Dear Ministers, Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I participate today in the event for the presentation of the 2021 National Strategic Extroversion Plan. First of all, let me congratulate, from the bottom of my heart, everybody who contributed in this great effort, which – I believe – reflects a main strategic choice of our government that we execute methodically and – in my opinion – with effectiveness.
When the Greek people entrusted us with the governance of this country, we immediately proceeded with the implementation of a core pre-electoral commitment of ours, which was to transfer the responsibility for extroversion, economic diplomacy to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
I can still remember when – at the pre-election stage – we discussed pros and cons of this choice and I insisted on this direction, acknowledging completely that the foreign policy of the country in the 21st century cannot but have a major economic dimension. Step by step, we are realizing this central political choice.
Obviously – as you have correctly acknowledged, Deputy Minister, Secretary General – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is just a link in an entire chain of change in the productive model of the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs could achieve only a few things, had it not been for the support of the Ministry of Development and Investments, the support of the Ministry of Tourism, the support of the Ministry for the Environment on the issues related with spatial planning and the land use.
Nevertheless, the historic change of our country’s image – a powerful country that looks towards the future with optimism and confidence – passes, dear Minister and Secretary General – through the work that we have done.
It also passes – let me now specifically address the diplomats who are here – through a change of the perception on the role of our country’s presence abroad. Because we have to realize that the foreign policy of the country does not just lie in highlighting the main geopolitical issues that have historically preoccupied the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It also requires imparting a new perception, a new mentality in the executives themselves of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, so that the ambitious plan that we have already set in motion will achieve tangible results in time. And I think that we have already made some important steps to this direction.
Minister, ladies and gentlemen, the good thing about extroversion issues is that they are policies that are, by nature, completely measurable. Therefore, it is very easy to evaluate the results of a policy, only by looking at certain indicators.
Which are the indexes that should interest us more and above any other index? Our exports. I welcome here today the presence of many representatives of Greek exporting companies. I do not need to repeat data already presented by the Deputy Minister.
The major rise in exports – in the midst of the pandemic – is the best proof that exports are the mirror of a competitive economy. Because competitiveness is the other side of extroversion. We cannot conquer foreign markets, unless we are competitive and obviously the competitiveness of Greek products focuses more on benefits related with quality and less, probably, with issues related with cost.
We have proven that we can develop an intense exports activity in traditional sectors, but also in new ones that highlight the overall power of the Greek entrepreneurial community, its resistance during the 10-year crisis that tormented the country. Its resilience also during the pandemic. And the will of Greek businessmen to go beyond, and away from and above the borders of our country.
The second important index that highlights the extroversion of a country is how attractive it is as an investment destination. I don’t need to get into details with that. I do not focus merely on the absolute figures of foreign direct investments attracted in Greece within the last 24 months, or the valuations of investors who rush to place their funds in Greece. In some cases, the valuations have way overcome the most optimistic expectations and they demonstrate something simple: foreign investors see in Greece long-term capacity to create major capital gains.
Why is this happening in Greece? Because our country has embarked on an orbit of dynamic growth with stable finances. Greece is now a country borrowing at record low interest rates, a country that has dealt with very important issues related with the competitiveness of the Greek economy through a series of structural reforms. This is something that makes your job “to sell” Greece abroad much easier.
Indeed, one should be really distrustful not to acknowledge that the overall image of our country today towards foreign investors and foreign funds seeking new investment destinations is completely different from the image of Greece back in July 2019, when the Greek people entrusted us with the responsibility of the country’s governance.
So, we have an important job to do in this direction. And I am happy that this job has the necessary methodological discipline and is reflected upon the leaflet that has been distributed to you, which sets specific quantity and quality targets, defining specific actions, which, of course, will later be assessed in terms of efficacy.
In a nutshell, these are a compass of a modern, optimist, extrovert and confident diplomacy, which views the outside world not in fear, but confidence, it sees opportunities, not threats. I would like to seize the opportunity to congratulate the Minister who has joined the discussion, because he has supported the initiative himself with changes promoted with the organization of the Ministry that will allow us to turn this policy into action.
Let me end my speech with this remark. Extroversion means/ equals competitiveness. It equals the creation of wealth that spreads throughout the Greek society, to the Greek women and men. This is the outline of our overall economic policy, as it has been presented in the Thessaloniki International Fair.
Growth for every woman and man, by tackling social inequalities, with more opportunities for those who need it the most, with more and better paying jobs in competitive sectors, with the ability to speak to the young people who left abroad and tell them “Come, come back to Greece, trust our home country and trust your country with your future, because we now are now able to offer you more and better paying jobs”.
By default, the extroverted sectors of the economy, whether it is companies with exports or the sectors that receive foreign investments, are sectors with well-paying jobs, which are dynamic and able to step on the comparative advantages of the Greek economy.
A country that is well on its feet and believes in its potential can open its wings all over the globe. Obviously, it can address its traditional markets, our friend allies, like for example the Balkan countries, the European countries, the United States, but at the same time it can turn its eye to markets that probably used to be outside, beyond and above the priorities of the Greek foreign policy.
Let me state two examples: India – you have already referred to it – a huge market with a major emerging middle class that offers huge opportunities both for exports and for attracting investments. Greece is the country of the European Union that is closer to India, along with Cyprus. At the same time, there is a huge opportunity emerging in Africa. This is the most dynamic continent in terms of growth rates and the youngest continent in population. Although Greece is geographically close to Africa, it is a continent – I dare to say – that has been abandoned in the past by the Greek foreign policy.
Starting with some bold moves we have made at the level of vaccinations, setting up new embassies in Africa, and tapping into the mild power of our cultural and religious diplomacy, we aspire to open our wings and make the best use of potential opportunities in Africa. Βesides -let me address to the other Deputy Minister for Diaspora Greeks – there is no single place in the Earth where there is no Greek presence. And this is by itself a major comparative advantage.
Congratulations to those who contributed to the design of this effort. All executives urged to implement this plan. May you be strong, because – as I told you – extroversion is another name for change and progress. Dear Adonis, as Heraclitus used to say “The only constant in life is change”. This is why we dare, we change, we win and we move on.
Thank you very much.