ECONOMY

Greek economic diplomacy to be bolstered with strategic role

The government plans to overhaul its economic diplomacy service and turn it into strategic planning department which will formulate policy, Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis said yesterday. «It will coordinate activities, supervise their implementation and continuously assess the network of commercial and economic bureaus we have around the world, which we are also reorganizing on the basis of our national and economic strategy,» he told the Athens Business Club 2004, the forum established to forge contacts with foreign investors during the Olympic Games, in its last event yesterday. He said the government is ascribing great importance to the role of economic diplomacy in attracting foreign investment and boosting exports. According to the reorganization plan, the assessment criteria of even career diplomats will include their performance in economic diplomacy. The operational plan being prepared includes measurable targets within timetables and allows for the use of new technologies. A pilot program, initially involving 15 countries but which will later be expanded throughout the network of Economic and Commercial Affair Bureaus, will be completed in cooperation with the Association of Exporters of Northern Greece in October and will include a database through which every Greek export business will be able to be fully and speedily updated on its target-markets, Stylianidis said. He said that the 550-million-euro Greek Aid Plan for the Economic Reconstruction of the Balkans (ESOEAB), an investment subsidy program instigated by the previous government, was «a very good idea, but has lost its impetus due to institutional, organizational, technical and financial weaknesses which were accompanied by pointless grand words and much advertising devoid of content.» Stylianidis said the present government will persist with its implementation. «In recent months, we have been carrying out an unprecedented effort to overcome the problems and weaknesses we have inherited. We have managed to bolster investment interest in the western Balkans, which concerns about 20 percent of ESOEAB’s private investment budget. We are now beginning to inaugurate the first small projects and have already begun to assess the studies and promote the implementation of some large infrastructure projects, which represent 79 percent of the package,» he said. Stylianidis noted Greece’s recent and current progress in modernizing its infrastructure and key sectors, such as energy and telecommunications, and planned reforms in taxation, investment incentives and public administration, can turn Greece into an investment center. «Greece has to turn the problem of past years into a current and future advantage. Greek businesses that moved to cheaper neighboring countries in recent years now form a ready and reliable network that, along with our good political relations, can provide a good basis for partnerships,» he said.