Stimulating business in Greece: 138 EU companies meet with 413 Greek SME owners and managers

Brussels, 11-3-2013 — / — To support SMEs and the restart of the real economy in Greece, European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani travels today with Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director-General of DG Enterprise and SME Envoy to Athens, accompanied by representatives of more than 138 European companies. The EU companies will meet and talk with 413 Greek SME owners and managers about collaborations and trade partnerships, investment, and joint undertakings.

Central to their visit will be a business to business networking event, to reinforce partnerships and help the EU’s industry and SMEs fully exploit the potential for commercial relations with Greece. The aim is to promote business opportunities (B2B) for partnerships and investment in Greece in the following areas:

  • Agri-Food/Food Processing
  • Construction and Materials and Key Enabling Technologies
  • Energy
  • Information Communications Technology
  • Pharmaceuticals/Health Sciences
  • Tourism.

Vice President Tajani is keen to help Greek SMEs overcome current difficulties, realise their potential and contribute to the recovery of the Greek economy, especially given the unused potential of SMEs at this time.

He said: “Together with the Hellenic Ministry of Development and Ministry of Tourism we will focus mainly on areas identified as the backbone of the Greek economy. This B2B conference is a great opportunity to strengthen the links between companies from Greece and other European countries and to exploit the underused business potential that currently exists in the European economy.”

First positive effects of help measures

SMEs in Greece have experienced quite some difficulties in the past few years. However, recent supportive actions and reforms implemented by the Greek government are starting to have positive effects on SMEs and improve economic conditions, as shown by the following developments:

Reform the Greek labour market

Significant action has already been taken to reform the Greek labour market, and further efforts are being made. The perceptible downward pressure on wages reflects a long-overdue reaction to high unemployment – which in turn resulted from rigid wages which were often substantially out of line with worker productivity – and to the severity of the recession. This correction was eventually possible thanks to the extensive labour market reforms taken earlier in 2012, which created more opportunities for firm-level agreements, a limitation of the ‘after-effects’ on pay after the expiration of collective agreements, and reductions in minimum wages.

Greek exports to continue growing in 2013‏

Greek exports are expected to continue growing for the fourth consecutive year in 2013, rising by up to 10%. In 2012 Greek exports already grew by 10% to €24.5bn, exceeding initial forecasts and breaking 2011’s record of €20bn. The export/import rate fell to 1.8 in 2012, a sharp fall compared with previous years. If this trend is combined with a stronger shift towards Greek products, then the benefit for the country’s trade balance would be huge. He said that the Foreign Trade Board planned more than 60 initiatives for this year, of which 52 were participations in international trade fairs and 13 business delegations, despite the fact that funding has been drastically cut.

Tourism industry says early 2013 bookings up to 20% higher to date

The tourism industry remained a strong supporter of the Greek economy after achieving its targets of attracting 16 million international arrivals and €10bn in tourism receipts last year.

The messages received so far for tourism trends this year are optimistic, with a 20% increase in bookings from the UK, a 15% rise in bookings from Germany, France and Scandinavia and a more than 20% increase in bookings for developing countries, such as Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Turkey, among others.

The business environment is improving

According to the recent World Bank report on doing business in Greece, the country has improved its ranking from 89 to 78 and now belongs to the top ten reformers worldwide.

Further reforms are under preparation, supported by technical assistance from the European Commission Task Force, the OECD, the Word Bank and others. These include covering export facilitation, simplification and acceleration of licencing procedures, reduction of administrative burden and improved public procurement.

Greek pharmaceuticals industry has gained powerful momentum

Considering evaluations setting the recession at about 4.5% for 2013 and that the country has lost over 23% of its gross product as of 2008, a recent study by the Economic and Industrial Research Foundation (IOBE) “Growth prospects of the Greek pharmaceutical industry”, highlights the momentum that the local pharmaceuticals industry has developed over the past years, with the basic characteristics being competitiveness, extroversion and innovation.

The study recorded the leading position of the local pharmaceuticals industry in the processing sector, given that it presented the highest average annual increase in terms of Gross Added Value over the 2000-2010 period compared to other local processing sectors. This increase is the biggest in EU member-states (in the corresponding sector) over this specific period of time. More specifically, over the past decade the sector’s contribution to local processing activity followed an upward trend reaching 10 percent (of the total processing production) in 2010. This share is the third highest in the EU, following those of Slovenia and Denmark. For the same period of time, 2000-2011, the sector achieved the biggest production increase in local processing, the biggest increase in the EU for the period in question. Moreover, it is noted that the exports of pharmaceutical products hold the fourth biggest share in the total Greek processing exports.

The sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP is estimated at € 2.8 billion.

New international businesses in Athens

In January an international company inaugurated a new research and innovation centre in Athens, it’s third in Europe. The new centre will not develop new products, but will focus on monitoring and studying consumer behaviour and trends through the use of innovative technologies. As such, it is expected to play a key role in shaping the business’s strategy not only in Greece but also in the wider region of South-eastern Europe.

In February, two multinationals reinforced their presence in Greece with an agreement on a harbour terminal in Piraeus as a main region hub for cargo shipments, and another multinational intends to shift production to Greece.

Investments in Greek wind power sector total € 2.5 bln in 2012‏

The value of investments made in renewable energy sources in Greece totalled around €2.5 billion in 2012, of which around € 150 million were in wind power projects, according to a report by the Hellenic Scientific Association of Wind Power Energy. The report notes that net increase in wind power was 115.2 MW in 2012, up 7.0 % compared with the previous year, after a 23.5 % growth rate recorded in 2011 – the best year in history for the wind power sector in Greece. The figures offer clear evidence that the wind power sector is alive and has significant growth prospects.

Commenting these developments, Vice President Tajani said: “We are confident that the collaboration and the enthusiasm of European companies will support the rejuvenation of the Greek SMEs as well as the economy as a whole. Greece will remain a stable partner in Europe and one of the worldwide most active reformer with the present and future structural reform agenda strongly geared to productivity gains with the ultimate goal of fostering growth and creating employment.”

Vice President Tajani also welcomed progress made in the cooperation between Greece and the Task Force for Greece (TFGR). The TFGR organises the delivery of technical assistance to support a wide range of structural reforms in Greece, as the country seeks to strengthen its public administration, modernise its regulatory system and lay the foundations for a new growth model based on enterprise and investment. By the end of 2012, the TFGR coordinated an extensive portfolio of over 40 technical assistance projects in 10 different policy domains, including the business environment and tourism.

Task force for Greece

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