Greece ‘s recent exit from its economic adjustment programme last week has generated some long overdue welcome headlines for the country. But how can the country generate sustainable growth in the coming years? And what would a lasting Greek recovery mean for its neighbours throughout the Balkan region?
One way to promote growth in Greece is to foster trade and investment linkages and develop interconnections with neighbouring countries, a fact recognised by the Greek government in their recently published growth strategy. Greece is well placed to play a leading role. It occupies a strategic location near the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. It also shares a land border with Albania, FYR Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey and is widely regarded as a gateway to Europe from countries further east and south. For example, it has in recent years attracted significant investment from China as part of that country’s ‘Belt and Road initiative’.
By developing these links, Greece would be promoting integration with a region of high potential and strong economic performance in recent years. Bulgaria, for example, has had robust growth in recent years, including by 3.6 per cent in 2017. Further north, the Romanian economy was one of the fastest growing in the EU last year, with GDP growth reaching 6.9 per cent. And Albania has also been performing well, with growth nearly touching 4 per cent in 2017. With the Greek economy now growing too, albeit more slowly than most of its neighbours, the time is ripe to step up the level of cross-border trade and investment.