As published in Calcalist by Amir Kurtz 5/15/2022 (link to the original article at the bottom of the page)
Kyriakos Lukakis, Greece's ambassador to Israel, told Calcalist during the annual meeting of the Israel-Greece Chamber of Commerce about efforts to increase economic cooperation between the two countries. Bureau Director Kobi Bitton and Chairman of the Export Institute Ayelet Nachmias and Rabin said that the ambition is to expand into additional areas of investment by Israelis in Greece beyond real estate and tourism
"Fortunately, as far as the economic ties between Israel and Greece are concerned, we have returned to the numbers before the epidemic, and that is very good," Greek Ambassador to Israel Kyriakos Lukakis told Calcalist.
"We strongly believe in economic relations, we try to promote and strengthen them in a series of areas of economics. However, we think that economic ties do not stand alone. They are just one of the important tools to promote the relationship between people, which includes friendship, mutual understanding, knowledge transfer and the like. I am convinced that we can build strong strategic relations between Israel and Greece, which will have future potential for influence. "
The conversation with the Greek ambassador took place during the annual general meeting of the Israel-Greece Chamber of Commerce, which took place last week at the Thessaloniki and Greek Jewish Heritage Center in Petah Tikva.
According to Lukakis, "there has been an increase in trade between the countries in the last year. The numbers are not impressive but they are on the rise." Asked by Calcalist what the reason was, Lukakis said that "this is due to technical restrictions on the products we can export to Israel, such as agricultural products. I understand that efforts are now being made by the Israeli government to open up imports, and I believe this effort will help."
According to Lukakis, the economic ties today are not only in trade, but there are also many investments. "Thousands of Israelis today invest in real estate in Greece, and that is something we welcome. It also gives Israeli investors the opportunity to get a Golden Visa, and so they can be a significant part of their lives in Greece - and with an average Israeli salary, an Israeli can feel rich in Greece. It is an excellent channel between us to strengthen the relationship. "
Another point that Lukakis points out is tourism from Israel to Greece, which returns to pre-Corona plague peaks. "Tourism to Greece is on the rise again," he says. "2019 was a record year, with close to 800,000 Israeli visitors to Greece. Now forecasts say we are going to defeat that record and get better, and I think the sky is the limit."
For Lukakis, who has been in office since last August, this is his second term as ambassador to Israel, having held the post between 2009 and 2012. "Since then we have been experiencing a good revolution in the relationship. We have been able to build trust and friendship and create a basis for a long-term strategic partnership - and now we are trying to continue that momentum."
צילום: אלינור וולנרמן
Among other things, Lukakis mentions a series of reciprocal political visits between the two countries: President Yitzhak Herzog and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid visited Greece in recent months, and last December Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsutakis visited Israel and other ministers, and preparations are underway for Greek foreign ministers. "I do not feel a difference between the various governments that have served in Israel when it comes to relations with Greece," says Lukakis. "In the last six months I have been in Israel, we have had a good relationship and mutual visits. It proves that the same good relations remain, and the interests remain, and our goal is to continue to develop and build what we have achieved so far."
The director of the Israel-Greece Chamber of Commerce, Kobi Bitton, presented during the meeting a summary of the bureau's activities in the past year and the challenges for the coming year and also told about the Israel-Greece conference held by Calcalist on 31.5-1.6 in Greece, in which the bureau will take part. Between countries. According to Bitton, the bureau is currently working to strengthen trade and investment ties between Israel and Greece in other areas and to include more businessmen.
צילום: אלינור וולנרמן
"The goal is to enter the worlds of technology and innovation and not just investing in real estate and tourism," said Bitton. "Real estate is an important field but in my vision sees a lot of room for other industries. At the beginning of June we will invite five leading businessmen who do not currently have investments in Greece to meet at the Ambassador's house with the Greek Foreign Minister who is visiting the country, and they will hear from him about the Greeks' desire to promote investment in the country. "And I am also trying to bring more Greek investors to Israel. Unfortunately, this is not happening enough - and we need to build it."
צילום: אלינור וולנרמן
The chairman of the Export Institute, Ayelet Nachmias Vשabin (who is half Thessaloniki), and will also participate in the "Calcalist" conference in Greece, said during the meeting: "Most businesses in Greece today focus on real estate and tourism, as well as Israeli investments in the country. "That is very interesting to the Greeks and we will make collaborations with them - that would be great."
According to Nachmias Vשabin, the field of renewable energy is one of the areas with the greatest potential in Greece today. "All the renewable energy companies are in Greece today and it is making a leap forward," she says. "And yet the volume of trade between Israel and Greece is not great. I am very happy about the Abrahamic Gulf agreements, but we can also do no less good and important with investments in the Mediterranean countries."