A small country with big responsibilities on the world stage
By Georgia Logothetis, Managing Director, HALC
By the numbers, Greece shouldn’t matter so much. Its geographic area is smaller than that of Alabama. More than half of individual American states have a higher GDP. Fewer people live in the entire country of Greece than live in the state of Georgia. Yet, Greece is vitally important to the stability and future of Europe, the United States and the world.
This week, Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras met with President Donald Trump, along with other officials and leaders in Chicago, New York and Washington to advance a pro-investment agenda. Tsipras’s trip brings Greece to the forefront again — and that’s a good thing.
Greece’s debt crisis has largely faded from the international headlines, save for the occasional flare up when it’s time for another bailout review. The refugee and migration crisis similarly gets secondary story status. Part of the reason for this lessened attention is that the stories, on the surface, haven’t seemed to have changed much. Day in and day out, the Greek people are still suffering the effects of a deep depression which lasted far longer than the Great Depression here in the United States. The refugee crisis has settled into a tragic, static purgatory for tens of thousands of refugees and migrants holed up in tent cities and makeshift shelters on Greece’s islands, awaiting processing. In short, while the world was captivated with the dramatic question of “Grexit” a few years ago, it has since moved on. The struggle in Greece remained.
Enter Prime Minister Tsipras and his trip to the United States. The message he brought was clear: “Greece is back,” he announced time and time again, stressing various economic and regulatory reforms in his speeches before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and in his remarks at a press conference with President Trump.
“Greece is back,” yes, but it has a long way to go. According to numbers released by the Greek statistics service ELSTAT this week, the country was still in a recession last year, contracting 0.2 percent in 2016. Growth estimates for 2017 hover around 1.3 to 1.7 percent, better than nothing but certainly not enough to get Greece’s economic engine roaring again.
This is what makes Tsipras’s investment-focused trip to the United States so important. Greece needs the fuel of foreign investment to trigger a long-term economic recovery. Foreign doesn’t necessarily mean no ties to Greece, however. Just look at the recent landmark acquisition of Ethnic Insurance by Calamos Investments. Greek Americans are a well-educated, prosperous community. The conditions are prime for investing back into the land of their ancestors, and that’s part of what Tsipras encouraged on his trip.
It’s important to note that despite its sluggish recovery, Greece has never lost its status as a key bulwark of stability in the region, a remarkable feat considering the stresses on its governmental institutions and society. That’s not to say there haven’t been issues along the way, but overall, Greece has remained a stable and critical country in a region rocked by chaos.
Last year, in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his nomination to become the next US Ambassador to Greece, Geofrrey Pyatt emphasized that “what happens in Greece matters — not just for Greece, but for the region, NATO, the European Union, and the United States.” Greece is a small country with big responsibilities — whether it’s helping the United States and its military operations in the region, bearing the burden of Europe’s refugee and migration crisis, or aiding in the creation of a new energy corridor independent of Russia via projects like the Trans Adriatic Pipeline or those being explored between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt.
From the importance of America’s Souda Bay base in Crete to Greece meeting its NATO commitments and more, tiny Greece has a large role to play on the international stage. Investing in Greece ensures that the country continues to be the stable, reliable and necessary ally the world needs in the region.