lead to the destruction of the planet, to the global disaster. The nuclear threat is not a threat to a particular region. It is a global threat. Therefore, the Olympic Games in South Korea is a very good opportunity to realize and to reflect on the crucial importance of seeing these developments in a vague way. So, how important is the global community to demand the proper application of technology, the accurate implementation of the United Nations’ decisions, but at the same time to demand and promote, if you wish, a general disarmament, because we believe this is the message of the Games. But this is also the message that Greece, as a force of peace, wants to highlight, that nuclear weapons do not have a place on the planet. The discussion about the use of nuclear power is long, let’s put it aside. Nuclear weapons, however, have no place, either they concern forces that have no intention of complying with the global rules of the international community, or in the hands of forces that they want to comply with them and they do. We do not need nuclear weapons. On the contrary, I believe that what we need is everyone to agree that the future of humanity must be a peaceful future, a future of progress, a future of prosperity.