It was a good visit. A tight schedule packed with trade and diplomatic meetings. Emphasis was put on projecting an image of Greece that is pro-entrepreneurship with the aim of attracting investment. It remains to be seen how investors will respond. The feeling among foreign and Greek businesspeople can be summed up as follows: You are on the right path; you need to take specific steps so that key investments move forward (such as the Elliniko project); we are already looking out for opportunity. After emerging from the crisis, Greece stands at a turning point. During his visit to New York, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sent out the right message. Its appeal will depend on the degree to which his words translate into actions. In the coming months, Greece will appear on the radars of many large and medium-sized investors at home and abroad. The follow-up will be the next key challenge. Greece has always had a problem here, even when the ruling officials had the best of intentions.
On a diplomatic level, the main event was Mitsotakis’ meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two leaders discussed all the major issues. Aside from the chronic Cyprus dispute, where the situation has become even more complicated following the discovery of gas deposits, one of the most pressing issues at the moment is migration.
It was agreed that Ankara will make an effort to curb flows to the Aegean islands. Soon, Greece’s migration minister will travel to Turkey. There it will become evident whether Erdogan’s good intentions will turn into action.
Ankara needs to realize that, for a number of reasons, Athens could be its closest ally in the context of its political, economic and trade relationship with the European Union. This was also demonstrated in Mitsotakis’ willingness to support further EU economic assistance to Turkey. But constant references to the Blue Homeland, the constant issuing of navigational warnings via navtex, and the publication of maps that depict half of the Aegean under Turkish control are of no help.
Erdogan needs to grasp that he has an interest in solving the Cyprus issue so that Turkish Cypriots can share in the revenues from gas findings as well as influence EU decision making, thus opening Turkey’s accession to the regional energy puzzle. All that cannot be achieved with threats and provocations inside Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
Greece’s new administration turned up in New York ready to make a new start. Turkey’s strongman has a chance to take steps (a drastic reduction of migration flows, an end to threats and provocations around Cyprus and in the Aegean) that will facilitate the resetting of the relationship while offering his country tangible advantages.
The ball is in his court.