Deputy Chief of Mission Burger’s Remarks at Trade Mission to Skopje with AmCham

Monday, March 21, 2022

As Prepared

Good afternoon.  It’s a great pleasure to be back here in Skopje for the first time in about 10 years.  As some of you may know, I once served at the U.S. Embassy here; in fact we moved during my tour from Ilindenska to the Embassy’s current location.

I want to thank you, Nikos and Elias, for inviting me to accompany AmCham for this Trade Mission and thank you, AmCham North Macedonia and Ambassador Byrnes, for hosting us.  We are all happy to travel again and also happy to forgo a virtual Trade Mission in favor of the “good old days” – in person.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the somber background of our event today. As Amb Byrnes has noted, Russia’s unprovoked, bloody invasion of Ukraine has reminded us that a Europe whole, free, and at peace is hard won and alas not yet fully achieved.  It is a reminder of how important it is for us, as democracies, to support one another and defend the shared values that unite us.

We are committed to working jointly with all of our democratic allies and partners around the world, and with our NATO allies.  We unfailingly will protect every inch of NATO territory.  And I’m proud to say that territory includes the territory of North Macedonia, which was not the case when I served here previously.

In the midst of this current crisis, I am gratified that we have a chance to come together and continue building not only the Greece – North Macedonia relationship, but also our chamber-to-chamber relationship.  The significance of AmCham’s network in fostering interregional business synergies is of paramount importance and cannot be emphasized enough.  Trade and economic relations are critical to the stabilization and prosperity of the entire region, not just these two nations.

AmCham Greece is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year with a very apt theme, “Broadening Horizons.”  Today in Skopje, we are continuing to do just that, and I believe both chambers have paved a fortuitous path forward as we navigate this critical time in history.

Despite the challenges the pandemic has presented, American investment continues to flourish in Greece, while U.S.-Greece relations have reached an historic peak — politically, economically, and militarily.

Over the past year, we have seen multiple American companies establishing a solid and lasting presence in the Greek marketplace.  Microsoft’s data center hub is continuing as planned, with a value of hundreds of millions of dollars.  JPMorgan’s acquisition of Viva Wallet is a huge vote of confidence in the region’s ingenuity and potential for growth.   Amazon Web Services opened its Athens office, Digital Realty acquired Lamda Helix which is investing significantly as it triples its data center capacity, and Cisco launched its Digital Transformation and Digital Skills Center in Thessaloniki.

We also welcomed the further expansion of Pfizer’s presence with the inauguration of its Global Centers for Digital Innovation and Business Operations and Services in Thessaloniki.  The facility is an incredible testament to the digital transformation underway in Greece.  In the coming year, we look forward even more to American investments in major infrastructure projects across the country.

We have also emphasized the role that Thessaloniki can play as a gateway to the western Balkans.  Companies that eye investments in Thessaloniki are in fact eyeing the greater region and the greater market.  And we are doing our part to generate these links, for example through events like the State Department-sponsored Tech Camp last September in Thessaloniki.  This event brought together over 30 young women entrepreneurs from across the region to develop their technical and business skills:  Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia.  I look forward to seeing the exciting projects and startups these women will bring forth in the coming years.

We celebrate our investor partnerships today and look forward to new synergies between the two chambers as we work to champion democratic ideals.  March is Women’s History Month and I would like to encourage all of us to make a special effort – as we have for example through the Tech Camp I mentioned — to find more ways that we can support opportunities for women in business and across all sectors in Greece and North Macedonia.  We’re especially looking forward to an event on March 30 that will bring together women in politics from both countries, hosted by Ambassadors Pyatt and Byrnes.  It would be terrific to see similar cross-border efforts in business, technology, energy, and the other areas that the chambers support.

I personally look forward to supporting even more American businesses coming to Greece and North Macedonia, expanding growth and opportunity in both our countries.

Ευχαριστώ πολύ, Blagodoram Mnogu, and Faleminderit shume.