I spoke with some important people from goverment of Greece and they asked me: “Why don’t you write something about Greece? Maybe a travel article or an interview with our new Ambassador in Zagreb? We will pay you a lot if you say that Greece is better summer destination than Croatia.”
”I like my country, but not as much as money” Did I say that or someone from Croatian parlament?
I have contacted the Embassy of Greece in Zagreb and arranged for an interview with Mr. Stavros Tsiepas at “NA DOLCU” restaurant.
0. Most important question for the begining of this interview: ”Are you related with Jasmin Stavros?”
No. Is he Greek?
1. You came to Zagreb 2 years ago as the new Ambassador of Greece. Was this your sentence or did you ask to come to the capital of Croatia? Where did you work before? Why Zagreb? Por que?
Zagreb was offered to me from a choice among The Hague, London, Belgrade, Tirana, Sofia, Bucarest and Budapest. I chose Zagreb, from hunch…
2. Greece is a tourist-oriented country like Croatia and most of your GDP comes from tourism. Isn’t it better to have stronger industry and production and tourism just as ”pocket money”?
A big question for which I have no simple answer.
In both countries tourism contributes about 20% of the Gross National Product (GNP). Which sector is developed, be it tourism (services) or industry depends on historical developments, the size of the country, its location in the international exchange system, comparative advantage, etc. But developing industry requires a combination of factors, education of work force, work ethic, resources, tradition etc, and is not the same as developing tourism. It depends on country’s comparative advantage. What about developing the first sector, agriculture, in which I think that both countries have a comparative advantage compared to the tertiary sector, industry, in relation to northern EU countries. Tourism, yes, but sustainable with due attention to environmental concerns.
I said to the Ambassador that I was just provided with information on Palma Travel agency that organizes flights to Greece all the time. Stavros had trouble believing me and he had to see it for himself. He put on a Mona Lisa smile once he saw pictures of his homeland.
3. Much like Croatia, Greece also had problems in the EU. Do you think that EU is good for our economies or did it destroy them? How should small countries like ours fight for their interest in the EU. Maybe we should keep our central banks and currency or leave the EU like the British? Only thing that is good for you in the EU, in my opinion, is the fact that Croatia is poorer than Greece.
Too many questions for which pages can be written.
In short, I believe that the EU gives economies of the “south” opportunities for development. To what extent these are taken advantage is a factor of the political elites running the right negotiation, and the economies, in general, in our countries to use comparative advantage for their benefit. Cooperation of “smaller” countries that have similar interests is important in the internal “negotiation” in the Union. Both countries have common interests and positions in areas like Cohesion, Common Agricultural Policy, EU Budget, etc.
Because of question’s like this, I have lost my beautiful hair:(
4. Like in Croatia, you also had CHF loans in Greece that destroyed people. Did you fight against banks that were lying and stealing money from your people like government in Iceland or your banks are untouchable? In the EU parliament they said that all products in all EU countries need to be the same quality but they are talking mostly about Nutella and they never mentioned bank loans and interest rates that are much more toxic and higher in our countries.
Here you are touching aspects of the working of the financial sector.
We also have had people borrowing in Swiss Francs, and from what I know so far the Courts have not given right to the investors. This may have to do with the fact that Greek Banks are in a peculiar situation, post-crisis. I have read that in Croatia Courts will support investors in CHF and will push banks not to ask for much. I don’t know…Here there is an element also of personal risk, taken by certain people…
We have a major problem of indebtedness of Greek citizens and business, particular to the Greek economy, and major financial crisis after 2009.. Currently the Greek government is passing legislation to alleviate the burden and find a solution acceptable to banks and our international lenders….
5. We all know of Greek salad and moussaka but Greek gastronomy is richer than that. What would you recommend from Greek cuisine? You mentioned that you have better lamb than Croatia? You will burn in hell.
Moussaka has been known, from the tourist industry, but it is not the most important traditional Greek dish. It is common in Southeastern Europe and the Middle East. There are many other traditional Greek dishes which I like. Example: Bougatsa, Courgette Balls, Stuffed grape leaves, Tomato Fritters, Yellow Split Pea Puree, Galaktoboureko, Greek Salad (Horiatiki), Gyros, Keftedes (meatballs), Loukoumades (fried dough, golden puffs, with honey), Pastitsio, (bakes pasta dish with ground beef and béchamel souce), Souvlaki, Spanakopita, Tyropita, Tzatziki dip, Yemista (Stuffed tomatoes and green peppers, with rice and or minced meat)., etc etc
6. You have one gastronomy project – some kind of a culinary dictionary. Tell me a bit about that.
I have a culinary project, not yet finished; I will let you know later on. It will explain French, Italian and English culinary terms in English and Croatian.
7. You are also photography lover and you won second prize in photo competition ”ZAGREB through the eyes of the foreign ambassadors”. Tell me something about this and why are you so obsessed with Madonna photos (but not the singer Madonna). Is it because you are a religious fanatic or you just like church art?
I have participated twice to photo projects to promote Zagreb and Croatia, an initiative by the Embassies of Belgium and Bulgaria, in cooperation to the Zagreb municipality and the Ministry of Tourism.
My interest in photographing Madonnas (Madonnes de portail in French) in Luxembourg and Belgium came not so much from a particular religious feeling, but more from an aesthetic appreciation of these little statues of Madonas in these countries, outside churches, in the streets and porticles (Portails). In my view, beyond their Christian-religious meaning, Madonnas continue of tradition of the ancient tradition of Mother Earth. Madonnas express the protection which the Mother of God provides to people.
8. Do you maybe know what you are importing from Croatia and what kind of goods you are exporting to us? Do you have some ideas/projects on how our countries could work better, not just as tourist destinations for each other.
Βilateral trade relations are very low. In 2017 Greece exported about 83 mill. Euros to Croatia, and Croatia 63 Mill. Euros to Greece. Greece exports to Croatia machines, woven fabrics, pharmaceutical products, iron products, shoes and artifacts from copper, fruits and vegetables. Croatia exports to Greece are shoes, machine products, dresses, toys, fabrics. However, there are various projects in which Greek companies participate in Croatia, such as road building, sewage treatment projects etc.
9. Is this interview for flash.hr the peak of your diplomatic career? If it is not, feel free to lie that it is.
This is the second interview I have given in Croatia.
11. Most important question in Croatia for the end – Where were you in 1991?
In 1991 I was in Greece, working as a young diplomat in the Personnel Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Were you born then?
PS: Stavros noticed that I’m wearing Strugar shoes so he insisted to take him to the shop. I shall quote him: “No way I am going to wear Armani like some poor Greek!”
Author: Josip Novosel aka Joe ZEUS, Gastro Snob and self proclaimed Dear Leader Joe, a corresponding member of the “Give me lamb, salad is for Greeks” magazine, a friend to the wealthy, a tycoon and a snob but above all a human.