Graduating from the law department of a prestigious Greek university of Athens and receiving a diploma in 1979 just the way his father before him received from the same university in 1940, it must have been a proud moment for the young man, now the Ambassador of Greece to Qatar HE Ioannis A Metaxas.
He talked at length about Greece-Qatar relations in the backdrop of the current financial crisis that his country is facing.
Metaxas was the ambassador to Azerbaijan before coming to Qatar. “Since my coming to Qatar, I have been witness to the continued development in Qatar and their efforts to prepare their country to become the host of the World Cup in 2022.
Many of our citizens are contributing to Qatar’s efforts by working with the Supreme Council of Delivery and Legacy to host a memorable World Cup in 2022.” “We fully support Qatar in their endeavour and believe that this decision of hosting this mega event in Qatar will not only act as a catalyst for the progress of Qatar but also for the whole Gulf region,” he said. Metaxas has been a career diplomat and has served as the deputy head of the Greek mission at Brussels in Belgium in the past. He has also worked in Sophia, Bulgaria.
“There maybe some questions raised due to the falling prices of oil but I personally believe that when there are problems there are also opportunities. The Qatari government is taking right steps to address this problem and moving forward steadily without exposing people of the country in a problem. Be it the citizens or expatriates, everyday we see efforts being made to improve the conditions of the residents, which clearly indicates that the government cares about its people,” he said.
Talking about the historic relations between Greece and Qatar he said, “Greece maintains friendly relations with Qatar, which were established officially in 1973. Our country has had an Embassy in Doha since 2007, while Qatar opened its Embassy in Athens in 2008. We have a thriving Greek community living in Qatar, which, according to the statistics of the Ministry of Interior of Qatar, stands close to 2,200 people.” Most Greek nationals, according to Metaxas, are gainfully employed in diverse fields ranging from government establishments to public and private enterprises.
Some even have joint ventures with Qatari counterparts. These people are the real bridge between Qatar and Greece.
In terms of trade volumes, the ambassador said, “Unfortunately, our trade figures have not picked up much in spite of best efforts but it is one territory which holds a lot of potential for businessmen and investors of both countries. As the Greek ambassador, I am very eager to see some improvement on this front. Although some Greek products such as famous Greek yogurt or high quality Greek marble have made inroads into the Qatari market, yet our high quality olive oil is yet to become visible on the shelves here.” He said, “Food is one area to be highlighted among Qatari business community where there can be an interest from both sides. It is still a virgin territory and needs to be explored. Greek vegetables and fruits are of high quality, employing organic farming techniques, can be easily exported to Qatar.
Greek olives are recognised for their quality around the world.” Real estate investment can be another area in Greece that can provide opportunities to Qatari investors and it holds a lot of promise in the long run. “With the real estate value in Greece touching its lowest, it can be a great opportunity for Qatari businessmen to reap profits by taking advantage of the current levels of prices due to the economic downturn. Prices are expected to rise in the next 5 to 6 years when the austerity measures taken by the Greek government start to show result,” he explained.
The Greek envoy feels that there is a need to attract Qatari investors and inform them about the opportunities that exist in Greece in various sectors such as tourism, real estate, construction and so forth. It is also true that Greece is passing through a difficult time but that will be overcome in coming days. “I don’t believe this crisis will stay forever,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that despite efforts from both sides in the past to create investment funds, there has been no favourable outcome. But it doesn’t mean that opportunities do not exist any more. On the contrary, there could be no better time to invest in Greece than today.
Greece has a flourishing tourism industry with wellestablished infrastructure to support its ever-growing tourism market.” “There are many hotel properties available for sale on current levels of economic slowdown, which investors can either manage or sell when the economy starts to look up in the future,” he said.
According to the envoy, in the past few years, there have been many efforts to boost trade between the two countries. One of the major steps towards strengthening business relations between Qatar and Greece was the establishment of Greece-Qatar Business Council sometime back. The agreement was signed between Qatar Chamber and its Greek counterpart, to bring the two business communities closer and explore areas of cooperation that existed between the two countries.
“It is one of the most important steps taken so far and through this business council, high-level business people will connect with one another. There has been significant cooperation in the field of LNG transport as Greek company Anangel has entered into a joint venture with Nakilat to operate 10 of its ships for transporting LNG. The number of ships will increase to 13 later on. This is a very concrete instance of cooperation between Greece and Qatar,” he said.
“Besides the economic front, there is a good deal of work that needs to be done in the cultural field. People-to-people contact in the field of music, dance, theatre, art and design can be a big boost to relations. I thank Katara for their support in organising many cultural events in the past highlighting Greek culture and I hope many more events will be held in the future to act as cultural bridges between our countries,” the envoy said.