THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRIME MINISTER SIMITIS: Mr. President, President Clinton. President Stephanopoulos has made an effort to achieve a different, a new level of economic performance and operation for its economy. Stability and development are the two trades of our economy. Social justice is the beacon of our economic policy. Thanks to these kinds of performance, Greece is now in a position to cope, in a different way, with its relations with the rest of the world.
Economic weakness, recession, under-development are linked to dependence and submission. We have realized successfully the challenge of our destiny to be determined by ourselves and no one else. We attribute to our independence, substance and meaning by doing away gradually with the gap that characterized Greece in relation to the remaining European Union. We forged one more ties with other countries, and the United States -- the economic presence, the presence of the United States of America in this country has played and still plays a tremendous role.
This policy in the economic field combines with a steady
We do also hope that the European Union can play a role by opening new economic possibilities. European integration is supported by the United States. In an increasingly interlinked world, our participation to these interlinkages is a forced multiplier. It multiplies the force of our voice and our presence.
The European Union is a community of values, enforcing and abiding by these values should be the rule for all those who want to have relations with the European Union. Greece, thanks to this policy of peace, stability and cooperation has become a power of peace in the area. We cooperate in this effort with the United States, as we have cooperated in the past, and we will keep cooperating with the United States in the future.
This cooperation with the United States contributes to forging a more positive climate. We have already secured a different, new quality in the presence of Greece internationally. Our policies have secured a different quality, a new quality, as I said, to the presence of Greece in international forum.
President Clinton, who will address this audience, is a leader of a great country with which we are linked with traditional ties. But President Clinton is not only a leader, he's also a friend with who we have already been able to discuss openly and sincerely all issues without any commitment. The President and his family -- his spouse, his daughter -- we know very well, do know and admire the history and the beauty of our country. They have friendly feelings for the Greek people and for Greece as a country, and we reciprocate these feelings.
The presence of President Clinton here underlines the continuing creative relationship we have and which we will still promote with the United States. We have large margins of improvement -- not that we do not have good relations, we have excellent relations, but we can still improve them. We can multiply the common interests of our people by developing new activities, by taking advantage of the opportunities.
As an example, I will mention this: Greece and the United States of America have established a common -- or joined counsel for a significant degree of cooperation, which we will undertake action in the Balkans. So we have opened a new course, a new road on top of what was already useful, of course, in the past -- I mean the traditional business activity in the area. It's a new course that is founded on the acknowledgment of the fact that knowledge, technology, partnership, open borders do form and shape the new world. In this new world, Greece can walk with optimism, supported by the force that comes out of friendship and cooperation.
The President's presence here and his coming speech will reflect this fact. This friendship is of wider acceptance. It is with great pleasure that I welcome President Clinton in Greece. His visit reaffirms the traditional friendship that binds the two countries and the two peoples. But most importantly, in view to the future, the important is not the past, the important is the common belief that we have to work together for universal community of peace, for global community of peace. We have to work to strive for freedom and substantive democracy.
Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: President Stephanopoulos, Prime Minister Simitis, thank you
for that fine speech. Mrs. Simitis, Mr. Mayor, ministers of the government,
members of the opposition. To all the leaders of the church who are here, the
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, distinguished citizens of Greece, it is a great
honor for all of us to be here. My wife and daughter, the Secretary of State,
members of the White House, two members of the United States Congress, Representatives
Kingston and Maloney.
For whatever reason, standing there in the rain on the Acropolis this morning, I was even more grateful for the deep ties of history, kinship and values that bind America and other freedom-loving nations to Greece -- ties that prove the truth of Shelly's famous line, "Eimaste oli Ellines." We are all Greeks. (Applause.) We are all Greeks, not because of monuments and memories, but because what began here two and a half thousand years ago has at last, after all the bloody struggles of the 20th century, been embraced all around the world.
Today, for the first time in human history, more than half the world's people live under governments of their own choosing. Yet, democracy still remains a truly revolutionary idea. People still fight and die for it, from Africa to Asia to Europe. Its advance is still the key to building a better global society in this most modern of ages.
Another great civic virtue has its roots here in Athens -- openness to the
cultural differences among us that make life more interesting. In Thoucidides
account of his famous funeral oration, Pericles declares, "We lay Athens
open to all and at no time evict or keep the stranger away." Two and a
half thousand years later, Greece is still open to the world and we pray that
everywhere in the world someday everyone will say, "We do not keep the
stranger away." (Applause.)
My wife had, a few weeks ago, to the White House two brilliant men for a conversation. One of them was the founders of the Internet, the other is one of the most distinguished American scholars of the study of the human genome, the gene structure. The biologist said nothing could have been discovered about the structure of the gene without the computer revolution; but that all this high technology had revealed an interesting fact: that all of us, all human beings, genetically are 99.9 percent the same.
And, furthermore, that if you take different groups of people -- let's take
the three most prominently here discussed -- the Greeks, the Turks, the Irish
-- me -- (laughter.) And if you put 100 Greeks, 100 Turks and 100 Irish in three
different groups, the genetic differences among the individuals within each
group would be greater than the genetic profile between the Greeks or the Turks
or the Irish.
Twice since World War II, battles between democracy and despotism have again been played out on Greek soil; each time, thank God, democracy emerged victorious. I have been thinking about that history today again in both its painful as well as its proud aspects. When the junta took over in 1967 here, the United States allowed its interests in prosecuting the Cold War to prevail over its interests -- I should say, its obligation -- to support democracy, which was, after all, the cause for which we fought the Cold War. It is important that we acknowledge that. (Applause.)
When we think about the history of Greece and the history of the United States,
all the troubled ups and downs just of the last 50 years, it is easy to understand
why some of those people who have demonstrated in the last few days have done
so, and easy to understand the source of their passion. I can be glad as an
American and as a free human being that they have the fundamental right to say
their peace. If the people of every country, in the Balkans, for example, had
the institutions and habits of democracy, if they, too, could proudly express
and settle their differences peacefully and proudly and democratically, if the
fundamental human rights of all those people were respected, there might not
have been a war over Bosnia or Kosovo.
In this era of historic sweeping change, we cannot afford paralysis. That was implicit in the Prime Minister's remarks. Surely, the Greeks demonstrate this every day as you build a bustling, modern economy with a booming stock market and one of the fastest growth rates in Europe, on the verge of joining the EMU. If there were Olympic gold medals for economic revival, Greece would surely get the very first one. (Applause.)
American companies and investors are taking notice that Greece clearly is on the right economic path. I believe we can do better and so, in the presence of all these business leaders today, I would like to make three modest proposals. First, I think we should double trade between our two countries in the next five years. Second, I ask Greek and American business leaders to match the money our government is putting into the Fulbright exchange program. (Applause.) And, third, I ask that one of these grants honor Yannos Kranidiotis, the gifted diplomat and former Fulbright Scholar. (Applause.) He was a great citizen, a great friend of the United States, who died with his son in a tragic accident while promoting peace in the Balkans. His life and work exemplify the positive, new role Greece has begun to play in this vital region of Europe.
The whole world is beginning to see Greece in a new light, no longer as one of Europe's poorest nations, but as southeast Europe's wealthiest nation -- its beacon of democracy, a regional leader for stability, prosperity and freedom, helping to complete the democratic revolution that ancient Greece began -- our long-held dream of a Europe undivided, free, and at peace for the first time in history.
And the remaining challenges to that long-held dream are all at play here in this region of Europe. The challenge of bringing stability, prosperity and full democracy to the Balkans, The challenge of creating a lasting peace in the Aegean, and genuine reconciliation between Greece and Turkey. The challenge of integrating a democratic Russia into Europe. The challenge of building bridges between and among the world's three great faiths which come together in Southeastern Europe -- Islam and the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. To finally create that Europe undivided, free and at peace, we must help this region meet five main challenges.
The first -- and I would argue most urgent -- is to stabilize Kosovo and the Balkans, and build the democratic institutions necessary so that all of the people of Kosovo can live in safety and freedom, including the Serbs of Kosovo.
I know there is still much anger and anguish in Greece about the course of
action NATO took, and about the leadership role of the United States in that
action. I do not expect to change what many here believe. But I must say what
I believe. I believe we made the right decision, because at the end of this
tumultuous century in which so much blood has been shed, at a moment when peace
and democracy have triumphed almost everywhere else in Europe and increasingly
throughout the world, I do not believe we could have allowed an entire people
to be exiled from their homes or extinguished from the Earth simply because
of their ethnic heritage or how they worship God. I believe we had a moral and
a strategic obligation to act, and that in acting we saved thousands of lives
and enabled almost a million people to go home.
The third challenge we face together in creating a stable, prosperous and free Southeast Europe is to help every nation in the region build the institutions that make modern democracy thrive. As the only member both of NATO and the EU in Southeastern Europe, Greece is helping to guide this truly historic transformation. The Greek military is laying the foundations for peace through its role in southeastern Europe's multinational peacekeeping force and through NATO's Partnership for Peace. Greek companies are investing in the Balkans, creating jobs and higher living standards, and the rest of us must follow your lead.
The Greek government is leading the transformation of the region's economy,
committing $320 million for reconstruction of southeastern Europe and the rest
of us must follow your lead if the Stability Pact is to have true meaning.
But this is more than just seismic diplomacy. For several months, Foreign Ministers Papandreou and Cem have been holding a dialogue on trade, tourism and the environment. Prime Ministers Simitis and Ecevit had an important meeting just two days ago. Greek and Turkish troops in NATO have joined together in a southeast Europe peacekeeping brigade. You are serving together now in Kosovo. Greece has taken bold steps. In many ways, these steps have been harder for Greece than for Turkey. But both sides are now showing the vision necessary to move forward.
I believe it is very much in your interest to see Turkey become a candidate
for membership in the European Union, for that will reinforce Turkish secular,
democratic, modernizing path, showing Turkey how much it has to gain by making
progress on issues like Cyprus and the Aegean matters. (Applause.)
Now, I know that many Greeks are anxious that if Turkey becomes a candidate for membership, the momentum in improving its relationship with Greece and actually solving these problems will slow. Having just spoken with President Demirel and Prime Minister Ecevit, I do not believe that will happen. But I can tell you this: I will do everything in my power to encourage both countries to continue building on the progress you have made. I am going to keep working hard to promote a just and lasting settlement in Cyprus. (Applause.) I am very pleased that, last Sunday, the parties in Cyprus accepted Secretary General Annan's invitation to start proximity talks, to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations that would lead to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem.
I hope these talks will bring us a step closer to lasting peace. I will keep
pressing for a settlement that meets the fundamental interests of the parties,
including real security for all Cypriots and an end to the island's division.
Our fifth and final challenge is to renew the old and profoundly important
partnership between our two countries and our two peoples. We should promote
more tourism, more cultural exchanges. We should continue in the United States
to supply our NATO ally, Greece, with advanced weaponry. We should be working,
together to fight global threats that know no borders, including the scourge
of terrorism. Terrorists have struck within the borders of the United States;
they have struck here claiming American and Greek lives. The American people
and the Greek people deserve justice and the strongest possible efforts by our
governments to end this menace. I am grateful that we are working more closely
to do just that.
Soon, the world will have an opportunity to look at Greece, and many to come to Greece to participate in filoxenia, when they see Athens throw open the gates of the city to the Olympics in 2004. (Applause.) By then, I want all the world to see what we know today. Greece is a force for freedom, democracy, stability, growth, the dignity of the individual -- assuming, yet, again, the ancient role of the Greeks -- to inspire a more humane world.
Two thousand four isn't that far away, and we have a lot of work to do. But I have faith that we can do it. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 3:57 P.M. (L)
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