Thursday, October 27, 2016
Consul General’s Residence
Καλησπέρα σας. Let me begin, first of all, by saying how proud we are of our Consul General here in Northern Greece. Rebecca, thank you for opening your home to all of us. I’m the new guy here! I only presented my credentials to the President on Monday. The fact that Mary and I are up here in Northern Greece within the first few days of becoming official is a reflection of the very high priority that I will place on this Consulate, the team here, but also all the cooperation that is going on between the United States and Greece here in Northern Greece.
I am very encouraged by what I have seen over the course of my conversations today. I was honored to spend some time with the Governor, with the Mayor, with the Deputy Minister, with a very energetic and straightforward group of business representatives. I was also genuinely inspired by my visit today to the American Farm School and I am so, so proud of our historical partnership with that institution and what it represents as a window on the best of America and the very longstanding partnership that we have with the people of Greece. So, I come away from my first twenty-four hours in Thessaloniki slightly exhausted by all the work that Rebecca has made me do but also inspired by all of the opportunities here, everything that’s happening.
I spent yesterday evening at Anatolia College which, again, another one of these fantastic institutions which is a legacy of more than a half century of American partnership with the people of Greece and a really wonderful symbol of our commitment to work with all the people of Greece to help this country move forward.
As Rebecca says, I come off of three very challenging years as U.S. Ambassador in Ukraine. Greece is going to present a very different set of challenges but I think one of the connecting threads between the two jobs is the importance of Europe. Our work here in Greece, as my work in Ukraine, is grounded on the principle that we are most effective when we work in partnership with our European allies. But also the principle that what happens in Greece is of fundamental importance to Europe. That is to say, our longstanding goal – a Europe whole, free, and at peace – can only be achieved if the Greek economy is restored to health, if the Greek people are assisted in managing the enormous challenges that have been created by the refugee and migration crisis, and if we continue to work together to uphold the core democratic principles that are the foundation of our alliance with Greece.
Now we’ve got an interesting couple of weeks coming up. In the United States, we have a little election in a couple of days as you may have noticed. But we also have this incredibly exciting visit by President Obama. Everybody at my Embassy is incredibly excited by the opportunities that represents. The first time we will have an American President in Athens since Bill Clinton in, I think, 1999. And I think you will hear from President Obama a very strong message of support for Greece, to the Greek people – encouragement of continued progress on economic reform but also genuine respect for the generosity that the people of Greece have demonstrated in dealing with the refugee crisis and in helping to accommodate those less fortunate who found themselves unexpectedly on Greek shores.
I’m excited that we’re going to be here for Oxi Day tomorrow and get to see all of that. But it’s also an opportunity for me to have some interaction with the Greek military leadership because one other pillar of the U.S. relationship with Greece is our alliance and I am very proud of all that we have done together. There are important initiatives underway here in Northern Greece with the NATO Rapid Deployment Center and I’m very glad that we have the Deputy Commander with us here this evening.
This is only one slice of what is a multifaceted alliance between our countries which has stood the test of time. What has changed now is the nature of the threat and the challenges that our alliance has to be prepared to contend with. But the one thing that’s clear, at this point, is that Greece is, in a very complicated region, a pillar of stability and a country that the United States is continuing and committed to continuing the closest possible partnership with.
Let me, again, thank you all. Ευχαριστώ πολύ που ήρθατε! And also say how eager I am to spend more time getting to know what you’re doing. I said to Rebecca, she’s going to see a lot of me. I’ve got a commitment to climb Mount Olympus! I was talking to the Governor about the wintertime opportunities for skiing, the summertime opportunities for hiking and mountain biking. So I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me but there’s also a lot that Mary and I look forward to taking advantage of in this beautiful corner of Greece. So thank you very much. Στην υγειά σας!