On the sidelines of the 4th Tripartite Summit of Greece, Cyprus and Israel, representatives of the chambers of commerce from the three countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). On behalf of Greece, the MoU was signed by the President of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Konstantinos Michalos. Mr. Michalos spoke exclusively to IBNA about the trilateral co-operation and the prospects of Greek entrepreneurship in the post-memorandum era.
Can you tell us a few words about what was discussed during the meeting of the Greek, Cypriot and Israeli representatives of the chambers of commerce?
At the meeting we held prior to the signing of the MoU between the chambers of commerce, we discussed about a closer co-operation we ought to have with our Cypriot colleagues and of course the Israeli president. We will not stay at this only, though. We have already put together an action plan that will begin to be implemented as soon as next week. There is obvious interest in doing business. The issue is how it will be put on track so that it delivers results for all three markets, for all three economies, not only in the energy market which is the issue everyone is discussing, but also in a wider spectrum of the economy and the market. We will work very closely so that Greece – which still has a bailout programme to implement – and Cyprus – which successfully completed its own bailout programme – can work in a synergy with the developing economy of Israel, while using everyone’s know how for the benefit of all three countries.
Greece has a problem to tackle in terms of the so called “follow up”. How can this be overcome?
As far as the chambers are concerned there is no follow up problem. An issue does exist, however, when it comes to the governments. I ought to say that, despite the initial difficulties we may have faced in 2015, the current government has understood that the only pillar for growth is the private sector. In the context of the national strategic growth plan submitted to Eurogroup by the government – to which the chambers contributed via the cost-analysed proposals – we will be in a position to achieve tangible results. Today, the government is collaborating with the private sector and I hope that the delays usually witnessed after events like the one held today, will cease and we will take the bull by the horns.
The government has caved many co-operation schemes at tripartite and other levels. There is an element of economic diplomacy in those, too. Has there been progress in this area? What do you think needs to be changed? Do you have any proposals of your own to make?
The problem of economic diplomacy in recent years is linked to the fact that the economic surveillance in the context of the bailout also extended to the extroversion of the economy. It is something we are overcoming, I must say with the help of the private sector, through synergies and so on. In terms of promoting Greek products, services and tourism – our largest industry – I think we are in a position to gradually overcome obstacles through the co-operation between the government and the businesses.
The three presidents of the chambers of commerce of Greece, Cyprus and Israel during the MoU signing
Are you optimistic about the future of entrepreneurship in Greece?
I am an optimist by nature. However, I must say that after 8.5 years of facing very difficult circumstances, naturally, you hit rock bottom. Those aware of the economic theory and the business history of other countries too, understand that when you start from the bottom, the rise, at least at the beginning, can be quite sharp. This is why I believe, since everyone agrees that dealing with this national crisis – the deepest since WW2 – is a necessity, requires national criteria. As far as representative bodies are concerned, they exist. They will co-operate with the government at any given time. But I do hope that the country’s political system also understands that it is not an issue of ideology or position. It is an issue of saving the nation, the national economy; and I believe logic will prevail, allowing us all to move forward together…. / IBNA
Main Photo: Konstantinos Michalos (L) with Spiros Sideris (R) of IBNA / IBNA