The Greek Press Today
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26 May, 2007
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis emphasised here on Friday that Greeks living abroad were a "valuable factor of strength" for the country and in the way it deals with critical national issues, speaking to a large audience in a city that hosts one of the biggest expatriate Greek communities in the world.
Karamanlis, accompanied by his wife Natassa, Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Deputy Foreign Minister Theodoros Kassimis, winds up a visit to Australia on Saturday, the first official visit by a Greek prime minister in office to Australia.
Following a resounding welcome on Friday evening at the Rod Laver Arena, Karamanlis stressed that the Greeks of Australia were building bridges of friendship and cooperation with Greece’s long-time friend, Australia, while he also indirectly apologised for a decades-long delay on the part of the Greek state in meeting its obligations to them.
Noting that the Greeks of Australia made the motherland proud, he thanked them "for always being present whenever and wherever the homeland needs you".
"You, the Greeks abroad, are a precious factor of strength for Greece and our foreign policy. We saw you on the front lines in critical national issues. The contribution of eminent perso-nalities of Australia in defending our national issues is just one more example of your influence and effort," he said.
The prime minister said modern-day Greece was a democratic, peaceful and creative country and, as an active member of the European Union, was a protagonist in the European integration, actively participating in efforts for expanding cooperation, development and progress of the peoples of the region, and was proceeding with national confidence in the modern-day world, exercising an open horizons policy.
Referring to the FYROM "name issue", Karamanlis underlined that Greece has taken numerous and very significant steps for finding a mutually acceptable solution, adding that "now is the time for FYROM to realise that the fruition of the negotiations with Greece will facilitate its incorporation in the Euro-Atlantic institutions and will improve regional cooperation".
Karamanlis further said that it was now Skopje's turn to "manifest greater sincerity in its relations with Greece."
"Provided they desire to enter the European family, they are obligated to prove that they can operate in a European spirit, as regards the resolution of differences; they can embrace, in action, the fundamental principles of the European political culture. They are obligated to abandon actions and practices of irredentist propaganda. They must abandon their impasse-inducing stance and cover their own part of the distance, in the direction of a mutually acceptable solution," the Greek prime minister stressed.
Regarding Turkey, Karamanlis reiterated Greece's backing of the neighbouring country's European orientation, stressing that "its complete adaptation to the European acquis, the principles and values of Europe, also means its full accession.
"We want a Turkey that acts European, a Turkey that does not put forward unilateral claims, but instead, respects all its neighbours. The development of good neighbourhood relations, in conjunction with the advancement of the reforms, can send a positive message regarding its volition to follow the European path," he added.
On the Cyprus issue, Karamanlis said the real obstacle to extension of European benefits to the entire island was the "occupation wall", and noted that Athens and Nicosia were struggling for a functional and viable solution in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and the EU principles and values.
Karamanlis further thanked the Greeks of Australia for their contribution as volunteers during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as well as their consistent support in the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles.
He said that his government was advancing programmes to reinforce the teaching of the Greek language, with specialised training of teachers from the Greek community in Australia, and expanding the hospitality programme for younger and older children of the Greek community in Greece.
Greece, today, was a country that was moving forward with optimism and facing the challenges of the new era with self-confidence, while it was also developing in recent years at one of the fastest rates in the EU.
"Today, the Greek economy is becoming stronger, more competitive and more extrovert," the prime minister said, adding that "we are in a new era that requires changes and reforms, far removed from the dogmas and rigidity of the past. We believe that the Greek society has great possibilities. We are following a policy oriented towards growth, employment and social cohesion."
Karamanlis announced that a bill would be tabled soon in Parliament that will enable overseas Greeks who are registered voters in Greece vote in national elections in their country of residence (absentee vote), so that they would be active participants in the political life of Greece, and he further outlined the initiatives that have been undertaken with respect to the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE). He also expressed satisfaction with the signing of the long-awaited Greece-Australia social security agreement -- which was signed during his Australia visit -- after many years of negotiations.
Earlier on Friday, he met with Victoria State Premier Steve Bracks and with Victoria Governor David de Kretser, with talks focusing mainly on the Greek community in Australia and strengthening economic and trade relations between the two countries.
Additionally, he visited the Greek Orthodox College "Aghioi Anargyroi" in Auckley, a predominantly Greek area in south-eastern Melbourne, which is attended by approximately 750 children of the Greek community.
In a brief greeting, Karamanlis stressed that Greece will do everything possible to reinforce the bonds between the new generation of Greek Australians and Greece, through special programmes, teacher orientation programmes, and hospitality programmes in Greece for the children.
On Saturday, Karamanlis will leave for Darwin, where he will meet with Northern Territory Chief Minister Clare Martin, followed by a reception hosted by Martin.
At noon on Saturday, the Greek prime minister will depart Darwin for Hanoi, Vietnam, on the last leg of his tour, where he will have talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet.
Meanwhile, foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis attended events marking the 66th anniversary of the Battle of Crete, held Thursday night at the Cretan Village in Melbourne.
Source: Macedonian Press Agency