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Statements of Foreign Minister Droutsas and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grushko
Mr. Droutsas: A warm welcome to the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and good friend of Greece, Mr. Alexander Grushko. His visit is taking place on the occasion of a Conference that the Foreign Ministries of Greece and Russia are co-hosting and that we will open together tomorrow. It is a Conference on European security, and, if you will, it is a follow-up to the Corfu Process, which Greece launched during its OSCE Chairmanship. And let’s not forget that Russia, through President Medvedev, was the first to talk about the need for a dialogue on the new European security architecture.
Mr. Grushko’s visit to Athens gives us the opportunity, of course, to discuss international issues, regional issues and our bilateral relations. I needn’t remind you that Greek-Russian bilateral relations are at an excellent level in all sectors. These relations are based on a profound friendship between the our two peoples and the level and issue of close cooperation between Russia and the EU and NATO, which Greece desires. Greece is working systematically in this area to promote this close cooperation with Russia.
Finally, as summer is approaching and the tourist season is beginning in Greece, I hope that this year we will have the pleasure of welcoming a large number of Russian visitors to Greece, and I stress that the Greek Foreign Ministry is contributing to the best of its ability in this direction. The Greek Consular Missions in Russia are faster than those of all the Schengen countries in issuing visas for Europe, for the European space. We will continue these efforts, but I want to express the hope that Russian citizens will very soon no longer need visas to travel in Europe. This is a priority goal for Greece, and we are working very systematically in this direction. Once again, welcome to Athens.
Mr. Grushko: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. First of all, I would like to thank you and your Ministry for hosting a very important Conference on European Security. It is very true that Greek diplomacy played a very important role in pursuing new ideas, how to transform the Euroatlantic security environment and we are very grateful to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for such enormous activities like launching the Corfu Process and also it was very important, very crucial I should say, in terms of bringing about new spirit of relations between the Russian Federation and NATO.
And the Lisbon Summit, which was very successful, also resulted in new approaches towards European Security. This is in line with the initiative of our President, Dmitry Medvedev, on a Treaty on European Security, and today with the Minister and bilaterally we will discuss the whole range of features relating to, as you said Minister, relations between EU and Russia, NATO, OSCE, Council of Europe and many other multilateral mechanisms of cooperation, which are playing a very important role in improving the security environment and in terms of being a platform for joining efforts in tackling new security threats and challenges.
And I also share your view that our bilateral relations are in a very good shape. If my memory serves me right, last year, well, we managed even to set a new record in our economic cooperation and our bilateral trade is about seven billion and we could be proud of it and you are absolutely right: Greece is becoming more and more important. Last year, about 319,000 Russian citizens visited Greece and we do hope that we will continue this positive trend. And we will have the chance to discuss bilateral issues also, during this meeting. And again, thank you very much for this very kind invitation.