“The Greek Economy Conference”
Monday, November 30, 2015, 2:45 pm
Αξιότιμες κυρίες και κύριοι καλησπέρα σας,
Χαίρομαι ιδιαίτερα που βρίσκομαι σήμερα εδώ μαζί σας. Θα ήθελα να πω δύο λόγια στα ελληνικά και μετά θα συνεχίσω το υπόλοιπο της ομιλίας μου στα αγγλικά…
Αυτή είναι η τρίτη φορά που παρευρίσκομαι σ’ αυτήν την ετήσια εκδήλωση και τα τελευταία δύο χρόνια όλοι μας ήμασταν μάρτυρες στα δραματικά γεγονότα και τις σοβαρές επιπτώσεις που είχε η κρίση στην Ελλάδα και την ελληνική οικονομία γενικότερα.
Καθώς η Ελλάδα βγαίνει σιγά-σιγά από αυτήν την δεινή κατάσταση που είχε περιέλθει τα τελευταία πέντε χρόνια, εύχομαι από καρδίας η χώρα να ξαναβρεί τον ρυθμό της και να προχωρήσει σε ανάπτυξη και σταθερότητα.
And now, by your leave, I will continue my remarks in English.
In July, the Greek government agreed to make important structural and regulatory reforms that are essential to the recovery of the country.
Completing these reforms will increase the country’s competitiveness and make the country more attractive to foreign investors. New investments – both from companies new to Greece and those already here, like you – mean new jobs. New jobs are essential in a country where the unemployment rate is over 25%.
These changes will also make the outlook brighter for debt restructuring. Long-term debt sustainability and a return to growth for Greece within the Eurozone is the core goal of Greece’s program with its creditors. We believe that debt relief is critical and urge Eurozone governments to engage in a serious discussion about debt relief as Greece delivers on reforms.
I would like to offer three compelling reasons why the United States government believes it essential for the Greek economy to stop contracting and get back to growth.
-First reason, for humanitarian reasons. The reduction of household wealth in Greece since 2008 has been sobering. Unemployment and underemployment have led to a spike in cases of depression and family violence. Hundreds of thousands of young people have had to leave the country to find work.
From President Obama on down, we in the U.S. government have expressed sympathy for the suffering and difficulties the Greek people have faced over the past six years. No other advanced country has faced such a wrenching depression in the post-war period. We have tremendous respect for the sacrifices and commitments the Greek people and government have made to restore fiscal stability, reform the economy, and restart growth.
-Second reason is for reasons of stability. Years of high unemployment, a sense of futurelessness, and a declining standard of living are conducive to the growth of radical movements, both on the left and the right. A stable Greece has been essential to the success of the alliance of Western, democratic nations since the end of World War Two.
Greece’s location has, since the civil war in Syria, become even more important. Greece and the United States work together closely on fighting ISIS and other Islamic terrorist organizations, and on intercepting the illegal traffic of people, weapons, and narcotics.
Third reason is the economy needs to get back to growth, for the integrity of the European Union. The European Union has been the essential force stopping the bloodshed of the first half of the 20th century, healing the wounds of the Cold War period, and ensuring a viable, prosperous economic future for its citizens. The European Union is an essential strategic partner of the United States.
There are several things the Greek government can do to stimulate growth. These are not unique to Greece, of course: they are measures that countries around the world, including the United States, have taken to attract and then keep investment.
One, of course, is to honor commitments. If the government is paying for products already delivered and it creates incentives for private sector investment, the word will get around that Greece is truly open for business. But actions are more important than words.
Another thing that policymakers can do is to seek competitive advantage. Greece benefits from its amazing geography that not only attracts tourists from around the world, but also puts it at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Greece can become an important regional energy hub and a pillar of EU energy security. The country stands to reap real gains from the successful construction of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline to bring Caspian gas across Greece, from the completion of the interconnectors with Bulgaria, and from additional projects to expand Greece’s ability to import and transport north large supplies of liquefied natural gas.
We also see it as vitally important that Greece become less dependent on Russian energy, and that it develop more domestic energy sources. This includes promotion of domestic energy exploration, such as the launch of major hydrocarbon concession processes for offshore and onshore blocks.
But what we see as the biggest leg up for Greece now is the EU signing on to the Trans-Atlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, or T-TIP. This is the counterpart to the Trans-Pacific Partnership now up for ratification before the U.S. Congress. Concluding a similar agreement with Europe will create new jobs in agriculture, tourism, technology, and manufacturing. A successful T-TIP means none Trans-Atlantic trade and this will be a boon for logistics firms; Greece, as a big player in the shipping industry, stands to benefit enormously.
In concluding, I would like to say thank you to our U.S. firms for sticking it out here during hard times. We want you to know the Embassy is here to help you when you need our advocacy. We know that if Greece is to return to growth it will be thanks to firms like yours increasing your investment, and to the arrival of new firms, in new fields, who are encouraged to invest by an opening up of the economy.
We remain optimistic – guardedly optimistic but optimistic just the same – that the steps the country has taken over the past five years will pay off and result in an open, competitive and prosperous 21st-century economy. The United States wants Greece to succeed, and will continue to stand with you in this effort.
Κυρίες και κύριοι,
Μιλώντας σε προσωπικό επίπεδο, θα ήθελα να πω ότι ήταν μεγάλη τιμή για μένα που υπηρέτησα την χώρα μου ως πρέσβης στην Ελλάδα σε μία τόσο κρίσιμη και σημαντική περίοδο στην ιστορία της νεότερης Ελλάδας, καθώς επίσης και για τις διμερείς σχέσεις των χωρών μας. Όσα συνέβησαν εδώ τα τελευταία χρόνια ήταν σημαντικά όχι μόνο για την Ελλάδα αλλά και για την ευρύτερη περιοχή της ανατολικής Μεσογείου και την Ευρώπη. Για εμάς εδώ στην αμερικανική αποστολή στην Αθήνα ήταν προτεραιότητα υψίστης σημασίας και στόχος μας να κάνουμε ότι μπορούμε , ώστε να βοηθήσουμε την Ελλάδα να μπει σε τροχιά ανάπτυξης και σταθερότητας. Το έργο όλων μας ακόμα δεν έχει τελειώσει , αλλά ελπίζουμε ότι όλοι μαζί θα συνεχίσουμε αυτήν την επίπονη προσπάθεια που αρχίσαμε και είμαι βέβαιος ότι στο τέλος η Ελλάδα θα βγει από την κρίση νικήτρια.
Σας ευχαριστώ πολύ!