US investment in Greece, Balkans to rise after Olympics

There will be plenty of US investment in Greece and the Balkans after the Olympic Games, participants at the 10th Business Forum taking place in Thessaloniki were told yesterday. The Forum is organized annually by the Federation of Industries of Northern Greek (SVVE) and the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce. Eric Stewart, in charge of European Affairs at the US Department of Commerce, said that this is «an incredible period and opportunity» for Greece, since the Olympic Games will focus global attention on the country. «We need a core of safety this moment and we will be very glad if Greece can provide such safety and security this summer… The US admires the efforts of Prime Minister (Costas) Karamanlis and the government on the staging of the Olympics,» said Stewart, adding that US investment not only will not cease with the end of the Games, but will likely expand. Stewart said that the Western Balkan countries, which have so far lagged behind the others in attracting investment, also had a bigger chance with the Olympics. Including the whole of Turkey in the Balkans, Stewart spoke of a «130-million-strong market» that could not fail to attract investor interest. According to available data, US exports to Greece topped $1 billion in 2002, reaching $1.2 billion in 2003. Greek exports to the US stood at $600 million in 2003. «This is not enough and we want these figures to rise,» Stewart said. «Greece has a strategic location and more must be done concerning trade, education and training in human resources. The Olympic Games provide the opportunity that will allow us to achieve this goal and to form strong partnerships in the region,» he added. During the first day of the forum, a variety of opinions were expressed as to the progress achieved in the Balkans, with some participants stressing what was achieved and others insisting that the region is still lagging behind in structural reforms. In 2007, Bulgaria and Romania will join the EU but other Balkan countries are a long way from doing so, an EU official said, adding that the province of Kosovo represented a «social time bomb.»

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