Interview with Kostas Skrekas, Minister of Investment and Development, Greece

Interview with Kostas Skrekas, Minister of Investment and Development, Greece


Greece’s economic story in recent years is nothing short of remarkable. What are the key factors currently shaping the economy and its strong performance lately? How is the government responding to external pressures and managing inflation?

The Greek economy is growing at a rate that is three times higher than the European average. We grew by 2.4% in 2023 and are forecast to beat that figure with 3% growth in 2024. We are performing well and this is, in part, thanks to our rise in exports, which doubled in 2022 versus 2019. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has increased by 57% in 2022 year-on-year, versus just 1% year-on-year in Europe as a whole.

Inflation here is 20% lower than that of the Eurozone, while the unemployment rate has fallen significantly: from 70% in 2019 to sub-10% at present. We have created more than 400,000 jobs over the last few years, so the Greek economy is growing despite the multiple global crises. These include the pandemic, the energy crisis caused by the devastating Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent inflation crisis which added pressure on the Greek culture and business sector. We coped with these challenges by providing a stable environment bolstered by political stability. Our party won the recent elections by a sizeable amount, so we have a clear mandate for the four-year term ahead of us.

The economy is stable and Greece recently obtained investment grade status. Greece is a pillar of stability in the geopolitical broader area of the southeastern Mediterranean and Southeastern Europe. We have a clear approach to solving any differences in a peaceful manner, and we ask everyone to respect our sovereignty and our sovereign rights.

The main challenge now is to see if we can maintain the same pace of growth in the following years. We have a clear strategy to promote the further reforms which are necessary to secure sustainable growth for future years, so digitization of the public sector will continue. We have already done many things in this field in addition to cutting the red tape. The three main pillars are standardization, simplification, and digitization of all the processes for an investor to get the necessary permits and establish a new enterprise.

At the Ministry of Development, we are preparing a digital platform where all potential investors will be able to obtain permits from their desk. Therefore, we want to digitalize all the processes necessary to establish everything from a very simple business up to the more complicated factory plant. We are promoting and supporting innovation and want to link research with the market and with industry. According to the European Commission data, Greece is among the top countries in terms of public spending in research and innovation over the last five years. We place sixth when it comes to the absolute amount of money spent on research and innovation.

The challenge is to link and connect research institutions and universities with industry. In addition, we are supporting startups. have more than 800 startups currently in Greece. We have two unicorns already and we have eight soonicorns [fast-growing startups with the potential to become a unicorn]. Some believe that startups are going to be the driver for the sustainable development of Greece in the next few years.

Sustainability and protection of the environment are taken into consideration when we are preparing all the development laws and aid regimes. We are going to support and focus on the development of the manufacturing and industrial bases. We have already announced incentives to attract more investments and we are going to prioritize those investments that respect the environment. There will be criteria and all those investments that reduce their environmental footprint will be first to receive state support to implement their business plans.


Upon receiving the investment upgrade in October, Prime Minister Mistotakis expressed that the country was now facing a historic window of opportunity. Where are the primary investment opportunities and can you summarize some of the big incentives or policies in place to encourage external investors to support the goals of your mainstream?

Hospitality is a sector that attracts many investments. We have investment law that supports those and Enterprise Greece which is a one- stop-shop. For very large or strategic investments, we have a fast-track process to obtain all the necessary licenses and permits to implement business plans.

The manufacturing industry is a main area of focus as we want to expand the manufacturing base. Although it is not very well known, Greece has a very robust manufacturing base that accounts for 11% of GDP and sees it exports grow each year. It means our industries are competitive and that they managed to surpass over 10 years of financial crisis. This has made them very strong and very competitive.

We want to revive some sectors that were being ignored somewhat, such as shipyards. Indeed, a US company, ONEX, has acquired two of the largest shipyards here. This project is going very well, with a tripling of the number of employees over the last four years to more than 500 workers, and we support it very much. ONEX Shipyards will be involved in Greece’s Green Transition Strategy by constructing the necessary parts and equipment to develop offshore wind farms. The bases are offshore but can be constructed in Greek shipyards and transferred to their final location.

In addition, we are thinking of developing a green ammonia/hydrogen process near the shipyards. We also have a very strong pharmaceutical sector, one that produces 10% of the Genzyme pharmaceutical products consumed in Europe. This means they are very active and competitive, and we support them very much with state aid regimes.

In the new investment law, we are going to prioritize investments for research and innovation through the cooperation of an investor with a research institution, or with a startup company. This will soon mean we have a cluster of investors and research institutes or startups, and we are going to prioritize more those clusters to have access to the state aid resources.

Lastly, we produce submarine electricity cables, Leopard tanks and some military equipment. We also have a very robust aluminum industry. We take the minerals and have the entire value vertical value chain here. We extract the minerals and produce the final products like aluminum frameworks for the windows or other uses. We are going to greatly support the production of critical minerals and critical raw materials.

Our mineral and metals wealth include gallium, bauxite, nickel, aluminum, and we are going to have a specialized incentive tool to support investments in the critical raw materials sector. Another sector of high priority for us involves the production of equipment for the Green Transition. We are supporting the establishment of gigafactories that produce lithium batteries. We have projects like this and we are going to support them so they materialize.


What is your ministry doing to consolidate the confidence of the international business community and extend the momentum that Greece has going forward?  How to you work on enhancing Greece’s international image and attracting foreign investment in key areas?

We will never stop our efforts to secure visibility and predictability in the Greek marketplace. We will continue our bold reform agenda and will accelerate the green transition. Half of Greece’s electricity demand is covered by renewables.

From 200-300MW a year we have managed to construct and connect to the grid more than 1,700MW by 2022 and this is the pace that we want to maintain. We want 80% of domestic consumption covered by renewable sources by 2030, so are proceeding with huge investments to upgrade the grids and deploy storage capacities and hydro pumping storage systems. We are highly committed to the green transition and to cutting red tape and proceeding with all the reforms necessary to provide an environment which is investor friendly. As a result, we see investments in Greece increasing. We had a strong rise in 2022 versus 2021, and saw investment rates jump last year as well.


A lot of these investments originate from the US. What sectors do you think will be of most interest to American investors and how are you targeting US investors as well?

Aside from ONEX, we have investments from US giants like Pfizer, Amazon, and Google who have already established affiliate companies. We have excellence centers and datacenters. We want to support the development of a ships design sector too and already have 20 companies active. Some of them have already been acquired by US giants and we see that they are developing activities here which means that we have the human capital, and this also helps us to bring back people that left in the past. This helps to have a knowledge transfer from abroad because all these people bring with them the knowledge and skills which are necessary to develop our technology center and chip design.

Our main target is to transform Greece into a major digital hub in the Southeast Mediterranean. We want to expand the capacity of datacenters from 30-37GW to more than 120GW by the end of the decade and many fiber-optic systems will come through Greece to reach central Europe from the Far East. The response time of data coming from Asia to central Europe through Greece is up to 60% faster than going through south of France, so this is an abundance that we should utilize. That is why we are going to establish a very large datacenter in Crete that will enable us to accommodate fiber-optics from Asia via Greece to Europe.


At COP28, Prime Minister Mitsotakis said that a new Greece is emerging, with a fresh focus on offshore wind, solar and green islands. How is the country planning to use the Recovery and Resilience Facility(RRF) to promote and unleash green and digital development?

We are using RRF in many sectors, including for the implementation of a huge innovation wave to promote energy efficiency for households and businesses, a project mainly financed by RRF. We are upgrading the grids and will invest more than €10 billion by 2030 in those works and the expansion of the electricity interconnection between neighboring countries. Part of this is financed by RRF.

We want Greece to be an energy hub. It is already becoming one for gas with the new Revithoussa installation, the new FSRU at Alexandropoulos and the new pipelines linked Greece with Bulgaria. All these investments have already made Greece into a main energy hub for Southeastern Europe, but we want Greece to be a green energy hub. We are planning to construct an underwater electricity interconnection with Egypt to bring green energy from there at very competitive prices, use some here for green hydrogen manufacturing and then to export it to Central Europe.

We also presented a proposal to Germany to build an electricity interconnection that would connect Greece with Austria and Southwest Germany through the West Balkans. This is a social visionary project as historically we have electricity or energy corridors in Europe that run from east to west. So, now we need to develop energy corridors in Europe that run from south to north because we can produce energy in Southern Europe at very competitive prices and export this to Central Europe. We also intend to construct an electricity interconnection between Greece and Cyprus. It is an ongoing project that is very mature.

For that project we are expanding the interconnections with our northern neighbors like Bulgaria and North Macedonia – where we have doubled the interconnection – and are tripling with Albania and doubling our interconnection with Italy. All these interconnections can transform Greece into a major green energy hub because we are producing here. We can import green energy, then export most of it to northern countries and Northern Europe. Our aim is to transform Greece from a net importer of electricity to a net exporter of electricity.


What is your final message to the readers of USA Today?

From the “Black Sheep” of Europe 10 years ago, Greece has transformed and is now an example to be followed. We want to maintain and secure the momentum to safeguard and achieve sustainable growth for the benefit of society, to create more well-paid jobs and to safeguard social cohesion.

For this purpose, we have turned Greece into a digital hub, a logistics hub, and an energy hub for Southeast Europe. Finally, we are very committed to pushing and fulfilling all our targets regarding the protection of the environment; reducing the carbon footprint of Greece is a priority for our government.