Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ speech at the Greek-Indian business forum entitled “Exploring Economic Collaboration Between Greece and India: Future Prospects”

Dear Minister Fragogiannis, ladies and gentlemen, it is such a pleasure to be here with you today. I apologise for my slight delay. We had a very, very busy schedule in Delhi. But it’s a real privilege to be able to address such a distinguished audience.

Let me start by expressing my satisfaction with the fact that after 16 years a Greek Prime Minister is visiting India again. And I am reciprocating the visit that Prime Minister Modi made to Greece back in August of 2023. And actually an Indian Prime Minister had not been to Greece for 40 years.

So we have made a lot of progress over the past six months reestablishing what I consider to be a strategic partnership of great importance. And I think this very successful business forum is testimony to the fact that we have significant potential to further strengthen the business ties between our two countries.

I can tell you we had very, very fruitful discussions with Prime Minister Modi yesterday. We touched upon a broad range of topics covering the strategic partnership between our two countries, issues related to geopolitics, defence, but of course also issues related to the very bright future I see in our economic cooperation.

And when Prime Minister Modi was kind enough to invite me to India, I told my team that we need to come with a very substantial business delegation, which is exactly what happened. And congratulations to the team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for putting together what I think has been a very, very successful trip with very productive, I understand, meetings between the business communities of our two countries, both in Delhi but also here in Mumbai.

For me, this trip has been an opportunity to talk a little bit more about the progress that Greece has made and why Greece should be an attractive investment destination for Indian companies. And indeed, one of the big tasks we have whenever we visit a foreign country is to explain to people that the Greece they remember, the Greece of the financial crisis, the Greece that made the headlines for all the wrong reasons, frankly no longer exists.

And we seem to be making the headlines now for the right reasons and not for the wrong reasons. ‘The Εconomist’ voted us country of the year for 2023, essentially rewarding us for the significant progress we have made in terms of putting our house in order. And indeed, if you look at all the headline indicators regarding the Greek economy, they’re all very, very encouraging.

I came to power in 2019 with a commitment to bring Greece back to a long term sustainable growth path. And this is exactly what we have done. In spite of COVID and the geopolitical uncertainties, the Greek economy has been growing at a much faster pace than that of the eurozone. We have done so while at the same time maintaining a tight fiscal discipline, which of course, for a country that still has a high stock of debt, is particularly important. So if you look at our debt-to-GDP ratio, which is the leading indicator that all the rating agencies always look at when they want to assess the fiscal health of a country, you will realise that we’ve had the sharpest reduction in debt to GDP of any European country.

And if you look at where our bonds are trading at present, you will realise that we’re way lower -we always look at the spread, the difference in interest rate between the German bonds and our bonds- our spread is significantly lower than that of Italy’s, approaching that of Spain. So Greece, from a macroeconomic perspective, is clearly a country which is on the right track. And this of course is also reflected in the level of business activity.

The level of investment taking place in the country, both by domestic and foreign investors is reaching record highs. 2023 was again a record year for foreign direct investment and I expect that we will be able to overshoot that target again in 2024. And what we see is investor interest from various sectors.

And that is why I find this business interaction between our business people and the Indian business community so interesting, because it is so diverse. And I was taking a look at the companies that are represented here and it is a testimony to the fact that this partnership need not be limited to just a few sectors, but can be much broader in nature.

When you look at Greece from your point of view, from the perspective of India, what is it that I think you should see? First of all, you just look at the map and you see that Greece is geographically the natural entry point, the gateway, the doorstep for Indian companies into the European market. And I think this becomes particularly important after Brexit when I think Indian companies will be looking for a new European ‘anchor’ to access the European market.

Also, when we think in terms of the big sort of geopolitical projects fostering connectivity between the Indo-Pacific, India in particular, and Europe, the ‘IMEC’ project, eventually it will in one way or another lead to Greece. And that is why Greek infrastructure or ports or logistics centres, strengthening our supply chains, becomes so important.

It’s no surprise that we already have Indian companies investing in Greek infrastructure. I had the pleasure before flying out to Mumbai to visit the control centre of the Delhi airport managed by GMR. GMR is actively involved in constructing the new airport on my home island of Crete, the biggest airport currently constructed anywhere in the Mediterranean. This could only be the beginning.

So our geographic location is of particular importance. Then if you take a sector to sector approach, you will realise that there’s a lot of complementarity between sectors where we have a comparative advantage and where India is also quite strong.

Take defence for example. There is an increased interest in defence investment across the board, not just in Europe, but everywhere in the world. And we’re in the process of revamping, of reshaping our defence industry, not just in terms of traditional sectors -yes, in Europe we realise we all need to produce more ammunition shells-, but look at the new technologies, I mean, drones or sea drones, which is an area of particular interest to us.

Anything related to shipping is another sector where the complementarity is obvious. We’re the leading shipping nation in the world, but we have also gone through a process of completely restructuring our shipbuilding industries and some of the leading representatives of this effort are actually with us here today. So this is also another sector where I see a lot of complementary.

Pharmaceuticals: this is a sector where India is particularly strong, a sector where Greece is also quite strong, especially in the production of generic drugs. Financial services, banking, insurance, agriculture.

We have one more thing in common. We have farmers protesting both in Greece and in India. Well, the first, you might have expected, the second came as a surprise to me at least, but the future of farming in a world where we need to make big productivity gains across the board, I think is also an area in my mind of great interest.

And of course, ICT technology. India is a powerhouse for technological development and what you have seen in Greece emerging over the past decade is a very dynamic tech sector, primarily fueled by startup companies, which have been doing incredibly well. So I can also see very interesting natural synergies emerging in the technology space.

But of course we also have other things in common: we’re two ancient civilizations with great respect for each other. We have great people to people connections. We have a vibrant Indian community in Greece and we want to foster these connections much further.

The most important short term milestone we identified with Prime Minister Modi, and we expect to be able to have complete announcements very soon, relates to the signing of a mobility migration agreement which will allow for more Indian labour to come to Greece in an organised manner. Part of it will maybe need to be upskilled or reskilled. There are also opportunities in that field to help us in sectors such as construction, agriculture, hospitality, where we are already beginning to see labour shortages.

Ten years ago, Greece had an unemployment of 27%. Now, for the first time in more than 15 years, our unemployment is under 10% and rapidly shrinking as a result of a growing economy. So interaction in the field of labour is particularly important.

And of course, I didn’t touch upon what I consider to be a great untapped opportunity, that is tourism and hospitality. And again, this is an investment destination that can go both ways, because I spoke a lot about Indian investment into Greece. But the same is also true in terms of Greek investment in India. We have prominent food companies already present here and I see no reason why we cannot expand and tap the potential of the Indian market through our export oriented Greek companies.

But when you look at hospitality, I think we’re just beginning to tap the full potential of what India has to offer. We still don’t have a non-stop flight, for example, connecting either Mumbai or Delhi to Greece. I’m sure that this will change very quickly. And what we have seen is that the moment airlines are bold enough to schedule these flights, there is immediate demand for them.

And let me just give you one example, which I find very illuminating: Five years ago, there was only one non-stop flight, daily non-stop flight from the US to Greece. Now, during the summer, we’re between eleven and 13 flights. Daily nonstop flights from the US to Greece, all packed and, you know, the airlines seem to be charging pretty expensive fares. And this has done wonders in terms of bringing a significant number of American tourists to Greece.

And the same, of course, I think, could also happen in terms of inbound tourism from India to Greece. I really think that there is significant potential, and of course, to help us do that, it would help if we could have more Indian films filmed in Greece -and not just on Santorini, please, there are other beautiful locations where you can actually film in Greece.

I know that our National Film Centre is here and meetings have taken place between Indian producers. We have a relatively attractive incentive scheme to encourage foreign productions in Greece. But this is also a sector where I think we can significantly progress and do much more. And usually when big productions or blockbusters are filmed in Greece, we immediately see the tourists and the activity being generated afterwards.

So I could talk for a long time describing the business opportunities, but at the end of the day, you’re the business people and you’re the ones who will explore these opportunities. What I can tell you on our behalf is that Greece is currently a country offering very, very good long term economic potential. We’re also one of the few European countries that offers a high degree of political stability.

And I do want to focus on that because you read a lot about the fragmented politics in Europe, the rise of populism, and I think rightly so, a lot of people are concerned. Well, we’re not in that category. We experimented with populists way before the others did, and we don’t want to go back to those years. But I won a reelection, in a double election back in June of last year, winning a higher share of the popular vote than I did in 2019.

So in that sense, this is also very similar to what happened in India, which I think is the best proof that if governments actually deliver for the people and create a prosperity that they can actually spread across society, voters will reward these governments. And in that sense, there are some striking similarities between what happened in India, what’s happening in India, and what’s happening in Greece, of course, at a very different scale.

But I think both our governments have demonstrated that you need bold reforms, that you can actually leverage technology to deliver public services in a way that was unimaginable maybe a few years ago. I have great admiration for what India has done with its technological revolution. Given our scale, we have done something similar in terms of rolling out digital services to our citizens. And of course, I think both of our governments believe that when you create wealth, this wealth needs to be spread in a just and equitable manner. It cannot just be growth for a few, but it has to touch all aspects of society.

So in that sense, I think there’s also an alignment of philosophies between our two governments in terms of promoting private entrepreneurship, but recognising the role of the state as an effective regulator and at the end of the day, as a distributor of the wealth that has been created.

So, to conclude, let me just thank you again for your presence. I am sure this is going to be the beginning of a very fruitful cooperation. I’m sure that for those Indian companies interested in Greece, you will find lots of interesting business opportunities and I’m sure some of those will eventually materialise. The same is true for our Greek business people who have been introduced to the Indian markets and see the huge potential that exists here.

And finally, one project that I have for Deputy Minister Fragogiannis is we need as soon as possible, a Greek-Ιndian, Indian-Greek Chamber of Commerce that will actually be able to leverage the potential of this business partnership to its full extent. There is already very good contact between the confederations, the official interlocutors, your confederations of Indian Industry and FICCI and the Confederation of Greek Industries. So there’s much more we can do.

Please come and visit us in Greece and I’m sure you will appreciate firsthand the dynamism of our country that is changing and moving in the same direction, in the same way that we appreciate the dynamism of India that is moving in the right direction.

Thank you again very much for being here.