Greece 2016

Page 1

GREECE 2016

Diplomacy&Commerce

THE CRADLE OF EUROPE, THE MARITIME SUPERPOWER GORAN KNEŽEVIĆ

CHARALAMBOS KOUNALAKIS

GEORGIOS PAPANASTASIOU

Economy Minister

Minister Counsellor for Economic and Commercial Affairs at the Embassy of Greece to Serbia

President of the Hellenic Business Association (HBA)






02

ZERO NAVIGABLE RIVERS

01

Greece has zero navigable rivers because of the mountainous terrain. Nearly 80% of Greece is mountainous.

BIRTHPLACE OF DEMOCRACY Continuously inhabited for over 7,000 years, Athens is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is also the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, political science, Western literature, historiography, major mathematical principles, and Western theories of tragedy and comedy.

06

Feta, which is made from goat’s milk, is the Greece’s national cheese. It dates back to the Homeric ages, and the average per-capita consumption of feta cheese in Greece is the highest in the world.

05 THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES The city of Rhodes (the capital of the island of Rhodes) is the most popular location for tourists in Greece. The city is famous for housing one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Colossus of Rhodes (from which the word “colossal” is derived). This gigantic 98-foot (303-meter) statue of the god Helios, whose legs straddled the harbour, was destroyed by an earthquake in 226 B.C.

6

Focus

NATIONAL CHEESE

GREECE 2016


03

THE BEST GIFT

According to Greek mythology, Athena and Poseidon agreed that whoever gave the city the best gift would become guardian over the city. Though Poseidon gave the gift of water, Athena’s gift of an olive tree was deemed by the other gods to be more valuable and hence – Athens!

04

MERCHANT FLEET

Greek ships make up 70% of the European Union’s total merchant fleet. According to Greek law, 75% of a ship’s crew must be Greek

08 07

OLYMPIC GAMES The first Olympic Games took place in 776 B.C. The first Olympic champion was a Greek cook named Coroebus who won the sprint race.

DESTRUCTIBLE ISLAND

Santorini, is the southernmost island of the Cyclades. It is also the site of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in world history. The Thera eruption occurred circa 1500 BC. It caused the destruction of Akrotiri and the decline of the civilization there. It also caused the destruction of the first Palaces in Crete. In the aftermath, the Minoans from Crete dominated the Aegean Sea before the eruption of the Mycenaean Civilisation.

GREECE 2016

Focus

7


GORAN KNEŽEVIĆ Economy Minister

INTERVIEW

WE WILL CONTINUE IMPROVING THE BUSINESS CLIMATE 8

Focus

GREECE 2016

During this term, we must finish the process of resolving the problems of companies that have not had their value raised for the market and focus on further improving the business climate, while giving a chance to the healthy segment of our economy. In other words, this means attracting investors and bolstering small and medium-sized enterprises


T

he Serbian Government and the Economy Ministry are fast becoming better partners to businesses by creating institutional conditions for attracting new investments, developing the private sector and boosting the competitiveness of the domestic economy. To that end, the Ministry of the Economy will shift its focus from dealing with inefficient companies, which have been a burden on the country’s economy for far too long and are also undermining financial stability, to building up domestic companies which have proven themselves to be competitive and capable of adapting to the market game, as well as to attracting investors who have the existing support system at their full disposal. This system is devised in such a way that is tailor-made to all interested investors, starting with the Serbian Development Agency, which is the first stop for potential investors and local self-governments, all the way to the Economy Ministry and the Serbian government. “I believe that Greek investors will be interested in solidifying our cooperation under such conditions,” says Economy Minister Goran Knežević, adding “especially considering that the Greek private sector is still very strong and shows a pronounced interest in investing in areas like renewa-

THE MINISTRY OF THE ECONOMY WILL BE FOCUSING ON PROMOTING INVESTMENTS, SIMPLIFYING ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES AND IMPLEMENTING LAWS THAT FACILITATE THE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT ble energy sources, environmental protection and transportation.”

What are the most important reform moves that your Ministry will make in the period ahead?  Serbia is on an excellent path of economic renaissance, has been properly conducting economic reform and has opened its door to investors, as a result of stable fiscal policies. Our goal is to increase the investment volume in Serbia, to facilitate increased exports of Serbian products, to improve Serbia's position in the world and to keep working on providing legal security and a level playing field

for all stakeholders on the Serbian market and in its economic life. Although the previous period has seen us working on issues plaguing the companies that have been inefficient and unsustainable on the market for years, which, in turn, has had a significant impact on Serbia’s fiscal consolidation, we are adamant on finishing these processes during this government’s term.

What can the Ministry do to further improve the overall business climate?  Numerous studies have shown that the majority of foreign investors are satisfied with the business climate in Serbia. Business people have told us that we should continue countering the shadow economy and focus more on e-government, as an avenue for providing services both to citizens and businesses. Great progress has been made in these segments. However, it is vitally important for the economic environment to resolve some inherited problems from the past. By doing so, we will be able to use more capacity, energy and funds on what can be called “the healthy segment of the Serbian economy,” i.e., on attracting investors, supporting SMEs and having a more efficient administration. All of this will contribute to improving Serbia's ranking on the World Bank’s Doing Business list.

GREECE 2016

Focus

9


What can existing foreign investors in Serbia expect in terms of your Ministry's activities?  Investors have shown great interest in investing in Serbia, as a result of our country moving towards EU membership, its strategically important position in this part of Europe, excellent results accomplished by the stable macroeconomic policy and strong political guidance. In the following period, the Ministry of the Economy will focus on improving existing tools for the promotion of both domestic and foreign investments, on eliminating unnecessary and complex administrative procedures, and on implementing the laws devised to advance the business environment. It is important to mention that we have declared 2016 as the Year of Entrepreneurship, which practically means that we are focusing on boosting the SME sector in order to, first and foremost, ensure the development of entrepreneurship and economic foundation, in addition to creating chains of suppliers and partners to investors in Serbia. We are also developing opportunities for public-private partnerships, which are still in their infancy here.

OWING TO THE DYNAMIC DIALOGUE THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS WITH THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY, A SERIES OF LAWS HAVE BEEN ADOPTED WHICH, IN PRACTICE, EASE BUSINESS OPERATIONS AND MAKE THEM EVEN SAFER did Greek investments improve the business environment in Serbia?  Greek capital is present in various segments of the Serbian economy, but mostly in the banking sector. Apart from that, the biggest Greek investments were made in telecommunications, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, hospitality industry, retail etc.

through different formats of cooperation, like the Hellenic Plan.

Can you tell us something about upcoming investments and how interested Greek investors are in investing in Serbia?  As a result of expedited reforms in Serbia, we have created a favourable and attractive business environment, which is very important for new Greek investments – considering mutual interests and economic potential. The existing investor support system is devised in such way that it services all interested investors, starting with the Development Agency, which is the first stop for potential investors, and local self-governments, all the way to our Ministry and the Serbian Government.

You have hinted that the Ministry will be cooperating with the business community much more closely. What does this mean in practice, in terms of fostering a dialogue about laws and the practical implementation of regulations that affect businesses?

AS A RESULT OF EXPEDITED REFORMS IN SERBIA, WE HAVE CREATED A FAVOURABLE AND ATTRACTIVE BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT, WHICH IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR NEW GREEK INVESTMENTS How would you rate trade cooperation with Greece?  I would say that the economic cooperation between Serbia and Greece, and especially trade between the two countries, as the dominant economic activity, has been characterised by stability, diversity and sustained growth since the year 2000. However, the pace of Greek investments slowed down significantly with the onset of serious recession in Greece. I am confident that we are going to work together to improve Greece's image as an investor in Serbia.

Greek companies are active in almost all economic branches here. How much

10

Focus

GREECE 2016

Where do you see the greatest potential for the further development of economic cooperation with Greece?  Despite Greece suffering from the most severe financial crisis in its recent history, the Greek private sector still has big investment potential. Greek investors are mostly interested in infrastructure, energy (especially renewable energy resources), environmental protection and transport. Our two countries and nations have been nurturing a very close and sincere friendship. We have supported each other in difficult situations on many occasions, which is why I am confident that our two countries can find common economic interest

 Owing to the dynamic dialogue that the Government has with the business community, a series of laws have been adopted which, in practice, ease business operations and make them even safer. For instance,, there is the Labour Law, which now better regulates labour issues, the Law on Inspection Oversight, which is now focusing more on prevention than sanctioning, and the Investment Law, which creates a safe framework for supporting investors. We are certainly going to continue implementing and improving these good practices, because the success of our policies is measured by the success of our economy and the satisfaction of our citizens.


GREECE 2016

Focus

11


CHARALAMBOS KOUNALAKIS INTERVIEW

MOVING ON THE SUNNY SIDE

Minister Counsellor for Economic and Commercial Affairs at the Embassy of Greece to Serbia

The Greek goal is to prevent the further fragmentation of Europe and encourage the enlargement of the European family. The current economic progress in Greece, and the efforts of the embassy to match Greek and Serbian business interests, promise more optimism in the near future

T

he office for economic and commercial affairs of the Greek Embassy in Belgrade will be fully engaged in trying to create new synergies between Greek and Serbian companies, in order to meet the interest from the Greek side, says Charalambos Kounalakis, Minister Counsellor for Economic and Commercial Affairs at the Embassy of Greece in Belgrade. He adds that such activities allow us to be more optimistic and that the Greek business presence in Serbia will be more dynamic in the near future.

How would you rate the overall economic situation in Greece and how much have the austerity measures helped or hindered economic recovery?  During the last six years, the Greek people have exerted an unprecedented effort in

12

Focus

GREECE 2016

order to adapt to the adverse economic circumstances triggered by the international financial and economic crisis. More specifically, Greece has managed to reduce its fiscal primary and current account deficits from double digits to around zero. This is an impressive adjustment for a country be-

GREECE IS EXPECTING THE RECOVERY PROCESS TO ACCELERATE IN THE LAST QUARTER OF 2016, SO THAT A RETURN TO SIGNIFICANT POSITIVE GROWTH CAN BE ACHIEVED IN 2017

longing to a currency union, where policy levers are limited. Austerity measures of such magnitude inevitably have an impact on revenues and employment, testing the limits of social cohesion when it is most needed. However, the Greek economy is now entering a new phase of stability and is progressing dynamically to redress the losses incurred during the deep recession of the previous years. Financial stability and the consolidation of our banking system will be a catalyst for a return to growth and for job creation. Moreover, the structural reforms implemented in the public sector will ease the recovery process considerably, by promoting a new production model, with high added value investment and job creation focused on the skilled manpower of our country. This new development model is based on the comparative advantages of


our economy, such as Greece’s geopolitical position, as well as on our accumulated expertise in sectors where Greece has established its presence in the international competitive environment (tourism, shipping, construction, energy, etc.). We are, therefore, expecting the recovery process to have accelerated in the last quarter of 2016, so that a return to significant positive growth can be achieved in 2017. The improvement of the overall economic climate in Greece, together with the aforementioned structural reforms, can convert the spiral of recession into a “virtuous circle” that will ensure sustainable economic growth and social welfare, not only in the short term, but also in the long term.

Based on you experience, how do you see the current economic situation in the EU, the ramifications of Brexit, and the consequences for the Greek economy?  Since the beginning of the crisis, both European institutions and many European countries have had to implement a series

GREEK COMPANIES OPERATING ON THE SERBIAN MARKET ARE INCREASINGLY SATISFIED WITH THE OVERALL BUSINESS CLIMATE, BUT ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO RED TAPE BEING REDUCED essary to take bold initiatives and decisions for the future of Europe, by encouraging a return to the founding values of European integration, towards the reestablishment of the European project based on the principles of democracy, freedom, equality and solidarity. Greece will actively participate in this effort through initiatives to eliminate disparities at the regional level and within countries. Our goal is to prevent the further fragmentation of Europe and, in contrast, encourage the enlargement of our European family.

ness expansion abroad. The recovery and expected growth of the Greek economy, as well as the restoring of international confidence, will no doubt allow our companies to increase their competitiveness and elaborate more ambitious business plans, in terms of future expansion in the Balkan region and elsewhere. Moreover, the office for economic and commercial affairs of the Greek Embassy in Belgrade will be exerting efforts to create new synergies between Greek and Serbian companies, through targeted networking events. Interest from the Greek side is increasing continuously, which allows us to be more optimistic that the Greek business presence in Serbia will be more dynamic in the near future.

How appealing to Greek businesses are the latest plans for infrastructure connections across the Western Balkans, within the framework of the Berlin Initiative?  Improving and connecting transport and energy infrastructure within the Western Balkans, with the financial support of the appropriate EU framework, will bring clear

FINANCIAL STABILITY AND THE CONSOLIDATION OF OUR BANKING SYSTEM WILL BE A CATALYST FOR A RETURN TO GROWTH AND FOR JOB CREATION of wide ranging reforms. Apart from temporary assistance mechanisms established to cope with the immediate crisis, the EU set to work resolving the root causes of its weaknesses and took long-term measures to create permanent support facilities and help prevent a reoccurrence of future crises. As a result, Europe is coming out of the crisis stronger than it entered. However, on a different level, the outcome of the British referendum was a major blow to the project of European integration. The democratic decision of British citizens must, of course, be respected, but it is, at the same time, crucial not to alienate Britain and its citizens from the European Union. At this turning point in European history, it is nec-

How much did this situation impact on Greek companies in terms of their decisions to invest abroad, and especially in the Balkans?  More than 200 Greek companies are currently operating in Serbia, employing around 25,000 people, in sectors such as finance, construction, retail, telecommunications and information technology, food and beverages etc. Despite the economic crisis, Greek companies have managed to maintain their presence on the Serbian market and total Greek investment in Serbia today exceeds €2 billion. It is true that conditions on the domestic market have made it quite difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises to envisage busi-

benefits for the region’s economies and citizens, providing the basis for new private and public investment. Moreover, these projects are fundamental for the Western Balkans’ European path, by encouraging closer integration with the EU. In the follow-up to the Berlin Initiative, the Paris Package Connectivity Agenda, endorsing the co-financing of specific investment projects in the Western Balkans for 2016, constitutes a wide-ranging effort to modernise and integrate the region’s economic and transport infrastructure, which includes rail, road, air and sea transport networks, as well as energy infrastructure. The 2016 Connectivity Agenda, and especially the Mediterranean corridor rail interconnection project,

GREECE 2016

Focus

13


further develop our trade relations. This is going to succeed by jointly exploring opportunities and complementarities in sectors like agriculture, food and beverage, building and construction materials, energy, information and communication technologies etc. In order to fully exploit our economic and trade potential, we intend to organise a series of trade events in Serbia, as well as in Greece, such as missions from Greece to Serbia and vice versa, promotional events for specific groups of products (i.e. food and beverage, construction materials) etc.

Which segments of economic cooperation could be further improved?

between Albania, Montenegro and Greece, is complementary to our wider plan to turn the port of Piraeus into a regional hub for trade with Europe, especially taking into account the new infrastructure investments planned by Chinese shipping giant Cosco Pacific, which now holds a majority stake in the Port of Piraeus. These projects will accelerate the flow of goods throughout the Balkans, establishing a corridor between China and Europe, and giving us the opportunity to increase the scale of our trade considerably. There is no doubt that these new infrastructure projects will be appealing to Greek companies, as several major Greek construction companies are currently active in Serbia and some are already involved in the construction of pan-European transport corridors that traverse Serbia. Moreover, there is rising interest from Greek energy sector companies regarding the Serbian energy market, especially in the segment of energy efficiency and RES, and they will be very interested in exploring business opportunities through this new cooperation agenda.

14

Focus

GREECE 2016

How would you rate overall trade relations between Greece and Serbia?  Greece and Serbia have always enjoyed excellent bilateral relations, due to both cultural and historical factors. Unfortunately, these relations are not equally reflected in the commercial sector, where our overall bilateral trade volume remains low, despite our potentials. We therefore consider that great potential exists to

THERE IS STRONG INTEREST FOR BUSINESS COOPERATION FROM BOTH SIDES AND BILATERAL EVENTS, BUSINESS MISSIONS AND ECONOMIC FORA WILL BE ORGANISED TO ENCOURAGE NEW PARTNERSHIPS

 There is great potential to develop our economic cooperation in the form of trade exchanges, as I have just mentioned, but also through joint ventures/investments in Serbia, joint ventures/investments in Greece, as well as joint cooperation in third countries. Potential fields where we can strengthen our bilateral economic cooperation include sectors like tourism-real estate-hospitality, agriculture, food and beverage, building and construction materials, energy/RES, transport, waste management/recycling/waste water treatment, information and communication technologies, pharmaceuticals, irrigation systems, ship building/repair etc. There is strong interest for business cooperation from both sides in all of the aforementioned sectors, and bilateral events, business missions and economic fora will be organised to encourage new partnerships, in cooperation between Greek and Serbian ministries and institutions.

How satisfied are Greek companies already operating in Serbia when it comes to the business climate and opportunities for expansion here?  Greek companies operating on the Serbian market are increasingly satisfied with the overall business climate, as Serbia has already come a long way in adopting measures to stabilise public finances and create a business friendly environment. During the last few years, consistent application of the ambitious structural reforms programme has considerably improved the business and investment climate and has boosted economic activity. The remaining challenges that Greek companies face, and which need to be addressed in order to further promote trade and investment, relate to modernising the business legal framework by reducing red tape, as well as harmonising trade regulations in order to reduce the administrative costs that remain on certain goods, and to eliminate technical barriers to trade.


Ceo & Managing Director Of Alumil Yu Industry A.d.

The Growth

AND FURTHER DEVELOPMENT Alumil will, as it did before, follow the requirements of the market and contribute to the development with its investments in new production plants

I

n the past 11 years Alumil's production facilities invested over 25 million euros and, what is most important, the plans are to continue the investments. We started with a production capacity of 7,000 tons of aluminum profiles a year, we have doubled it in 2013 to 14,000 tons per year.

How do you assess the overall conditions for business and investments in Serbia from the company 's standpoint? — The fact that give optimism is that Serbia is going in the right direction in terms of the development on the basis of GDP growth, reduction of unemployment, increase in foreign direct investment, stabilization of the banking sector and the development of the construction sector, which from a business point of view, puts Serbia in its natural and geographical position of certainly unavoidable country for investments, both for the developed Western countries, and the developing countries. As for our operations in Serbia, I believe that, after a series of new laws in the construction industry, due to foreign direct investment and a reduction of bureaucracy, our branch expects better days and after a long stagnation here comes higher growth of investments in manufacturing and construction sectors. We hope that the next step of the state administration is to transfer the implementation of the new laws to the local communities.

"Alumil" continued to expand production in the last year and continued to invest in Serbia. Please tell us more about the aluminum extrusion plant?

— In the near future, we plan to continue with new investments in new extrusion line, and to produce, with these new investments, over 23,000 tons per year. Extrusion process means that the machines of the latest technology and high productivity obtain high-quality aluminum profiles, which are used in the construction industry for the production of windows and doors, ventilated facades, as well as in the automotive, medical, electronics, household decoration, solar systems. This means that we can pro-

Year by year, Alumil is investing in new production facilities, employment and training of people duce all items based on the requirements of our clients. In addition we have a powder coating plant which is one of the most advanced in the Balkans for the latest generation of aluminium heat-insulated profiles that provide better energy efficiency in the homes of our clients.

How much of its production in Serbia "Alumil" now sells on the domestic market and and how much it sells on foreign markets? — When we started in 2005, most of the production covered the needs of the Serbian market, a small portion was exported to

the markets of former Yugoslavia. In the coming years we tracked the development of the market and the construction sector and so we developed as a company too. When the crisis the market began, and the demand started to stagnate and decline, by adapting in Serbia, we remained at the same level, but we focused further company development and new production capacity to the growing markets of Russia, EU, Africa, the Middle East, and in recent years the United States and Australia. Currently 70% of our products are exported abroad, while due to the stagnation of the construction sector, Serbia consumes 30% of the products. We are pleased that this change in the ratio did not come because of our falling on the Serbian market, but due to new investments and good business abroad.

What are your future plans when it comes to doing business in Serbia? — Alumil will, as it did before, focus its investments in new production plants, it will follow the requirements of the market and contribute to development. We are already working on plans for new investments and for expansion, we plan to create a service center and a unique showroom for our customers. Year by year, Alumil is investing in new production facilities, employment and training of people, but in order to develop the Serbian economy there are certain steps that the state should take in order to protect companies that invest and regularly pay taxes in Serbia, as they do in other countries in respect of domestic production and use of domestic products in projects financed by the state.

GREECE 2016

Focus

15

CORP ORAT E

RITA IOANIS LOZINSKY


GEORGIOS PAPANASTASIOU President of the Hellenic Business Association (HBA)

INTERVIEW

WE WANT TO ACTIVELY CONTRIBUTE TO REFORMS Serbia's commitment to reforming the judicial system, fighting corruption and ensuring faster harmonisation with EU legislation will make it one of the region’s most appealing countries. We want to provide a positive contribution to the dialogue with the government and to the advancement of both the legislative and business environments

T

he Hellenic Business Association (HBA) is one of the biggest investment organisations in Serbia. In the following period, the HBA wants to play an even more active role in creating a better local business environment – says Georgios Papanastasiou, President of the HBA.

What does the Greek business community expect from the new government?  In the last few years, Serbia has taken many steps towards attracting foreign investments, and now it is vital for the new government to continue this positive trend. It is necessary for all state institutions to work continuously on making the market stable and predictable, and, to that end, the government's priorities should be creating a sustainable economic environment, reduc-

16

Focus

GREECE 2016

THE MEETING BETWEEN MIXED CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE IN SERBIA, REPRESENTATIVES OF THE SERBIAN GOVERNMENT AND THE SCC DEMONSTRATED THAT A PERIOD OF BETTER COMMUNICATION AND STRONGER COOPERATION BETWEEN BUSINESSES AND THE STATE IS AHEAD OF US

ing the fiscal deficit and continuing to pursue EU integration. On the other hand, I believe that the HBA should have an active role in formal consultations regarding new laws that regulate the economy and how business is done in Serbia, as it is necessary to solidify relations between the HBA and Serbian state institutions, to the economic benefit of both countries.

You, along with representatives of other mixed chambers of commerce, recently attended a meeting with Serbian Finance Minister Dušan Vujović and Serbian Chamber of Commerce President Marko Čadež. Has this meeting launched a new era in cooperation between the business community and the government?  The meeting between the mixed cham-


bers of commerce in Serbia, Finance Minister Dušan Vujović and President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (SCC) Marko Čadež was really constructive, considering that it started with a defining of the chambers’ joint approach to relevant state bodies and finding a solution to some crucial problems, like boosting relations between bilateral chambers and associations and the National Association of Serbian Businesses, increasing competitiveness, promoting export and developing economic diplomacy. That meeting also enabled representatives of business associations to get better acquainted with the reforms implemented by the Ministry of Finance, and saw them invited to propose activities aimed at creating a better business environment, in the sense of having a more coordinated Tax Administration and a more transparent system of charges and fees. All of this clearly shows

tion on the global market, and thus become one of the most appealing countries in the region, attracting a lot of interest from foreign investors.

now, and is one of the largest investment groups here. What do your members consider as the biggest advantages and challenges when it comes to doing business on this market?

In the last few months, you also held individual meetings with the SCC and representatives of many mixed chambers of commerce in Serbia. How can these meetings contribute in practical terms to boosting Greek business interests in Serbia?

 The Hellenic Business Association in Serbia is one of the biggest investment organisations in the country and represents approximately 80 small and major Greek and mixed companies operating in Serbia, employing a total of over 20,000 people. The advantage for Greek companies operating in Serbia is in the traditionally good cooperation between the two countries and the fact that Greece is one of the biggest investors in Serbia. An excellent geographic position, low tax rates, an educated workforce and state subsidies make Serbia very appealing to Greek investors. On the other hand, the challenges we face

 With a view to improving the position of Greek companies on the Serbian market, the HBA has organised a series of meetings and events in order to improve business cooperation with similar institutions on the market. At the meeting with SCC President Marko Čadež, it was agreed that more attention would be paid to the opinions of

THE ADVANTAGE FOR GREEK COMPANIES IS IN THE TRADITIONALLY GOOD COOPERATION BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES AND THE FACT THAT GREECE IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST INVESTORS IN SERBIA that a period of better communication and stronger cooperation between businesses and the state is ahead of us.

From the perspective of the Greek business community, which problems affecting the business climate in Serbia need resolving urgently?  Although significant progress has been made in terms of economic cooperation between Serbia and the regional countries, and although the government has been constantly working on creating a favourable economic climate in the country, I think priority should be given to solving practical problems like reforming the judicial system, fighting corruption, reforming the pension system, expediting the issuance of various permits and speeding up harmonisation with EU legislation. When it solves these problems, Serbia will make a huge leap towards EU membership, improve its posi-

Greek businesspeople in Serbia, while the representatives of the Hellenic Business Association in Serbia were invited to submit their proposals, ideas and initiatives to the Chamber. In cooperation with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the Hellenic Business Association in Serbia and the Economic and Commercial Affairs Department of the Greek Embassy have organised a business gathering called “Open Door Day for Greece – Bilateral Cooperation Opportunities”, at which Serbian and Greek companies were presented with opportunities for bilateral cooperation. Furthermore, we also organised ‘Speed Business Meetings’ with representatives of companies from various chambers of commerce and held a cocktail party for the Italian and Greek business communities.

The Hellenic Business Association has been operating in Serbia for 13 years

here coincide with problems that are common to all pre-accession countries in the region, including Serbia.

How appealing is the Serbian banking market today from the standpoint of Greek banks, which were among the first to arrive in this country?  There are four Greek banks currently operating in Serbia – Alpha Bank, Eurobank, Vojvođanska banka and Piraeus Bank. Their cumulative share in the total assets of the Serbian banking sector is currently around 13%, which merely validates the fact that economic relations between the two countries have never been stronger and that the Serbian banking sector is still quite appealing to Greek banks. According to the results of a recent stress test carried out by the country’s central bank, 14 banks, accounting for over 90% of the banking sector in Serbia, including banks founded with Greek capital,

GREECE 2016

Focus

17


are operating in line with the relevant regulation of the National Bank of Serbia and are adequately capitalised to face potential future risks. All banks with Greek capital are highly solvent and liquid, which is a clear indication that the Serbian banking market is a desirable investment destination.

You recently organised the first ever Greek Weekend in Serbia. What inspired you to create this event and what are your impressions?  The Greek Weekend was held in honour of the solid and fruitful relations between Serbia and Greece, which have been nurtured and steadfast for years. These relations grow stronger every year through mutual business cooperation and the excellent results that Greek companies achieve in Serbia, which in turn positions Greece at the very top of the list of the biggest foreign investors in Serbia, with total invested capital of over €2.5 billion (Greece currently ranks third on the list). Greek companies in Serbia are engaged in various sectors – banking, food and beverage, telecommunications, retail, tourism, construction, heavy industry and services. This is the reason why we decided to organise an event like the Greek Weekend, at which we presented Greek companies from various economic segments, while enjoying a wonderful weekend filled with good food, music and friendship. Also, due to the fact that around

18

Focus

GREECE 2016

half of a million Serbs choose Greece as their summer vacation destination, we wanted to thank them by giving them an opportunity to enjoy Greek cuisine accompanied by the sounds of Sirtaki in Belgrade, before summer begins.

This year, Serbian students were again given an opportunity to work in Greek companies. How suitable is their knowledge for specific jobs in these companies and what skills can they gain from interning?  For the second consecutive year, and as a part of the Greek Initiative for Work Expe-

INCREASING THE NUMBER OF THE ASSOCIATION’S MEMBERS AND FURTHER BOOSTING RELATIONS BETWEEN THEM, AS WELL AS ACTIVELY LOBBYING FOR SERBIA AS AN IDEAL DESTINATION FOR NEW GREEK INVESTMENTS, WILL BE OUR MOST IMPORTANT GOALS

rience programme, we gave students from the University of Belgrade an opportunity to intern at Hellenic Business Association member companies, and I have to say that the whole initiative was very successful. Thanks to that programme, young people are given a chance to ‘feel’ the business climate in the country, further improve their skills, position themselves on the labour market and get involved with Greek businesses in Serbia even before they graduate. This year, 25 students successfully completed their work practice and the best of them will continue their careers at Eurobank and Vojvođanska banka. Considering the excellent results of this programme, we are going to continue with its implementation.

What are the most important plans of the Hellenic Business Association in the next period?  Our most important goals will be increasing the number of the Association’s members and further boosting relations between them, as well as improving relations between the Association and state institutions. At the same time, we are working on advancing and strengthening economic ties between the two countries. Our priorities are also increasing the Association’s visibility in the media and actively lobbying for Serbia as an ideal destination for new Greek investments, which will benefit both the Greek and Serbian economies.



INTERVIEW

GREEK INVESTORS COMMITTED TO SERBIAN COMMUNITY

FANINA KOVAČEVIĆPOPAZ Executive Officer of the Hellenic Business Association

The Serbian market has always been appealing to Greek investors, and the Hellenic Business Association (HBA) works dedicated to facilitate the business operations of its members and new investors. For years, the Association has also been supporting the humanitarian side of the Serbian community

T

he Hellenic Business Association is among the business associations in Serbia with the longest tradition, committed to advancing Greek Serbian cooperation and creating business networking opportunities for its members; and always open to new formats of cooperation with other associations – says Fanina Kovačević-Popaz, Executive Officer of the Hellenic Business Association.

How many members does your Association have today, and are you still receiving inquiries from Greek companies willing to invest in Serbia?  Our Association currently has 80 members. Apart from Greek companies, the HBA’s members are Cypriot and Serbian firms, as well as companies of mixed ownership and international companies that adhere to the Statute of our Association. It is a well-known fact that the Serbian market has always been appealing to Greek investors, who play quite an active role in banking,

20

Focus

GREECE 2016

hospitality, media, tourism, telecommunications, food and beverage, construction, heavy industry and the service sector for a number of years. Greek companies are still

ONE OF THE MAIN GOALS OF OUR ASSOCIATION IS TO ENCOURAGE GREEK COMPANIES TO INVEST IN SERBIA AND TO ACT AS INITIAL PLATFORM FOR NEW GREEK BUSINESSES IN FINDING PARTNERS AND BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES interested in investing in Serbia, and their inquiries mostly refer to information about particular business sectors, legislation,

business opportunities and potential partners. One of the main goals of our Association is to provide support to investor initiatives and, to that end, we encourage Greek companies interested to invest in Serbia, by providing them with detailed information and expert opinions from our members. In many cases, our association is a starting base for the newly established Greek companies, since they successfully find their first clients and business partners among the members of the HBA.

How can the Association’s members establish contacts and cooperate among themselves?  As one of the oldest business associations in the country, present in Serbia for 13 years, the Hellenic Business Association today represents successful platform for the development of mutual cooperation among companies - members and exchange of business information. Apart from business-related events, our Association also


organises social events like networking dinners and cocktail parties, which have proven to be very productive avenues for establishing business contacts, expanding existing cooperation or establishing new links. Our members also have opportunity to present activities, products and services to each other, through a special category on our official web site, as well as through a weekly newsletter, created specifically for this purpose. Also, during this year we had the opportunity to organize joint events with four foreign and local chambers of commerce in the country.

How do you cooperate with other chambers of commerce and how do your members benefit from such events?  We are very open for cooperation with other business associations and chambers of commerce, because it boosts bilateral relations and provides our members with unique opportunities to present their business activities to other foreign companies in Serbia; to consolidate their operations in Serbia through business contacts and to acquire new clients. In the last few months, we cooperated with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce on the organising of two business meetings for our members, following an initiative from the Greek Embassy. We also organised a trilateral business meeting between Greek, Swiss and American companies in the form of Speed Business Meetings, in collaboration with both the AmCham and the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce. Furthermore, we also organised a networking cocktail party called “The Evening of Italian-Greek Friendship”, in conjunction with the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce. We had similar cooperation with the French-Serbian Business Chamber of Commerce last year.

FOLLOWING THE GREAT SUCCESS OF THE FIRST EVER GREEK WEEKEND, DURING WHICH CITIZENS OF BELGRADE COULD MEET THE GREEK COMPANIES AND ENJOY AUTHENTIC GREEK MUSIC AND CUISINE, WE WILL WORK TOWARDS MAKING THIS EVENT A TRADITIONAL HAPPENING IN BELGRADE

operation with institutions like the Greek Embassy in Belgrade, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the City of Belgrade, the Serbian Tourist Organisation and the Tourist Organisation of Belgrade. In addition to the unique tourist offer, Greek specialties and delicacies, live music, dance and Greek theater plays, the citizens of Belgrade could also meet our members – Greek companies operating in Serbia, who exhibited at the event and presented their products and services. Organization of the Greek Weekend is in our plans for the next year and we will work towards making this event a traditional happening in Belgrade’s Republic Square every May.

refers to networking between the international business community in Serbia, boosting bilateral cooperation and joint presentation of common challenges and proposals to the state bodies. In that respect, we expect the Mixed Chamber Council to contribute to creating a more favourable and

 Greek companies have always supported humanitarian campaigns in Serbia and operated as socially responsible foreign investors. Among this year’s activities, we would like to single out the project ‘Be Yourself’ (‘Budi svoj’) which aims at social inclusion of young people without parental care, and we are very pleased to participate in this initi-

The HBA is also very active in the wider community. Which activities would you single out?

GREEK COMPANIES HAVE ALWAYS SUPPORTED HUMANITARIAN CAMPAIGNS IN SERBIA AND OPERATED AS SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOREIGN INVESTORS

The Mixed Chambers Council was formed recently. What do you expect from this initiative?  The Hellenic Business Association has been collaborating very successfully with similar business associations and chambers, and our membership in the Mixed Chambers Council presents natural development of this cooperation. Some of the goals of the Council, which was established under the patronage of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, cover areas that

more stable business climate in Serbia, and thus facilitate the operations of companies already present on the Serbian market, and also attract new investments.

What are your impressions of the first Greek Weekend in Belgrade?  This event brought the magic of Greece to the very heart of Belgrade, or rather to the central square of our capital. We are very proud of the Greek Weekend’s success, because we see it as the crowning achievement of our Association’s dedication and effort in organising this event. Apart from the HBA, other Serbian and Greek institutions were also patrons of the Greek Weekend. We received great support and had excellent co-

ative for the very first time. On this occasion the HBA signed the Project Support Agreement, together with the Get Involved (‘Uključi se’) Foundation and the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Issues. I would also like to mention the support that Greek companies have been giving to Serbian students within the programme ‘Greek Initiative for Work Experience’, which our Association is successfully implementing for the second consecutive year. Some of the students who successfully completed the program of practical training in companies-members of the HBA, today work for Greek banks and hotels, which is the best example of the corporate social responsibility of Greek companies.

GREECE 2016

Focus

21


CORP ORAT E

MARINOS VATHIS President of the Executive board, Vojvodanska Banka ad Novi Sad

On the

RIGHT TRACK Vojvodanska Banka is receiving requests from its large corporate clients for project financing, including a shopping mall and a large hotel, while our SME clients are seeking more long-term investment loans. This is a good sign both for our bank and the country, as it signals economic recovery

22

Focus

M

arinos Vathis, Chairman of the Executive Board of Vojvođanska Banka ad Novi Sad, looks towards 2017 with optimism which is founded in both the good results of the bank and the overall reform process. “We are witnessing an increase in domestic corporate loans on the market and a simultaneous decrease in the level of NPLs. I believe that things will continue in this direction next year as well,” says Mr Vathis.

Despite the challenging economic situation, both in Serbia and back home, Greek banks are operating successfully in the country. From the perspective of your bank, how do you explain such results?  Vojvođanska Banka is a self-funded bank, financed solely from the deposits of its clients. In previous years we ensured that Vojvođanska Banka can survive regardless of the owner; we have never relied on sources of funding from our shareholder. The bank is highly liquid, profitable, with a sound equity structure, and it operates in accordance with the very strict rules of the NBS [Serbia’s central bank]. Although the ownership structure does not influence operations, we are happy that, despite the crisis in Greece, our shareholder, the National Bank of Greece, is very strong and has healthy finances.

GREECE 2016

Given the expected GDP growth, do you expect next year to be more successful for bankers than 2016?  Macroeconomic and political stability are prerequisites for a market-orientated economy and we have both in Serbia. Economic activity in Serbia during 2015 recorded marginal growth. However, the most recent projection from the International Monetary Fund for Serbia’s GDP to grow by 2.5% in 2016 is highly encouraging. In the first half of 2016, the banking sector as a whole posted net profit of €166 million, with 23

The problems we face are sometimes far more complex than just amending legislation; efficient implementation of the laws, a sound business environment and transparency are what we need


out of 30 banks operating with profit. This is significantly better than in the same period last year, when we had 10 fewer banks operating with profit. Furthermore, we are witnessing an increase in domestic corporate loans on the market and a simultaneous decrease in the level of NPLs, and I believe things will continue in this direction in 2017 as well. I can offer you more detail based on the example of Vojvođanska Banka. After some years, we are receiving requests from our large corporate clients for project financing, including the financing of a shopping mall and a large hotel in Belgrade. Our SME clients, on the other hand, are seeking more long-

simultaneously enabling a bank to collect its receivables. At the same time, there should only be a resorting to a restructuring process when conditions for this are met. In terms of this, special attention is paid to the establishment of restructuring criteria. However, I would like to emphasise here another very important thing, which is the early identification mechanism of NPLs and work on recovering such placements, so-called “recovery”. This means that we know our clients, as one would say, to the soul; that we are in constant contact with them, have insight and possibility of verifying all available data; that we have the right information at every

All banks will face some major challenges in the years to come, the biggest of which could be low interest rates and slow growth term investment loans and revolving loans. This is all very important, as it signals that the economy is on the right track. On the other hand, all banks will face some major challenges in the years to come, the biggest of which could be low interest rates and slow growth.

Which sectors will be in the focus of your credit policy?  As before, Vojvođanska Banka, as a universal bank, is traditionally financing clients from the corporate and retail segments, including also entrepreneurs, micro and small and medium-sized enterprises. As regards corporate financing, we are mostly focused on the agriculture sector, the manufacturing industry, trade, the IT sector, telecommunications and the energy sector. When it comes to the retail segment, our focus will certainly be on cash and refinancing loans, followed by housing loans. What is extremely important is the fact that Vojvođanska Banka has a strict credit policy and a strong team that analyses and understands the operations of our diverse clients, so as to avoid problems and not to encumber the client due to their inability to repay a loan. For us, it is crucial to have strong placements in the economy without an adverse impact on business growth as a whole.

As one of the priorities in the period ahead, the IMF highlighted the resolution of NPLs. Are you sticking with the strategy of finding solutions with clients primarily in the restructuring of loans?  Absolutely! I am of the opinion that this is the only correct strategy, as it is only in this way that the recovery of the economy is possible,

moment and know market developments. With this approach and a strong credit policy, we have ensured that Vojvođanska Banka has a significantly lower percentage of NPLs than the banking sector average.

What do you consider as the crucial reform moves that would also have a favourable impact on the banking sector?  We have witnessed several reformist moves in the recent past, including the passing of the Labour law and the comprehensive NPL Resolution Strategy. However, there are some systemic issues, such as an insufficient legal system in the area related to bankruptcy procedures, restructuring, enforcement and property registration, as well as the overall problem of the transparency and reliability of information. The problems we face are sometimes far more complex than just amending legislation; efficient implementation is what we need. For a well-developed economy and a sound business environment, predictability and transparency are paramount. We do not like to have rules changed in the middle of the game.

GREECE 2016

Focus

23


CORP ORAT E

HELLENIC SUGAR INDUSTRY

Optimistically Planning Our

FURTHER DEVELOPMENT HSI is on a good way to increase its capacities, to achieve sustainable development and ensure higher revenue, larger exports and higher contribution to the overall development of agriculture industry

H

ellenic Sugar Industry is a regional group of companies from Greece and Serbia which owns sugar factories in Crvenka and Žabalj. The Group now undoubtedly has a potential to become One of the biggest sugar producer and supplier in the Balkans. Our long history, accumulated experience, know-how and skills give us enough courage to look into the future with optimism and to plan our further development. During the last year's sugar beet processing season, we decided to work on having more land under sugar beet. Also, we increased the buyout price of sugar beet, involved scientific institutions in the process, and invested in production facilities hoping that all of our efforts will yield result. To this aim, we launched a rather ambitious, long-term project in cooperation with the scientific institutions, the agriculture faculties in Bel-

24

Focus

GREECE 2016

grade and Novi Sad, and the agricultural school in Sombor with a goal of reaching the production of 10 tonnes of sugar per hectare of land. The aim of this project is to increase both the yield and quality of sugar beet, and boost the competitiveness of the Serbian sugar industry with the end result being an increase in revenue for sugar beet farmers. Also, our goal is to provide professional advice to sugar beet farmers on how to increase sugar beet yield per hectare, and improve the quality and quantity of the yield. If we consider the regional demand for sugar and the amount of sugar that the Serbian sugar industry produces, we can see that there is a lot of room for development. This industry stands firmly on its feet, and it doesn’t use any subsidies, or have any privileges. Apart from completely covering the demands of the domestic market, we export substantial quantities of sugar to the EU and CEFTA countries. Sugar is the second biggest export commodity after maize and a hectare under sugar beet provides more products to export than a hectare under cereals which means that sugar has a much higher added value. Over 800 employers and more than 100 sugar beet farmers are going to produce top quality sugar both for export and for the domestic demand. With this in mind, Serbia can become one of the biggest sugar suppliers among the West Balkan countries. In order for this to happen, we need to constantly and rapidly boost our competitiveness. There is a lot of room for us to increase the yield and polarization, reduce the cost price per ton of sugar beet, but, at the same time, increase our revenue and profit per hectare. Coupled with lower production costs and energy savings, we are on a good way to achieve sustainable development which will create conditions for new jobs, and ensure higher revenue, bigger export and a more significant contribution to the overall development of agriculture in Serbia.


GREECE 2016

Focus

25


CORP ORAT E

LEONIDAS SIAMANTAS General Director of Siamko Group Logistics Company supported with powerful network of providers. Our fleet includes Standard curtain sided trailers, Mega curtain sided trailers, Stake body and tarpaulin (120 m³) and Frigo trailers. Due to this wide range of service options we are able to transport any amount of goods, within our region, on time and at competitive cost.

What distinguishes your company in comparison to other competitors?  In logistics business, precision, being on time and being cost competitive are crucial. This is the only way in our industry to be capable of competing with other logistic companies, successfully. This is the reason why we are focused on empowering our business through competitive cost, experienced team, time efficiency, and safety of goods by having perfectly maintained trucks.

Time and Quality

OF SERVICE ARE OUR ACES Due to this wide range of service options we are able to transport any amount of goods, within the Balkans and East-Central Europe markets on time and at competitive cost

W

e spoke with Mr Leonidas Siamantas, General Director of Siamko Group Logistics Company about its business offer and further plans in Serbia.

What is your company profile?  Siamko Group was founded in 1999, By Siamantas Konstantinos as a pioneer 4PL provider in Thessaloniki, Greece. Observing the needs of the market, and our Greek company, we decided to establish Siamko Group Serbia as a 3PL provider in order to incorporate in our services our own fleet. Geographical positioning of our companies in Thessaloniki and in Belgrade gave us the opportunity to operate in the Balkans and East-Central Europe markets.

Which logistic services do you offer to your clients?  In logistics business, Siamko Group covers all services needed to transport goods from various locations within the Balkan region and further in central Europe. To our clients, we offer top class services of complete transport organization, full truck transportation, partial (group) transportation and special oversized transport. Currently Siamko Group owns 12 trucks and operates with additional 80, as we are

26

Focus

GREECE 2016

How do you intend to further develop your business in Serbia?  Expanding our fleet is certainly one of our future goals, but we also strive to achieve truck maintenance excellence supported with our truck parking service in Bubanj Potok, the south entrance of the Belgrade. Our future plan is acquisition and creation of fully equipped service and truck stop in the suburbs of Belgrade. Needless to say, we will keep our primer operations: organizing transportation of goods, at top quality, always supported with latest technologies.

What do you consider to be the key element in running a successful logistics company?  As previously mentioned, time and quality of service, as well as good trucks, are crucial. However, it would all be impossible to achieve without a great team. We worked hard on choosing the right people, on the field, as well as within our offices. Today, I feel comfortable saying that Siamko Group has hard working and dedicated workers. Teamwork is very important, and excellent communication between our Greek and Serbian offices, with our drivers, and providers and most importantly, with our clients, represent our biggest asset.

We strive to achieve truck maintenance excellence supported with our truck parking service in Bubanj Potok, and to create a fully equipped service and truck stop in the suburbs of Belgrade


GREECE 2016

Focus

27


Hellenic parliament

ECONOMIC COOPERATION

STABLE TRADING DESPITE CRISIS Although the crisis in Greece did affect trading with Serbia, as well as Greek investments here, the two countries have found a way to overcome negative trends. Privately-owned Greek companies are mostly interested in investing in infrastructure, energy, environmental protection and transport

T

he economic cooperation between Serbia and Greece, and especially the trade as the most dominant economic activity, are characterized by stability, diversity and almost uninterrupted growth since the year 2000. The more advanced formats of cooperation have become very pronounced in the last few years, and, with the onset of the strong

28

Focus

GREECE 2016

recession in Greece, the dynamic of Greek investments in Serbia has significantly slowed down to the point of stagnation. Still, privately-owned Greek companies are still interested in investing in Serbia. At this moment, there are approximately 80 Greek companies doing business in Serbia, and another 150 that have invested together with domestic partners. They are

mostly active in the financial sector, infrastructure projects, retail, hospitality industry, consultancies and law firms, agriculture and food industry. According to the latest data from the National Statistical Office, in the period from January to June 2016, the overall trading between Serbia and Greece stood at 201.2 million EUR. In the first six months of this year, the total exports were valued at 68.2 million EUR (which is a 1% share in the country's total exports) while Greece is ranked 23rd on the list of the countries that Serbia exports to the most. On the other hand, Serbia imported 133 million EUR worth of goods and services from Greece (which is a 1.6% share in the total imports) and Greece is ranked 19th on the list of the countries that Serbia imports from the most.


According to the 2015 data from the National Statistical Office, the total trade between the two countries stood at 377.7 million EUR which is a 6.3% hike compared to 2014. Serbia's total exports to Greece in 2015 amounted to 134.9 million EUR which was a 1.1% share in Serbia's overall export. The 2015 export grew by 7.5% compared to 2014. In 2015, Greece ranked 22nd on the list of the countries

GREEKS ARE VERY FOCUSED ON BOOSTING THE COOPERATION IN PRODUCTION OF ORGANIC FOOD, TOURISM AND INNOVATION (TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AND SIMILAR) that Serbia exported to the most. The same year, Serbia imported 242.7 million EUR worth of goods which is 1.5% of its total import and a 5.8% hike relative to 2014. The highest export to import ratio was in 2013 and it stood at 72.5%. The substantial decline of Serbia's deficit in trading with Greece is a result of a strong growth of Serbian exports. Still, we should bear in mind that Serbian export is dominated by raw-materials and reproduction goods while Greek companies usually export highly processed products to Serbia.

As a result of a decline in demand for Serbian raw-materials on the turbulent Greek market, in 2012, Serbian exports to Greece entered the period of stagnation. Although, Serbian food products are still popular with the Greeks (this is mostly white sugar and tobacco), there are segments that could do better, despite the crisis, like export of meat and meat products. The main prerequisite for this to happen is for the Serbian and Greek (EU) officials (namely, agriculture ministries and veterinary directorates) to resolve the problem of recognizing each other's phytosanitary certificates. The data collated by the National Bank of Serbia (NBS) in line with the old methodology, shows that the net cash revenue of Greek non-residents stood at 97.9 million EUR between 2007 and 2013, which puts Greece in the 19th place on the list of the biggest net investments of non-residents in Serbia in the said period. Looking at the data collated by the NBS in line with the new methodology starting with early 2014, Greek investments stood at 89.7 million EUR, while the net investments by Greek residents in the Republic of Serbia amounted to 12.8 million EUR in 2015. According to the latest NBS data, in the first six months of this year, the net investments by Greek residents in Serbia amounted to 22.8 million EUR. As a result of the debt crisis in Greece and the government's austerity measures, the Greek state capital is no longer invested abroad while the private companies are still looking for alternative markets and profitable investment projects. Greek in-

Basic information Population: 10.9 million (2015) Territory: 131,957 km2 Capital city: Athens Financial centers: / Income level (World Bank): low level GDP 2015 (in billion USD) 195.2 GVA 2014 (structure in %) Services (80.1%) Industry (16%) Agriculture (3.8%) GDP per capita, 2015 (current, in USD) 16,261 National currency: Euro (EUR) Exchange rate, August 2016: 100 Euro = $ 112.19 Credit rating (S & P): B Official language: Greek National holiday: 25th March – Independence Day vestors have expressed a lot of interest in infrastructure, energy (primarily renewable energy sources), environmental protection and trasnport. Greeks are very focused on investing in renewable energy resources, as well as on boosting cooperation in production of organic food, tourism and innovation (technology transfer and similar). The relevant laws regulating public-private partnerships envisage opportunities for joint projects between Serbian privately-owned companies and Greek state companies on projects such as construction of main roads (particularly those on the Corridor 10) and ancilliary infrastructure (motels, shopping malls, restaurants etc.). Financial and banking sectors are probably going to benefit the most from the more stable political situation in Greece, while economists don't expect drastic changes to happen in the Serbian-Greek cooperation in other sectors.

Trading between Serbia and Greece, 2011- (I-VI) 2016 EXPORTS (value in thousands of EUR)

IMPORTS (value in thousands of EUR)

TOTAL

BALANCE

Export to import ratio

2011

144,186

220,565

364,751

-76,379

64,4%

2012

126,431

236,583

363,014

-110,152

53,4%

2013

163,859

225,857

389,716

-61,998

72,5%

2014

125,593

229,468

355,061

-103,875

54,7%

2015

134,931

242,769

377,700

-107,838

55,6%

I-VI 2016

68,223

133,038

201,261

-64,815

51,3%

Focus

29


THE ECONOMY OF GREECE

THE MARITIME SUPERPOWER

A Proud Descendant of Seafarers, Olive Oil Producers and Global Traders — Text —

ŽIKICA MILOŠEVIĆ

Drachma sculpture

S

ome 20 years ago, I was in Skopje reading an analytical article about the Greek strength and audacity, and their resilience not to acknowledge the name Macedonia for the southernmost former Yugoslav republic. At the time, Skopje-Athens quarrel reached its peak, immediately after the breakup of Yugoslavia. Journalists from Skopje tried to figure out what makes Greece so bold, and what makes the rest of Europe so susceptible to Greek claims and wishes. Predictably, as noted in the Trivia section, Greece is disproportionally super strong when it comes to merchant fleet.

SEA! OH, SEA! According to figures, Greek economy is stable. It relies on three pillars – merchant fleet, agriculture and tourism. Greek ships make up for 70% of the European Union’s total merchant fleet. According to the Greek

30

Focus

GREECE 2016

law, 75% of a ship’s crew must be Greek. It is quite obvious that the European fleet would be decimated and ground to a halt with no Greek ships. History obviously repeats itself – Ancient Greek sailors and

THE GREEKS DOMINATE INVESTMENTS IN THE BALKANS. GREECE, AS THE STRONGEST ECONOMY IN THE BALKANS, IS AS AN IMPORTANT REGIONAL INVESTOR. IT IS THE THIRD LARGEST INVESTOR IN SERBIA

captains travelled the world and the seven seas and formed colonies on distant shores, such as Budva and Korčula. It is intersting that, at some places in Southern Italy two thousand years ago, culture flourished, trade was thriving and theatrical performances attracted thousands of spectators. Today, there are only a few thousand people in half-empty villages. Greece managed to preserve its title as a naval superpower, while the other nations were not that sucessful. Italy was pretty good. Even though 50% of the Mediterranean is inhabited by Arabs, they tend to keep away from the sea (apart from Persian Gulf Arabs). The naval superpowers include Spain, Portugal, the UK and the Netherlands. However, it is quite surprising that Greeks are so strong. Shipping has traditionally been a key sector in the Greek economy since the ancient times. In 1813, the Greek Merchant


Navy was made up of 615 ships, which was a huge number at the time. Its total tonnage was 153,580 tons. In 1914 the figures stood at 449,430 tons and 1,322 ships. The Greek Merchant Navy is the largest in the world, with Greek-owned vessels accounting for 15% of global deadweight tonnage as of 2013. The increased demand for international maritime transportation between Greece and Asia has resulted in an unprecedented investment in the shipping industry. The Greek Merchant Navy's total DWT of nearly 245 million is comparable only to Japan's, which is ranked second with almost 224 million. In the 60s, Greek fleet nearly doubled, primarily through the investments made by the shipping magnates Onassis, Vardinoyannis, Livanos and Niarchos. The basis of the modern Greek maritime industry was formed after World War II when Greek shipping businessmen were able to amass surplus ships sold to them by the United States Government through the Ship Sales Act of the 1940s. Greece is ranked fourth in the world by number of ships (3,695), behind China (5,313), Japan (3,991), and Germany (3,833). The Greek flag is the seventh-most-used internationally for shipping, and second in the EU. Greek power is here to stay. Apparently.

THE THREE PILLARS. OK, THE OTHER TWO. The economy of Greece is the 46th largest in the world with a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of $195.2 billion per annum. Greece is a developed country with an economy based on the service (82.8%) and industrial sectors (13.3%). The agricultural sector contributed 3.9% of national economic output in 2015. With 18 million interna-

(Gr)Exit?

tional tourists in 2013, Greece was the 7th most visited country in the European Union and 16th in the world. This is a remarkable result too, even the sceptics must admit it. The country is a significant agricultural producer within the EU. In 2010, Greece was the European Union's largest producer of cotton (183,800 tons) and pistachios (8,000 tons) and ranked second in the production of rice (229,500 tons) and olives (147,500 tons), third in the production of figs (11,000 tons) and almonds (44,000 tons), tomatoes

THE GREEK MERCHANT NAVY'S TOTAL DWT OF NEARLY 245 MILLION IS COMPARABLE ONLY TO JAPAN'S, WHICH IS RANKED SECOND WITH ALMOST 224 MILLION

(1,400,000 tons) and watermelons (578,400 tons) and fourth in the production of tobacco (22,000 tons). Agriculture generates 3.8% of the country's GDP and employs 12.4% of the country's labour force. Between 2000 and 2007 organic farming in Greece increased by 885%, the highest percentage change in the EU. Furthermore, we should not forget fish. Greece accounted for 19% of the EU's fishing haul in the Mediterranean Sea. Idustry is also doing great. Greece is a big stone producer, at least when it comes to marble. It ranks third in the European Union, after Italy and Spain. And the investments? Of course, the Greeks rule the Balkans. Greece, as the largest economy in the Balkans, is an important regional investor. Greece was the largest foreign investor in Albania in 2013 and the third in Bulgaria. It was also amongst the top three investors in Romania and Serbia, and the most important trading partner and largest foreign investor in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Greek telecommunications company OTE has become a strong investor in former Yugoslavia and in other Balkan countries.

THE GREEKS ARE GOOD IN GROWING TOBACCO, COTTON, TOMATOES, FIGS, PISTACHIOS, CITRUS FRUITS, AND OLIVES, WHICH ARE REFINED INTO ONE OF THE FINEST OLIVE OILS IN THE WORLD! GREECE 2016

Focus

31


HBA ACTIVITIES

MOST IMPORTANT ACTIVITIES OF THE HELLENIC BUSINESS ASSOCIATION OF SERBIA The Hellenic Business Association (HBA) assembles 80 companies that have 20,000 employees in Serbia

HBA’s annual celebration

T

he Greek companies in Serbia are active in various economic sectors, and, as a result, Greece is one of the top foreign investors in Serbia with the total invested capital of over 2.5 billion EUR and counting. Through various activities, the HBA promotes investment initiatives of its members and other Greek investors. The Association also dispenses advice about proper management and protection of Greek investments, helps with establishing contacts and securing participation in international organizations with the view of promoting Serbia's potential for the EU membership. Furthermore, the Association maintains a constant dialogue with the system's institutions in Serbia and performs many other activities.

32

Focus

GREECE 2016

THE ASSOCIATION MAINTAINS A CONSTANT DIALOGUE WITH THE SYSTEM'S INSTITUTIONS IN SERBIA AND PERFORMS MANY OTHER ACTIVITIES TRADITIONAL ANNUAL CUTTING OF VASILOPITA The traditional ceremony of „Vasilopita” Pie Cutting is the Association’s annual celebration that takes place every year in February with the Association's members and

friends, as well as the members of the wider Greek community in Serbia in attendance. Apart from the presentation of the HBA’s annual activities and awarding the companies which have been its members for 10 years, this event is also known for the traditional Greek custom of cutting of vasilopita during which one of the Association's members wins a lucky coin. At this year's celebration, held in Hyatt Regency Belgrade, the special award for a decade-long membership went to Alpha Bank. Also, the former President and Vice President of the Association's Management Board were given special letters of thanks for their valuable, long-term contribution to the Association's operations.


HBA’s annual celebration COOPERATION WITH OTHER CHAMBERS OF COMMERCE AND ASSOCIATIONS In April this year, the Hellenic Business Association of Serbia, the American Chamber of Commerce in Serbia, and the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce organized a Speed Business Meeting for their members. The meeting was attended by 41 companies (American, Greek and Swiss) that operate in Serbia. This, very successful meeting and greet concept provided an opportunity for companies to efficiently establish business contacts . After the eight-minute-long meetings finished, the participants attended a networking cocktail party at which they could exchange more business information and experiences in an informal atmosphere. In cooperation with the Serbian

Meetings with PKS

further boost the economic cooperation across sectors as well as the interest of Greek companies in Serbia in expanding their operations. At the meeting, the representatives of the SCC presented to the Greek business community the conditions for doing business and investing, tax incentives, free zones and other benefits that make Serbia so attractive to investors. In cooperation with the Italian-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the HBA held a networking cocktail party for the members of both chambers in September. The members of the Greek and Italian business communities attended this informal event at which they discussed the opportunities for mutual cooperation.

THE HELLENIC BUSINESS ASSOCIATION IS MEMBER OF THE MIXED CHAMBERS COUNCIL AND THE UNION OF GREEK BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE

Speed Business meeting

Chamber of Commerce, the Hellenic Business Association of Serbia and the Economic and Commercial Affairs Department of the Greek Embassy organized two business gatherings in 2016. The first one called 'The Open Door Day for Greece – Bilateral Cooperation Opportunities' – took place in April. A total of 50 companies (Greek and Serbian) discussed the opportunities for bilateral cooperation and participated in B2B meetings afterwards. The second meeting was organized in May, when the representatives of the HBA met with Marko Čadež, the President of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (SCC) and discussed additional opportunities to

Evening of Greek - Italian Friendship

GREECE 2016

Focus

33


THE GREEK INITIATIVE TO WORK EXPERIENCE In collaboration with the Greek Embassy in Belgrade and the University of Belgrade, the Hellenic Business Association for the second consecutive year successfully implements a three - month programme of practice for students in the companies – members. The programme “Greek Initiative to Work Experience” provides a work practice for students with the twofold purpose - to promote the members of the Hellenic Business Association of Serbia, and to provide advanced training for students, connect them to the labour market and include them in the network of the Greek businesses in Serbia. This year’s project lasted from March to June, and, with the help of the University of Belgrade, the HBA carried out a series of activities on promoting the programme. At the presentation of the programme, which was held and the University of Belgrade in February, the students were informed about the details of each available position in the member company, and after the programme ended, the HBA organized the official diploma ceremony which was attended by the employers and the representatives of the institutions that supported the programme. This year, 25 students successfully completed the programme of practice with 4 of them getting actual job offers from Eurobank and Vojvođanska Banka. The following eight

members of our Association have officially supported the programme - Alpha Bank, Autotechnica (Hertz), Chipita, Eurobank, Junior, Metropol Palace, Pireaus Bankand Vojvođanska Banka.

GREEK WEEKEND IN BELGRADE The Hellenic Business Association of Serbia, the Greek Embassy in Belgrade, the Greek National Tourism Organization, the City of Belgrade, the National Tourism Organization of Serbia, and the National Tourism Organization of Belgrade, organized the event „Greek Weekend“ which took place in Belgrade, on 14th and 15th May,

EACH YEAR, THE HELLENIC BUSINESS ASSOCIATION HOLDS SEVERAL EVENTS WITH THE AIM OF BRINGING ITS MEMBERS CLOSER TOGETHER 2016. This was a unique, two-day gathering at the Republic Square, that was held for the very first time with the aim of promoting the Greek culture, music, food and tourism, as well as to further improve the traditionally

good relations between Serbia and Greece. The event also promoted the Greek companies in Serbia which were given an opportunity to present their products and services. The famous Greek dance group Likio Elinidon and buzuki band which flew in from Greece especially for this event, were in charge of entertaining the visitors. In addition to the fantastic and unique tourist offer and tasting of the Greek delicacies, the National Theatre performed 'Antigone' while the Terazije Theatre performed 'Zorba the Greek' and the popular musical 'Mamma Mia', all in honour of the Greek Weekend in Belgrade. The event was also an excellent opportunity for the organizers to officially thank the Serbian people for their love and affection for Greece, as well as for the enduring friendship between the two nations.

NETWORKING AND SOCIALIZING BETWEEN MEMBERS Each year, the Hellenic Business Association holds several events with the aim of bringing its members closer together. These gatherings are usually in the form of cocktail or dinner parties where the members can exchange business information and experiences, and also initiate or fortify their business cooperation in an pleasant and informal atmosphere. In June, the HBA organized a cocktail party for its members at the Grand Casino in Belgrade. This was a traditional gathering of the members prior to summer holidays. The party was attended by over 50 companies that are members of the Association and the representatives of the Greek Embassy in Belgrade.

HBA FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION OF YOUTH WITHOUT PARENTAL CARE

„Be Yourself“ (‘Budi svoj‘) programme Program for students ‘’Greek Initiative to work experience’’

34

Focus

GREECE 2016

The Hellenic Business Association has joined the „Be Yourself“ (‘Budi svoj‘) programme together with the Get Involved (‘Uključi se’) Foundation and the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Issues. Apart from educational activities in a form of lectures and trainings, the project promotes and stimulates employment with an emphasis on self-employment which, with adequate support, can help young people without parental care to become completely financially independent. With that in mind, the President of the Hellenic Business Association’s Management Board, Mr. Georgios Papanastasiou signed the Project Support Agreement together with the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Issues, represented by Minister Aleksandar Vulin, and the Get Involved (‘Uključi se’) Foundation, represented by its Director Milena Jakšić at the Parliamentarians Club in April. By doing so, the


Greek companies are publicly demonstrating that, apart from doing business, they have always been supportive of humanitarian plights in the society, especially in providing help to those who need it the most.

HBA – MEMBER OF THE UNION OF GREEK BUSINESS ASSOCIATIONS IN SOUTHEAST EUROPE The Union of Greek Business Associations in Southeast Europe was founded in 2015. Apart from the Hellenic Business Association of Serbia, other Greek business associations from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and FYROM are also the

Greek weekend

THE PROGRAMME “GREEK INITIATIVE TO WORK EXPERIENCE” CONNECTS STUDENTS TO THE LABOUR MARKET AND INCLUDES THEM IN THE NETWORK OF THE GREEK BUSINESSES IN SERBIA HBA – MEMBER OF THE MIXED CHAMBERS COUNCIL Union members. The purpose of this Union is to support and promote Greek companies which are already doing business in Southeast Europe or have an intention of expanding their business here, as well as implementing activities on the joint database, providing business advisory services and strengthening the relations between the Greek business associations in Southeast Europe.

The Mixed Chambers Council was officially founded in September with the Hellenic Business Association as one of its members. The goal of this Council is connecting the international business community in Serbia with the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, boosting the bilateral cooperation through the joint plan of activities, stepping up activities on attracting FDIs, and better positioning of Serbian companies on the internation-

al market. The following are the signatories of the Agreement on Inception of the Mixed Chambers Council - the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Advantage Austria Belgrade, the Belgian-Serbian Business Association, the British-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the Hellenic Business Association, the German-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, the Croatian Business Club, the Nordic Business Alliance, and the Slovenian Business Club. It is expected that members of other business associations will also join the Council.

Mixed Chambers Council GREECE 2016

Focus

35


Athens' evzoni THE GREEK CRISIS

AUSTERITY AT THE CROSSROADS — Text —

ŽIKICA MILOŠEVIĆ

It is where Eurozone and the Austerity programme win or lose

M

y grandfather humorously used to use these two similes – “destroyed as the Bulgarian Parliament” and “in debt like Greece.” I never used to understand either of the two remarks. Sadly, I have lately started to understand the latter – there is a dark cloud on the horizon with the German austerity programme.

THE SITUATION WAS SIMMERING FOR A LONG TIME Well, this crisis didn’t happen out of the blue. The situation in Greece had been "sim-

36

Focus

GREECE 2016

mering" for many years, practically since the execution of the military junta in the 70s. After the Greek Economic Miracle in the 60s, some dark clouds were on the horizon. High growth rates and high deficit, happened primarily because of the huge costs of defence. This defence is a result of centuries-long rivalry with Turkey, which is a NATO ally and in debt. Somewhat uncritical increase in living standards, and undispersed economy that relied on fishing, tourism, banking and shipping, have led to the situation which culminated when the world experienced a deep economic crisis in 2008. Inability to reduce the budget deficit by

drachma devaluation made Greece vulnerable, and it had to impose austerity measures. After the fall of the Greek credit rating, many doors were closed and it had to turn to the infamous Troika, which had to approve loans linked to reforms. After 6 years of constant stagnation, one referendum, strange outcomes of elections, the reforms seem to be stranded, or simply following the wrong path. They had to approve several financial aid packages to avoid bankruptcy. Some experts said that the best option for Greece was to declare a "planned bankruptcy", get out of the Eurozone and reintroduce the drachma at a level that is below the one from January 2002.

2008 ONWARDS At first it seemed that the global economic crisis in 2008 had only short-term consequences. Unfortunately, since the world economy is globalised, it spilled over from the US into the world. In Serbia, it was first felt in March 2009, and the whole of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 were bad. Then the situation gradually started improving. The real-estate crisis in America easily turned into a crisis



of sovereign government debt. However, in early 2010, the fears among investors were reinforced. Strikes paralysed and absorbed Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain, but also some countries outside the Eurozone, such as Iceland. First of all, investment risks have increased, as well as a risk insurance for credit default swaps between these 5 countries and other EU countries, especially Germany. Threats have loomed over the whole of the European Union, the Eurozone and the entire world economy. The crisis has markedly betrayed trust of all the European economies, not just Greece. Ireland was badly affected, with a deficit of 32.4% in 2010, but also Spain, with 9.2%, and Portugal with 9.1%. There was skepticism that these concerns can spark the "pollution in the banking system", as it was formulated by the British Committee for Financial Policy. It also gave rise to resentment towards the agencies dealing with grade credit rating. It is believed that the role of credit rating agencies, such as Moody's, S & P and Fitch, was very negative, or the least controversial. Greece suffered, but Spain and Italy are fighting and the crisis arose in an entirely indifferent Iceland.

GO HOME, DRACHMA, YOU HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN! Current situation in Greece became a a debilitating factor in the deficit handling in the 80s, but since then, the deficits have been small, as they have been reduced by devaluation. The deficits have become larger since 1996, after a loss of an ability to influence them by the devaluation of the drachma. This has become a crucial point since 2008 crisis onwards. The countries that were in the Eurozone weren’t able to mitigate the crisis as well as countries such as Poland, Hungary, UK, or Serbia could (dinar has fallen by 33% in less than two years from 75 dinars per euro in August 2008 to 100 dinars per euro in April 2010, and further 23% in the last 6 and an half years). Since the euro has been introduced in 2001, it is much more difficult

38

Focus

GREECE 2016

THE COUNTRIES THAT WERE IN THE EUROZONE WEREN’T ABLE TO MITIGATE THE CRISIS AS WELL AS COUNTRIES SUCH AS POLAND, HUNGARY, UK, OR SERBIA COULD to handle the crisis and the harsh reality that knocked on the door. By the end of 2009, as a result of different international and local factors, the Greek economy faced the most severe crisis since the restoration of democracy in 1974, as the Greek government revised its deficit from a prediction of 3.7% in early 2009 and 6% in September 2009, to 12.7% of gross domestic product (GDP).

THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE PRESCRIBED CURE IS KILLING THE PATIENT. PERHAPS, IT IS TIME TO END THE AUSTERITY POLICY FORMULATED BY WOLFGANG SCHÄUBLE, SINCE IT IS DEFINITELY NOT SUITED FOR SOUTHERN EUROZONE

EPILOGUE: THE AUSTERITY WORKS, BUT DEFINITELY NOT IN THE SOUTH After many years of the application of austerity measures, it seems that there is no progress. On the contrary, by July 2014 there was still anger and protests about the austerity measures. There a 24-hour strike amongst government workers, which was timed to coincide with an audit by inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and European Central Bank, in advance of a decision on a second bailout of one billion euros ($1.36 billion), due in late July. Greece exited its six-year recession in the second quarter of 2014, but the challenges of securing political stability and debt nevertheless remain. The problem is that the prescribed cure is killing the patient. Perhaps, it is time to end the austerity policy formulated by Wolfgang Schäuble, since it is definitely not suited for Southern Eurozone. It could destroy Greece, Eurozone, and the entire EU. Maybe it is time to reconsider it.


CORP ORAT E

HRANA MEDITERANA

First Ever Cookbook Was

WRITTEN IN GREECE The Greek cuisine was shaped under the influence of many cultures – from the Persian and Roman to the Byzantine and Ottoman empires. As a result, the Greek specialties are today consumed in the far corners of the world

T

he Greek food is typically Mediterranean, based on vegetables, fish and cheeses, along with olive oil which is not only seen as a condiment in Greece, but also a matter of national pride. ‘Hrana Mediterana’ is a concept based on carefully chosen products and Hrana Mediterana created with intent to make them readily available to consumers at any given moment. ‘Hrana Mediterana’ is a pioneer of both the Greek and Mediterranean cuisine in our country. When we think of the Greek cuisine, the first thing that comes to our mind is Feta cheese. For Greeks, the first thing that comes to their mind when someone mentions Feta is the Dodoni Feta . Because of the team of people who created the Hrana Mediterana concept, today Dodoni Feta can be also found in all of prominent supermarkets in Serbia. Of course, Feta cheese has the product designation of origin, name and recipe and is always made from goat’s and sheep’s milk.

The diversity of our portfolio is even more enhanced by our yellow cheeses which also have the product designation of origin. Kefalograviera, Kefalotyri and Graviera are incorporated into various cuisines worldwide and, thanks to the Hrana Mediterana, we have made them available here too. Goat’s cheese is one of the stars of our product range. We have been consistently building up the Greek Yogurt product category through a wide range of recipes that can be used for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and salads, as well as an appetizer or a dessert. Greek Yogurt is the main ingredient in the Tzatziki salad which we also sell as a final product. We have already mentioned that Greeks see olive oil as a matter of national pride. Hrana Mediterana now incorporates the Eleones oil into its offer which can make any Greek proud. The Halkidiki olives are different from all other olives on the Serbian market because of their quality and unique packaging whether we are talking about the regular green or Kalamon olives. Our olives are the most popular choice in shops. Hrana Mediterana continues to grow through widening its range with the help of its retail partners, the most prestigious hotels and restaurants. We strive towards having every single menu offering our products since they are a great addition to the restaurant offer and a proof of top class.

GREECE 2016

Focus

39


THE SPIRIT OF GREECE

REBELLIOUS, PENSIVE AND LOYAL

Acropolis

They say that the Serbs are bound a great feature: we can survive everything, we can endure anything. we are, supposedly, resilient. But we have somehow lost our primary trait – rebelliousness. Well, the Greeks have not. They are the most rebellious people of all. They were the first to oppose autocracy, thousands of years ago, and the first to smash the city if they didn't like, say, austerity measures of the IMF. — Text —

ŽIKICA MILOŠEVIĆ

REBEL, REBEL It is funny how history changes. We were the first in the Balkans to rebel against the Ottomans, back in 1804, and then the Greeks followed. The Serbs were also rebellious 16 years ago, with one of the first “coloured revolutions”, although no colour was mentioned on the 5th of October. But, when it comes to a rebellion against their own material deprivation and poverty, no one can parry the Greeks! They are very much into democracy, egalitarian principle derived from Christianity. Moreover, alongside the French in the West, the Greeks are somehow the fiercest freedom fighters in the European Union. Forget slavery of the Ancient Greece; forget obedience to the Byzantine Emperor. After 500 yeas of subjugation to foreign powers and a huge accumulation of national pride afterwards, it is really hard to believe that the Greeks will be subdued again. They were the first to elect an anti-austerity party with charismatic and re-

40

Focus

GREECE 2016

bellious leaders such as Alexis Tsipras and Yannis Varoufakis. The latter sparked an outrage in the financial circles and a craze among German women, with his superstar outfit, a motorcycle and a sound reasoning about why Greece doesn’t want to be subdued to the current financial oligarchy and why it all should be radically changed. They proudly voted “OXI” in a referendum about the austerity measures, and Athens

THE GREEKS WERE THE FIRST TO THINK, AND TO DISCUSS THINGS. THEY WERE THE FIRST TO REALISE THAT SOMETHING IS NOT AN EXCLUSIVE RIGHT OF THE KING

was frequently in flames. There’s no rebel like a Greek rebel.

THE FIRST TO SAY: LET US THINK ABOUT IT The Greeks were the first to think, and to discuss things. They were the first to realise that something is not an exclusive right of the king, as opposed to the Egyptian pharaohs or the Persian kings or shahs. They used to meet at agoras and discuss issues for hours, fuelled with ever-inspiring wine. They developed opposing philosophical schools; they had the philosophers who mocked and fought each other, like Diogenes and Epicurus, whose verbal duels and anecdotes were phenomenally popular. Then there were the Spartans, who fought their egalitarian brothers and despised wealth, Diogenes who despised everything material, stoics, and finally, the lavish followers of eudaimonia, who moderately enjoyed, although their ‘modera-


tion’ was a bit too much for some. They were the first to engage in sport activities – not as a preparation for war, but... as a hobby, or to keep fit. They even invented sports competitions, known as the Olympic Games. They practically invented pretty much everything that we now take for granted. But it all wouldn’t have been possible without the Greek spirit. Some say that Greek philosophy was the predecessor of Christianity, and it’s probably not far from truth. Classical Athens entertained the same religious ideas that would later be welcomed by Christianity, such as Aristotle's invocation of a perfect God, and Heraclitus' Logos. Plato used to think that there were rewards for the virtuous in heaven and punishment for the wicked on earth; the soul was valued more highly than the material body, and the material world was understood to be imperfect and not totally real (illustrated in Socrates's allegory of the cave). Some later Christian philosophers claimed that Plato would make a fine Christian. So, even this major monotheistic religion wouldn’t have been the same without the Greeks.

MODERNITY Modern Greek is quite “Balkanic”. It took many centuries to transform the Byzantine society full of pious people, monasteries and horse races, gold and trade into an impoverished Ottoman province of Rum. And it took less than 2 centuries to transform the backwards Balkan vilayet into a modern state, with a king and the somewhat artificial language of Katherevousa, and then into a republic with a new

Mykonos

PERHAPS SOME OF THE TRADITIONS LIKE CHAINSMOKING, SARMA, GYROS, COFFEE OR SOUVLAKI WERE IMPORTED FROM THE ORIENT (OR, PERHAPS, EXPORTED THERE FROM GREECE?), BUT THEY FIT PERFECTLY INTO THE MODERN GREEK IDENTITY language, a mixture of Dhimotiki, the popular speech, and the more academic Katherevousa. It all merged into one. The military junta fell; Greece joined the European Union, but lost the 1996 Olympics to

Atlanta and corporate spirit, but got the medal back in 2004. Greece became a cultural superpower, with rich religious and national heritage that attract many foreigners. Tzatziki, white houses with blue elements, islands and seafood, numerous beaches and ancient temples, Orthodox monasteries… they all contributed to somehow schizoid sense of Greek national pride where Zeus and Athena mingle with Christ the Pantocrator. But, are we any different? Are theIrish any different? The Pagan folk tales and traces of the old religion always linger somehow. Perhaps some of the traditions like chain-smoking, sarma, gyros, coffee or souvlaki were imported from the Orient (or, perhaps, exported there from Greece?), but they fit perfectly into the modern Greek identity. They are pensive and cultural like the Ancient Greeks, loyal and religious like the Byzantine Greeks, enjoying little sins and pleasures like Orientals, fighting for freedom like in 1821.

GREECE BECAME A CULTURAL SUPERPOWER, WITH RICH RELIGIOUS AND NATIONAL HERITAGE THAT ATTRACT MANY FOREIGNERS Zappeion GREECE 2016

Focus

41


— Text —

ŽIKICA MILOŠEVIĆ

CUSTOMS & CULTURE

THE CRADLE OF EUROPEAN CIVILISATION

Crete

Greece is very proud of its culture, even in the worst of times. Well, it is pretty obviuous why. Greece is the cradle of European civilisation; it gave birth to almost every aspect of our culture, from theatre and democracy to the Olympics and philosophy

42

Focus

YES, ALL OF IT Greece had it streak of bad luck, just like any other nation. Not the Brits and the Russians though, they flourished when they united. But, let us remember the clashes of city-states (or province-states) in Italian Renaissance, when the Italian spirit produced a divine epoch. When they united, it was not that shiny, although it was also great. The same happened with Germany: when they were disunited in the 18th and 19th centuries, they gave us the best music and philosophy. The Greeks were at their best when their country consisted of many city-states called polis, and when they all had their colonies and distinct ways of thinking. Well, it could lead to military society like Sparta (just a hint that the Greeks could be fierce and nasty warriors, not only beardy philosophers or dashy sports-

GREECE 2016

men wearing laurels), but it could also lead to democracy, like in Athens. The Golden Age of Greek culture was precisely when Socrates, Plato, and the others ruled the academic world. Indeed, in the Pericles' Times, in the 5th century BC, Athens was the king. Athens produced some of the most influential and enduring cultural artifacts of the Western tradition. The playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides all lived and worked in 5th century BCE Athens, as did the historians Herodotus and Thucydides, the physician Hippocrates, and the philosopher Socrates. Later on, when Alexander the Great united the Greeks and founded the Greek Empire, it was not thriving at first. Is it because the Greeks like to clash their opinions? Maybe. Imagine world without Greece The problem is, you cannot even imagine


it. That is because Greek ideals entwined our beliefs and they seem so modern and fresh that it could be virtually unimaginable to picture our world without Greece. Modern democracies owe a debt of gratitude to Greek beliefs, such as government of the people, trial by jury, and equality under the law. The ancient Greeks pioneered in many fields that rely on systematic thought, including biology, geometry, history, philosophy, and physics. They introduced a great number of important literary forms, such as epic and lyric poetry, history, tragedy, and comedy. In their pursuit of order and proportion, the Greeks created an ideal of beauty that strongly influenced Western art. And then, funnily enough, Rome conquered Greece and robbed it from treasure, and incorporated Greek art, Greek architecture, and even Greek gods into their own system. For this nation of warriors, it was normal alter the philosophy, or to occasionally turn theatrical performances into gladiator fights. Roman civilization, on the other hand, is heavily Greek-influenced. The next step was the to incorporate Roman laws and even Roman name into the next, thousand years-long Greek Empire. This empire is known as the Byzantine Empire, Eastern Roman Empire, or more precisely, “Romania”. That is why the Greek-speaking citizens, Orthodox Christians, called themselves “Romaioi”. Well, Juliet's Romeo was a pretty Byzantine after all. And it brings us to the second pillar of Greek culture: Orthodox Christianity. There are some Greeks who are Catholics, mostly Greek Catholics, but 99% of them are rather fiercely Orthodox. Even outside of Greece, some of the Patriarchs of the Orthodox society speak Greek or are Greeks, especially in the Middle East.

HELLAS, ORTHODOXIA Although the Greeks share the same religion with the most of the Serbs, they are more devoted to it. It is not only due to Communism. The Greeks were the ones who used to baptise Serbs in the first place, so the relation is similar to the one between the master and the pupil, who preserved so many pagan Slavic rituals. Greeks are much purer. The Greek Orthodox Church, largely because of the importance of Byzantium in Greek history, as well as its role in the revolution, is a major institution in modern

NEXT TIME YOU SAY “THEME”, “IDIOT”, “PROGRAMME”, “PROBLEM”, “LEXIC”, THEATRE” OR “AXIOM”, REMEMBER THAT ALL THESE WORDS ARE DERIVED FROM GREEK Greece. Its roles in the society and in overarching Greek culture are very important; a great number of Greeks attend Church at least once a month, and the Orthodox Easter holiday has special significance. The Church of Greece also retains limited political influence due to the fact the Greek constitution does not have an explicit separation of the Church and the State. In the early 00s, there was a debate between more conservative members of the church about their identity and whether religious affiliation that might be added to them highlights

the friction between state and church on some issues. Unsurprisingly, the proposal was not accepted. A widely publicised corruption scandal in 2004 implies that a small group of senior churchmen also increased national debate on introducing a greater transparency to the church-state relationship. Greek Orthodox Church dot Greek villages and towns and come in a variety of architectural forms, from older Byzantine to more modern white brick churches, and newer cathedral-like structures with evident Byzantine influence. According to Eurostat, Greece (as well as Cyprus), were polled as one of the most religious countries in Europe; however, while the church is widely respected as a moral and cultural institution, a contrast in religious beliefs with Protestant northern Europe is more obvious than one with Catholic Mediterranean Europe. In fact, that is the beauty of Europe – it is so versatile.

EPILOGUE Greek language was the main language of civilisation for 2000 years, from 5th century BC to the 15th century AD. It has lost it influence now and it is rather exotic. But let us never forget how the Renaissance started. On 29th of June 1453, a gloomy day for Chistianity and a glorious day for the Ottomans, Constantinople fell. Refugees poured into Italy and elsewhere, bringing long-lost works of Aristotle and many others. The Italians were thrilled, the era of adoring classical things started and the Middle Age ended. The Modern Era began, once again, because of the Greeks. And their language is yours. Next time you say “theme”, “idiot”, “programme”, “democracy”, “problem”, “lexic”, theatre” or “axiom”, remember that all these words are derived from Greek. To be honest, you will probably not say “axiom” but it doesn't change a thing.

GREEK LANGUAGE WAS THE MAIN LANGUAGE OF CIVILISATION FOR 2000 YEARS, FROM 5TH CENTURY BC TO THE 15TH CENTURY AD Temple of Hephaestus GREECE 2016

Focus

43


TOURISM

THOUSANDS OF ISLANDS, BEST BEACHES — Text —

ŽIKICA MILOŠEVIĆ

44

Focus

GREECE 2016

Lefkada


Santorini

A popular joke in Serbia is that Greece serves as a “Serban coast” (quite a paradox to have a coast, we are a continental country after all). In the past 7 years, it does seam like an automatic Pavlov's reflex to go to Greece on holiday. Quite different than the one immortalised by Blur's “Boys and Girls”, which portrays a British vision of the Greek summer. But still, everyone has its Greek summer dream

BRITS, AS USUAL? NO, ROMANS THIS TIME In the modern era, the first tourists to popularise a certain area are were normally Brits. Take, for example, the first tourists spotted on Costa del Sol beaches in Spain in 1948. Theses tourists were usually preceded by some 19th century adventurers. Right? Well, George Gordon Byron was certainly one of the first big names to visit Greece, and to write poems about it. Oh, he even fought and died there. Quite a tourist! Dying for someone else's freedom. Moreover, E.M. Forster in his masterpiece A Room with a View describes two elderly women at the very beginning of the 20th century who are trying, after having a great time in Italy, to reach Athens and Constantinople

the following year. They are ridiculed by a narrow-minded priest who openly expresses strong disapproval of such a preposter-

THANKFULLY, THE NARROW-MINDED PRIESTS FROM THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY LOST THE BATTLE. THE BRAVEHEARTS WON, AND THE EXOTIC GREECE TURNED INTO A MAJOR TOURIST SUPERPOWER

ous destination so far away. But thankfully, these narrow-minded priests were the ones who eventually lost battles. The brave grannies won. Actually, their idea won. Funnily enough, tourism in Greece developed long time ago – it traces its roots back to the ancient times. Greek colonies of Magna Graecia and the young Roman Republic had had some cultural exchange before Rome established dominance in West Mediterranean. Greece was annexed by the Roman Empire centuries later; this triggered a new wave of cultural exchange, as a large number of Romans were visiting the famous centres of Greek philosophy and science, such as Athens, Corinth and Thebes. These Roman tourists brought a vast knowledge of the world older than their own, brought many gods (at one moment, all the Roman gods had their Greek counterparts, except for Janus, the god of doors and passages, who was unknown in Greece). From the very beginning, Greece used to be a cradle of European and Western civilisations, which later took over the world effectively. Mass tourism in modern-day Greece started to flourish in the 60s and 70s. Large-scale construction projects for hotels and other similar facilities were undertaken and the country saw an increase

GREECE 2016

Focus

45


Knossos in numbers of international tourists over the years. After 1975, when the Junta got its farewell kiss, all of it has just started multiplying. And it’s getting better, man! – as Noel Gallagher would say.

GREECE AS A SAFE HAVEN Well, when you have such a beautiful country as Greece, tourism normally becomes the key element of its economic activity, and is one of the country's most important sectors. Due to its rich culture and history, Greece has been a popular tourist destination in Europe since antiquity. This is reflected largely in its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as its long coastline, a great number of islands and picturesque beaches – most of the location names ending with their recognisable -os or -i. And the statistics are rather impressive. After

Temple of Poseidon 46

Focus

GREECE 2016

DUE TO ITS RICH CULTURE AND HISTORY, GREECE HAS BEEN A POPULAR TOURIST DESTINATION IN EUROPE SINCE ANTIQUITY. THIS IS REFLECTED LARGELY IN ITS 18 UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES 19.3 million tourists visited Greece in 2009, or 17.7 million in 2008, the numbers have been growing. The numbers reached 22 million in 2014, 26.5 million in 2015, which is an enormous increase. The Greeks cleverly

noticed that tourism carries certain opportunities and threats, so they did their SWOT analysis quite well. The influx of refugees on Greek islands started having an impact on the number of international tourists. On the other hand, Greek minister of tourism has dismissed fears that the ongoing migrant crisis will put foreigners off visiting Greece. He also promised that VAT hikes in 2015 wouldn’t affect tourists. And it didn’t. They made it, despite the country’s economic struggles and the tide of refugees that has threatened to overwhelm several popular holiday destinations, including the islands of Kos and Lesbos. It shows how resilient Greek tourism is. And there is one more factor. The Arab Spring entered its Arab Winter phase, and now many people fear to visit Egypt, Tunisia or even Jordan. Turkey was the latest addition


THE MOST-VISITED REGION OF GREECE IS CENTRAL MACEDONIA IN NORTHERN PART OF THE COUNTRY. IT IS EASILY ACCESSIBLE BY CAR, TRAIN, OR COACH

Zakinthos

Parga

to a ‘no-go’ area, and all of a sudden, Christian Europe seemed like a good option for everyone, even the media-manipulated Britons and always-afraid-what-is-goingto-happen-with-our-punctuality Germans. Along with Croatia, Portugal, Italy and Spain, Greece has become a winner in this global geopolitical merry-go-round and slaughterhouse. Thus, tourism in Greece generates 18% of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, with Athens, Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Corfu, Crete and Chalkidiki being some of the country's most popular tourist destinations.

WHERE TO GO? WHO IS COMING? In 2007, British tourists almost outnumbered all other nationalities – 2.61 million Brits made up for 15% of the total number

of tourists. But who beat the Brits? In 2015, 3 million Macedonians did. 732,000 Serbs ranked 9th, similar to the Americans. According to a survey conducted in China in 2005, Greece was voted as the Chinese number one tourist destination. And when it comes to Serbs, Greece is their favourite. The most-visited region of Greece is Central Macedonia in northern part of the

Mykonos

IN RECENT YEARS, GREECE HAS ALSO STARTED PROMOTING RELIGIOUS TOURISM AND PILGRIMAGES TO REGIONS WITH SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL AND RELIGIOUS IMPORTANCE, SUCH AS THE MONASTERIES IN METEORA AND MOUNT ATHOS country. It is easily accessible by car, train, or coach. Attica and Peloponnese are also very popular. The islands are pretty, but not overloaded with tourists. Well, what could possibly be more packed than Paralia? In recent years, Greece has also started promoting religious tourism and pilgrimages to regions with significant historical and religious importance, such as the monasteries in Meteora and Mount Athos. Since the best locations are reserved for churches, the tourists will easily replenish their mind, body and soul while visiting this pearl of the Balkans.

GREECE 2016

Focus

47


— Text —

ŽIKICA MILOŠEVIĆ

TRACES OF GREECE IN BELGRADE STREETS

BROTHERHOOD CONFIRMED Rigas Feraios EXOTIC BELGRADE NAMES When you walk around central Belgrade, you may notice that some street names are quite exotic: Uzun Mirkova, Baba Višnjina, Zmaja od Noćaja, Čika Ljubina, Rige od Fere... Wait! You mean Rigas Feraios? In Dorćol, there is a big statue of this man, portraying him in full splendour. Of course, all those names have usually been derived in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the time, the primary goal of people living in Belgrade, as well as Serbs in general, was to break free from the long-lasting Ottoman rule. And, amongst all those Serbian heroes, fighters and unresting hajduks, there is a Greek hero. If you were as ignorant as I was when I first saw the statue, you would probably associate the word Riga in its name with a person from the Latvian capital but, in fact, he was a Greek freedom fighter, poet and philosopher. His name was Rigas Ferraios.

RIGAS To be more precise, Rigas was not even Greek. He was Aromanian (Tzintzar), but it did not stop him from being an ardent Greek nationalist. His real name was Antonios Kyriazis. He was born in 1757, into a wealthy family in the village of Velestino in the Sanjak of Tirhala, Ottoman Empire (modern Thessaly, Greece). He was at some point nicknamed Pheraeos or Feraios, after the nearby ancient Greek city of Pherae, although he never seemed to have used this name himself. Contrary to the customs at the time, he was not obsessed the Russian Empire saving Constantinople and liberating Christians. He never believed that the neighbouring Austrian Empire could expand to the South. He was under spell of the French, their revolution, and Napoleon Bonaparte. He learned about the French Revolution, and came to believe something similar

48

Focus

GREECE 2016

There is a lot of evidence of a centurieslong Greek-Serbian friendship, which was deffinitely established and cemented during the Independence War in the 19th and 20th centuries

could occur in the Ottoman Balkans, as a result of self-determination of its Christian subjects. By meeting Greek bishops and guerilla leaders, he showed his support for the ideas of an uprising. It cost him life in the very end. And the end was in Belgrade. He started his correspondence with general Napoleon Bonaparte, and eventually sent him a snuffbox made of bay laurel root, taken from a ruined temple of Apollo. He then set out on a mission to meet the General in Venice. During his voyage, he was betrayed by Demetrios Oikonomos Kozanites, a Greek businessman, had his papers confiscated, and was arrested in Trieste by the Austrian authorities. As an ally of the Ottoman Empire, Austria was concerned

TODAY, ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL STREETS IN BELGRADE IS NAMED AFTER RIGAS FERRAIOS, REMINDING US OF ETERNAL FRIENDSHIP WITH THE GREEKS that the French Revolution might provoke similar upheavals in its realm and later formed the Holy Alliance. He was handed over together with his accomplices to the Ottoman governor of Belgrade, where he was imprisoned and tortured. From Belgrade, he was sent to Constantinople to be sentenced by Sultan Selim III. While in transit, he and his five collaborators were strangled in order to prevent their rescue by Rigas's friend Osman Pazvantoğlu. Their bodies were thrown into

the Danube River. He was strangled inside the Nebojša Tower by Danube. His last words are reported as being: "I have sown a rich seed; the hour is coming when my country will reap its glorious fruits". He wrote in demotic Greek, and was a fierce republican who advocated pan-Balkan Christian federation. He even designed a flag for the “New Byzantium”. He never spoke about the Greeks or the Hellenes, but used the word Romioi, or the Romans, like the Byzantines. His Pan-Balkan Federal Republic would have been the New Eastern Roman Empire, clearly without an emperor, more like the United States of America. Today, one of the most beautiful streets in Belgrade is named after him, reminding us of our eternal friendship with the Greeks.

VENIZELOS Another evidence of the two nations’ common effort to achieve their freedom was shown in the glorious Balkan Wars. And then came Venizelos. Before the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, Venizelos' catalytic role helped Greece to enter the Balkan League, an alliance of the Balkan states against Ottoman Turkey. Through his diplomatic acumen, Greece doubled its area and population with the liberation of Macedonia, Epirus, and the rest of the Aegean islands. Elefterios Venizelos was so important for the Serbian state that he deserved his own street (until 2003, Đure Đakovića Street) in central Belgrade and a monument, which is not that monumental. It is merely a bust, but with a nice inscription. The greenery in the street gave Elefterios, whose name means freedom in Greek, a well-deserved rest after his turbulent life. The streets that bear his name exist in various cities and towns in Serbia, including Novi Sad.


General Director of AD Junior

Satisfied and Loyal Guests is

OUR GREATEST ASSET

We have managed all these years to create a recognizable, high quality touristic destination that satisfies all the needs of our guests. The reward of our efforts is our satisfied and loyal clients, followed by better and stable business results

O

nly if you provide supreme quality and investments, you can accomplish high results – says Nikolaos Sliousaregko, General Director of the Junior Hotel on the Kopaonik Mountain.

How much effort and funds did you invest in order to give Kopaonik a hotel that is at the top of its class?  So far, we have invested more than 9 million EUR in renovation, construction of new infrastructures and sports facilities, implementation of new technologies, sales, marketing, stuff education, with hard will & work. All these with the vision of creating a unique, attractive and high quality touristic destination.

What sets your hotel apart from other accommodation facilities in this exclusive resort?  We are located at an altitude of 1,100m, which is ideal for revitalization of the human body, and for sports & health activities. Furthermore, the versatility of our facilities ensures that our guests can engage in various activities, as well as enjoy in the peace and quiet of the nature and its beautiful surroundings.

What kind of tourists would enjoy your hotel the most?  Our offer changes by each season and this is the beauty of our resort. Hotel Junior is suitable for conferences, seminars, families, school trips, skiing and all kind of sport activities, nature lovers, who wants to escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

Brzece BB, 37225 Brzece, Srbija m t e w

+381648860225 +38137823355 info@junior-kopaonik.com www.juniorhotel.rs

GREECE 2016

Focus

49

CORP ORAT E

NIKOLAOS SLIOUSAREGKO


GRAND SPONSORS

MEMBERS

50

Focus

GREECE 2016