On behalf of all Greeks, I received today, with great joy, the Prime Minister of Russia, Mikhail Mishustin.
As we discussed, this is a visit of special importance, as it signals the participation of his great country in the celebrations for the 200 years since the start of the Revolution that eventually led to Greek independence.
Besides, 2021 has been declared the Year of Greek – Russian History. Relations between our two countries go way back and it is up to us to take them even further. Because we are connected through History, Culture, our common faith; the ties that emerged in Byzantine times became stronger through the Greek community in Russia and evolved into an alliance after the outbreak of the 1821 struggle.
This was a natural development given that the Filiki Eteria had been founded in the lands of the Russian Empire, in Odessa. Our great benefactor, Ioannis Varvakis, distinguished himself there. And it was from Russia that came the first Governor of the independent Greek state, Ioannis Kapodistrias.
Alexander Pushkin himself was the first one who gave the signal with the poem “Arise o Greece, Arise” written exactly 200 years ago, on March 25 1821. As early as March 1821, in a letter to his friend Davydov, he wrote as if he was a Greek himself: “All our thoughts revolve around one main cause, the independence of the ancient homeland”
Therefore, when the Greek Revolution was in peril, Russia joined the two other allies, the other two honored countries, Great Britain and France, in the Battle of Navarino, which marked the definitive victory against the Ottomans. Of course, we should not neglect that it was Russia’s victory in the war against the Ottoman Empire, in 1829, that eventually led to the signing of the London Protocol, which was essentially the “birth certificate” of the nascent Greek state.
Over the course of time, international relations and geopolitical circumstances often brought our countries closer. Yet, they never destroyed the historic ties between our peoples. This is why we joined forces in the major trials that humanity faced: in World War I, then in the fight against nazism, in which Greece and Russia -the Soviet Union back then- suffered a heavy death toll.
Greece is a member of the European Union and NATO. These attributes are part of the foundation of our foreign policy. At the same time, though, we recognize that Russia plays an important role in Europe’s security architecture, which, of course, should be formulated through cooperation rather than competition, with respect for common values, like the protection of human rights.
Besides, today’s challenges and asymmetric threats, like terrorism, extremism, and the joint fight against climate change, can only be dealt with through a common stance and not through confrontation.
Of course, the fact that your country is a permanent member of the UN Security Council charges you, Prime Minister, with a responsibility to safeguard peace and international legality globally. And this is a significant duty, not a privilege. We always listen attentively to your positions, especially on issues that are of particular interest to Greece, like your commitment to the upholding of international law, the Law of the Sea, especially in the Mediterranean region.
Moreover, we do not forget the steadfast support of the Russian Federation for the resolution of the Cyprus issue, based on a bizonal, bicommunal state, without the presence foreign troops and outdated guarantees. This reflects legality, principles and responsibility.
We also had the chance to extensively discuss more topics with the Prime Minister: ways to boost our economic cooperation, how we can boost bilateral trade. And of course, our common priority -and let me end on this note- which is the fight against the pandemic. As the vaccine rollout continues, we considered ways and we agreed on how we can set in motion -as soon as possible- the flows of Russian visitors to our country. It is a known fact that they love our country and I think that we have reached a framework of mutual recognition of vaccines and negative tests, so that Russian tourists may visit our country without additional restrictions as soon as possible.
In other words, I consider today’s meeting with the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation to be useful and valuable, not only ceremonious.
Prime Minister, once again thank you for being here in Athens, on this important, festive anniversary for my country.
Welcome to our country.