GIG: What is the secret of your success as one of Greece’s most prominent law firms? Which sectors of law are your primary focus?
Papapolitis: Let me start by saying that there is no secret to success. Success is measured over time and is a combination of various ingredients that are now part of the DNA of our firm. Strong values that relate to professionalism, strong work ethic, taking pride in our work product, and building long term relationships with clients that last over generations are the building blocks that have laid the foundation upon which we have risen.
GIG: Can you tell us more about your international operations and strategic partnerships? What percentage of your clients are from outside of Greece?
Papapolitis: We are the only Greek law firm with a London office. Set up in 2016, we developed based on the needs of our London clients.
A major sector of our client base is U.S. asset managers and multinational corporates that invest in Europe through their London offices. A presence and infrastructure in the local London market became a necessity for our firm and a competitive advantage for attracting London-based foreign investors.
GIG: What are the main difficulties your international clients face in doing business in Greece? What are the top legal tips you give foreign investors that are looking to invest in the market?
Papapolitis: The obstacles are well known to everyone. They have been there for years. Greek red tape, the ever-changing Greek tax framework, and one of the slowest court systems in Europe. Nevertheless.
The top tip we offer is clear, to-the-point advice that provides certainty as to how to get from point A to point B when navigating the Greek market.
GIG: How do you help clients overcome bureaucratic and other obstacles?
Papapolitis: Clearly outline, from the outset, what those obstacles are and have a clear path as to what actions to take, along with specific timelines. As long as there are clear timelines, and certainty as to what is required, investors can predict beforehand what works. What does not work are unpredicted delays and surprises.
GIG: What effect will recent investment and tax legislation passed in parliament have in terms of attracting long-term investors and reducing red tape?
Papapolitis: The effect on attracting long-term investors to the country cannot be measured only by the new legislation. Surely that plays a role, but the fact that Greece has a tremendously business-friendly government that immediately delivers results, and demonstrates signs of future growth, is the attraction for long-term investors.
There is an axis between the type of investors that a country attracts correlated with the risk factor it entails. For example, Greece, the past 10 years being a country in recession, attracted mostly credit investors with a high cost of capital and short-term period of holding an investment. The type of capital that the country needs in order to grow is long-term capital with a lower return, a return on investment similar to other European countries. The only way to attract such capital is if the risk factor of the country is low. Fortunately for Greece and investors, this is now taking place due to the initiatives and reforms of the Greek government.
GIG: Are there any other reforms investors should be aware of relating to Greece’s legal framework?
Papapolitis: There are many reforms that are taking place as we speak. The government is passing laws that help the economic growth of the country and battle a red tape problem the country has been facing for years. The most important of these new reforms are the newly implemented tax and development frameworks.
GIG: Are there any key differences investors should be aware of between Greece’s legal framework and those seen in other European countries?
Papapolitis: As an EU Member State, Greece has enacted all of the EU Directives within its local legislative framework, so key differences lie mostly in the areas of tax, employment, and dispute resolution.
GIG: What signs of increased investor interest have you seen so far and in which sectors? Where do you see the greatest potential? What, in your opinion, are the priorities that are needed to attract more investments in Greece?
Papapolitis: The signs of investor interest relate to the macroeconomic environment of Greece. That changed rapidly in the latter half of 2019. Hard assets like real estate, energy, and infrastructure have attracted the most attention. Attracting more investments and reshaping Greece’s global brand to the international investment community became a priority in late 2019.
GIG: Can you tell us more about your role in American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and The Hellenic Initiative (THI)?
Papapolitis: I serve as a Member of the Board of Directors of the AmCham and I chair the Investment & Finance Committee of the Chamber. The AmCham is one of the most active organisations promoting U.S./Greek relationships and business interests. As a professional representing U.S. investors in Greece, it made a lot of sense for me to have a more institutional role and be able to assist in promoting further U.S./Greek relationships through the activities of the chamber.
THI is an organisation that I feel very strongly about. I always believed that people should be active members of their community and, apart from putting all of their efforts in themselves and their jobs, they should also make an effort to provide for their community, including those less fortunate around them.
THI is unique in its approach and in the way it operates, both in providing crisis relief and assisting in job creation and promoting young Greek people through its various programmes. I currently serve as the Chair of the THI Corporate Ambassador Campaign, which is an effort for companies to become ambassadors of THI and either contribute financially to THI through their corporate responsibility programmes or through offering placements to young Greek people within their organisations.