On the sidelines of the 3rd Conference on Security and Stability held in Rhodes, the Minister for Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information, Mr. Nikos Pappas, spoke exclusively to IBNA, for the Prespes Agreement, the Eurogroup decisions and the exit from the era of the Memoranda, the emergence of Greece as a pillar of stability in the region, as well as the digital transformation of the public sector.
Minister, this is turning out to be a historic week for Greece. Can we have your comment on yesterday’s Eurogroup decision and essentially what is Greece’s exit from surveillance?
I think it is a pivotal day in which the expectations we had, even when we were deep inside the crisis, are being realized. We talked about the need to restructure Greece’s debt, even when previous governments had adopted a line according to which debt at that time was sustainable, even with the bleak fiscal prospects of the time. You realize it is a fundamental change which is also reflected in the statements of foreign officials as well as in international media. Of course some complainers and querulous people do exist; they identify their political prospects with the prospect of the economy completely collapsing. When the economy does well, they are no longer necessary.
Is the government satisfied with the decisions reached the day before yesterday?
Yes. We are very pleased and we believe that until 2030 a clear path is open, with the international economic community and the local economy alike realizing that Greece’s borrowing needs can be easily met and are under 15% of GDP as we had agreed.
The big challenge is that the people can feel Greece’s economic freedom too…
Exactly. But, already the fiscal space is being created that will allow us to take the appropriate initiatives. The Prime Minister will do what he has to do, and he has proven along with the government as a whole that when the space is available, this government knows where to channel available resources.
You participated in the 3rd Conference for Stability and Security held in Rhodes. What issues did you discuss?
Today’s session was about the possibilities of cooperation on issues relating to new technologies, digital policy and outer space. Cooperation in this area not only offers great capabilities, but Greece will lead in the coordination of actions to be taken by the countries participating in the conference, in order to deepen cooperation in these areas. Today’s event is yet more evidence that Greece not only can, but is already playing a strategic role as a hub, a bridge of diplomacy and economy in the wider region. Greece’s role is crucial to the stabilization of the region and the growth prospects of our economies.
As you stressed, geostrategic importance plays a very important role. With there be strengthening, so as for Greece to be more extrovert? I ask because there is an issue with following up on actions.
Extroversion is exactly what is happening here [at this event]. This is what extroversion means. It is to be acknowledged by friendly, allied and other countries as a crucial player in your region. And this is the case with Greece. Greece is a country on the eastern edges of the European Union – there is also Cyprus, but Greece has land access – and we acknowledge too and prioritize the kind of role we want to play upon exiting the crisis. Coming out of the crisis, Greece is closing fronts with its northern neighbors and is restored in the area as a hub for telecoms, transport, trade, energy. It cannot play this role if it has problems with its northern neighbors. Therefore, this is exactly what is being acknowledged by other countries in the region; that Greece is at a crossroads. Instead of its uniqueness being a source of problems, it is a source of capabilities, for both Greece and its friends.
Will Greece be able to play a leading role in the changes being promoted in the EU, and how important is this?
I think Greece is now starring. If one takes a look back at the core of the agenda it has promoted over many years in the past, he will see that this agenda is now at the heart of the debate regarding the future of the EU.
With regard to your ministry, what new initiatives will you undertake?
Our ministry is currently unfolding a series of actions relating to investments worth over half a billion euros in work tied to the technological transformation of society. Connectivity at the cutting edge of fiber optics is already underway and specifics will be announced in coming days. The technological transformation of public administration will be proclaimed and it is impacting many bodies already. And we also have the major project that is the technological transformation Greek agriculture, a huge process that will revolutionize production. The use of satellite and land data will allow our farmers to get targeted and personalized advice.
All of this requires time. When will they be felt by society?
The technological transformation of the public sector will have to be completed by the end of 2018. This means 400 million euros in resources will be saved. All public entities are now legally obliged to transfer their documents digitally as well as interact with citizens digitally, until the end of the year. I think we will very soon witness a transformation that will change the way citizens define their relationship with the state. And this is the most important thing of all.
Finally, can we have your comment on Sunday’s election in Turkey?
We hope they can constitute a positive incision toward the necessary calm that must prevail in the region. Some must stop using relations with neighboring countries as a tool for domestic consumption. The elections we hope will contribute to our neighbor becoming calmer, because it has been restless lately and this is not good for anyone. /IBNA