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Politics

Remarks by PM Mitsotakis at the Reception Honoring Greek-American Relations at the WH

WASHINGTON The Remarks by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Reception Honoring Greek American Relations at the White House follow:

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Thank you Mr President. Dr Biden. Ladies and gentlemen. It is really a great privilege to be here with you at this bicentennial celebration. My wife, my daughters, my team, myself are tremendously grateful for the warm reception you have offered us. Honorable guests, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us here tonight. I know this is a very special moment for you, Mr. President. I’m sure you see lots of very good friends amongst this gathering. But this visit, as you pointed out, has very strong historical connotations. Modern Greece, like America before it, was forged in the hands of dreamers, of revolutionaries fighting for freedom, fighting for justice. And it was a story of your independence struggle and its eventual success – coming as it did decades before ours – that inspired the oppressed Greeks to fight against all odds for their own freedom. The leaders of the Greek Revolution drew inspiration from what was achieved on this soil. Our ancestors did not just dream of freedom and self-determination. They fought for democracy, Mr. President, that elusive government of the people, by the people, for the people, which was invented in ancient Greece 25 centuries ago. And in his annual message on the 3rd December 1822, President James Monroe remarked “The mention of Greece fills the mind with the most exalted sentiments and arouses in our bosoms the best feelings of which nature is susceptible”.

“A strong hope,” he said, “is entertained that these people will recover their independence and resume their equal station among the nations of the earth”. And it is this shared history of struggle, this shared history of sacrifice that binds our two nations together. It places upon us, as you said, a solemn responsibility to protect and defend the values that our forefathers risked so much to pass on to the next generations. And today, this duty is more relevant than ever. The war in Ukraine, the invasion of Russia is a chilling reminder that what we took for granted in Europe, that maps cannot be redrawn by force, is unfortunately no longer the case. As you know, Mr. President, we supported Ukraine from the very beginning with humanitarian aid, but also with military assistance. We did so for reasons of principle, which should be painfully obvious, but we did so also to protect a world order that is based on the premise of respect for international law, what you like to call a rules-based international order.

Neo imperial fantasies belong to other centuries. They must not succeed, and they must not succeed not only for the sake of Ukraine, but to send a very clear signal to other authoritarian leaders that any violation of sovereignty will be met by a unified and forceful response. This is why it is so important that Europe and the United States stand shoulder to shoulder in this fight. After all, what we are protecting are the values which lay out the foundations of our liberal democracies. And as the Prime Minister of Greece, but also as a member of the European Council, I would like to thank you again, Mr. President, for your leadership. The sanctions we have imposed on Russia are crushing, and rightly so. But as we discussed, we must not lose sight of the fact that our societies are paying a heavy price in terms of energy prices. And in this respect, there is so much more we can do together – the European Union and the United States – to bring down the prices of energy and in particular, the price of gas.

And as we reduce our dependance on Russian hydrocarbons, we also need to use our market power, as larger purchasers of gas, to deliver short-term relief to our households and our businesses. Mr. President, I really mean it when I say that the relationship between Greece and the United States is today at an all time high. Last Thursday, our Parliament ratified the new Defense and Cooperation Agreement between our two countries. And this new cooperation manifests itself not just in the naval base at Suda Bay, on Crete, which I hope you will have an opportunity to visit. It has been described by many as the “jewel” in the crown of our fantastic military relationship. But it also manifests itself in the Port city of Alexandroupolis in northeastern Greece, just 500 miles from the Ukrainian border. And apart from its military importance for NΑΤΟ, Alexandroupolis, as we discussed, is rapidly becoming a regional energy hub and entry point for Liquefied Natural Gas into the Balkans and Eastern Europe. And Greece plans to play an important role as a gateway for electricity produced from cheap, renewable sources, primarily sun in the Middle East and Africa.

And we’re very happy Mr. President that the US has provided its unequivocal support for these projects. A quick word about the region, Mr. President, you are extremely knowledgeable about the Cyprus issue and please use all your influence to put the negotiation process back on track, in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions. No one, no one can or will accept a two state solution in Cyprus.

The Balkans are also still quite fragile. We must keep their European perspective alive and tangible. Greece is a pillar for regional prosperity and security, and we will always seek peaceful ways to resolve our differences with our neighbors. I am convinced that we can achieve that. We place great emphasis on the “3+1” scheme, a framework that connects the US with Greece, with Cyprus and with Israel. And at the same time, Mr. President, we will continue to invest in our Armed Forces and make it very clear that we will not accept any violations of our sovereignty and our sovereign rights. And after all, we’re doing so, in order not just to strengthen Greece, but also in order to strengthen NATO’s southeastern flank.

We will continue our long-standing cooperation between our defense industries. We will launch the process for the acquisition of a squadron of F-35 aircraft. And we do hope to be able to add this fantastic plane to the Greek air force before the end of this decade. And I’m happy that on Friday, Lockheed Martin officially expressed its interest in investing in Hellenic Aerospace. Of course, the bonds that connect us, the bonds between America and Greece reach far beyond our shared history, security and defense. Across the board, from trade to tourism and technology and cultural exchanges. There is so much, ladies and gentlemen, to be mutually gained. As you know, Greece has come through severe adversity. The recent economic crisis was extremely painful for our people. But Greeks have proven their resilience.Democracy in Greece has proven its resilience. And today, Greece bears no comparison to the Greece that became the ‘poster boy” of the European financial crisis a decade ago. Our economy is strong. Earlier this year, we paid off Greece’s outstanding debt to the IMF two years ahead of schedule.
We are creating jobs and investing in new industries such as digital and clean tech. Many European companies, wary of their dependence on China, are bringing back manufacturing jobs to the European continent, and Greece is an obvious candidate to welcome them. Many American companies are investing in Greece for the first time. Companies such as Microsoft, Pfizer. They are doing so because they see a country that has an advantageous geographic position that is both a member of NATO and the European Union. A country with a stable government that is welcoming foreign investors. Because Greece, Mr. President, is back and a promising future lies ahead us.

Let me conclude, Mr. President, by saying that you recognize many Greek American friends amongst this gathering tonight. You have mentioned several of them by name. They call you “Bidenopoulos” for a reason. Although I suggested that maybe you should be called “Bidenakis”. It would rhyme well. I’m sure everyone in this audience is particularly proud today. I am equally proud about what Greek – Americans have achieved in the United States.

Let me especially acknowledge the presence of your new ambassador to Greece, George Tsunis. I met him at my office a few days ago. The first thing he told me was the story of his parents living in a small village in Western Greece, called “Platanos”. We’re honored to welcome George back to his second homeland. And Mr. President, marking this bicentennial, albeit with a year’s delay due to COVID, matters deeply to the Greek people and to me personally.

Recent events make this celebration that much more pertinent. The fight of democracies against autocracies is the defining battle of our generation. Αnd the proud moments from the history of our two nations give us confidence in what we can achieve in the future. We should never lose sight of what our ancestors fought for and that which we must now defend. All of us should draw great strength from their example. I’m hugely grateful to you, Mr. President and Dr. Biden, for hosting this magnificent gathering. And I took your words very seriously that you do intend to visit Greece to reciprocate this visit.

Thank you again all very much.

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