Ambassador Pearce Addresses AHI Reception (12/10/2013)

Ambassador Pearce Addresses American Hellenic Institute Reception (State Department Photo)
Ambassador Pearce Addresses American Hellenic Institute Reception (State Department Photo)

Χαίρετε!  Κυρίες και κύριοι, καλησπέρα σας. Είναι τιμή μου να σας μιλήσω για τις σχέσεις μεταξύ των λαών μας.  Thank you for that kind introduction.  I am very honored to be here with such a distinguished group of Greeks and Americans.  This is my chance to introduce myself to one of the most important groups in Hellenic-American affairs.  You represent the best of our interlinked communities.  From your work on relations between America and Greece, to broader issues in the Mediterranean, this group is a leading voice in the region.

Tonight I’m here to talk about Hellenic-American relations.  We are at an inflection point, where so many things are happening that can affect both sides of the Atlantic.  Our Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Victoria Nuland has called for a “Transatlantic Renaissance.”

Whether it involves trade, reform, or leadership in Europe and the region, we can start working together now on the key elements of that renaissance.In thinking about leadership, as you may know, Greece takes over the Presidency of the European Union next month.  We see a number of areas where we can work together to further our shared goals.  We can work together to move forward on negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  We hope to conclude a comprehensive and ambitious TTIP that will lead to expanded trade and investment across the Atlantic.  TTIP can help facilitate the economic reforms and opening to trade that are vital to Greece’s recovery.  TTIP can be for our economic health what NATO has been for our shared security for over six decades: a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.  It will advance the kind of open, rules-based public commons in which our nations thrive.  As Treasury Secretary Jack Lew noted when he visited Greece in July, engagement with Europe remains at the top of our agenda, because U.S. and European growth and prosperity are inextricably linked.  With American and Greek leadership on both sides of the Atlantic, TTIP can be a political and strategic bet we are placing on each other, and on our shared future.

We’re confident that Greece will provide strong leadership of the EU because we’ve seen leaders here make hard decisions.  Greece has chosen to follow the path of reform with all the painful but necessary consequences that this choice entails.  There is great respect and understanding in Washington for the difficult steps Greece has already taken.  President Obama and Vice President Biden noted these reform efforts when they met with Prime Minister Samaras earlier this year; so did our Treasury Secretary whom I’ve already mentioned; so did our Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker during her visit to Athens in November.

I want to reiterate something that Secretary Pritzker said when she was here in Athens: we know that Prime Minister Samaras has made — and will continue to make — bold and difficult decisions to keep Greece on the path of fiscal and structural reform, to promote growth and overall economic prosperity.  This road has been challenging, but there has been progress.  Going forward, Greece cannot simply look to austerity as a strategy, but must also emphasize growth and jobs, which will benefit all the citizens of Greece.  No one says that reform is easy, but ultimately Greece will be able to provide the greatest prosperity to the greatest number of Greeks when its economy is open, transparent, rules-based, with stable and predictable tax and regulatory frameworks.  Greece’s emergence from economic crisis as soon as possible is in both of our national interests.Also in our interest, as Americans, is to have a strong Europe, and Europe needs a strong America as well.  A “Transatlantic Renaissance” will require a new burst of energy, innovation, and growth, rooted in our shared democratic values and ideals.  We are at a time and place where Greece can help lead that renaissance, one that strengthens our common interests.

We’re fortunate because we have an example of our common interest in action, our partnership in NATO.  Since 1952, our countries have worked together, promoting peace and stability in the Middle East, North Africa, the Western Balkans, and beyond.  Now, Greece and the U.S. can be leaders in another type of security: energy security.  Five years ago no one would have predicted that to happen.  Today, America is the top natural gas producer in the world.  And developments in Greece, including the decision to build the Trans Adriatic Pipeline to bring Caspian gas to Europe via Greece, are strengthening Greece’s energy leadership as well.  The Pipeline will bring new foreign investment as well as jobs, especially to hard-hit provinces in Northern Greece.  It will strengthen broader EU energy security.  Potential energy resources near Crete and in the Adriatic likewise may provide substantial economic benefits.

Together,  we are in the midst of major advances in energy diversification and security.  Having mentioned political leadership in Europe, Greece will also need strong private sector leadership to return to growth.  People are taking notice of the changes here.  The Athens Stock Exchange is up by about 50% from this time a year ago.  The World Bank moved Greece up 17 places from last year in its “Doing Business Report.”  The private sector can build on this.  It can develop Greece’s tremendous human capital, representing thousands of talented Greeks who stand ready and eager to build the future.  It can invest in promising economic sectors, like tourism, agriculture, and information technology.  Private sector leaders can also mentor Greek entrepreneurs by sharing their experience, skills, values, and, especially, encouragement.

We know that there remains much still to do.  The government must persevere with efforts to improve the business and investment climate, open markets further to competition, improve the functioning of the judicial system, and increase liquidity – especially for small and medium enterprises.  Greece should continue with its efforts to streamline bureaucracy, improve licensing processes, ease requirements to start a business, and lower other impediments to foreign investment.

We know these are difficult steps.  But we also believe that the process of reform is the only way to take Greece on its final steps out of this crisis, rebuild its economic foundation, and ensure that it emerges stronger than before. As Ambassador here over the next few years, I will be working to strengthen a dynamic relationship that covers a wide variety of issues.  And so I am looking forward to working with the Greek-American community to strengthen and deepen that relationship in any way I can.  We deeply appreciate the work that the American Hellenic Institute does to advance Greek-American relations.  Είμαστε φίλοι και συνεργάτες, και, μαζί, μπορούμε να φτιαξουμε ένα καλύτερο μέλλον.  Σας ευχαριστώ πολύ. (We are friends and partners, and, together, we can create a better future. Thank you very much).