A report from the Centre for the Study of Democracy, a Sofia-based thinktank, suggests that Moscow’s “malign” influence on strategic decision-making in southeast Europe remains strong, even though Russian economic power has weakened in recent years with the gradual opening up of the region’s energy markets.
Russia continues to disrupt economic policymaking and promote divisive agendas across the southern Balkans regardless of countries’ commitments to deepening relations with the EU.
The report argues that in Greece, Russian companies, both state-owned and private, have been able to exploit widespread deficiencies in governance to ensure preferential treatment and make gains in market status.
According to the report, corporate networks with significant links to political parties, other businesses and government institutions act as intermediaries that promote Moscow’s interests when necessary.
According to figures from the Russian central bank, direct investment in Greece by Russian-owned companies amounts to $660 million, mainly channeled through subsidiaries in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria and Cyprus.
CSD has identified 32 Greek companies of significant size that are either owned by Russian citizens or work mainly with Russian clients.
Three family-controlled business groups: Copelouzos in energy and airports; Savvidis with diverse interests including infrastructure, tourism, media and sport; and Mouzenidis, in travel and tourism, have emerged as leading players.
Recently, however, Turkey’s informal alliance with Moscow has “diminished the potential for Russian influence in the Greek economy,” the report notes.
Kerin Hope examines Russia’s economic footprint in Greece through energy projects, growing tourism and the acquisition of Thessaloniki port.
She also presents profiles of the most prominent Russia related business groups: the Copelouzos group, the Mouzenidis Group and the Savvidis group.
You can read the full article in the January/February 2021 issue of Greek Business File, available here