Tuesday, April 12, 2022, 5:00 p.m.
Kalispera. This is really exciting. We’ve been waiting a long time for this day.
Minister Kalafatis, Deputy Governor, Voula, friends, thank you so much for joining us today here as we celebrate the opening of our newest American Space in Greece, the Thessaloniki Tech-Lab.
The Thessaloniki Tech-Lab is our sixth American Space here in Greece. And I should point out that it’s very unusual to have six different windows on America in a country of Greece’s size.
This number of American spaces speaks to Greece’s strategic importance, but also to the United States’ desire to foster our relationships with the Greek people.
It also speaks to the tremendous interest that we have found across Greece in learning more about the United States and our shared values.
And the presence of an American Space here, specifically, in Thessaloniki, which is something that I’ve been working for over the past four years, represents our Embassy commitment to northern Greece, and our commitment to continuing to work to nurture Thessaloniki’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, something that I’ve been talking about almost since the day I arrived here in Greece.
We’re extremely happy to partner on this American Space, as the others, with Kosta and EduAct, a longtime Embassy partner who has already been offering programming in our five other American spaces throughout Greece.
Kostas happened to be one of the stars of the U.S. Mission’s “Making it Happen” 2020 campaign, an initiative to highlight U.S.-Greece collaboration in the education sector.
We all know his commitment to Greek youth and education, and are really, really proud Kosta to call you a partner. And thank you very much for your work and congratulations on this initiative to you, the whole team at EduAct, but also to my team at the Embassy and the Public Affairs Section, led by Cindy and Shanna Surendra, who’ve worked really hard to make today happen.
Our collaboration on the new Tech-Lab will provide opportunities and a convening space for the people of Thessaloniki. And we’re especially excited to engage this city’s community of over 170,000 university students.
We look forward to collaborating with Thessaloniki’s incredible university communities, with its U.S. affiliated educational institutions, like Anatolia College and the American Farm School, and the innovation hubs that have been launched here in Thessaloniki under the aegis of our big tech sector investors, Pfizer, Cisco and Deloitte.
This effort all began in 2018 when the United States was the honored country at the Thessaloniki International Fair. And we have come a long way since then, not only with this space, but with the U.S. Mission’s presence and engagement across northern Greece.
I especially want to thank the whole Consulate team, led by our fantastic Consul General, Liz Lee, for all of the work that they have done to make this vision a reality. And I want to underline my confidence that we are fantastically well-positioned to continue that in the years ahead.
The Thessaloniki Tech-Lab, like all of our American Spaces throughout Greece, offers a platform to engage with local communities on issues of importance to the U.S. Mission, but also to the communities themselves. We see these centers as a complement to our diplomatic work. They’re one of the best resources we have to engage with local audiences and forge real human connections.
I’m thrilled that we’re joined for today’s opening of the directors of all five of the other American Spaces. And I understand Kostas is going to be recognizing all of you later in today’s program. But I also want to say to all of you, thank you for all the amazing work that you do, and the partnerships that we enjoy to advance the U.S.-Greece bilateral relationship across the length and breadth of this country.
The American Spaces network in Greece is incredibly robust, and each month the network offers dozens of programs, including English language training, information sessions on studying the United States, skill building sessions on STEM and innovation, media literacy seminars, and so much more. All these programs are free of charge and draw upon our local partners and their expertise.
It’s important that even through the pandemic our American Spaces continued to creatively engage local audiences through virtual programs. And I’m incredibly proud of the extensive online programs the American Spaces launched during the COVID crisis, breaking attendance records and drawing in thousands of new Greek customers.
There is fantastic scope for engagement here at the Thessaloniki Tech-Lab. And I’m delighted to see that just since the beginning of 2022, Kostas and his team have already executed dozens of virtual programs for the benefits of the facility community. I know this is just the beginning.
As many of you know, this is my farewell visit to Thessaloniki as I prepare to depart my post as U.S. Ambassador to Greece at the beginning of May. Throughout nearly six years in this beautiful country, Thessaloniki has been a special place that I’ve enjoyed coming back to again and again.
I’ve loved the wonderful waterfront, the fantastic food, but most of all, the incredible warmth of Thessaloniki’s people. I want to thank you all here today for the work you are doing to forge the ties between our two countries and for being part of today’s program. I’m incredibly proud of the Thessaloniki Tech-Lab, and I look forward to seeing the results of its work and its contributions to the U.S.-Greece relationship for years to come.