Greece seeking to increase economic trade with Britain, Bakoyannis tells businessmen

Greece wants to revive its economic ties with Britain, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis told Greek and British businessman yesterday, arguing that the country had become a significant economic player in the region. Bakoyannis highlighted Greece’s recent experience in carrying out large public works projects, such as the Attiki Odos, and its increasing involvement in the energy sector as being significant contributions to improving Greece’s standing. The foreign minister pointed to the agreement to build the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline and plans to construct a natural gas pipeline which will run through Turkey, Greece and the Adriatic to Italy as evidence of Greece’s growing importance in the field. «Greek and British companies… can cooperate effectively and begin a new era, not only for our economic relations but for growth in the wider area,» Bakoyannis told members of the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce. The foreign minister said that the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union in January would help create a market of some 40 million households which investors could take advantage of. «Southeastern Europe is today one of the fastest-growing and dynamic areas in the global economy,» said Bakoyannis. As schoolteachers protested for wage increases in central Athens, Bakoyannis told the businessmen that the ruling conservatives are determined to push through economic reforms. She accepted, however, that there was still much work to be done. Quoting late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the foreign minister said: «To improve is to change. To be perfect is to have changed a lot.» Bakoyannis said that Greece had managed to create a stable economic environment with one of the highest growth rates in the European Union, adding that a program of tax cuts had already begun. The foreign minister also focused on the need for Greek companies to increase further their exports to Britain. Greek exports to the UK rose by 38 percent over the last four years and trade between the two countries was worth 2.6 billion euros last year. Greece also benefits from the annual influx of some 3 million British tourists but Bakoyannis said that Greece would have to look to develop new forms of tourism, such as hosting international conferences, in order to boost the number of visitors from abroad.