Coming on the heels of Qatari development officials pulling out of a bid to develop Athens’ former international airport site that has lain dormant for more than decade, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras begins a trip to Qatar on Jan. 29 hoping to improve soured economic relations between the countries and attract more investment.
The Qataris were reportedly unhappy with the way the bidding process had been structured for developing Hellenikon , on Athens’ southern coast overlooking the sea. It was supposed to become Europe’s biggest park but plans changed because of Greece’s crushing economic crisis and the need for revenues.
Samaras is scheduled to meet with his Qatari counterpart Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani and the Emir of Qatar. According to AMNA, two accords will be signed during the meeting, one setting up a Greece-Qatar Business Council, which has been drafted by the Federation of Greek Industries (SEB) and an inter-state cultural cooperation accord.
Samaras is accompanied by several ministers and a 40-member business delegation which aims at attracting investments to Greece and rekindling Qatari investment interest after the unhappiness they expressed over the Hellenikon development.
On Jan. 29 he is set to meet with the heir apparent to the Qatari throne, the Crown Prince of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Khalifa Al Thani, followed by a meeting with the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, after which he will attend the signing of the agreement for the establishment of a Greece-Qatar Business Council.
The Greek premier will also attend a lunch hosted by Arab businessmen and visit the Museum of Islamic Art before departing Qatar . With him are Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis, Defence Minister Panos Panatiotopoulos, Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyianni, Deputy Development Minister Notis Mitarakis, Deputy Energy Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou, Foreign Ministry Secretary General Panagiotis Mihalos, State Deputy Chryssanthos Lazaridis, and Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (TAIPED) CEO Yiannis Emiris.
AMNA reported that the agenda of the discussions focuses energy, Greek state property denationalizations and tourism investments. Greece might run into more of the same problems that made the Qataris withdraw from the Hellenikon plans though.
The Qataris prefer direct inter-state agreements without having to bid but the Greek side has stipulated that, at least with respect to participation in the denationalizations and privatizations, the government is required to seek international tenders. Samaras will have to convince prospective investors that his government can continue to tackle unionist objections as well as cutting bureaucracy.
The members of the large business delegation, representing a wide range of activities, are expected to close or at least prepare deals with their Qatari counterparts. Also in Doha are senior executives of four large Greek banks that are struggling, the National Bank of Greece, Piraeus Bank, Eurobank and Alpha Bank, as well as Hellenic Defence Systems President and Managing Director Konstantinos Pilalis, and New Acropolis Museum President Dimitris Pantermalis. The Qataris are interested in acquiring Greek defense industries.