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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 March 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 MARCH 2017 21 GREECE GEORGIOS HATZIMANOLIS Greek tourism to Australia is on the rise while permanent migration seems to have dropped slightly since the height of the Greek economic crisis four years ago. In an interview at his residence in Athens, John Griffin, Australia's ambassador to Greece, told Neos Kosmos that an increasing number of Greeks are visiting Australia, while the numbers of Australians headed in the other direction has also gone up. "There is quite a bit of twoway traffic. We had 8,400 short term arrivals into Australia from Greece last year, a 13 per cent increase on the previous year. And in the other direction, Australians coming into Greece was at around 83,700, that's a three per cent increase," Ambassador Griffin said. He clarified they were Australian figures, but said the figures from ELSTAT, the Greek national statistical agency, although a bit below the Australian numbers, were "still in the same ball park." The ambassador said in terms of Australians going into Greece, the number is actually a little higher once we factor in tourists that have entered another country in the Schengen zone before arriving in Greece. Ambassador Griffin said the a determining factor behind the rise in Greeks visiting Australia was the country's image as a welcoming nation, that is continuing to grow. "Greeks like the fact that it's a very welcoming environment to Greeks and they like the fact, like most Europeans, that it's a new country, in terms of European settlement. It's got energy, it's got space, it's a country which is self confident and living in a region of growing prosperity." Ambassador Griffin said he finds young Greeks to be quite passionate about Australia and going there. " Young Greeks have an accurate impression of the new vibrant Australia. This may explain the uptake in tourist numbers, people who have the means want to go and check it out, maybe look for opportunities there." Switching to the topic of permanent migration, the ambassador revealed that numbers had dropped slightly since the height of the economic crisis in Greece, with less than 400 Greeks making the move last year. "There are a lot of Greeks in Australia, 600,000 of them, out of a population of 24 mil- lion, so it's a very sizeable minority. But a lot of the origin of that minority was in the period of mass migration to Australia after World War II, Australia is still a country of migration, but not of mass migration. We now have migration in certain defined categories which is family migration, business migration, skilled migration, humanitarian migration, our refugee intake, and student migration, which of course is temporary migration," Ambassador Griffin explained. "So in those categories, family migration has been steadied to around 250 a year, having risen to about 400 in the peak years of the crisis during 2012 and 2013. Skilled migration is up from about 90 to a year to 130 in 2015 and 2016 and student visas are steady around 600700 a year, having peaked to about 850 in 2012 and 2013," the Ambassador added. He said because Australia is very strict with the categories and criteria of migration, most young Greeks moving abroad permanently are choosing a switch to another country in the European Union. "Lots of Greeks may have visited Australia, gone there to study and come back, for various reasons, but permanent migration has steadied, they are the numbers." In what is now his third and final year as Australia's Ambassador to Greece, Mr Griffin said his time in Athens has had both highs and lows. "Sometimes it's been a sad time because of the impact on Greek society of the long crisis, at the same time it's been uplifting in the sense that the Greeks have a great resilience and courage in the face of adversity. Greece is eternal they'll tell you." The ambassador said there have been lots of landmark moments, and he has been pleased to see lots of strong people-to-people links and signs of enduring connections between the two countries. He also said he has worked hard to promote stronger business ties between Greece and Australia, something that has not always been easy. "Economic diplomacy, which is the flash new term for trade and investment, is a very important part of an ambassador's job. I've done my best to promote trade and investment, which has always been quite modest between Greece and Australia." Ambassador Griffin said there is still a lingering impression of Australian in some circles in Greece including business circles, of "a far away, Anglo, strange country with rural primary industries, you have to load things into ships and sail them halfway around the world to England." He said the Australian embassy has done its best to project a different image of Australia. "Which is a multicultural, dynamic, diverse country. Seventy per cent of our GDP is services-based, and you don't need to load services into ships, so I've spent quite a bit of time promoting a different image of Australia." The ambassador revealed that he had also worked hard to highlight what he calls areas of complementarity between the Australian economic experience and the Greek experience. "Look at what Greece has got that could generate wealth, which could help to drive the economy, to grow out of the recession, out of the crisis. Greece has got a fantastic tourist industry, it's the main money earner, but it's really very limited, it's April to September, sea, sand, sun, souvlaki and then nothing. Whereas winter tourism, cultural tourism, agricultural tourism, eco tourism, all this sort of stuff is talked about, and Australia has done quite well, but it needs long-term strategic thinking and investment." The ambassador also commented on the high quality of Greek food and wine. "Greek food and wine is fantastic, which was news to me, when I came here I used to think Greek wine is retsina, but the variety and the quality of boutique Greek wines bowls you over. The quality of food here and then when you think of the Australian experience which has been developing agribusiness, you know, niche, high end, good quality wines and foods, it's something Greece could profit from so I’ve been trying to promote complementarities between the two countries in that sphere." He believed the big shining white hope is an AustraliaEU free trade agreement which Australia has been proposing for some time. "It's just finishing a scoping study between Australia and the EC in Brussels and if that gets going it will have a boost to bilateral trade between the two countries.” Italy still at the forefront for Greek exports The European Commission says exports will be the main opportunity for Greece to recover economically New director-designate for Union of Greek Shipowners The Union of Greek Shipowners (EEE) announced earlier this week that current deputy Katerina Peppa will assume the position of director of the ship- owners' association, beginning 1 April 2017. The Piraeus-born and based director-designate is a graduate of the Athens Law School with post-graduate studies in maritime and European law. She will take over from Efstratios Xinos, who has served in the position for more than 30 years. H5N6 virus in Greece distinct from Asian strain The virus was the first case reported in Europe The European Commission (EC) has revealed Italy continues to be the most important destination for Greek exports and services. Despite exports breaking new records last year, not including oil products, president of the Panhellenic Exporters Association, Christina Sakellaridi, told a general assembly of the Bank of Greece that there was no time to celebrate as there is still uncertainty. "At a time when the European economy - the largest market for Greek products - is recovering, Greece cannot afford to lose another opportunity to exit the crisis," Ms Sakellaridi said. According to the EC, in 2017 Greek exports are expected to be the main opportunity for the country's economic recovery. Estimated to rise by 3.6 per cent, with a further projected increase of 4.0 per cent in 2018, exports will result in an additional revenue of 1.5 per cent of GDP annually. In 2016 as a whole, Greek exports within the EU grew by 2.9 per cent, the main consumers following Italy being Germany, Cyprus, Turkey, Bulgaria, the United States, the United Kingdom, Lebanon, Romania, and Egypt. Statistics show exports of farm products recorded the most growth, rising by 7.6 per cent in 2016, followed by industrial chemicals, smoked fish, rice, and hygiene products. An early look into the highly pathogenic H5N6 strain (avian flu) recently discovered in Greece has indicated that it's different from the one in Asia that has been triggering a series of outbreaks in poultry. The case reported in Greece last week was the first H5N6 outbreak detected outside Asia, and involved backyard poultry in the country's northwest. Though the outbreak began on 6 February, it was confirmed by a virologist this week that the virus had mistakenly been reported as H5N8 on 16 February. According to Ian Brown, MIBiol, PhD, head of virology at the international reference lab at the Animal and Plant Health Agency in Weybridge, a very preliminary analysis based on limited genetic sequences suggests the H5N6 strain is a result of further reassortment involving highly pathogenic H5N8 and endemic Eurasian viruses. Meanwhile France continues to struggle, with 10 more highly pathogenic H5N8 outbreaks reported, one involving backyard birds and nine involving wild birds. Other reports in Europe have been made in the Czech Republic and Poland. Recently Nepal also reported a highly pathogenic H5N1 outbreak, its first since 2014, fol- lowed by a second with backyard birds with both cases found in the Gandaki zone. Further details about the strain in Greece are expected in due course.
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