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Politics

Ioannis Smyrlis of Enterprise Greece: We are a Pro-Investment Government

Despite global COVID-19-related setbacks, the Greek government remains optimistic about investments in the country’s various business sectors, including those of energy, health, real estate, and export-oriented manufacturing, as return to economic growth has generated new investor interest.

“We are a pro-investment government,” said Ioannis Smyrlis, Secretary General for Economic Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Chairman of Enterprise Greece, who spoke to The National Herald.

Leading economic diplomacy and extroversion at Enterprise Greece – the Greek State’s official investment and trade promotion agency – Smyrlis and his team aim to provide foreign investors with a one-stop shop for assistance with projects, and to promote Greek products and services in international markets.

“We help Greek exporters to find new markets and explore new opportunities, and we are in charge of coordinating all the public and private chambers and ministries in order to work together to have a common plan,” Smyrlis said.

Greece welcomed a 72.3% increase in foreign direct investments in 2021, with net inflows amounting to over 4.8 billion euro in 2021, compared with 2.8 billion euro in 2020, the highest recorded since 2002, according to a Bank of Greece report.

“We can proudly say that we have transformed the country,” Smyrlis said, adding that, “exports are increasing month by month even with COVID.”

The total value of Greek exports in February 2022 amounted to over 3.6 billion euro compared to 2.9 billion euro in February 2021, an increase of 25.4%, according to the latest report by the Hellenic Statistical Authority.

“We are now on the same side with the private sector, and this is a big win for Greece,” Smyrlis said, noting that Enterprise Greece has approved 8 billion euro in foreign direct investments, with some 7 billion euro in the pipeline.

Multinational giants including Pfizer, Deloitte, Microsoft, and Cisco, announced major investments in Greece over the past few years, “due in part to improved protection of intellectual property rights, and Greece’s delisting from the U.S. Trade Representatives Special 301 Watch List in 2020,” according to a U.S. Department of State report.

In April of this year, Enterprise Greece approved a Microsoft investment plan aiming to create a complex of data centers and technological business support facilities, consisting of three data centers in the Attica Region. The project will develop and provide cloud computing services in Greece, and is expected to create 300 new jobs within a decade.

“The Pfizer plan in Thessaloniki was to have 300 new employees with high level jobs, and now they are already at 700 employees… 85 percent of them are Greeks,” Smyrlis said.

In the last decade, Switzerland, Cyprus, and Germany were the main sources of foreign investment activity in Greece, followed by France and the Netherlands. In recent years, foreign direct investment inflows from China and Hong Kong have increased significantly, while Luxembourg, Canada, the United States and the UK are among the top 10 countries of investment origin, according to a Bank of Greece report.

And while multinational companies make for the bulk of investments, the Greek diaspora is another source of opportunity for growth, Smyrlis says.

“The diaspora is really important for us,” he says. “We know that that Greek diaspora is doing great things around the world, especially in the U.S. where they are playing a vital role in the financial and political life, so for us, it is important to be near the country and to give [the diaspora community] the opportunity to invest in Greece or to bring other investors to Greece.”

On the subject of business opportunities, Smyrlis said the current government has played a major role in attracting new types of investments to Greece.

“The last few years, what is pretty clear now with the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis is that we are a pro-investment government, so apart from the traditional sectors of real estate and tourism that we had all these years… you can now invest in logistics, data centers, technology, R&D, renewable energy, and lot of new sectors for the Greek economy.”

From the multinational company’s perspective, outsourcing jobs comes with economic benefits and access to quality foreign talent, while for employees based in Greece, the perks of living in the country are an advantage, Smyrlis said, adding that foreign investments support brain gain – the return to Greece of highly trained professionals who left the country seeking greater opportunities offered elsewhere, especially during the economic crisis.

“If you combine [these investments] with the nice side of Greece… the sun, the sea and the quality of life we have here, I think we have a really big advantage. A good job in a nice country is something you cannot find everywhere,” he says.

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