Speech delivered by EBRD President, Sir Suma Chakrabarti at the opening of EBRD’s office in Athens
Thank you for joining me and the EBRD Team as well as Minister Stathakis, our Governor, and Anthony Bartzokas, the EBRD Board Director for Greece.
Today’s opening of our office here in Athens marks an important step for us and also for Greece.
Why are we here?
Very simply, we are here to support Greece in its recovery from a severe crisis.
In that context, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the people of Greece.
Many of them have had to put up with extraordinary economic hardship in the last few years.
We are aware of their many sacrifices and salute the way the Greek people have borne them with such fortitude.
Our shareholders approved Greece’s request to temporarily benefit from EBRD funding last February.
In the end we were only able to get down to work in earnest in the autumn.
Nonetheless, we have made a strong start and have already signed six transactions worth a total of €320 million.
If reforms stay on track, we now expect to move full steam ahead and bring many new projects to fruition, on top of those signed last year.
Our overall strategy, for all the EBRD regions, for the next few years is particularly pertinent to your country. We aim to:
Our activity in Greece will also be guided by the specific country strategy which we are currently drafting.
It is still in draft form but, for now, provisionally, the strategic priorities for our work here will focus on areas such as:
As in all the countries where we work, we will also be very active in the field of policy dialogue.
Getting the right policies in place, strengthening institutions, making sure that reforms work in the long-term and that they are supported by real leadership, not just in the political sphere but across the board, are going to be vital.
The country strategy is a very important document. It will go out for public consultation later this month.
But our teams are already very active and working on new transactions here in Greece. We haven’t wasted any time.
Our investments in the banking sector deserve special mention.
We have invested €250 million as a strong signal of our support for both the financial sector and the wider Greek economy.
One of our priorities is to boost the confidence of investors – and bank depositors.
Until Greeks are once again ready to deposit money in bank accounts, the banks themselves will be hard pressed to fulfil their primary function: that of lending.
As you know, bank shares have taken another hit, with their value now less than half that at recapitalisation.
Part of this is down to the dynamic in global markets.
But a lot of the decline is also due to uncertainty about the pace of reforms here.
This is unfortunate.
All the same, we will continue to support the banks we are investing in and are determined to be very active shareholders.
We know that banks are working hard to address the problem of non-performing loans, one which is absolutely crucial for the restructuring of the sector and the recovery of the Greek economy as a whole.
We also know that many would-be investors are currently here looking at potential opportunities and assessing possible investments.
We are doing everything we can to encourage this. For example, we are helping the Bank of Greece to organise a conference on the NPL problem here in Athens later this month.
However, banks are not our only focus here.
We continue to develop a strong pipeline in the corporate sector, which is also crucial for the recovery.
We are in advanced talks with several agribusiness companies, a local sector in which we see a lot of potential.
We also continue to develop our pipeline in tourism, pharmaceuticals, ITC and logistics.
We will of course support privatisations as they go ahead and seek to work with municipalities across the country to help improve the quality of their services they provide.
Mobilising investment is going to be absolutely key for the recovery too.
Yes, investors are on the lookout for opportunities. They are also taking risks and expect returns.
They are looking for evidence of strong rule of law, transparency, fairness and predictability.
These are very much in the power of the authorities to provide, both through introducing the right legislation and then ensuring that it is properly enforced.
We look forward to supporting Greece do all of the above – and working with you in the process.
And to do so from this new office, which I take great pleasure in opening.
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