We want to thank you for this gracious hospitality and we really feel very much at home. David, I want to thank you for your kind words and Andy for the historical facts you mentioned.
I would like to say that, as you know, the Greek-U.S. bilateral relations are founded on common principles, common values and long term cooperation.
I am not talking about just “routine” diplomatic relations. It goes much further and much deeper than that. I am talking about long and strong historical ties.
The founding Fathers of the American Nation had all a profound classical education. They drew their inspiration for the new Republic they built, from Plato, Thucydides, Demosthenes and Aristoteles, from Xenophon and Plutarch, along with other great intellectual figures of Ancient Greece and Rome.
And when the Greek Revolution of Independence started, in the early 19th century, the Greeks had only the great American Democracy across the Atlantic to get inspiration from when fighting against Tyranny.
So it is not a “paradox” that Greece and the US always fought on the same side to defend the same fundamental principles of Democracy, Freedom and Independence.
But Greece has also ages-long and currently very strong relation with Israel.
Our cultural ties stretch back to millennia. Our modern political ties were not always good.
But now they are better than ever. And they have still a long way to go, to get deeper, better, evolving to a true and lasting strategic relation between Greece and Israel.
Up until the early 90’s Greece had not even recognized Israel!
I am proud to have been the Minister of Foreign Affairs who corrected this anachronism and de lege recognized Israel. This is one of my proudest signatures.
In the next 20 years our bilateral relations with Israel improved only at a slow pace. In the last 3 years they have improved a lot, growing and strengthening day by day. But – remember – we still have a long way to go…
After all, both our peoples have a lot in common.
Back in the 40’s, Jews across Europe suffered from the hideous Holocaust.
A shame for the whole Century! A real shame for the History of Mankind.
At about the same time, Greeks suffered a three and half years of Nazi occupation, during which hundreds of thousands of Greeks were starved to death by the Nazis, executed by the Nazis, or killed fighting against the Nazis. My grandmother, who was a famous literal figure in Greece, a writer, when she heard on the radio that the swastika was raised on the Acropolis, committed suicide.
When the war first started, back in October 1940, with the attack of fascist Moussolini against Greece, the first Greek officer who died fighting was a Greek Jew, colonel Mordehai Frizis!
He met a heroic death. We have been honoring him since, as a hero! And a hero is what he was…
During the nightmare of the Nazi Occupation, thousands of Greek families hided away and eventually saved Jewish friends and compatriots, defying a direct threat to their lives.
This is something, of course, that makes us very proud. But this is also something that defines us: To help our fellow human in times of need, especially in persecution or joint in the same fight for Freedom and Dignity.
All these are blood ties that bind us together, Greeks and Jews.
Just few months ago, last March, I visited the Synagogue in Salonika.
What I said to them then, I am repeating to you now – just two words:
Ποτέ ξανά! Meaning: Never again!
This is a message; and a commitment; and an ethical duty.
To make sure that nobody will ever live such a nightmare again.
We owe it to the ones who suffered and perished.
We owe it to the ones who suffered and survived.
We owe it to ourselves.
We owe it to our children and to our future generations.
Never again! Ποτέ ξανά!
Dear friends, my country, is going through a deep crisis. This is our sixth consecutive year of recession. We have lost about 25% of our GDP compared to just few years ago.
Unemployment has reached 27%.
Youth unemployment has skyrocketed to over 60%!
This country, the US, found itself in a similar situation back in the 30’s, along with most of the rest of the world. It was the “Great Depression” years…
Most of today people were not ever born then. Yet, το everybody’s mind, the “Great Depression” has been registered as a nightmare.
We are currently living through the equivalent of such a nightmare!
The crisis has hurt the Greek people in an unprecedented way. They lost about 40% of their previous standard of living in just a few years, If you add taxes and inflation to GDP. Such a calamity has never happened anywhere in the post-war years. Yet the Greek people showed maturity, resilience and determination. And we have started now the “ascent”, as we are getting, step by step, out of the worst part of the crisis.
However, a part of our society fell victim of populism and extremism; even neo-Nazi type of extremism. In some isolated cases, including one just few days ago, we had incidents of bloody violence. Luckily, our society reacted in a very healthy way and our authorities responded in a very decisive way identifying the culprits of such crimes and the ones who possibly stand behind them.
As we speak, all of the leading members of the Neo-Nazi group “Golden Dawn” have already been arrested and are being prosecuted.
We are dedicated in completely eradicating such a “shame”. We must do it within the context of our democratic constitution. But we have to go all the way and do whatever it takes. There is no room for the Neo-nazis in any part of the democratic world. And there is no tolerance for them or for any kind of extremism undermining democratic institutions. Fascism can have many faces. There is absolutely no tolerance for any of them.
Dear friends, on a much broader perspective now, only to realize how far Greece has moved in the last 14 months, I have to draw your attention on two facts:
Firstly, last year a “doomsday” scenario about Greece was getting very popular: Grexit! More and more people were anticipating that Greece will eventually – sooner rather than later – had to leave the eurozone.
That was last year! Today, nobody talks about a “Grexit” anymore! On the contrary, more and more people are now talking about “Grecovery”, the prospect of an imminent recovery for Greece, next year.
Secondly, last year Greece was widely seen as a “trouble-spot” for Europe, in a relatively stable neighborhood. Now, the picture is totally reversed: Greece looks as a stable country, in a totally destabilized region, the Eastern Mediterranean!
I think we have come a long way since last year, both in national and in regional terms, politically and economically. And all this spectacular change has to be attributed to the sacrifices of our people, to the solidarity of our European partners and to the support of our friends and allies.
We will build on this momentum. I truly believe that Greece can become along with other countries in our region, a true “asset” of stability. Together with all other countries who share with us the same principles of Freedom, Democracy, Security, together with other societies fighting against all kinds of extremism, together with other people who truly believe in competitiveness and prosperity through growth and security.
Next Monday, I will fly to Israel to push forward for a true and comprehensive strategic partnership between Greece and Israel. We certainly need it. I think they need it too. Most of all, our region needs it. All people in our neighborhood, who cherish democracy and human dignity, need to know that they are not alone.
It is more than certain now, that there are plenty of energy resources in the sea area between Greece -Cyprus and Israel. So there is a large scope for cooperation among us to develop them and transport them, to use them prudently so as to enhance and share growth prospects in our region.
The greatest ambition inspiring the Americans and defining the United States has been to become a “beacon” of Freedom and Human Dignity.
We now need many local beacons of Freedom and Human Dignity worldwide. And we desperately need them in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greece is an integral part of the European Union at the south-eastern tip of the continent. The New Greece we are building can join forces with Israel and Cyprus to become a beacon for freedom and hope in our area. Nobody is excluded!
Freedom and Hope is something to share with others, not something to monopolize against the others! Our approach is all- inclusive!
But Freedom and Democracy cannot stand without Stability and Security.
Stability and Security, in turn, cannot stand without Justice and Growth.
We have to join forces, because we share all these values and ideals.
We have to join forces, to protect them and make them available to everybody, to all nations, all countries, all peoples in our region.
We need to join forces, because this is a noble cause that we can only accomplish together.
It requires bravery, determination, consistency and solidarity; patience and perseverance. These are the best qualities of our societies.
These are the basic requirements of an effective strategic relation.
These are the basic prerequisites of long lasting Peace with Dignity and Prosperity. Peace with Dignity and Prosperity!
This is our hope and this is our scope.
This is our perspective and this is our objective.
This is exactly what defies all our fears and defines who we are.
Thank you very much.