ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his New Democracy government's successful luring of Microsoft to build three data centers, a 1-billion euro ($1.18 billion) project, will hopefully lure other foreign investors.
The government had been wooing them after winning July 7, 2019 snap elections in ousting the former ruling anti-business Radical Left SYRIZA, which also is putting up objections t the Microsoft investment that could create thousands of jobs.
It took nine months of negotiations to get Microsoft to commit as Greece had been seen as unfriendly to business with its changing tax laws, difficult bureaucracy and corruption in which bribes are sought to accelerate licenses and permits.
Microsoft chief Brad Smith came to Athens to stand with Mitsotakis in the announcement at the Acropolis Museum, taking a chance on the country during the COVID-19 pandemic that is still surging.
The new data centers will establish a Microsoft Cloud region in Greece, adding it to the world’s largest cloud infrastructure footprint and delivering access to low-latency, enterprise-grade cloud services, said Kathimerini.
Government sources not named told the paper the initiative will improve the investment climate in the country given Microsoft’s brand name and make Greece a key destination for Foreign Direct Investment.
Mitsotakis said he hoped it would also send a message to the scores of thousands of those who fled Greece during a near decade-long economic and austerity crisis, especially the young and the best and brightest, to come on home.
Microsoft is calling the move a GR for GRowth initiative to support businesses of all sizes in Greece with technology and resources to create growth and that 100,000 government workers would be trained in digital technology by 2025.
“Today’s commitment to the people and businesses of Greece will position the country among the digital leaders of Europe,” Mitsotakis said, adding that a Microsoft data center region provides a competitive advantage to Greece’s digital economy while also being a long-term investment and a vote of confidence in Greece’s potential.
“The cloud is transforming every industry and sector. The investment in skilling 100,000 citizens will empower today and tomorrow’s Greek workforce,” he said, adding that it doesn’t just mean the inflow of more foreign capital, additional income for the state coffers or new high-skill jobs. “It also means an added value in terms of quality,” he also stressed.
Smith said that, “by a substantial margin, this is Microsoft’s largest investment in our 28 years of operating here in Greece.” He added that, “It is not something that we do in very many places, it is not something that we do lightly.”