THESSALONIKI – “We are here and we are going nowhere,” US Consul in Thessaloniki Gregory Pfleger said on Tuesday, speaking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency about the US presence in northern Greece.
“We are here and present. This is point number one,” underlined the US consul, who also referred to the strategic importance of the port of Alexandroupolis and the US interest in the port, as well as the importance of the Floating Storage Regasificatin Unit (FSRU) for the diversification of energy sources, the opportunities he ‘sees’ for US companies in northern Greece and the Balkans’ EuroAtlantic prospect.
At an unoffical level, he noted, the US has had a presence for the last century and one of the most important assets of the US in Greece were “our partners throughout the country.” From AHEPA to the American Farming School to Anatolia College or the beneficiaries of scholarship programmes that return and work in various business sectors, to America’s business contacts in northern Greece, he added, this presence has been stable from the very first day. “What I believe has changed is the way Greece perceives this presence and Washington’s view regarding its importance,” Pfleger said.
The US consul said that he sees opportunities for US companies that want to invest in northern Greece in many sectors, while among the successful examples of developing bilateral relations in business, he referred to Raycap, based in the city of Drama.
He noted that a sector developing in northern Greece is innovation in high technology, something that is crystal clear from the activity of companies as Veltio, Cisco and Pfizer.
“It is something we have been saying for the last two years, the importance of the specific sector and the existing competitive advantage of the region. You have the largest university in the Balkans, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, you have a very vibrant young city that yearns for such investments, for these kinds of opportunities,” said the US official.
Pfleger also pointed to bilateral cooperation in the very important education sector, praising the collaboration with Education Minister Niki Kerameus and underlining the very good potential for the further deepening relations in this area.
He confirmed the US’s strong interest in Alexandroupolis port, underlining that “we clearly see the strategic value of the port,” while adding that the role of the US was “to enhance this profile, as we have already done.”
Pfleger also referred to the interest expressed by US entrepreneurs in the specific port, noting that “this interest extends beyond the port of Alexandroupolis,” and expressed hope that there will soon be developments on this front. He noted that the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) has not yet outlined the terms or the timetable. “We hope that this process will ‘run’ faster,” he added.
Regarding the Alexandroupolis LNG terminal, the FSRU, Pfleger welcomed the fact that another link has been added to the chain with the participation of Bulgaria in the project, while stressing the importance of diversifying energy sources.
By importing US gas from Revythoussa and creating a new channel to the Balkans and to southeastern Europe via the FSRU in Alexandroupolis, new paths will open in competition and to Europe’s further energy independence and the prevention of the use of energy as a tool or ‘weapon’ by others,” he said.
Pfleger, who spoke to the ANA a few days before the recent summit on Western Balkans in Thessaloniki, said that the US has a broader view of the region, underlining that “the target is stability and security for all the countries,” in order for the conflicts and arguments of the past that create problems to be avoided.
According to the US diplomat, where the competitors of the US look for rifts and divisions among the countries of the region, the US views the entire situation differently, “through the relations and the bonds we develop, via trade and education programmes, we strengthen cooperation based on the principles and values we all have, values consolidated in EU and in the Euro-Atlantic institutions, and for this we will continue to support the accession of the region’s countries to EU and NATO.”