ECONOMY

Greece sees expansion of its economic and political role in Balkans

Greek support for the European Union aspirations of Balkan countries on the political and business fronts was reiterated on Wednesday at a one-day event held in Athens and titled «Building the Balkans with our Neighbors.» Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis argued that this orientation is a catalyst for further development and stability in the region. «Already the structural changes attempted at our northern borders over the last decade with Greek contribution have brought great developments in our trade and economic relations with the states in the region,» said Stylianidis. «The high growth rates they have shown in the last few years, of between 4 percent and 6 percent, illustrate their positive momentum,» he added at the event organized by information management company Knowsys. Stylianidis suggested that «if labor-intensive investments in the Balkan states are linked with capital-intensive investments in Greece, then a considerable number of business opportunities will arise.» Data presented at the event showed Greek investments in the Balkans approaching 2.8 billion euros, while 3,500 domestic enterprises are active in the region, including Greek banks, which operate about 700 branches there. All in all, Greece is the biggest foreign investor in Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and now also in Serbia and Montenegro, and among the top three in Bulgaria and Romania. «Greece considers the Balkans its top priority and has committed 550 million euros to its economic development,» Stylianidis affirmed. Former Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis called for terms and conditions to create a single market as much as possible in the region and said Greece is the Balkans’ economic pole for development. The event was also attended by businesspeople who are active in the region and local authorities from the Balkans.