I warmly thank you for the great pleasure and honour.
First of all, it is important for me to be among my compatriots. Mr. Provatas is a Corfiot, as the name suggests. I trust his origin is from Agrafoi.
Having been an MP of Corfu for 10 years, I do not think that there is a surname whose origin I cannot define. Mrs. Koppa is related to Corfu, but Mr. Kostis also revealed to me that he is half Corfiot, his mother’s maiden name is Daphne.
Consequently, the only one left is the author. All the rest of us have a specific geographical origin.
But I would like to tell you that this is certainly not the reason why I am here today, since I am not in the habit of attending book launches or making long speeches.
I belong to the school of thought which suggests that action is ultimately the clearest statement of speech and perception, especially in a time of crisis, as well as that too many words tend to be misunderstood.
However, I believe this book is a significant contribution to what needs to be done. It offers an in-depth examination of where we are and, most importantly, where we need to go.
And, indeed, Mr. Provatas, dear Makis, I will agree with you, that the title reflects the view, Mr. Filis, which one might feel compelled to endorse and, in fact, use it against what I would perhaps describe as nationalist, Balkan provincialism, which may have once dominated the thoughts of many.
I think the book is guided by a contemporary approach to the issues, extremely modern and interesting, whether one agrees or disagrees with some of its contents.
And, in fact, by making the informed choice of not presenting it in the form of a text, but of a process of dialogue through questions that are answered, I have to say, in a way that is comprehensible, understandable, pleasant – given the fact the subject itself is not necessarily pleasant.
I would like to underline the word “patriotism”, because I believe this is what corresponds by far to the feeling of the average Greek. A positive love for his country and what it represents, without this being neither contempt for everything else, nor a feeling of arrogance or irrational superiority, but also combined with the effort made by the country through its participation in supranational institutions, such as the European Union.
Allow me to take the opportunity to make a brief schematic presentation of the way the Mitsotakis government has designed its foreign policy and how this effort is being implemented. It is up to Greek society to judge whether it is successfully or less successfully implemented.
First of all, we believe that our country faces a number of challenges. And, as I have repeatedly said, it faces a threat. However, this does not mean that its foreign policy is only a response or reaction to this threat.
That would have entrapped the country. The country, in principle, has a policy which, if you will allow me to present it to you, very much resembles the symbol of the Olympic Games or the old Olympic Airways logo; the five, or six, in the case of Olympic Airways, intersecting circles.
One circle concerns our wider northern neighbourhood, the wider Balkan region, with the challenges that the Western Balkans in particular face at the current juncture, actually as we speak. And I am not referring only to North Macedonia. Other countries further north, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, are a potential source of major problems.
The second circle goes south, covering a number of countries, such as Israel, Egypt, the Gulf countries, Turkey; a wider number of countries, with which Greece also has some exceptionally close relations, such as Egypt, with which we signed the well-known, excellent in my opinion, Agreement on the Exclusive Economic Zone.
There is Israel with which we maintain strengthened relations, the defensive agreement with the United Arab Emirates, the particularly close relation with Saudi Arabia; but also the opening-up to countries in the region that Greece had no relations before, such as Oman, the relationship with Jordan; and, of course, the problematic relationship, the deeply problematic relationship with Turkey.
North Africa is a region where we have been absent from and we have paid a price for our absence, with the problems we are currently facing in Libya.
The third circle is Europe. First of all, the European Union, our common European home, our European family, the seed of shared principles.
A project for which, you will allow me to say, I am extremely proud that our country takes part in. I say, however, that the European Union resembles the major monotheistic religions, with the exception of Islam. It takes centuries to mature and it is just going through the first decades of its existence.
On the other hand, it is the most ambitious project of cooperation between states in the history of humanity. I say it again, being fully aware of the challenges, problems, disruptions, difficulties.
But there is also a number of very important European Countries, such as the United Kingdom – which chose to go it alone, which is unfortunate in this speaker’s view, but this the right of the British people; as well the member states of the UN Security Council and Russia in the North. It is a country no one can ignore.
The fourth circle is actually the American continent, but mainly the United States. The transatlantic bond, our relationship with NATO, the enormous importance of the superpower, the enormous potential, the need to outline our policy and to pursue their presence in the wider region, provided there is an understanding of the problems that serves our national interest, but also the European interest.
And, finally, the fifth circle covers the expansion of our national interest to regions that have so far been almost beyond the horizon, with some exceptions.
The exception is China. It has already been economically present in our country, but today’s China, with which Greece is called upon to cooperate now, does not resemble to the China of the past, not even that of the last decade.
It is a different China. But there are also other countries, such as India, Australia, New Zealand, as well as a number of African and Central Asian countries, which are of significant interest to us.
The concept of all these circles is to create a framework of understanding, on the basis of specific principles of International Law and, in most cases, the International Law of the Sea, which will allow Greece and these countries through cooperation to establish a better future for their societies, more stability and the progress of their economies.
And also, on the basis of common ground, we will not allow perceptions that differ and depart from International Law to find breeding-ground for their proliferation in the 21st century.
I am not making any claims and I am not daydreaming. I do not claim that this is something easy and instantly achievable. But I have to say that a common understanding is evidently being established within a significantly large and very powerful group of countries.
This is something that a few years ago might have been desirable, but not possible or achievable. In the context of this effort, there needs to be a corresponding element, and this element should take the form of an internal dialogue within our own country, which will allow for new thoughts, new ideas, new perceptions to emerge, always in the concept of patriotism that constitutes one of the two words in the title of this book and that will prevent regression to a self-imposed isolationism that could prevent our country from realizing its full potential.
In this sense, my dear author, my dear Mr. Filis, the effort is wholly welcome and I hope it will find followers who will enter into an open debate, putting your views to the test, views which are expressed in a polite, subtle, but I must say skillfully written way in this book.
Thank you so much.