LAMBIS KOUNALAKIS, Minister Counselor for Economic and Commercial Affairs: ENHANCING BILATERAL ECONOMIC RELATIONS

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Greece and Serbia have excellent bilateral economic relations, and the anticipated growth of the Greek Economy in the coming years will lead to a growing interest of the Greek companies in the Serbian market as well as of the Serbian business community for the Greek market. There is still plenty of room for ENHANCING bilateral economic cooperation not only in the form of trade flows but also through joint ventures/investments in Serbia, joint ventures/investments in Greece, as well as joint cooperation in third countries.


Could you tell us about the economic cooperation between Greece and Serbia?

— Greece and Serbia are two countries with excellent bilateral economic relations. No more than 180 Greek companies operate in Serbia in various sectors, such as food and beverage, telecommunications, retail, construction, hotel and heavy industry and finance. About 20.000 people are employed in Greek companies in Serbia and today’s invested capital exceeds the amount of 2 billion euro. On the other hand, bilateral cooperation is not equally reflected in the commercial sector, where our overall bilateral trade volume still remains low, despite the huge potential. This can be addressed by jointly exploring opportunities and complementarities in sectors, such as agriculture, food and beverage, building materials, energy, information and communication technologies etc. In
order to fully benefit from our economic and trade potential, a series of trade events in Serbia have been already organized, such as business missions from Greece to Serbia, promotional events for specific sectors (i.e. food and beverage, construction materials, IT).

Is there more room to improve the economic relations and which economic sectors have the biggest potential for expansion of cooperation?

— There is still plenty of room for developing bilateral economic cooperation not only in the form of trade flows but also through joint ventures/investments in Serbia, joint ventures/investments in Greece, as well as joint cooperation in third countries. The recent Greek –Serbian Business Forum in Thessaloniki, on the 19 of March 2018, provided the opportunity for such synergies in sectors like Food, Energy, ICT, Tourism, Real estate and Pharmaceuticals.
Both sides have shown great interest and some joint projects will be eventually undertaken. A similar event will take place in Belgrade during 2019.
One of the things that can positively contribute to better bilateral economic relations in the near future is the frequent bilateral talks between the Greek Prime Minister and the Serbian President have led to a decision regarding the establishment of the High-Level Economic Cooperation Council between the two countries. This will contribute to the enhancement of the bilateral economic cooperation.

What can these initiatives bring to Greece and Serbia in terms of networking in the region?

— These initiatives can bring clear benefits to both countries, by promoting Greece as a transit hub with Asia and the Middle East, via the harbor of Piraeus, and Serbia as a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe. It has been also agreed that the two countries will continue to strengthen institutional cooperation to promote trade and investments, through enhanced cooperation of the Greek and Serbian Chambers of Commerce and the organization of bilateral business missions in the foreseeable future.

What role does Greece and its economy play in the region and Serbia?

— Greece is the strongest economic player in the whole Balkan region. During the years of the economic crisis most of the Greek companies in the Balkan region continued their successful activities and, in many cases, became even stronger. The anticipated growth of the Greek Economy in the coming years will lead to a growing interest of the Greek companies in the Serbian market as well as of the Serbian business community for the Greek market. The expected growth will improve Greece’s creditworthiness, boost the investment and business climate, facilitate the return to financial normality, and contribute to the sustainable recovery of the economy after nearly a decade of
recession and stagnation.

Can we say with certainty that the Greek economy is firmly on the path to recovery?

— Greek economy has moved during the last two years from a state of economic crisis to a state of economic growth. The first signs of solid growth, a declining unemployment rate, and increasing confidence in the economy are now evident. Greece is now well on the path towards growth and job creation, as growth rate was positive in 2017 and is expected to accelerate, in 2018. A positive performance was also recorded in various important indicators showing that economic climate has improved further, industrial production and exports increased and the downward trend in the retail sales volumes came to a halt. Credit rating agencies (Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s) have recently changed the Greek economy’s outlook from stable to positive. Moody’s has also upgraded long-term issuer rating and all senior unsecured bond and program ratings.
Numerous structural reforms, which have been implemented over the past few years, have triggered growth impetus in the Greek economic environment. In 2018, investment growth will accelerate further and gross capital formation
will become the main contributor of growth. Contribution of net exports is also expected to turn positive too in 2018,
based on the further growth of several sectors, such as the leading sector of shipping, first-rank worldwide tourism, agriculture, technology and real estate.

Could you tell us something about your ongoing projects and upcoming plans?

— The Office for Economic and Commercial Affairs of the Greek Embassy in Belgrade is promoting synergies between Greek and Serbian companies through particular networking events. Our Office organizes business missions, international trade exhibitions, provide information to local producers on exports procedures and facilitates the exchange of information between businesses from both countries. Our efforts are ongoing and more
targeted business events will be organized in the near future not only in Serbia but in Greece as well. For example, until the end of this current year, our office is organizing two very significant events in Belgrade, the first one in innovation and start-up sector and the second one in construction materials. Energy, construction and innovation
and start-ups sectors are among the fields of main interest for our country with Serbian market providing many opportunities for Greek entrepreneurs. In addition to the above-mentioned initiatives, we are working towards enhancing cooperation between our Chambers of Commerce, in order to further engage entrepreneurs from both countries and promote investment and trade opportunities in Serbia and in Greece.

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