The vice-president of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, described Greece tonight as a “small European export tiger”, who presented at the 48th general assembly of the Exporters’ Association – SEVE in Thessaloniki the “three areas of difficulties”, but also of opportunities that are opening up today in Europe, for which Greek businesses should remain alert: the EU competitiveness “game”, the autonomy strategy and clean tech developments, the “silent pandemic” of skills shortages and the immigration , for which – as he said – Europe must organize an ambitious program of legal immigration.

The global cleantech planetary game

In more detail, with regard to the first of the three issues, Mr. Schinas pointed out that the pandemic revealed the structural weaknesses of Europe, namely its dependence on raw materials from third countries, the lack of industrial and manufacturing production in critical sectors and, in general, the lack of strategy autonomy.

“The game of competitiveness will be played on whether Europe will be able to quickly build a mixture of strategic autonomy and action is urgent, because our competitors are not waiting for us” he noted, reminding that especially in the matter of clean tech a global planetary game has started, with the USA investing the dizzying amount of 1 trillion. dollar

“They found a euphemistic way to call it, ‘The Deflation Act.’ This is a gigantic aid scheme, which will essentially bring to the US any investment effort in the field of clean technologies. We must not lose this game” he emphasized and added that in response to the developments the EU has presented its own plan on the one hand, with the Net Zero Industry Act (for zero emissions from industry) and on the other hand the initiative for critical raw materials.

In fact, addressing the public of exporters, he said that these developments concern them directly, because many of these raw materials and technologies decisively affect the competitiveness of businesses and the same applies to the relevant state aid.

He even announced that in the new state aid framework and in the European strategy that accompanies the two aforementioned initiatives there is a clause, which paves the way for states and regions with economic production below the EU average to also benefit. big people with deep pockets, we also put in the game the financial players below the average” he noted.

The silent pandemic of skills shortages and the ‘politically difficult’ factor of immigration

The vice-president of the European Commission also pointed out that wherever he is in Europe he hears the same complaint: that companies do not have the human resources they need or that these resources are not sufficiently specialized.

“The lack of skills is a silent pandemic that we need to fix quickly. Europe needs an inclusive skills revolution, and it needs it now, as a basic human right. For this revolution in Greece we have never before had such an ambitious financial package, a total of 3.6 billion euros for this work alone, 2 billion euros from the recovery plan and 1.6 billion from the European Social Fund. It’s a great historical opportunity that we shouldn’t miss and you as businesses must play a leading role so that this money takes place,” he said.

He added that there is a “politically difficult, but economically necessary factor, called legal immigration or an organized labor market.” As he said, at the beginning of the 20th century, Europeans accounted for 20% of the world’s population, at the beginning of the 21st at 10% and in 2050 their percentage is predicted to drop to 5%, with what this means for the competitiveness of the economy and the sustainability of insurance systems and welfare policies.

“Europe must organize an ambitious program of legal immigration.

As Juncker put it nicely, let’s open a door to stop people coming in through the windows,” he pointed out, adding that this program will be organized and fully aligned with the needs of the labor market and “will be based on the unshakable belief that those ( immigrants) coming to Europe should fully embrace the principles and values ​​that govern it.

It’s something that has to be done. It is not very popular in the capitals of the member states, it is not easy, but it is necessary and needs political support. Your own role as representatives of the living economy will be decisive” he underlined, addressing the audience of entrepreneurs and exporters.

“Bottom of the barrel” with the single immigration policy

Mr. Schinas also referred to immigration, saying that if there are no secure borders, there is no secure economy.

“When we started in September 2019, we received a shameful situation for the country and Europe (…) and four years later we have built modern reception and identification centers on all the Greek islands, 100% financed by the European budget, we have shielded the borders, we resisted the instrumentalization (of immigration) on the Evros and the borders of Belarus and we are building a new immigration pact, for which ten days ago we had the first major success, because the member states agreed on the need for a unified immigration policy.

(As businesses) it is of decisive concern to you (this specific issue), because only with a unified immigration policy will we put a bottom to the barrel” he said characteristically and added that if he had to add a fourth factor, to the list of three he mentioned above, it would be the convergence and the cooperation, “to see the development horizon as a field of national understanding not as a field for disagreements or cockfights”.

About democratic Russia and reconstruction of Ukraine

In a discussion that followed with the president of SEVE, Simeon Diamantidis, about the impact on the European economy of the war in Ukraine, Mr. Schinas pointed out that while initially there was panic and “the Cassandras were thrown”, the situation later normalized, resulting in a decrease energy dependence on Russia (to 13% from 52%), to find alternative energy providers and to conclude long-term contracts for LNG (liquefied natural gas).

In addition, Europe supports Ukraine with 2 billion euros per month and little by little the European investment in stability is starting to pay off: “the economy is stabilizing, employment is starting again, inflation is falling, energy independence is a given.

We only need an end to the war, but that requires a broader understanding, which is underway,” he said.

After declaring himself incurably optimistic, Mr. Schinas expressed the assessment that “we are not far from the moment when we will see a democratic Russia.

Russia must be democratic – it cannot continue to be ruled like this. The highest security of stability for Europe, socially, economically and geopolitically, will be a democratic Russia. I hope to see it happen.”

He expressed optimism about the reconstruction of Ukraine, pointing out that it is a relatively simpler and cheaper process than the reconstruction of Europe after World War II, with the Marshall Plan, because it will be done by Americans and Europeans together.

“Ukraine’s reconstruction should not be considered something impossible or too expensive, and Greek businesses should have a say in it,” he said.

Mr. Schinas also argued that the result of the first elections clearly showed the coming of age of the Greek political system, with a legitimization of efficiency.

He underlined that there can be no doubt that “from Monday, we will expect a big explosive investment boom in Greece”.

He also pointed out that the port of Thessaloniki, after decades of regression, is slowly starting to show its potential, while he described as an “emblematic innovative masterpiece” the fourth generation technological park ThessINTEC, which is “endowed” with 35 million euros from the Recovery Fund .

The vice-president of the European Commission was awarded the “Golden Alexander” award by SEVE.