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Statements by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Bolaris, during the briefing of diplomatic correspondents on religious / ecclesiastical diplomacy (Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 January 2019)
"Let us welcome you all, and wish you a happy new year with health. First of all, I would like to thank you for your presence, to welcome you, and to wish a good year to the country, the people, the citizens and to each one of you personally.
We have organised today's meeting to inform you of an initiative launched by the Ministry, which deals with issues of religious and ecclesiastical diplomacy.
It is clear that soft policy, or policy in the fields of culture, education, arts, and ecclesiastical questions is a type of politics which opens up avenues of communication between peoples, countries and states. It is this policy which further helps entrepreneurship, trade, business, and tourism to grow more. It is therefore this soft policy that makes it easier for governments and politicians to deal with the difficult problems arising in the domain of the hard core of politics, as well as with the problems existing between countries. These are indeed self-evident matters.
The second point I want to point out is that Ecumenical Hellenism has an excellent network on all five continents. There is a network for Hellenism - encompassing both the Greek and Cypriot Communities, a network for ‘Romiosyni’, and a network for Orthodoxy, and beside these excellent networks, other friendship networks initiated by other peoples operate in a parallel way, with whom Hellenism has long-standing relations, and with whom it is fully collaborating.
Modern science says that nowadays the network is perhaps the most valuable weapon that can be used in all areas, not only in politics and entrepreneurship, but also in trade, culture and the arts. We have therefore the luxury of having an excellent network. If we combine these two things we realize that the challenge before us is to work in cooperation with the existing networks in order to promote soft policies, so as to be able to intervene on the international scene, on soft politics issues as well as on hard core politics issues.
To this end, the Ministry has so far held five meetings, which took place in a spirit of osmosis between people who are all actively engaged with these issues and therefore they know them well.
We held four meetings during which we encountered people from the circles I mentioned before, the ecclesiastical circles, the circles of Ecumenical Hellenism. We met ecclesiastical, academic and intellectual personalities from these circles. Four of them were held in Athens and one in Thessaloniki. During the fifth meeting, which took place yesterday in this very place, were invited and took part representatives of all the religious communities currently based in Athens and which have headquarters in this city. That is, Catholics, Protestants, Muslim Sunnis and Shiites, Assyrians, Copts, Armenians and Jews.
It was our first meeting and an excellent one at that. In the coming weeks we want, once we have made the necessary preparations, to hold a meeting at the level of the fora, and which will assume the form of a conference. The bodies, the personalities, all those who will be invited, will accept to help with their own opinion, their own words, and their own proposals, in order to move forward the project which the Ministry has in mind.
We want the doors of Greece and the doors of the Ministry to be open to the people who live in Greece. But they must also be open to the horizons I described previously, to the horizons of Ecumenical Hellenism, so that we can have the best possible coordination and intervention on the questions which are singled out. The questions identified can be of ecclesiastical or religious character. Yet they may also deal with the environment, climate change, or even with cultural, educational, athletic matters.
We have asked all of our guests - the list is long, about 60-70 people with whom we conversed during these five meetings, with about 15 interlocutors each time - their own assistance and their own contribution in creating the best possible conditions for the exercise of a diplomacy which will exemplify the positive action and intervention that the country can have on the international stage. A country which believes in good neighbourhood, in friendship, in good relations, and which wishes to further improve and promote these relationships at all levels. And here, at the Ministry, on the basis of our own dossier, soft politics is our remit and it is around it that we intend to make our voice heard.”