Arab in­vestors see op­por­tu­ni­ties de­spite snags, con­fer­ence hears

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY ILIAS BELLOS

“Greece will act as a bridge be­tween the Arab world and Europe, but also as a spring­board for growth in the broader re­gion, strength­en­ing both the Greek econ­omy and the coun­try’s role in Europe. The first steps in this di­rec­tion were taken at the first Euro-Arab Sum­mit,” says Tawfic Khoury of the Con­sol­i­dated Con­trac­tors Com­pany, the Mid­dle East­ern con­struc­tion group re­spon­si­ble for the event in Athens last week.

The sum­mit heard a num­ber of speak­ers dis­cuss co­op­er­a­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties on the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic level that could boost sta­bil­ity and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in the re­gion. Even more re­ferred to in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in real es­tate, en­ergy, tourism, in­fra­struc­ture and com­merce. There were also signs at the meet­ing that in­ter­est is ex­pand­ing in many sec­tors such as food pro­duc­tion and ship­ping, in­clud­ing from new play­ers such as Libya.

How­ever, a se­ries of prob­lems were also high­lighted re­gard­ing Greek-Arab eco­nomic re­la­tions, from prac­ti­cal ones such as in fi­nanc­ing, to cul­tural fac­tors. For in­stance, it is well known by those in­volved in bi­lat­eral talks that up­per state ech­e­lons dic­tat­ing agree­ments be­tween states and li­cens- ing pro­ce­dures is the norm in the Arab world, whereas in Greece, Euro­pean and do­mes­tic leg­is­la­tion de­mand open ten­der pro­ce­dures – which are fur­ther com­pli­cated by Greek red tape and the cri­sis.

So, while Arab in­ter­est in in­vest­ments in Greece is sig­nif­i­cant – par­tic­u­larly in re­gards to hol­i­day ac­com­mo­da­tion and tourism de­vel­op­ment in gen­eral – many projects have floun­dered be­cause the need to sub­mit ten­ders, a pro­ce­dure many Arab in­vestors are un­fa­mil­iar with. How­ever, when the in­vest­ments con­cern pri­vate en­ter­prises and ne­go­ti­a­tions are con­ducted di­rectly be­tween the chiefs of each side, reach­ing a deal is far eas­ier. This is il­lus­trated by the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Arab groups in Greek listed en­ergy firms.

Sev­eral neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences of Arab funds that failed to get a foothold in Greece were also dis­cussed on the side­lines of the event. How­ever, that good news is that Greece was able to host the meet­ing hav­ing com­pleted the sale of Astir Palace Re­sort to a con­sor­tium in­clud­ing two Arab state funds and sev­eral pri­vate in­ter­ests from the Arab world, as well as the agree­ment for the de­vel­op­ment of the Elliniko plot, where Arab cap­i­tal is also in­volved.

The sum­mit heard many speak­ers re­fer to co­op­er­a­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties on the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic level for mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial sta­bil­ity.

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