Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has not even been in office for four months, but he has set out to travel as much as possible in order to change the narrative about Greece on the international stage.
At least, this is how people close to him explain his hyper-activity and the intensity of his international rendezvouses.
In August, Mitsotakis travelled to Paris, Berlin, and The Hague where he met with Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, and Mark Rutte. He later spent almost a week in New York to speak with his North Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, and, interestingly, Turkey’s strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Since then, Mitsotakis has had a full schedule of high-level tete-a-tetes with many leaders from the Western Balkans, including Albania’s Edi Rama, whose country, alongside North Macedonia, was recently denied the opening of EU accession talks by France.
Mitsotakis is travelling to Shanghai as he heads a Greek delegation to the China International Import Expo (CIIE), one of the biggest trade fairs in the People’s Republoc. The trip is Mitsotakis’ first visit to China. He is due to meet with China’s powerful President Xi Jinping.
Co-incidentally, Mitsotakis’ visit to China comes only days before Xi returns the favour and visits Greece on November 10.
Mitsotakis, however, will not be alone as he will be accompanied by representatives of 60 large Greek companies who are either already active in China or interested in opening the door to one of the largest markets in the world. These businesses come from a wide range of fields, including energy, tourism, shipping, and agri-food.
At the same time, under the coordination of the Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Diplomacy, Costas Fragogiannis and Enterprise Greece President Grigoris Dimitriadis, dozens of direct working meetings between Greek and Chinese companies have been set up in an effort to boost bilateral relations and enhance cooperation in the the direction of establishing ties between the two markets. As government officials explain, the Chinese have profound interest in certain areas of activity, while Greek hope to capitalize on having more access to the Chinese market, which will be a big boost for a number of the companies that are along for the trip.
As government officials point out, Mitsotakis and the accompanying mission will seek to introduce Greece as a dynamic country that is emerging from the crisis and offering great investment opportunities due to its excellent human resources and infrastructure, but also its geostrategic position at the crossroads of three continents.
In their contacts, both Mitsotakis and government officials will point out that additional measures will be taken to facilitate a pro-business environment in the country. Athens’ initiatives include the creation of an electronic register for easy business start-ups through the simplification of licensing, updating the law on attracting capital, as well as measures aimed at managing Non- Performing Loans (NPLs), which limit the liquidity of recapitalised Greek banks.
The Greek mission is also expected to host a large business forum on November 4, at the exhibition site, with Mitsotakis scheduled to address the attendees, many of whom will be high-ranking Chinese government officials and the executives of large Chinese businesses.
Diplomatic sources have pointed out that China’s interest in Greece in the run-up to the forum has reportedly far exceeded the government’s original expectations.
Mitsotakis’ travels on any given occasion are, however, part of a broader and more ambitious plan by his administration. His first priority is, obviously, to attract much-needed foreign capital to Greece. He also has a grand strategy to completely rebrand Greece. A new team working under the title “Repositioning Greece” has been set up and its members discussed the project with Mitsotakis during a recent working dinner in Athens.
“Until today, Greece’s promotion was only focused on its tourism industry. We need to paint an overall picture of what modern Greece is – a country of creation, innovation, as well as economic and cultural development that comes with a distinct quality of life and respect for the environment. This is a Greece that looks at the world with confidence”, said Mitsotakis after meeting with the Repositioning Greece team.
The translation of the word “repositioning” into Greek also refers to the strategic objective of the administration – to shift Greece’s position on the map through a bold total rebranding of its image. In other words, this will be a rethinking of what Greece means to those outside of its borders and how they perceive and approach the country.
One of the key individuals to the success of this plan is Steve Vranakis. Broadly unknown on the Greek political stage, Vranakis had a successful international career as the Executive Creative Director of Google’s Creative Lab in London. Several weeks ago, he was announced as the new Chief Creative Officer of the Greek Government, a position that did not exist on the previous governments’ organisational charts.