Greece, Israel: Small countries that can have a big impact
Commentary: The development of Greece-Israel relations is a cause for great satisfaction and offers the potential for wide-ranging synergies.
Peres with Greek President Papoulias in Athens Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO
The development of Greece-Israel relations is a cause for great satisfaction and
offers the potential for wide-ranging synergies, win-win partnerships and
significant bilateral advantages. The two countries, though small in size, can
have a big impact on regional development and enjoy multiple growth
The visit of President Simon Peres to Greece last month, at the
invitation of his Greek counterpart, Karolos Papoulias, opens the path for a new
era of strategic cooperation, collaboration and investment.
a strong focus area
Peres was accompanied on his visit by Agriculture Minister
Orit Noked. Some of the most promising areas for cooperation are related to
water management, organic farming, applied farm research, land improvement and
Both Israel and Greece face challenges in water management.
The arid topography of Israel has spurred Israeli scientists to develop
innovative farming methods and desalination technologies. Efficient desalination
would be a major boost to many of Greece’s islands that suffer inadequate
freshwater reserves and must often rely on shipped water.
beverage, another area under discussion, is the strongest sector in Greek
manufacturing, accounting for 25 percent of turnover, 24% of employment, 25% of
total invested capital and almost 25% of added value. Foreign companies have
experienced high rates of success in this sector, and Greece serves as an ideal
bridge to the emerging markets of Southeast Europe.
opportunities exist in creating added value in many product categories,
especially as the global interest in healthy food, snacks and convenience foods
continues to rise. Honey- and nut-based snacks, spaghetti products, jams,
pickled goods and novel seafood and meat products demonstrate a significant
potential in numerous markets. And as consumption of olive oil grows, Greece is
ideally positioned to respond in this sector, being the third largest producer
of olive oil in the world.
Intellectual capital: a common resource
Israel, “Greece, both in the past and now, has exceptional scientists,” Peres
said during his visit. “I believe that much can be done in cooperation between
your and our researchers so that we will all benefit from it.”
Greece and Israel signed an agreement to share know-how in a variety of areas,
including waste management, biomass, sewerage treatment and energy solutions, in
addition to the agricultural areas mentioned.
The knowledge-based economy
is, without a doubt, one of the most promising areas in which the two countries
may benefit from mutual collaboration. Israel has established one of the most
successful entrepreneurial ecosystems in the world. In its effort to boost
growth, development and employment, Greece views the Israeli model as highly
attractive and is encouraging its young scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs
to embrace a start-up culture similar to the Israeli one.
opportunities to establish new partnerships in those fields of common interest,
as well in a host of other areas, are extraordinary.
The number of Greek
technologists and scientists who have the ability to collaborate with their
Israeli counterparts is growing by the day and should be a strong catalyst to
develop new business partnerships.
Like Israelis, Greeks think highly of
education and tend to focus on engineering, sciences and information technology.
And like Israelis, young Greeks are fluent in languages, English being the
The geographical proximity of the two countries, as well
as cultural and historical similarities, is also a compelling advantage.
Greece’s very attractive labor costs for high-level scientists and engineers are
an added plus in the equation.
Close cooperation between the two
countries undoubtedly benefits geopolitical strategies.
Greece, as a member of the European Union and the euro zone, offers wide-ranging
opportunities for Israel to access European markets. One of the most important
of these areas is energy, where Greece, Israel and Cyprus have the potential to
closely cooperate in developing and transporting newly discovered underwater oil
and gas fields of the Mediterranean. These important energy resources may serve
as one of the most meaningful anchors of the Greece-Israel
Investment: a key factor
At Invest in Greece – the
country’s official IPA (investment promotion agency) under the auspices of the
Ministry of Development and Infrastructure – we are keenly aware that foreign
direct investment (FDI) is one of the crucial components to help us emerge from
the current crisis. Greece, despite its difficulties, remains a highly
attractive destination for FDI, and opportunities in a number of areas should be
of interest to the investor.
As one of the world’s most iconic tourism
destinations, Greece continues to develop and enhance its tourism
infrastructure, and investors will find outstanding opportunities in ports and
marina upgrades, integrated resorts and residential
Capitalizing on the knowledge economy and intellectual
prowess, Greeks and Israelis can approach together marketable solutions in a
wide variety of areas: security, e-commerce, biotechnology, Internet
applications, health care, energy technologies, waste treatment,
telecommunications, transport technologies and environmental
The research and development capabilities, public and
private, in both countries are a strong advantage. Moreover, cultural and
educational topics, from archaeology to multimedia, offer opportunities to reap
new benefits and reach new markets.
During this time of local, regional
and global challenges, new strategic partnerships that harness competitive
advantages, enhance complementary advantages and provide opportunities for
growth should remain key priorities. Greece and Israel now have the opportunity
to co-leverage their small size into solutions with a big impact.
is Greece is committed to providing Israeli investors and businesspeople with
all the information, support and guidance necessary.
framework, including a fast-track law to facilitate large investment projects,
is streamlined and customer-oriented and offers attractive
Aristomenis (Aris) M. Syngros is the executive chairman of
Invest in Greece Agency.