Sunday 6 February 2005
Interview with Marianna Androutsou
Greece has in its hands the key to Serbian development
The conference, organised in Athens on the initiative of the Royal Family, aims at laying the foundations of a financial partnership bridge between the two countries.
Greece understands the particularities of South-eastern Europe and is a member of the European Union. It offers greater experience and the partnership will contribute to the creation of a better economic climate in the wider region.
Times are hard ... even for princes. Things are twice as hard in the case of Prince Alexander, heir to the Yugoslavian throne, as his country, the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro, formerly known as Yugoslavia, lives through the painful consequences of the war both on a social and economic level. The majority of the younger generation are anxious about their employment status and the improvement of their standard of living.
- “I am deeply sorry for being late” apologised the Prince who was late for our appointment by … six whole minutes. This was not merely a formal “apology”, as he had distinguished humbleness and modesty due to his royal upbringing. “We must inform the Greeks about the Conference of the Greek-Serbian business co-operation. If Greek investments are increased in my country, my fellow-citizens will find work and it will also be beneficial for our Greek friends”.
- So let us begin… On 8, 9 and 10 February there is a Conference and Exhibition at the “Hilton” entitled “Greece, Serbia and Montenegro Partnership Initiative”, which aims to present business opportunities in the market of Serbia and Montenegro. It is organised by the humanitarian organisation ‘Lifeline Hellas’, the soul of which is your wife. However, she appoints you as the person who is responsible for this important event. Who actually is the inspirer?
- Alison, my wife’s brilliant and sensitive daughter. As I mentioned, all my family travel to Serbia frequently and we desire a better future for these people, we want them to have work.
- How exactly will this conference invigorate the Serbian economy as well as help the Greek economy to develop?
- There will be meetings, discussions, exchange of information and business executives will be able to network. Both governments agree on this (note: many government officials and politicians of both countries will attend). It is important that the conference will take place in Athens where feelings towards Serbia are positive, Greek business executives will have the chance to be informed by specialists on investment opportunities.
- What are the motives for a Greek business executive to invest in your country?
- We offer a specialised work force, with competent people who speak English. Strategically, we are at the crossroads of Southeastern Europe. Moreover, the cost of labour is low. We border on the North of Greece and therefore connect her with the EU. Hungary and Slovenia joined the EU last year, and Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria will join in 2007. Serbia is in the middle, at a geographical position bordering all three countries. It is important to complete Corridor 10 as soon as possible, in order for the transportation network to work adequately.
- Why is your co-operation with Greece so important to you, while there are other richer countries with which you may have a more prosperous co-operation?
- It is a very friendly country which strongly supported us during the difficult years after the bombings and sanctions [= κυρώσεις
], and we are deeply grateful for this. Greece understands the particular circumstances of Southeastern Europe and is also a member of the EU. It is more experienced and this co-operation will contribute to creating a better economic climate in the wider area.
- However, is there political stability in Serbia? This is a factor which determines the decision of a potential investor.
- We do have stability because there is peace and political activity, just like the member-states of the EU: parliament, independent media; compare this to the regime, which was forced upon our citizens before the year 2000… there is no comparison. If there were no stability the present Greek investors such as Eurobank, the National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, Delta Dairy, Veropoulos, Titan, Chipita, the Greek Industry of Sugar, would not be in our country. We are definitely good for investments and co-operation.
- Do your fellow-citizens support you in this courageous effort?
- My main motive and goal has always been to help my country by improving the citizens’ living conditions, by promoting democracy and with humanitarian help (this is thanks to my wife’s hard work, Princess Katherine, who battles for the economic support of the orphans of the war and the improvement of the health system, as you will see if you visit www.lifelineaid.info
). You can not imagine how well our people treat us.
- So financial contributions are amongst your aims. Will you be explaining why humanitarian aid is important during next week’s conference?
- It is always important, just as in developed countries. I personally care about job openings. We are a country in transition and a market which can be exploited by investors. Once we co-operate it will be beneficial to all. The improvement of our social services goes beyond co-operation, business and investments, and this will boost the economy and the taxation system.
- The energy sector: how fertile is it for Greek investments? Is it a more governmental matter or a matter of private initiative?
- There are plenty of opportunities and there will be more in the future. Many showed interest in the petroleum sector, NIS/Jugopetrol. Moreover, there were foreign petrol distributors such as OMV and Lukoil.
- What will be the immediate advantages gained through the Greek-Serbian business co-operation?
- Ah, I refer you to www.partnershipinitiative.gr
. Greece is traditionally considered to be a friend. A good co-operation means mutual profit, satisfaction and pride.
- What are the consequences for Greek investors if there is a rupture in the relationship between Serbia and Montenegro?
- I do not see negative consequences and punishments. There will always be friendship and common interests in the market economy of Serbia and Montenegro.
- Don’t you think Greek business executives would be more willing to invest if Serbia was a member of the EU?
- In the notion of the EU there is the common market with business transactions and no economic boundaries. When we join the EU we will expect Greece to invest, as always, and it will because traditionally it sees us as friends and good trade partners. We live together in a corner of Europe, so both countries must … grow together… I invite you to the conference so that you can gain a better understanding.