Greece, Turkey Building Money Bridge

While some tensions remain over religious issues and the ongoing mock dogfights when Turkish fighter pilots routinely violate Greek air space, Greece and Turkey are coming closer together over where it really matters to them: money.

The two sides have been building closer trade, economic and tourism tie, even developing new products that would be exported to other nations and trying to find ways to fill their coffers by working with each other, the news site Eturbo News reported.

Greek Foreign Direct Investment in Turkey, despite a punishing economic crisis that’s about to enter a seventh year in Greece, has reached $6.5 billion. Nearly 500 Greek companies operate on Turkish soil, mainly in banking, food and beverages, energy, construction and building materials.

In the crisis year 2012, direct Greek capital outflows into Turkey accounted for a stunning 56 percent of all Greek direct investment abroad. That ratio was only one percent in 2008, just four years earlier.

Investment across the Aegean Sea is not reciprocal in numbers. Turkish direct investments in Greece stand at a disproportionate $200 million. There are only 20 Turkish companies operating in Greece, mostly in banking, furniture, marina, textiles and paper industries.

The top Turkish investor in Greece is the state-run Ziraat Bankası, with a portfolio of $90 million. Other major investors are Doğuş Holding, Ekol Lojistik, Kartonsan, Istikbal Furtinutre, Beymen, Setur, Trakya Cam, Koton and Iston. Turkish capital flow into Greece in 2012 stood only at 0.05 percent of the total flow into Greece.

Officials and businessmen on both sides of the Aegean are now working day and night to explore new opportunities, Eturbo said. In February, the Bureau of Economic and Commercial Affairs of the Greek Embassy in Ankara organized a successful tourism forum in Ankara and lured more than 100 major Turkish and Greek tourist agents, hotel owners and cruise companies.

Tourism is one of the most promising sectors. Greek tourist arrivals in Turkey have been largely flat in recent years, fluctuating mostly with the economic performance of the country and Greek individual’s disposable income.

But the general trend is upwards: Greek arrivals in Turkey rose from 450,000 in 2007 to nearly 670,000 in 2012, an increase of nearly 49 percent. Arrivals in the nine months to September, however, fell by 11 percent to 363,000 this year from 406,000 in 2012 due mainly to the economic crisis.

Turkish tourists are showing keen interest in Greece, particularly the islands closest to Turkey. Greece is impressive. Turkish arrivals in Greece rose from 161,000 in 2007 to 602,000 in 2012, an increase of 274 percent. The growth continues.