Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reaffirmed the strong historic ties between Greece and the United States while addressing several important issues, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Turkey’s conduct in the Eastern Mediterranean in a historic speech during the a joint session of the US Congress on Tuesday.
“I come before you to celebrate a miracle that all free people cherish but which binds Greeks and Americans in a unique way. This miracle, the Greek idea that would forever change the world, is that society works better if all citizens are equal and have the right to participate in the management of their state. In a word, democracy,” Mitsotakis said.
Noting that the two countries have fought “side by side in world wars to defend freedom and democracy,” he said: “Our democracies have battled internal demons. We are both countries that have endured the horrific pain of civil wars, the despair of economic crises, but we have emerged stronger and more determined to defend the values for which our ancestors gave their lives.
Referring to Ukraine’s resistance to the Russian invasion, he told senators and congressmen that while the Greeks “have no animosity towards the Russian people with whom we have been so closely bound by faith and history… we simply cannot be indifferent to a struggle that reminds us so much of our own.
“We recognize the importance of taking sides, and we have taken sides unequivocally, we support Ukraine against Putin’s aggression,” he said, pointing to the sending of humanitarian aid, weapons and the reception of Ukrainian refugees by Greece.
He said it was vital that Russian President Vladimir Putin failed “to send a message to all other authoritarian leaders that historical revisionism and overt acts of aggression that violate international law will not be tolerated by the world community of democratic states”.
Regarding the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly Greece’s relations with Turkey, Mitsotakis called on Congress to help work towards a solution for Cyprus.
“This resentful language of imperial nostalgia revisionism cannot prevail. Speaking of acts of aggression, I ask you… not to forget an open wound that has caused Hellenism endless suffering over the past 48 years. I am referring to the invasion and subsequent division of Cyprus,” he said, adding that “this issue must be resolved in accordance with international law and in accordance with the relevant decisions of the United Nations Security Council.
“As I told President Biden yesterday, no one can and no one will ever agree to a two-state solution in Cyprus,” he said, to loud applause from the chamber.
Within the framework of Greek-Turkish relations, the Prime Minister called for an immediate halt to Turkish overflights of the Greek islands.
Greece is “a peace-seeking democracy that always extends a friendly hand to our neighbours. We are always open to dialogue but there is only one framework we can use to resolve our differences. International law and unwritten principles of good non-neighbourly relations,” he said.
“I want to be absolutely clear. We will not accept overt acts of aggression that violate our sovereignty and territorial rights, including overflights of the Greek islands which must cease immediately.
Returning to a point raised on the first day of his visit to the United States, he said that “the last thing NATO needs at a time when all the focus is on helping Ukraine defeat Russia’s aggression is another source of instability on NATO’s southeastern flank.”
He called on US lawmakers “to consider this when making defense procurement decisions regarding the Eastern Mediterranean”, a clear reference to reports that US President Joe Biden was considering asking Congress to vote for an upgrade of Turkish F-16 fighter jets.
He also called on Congress to play its part in supporting global democracy.
“We need to strengthen our democratic institutions to tackle the root causes of our citizens’ anger and mistrust. We must tackle income inequality without losing the dynamism of our open economies, we must reform social media so that it becomes less socially corrosive, and we must train our young people to seize the opportunities of democratic citizenship in this new era,” he said.
He admitted that the need to reinvent “democracy to meet the challenges of the 21st century may seem like a tall order, but it is the mission of our generation”.
Finally, Mitsotakis called the Greek-American community “an unbreakable bond that will always unite our two countries.”
“Those who sailed to this country were not philosophers and poets like their noble ancestors. For the most part, they were simple workers and they eagerly took any job they could. But no matter how uneducated the Greeks were or how menial the work, they generally applied themselves with great determination and seized every chance to prosper in life and educate their children,” he said. he stated about the tens of thousands of Greeks who emigrated to America.
The United States “has offered them a better future, fulfilling the solemn duty that each generation should be able to live a better life than the last. They lived the American dream but never forgot where they came from. Today, Greeks living in the United States and the three million Americans who identify as Greek include some of the most respected leaders in the arts, sciences, education, medicine, justice and politics.
“I bring you here today the promise of the people of Greece that we will stand with the people of the United States whenever necessary to ensure that the hopes of our ancestors bequeathed to the world 25 centuries ago will endure and that the dream of freedom because every human being on this planet will never die.
“Long live the friendship between Greece and the United States of America,” he concluded.