Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Venizelos’ statement to representatives of the Greek Communities of Ukraine (Mariupol, 2 March 2014)
I am very pleased to be here today, in Mariupol, with the administration of the Federation of Greek Associations of Ukraine, which is based in Mariupol, and with representatives of the Hellenism of Ukraine – particularly of this region, which has a very large Greek element.
I am here precisely because Ukraine is going through a very critical time. Greece, as the Presidency of the Council of the European Union at this time, wants to contribute as much as it can to the stabilization of the situation in Ukraine, to there being order, to there being security, to there being a transitional government – democratic, inclusive – in which all of Ukraine’s political, social and regional forces participate; a government that will lead the country to the restoration of democratic order, to presidential elections, to the functioning of a smooth system.
I will shortly be traveling to Kiev, where I will meet with the country’s new leadership, with the Prime Minister, with the Foreign Minister, with the Speaker of Parliament. And what is urgent at this time is that we overcome the tension in the relations between Russia and Ukraine; that the situation be normalized, in accordance with international law, between two neighbouring and friendly states that are also of very great importance to the European Union, to the whole of the European continent, to global peace, security and stability.
Tomorrow afternoon, the Foreign Ministers of the EU member states will be meeting in Brussels, and I thought it Greece’s obligation, as the Presidency of the Council this semester, to come here for a first-hand briefing from the new Ukrainian authorities, so that we, as Greece and the European Union, can contribute to the achievement of the goals I mentioned earlier, which also concern you, because you, too, want to feel secure and feel that a state that is protecting you is functioning.
I want to assure you that, as Greek citizens, Greece has you under its full cover and protection, and we will utilize every potential we have – national and European – so that you can have this protection that you must have in the difficult moments you are living through.
This is not the time for us to talk about the problems of the Greek community of Mariupol, of the associations and the federation, or of the university or the educational system. I am aware of these. I have been monitoring them systematically for years now. The Consul General and our Ambassador in Kiev keep me apprised. Mr. Gerontopoulos, the Deputy Foreign Minister for Greeks Abroad, also keeps me informed.
I see your documents, the papers you send. I am aware of the needs that exist, and we will make a great effort to help in all sectors: at the university, with the schools, with cultural activities, with the needs that exist for every Greek family living here in Mariupol and in Ukraine in general.
I also want to convey to you the message of the President of the Republic, Karolos Papoulias, of the Prime Minister, of the Hellenic Parliament, of all the political forces – because we are all united, as a nation, when there is a need to protect our compatriots, anywhere in the world.
I want you to feel that the Foreign Ministry and the government as a whole are at your side. The Consulate General and our Embassy in Kiev are your homes. Any need that arises, our help will be direct, practical, effective, in agreement, naturally, with the Ukrainian authorities, with whom we must have excellent relations in order to be effective in what you want us to do.
Of course, you are citizens here in Ukraine. You have your Greek identity and your Greek pride. We want Ukraine, the country where you live, to prosper, to overcome the crisis, and, of course, what we want most of all – and what everyone wants – is for there to be neither civil war nor military tension between Ukraine and Russia. For Ukraine not to become a battlefield again; for us not to have a new cold war that will again divide the European continent. We must avoid this and we will avoid it.
Thus, the purpose of my visit is very, very specific. I want to convey this message, which is political and moral and sentimental and practical, and I want to ask you, please, tell us whatever you need to tell us immediately, so that we can help you and react in the appropriate manner.