Turkey’s high potential to best Greek progress

There is an old saying that goes: «Borders crossed by tradesmen and goods are never crossed by armies.» Although history has not proven this as a rule, it has been shown that good neighborly relations are better built and last longer as economic ties are developed and strengthened, sooner or later creating powerful interests in the countries’ leading groups which affect their foreign policy. Does this mean that the foundation being built by the natural gas pipeline to link Turkey and Greece will stop air space violations by Turkish aircraft in the Aegean? Certainly not! But in the long term, as the financial ties between the two countries become stronger and more Turkish entrepreneurs invest or trade with Greek businessmen, voices on both sides of the Aegean calling for peaceful relations will also grow stronger. So Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas was right in saying that the energy connection via the pipeline means a link in development, a convergence of interests and a new leaf in the two nations’ history. While there is no objection to strengthening financial ties with Turkey (PASOK spoke positively of the government’s work for the pipeline and Sioufas recognized the previous government’s contribution), a crucial question remains as to whether the benefits from this progress are evenly distributed. I fear that any close analysis of the economic data will prove that Turkey shows a dynamism that, compared to our complacency, will in the long term reverse our supremacy. This supremacy is based on our higher standard of living, better health and education systems (per capita income in Greece is 14,000 euros against just 2,700 euros in Turkey), the satisfactory completion of new infrastructure projects, a strong industrial base, the developed banking system and generally higher know-how. These comparative advantages, however, are gradually weakening as the fiscal drain and the lack of courage by our politicians to proceed to the reforms required have led to the decay of industry and the abandonment of agriculture. If we contrast this downslide with the dynamism of the populous Turkish market (70 million people, with a growing birth rate of 1.7 percent per year against population stagnation in Greece) and, more importantly, the implementation of big foreign investment projects (unlike in Greece), it becomes obvious that in the foreseeable future the balance will not tip in our favor. Turkey’s economic dynamism is also evident in all comparisons of the figures. Growth in Turkey has in recent years reached 8 percent annually, meaning that every 6-7 years, the country’s national income doubles. Trade between the two states already reaches 2 billion euros, with Turkish imports to Greece reaching 1.3 million euros, against just 700 million euros in Greek exports to Turkey. A recent example shows the aggressive and dynamic character of the Turkish economy: On June 30 and July 1, an Athens hotel hosted a big meeting of entrepreneurs from both countries, organized by the Greek-Turkish Chamber of Commerce. There were 450 businessmen from Turkey, armed with folders and figures about the investments they expect in sectors and products. From Greece, there may have been four deputy ministers but only a limited number of private entrepreneurs turned up and, crucially, without any specific proposals about what they plan to do. Impressively, the Turks are looking into Greece not only for a market for their products but primarily to draw funds to be invested in their country. Leaflets that were distributed stated that founding a foreign company in Turkey with all licenses and approvals only takes three days, as opposed to 48 days in the EU and unlimited time in Greece! Proposals of Turkish cooperation in small and medium-sized enterprises and their invitation to Greek banks to become involved in Turkey were also interesting. They even characteristically mentioned that the Portuguese have rushed in and that Nova Bank is opening one branch after another.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.