Constructing the future Greek-American strategic relationship-PM’s speech at AHI-AHEPA
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to warmly thank the American Hellenic Institute and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association for hosting tonight’s event.
I consider it particularly important that my first meeting in Washington DC takes place with part of the leadership of the Greek American community.
The developments in Greece and the region, as well as the momentum built up in Greek-American relations in the last years, make it absolutely necessary to look more comprehensively at the valuable role of the community in the United States and the next steps in our cooperation.
Greece is finally coming out of a severe, deep recession that lasted more than 7 five years, cost a quarter of its GDP, resulted in 27% unemployment and led to an enormous brain drain.
A recession that was combined by the biggest refugee flows ever seen in Europe, since the Second World War, that came to our doorstep.
We survived these difficulties and today,
GREECE IS BACK.
And we leave behind, not only the crisis, but also the economic model that led us to it, fostering corruption and inefficiency.
We applied a demanding package of hundreds of reforms.
Among others, we passed the 2016 investment-incentives law which aims to generate more than 13 billion dollars in private investment by 2023.
We strengthened the the Fast Track procedure for strategic investments and we increased our absorption of EU structural funds to record levels.
As a result of these reforms,
– The economy has grown for two consecutive semesters and the forecast of growth for 2017 is 2% of GDP and 2,4% in 2018
– We managed to outperform the targets for primary surpluses in the last two years
– Investments are up 11.2% for the first quarter of 2017
– Exports are up 15% in the first 8 months of 2017. And let me just add that Greece has nearly double the exports of the US than vice versa.
– Tourism has increased by 5 million in the last three years and expected to reach 35 million in 2021
Clearly, Greece is turning the corner.
But the goal we have is not purely economic.
This effort in the economy constitutes a solid basis for our broader strategy of enhancing our role as an economic hub and a pillar of stability and security in our region.
And this is exactly where the future of the Greek-American strategic relationship lies.
It is a relationship of geostrategic importance.
Greece is the only country that has promoted a comprehensive active diplomatic agenda for stability and cooperation in one of the most important – but also unstable – regions in the world.
Launching bilateral and trilateral cooperation (together with Cyprus), with Israel, Egypt and other countries of the Middle East.
As well as new formats of cooperation in the Balkans.
It is a long time EU and NATO member, and one of the few that fulfills its obligations in terms of military expenditure.
It promotes a strong defence cooperation with the United States including in the crucial base of Souda Bay and has a close coordination with the US on security issues related to migration.
At the same time, Greece – already a global power in tourism and shipping- is rapidly strengthening its role as an energy and transport hub.
Soon the Transadriatic Pipeline will be ready. And we are creating the conditions for developing the IGB, the Vertical Corridor and the East Med pipeline.
Only a few days ago DEPA opened the door to the creation of a Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) in Alexandroupolis and importing shale gas from the United States.
At the same time, new hydrocarbon tenders are carried out in Crete and the Ionian, with the participation of American companies.
And of course we are working hard to develop the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki into regional logistics hubs, connected to road and railroad networks.
High speed railway connections all through the Balkans, as well as the Danube and Black Sea regions.
This is the moment for further enhancing the Greek-American strategic partnership.
First, we must focus on American investments in Greece, particularly in the fields of tourism and real estate, energy, infrastructure, new technology, agribusiness and the financial sector.
A landmark in this effort will be the United States’ participation at Southeastern Europe’s largest business and trade expo the Thessaloniki International Fair, next September.
Secondly, we must make clear to our allies and friends, that Greece can only remain the regional pillar of stability and security if its most fundamental security concerns in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean are met.
We have – and will continue to have – an active policy of resolving the Cyprus issue on the basis of a fair and viable solution outlined in UN Security Council Resolutions.
And we hope that the Turkish side will sit again on the table to continue talks on this basis.
And we have an active policy of dialogue and engagement with Turkey in order to resolve issues and support its European perspective.
And there too we hope that Turkey will sit on the table and continue the exploration talks or discuss Confidence Building Measures.
But it must absolutely clear to all, that we will resolutely protect our sovereign rights in the Aegean against illegal Turkish claims and provocations.
And we will not accept a united Cyprus whose security is guaranteed by Turkey under the threat of military intervention.
And on the name issue, we will continue our dialogue and confidence building as we have.
But the path for Euroatlantic integration can be opened for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, when we resolve the issue on the basis of a mutually agreed solution.
These are the important issues for the future and in these crucial times we count on the extremely valuable support of the Greek-American community, to promote them.
Thanks again for your hospitality.
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