Seeking a balanced trade flow
Greece wants to expand its trade relations with Turkey but is worried over its growing deficit in the bilateral trade relations, high-ranking Greek officials told their Turkish counterparts at an Athens meeting yesterday. Deputy Foreign Minister Evripidis Stylianidis, who is in charge of foreign trade relations, told Turkish Deputy Foreign Trade Minister Tuncer Kayalar that, in the coming years, the Greek trade deficit should be taken care of and that bilateral trade relations should be more balanced, as in the past. Bilateral trade relations have greatly expanded in the past few years, as hostility between the two neighboring countries has abated. In 2004, Greek exports to Turkey were worth $690 million, while Turkish exports to Greece reached $1.2 billion. Stylianidis said there was a lot of room for expanded Greek investments in Turkey, adding that Turkish investments in Greece were also welcome. This was the third meeting of the two countries’ Interministerial Economic Commission, just ahead of a meeting between the two premiers, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Costas Karamanlis, on Sunday. The two will inaugurate a natural gas pipeline connecting the two countries’ networks, which will, for the first time, bring natural gas from Azerbaijan into Greece. Until now, Greece imported almost exclusively Russian gas, through an agreement with Gazprom, plus a small amount of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Algeria. Plans to build a pipeline connecting Greece and Italy will also help bring Azerbaijan’s gas to Western European countries. Stylianidis said that the two countries will complete the interconnection of their power grids by the end of 2006. Greece and Turkey also explored cooperation in renewable energy sources. Kayalar asked that Greece reconsider its stance on demanding visas for visiting Turkish citizens, saying there was considerable interest from prospective Turkish tourist. However, Greece cannot act unilaterally because it is bound by the terms of the Schengen Agreement. A few years back, Turkey abolished visas for visiting Greeks. Last year, about 500,000 Greeks visited Turkey.