As southern EU country leaders are about to meet in Cyprus this coming Monday January 29, 2019, they should better discuss why we still have girls out of school. Greece has the highest percentage of girls out of school, followed by Cyprus.Read More
Italy has endured a torrid decade, suffering three recessions since 2008, with high levels of public debt, unemployment at above 10 per cent and a banking system lumbered with bad loans. Its political leadership has also drifted towards populism, with talk of a referendum to withdraw from the Euro currency, and a toughening anti-immigration stance.
Hard economic times tend to lead to a hardening of borders, with a zero-sum ‘us-and-them’ mentality. To counter the trend and support greater mobility of capital and people in the Mediterranean, a vibrant private sector is crucial for Italy’s future.Read More
Following the election of Emmanuel Macron last year, France has emerged as one of Europe’s more vibrant economies. In particular, it is building its tech sector in advanced areas such as artificial intelligence and attracting increasing investment from tech leaders, including IBM and Microsoft. Macron has been a welcome voice of internationalism, attempting to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, for instance, and imploring European countries not to turn their backs on migrants. His recent promise to grant citizenship to a Malian illegal immigrant who saved a child dangling precariously from a balcony – taking the time to meet the man in person – was a welcome gesture at a time when other Western nations are moving in the ideologically opposite direction. Given that France faces its own emerging nationalist and far-right political movement, these achievements should not be taken lightly.Read More
Over the 30 years of my professional life in the EMEA region, the EU’s Southern Mediterranean markets have played an important role. I have led and managed projects executed on a pan-EU basis, yet each market has its own distinct culture. Every time I work on these projects, I am struck by how unique and unrelated the business cultures are in Spain, in Italy, in France and in Greece. Aside from certain areas where the EU has imposed general guidelines, each market has its own regulatory, economic and cultural approaches. Implementing an investment decision or entering a new product market thus requires distinct market-specific benchmarks of success. The stereotypical perception is that most businesses in these countries are predominantly family-owned, SMEs or start-ups and that they are symmetric in business culture, meaning business is done in similar ways. In fact, this is not the case; there is actually much diversity, and to be successful requires cultural nuance. Equally striking is the very little cross-border activity between these countries.
To shed light on their diversity and interactions, the next three country profiles will examine Spain, France and Italy in terms of their inter-regional and cross-border potential.Read More
In preparing for this month’s blog – on Israel – I have asked Chemi Peres, a highly respected Israeli leader and entrepreneur, who co-founded Pitango Venture Capital, to give me his view and the thread for the analysis that follows. I was introduced to Chemi by Ambassador Yael Ravia-Zadok, when she was serving her country in Cyprus, building bridges of trust and collaboration between our two countries.
Chemi and I share a legacy left by our fathers. Shimon Peres, Chemi’s father – Nobel Peace Prize laureate, President of Israel, a statesman and an innovator – championed peace and collaboration. In Chemi’s words, his father was defined by the ‘ingenuity of a visionary driven by optimism and inspired by hope’.
My late father, Constantinos Kittis, also served his country and his people, with an honourable commitment to the wider good in both the public and private sectors. He was Minister of Commerce and Industry, Minister of Finance, founder of the European Movement in Cyprus, a regional leader of multinational businesses, a visionary, optimist, innovator and champion of good governance – but more importantly, he was a rare honest man with a high level of emotional intelligence.Read More
Morocco is a beautiful country: seen in its colours, handicrafts, cuisine, architecture, aesthetics and people. I have visited many times in different capacities – for work and for leisure – and each time it leaves a magical impression. Travelling around the country, the disparity is clear – rural and urban, inland and seaboard – but at every turn, there is a keen work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. Women have a key role to play, both within the family and as a productive force. But more can be done overall to promote a more equitable distribution of wealth, wider participation in the economy and better governance through business and policy leadership. This would allow the people and the country to continue to serve as a bridge between three continents – North America, Europe and Africa. The data-driven analysis that follows looks at how Morocco’s leadership pursues trade with Africa and Europe and, more importantly, the potential that lies closer to home, among its near neighbours in the Mediterranean.Read More
Algeria deserves to be integrated into the Mediterranean region. While I have not visited the country, I have been to its borders and have met Algerians abroad in different strata of life who have impressed me with their desire to improve economic conditions in their country – because they want to have a future within their country. This analysis focuses on women’s participation in the economy, and includes qualitative and quantitative data and indicators on trends. Women’s economic participation mirrors the progress or setbacks in the socioeconomic dynamics of the nation and the ability of its leaders to grapple with market forces and developmental challenges. It would be a good sign for Algeria if the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) launches operations there; in this way, Algeria’s private sector could be integrated into the markets of the region and standards of governance could be improved, including enhancing women’s role in business. Equally important for women’s participation in the economy, and for governance practices more broadly, is the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) 2.1 billion-euro investment on projects in the transport, energy, water and industry sectors. But it will take bolder steps in domestic and EU-backed policy to help women claim their rightful place in the country’s economic future.Read More
Egypt is the Mediterranean region’s largest economy, connecting the Arab world to Europe through my native country Cyprus, which forms the continent’s south-eastern border. My ties to Egypt are quite personal, as I bear the name of Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty, which ruled Egypt until the Roman period. Curious about the history of this richly diverse country, I travelled through Egypt in my youth, exploring the Sinai mountain region while on a religious pilgrimage to St Catherine’s monastery. I also worked as a conflict resolution volunteer in rural areas in the northern and eastern regions.
At the last European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) annual meeting and business forum, where I represented the Arab International Women’s Forum, Egypt was seen to offer compelling opportunities, with reforms across sectors, an eagerness to attract investors in manufacturing, food production, processing and distribution, and energy – specifically renewables. The conversation missed a key dynamic for growth, however: youth, specifically young people as Egypt’s start-up entrepreneurs, including the tools they need to prosper, especially their access to finance.Read More