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Point of View: ‘Economic Diplomacy in Greek Foreign Policy’

 

‘Economic Diplomacy in Greek Foreign Policy’
By Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
Kostas Fragogiannis

 

In the modern era, the differences between the traditional expressions of diplomacy and economic diplomacy are growing ever more subtle.

The decade-long national crisis, which led to a 25% drop in Greek GDP and had a devastating effect on the country’s international image, is a clear example of an international crisis that became a national one and, in turn, became an international issue with national consequences.

 

“The decision to group all openness structures and bodies spread throughout the administration of Greece under the umbrella of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs serves a simple but important purpose: To create a robust hub that will uphold and promote the Greek economy through our missions abroad.”

 

In the modern economic environment, any inability of a country to adapt to the rules of international economic competition leads not only to stagnation, but also to marginalisation, if not regression. Consequently, the internationalisation, competitiveness and openness of Greek enterprises and the attraction of investments is not merely a choice, but an absolute necessity for the sustainability of our country in the future.

As you are well aware, the Government collectively, and the Prime Minister personally, place great emphasis on openness as a driving force for the country’s economic and social growth. This is one of the reasons for the creation of the Deputy Minister for Economic Diplomacy and Openness at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The decision to group all openness structures and bodies spread throughout the administration of Greece under the umbrella of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs serves a simple but important purpose: To create a robust hub that will uphold and promote the Greek economy through our missions abroad. Our purpose is not only to support Greek enterprises in internationalising their activities abroad, but also to foster a suitable environment for attracting foreign investments.

As to the first part, I am proud and pleased to cite our recent visit to China, a shining example of Economic Diplomacy in practice. We activated policies and took economic, cultural and business actions in order to reap an exceptionally successful result, as indicated by the 315 meetings booked between the 65 Greek enterprises accompanying us and 125 Chinese enterprises.

As regards investments, the network of Offices of Economic and Commercial Affairs (ECA) and Enterprise Greece will play a pivotal role as the main bodies through which foreign investors can initially contact the Greek market. Within this context, our intention is to create a real “one-stop shop” that will support businesses by helping to solve problems, streamlining procedures and facilitating investments in Greece.

The recently adopted Law 4635/2019 entitled ‘Invest in Greece’ effected major changes to the mode of operation of Enterprise Greece, transforming it into an outward-looking, modern and dynamic corporate structure that will contribute to the country’s economic, social and environmental growth.

We are aiming for Enterprise Greece to evolve into a flexible structure that will make it easier for the Greek State to:

  • attract foreign direct investments;
  • promote Greek exports;
  • draft the ‘National Strategic Openness Plan’;
  • support the realisation of Greek investments in foreign markets; and
  • develop international trade.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ bill will be submitted to Parliament in a few days to complete the reform framework that concerns Economic Diplomacy and Openness and to launch numerous processes primarily aimed at promoting Greek products and serving Greek enterprises in their efforts.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Secretariat for International Economic Relations and Openness will consolidate all the agencies that deal with external trade, including:

  • the competent EU committees;
  • the World Trade Organisation and the OECD;
  • and oversight of Enterprise Greece and the Export Credit Insurance Organisation.

 

“Our economic strength is our national strength. Our devotion to promoting the openness and growth of our country is in the service of defending our national interests. It is our duty to serve as a new, modern and outward-looking diplomatic model that will activate forces throughout the world.”

 

In the coming year, the changes will be documented in a new National Openness Strategy that includes the consolidation of the promotion of exports and the attraction of Foreign Direct Investments. The strategy will prioritise markets and sectors of the economy and provide incentives with appropriate information and training, together with tools for the openness of Greek enterprises, enabling them to offer products and services competitively on an international level.

Initiatives will also be taken to leverage the geographical position of Greece, aiming at creating the terms and conditions for the Greek market of products, services and human resources to become an attractive international hub.

I would also like to touch upon an additional point of crucial importance – image is vital.

Small entrepreneurs find it difficult to enter into transactions with a major enterprise that wants to import their products to a large European or American market and to get a seat at the table, given Greece’s image among foreign entrepreneurs. This image is often associated with the beauty of our land, our history and culture.

However, there is another image, more recent and perhaps more memorable: that of unemployment, unreliability and crisis. This is what we want to change. And this is why we have created a working group called ‘Repositioning Greece’. The main idea is to forge an image of Modern Greece that includes all the values of the past but also reflects modern reality – that is to say, high technology, science and present-day accolades in the field of science and among the academic community.

We want to forge the substance and image of this new Greece – and we are working with the year 2030, rather than 2020, in mind.

Every agency, whether public or private, must project a part of this image, and all these images, put together, must make up the image of Modern Greece, the new architecture of the image of Greece. We are not denying any part of our past, but Greece is not just its past. Greece is what we aspire to be in the modern age.

In closing, I would like to touch upon the most important component of this endeavour, which is none other than our human resources. I spent my entire career in the private sector in Greece and abroad. Upon taking up my duties at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs five months ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the human resources. I was well aware that this was no ordinary Ministry. In truth, I was impressed to find people with knowledge, a positive attitude and eagerness to work.

The most important requirement in any reform effort is people – and I am happy to report that the right people can be found at the Ministry.

Our economic strength is our national strength. Our devotion to promoting the openness and growth of our country is in the service of defending our national interests. It is our duty to serve as a new, modern and outward-looking diplomatic model that will activate forces throughout the world.

We must transform the national capital that has moved abroad into a cradle of the New Greece, look toward the future with hope and self-awareness and fulfil our obligation to improve our country’s position in the modern world.

The State is all of us.

The goal of the political leadership is to provide all the institutional tools needed to strengthen our joint efforts. Our drive will guarantee that these efforts prove successful.

 

Deputy Minister for Economic Diplomacy and Openness

Kostas A. Fragogiannis was born in 1959 in Kavala where he completed his basic education. After graduating from the British Institute of Marketing (HND), he continued his studies in the US, earning a BS in Business Administration and an MBA in International Management & Computer Systems from the University of San Francisco.

For over 30 years, he has held senior executive positions in major companies and groups, such as Emporiki Bank, Interbank, Delta, the Vasilakis Group, Ant1, the Viohalco Group, Vivartia and the Chipita Group, where he was also a founding member of the Group’s international operations 24 years ago. Before assuming his duties as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Economic Diplomacy and Openness, he was the Development Manager of the Chipita Group, contributing significantly to the further growth and development of the Group’s international operations.

Having successfully handled development projects worth hundreds of millions of euros throughout the world, he has gained invaluable experience in negotiating with organisations in countries where he has overseen investments. Through his role in the development and internationalisation of companies, he has contributed to the creation of thousands of jobs, while also creating considerable added value in each country where he has been active. He has led a total of 18 productive investment projects in 16 countries, 9 investment consortiums, 5 buyouts and, finally, the founding of multiple commercial enterprises in dozens of countries.

Through his many years of international experience, he has gained a full and up-to-date perspective on what is required to effectively attract foreign investments and to promote exports and growth in the international economy.

This speech was first given by Mr. Fragogiannis at the recent Ambassadors Conference on Foreign Policy Priorities.

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