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Interview of Greece’s Ambassador Gabriel Coptsidis at “The Warsaw Voice”

As Appealing as Always
Greece’s Ambassador to Poland, Gabriel Coptsidis, talks to Ewa Hancock. (magazine April 2011)

What steps has Greece taken to extricate itself from the financial crisis?
The Greek government has so far managed to successfully complete a series of reforms in crucial sectors. It has radically limited the operational costs of the public sector and fully reformed the pension and labor market systems as well as the local government structure. Greece continues to press ahead with the necessary structural reforms aimed at promoting growth. In this area, steps have been taken to further reduce counterproductive public expenditure, increase competitiveness, remove bureaucratic obstacles from the investment procedure, introduce a new institutional framework for the promotion of exports, and make an organized effort to evaluate public property.
Let me please underline at this point that the European Council of euro-area member states on March 11—which the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, also attended—decided to reduce the interest rate on the loan for Greece by 1 percent and to prolong the loan repayment. These two factors are strong and vivid proof that our partners in the EU recognize the huge effort, the significant progress and sacrifices made so far by the Greek people.
Will the situation in Greece affect Greek investors in Poland?
We don’t expect that the current situation will negatively affect economic relations between the two countries. On the contrary, we believe that new opportunities have been created. Besides, Poland’s sustainable development, with its solid economic foundations, favorable location in the center of Europe, 38-million-strong consumer market and well-educated work force, makes the country an attractive place for investment and business expansion. On the other hand, Greek companies that are active in the countries of Southeast Europe in almost every sector of the economy—including information technology and telecommunications, the finance sector, the food and beverage sector, the energy and petroleum sector, building and packaging materials, construction and real estate—are also active on the Polish market.
When it comes to Greek investment in Poland, about 40 companies with Greek capital are currently active on the Polish market. Greek-owned companies have invested more than 1.4 billion euros and created a total of 11,000 jobs in Poland. Greek-owned companies have developed their business in various sectors of the economy. For instance, Germanos/Play is active in telecommunications, Polbank in the banking sector, Coca Cola/Hellenic Bottling Company in beverages, J&P Avax and Alfa Grisin in construction, Terna Energy in renewable energy, Chipita in food, and Totolotek in gaming.
Does Greece believe that the eurozone’s financial stability system works well?
Greece has been working with its partners in the EU by supporting responsible policies that benefit the eurozone and the EU as a whole, in an effort to effectively meet this difficult economic challenge. In this respect, the requirements of fiscal stability have made it necessary to create European mechanisms to deal with the economic crisis in a clear, credible and operational way[…] Now the EU has created these tools and they have already produced positive results for the euro. Of course, besides achieving financial stability, Europe should make political decisions to boost growth. Moreover, we believe that a discussion on new financial tools (such as Eurobonds and taxes on stock market trading) could open in order to form a broad consensus in favor of the direct enhancement of the European Support Mechanism in various ways and with the use of various means and tools. Our common goal is to restore stability and establish prospects for growth for all EU member states.
Tourism is a mainstay of the Greek economy. How have efforts to promote tourism been affected by the current situation at home and abroad?
There is no doubt that the economic crisis has had an impact on the everyday lives of people in most countries worldwide. However, travel to foreign destinations to enjoy sights, gather new experiences and come into contact with new cultures is a deep human need, if not a necessity in terms of personal development, but certainly not a luxury. In this regard, we can say that the promotion of tourism has not been affected in my country by the current situation, because Greece traditionally offers a great number of destinations for people to visit and many rejuvenating experiences. Especially for Poles, Greece takes pole position in terms of tourist attractions. My country’s picturesque islands and clean sea waters, along with the well-known beautiful Greek climate and, of course, our excellent, balanced cuisine, have remained untouched by the crisis. As for prospects for this year, we estimate that 2011 will be much better than last year as we anticipate a 10 percent increase in tourist arrivals, since steps have been taken to allow prices to remain low and competitive. Polish visitors have always been welcome in Greece, because in my country Poles are appreciated for their high cultural standards as well as knowledge and love of our history and civilization. With the new tourist strategy, Greece is particularly interested in promoting theme tourism, namely wellness tourism, conferences, agro-tourism and religious tourism. In this way, we want to make our huge archeological, historic, religious and cultural potential known on the Polish market, so that every citizen of this country will be able to realize the beauty of Greece and enjoy various tourist offers according to their demands and expectations—all this at reasonable prices, of course.
The whole text of the interview (in pdf) : http://www.warsawvoice.pl/download/Special/20110331_Greece.pdf