THESSALONIKI — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced the expectation that Thessaloniki and northern Greece in general will attract more American investments, in an exclusive interview to Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) during a visit to Thessaloniki on Monday, underlining their geostrategic importance in the greater region.
"The people of this region can fully expect that if they do the right things, if they are welcoming, you will see more American investment here, which will be great for each of our two countries," Pompeo said, underlining also the role ports in northern Greece can play in differentiating energy sources in Europe, a policy of US President Donald Trump, as he said.
Among other issues, the visiting Secretary of State also referred to Greece's role in the Western Balkans and described the country as a "pivotal partner", while he said of developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea that maritime disagreements must be resolved through dialogue and international systems, agreements and talks. "We have watched the Greeks move in that direction, trying to achieve that. We hope that the Turkish government will see it the same way," he commented.
The full-text interview to ANA-MPA's Sophia Papadopoulou follows:
ANA-MPA: Mr Secretary, welcome! Welcome to Greece and Thessaloniki. This is the first time that an American secretary of state ever visited Thessaloniki. Does your choice signify an increased geopolitical interest in Northern Greece and, if so, for what reasons?
MP: We have a great partner here in Greece and I thought it was very important to get to this part of Greece on this particular trip because of the the great things that are happening up here in this part of the country. Our consulate here now is working full time. We have done really remarkable diplomatic work with North Macedonia that led to real opportunities, so we are excited about things that are happening here. Good news on the energy front, good news on the ports, all kind of things that can make life better for the people of Thessaloniki and the region. And increase the partnership between the United States and Greece as well.
Major American companies like Pfizer and Cisco are investing in Thessaloniki. Should we expect more American investments in the city? Do you see Thessaloniki as an emerging technology hub, and under which conditions could this be achieved?
I expect that it will be. American businesses make decisions on their own. We don't operate like other countries do. These aren't state-sponsored enterprises that come pillage and destroy your economy. These are American companies that come and hire Greek citizens, educate them and train and, like this, build good, reliable partners and communities. I have every expectation that you will see more investment, more technology investment.
What Cisco and Pfizer have done are really good examples of how American companies can come here and partner with Greek small businesses. These are really good things for the region. I anticipate that we will see more. I don't want to get ahead with any final decisions. But I think the people of this region can fully expect (that) if they do the right things, if they are welcoming, you will see more American investment here, which will be great for each of our two countries.
How important is the region of northern Greece, and especially its ports, for Europe's energy diversification? Is the increased American interest in Alexandroupolis limited to energy, or is it of general geostrategic importance?
It's certainly not just energy. There is real geostrategic importance to it. But your point about the energy I think is right. Our President Trump's policy has been for all of Europe to increase its capacity, having a diversified set of energy sources. Αnd not be dependent on Russia and Gazprom: this is not good, it's not safe, it's not secure. It creates risk, and, frankly, it costs people more money to heat their homes and to use other methods of energy. So what we have striven to do you can see with our opposition to Nord Stream II, and the flipside here are investments and our support of efforts all throughout – whether its the IGB or the capacity for LNG that have been moved throughout the region – and the interconnectivity of the region of these various energy sources, not only for gas, but for petroleum products too, and oil.
We hope these will continue, we expect that they will. I had great meetings this morning with senior officials from Greece, from North Μacedonia, each of whom said that the American participation here is truly unique, truly exceptional, and I think it will mean really good things: more diversified energy sources, cheaper energy and being performed alongside reliable partners, like companies from the United States.
How do you assess the situation in the Western Balkans? Could Greece play a pivotal role as a NATO and EU member ?
Not only could it, but it must. Greece needs to be a pivotal partner for the United States and for Europe in the Western Balkans. We have done a lot of work in this region. I have spent a lot of time here. My whole team has. There is still obviously more to do.
We think good things are in front of us. We watch (the region) turn away from the negative influence, things that have really proven oppressive for the people of those regions. So we see a decrease in conflict, more opportunity and we see Greece as a central player and making sure that this progress that has been made today continues.
How do you evaluate the resumption of the exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey? Could they lead to better bilateral relations between Athens and Ankara?
I hope so. I truly do. We have seen it all along. The way conflict is resolved is not through shows of force, is not through demonstrations of power, it's through dialogue, it's through international systems, agreement, conversations, dialogue. That's how these maritime disputes ought to be resolved. We have watched the Greeks move in that direction, trying to achieve that. We hope that the Turkish government will see it the same way.
We hope that the exploratory talks not only get kicked off right, but it's important that they are resolved in a way that they deliver outcomes that each of the two nations find more than acceptable. It's not just talking, we need to get to good solutions, we need to resolve these conflicts in a way that it's reflective of the fundamental rights of the citizens of Greece as well as people all across the world.