Australians urged to invest in Greece

Greek Economy and Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis wants Australians to invest in his country’s energy sector and use Greece as a trade gateway.

Dr Alogoskoufis said Greece was the “energy hub of south-east Europe,” now developing wind farms and alternative energy sources.

“From Greece’s point of view, the main interest is in energy,” he told AAP.

“Australia should be looking at the region more as a big potential partner.”

Later, at a Greek Australian Business Forum, Victorian Industry Minister Theo Theophanous said the Greek energy system was similar to Victoria’s.

“Both have around about 10,000 megawatt systems, Greece produces most of its energy from lignite which is brown coal, exactly the same product that we use in Victoria,” Mr Theophanous said.

“So, when we are seeking to introduce clean coal technology, when we’re investing hundreds of million of dollars in gasification technology, or coal drying technology here in this country we should be doing it with our Greek friends in mind because that technology will be able to be transferable.”

Both countries also were trying to invest heavily in renewable energy, he said.

Dr Alogoskoufis told the forum in Melbourne that companies investing in Greece would gain access to its region.

“By investing in Greece or trading through Greece, an Australian company can achieve synergies with 3,600 Greek companies operating in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean,” he said.

Dr Alogoskoufis said Greece was investing more than $US15 billion ($A18.55 billion) in south-eastern Europe and expected yearly growth rates to exceed five per cent.

Mr Theophanous said Australia’s trade activity with Greece was less than one tenth of Australian trade with Italy, proof that distance was not the obstacle to expansion.

In 2005/06, Greece imported $109 million in goods from Australian and exported $143 million back, he said.

“These are modest figures and there is much potential to increase these amounts,” Mr Theophanous said.

Meanwhile, Australia and Greece remain at odds over a retirement pension agreement, but Dr Alogoskoufis does not plan to discuss this during his visit.

“This is an issue that is being very hotly debated between the Australian government and the Greek government and we hope to get a resolution of this process at the earliest possible opportunity,” he said.

“A resolution of this problem, I think, would help the relationship … it’s probably the only thorny issue that exists between Greece and Australia.”

Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis planned to visit Australia later this year, he said.

Greece is Australia’s 54th largest trading partner, according to the Australian Industry Group.

Source: AAP

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