This is a moment of “big opportunity” for boosting investments in Greece via the country’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan “Greece 2.0”, which has transposed the guidelines of the EU programme “Next Generation EU”, and through the European Green Deal, German Ambassador to Greece Ernst Reichel stated in an interview with AMNA given while in Thessaloniki for the 85th Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
The full interview is given below:
On bilateral relations between Greece and Germany:
In essence we have very deep and substantial relations in all areas. Economical, cultural, societal – especially here in Northern Greece you can see that very clearly. The political tool, the relations between the governments and the parliaments are excellent. What bothers me is that there is a sort of negative fixation in Greek society about Germany, that there are stereotypes and I consider it my job to work against such stereotypes. But I do not think that this is a job only for the German side to work against it but also for the Greek side, for the opinion leaders here in Greece. And since we are such close partners and also extremely close partners through the EU, I think that it is in the interests of everybody that we overcome the negativity which exists in public opinion.
Recent polls show that there is a remarkable negative sentiment and it is striking to see how this is completely contrary to the way Germany is perceived in other countries. Chancellor Merkel was declared “person of the year” by Time magazine and she is a very popular person worldwide. Here in Greece no, to the contrary. In such a situation when everybody in the world is of one opinion and you here in Greece hold a different opinion it’s maybe worthwhile to pause and think why is that so and if this is really justified.
On investments and the economy:
Yes, certainly. We are at the moment of big opportunity, I believe, through the EU program “Next Generation EU”, through the European Green Deal. “Next Generation EU” has been transposed here in Greece into “Greece 2.0”, which has received a lot of applause throughout Europe, so this is really a chance to create a moment of significant progress for the country and to overcome the investment gap, the lack of investments that exists here in Greece. And foreign investors – and Germany is the number one foreign investor in Greece – will have to play a major role in that. Indeed, “Greece 2.0” focuses on digitalisation and green energy and Greece is well placed to become a major success story in exactly these areas. You certainly know about a really big investment of RWE, the German electrical company, with PPC in Western Macedonia. Over one billion Euros of volume. I think there is much more that can happen. The framework conditions seem to be there, we can improve them further, the prime minister has made announcements to this direction, so I think this is a moment of opportunity.
Thessaloniki is, from a German perspective, a place where there is a particular German presence, German interest. Thessaloniki has a very well educated and young population so there is a lot one can do in digitalisation, for instance. We also have logistics tourism, which is a traditionally strong area, so there is really something. And of course the “lighthouse” of German investment in Greece is the new airport building, which was finished ahead of time in line with a lot of other regional airports. I think there is a lot we can build upon, a lot of opportunity and it’s now up to Greece and Germany to grasp this opportunity.
We have to be aware of the possibility or even the likelihood that there will be numerous migrants from Afghanistan. The EU interior ministers when they met recently, they all shared that assessment and they also share the opinion that one has to do what one can to avoid uncontrolled flows of numerous migrants towards Europe. We will have to – with all the means we have at our disposal – work in the region to offer refugees, people who are in danger, opportunities in neighbouring countries and to offer humanitarian aid, possibly also within Afghanistan if we can, and thereby reduce the pressure that may come to our borders. If we work together as Europeans I believe that we can do quite a lot. But yes, we have to be realistic, even the best border control will not be able to avoid the arrival of migrants in the EU and it is important to show European solidarity when that starts.
It is true that at the Evros border there was an instrumentalisation of migrants by Turkey. But I think it is oversimplification to say that any future flow of migrants that comes via Turkey is an instrumentalisation by Turkey. Just think back to 2014 when there was a much bigger flow of migrants than at the Evros border and nobody considered this an instrumentalisation by any particular country. My advice would be to resist the tendency to blame everything on Turkey here. Evros yes, but in other possible future instances one has to take a differentiated and closer look. It is a fact that Turkey has four million refugees within its borders. Imagine that figure and think of something of a corresponding figure of migrants in Greece. It is no surprise that in Turkey itself there is a critical sentiment of additional migrants arriving so the natural tendency and we have seen this in many countries, not only in Turkey, when they arrive to not keep them in the country. That’s a sort of a political reflex which might not be good but it is observed very often.
After 16 years in office it is obvious that the legacy of Chancellor Merkel will remain in many areas. We will now move into the elections and then we will have certainly new faces, new personalities that come to the front but I don’t think there will be radical changes in foreign policy for a couple of reasons. One is that we are certain to have a coalition government. Such coalition governments tend to orientate themselves in the political center. In particular If you consider a three-party coalition as a strong possibility. And secondly, foreign policy in Germany has traditionally been an area of broad consensus.
On Nord-Stream 2:
As you know the US and Germany have agreed on a common position on how to deal with this disagreement we have on Nord Stream 2 and we have agreed to jointly deal with possible adverse consequences for third countries, particularly Ukraine where I used to serve. The idea is to create opportunities also for Ukraine and maybe to compensate what they fear might be the adverse consequences. And secondly the US and Germany have agreed to react if indeed Russia uses Nord Stream 2 as a geopolitical weapon. Energy pipeline politics is a very complex area. Political judgments flow from assessments and predictions that cannot be fortified since they are predictions. So we will have to see what really happens but the important thing is that there is a common political will between the United States and Germany to make sure that the feared dangers for third countries don’t materialise.
I think everybody needs to realise in Greece and in Germany that we have a way at our disposal to really return to a normal life and that is vaccination. And it is of great importance for everybody, for the vaccinated and for those that they have not been vaccinated yet that we get to this goal…”
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