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Newsletter July 2011


Synergassia: Exploring Crete

Invest in Greece, through its Synergassia programme, introduces foreign diplomats based in Greece to the country’s regions, supports regional development, highlights sectors with investor interest, and enhances the outward-looking nature of local businesses.

Further to these objectives, Synergassia carried out its 10th delegation, from June 15-June 19, to the island of Crete, with the particpation of 35 diplomats from embassies in Greece.

Crete has unique characteristics due to its being a large island with a strong economy, significant agricultural production, a leading tourist destination, an important historical legacy, and a strategic geographic position. Services account for the largest and most dynamic portion of the Cretan economy and contribute to local GDP by about 77.5%. Tourism, and related services, is the driving economic force. In recent years there has been substantial investment in hotel units, designed to offer high quality services throughout the year.

The agricultural sector, due to the topological and climatic diversity of Crete, includes a wide range of Mediterranean products, while the most important branch of the secondary sector is manufacturing, primarily of primary sector products (food and beverages) and construction materials and plastics.

The renewable energy sources sector is an important industry with significant growth potential. It is estimated that the potential of RES in Crete is the largest in the Mediterranean and the use of RES in the island has grown at a remarkable rate compared with the rest of Greece. In addition, the ICT sector provides unique opportunities for investment in value-added services with a global reach. Crete is home to two universities and a TEI-Technological Educational Institution (University of Crete, Polytechnic University of Crete, TEI) and Heraklion and Chania are home to large research and scientific centers.

Within this framework, Invest in Greece co-organised, with the Region of Crete, the business visit of Foreign Economic and Commercial Attachés. The visit was supported by HEPO (Hellenic Foreign Trade Board), E.C.I.O (Export Credit Insurance Organisation) and GNTO (Greek National Tourism Organisation).

On June 15, 2011, the Region Commissioner of Crete, Stavros Arnaoutakis, welcomed the representatives of foreign embassies at a dinner hosted in their honor and emphasised that his goal is for Crete to be further consolidated as a business, research and technology centre in the Southeastern Mediterranean.

The Executive Chairman of Invest in Greece, Mr Aristomenis (Aris) M. Syngros, spoke during the dinner and referred to the new model of development of Greece based on innovation, competitiveness, openness, employment, and the natural wealth and comparative advantages of the country.

On June 16 a one-day conference examined investment opportunities on the island. In addressing the delegates, Mr. Arnaoutakis said that the Region of Crete is preparing a comprehensive action plan to promote local products and Crete as a culinary destination, and pledged to speed up administrative procedures for licensing, to remove obstacles, and to support new investment initiatives.

Invest in Greece CEO Christos Alexakis spoke about the Synergassia programme and the advantages of the region. The President of GNTO, Mr. Nikolaos Kanellopoulos, referred to the strategic geopolitical position of Crete, and the high-level infrastructure of the island. The CEO of HEPO, Mr. Alcibiades Kalambokis, presented in detail the Hellenic Foreign Trade Board and its objectives. The Director General of Export Credit Insurance Organization (E.C.I.O), Mr. Basil Lazaris, reported on the way the Organization operates. Representatives of regional bodies also presented detailed presentations.

On June 17, more than 1000 individual meetings took place among the roughly 80 businesspeople from all regional units of the island with the diplomats. Participants noted the value of the one-on-one meetings, and held the belief that they would become the springboard for further collaboration.

During the five-day mission, the representatives of foreign embassies had the opportunity to visit pilot industries and businesses in all regional units, in this way obtaining a clear picture of the business and investment environment of the island. They showed great interest in investment/business opportunities, stating that Crete has the necessary infrastructure for further development.

The Administration of the Region of Crete intends to establish a short term strategic plan:

a) A committmet to speedy administrative procedures for licensing, to remove obstacles, and to support new investment initiatives
b) The preparation of a comprehensive action plan to promote local products and the promotion of Crete as a gourmet destination
c) The objective to brand the label "Crete", which will include services and products
d) The connection of production and investment efforts with research and technological development through the academic and research institutions on the island.