I would like to thank you for the honor you made me to address this year’s Romanian Ambassadors’ annual conference on the occasion of the Diplomacy Day.
And I have to say that I would like also to thank you for the help that Romania has provided us during the wildfires in Greece in the summer. This is greatly appreciated, not just by the Mitsotakis government, but also by the Greek people.
Before going any further, I would like to pay tribute to one of your distinguished colleagues, George Ciamba, a friend of mine, the Romanian Ambassador in Greece. George, during his tenure, contributed substantially in deepening our bilateral ties.
I was happy to hear that last year we celebrated 140 years of diplomatic relations. There are not many countries in the world that have such long-standing and excellent relations.
And next year, you will be celebrating the 160th anniversary of the foundation of the Romanian Foreign Ministry. It is an interesting coincidence that the first Romanian Foreign Minister, Apostolos Arsakis, was of Greek origin. And I am pretty certain that if Bogdan was ever to replace me as Greek Foreign Minister, not only he would do an outstanding job in upholding the principles of international law, but also, if you allow me to say, maybe quite a number of Greek diplomats would be particularly happier.
Greece and Romania are linked through historic ties.
We have fought for our independence in the 19th Century. We have fought alongside each other during the Balkan wars. The Treaty that ended the second Balkan war, a landmark treaty for Greece, was signed by one of our most charismatic Prime Ministers Eleytherios Venizelos, here in Bucharest, in the capital of Romania.
We fought alongside each other in the First World War.
And more recently, Greece has been a firm supporter of Romania’s accession to the EU and NATO.
We are, for almost two decades now, Allies and Partners.
And Greece is actively contributing to Black Sea security, by participating in the NATO Maritime Group.
And as I mentioned earlier today, Greece will continue to support Romania’s bid to join the Eurozone, Schengen and the OECD.
Today, I would like to focus on the challenges we are facing and how we can best address them, by working together.
May I identify three categories of challenges.
The first one is, what I would call, the challenge of values and principles.
Both our countries are firm supporters of a rules-based international order, fully respecting international law. Both Greece and Romania attach particular importance to the respect of the International Law of the Sea, including the right to freedom of navigation. These principles are shared by our EU partners, by most NATO Allies, and many countries in the broader region.
But there is a significant minority of countries, unfortunately also within our Alliance that not only does not respect those rules, but actively undermines them. By using military forces abroad, by occupying foreign territories, by using proxies and even mercenaries.
What is even more worrying is that we observe a rise of autocracies in our neighborhood. Countries that had established or at least functioning democratic institutions are sliding back. On many occasions, contrary to the will and the interests of their own people, and their own societies.
Worse, these countries seem to develop closer ties, synergies between them. Transcending established frameworks, such as the NATO Alliance.
Unless contained, these forces may come to dominate the scene.
Therefore, it is the duty of the countries that uphold fundamental principles, such as Greece and Romania, together with other like-minded countries, to erect a barrier to the expansion of instability.
The second major challenge, which is of course, linked to the first, is the risk of a “stability and prosperity vacuum” in our immediate neighborhood.
I am specifically referring to those countries left in the “twilight zone” close to the European Union, but yet, not part of it.
The most obvious case is the Western Balkans. They are making substantial efforts in order to become Members of our European Family. And they do need our support. And they do need a very clear perspective.
It is our duty, the duty of those that are already part of the EU like Romania, like Greece, to help them.
This is in their interest. But allow me to say, this is also in our interest, to the European interest.
For the very simple reason that unless the European Union covers the emerging vacuum, others, that do not share our principles, that do not share our ideologies and values, will try to cover.
Exactly the same principle applies for our Eastern partners.
I will be visiting Moldova in a few hours from now. This will be the first visit by a Greek Foreign Minister in years, maybe decades.
I will carry with me a very simple message: we support Moldova’s European aspirations. And Moldova will have to carry out the necessary reforms that will bring her closer to Europe. And I will reiterate Greece’s strong commitment to the Eastern Partnership.
Greece and Romania have taken a series of initiatives in several international institutions. For instance, last May, we jointly organized an EU Foreign Ministers’ meeting on the Western Balkans, with the participation of our counterparts from Albania and North Macedonia.
But, we should not rest. We have to continue our common engagement.
That brings me to the third major challenge we are facing.
A few weeks ago, Romanian firefighters provided substantial help to Greece in order to extinguish wildfires.
Wildfires that per se were not defined, at least in the past, as a security challenge. But they are. And they are a symptom of broader, transnational challenges that no single country can address on its own.
There are many things that fall under this category: climate change, pandemics, mass migratory movements. They seem at first glance completely distinct challenges. But, taking a closer look they have one important common denominator. They are aggravated by the effects of globalization.
Globalization, or if you prefer we can call it mondialisation, it is not in itself something bad. We believe rather the opposite. But it means that a challenge in one part of the world, rapidly affects other parts of the world very quickly.
Today, no country, big or small, can erect barriers to stop migration, to stop the effects of climate change or a pandemic. It can take actions to mitigate the effects. But it cannot prevent the phenomena.
The answer to these challenges is, as far as I can imagine, pretty straightforward: solidarity.
Those of us who are better off have to help those of us in need.
Yesterday I was in Tunis delivering 100,000 vaccines to the Tunisian people.
And the day before that, I received in Athens the Libyan Foreign Minister to whom we donated 200,000 vaccines.
And the list goes on.
As I said before in our press conference, Afghanistan is so far, yet so close.
Unless we take mitigating measures, the effects of massive migratory movements, the rise of extremist forces will come to challenge the well-being of our societies.
Unless we work together, unless we show solidarity, especially among us, EU partners, no one will be immune.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This was a sobering assessment of what lies ahead. I did not paint a rosy picture, because the picture is not rosy. But, we should not lose hope because the challenges are huge. On the contrary, we should join forces in order to overcome the challenges of today and the challenges of tomorrow.
Only by working together we will become more resilient.
And this is why I am in Bucharest today. Not in order to address any inexistent differences between our two countries. But in order to help joining forces and see how we can help each other, how we can help other countries in our neighborhood, how we can help other countries of the world.
Thank you so much for the honor to address you.