Nikolas Bakatselos, President and CEO of Pyramis Metallourgia and member of AmCham’s Board of Directors, announces his candidacy to be AmCham’s next President and talks about his vision for promoting entrepreneurship, competitiveness, sustainable growth and a business friendly environment in Greece.
Greece has recently exited the memorandum era, during which strict economic policies were implemented that had a substantial impact on the economy. Looking to the future, what would you propose to advance the economy and stimulate growth and development?
Greece has indeed recently concluded the bailout programs, and we should be delighted about this fact as a country, having been— we the Greek people—through an incredible tribulation. However, we must be very careful as we are not out of the woods quite yet. We have to make sure that we understand what distance we have covered, as well as why and how, and then put the lessons we have learned to good use.
Firstly, we should in no way rest on our laurels. It’s a mistake we have made in the past and that should not be repeated. To achieve this, we should continue to support, reinforce and speed up the process of reforms and a new economic model that is less reliant on internal consumption and prosperity that is based on borrowing. We should maintain the pace of the structural changes that will make the economy more competitive not only to
attract external investment but also to support enterprises already operating from Greece, either targeting the domestic or even more importantly targeting international markets. We should create an economy that is more outward looking!
Secondly, we should avoid seeing the Greek economy in isolation; rather, we should aim to understand it as a part of a more extended system of interconnected and mutually supporting economies in the region, and we should clarify and emphasize Greece’s role in the southeastern Mediterranean, which, to a large degree, is due to the positive influence of our American partners. Furthermore, we should solidify our presence and role in the energy sector and expand our influence.
This impacts significantly on the international perception of Greece’s geostrategic role as well as its potential, and this is something that we should build on in the coming years.
Based on its past successes, AmCham has the opportunity and the obligation to help in the transformation of the Greek economy— particularly now that Greece’s credibility is being restored.
You have been AmCham’s Vice President for the past six years. How effective has the Chamber been in its efforts in assisting to get the country back on track?
In a single word: very! Over the past six years, AmCham has gone beyond the strict role of a bilateral chamber and has assisted greatly in the transformation of Greece’s growth model and the creation of a more business-friendly environment. By putting to good use the body of work generated by the committees and its other constituent parts, the Chamber has made proposals and assisted in their adoption by local and central government.
Most importantly, the Chamber has helped coordinate efforts that have changed the perception of our country internationally and have created opportunities to attract foreign investment, mainly from the United States.
How important has the role of the Chamber been in the advancement of Greek–American relations? What more could AmCham do in this area?
As I mentioned before, the Chamber has moved beyond its traditional role of forming and expanding trade relations. Over the past three years, the relationship between the United States and Greece has strengthened tremendously, primarily due to the huge success of the U.S. pavilion at TIF 2018 and the frequent presence of AmCham’s representatives in the United States. Moreover, the ties and partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Athens and the U.S. Consulate in Thessaloniki have not been this strong in many years. AmCham’s role in promoting the Greek reemergence is crucial as we are a trustworthy organization that can bridge the distance between organizations and institutions on both sides of the Atlantic. With that in mind, we plan to extend our relationships with key institutions such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have a stronger presence in Select USA, build on the existing relationship with U.S. Compete, build ties to the main think tanks in Washington, increase the number of delegations to the U.S. and our participations in various trade and economic events in the U.S., grow the number of delegations and U.S. companies participating in the various events in Greece, and, ultimately, strengthen the relationships with the Greek-American business community on both sides of the Atlantic by having a more frequent presence in Washington and other key cities.
Additionally, we aim to further explore the dynamic of the global network of the American Chambers. By being part of this global network, we could collaborate with various other AmChams in organizing key and important events for our members.
AmCham has the opportunity and the obligation to help in the transformation of the Greek economy
Is the Chamber positioned today in such a way so as to lead the business community?
I believe that AmCham is and will continue to be one of the institutions representing leading thought in Greece. The Chamber is a steady and sane voice that for many years has expressed the interests of its members, who ultimately are representatives of all iness sectors in Greece, in the best way possible. By providing a sober and targeted approach to all issues relating to doing business in and from Greece, the Chamber has gained a solid reputation and the recognition of the public sector as well as of other associations and Chambers representing the business community. The high caliber of the Chamber’s multidimensional activities, the expert knowledge developed by its committees, and our advocacy and targeted interventions in various subjects allow us to be a valuable representative of our members’ interests while also serving as a discussion partner with the public sector for advancing best practices and policies that sincerely contribute to the improvement of our economic and investment environment.
Taking into account recent political developments in the country, it’s important to reiterate the Chamber’s commitment to do our best to cooperate with any administration in order to establish ab usiness-friendly environment in Greece, promote entrepreneurship and competitiveness, and advance economic and business relations between the United States and Greece.
Are there any new initiatives that you think the Chamber should focus on? Are there any areas you think the Chamber should expand its influence in?
Although the country has succeeded in making significant changes and moving forward, it has not fulfilled its potential. There are many opportunities as well as challenges ahead of us. I consider that foreign direct investment into Greece will play a key role, and as such, we should pursue initiatives that cultivate a business-friendly environment and place emphasis on Greece’s role in the region particularly in relation to energy.
While some initiatives are permanent, as they are related to the Chamber’s founding goals, and should continue to be pursued, new initiatives are like a photograph in time and apply to the specific timing and circumstances of the economy either on a local or international level; they are influenced by the specific socioeconomic and technological period we are going through. As such, I would like to prioritize initiatives that promote innovation and startups as well as all actions that help turn the brain drain into a brain remain. All new initiatives should have the promotion of early stage entrepreneurship and competitiveness as their central theme. We should leverage the Chamber’s extensive network to promote the transfer of know-how and best practices that will assist our members and create synergies.
Other initiatives could focus on promoting digital literacy in Greece.
At a time when digital breakthroughs seriously impact businesses in many ways, we ought as a Chamber, and in collaboration with our members, to increase our efforts to raise awareness about the forthcoming revolutionary technologies and support the digital transformation of the business environment in Greece so that we may retain and even advance our competitiveness as a country.
The Chamber has gained a solid reputation and the recognition of the public sector as well as of other associations and Chambers
You have been Chair of one of Chamber’s key committees for the last six years. What is the role of the Chamber’s committees, and how do you see that role evolving?
Simply put, the committees’ role is fundamental to the continuation of the Chamber’s success. It is their work that has brought the Chamber to where it is today, thanks to their substantial and properly documented analyses of key issues affecting the business community and the country in general. Τhe Northern Greece Committee has a broad role, by its very nature, so I have had the opportunity and the pleasure to work closely with most of the other committees. They represent experience gained in the trenches, and they are what links the Chamber to the real economy. I look forward to further enhancing their role in the preparation of the body of work that the Chamber presents, and personally, I intend to be more involved with each committee.
The committees are the Chamber’s vigilant eye on whether the reforms that the Greek people have paid for so dearly have been and continue to be implemented or whether we are rolling back to fictitious reforms.
The Chamber will shortly elect a new president and BoD. How do you view the Chamber and yourself after these elections and how you see the role of the BoD in continuing the successful course of the Chamber?
The previous six years, under the leadership of President Simos Anastasopoulos, have been decisive. Not only has the Chamber achieved a new level of awareness and acceptance by the international and local business community but it has truly contributed to the national effort to transform the Greek economy and exit the memoranda. I am certain that the new Executive Committee, as well as the new Board of Directors, will consolidate our standing and continue to build on these successes, responding effectively to new challenges. With an understanding of the responsibility and with respect for the values and long history of the Chamber, I would like to
announce my candidacy for President of the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in the upcoming June elections.
What is your message to AmCham’s members and to the business community?
Given this opportunity I would like to assure our members that we will build on the experience of the long-standing members of the Board of Directors and with enthusiasm strive to surpass the challenging goals that we have set in order to grow the influence of the Chamber, enhance the value, and increase the benefits they receive from the membership.