Margaritis Schinas, on screen, was introduced by Vassilis Kafatos, AmCham Vice President. (Photo by TNH/ Constantine S. Siringos)
ATHENS – The American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) opened its 32nd annual Greek Economic Summit (GES) December 6 at the Atheneum Intercontinental hotel in Athens. Due to COVID, the three-day hybrid event will offer limited in-person and extended virtual participation between 3-8 PM Athens/8 AM-1 PM EST each day. The Summit is organized in cooperation with the Athens Stock Exchange and in strategic partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Atlantic Council.
Welcome remarks on Monday afternoon were offered by Nikolaos Balatselos, President of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, Elias Spirtounias, Executive Director of AmCham and Dimitri Papalexopoulos, President Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV),
The presenters who followed included Margaritis Schinas, Vice President, European Commission, Don Graves, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Sir Christopher Pissarides, Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences, 2010 and
Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, President of the ‘Greece 2021’ committee, who after review of the accomplishments of Greek Revolution placed the gathering in the context of what needs to be done to fulfill the dream of 1821.
The conference, titled Redefining Growth for an Inclusive and Sustainable Future, “will address a number of profound challenges that threaten to jeopardize the rebound of the world’s economies and undermine human, democratic, and environmental values and social cohesion. At the same time, the Summit will seek to put forth new ideas and proposals to advance growth, sustainability and an inclusive recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the AmCham website.
Global and EU matters will be addressed, and Bakatselos provided the Greek context: “After more than a decade of economic hardship, Greece’s new economic and recovery plan presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the country to create sustainable growth and transition into a prime business and investment destination.”
Schinas, introduced by Vassilis Kafatos, AmCham Vice President, noted that last year there was not much cause for optimism, but said now it is clear that when the EU makes its decisions, “they move quickly.” It is interesting to note that he borrowed the Biden administration’s phrase ‘Build Back Better’ to describe the EU’s post-pandemic vision and agenda, and struck the optimistic note that the EU now has the financing tools needed to accomplish its plans, adding that means that Greece too has resources at its disposal that give the country an opportunity it must not miss.
Questions then followed from journalist Niki Lymperaki, which included asking Schinas about the first fruits of President Joe Biden’s pledge to rebuild U.S.-EU ties after the disappointments of the Trump years. That led smoothly into Grave’s presentation, who said that the happenings of recent years have made clear “how closely integrated our economies are and how collaboration is key to addressing society’s most critical problems. That is why we are rebuilding our dialogue with Europe.” Regarding Greece, he said, “we value the many opportunities Greece offers for U.S. trade and investment” and the century’s-old contributions of AmCham to strengthening U.S.-Greece commercial relations.
Illuminating AmCham’s choice of theme for 2021, Spirtounias told The National Herald that,
“we chose this title because we at the Chamber believe this is the time to discuss, not only in Greece but globally what ‘growth’ means, and whether that concerns everybody and not just the few.”
In the conference’s spotlight are “sustainability and the Green economy, but also how Greece is doing and the potential for further investments,” he said. “We also have a panel on the Greek Diaspora. It can play a very significant role in enhancing U.S. Greek relations,” such as advocacy activities and attracting investment, including support for young entrepreneurs, noting that AmCham pioneered actions in support for Startup Community in Greece.
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