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Greece – Reviving economy, triumphant return
May 18, 2014, 9:29 am
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In a thirty-year diplomatic career that began as attaché at the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1984, His Excellency Dr. Theodoros J. Theodorou, the Ambassador of the Republic of Greece to Kuwait, has accrued decades of extensive experience and in-depth knowledge in all aspects of diplomacy.

"Two years ago when I visited Kuwait, as part of a delegation headed by the then Greek Vice-President of the European Parliament, I instantly fell in love with this beautiful country and hoped someday to serve here. Shortly thereafter, when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Athens offered me the ambassadorial post to Kuwait, I wholeheartedly accepted it, said Ambassador Theodorou at the start of an exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait.

With a post-graduate diploma in Diplomacy and fluency in multiple languages, the ambassador has served at the Greek Permanent Delegation to the European Union in Brussels, and at his country's Permanent Delegation to the United Nations in Geneva. His years of diplomatic experience in Greece and abroad led to his appointment in 1998, for a one-year term, as Spokesman for the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

From 1999 to 2003, the ambassador was the Director of Minority Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens and before that as Diplomatic Adviser to the European Coordinator for South East Europe. As part of his diplomatic postings, the ambassador has also served at several Greek missions abroad, including at the Greek Consulate in Izmir, Turkey and at his country's embassy in Damascus, Syria. With a passion for all things marine, the ambassador was also for a period of four years Greece's Deputy Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization in London.

Prior to taking up his assignment in Kuwait, Ambassador Theodorou headed the Directorate for International Energy Issues with MFA and before that was the Diplomatic Adviser to the Vice-President of Greece. Recently the ambassador returned from the Kingdom of Bahrain where he presented his credentials to the government, as the non-resident Ambassador of Greece to Bahrain.

Underlining the Greek governments increased focus on this region the ambassador noted that Greece, which currently holds the six-month European Union (EU) Presidency, is organizing a joint meeting of EU and Arab Foreign Ministers in Athens in June. Kuwait's First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah will be heading a high-level Kuwaiti delegation to the Foreign Ministers' meeting.

The EU and the 22-nation Arab League, in particular the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, realize the importance of opening up channels of communication needed to increase economic and political cooperation between the two regions. Participation by the Kuwaiti foreign minister at the EU-Arab League meeting emphasizes the importance of furthering such constructive exchanges through dialogue and discussions.

Following the Foreign Ministers' conclave in Athens, the Kuwaiti delegation is expected to extend their stay in the Greek capital to take part in celebrations marking fifty years of Greek-Kuwaiti diplomatic relations. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid will also hold bilateral discussions with his Greek counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Elaborating on enhancing economic ties between the two countries, Ambassador Theodorou noted that while trade between Greece and Kuwait was picking up, there was plenty of potential for further expansion of these commercial links. "These days, I can see an increased presence of Greek products, such as olive oil, feta cheese, honey and several processed foods on supermarket shelves, but the scope for extending this to include other Greek food products, especially fresh agricultural products is immense.”

Clarifying this further, the envoy added, “While I was in Bahrain recently, Gulf Air, the Kingdom's principal flag-carrier, announced that they would be soon begin operating direct flights from Manama to Athens. This connection would not only facilitate and increase tourism and business traffic between the region and Greece, but also, with dedicated space on board the aircraft for perishable cargo, it could transport high-quality fresh produce from Greek farms directly to shelves of GCC supermarkets."

On the investment side, Ambassador Theodorou stressed that while Kuwaiti  financial institutions such as the state's Kuwait Investment Authority, and the private sector investment holding company, Kuwait Projects Company (KIPCO), have ongoing investments in Greece, the scale of lucrative ventures opening up across Greece, provides significant opportunities that call for greater participation by Kuwaiti businesses.

Detailing the reviving investment climate in Greece, the envoy pointed out that foreign investors from around the world were finding Greek portfolios to be once again very attractive. “And I am not speaking just of real estate, there are plenty of attractive options in infrastructure, energy, environment, agriculture, leisure and hospitality sectors to name a few. 

The new Investment Incentives Law provides an efficient institutional framework for all investors in Greece, and creates a development friendly environment for strategic and private investments.”

“Moreover, the Ministry of Interior recently expanded the categories of third nationals entitled to be issued residence permit, including investors interested in making strategic endowments in Greece.

The new law will issue residence permit to all third nationals who purchase real estate of €250,000 value, or will make use of time sharing of real estate for 10 years.”
Citing examples of private sector investments in the Greek economy, the ambassador pointed out: “Recently, the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, Greece's privatization agency, received a revised bid of €915 million from a Greek-led consortium to develop the large waterfront site of the old Athens airport.

The consortium, led by Greece's Lamda Development SA, and which includes major investors from the UAE and China, not only committed to invest at least €5.7 billion in the project over the next 10 years, but also to shoulder the entire €1.25 billion cost of building the necessary infrastructure for the site.”

Greece is counting on this 99-year concession to redevelop Athens's old airport to help rejuvenate the country's economy. The development, which is spread across an area that is three times the size of Principality of Monaco, will include residential, hotel and commercial properties, as well as an extensive marina and public park.

The project is regarded one of largest urban construction projects in Europe and is expected to last a decade and to generate as many as 50,000 jobs, while adding a full percentage point to Greece's gross domestic product.

Also, an Australian group of investors have announced plans to build the largest master-planned resort in the Greek Islands. The mega luxury resort on the southern shores of the Greek island of Ithaca, with an investment of over one billion euros, will include six luxury hotels, a marina to accommodate 200 yachts and possibly cruise ships, as well as an 18-hole Greg Norman designed golf course and a waterfront village. In a further vote of confidence in the Greek economy, Qatar's former Emir, who owns the 1,236-acre uninhabited Ionian islet of Oxia, is now intending to transform it into a super luxury resort with an investment of nearly € 300 million.

Meanwhile, the government, which is expecting the number of foreign tourists in Greece to rise by 50 percent in the next decade, has announced plans to invest 500 million Euro per year over the next six years in major tourism infrastructure and similar activities.

The tourism numbers that are projected to rise from the current 20 million annual visitors to more than 30 million visitors per year over the next ten years, has also attracted interest from the private sector, which is expected to invest at an additional annual rate of 3 billion euros.

The country’s major construction groups are also beginning to turn their attention back to the local market and look forward to big project contracts from the Greek government. Some of the attractive prospects include Crete’s new airport at Kastelli, Iraklio, as well as tenders by state railway project coordinator ERGOSE to complete the upgrading of the country’s railway network, and work to complete the Proastiakos suburban rail network.

Emphasizing the cordial bilateral relations between Greece and Kuwait, both on the government and people to people level, the ambassador said, “Greece and Kuwait enjoy strong diplomatic and bilateral ties in various domains that stretches back more than five decades.

This year, we are commemorating half-a-century of friendly and fruitful relations between our two countries through a number of cultural and business events. For instance, over the last few months we held several commercial and social gatherings. Beginning in January, we had the international pianist Janis Vakarelis, along with a quartet of Greek musicians, performing pieces from famous Greek composers at Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah.

“Then, in late January, a 60-strong Greek business delegation, headed by MFA Secretary General for Business Development, Panagiotis Mihalos, visited Kuwait. The Secretary General and his delegation met and held encouraging discussions with various companies and businessmen under the auspices of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In early February we also held a five-day long Greek Food Gastronomy promotion in Kuwait city with the participation of renowned Greek Chef Ioannis Tsivourakis.”

“The warm and friendly relations between Greece and Kuwait can be traced back centuries and exists even today in various shared elements of food, music and other art. So the current level of cultural exchanges are not only reinforcing something that is already existing, but also creating increased awareness of our many commonalities that in turn help consolidate and cement the deep bonds between our two peoples,” added the ambassador in conclusion.


 

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