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Speech by Commissioner Christos Papoutsis, Inauguration Ceremony Europartenariat Hellas 1997
 
 

 
Piraeus, 23-24 June 1997




Ministers,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am particularly pleased to have been given the opportunity to inaugurate Europartenariat Hellas '97, and I would like to extend a warm welcome to everyone who is taking part in this great forum for business cooperation.

I am also particularly glad that this Europartenariat is being held in Piraeus, which has for many centuries been a centre for the development of trade and shipping and continues to be one of the major commercial and shipping centres of Europe and the Mediterranean.

In the last few years developments in Europe have created a new framework for the advancement of business cooperation.

There is no doubt that the prospect of the enlargement of the European Union to include the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Cyprus offers a prospect of peace, security, joint development and prosperity for the whole of the continent of Europe.

Our aim is for the time being to contribute to preparing these countries for their future accession to the European Union.

In this pre-accession phase the European Commission is preparing to open up a large number of Community programmes to the applicant countries. In this connection we are also going to open up our multi- annual programme for SMEs to businesses from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and Cyprus.

At the same time, however, the European Union also attaches particular importance to developing multi-level Euro-Mediterranean cooperation. Here too there is an important role for businesses and the new opportunities for business cooperation now being developed in the greater Mediterranean area.

We intend at the same time, however, to strengthen cooperation between European businesses and all the regions of the world. In this connection we have developed major Community programmes for cooperation with the countries of Asia and Latin America.

Under the Asia Invest programme we are organising an Asia Partenariat in Singapore in November in order to bring together entrepreneurs from the European Union and from the ASEAN countries.

And next December under the AL Invest programme we shall be organising another Partenariat meeting in Montevideo, where SMEs from the Mercosur countries will be taking part.

We also attach particular importance to developing the transatlantic business dialogue between the European Union and the United States in order, among other things, to promote cooperation also between European and American companies. In this connection we are making preparations for a major Partenariat meeting in Texas in autumn 1998 with the participation of European and American businesses.

I should like to take this opportunity of welcoming the notable appearance for the first time in a Europartenariat meeting of companies from the USA here in Piraeus.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today businesses in Europe are facing major new challenges.

Progress towards Economic and Monetary Union will have its own effects on SMEs in Europe and their prospects of internationalisation.

We should not forget that there are only 550 days left before the start of the third and final phase of EMU. Businesses will have to familiarise with the challenge of the single currency.

I should like to emphasise, however, that the introduction of the EURO will have immediate consequences for all the economies of the Member States, irrespective of whether they join EMU in 1999 or later, for the simple reason that companies and banks throughout Europe will automatically be in the EURO zone.

The EURO will constitute the de facto currency for transactions throughout Europe. It will of course be the currency for business transactions with European companies and also for companies from non-member countries.

With the prospect of implementation of the third phase of EMU, there will have to be adequate guaranties regarding the implementation of the Pact for Stability, Development and Employment.

Alongside our achieving budgetary discipline there must be policies for giving a substantial boost to development and employment.

That is why it is especially important that the European Council in Amsterdam last week employment policy was given new impetus. And it is of particular significance that the political undertaking stresses the priority to be given to exploiting the potential of SMEs for creating jobs.

In the European Commission we have already started drawing up a proposal for creating a special financial instrument for boosting investment by SMEs in innovative and high-technology activities.

The great priorities are to reinforce the competitiveness of European businesses, to promote economic development and to create jobs.

With this in mind, if we are to cretae a favourable business environment for investors and consumers we must apply a sound and stable macro-economic policy, simplify legislation, reduce administrative obstacles and improve businesses' access to banks.

The available Community resources must be used in a rational way for the benefit of employment.

The conditions for making investments, for creating new jobs and boosting development are now better than they have been for a number of years. Inflation and interest rates are low, and the yield of investments is higher than it was in the eighties.

I am optimistic that European companies will make good use of these favourable conditions.

We must, however, put forward special programmes directed at backing small enterprises and young and female entrepreneurs, who can make a decisive contribution to job creation.

I believe that the business meetings we organise under the Europartenariat scheme can make a decisive contribution to this endeavours, particularly at a time when SMEs throughout the world are seeking business opportunities and partners in order to develop cooperation.

Nowadays European businesses are facing new challenges, because of the globalisation of the market and of technological advance. If they are to be able to meet these challenges they must improve their competitivness and adapt to the ever-changing world market.

One of the main objectives of our policy is to back SMEs in their endeavours to broaden their strategies to the European and international levels. The Commission is contributing to this by promoting know-how, mainly by providing information, and by developing mechanisms for creating relationships and cooperation between companies.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Europartenariat in Piraeus is a major Europen and international event attended by more than 2000 businesses from 70 countries. They will have an opportunity to discuss a wide range of possible forms of commercial, financial, economic and technical cooperation. They will have the opportunity to develop essential commercial ties and cooperation. And in particular cases I hope they will contribute to creating lasting ties of peace and friendship between peoples.

The Europartenariat in Piraeus is a major trade event for Greece as well, as it provides new opportunities for the further internationalisation of Greek businesses.

The visiting companies from all over the world, for their part, have a unique opportunity to study the advantages of the Greek market.

By investing in Greece, the visiting businesses can benefit from geographical location of the country and develop cooperation with the entire Mediterranean, the Middle East and the newly independent states of Central and Eastern Europe.

Alongside the business meetings, you will have the opportunity to take part in information seminars which have been specially selected to promote cooperation. These seminars are devoted to the new opportunities for business and investment and to young businessmen.

Europartenariat Hellas attaches particular importance to the new generation of entrepreneurs. In the special seminar this morning, particular attention will be paid to the needs of young entrepreneurs and the further development of entrepreneurship. Nowadays, encouragement must be given to initiatives which promote the business culture. The challenge for the Commission and Member States is to find the proper way to support such initiatives.

Europe needs a new business spirit and a new generation of entrepreneurs, although it is clear that it will take many years to achieve the optimum result.

We must, however, coordinate our efforts to exploit all the possibilities - including those offered by the educational system.

The problems of the labour market must of course be tackled now. Innovative young entrepreneurs must be in a position to commence their activities immediately.
Certain measures can be financed from the multiannual programme in favour of SMEs, and interested young entrepreneurs have already been invited to submit their proposals.


Mr President,

I should like to thank the organisers - the Association of Exporters of Northern Greece (SEVE) - for the excellent preparation of this meeting. I should also like to thank all those bodies who contributed to bringing it about - the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Development and the members of the Consultative Committee of Europartenariat Hellas.

Once again, I welcome the representatives of the Greek firms and, of course, all the visiting companies from the other member States of the European Union.

Finally, I should like to welcome all the representatives of the firms from Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, the United States, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Asia and Latin America.

I wish you every success in your discussions.


 

 

 
Ημ. Έκδοσης:23/06/1997 Share Εκτύπωση
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