US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross speaks at the opening of the US pavilion at the Thessaloniki International Fair in September 2018, when it was the honored country at the annual trade expo in the northern Greek port city. [ANA-MPA]
The United States and Greece have been working more closely than ever in the fields of high technology and innovation. As our cooperation in these fields advances, so do the threats seeking to undermine all we’ve worked to achieve. We need to be just as vigilant in protecting our digital frontiers, the gateways to our collective prosperity and the security of our citizens.
The seeds of the recent increase in American investment in Greece’s knowledge-based economy were sown during the Thessaloniki International Fair in 2018, when the United States was the honored country and the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and our Embassy brought dozens of top-tier US technology and innovation companies to Thessaloniki to experience the value proposition that Greece represents first-hand. That effort is now yielding fruit as Pfizer’s and Cisco’s innovation centers come online, leveraging Thessaloniki’s large student population and the supportive government environment to turn the city into the tech capital of the Balkans.
And in Athens, IBM is collaborating with Infosys Finacle to create a Banking Center of Excellence which will support projects across Europe. We will continue to build on the legacy of TIF 2018 and our Embassy’s longtime support of Greek entrepreneurs and startups like the Patra-based graphics processor company Think Silicon, which was recently acquired by the American company Applied Materials.
More recently, American technology companies like Microsoft, Cisco and Google have played a significant role in helping Greece respond effectively to the current global health crisis. Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis and his team have made tremendous progress in digitizing government processes during the pandemic, and the government’s increased protection of intellectual property rights led to Greece’s removal from the US Trade Representative’s Special 301 Watch List in April. Since then, Greece’s relationship with Microsoft has grown dramatically: Microsoft acquired the Greek company Softomotive this summer and announced that it will launch a robotic process automation hub in Athens.
Along with the impressive advances in technology and innovation we are witnessing in Greece comes the increasing need to protect the data and networks that power the digital economy and are key to our national security. The progress the Greek government is making to advance its digital transformation and safeguard its citizens’ privacy were complemented by the farsighted decision of Greece’s largest cellular network provider, Cosmote, to build its 5G network exclusively with trusted vendor Ericsson. As a result, we are proud to welcome Greece to the Clean Network, the international, US-led initiative to safeguard national security and the free, global internet rooted in internationally accepted digital trust standards that build upon the 5G Clean Path initiative.
As highly skilled Greeks embrace technology and innovation to grow the Greek economy, Greece’s inclusion in the Clean Network demonstrates to the international community the country’s focus on building a strong and secure foundation for its high-tech future. 5G wireless technology will form the backbone of future economic development, transforming every aspect of our lives with exciting new applications from self-driving cars and “smart” home appliances to telesurgery and more efficient critical infrastructure. For this reason, 5G networks must be carefully built to safeguard our citizens’ privacy and our companies’ most sensitive information from aggressive intrusions by malign actors.
Huawei and ZTE, along with other Chinese companies, are required by Chinese law to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party’s intelligence services and security agencies, no questions asked, and to keep this cooperation secret. This is not a recipe for success, but rather an invitation to compromise and undermine the progress, security and advances we hold most dear and that we, as societies, are increasingly dependent upon.
At the US Embassy, we are proud to support the Clean Network initiative with our Embassy’s major renovation in order to maximize connectivity and keep critical data and networks safe. OTE’s decision to safeguard Greece’s privacy and national security by working exclusively with trusted vendor Ericsson is a model for telecoms worldwide, one that the United States will continue to support.
Greece is the birthplace of democracy and a country with a bright, high-tech future, so we are proud that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his team have been so proactive in both developing and protecting Greece’s digital frontier. Greeks have valuable ideas, and those ideas deserve protection. Greek government reforms and the inclusion of Greece in the Clean Network will protect and uphold our common fundamental values and are a sound investment in Greece’s high-tech future.
Geoffrey Ross Pyatt is the United States ambassador to Greece.