ECONOMY

Greece touts its Balkan role, investment climate in Japan

TOKYO – In a series of meetings yesterday, Japanese and Greek political and business leaders focused on possible fields of bilateral cooperation in the Balkans and the southeastern Mediterranean, with Greece serving as a base. During talks with counterpart Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis set out the main points of his government’s policy, which aim to create a stable and attractive investment environment. He also pointed out Greece’s comparative advantages, particularly the country’s proximity to new consumer markets. Karamanlis said «the successful staging of the Olympic Games has created a new environment for tourism and investment» – a statement which went down especially well with his Japanese interlocutors. Proposals for forging closer ties were also well received. Karamanlis invited Japanese entrepreneurs to participate in Greek investment and privatization programs, discussed at a working lunch at the Tokyo Chamber of Industry. He also laid out the Greek government’s plan for public/private partnerships, focusing heavily on the construction and energy sectors, as well as wind parks, the energy-producing areas of particular interest to Japanese companies which have submitted plans worth about 300 million euros. So far, these plans have gone nowhere because of bureaucracy and no clear zoning plans. The Greek premier also urged Japanese entrepreneurs to bolster their business presence in the broader region of the Balkans, the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea by utilizing Greece’s strategic position. The two sides agreed to explore the potential for making the port of Thessaloniki an entry point for Japanese products to the European and Balkan markets. A significant portion of the discussions concerned bilateral deals in the construction and use of Greek merchant ships. Japanese shipyards have built more than 1,500 vessels for Greek shipowners in the last 50 years. It was also agreed to speed up the conclusion of an agreement on the avoidance of double taxation, which has been shelved for years. Karamanlis presented his guests an attractive case containing samples of olive oil and olives. The Japanese want to see more aggressive advertising of Greek farm products. Karamanlis and his wife, Natassa, were received by Emperor Akihito. Sources said the two men discussed topics including the Olympic Games and environmental protection. The Japanese emperor is known to have a keen interest in issues pertaining to the Kyoto Protocol.