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Deputy FM Tsiaras’ speech at a Canadian Embassy event marking the 70th anniversary of Greek-Canadian diplomatic relations

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to welcome the Ambassador of Canada Mr. Robert Peck, who undertook the initiative for this event to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Greece and Canada.

I would also like to thank the prominent member of the University of Ottawa Dr. Herman Tesler-Mabé, who wrote the book under the title “Moving Forward Together, Canada-Greece Relations since 1942”, with the kind contribution of the Service of Diplomatic and Historical Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This book undoubtedly demonstrates the close historical and long-standing bonds of Friendship, Alliance, Cooperation and Solidarity of our two countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to start my speech by conveying the warm greetings of Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, who is visiting Libya today, and who asked me to assure you, Mr. Ambassador, that all of us here at the Foreign Ministry are firmly dedicated to further strengthening the political, economic and cultural relations between the two countries.

It is true that, throughout these 70 years, Greek-Canadian relations have been a model of high-level bilateral relations.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established at a difficult time for the world and for Greece.

It was 1942, at the height of the Second World War, in the most tumultuous period of the 20th century, when the Greek government in exile took the initiative to establish diplomatic relations between Greece and Canada. The first Greek Ambassador presented his credentials to the Governor General of Canada in Ottawa, in May 1942.

Relations between the two countries had started much earlier, of course.

The thousands of Greeks who, seeking a better life, made the long trip to Canada in the early 20th century were a vital link between the two countries. All of them – and all those who have followed – came to love Canada as their second homeland. And they honoured and continue to honor their forebears by not forgetting their roots.

With the passage of time, the number of Greeks living in Canada has multiplied many times over.

Today, there are some 350,000 Canadian citizens of Greek origin. They live and prosper throughout Canada; in Toronto, in Montreal, in Vancouver.

There are a strong link joining Greece and Canada. Many of them are now distinguished members of the Canadian political, scientific and business communities, pointing up, in their second homeland, the virtues and talents of Greeks.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During these 70 years – as we saw in the recent (31 October 2012) anniversary event organized by the Canadian Parliament, Greek-Canadian relations have developed steadily, based on mutual respect, solidarity, cooperation, and the shared values of international law, democracy and freedom.

Historic figures from both countries, through their meetings and cooperation, contributed decisively to the development and strengthening of the relations between the two countries.

We Greeks do not forget our friends who stood up for us through difficult times.

And even more so, those who honoured our history.

Prime Minister Mr. Harper paid an important visit to Greece in May 2011, at a crucial juncture for our country, declaring his confidence, on behalf of the Canadian people, that Greece will overcome the current crisis.

No one will ever forget that during his visit to Greece, Prime Minister Harper visited Kalavryta and paid tribute to the sacrifices of the Greek people under the Nazi occupation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dr. Herman Tesler-Mabé, the author of the book on Greek-Canadian relations since 1942, sets down in detail the development of bilateral relations since 1899, when the first Greek Consul General was installed in Montreal.

In his book, he points up the high level of bilateral relations, and today I can say without exaggeration that Greece’s relations with Canada are at the highest possible level.

It is no coincidence that one of the first legislative initiatives undertaken by the new government, under Prime Minister Samaras, was the ratification of the Greek-Canadian Youth Mobility Agreement, which I had the honor, together with Foreign Minister Avramopoulos, of introducing to the Hellenic Parliament. We believe that there is still much room for the development of relations between the two countries in all sectors.

The coming year will see official visits to Canada by Foreign Minister Avramopoulos and the Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, with the main goal of further strengthening and deepening Greek-Canadian relations.

I too intend to visit your beautiful country and meet with the Greek community there in the coming months.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The recent developments at the European Council and the Eurogroup were very important for Greece.

We are now seeing the creation of conditions that ensure that our country can break out of the vicious cycle of crisis and uncertainty, and return, as early as 2013, to the path of growth.

But achieving this goal is closely linked – as Prime Minister Samaras has repeatedly underscored – with attracting foreign investment.

As the structures of the economy are being changed and the necessary structural changes are being implemented, our goal is the influx of new investment capital from abroad.

This is our top priority for the coming time.

The clouds of uncertainty are now dispersing. Everyone acknowledges that Greece, through the sacrifices and resolve of the Greek people, can once again gain a strong voice.

We are leaving the past behind and looking ahead, in the certainty that we are opening a new chapter in our country’s history.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The government and political leadership of Greece – and all of us here at the Foreign Ministry – are unswervingly oriented toward the further development of Greek-Canadian relations and transatlantic, EU-Canadian relations.

In closing, I would like once again to thank Ambassador Robert Peck – and all of you who are here with us today – for the initiative of today’s event, as well as for our cooperation in general.

Thank you very much.