The 7th General Assembly of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association (W.H.I.A, Greek acronym PADEE) opening session was held at the Hellenic Parliament’s Senate Hall on Thursday, July 30.
The W.H.I.A. comprises 224 MPs of Greek origin, as well as former members of legislative bodies in 26 non-Greek speaking countries.
Its president Demetrios Giannaros opened the proceedings. Parliament President Dimitris Sioufas conveyed a message by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and addressed the meeting. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, Culture Minister Antonis Samaras and Tourism Minister Costas Markopoulos addressed the meeting, while education ministry special secretary on cross-cultural education Stefanos Vlastos conveyed a message by Education Minister Aris Spiliotopoulos. Parliament vice-president Giorgos Sourlas also addressed the meeting.
The FM’s opening address:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Hellenic Members of Parliament from around the world,
Welcome to Greece. It is a great pleasure and great honour to welcome you to your country of origin, on the occasion of the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association’s 7th General Assembly. I hope your stay here is pleasant and particularly fruitful.
Every time I address members of the Greek community abroad, I always feel the need to convey to them the pride and gratitude of the entire Greek people and of course the members of the Greek parliament and government who represent them. It is with great emotion and high expectations that we always receive the news that worthy members of the Greek community abroad are elected in the Parliaments of your countries. With your distinctions, your activities and your work, your love for Greece and your willingness to continuously contribute to the achievement of its goals, you honour our country, you are Hellenism’s great strength. All Greeks around the world – and of course, you the distinguished members of the Greek Community – form another Greece abroad, almost equal in size to that of the metropolis. a Greece that knows how to overcome difficulties, based on an inquisitive mind, on creativity, flexibility, and hard work; a prospering Greece that continuously distinguishes itself; a Greece proud of its past, and optimistic about its future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thanks to this admiration for, and pride in, the Greece that you represent, thanks to the unquestionably positive results that close and constant coordination between the Greek metropolis and the Greek community abroad can bring, we have set as our top priority strengthening cooperation between us.
There is no doubt that the Greek community abroad has a major multiplier effect for Greece. There is no doubt that you have been building strong bridges of friendship and cooperation between our country and other states. This is why our goal has been to have an increasingly closer and more substantial cooperation with Greeks abroad. And I am happy that major steps have been made in this direction. These include strengthening the role and responsibilities of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad;. reinforcing it institutionally; upgrading the actiivities and initiatives of the Foreign Ministry’s General Secretariat for Greeks Abroad. Our utmost priority regards Greek language education, wherever there are Greek-origin generations, and our goal is to make Greek-language learning more attractive and keep our language and our identity alive in the youngest generations of Greeks abroad. Finally, they also include substantial support for the Greek-speaking press and media abroad in order to forge closer ties with our communities and contribute to shaping public opinion in your countries of residence.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are all aware of the particular sensitivity of all the Greeks abroad regarding developments on our national issues; we all know your unwavering interest in upgrading Greece’s position on the international scene.
As our country’s Foreign Minister, it is with responsibility and satisfaction that I stand before you to assure you that through its policy, the government is continuously strengthening Greece’s position and good name on the international political arena. We make our country’s voice stronger. We increase its stature and influence. We achieve major national goals. We are making Greeks proud, wherever they live.
We achieve all that by opting for action and not inertia on our foreign policy. We opt for active, constructive participation in major international processes, we opt for extroversion. We achieve our goals because we appear confident on the international scene, trusting our abilities and having faith in our just demands, open-minded towards the rest of the world.
Greece today claims – and has – a say and a role in important significant issues. Today, Greece is present everywhere: a leader in the Balkans, present in the Middle East and the Caucasus, Africa and Afghanistan, where our international obligations require our presence.
We are at the heart of European integration, at the forefront of the forces that create a new European perspective.
We are strengthening Greece’s relations with all of the world’s major players – such as the U.S., Russia, China, and emerging economic and political forces. With this goal in mind, we are making the most of the opportunities presented to us, such as our current Chairmanship of the OSCE.
When our country took over the Chairmanship of the world’s biggest security ogranisation at the beginning of the year, we set at the top of our priorities promoting issues of European security. At a time of major challenges across the world, we took a decisive step by organizing the Corfu Informal Meeting. Despite the initial reservation of many partners, our choice was proven right. The informal, free and open dialogue that was developed on the Corfu table was supported by the 56 members of the OSCE. The Corfu process is a first substantial foundation on which we will be able to build from now on the crucial dialogue on issues of European security.
At the same time, as is self-evident, we never stop launching the battle for our national issues – with determination and realism – by fully safeguarding Greece’s national interests.
At the same time, we are seeking, friendly relations and mutually beneficial cooperation with all our neighbours. We play a leading role towards the fulfillment of our neighbouring countries’ euroatlantic ambitions. We actively support their development and stability through national resources and investment capital. Thanks to Greece’s active supports, all the region’s countries have made significant steps forwards, thus coming closer to the European family.
Unfortunately, FYROM is an exception. So far, the policy of Skopje’s government has deprived the country and its people of their euroatlantic future. Our structured policy has helped us make our positions more widely understood by our international collocutors. It is of course clear that your role, the role of the Greek community abroad, has been important in ensuring a positive outcome for our efforts and I would like to thank you for that once again. In Bucharest, within the framework of NATO and also in Brussels, within the framework of the EU Summit, our partners unanimously adopted our positions. The message to our neighbours, the message of the international community, has been clear: they cannot persist with irredentist practices, they cannot continue to distort history without suffering the consequences. Their European and euroatlantic future presupposes a resolution of the name issue. This is what Greece is seeking. We continue to wage a difficult and demanding negotiation battle within the framework of the OSCE. Our positions are well known and so are our red line issues: a compound name with a clear geographical qualifier, which will be valid for everyone. a solution to the benefit of everyone, a solution towards a future of cooperation and security.
It is thanks to this consistent policy that we have been expanding Greece’s international support. We have been creating the crucial political capital, on which we can capitalize in order to safeguard our national interests. This capital was proven useful at the NATO Bucharest Summit, to state just one example.
It is by strengthening Greece’s voice that we can reinforce the significance of its positions and arguments.
We have proven this within the European Union, now that we are seeking ways to come out of the institutional deadlock and turn the European Union’s interest and policies towards the issues that are of concern to the citizens: addressing the fallout of the financial crisis, ensuring our competitiveness and social cohesion, tackling climate change, responding collectively to illegal migration.
The proof is our participation in European control mechanisms of Turkey’s European course and its behaviour vis-à-vis minorities, human rights, the Ecumenical Partiarchate, good neighbourly relations, and other issues of Greek interest. There is no Europe a la carte for anyone. Implementing commitments and tangibly demonstrating a European stance is the only way leading Turkey towards Europe. We have a well known position: Full compliance leads to full accession. Without any deviations, without any blank cheques.
It is self-evident that the final goal of Turkey’s European accession presupposes its active contribution to the resolution of the Cyprus issue. The continuing – for 35 years now – occupation of the northern part of Cyprus – already a member of the European family – is an unacceptable situation in modern Europe and an end must be put to it. Today, a new round of negotiations is under way. The initiatives of President Christofias towards achieving a solution by the Cypriots themselves have created the conditions for making progress. progress towards a solution on the basis of a bizonal, bicommunal federation; a just, viable and functional solution without outdated guarantee systems; a solution based on the decisions of the UN Security Council and compliant with the principles and values of the European Union. Greece shows its solidarity to the Cypriot political leadership’s struggle to achieve such a solution, and is always present and ready to help in every way it can. The resolution of this issue will be a realization of the hopes of all the Greeks across the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are going through a crucial period, the international environment is continuously changing, and we are called upon to address efficiently new challenges that have come up and boldly make the most of the opportunities that arise.
Our country’s goals and interest require that we capitalize on every strength we have at our disposal. They require that we all move in the same direction and support jointly our common national objectives. They call upon all Greeks, whatever their country of residence, to coordinate their efforts and join their forces. We all know that very well: The continuous strengthening and promotion of our cooperation is the strongest guarantee for a safer and more creative future for Hellenism around the world.
This is our vision: This is our joint commitment.
I would like to welcome you once again to Greece and wish you all the best with your Assembly’s proceedings.