The Greek economy shows some early signs of recovery and Victoria would benefit immensely from and should do more to aid Greece in achieving a better economic outlook were the key points of Daniel Andrews’ recent update to Neos Kosmos, following his first visit to Greece.

While in Greece, the Victorian premier made some important announcements about the implementation of new programs to strengthen the trade relationship between Victoria and Greece, as well as the Greek Language Programs in Victorian schools, with new cultural collaborations.

Appeased that he saw “some confidence, a little bit of spark, and a little bit of hope” for the Greek economy, he acknowledged that the road to recovery for the Greek economy has just started, and it is not going to be any easier for any time soon.

He assured Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and members of the business community in Greece, that the symbolism is good as long as it is balanced with substance.

“I made the point that it is great, and important, to be good friends but what we are obliged to do is to go from being good friends and become partners.
“To get to that stage we need more investment, more trade, and a proper economic relationship not just a cultural relationship,” said Mr Andrews.

“I am not saying that there are no business ties between Greece and Victoria. There are. But we have to take the next step, that means we play our part in the continued economic recovery of Greece and take advantage of the mutual benefits, profitability for both sides.

“If you get the government-to-government relationship established then you make it easier for businesses to invest,” noted the premier, announcing that the Victorian government is organising a business delegation to present at the Thessaloniki International Fair in September next year.

The premier shared that Mr Tsipras updated him on recent developments and future prospects and opportunities for investment in the renewable energy, property, IT, fintech, and agritech sectors, adding that while Mr Tsipras was very positive about the future of the Greek economy, “he was by no means dismissive of the challenges Greece faces”.

“Greece need to remain a part of the EU because it provides an opportunity to use that beyond their borders. So if we can have companies that look at the opportunity in Greece because it is a lower cost of setting up into Europe, then that can be their launching pad into the rest of Europe.”

Focusing on his announcement about the initiatives to strengthen Greek language programs in Victoria, and in particular the program that will see eight Melbourne kindergartens teaching the Greek language, Mr Andrews said that discussions have already started about which kindergartens will run the program, which will commence next year with some further announcements coming very soon.

The Andrews Labor Government recently advised that they will provide $150,000 towards Greek language programs to be offered for the first time at a number of kindergartens across Victoria.

The funding is available for one year, with scope to extend if interest permits.

Another program that the premier announced while in Greece is the much anticipated teacher training exchange program, which will give teachers of Greek in Victorian government schools and kindergartens an opportunity to study at a university in Greece to improve their language skills.
“We extended the professional development opportunities to kindergarten teachers for the first time in Victoria’s history, and I can assure you that the program will start very soon,” the premier revealed.

He said that he envisages the planned collaboration between the Benaki Museum in Greece and Melbourne’s Hellenic Museum, currently supported financially by the state government, will be able to go a lot further.

“The Benaki and the Hellenic Museum partnership is very important. I spoke to Mr Tsipras directly about this. But while this is a good partnership it is essentially a private collection that will be displayed specifically in the Hellenic Museum.

“What I think is the logical next step for the partnership is to extend the collaboration: to develop connections between the Acropolis Museum and the Melbourne Museum, or the National Archeological Museum in Athens and the Melbourne Museum. We are also very keen on the dramatic arts cooperation; theatre productions and the like.

“Celebrating the 200-year anniversary of the Greek State in 2021 may give us an opportunity to build up a big program of events right up till then,” said the premier.

Mr Andrews left his personal impressions of Greece until the end of our discussion.

He had more than enough to say about Greek hospitality, the friendliness of the people he met on the streets of Athens but, unusually for a politician, he turned silent for a couple of seconds when he started to talk about his first ever visit to the Parthenon.

“It was a very, very moving moment. To see the origins, to be amongst so much of our culture, our tradition, our system of government, our civil society, our institutions that define our way of life. To be there early in the morning when there was no one else there.

“It was quite special, very special. And it does break your heart when you later do that lap in the Acropolis Museum to see all the plaster casts of the friezes that should be there and aren’t. It is a cultural injustice. It is wrong. They should be returned. It is time to bring them back,” concluded Mr Andrews.