The North Macedonia name change deal, also known as Prespa Agreement, has helped diminish Turkey’s influence in the country and simultaneously upgrade Athens’s role in the wider Balkan region, Greek business chief Konstantinos Michalos told EURACTIV in an interview.
“Through the Prespa agreement, I feel that we have diminished Turkey’s influence, which has been getting higher and higher over the last few years. It also gives us the opportunity as a country to play a predominant role in the Balkans,” Michalos said, referring to the deal reached between Skopje and Athens last July and ratified this year.
Together with 143 businessmen, Michalos, who is the president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry and deputy president of the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Eurochambres), accompanied Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras on a visit in Skopje.
According to Michalos, the visit brought tangible results for the businesses as the two governments decided to break down tariffs and double taxation.
The Greek businessman said enhanced collaboration in the infrastructure and energy sector will be of high importance for the two countries as well as the Greek know-how when it comes to North Macedonia’s EU path.
“When the discussions of EU accession do begin, then there’s going to be a strong base that they can rely on, which is the Greek consulting businesses […] we have tremendous experience and technocratic knowledge which we can offer to this country,” Michalos said.
Michalos added that the leftist Syriza government did manage to get the country out of austerity and decrease unemployment, but he insisted that more efforts should be made to speed up foreign direct investments.
With regards to the upcoming EU elections, he said the rise of far-right forces highlights the need for pro-EU forces to move along with solidarity and cooperation at all levels.
“And we have to remember that we’re still on very fragile ground. The crisis is by no means over,” he said.
“Eurochambers has always been pro-European. Unfortunately, we’ve seen with the policies that have been implemented over the last five or six years, the political system within Europe has given rise to this far right wing and also to populism.”
*Amanda Lee contributed to this article