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06 February, 1998
National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday began his official visit here with a speech at a conference on the topic of "Greece in the next millennium," sponsored by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
Afterwards, Mr. Papantoniou held talks with his British counterpart Gordon Brown, who told him that the positive course of the Greek economy is expected to attract the interest of British investors.
According to a statement by Mr. Papantoniou, Mr. Brown expressed his government's intention to play a more active economic role in the Balkans, utilizing possibilities offered by Greece. He also spoke of the possibilities of establishing joint enterprises and developing common initiatives in the wider region.
Earlier, the Greek minister's speech was attended by several top executives from multinational companies and banking institutions, as well as members of London's Greek Shipping Committee.
Mr. Papantoniou, heading a group of high-ranking Greek officials and business leaders, spoke on "Business Opportunities in Greece: Rediscovering Southeastern Europe".
He stressed that the Athens government today enjoyed a broad political consensus for measures aimed to promote Greece's participation in Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
"Greece is the only stable factor, a member of the EU and NATO and other international organizations in southeastern Europe. It is the only country which combines the advantages of a developed economy, adequate infrastructure, and political stability. It is in an excellent geographical position, and possesses the potential to expand even more its economic access to the Balkans, the Black Sea, CIS countries, the Middle East etc. It is thus a bridge between east and west, ready to accept foreign investment," he added.
Setting out the Greek economy's present positive picture, Mr. Papantoniou said the country would be ready to meet Maastricht criteria in 1998-99, so as to participate in the third phase of EMU on Jan. 1, 2001.
He referred to the program for the privatization of public enterprises and the efforts for reducing public expenses, as well as the restructuring and modernization of ailing utilities, particularly in the transport sector.
"The business community in Greece is showing new dynamism, becoming more extrovert, and is efficiently utilizing the opportunities of the new markets. Business confidence was won through the stability in government and in the implementation of the macro -economic policy," he said.
"Foreign investors also have every reason to invest in Greece, which is the country with some of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe today in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors," he added.
He went on to point out the considerable improvements in the Greek banking sector, which now meets international specifications, and that the Athens Stock Exchange is becoming the center of economic activity in the broader region.
"The Greek government is trying to assist foreign investors to promote their programs without bureaucratic impediments, and has abandoned old habits and practices that caused problems. The economic situation in Greece today is very different from that prevailing a few years ago," he said.
Source: Athens News Agency