Remarks by Deputy Chief of Mission David Burger at VISA Greece General Assembly

VISA Greece Annual General Assembly
Goulandris Museum, Athens

Monday, November 18, 2019, 2:00 p.m.

Καλησπέρα σας.  Thank you very much for inviting me to address Visa Greece’s General Assembly. This year’s topic, innovation, has been a major U.S. Embassy focus, especially since we highlighted American innovation as honored country at the 2018 Thessaloniki International Fair. Visa, one of our U.S. Pavilion sponsors from that TIF, is a great example of that.

Thank you very much, Deputy Minister Zarifopoulos for your remarks.  I noticed what the Deputy Minister said that the chief users of digital payment platforms tend to be the better educated and the young.  I’m an enthusiastic user of those platforms; I’d like to think it’s my youth, not necessarily my education, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.  I aspire, indeed.  But I really took to heart what the Deputy Minister said about improving connectivity in Greece for all of its citizens, and also, obviously, that is all to the benefit of the business community as well.

Digitalization and innovation are two sectors where we see a lot of promise and potential for Greece to grow its economy, and we want more American companies, like Visa, to extend their footprint to Greece. We firmly believe that a strong Greece with a growing economy is a stronger partner for the United States in promoting stability and security in this region.

Secretary of State Pompeo’s visit and the Strategic Dialogue he kicked off last month also focused significantly on technology and entrepreneurship, so promoting innovation is now very much a part of the core U.S.-Greece bilateral agenda.

Last week, a U.S. interagency advisory team on telecommunications, cybersecurity, and critical infrastructure visited Athens and met with the Deputy Minister’s boss, Minister Pierrakakis, Minister Georgiadis, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Frangogiannis, and National Security Advisor Diakopoulos.

A Partnership Opportunity Delegation, organized with the Department’s Office of Global Partnerships, will visit in early 2020 to expand partnerships and explore investment opportunities in the telecommunications, digital, R&D, and cybersecurity sectors.  That was a deliverable from this visit.
For these reasons, I’m really impressed by Visa’s outreach already to Greek FinTech and PayTech companies to create innovative and secure payment solutions.

Greece is a fast-growing market for digital payments—but, as noted, has room for improvement—which benefits both the private and public sectors.  Greece also has one of the highest terminal rates in Europe, and this supports the country’s tourism industry, enabling Greek merchants to accept digital payments, which have become so popular in the United States, where credit is consumers’ most preferred payment method.

At the Thessaloniki International Fair in September, this year, I spoke at a presentation by Google on its efforts to support Greece’s tourism sector by disseminating important digital marketing tools to Greek entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Visa Greece’s upcoming initiatives to further digitize payments will help these small businesses—who, overall, on the continent, drive two thirds of employment and over half of the economic activity in Europe—to grow their businesses online and welcome customers from all over the world with speed, convenience, and security.

The rapidly growing eCommerce trend in Greece is opening up markets and opportunities that would never have been possible in an offline world.  And public authorities benefit too, as additional tax revenue can be invested in infrastructure, education, and healthcare to the benefit of all citizens.

So, to wrap up, I want to thank you, Visa Greece, for your transformative work in this sector and for joining a growing list of companies, like Pfizer, Cisco, and Deloitte to invest in the success of Greek entrepreneurs and small businesses owners.  I can’t wait to see the results.

Ευχαριστώ πολύ.