DCM Burger’s Remarks at WHIA Welcome Dinner

As Prepared

Rooftop Restaurant, Intercontinental Hotel 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021, 8:30 p.m. 

Kalispera sas.  It’s an honor to join so many legislators from the Greek diaspora as Greece celebrates an important milestone: the 200th anniversary of Greek independence.

In particular, I want to welcome State Senator Lou Raptakis and my fellow Americans to Athens.  For the American legislators:  You are not alone in Greece.  This is clearly the year of American tourism here, and it’s wonderful to see so many of our fellow citizens in Athens and on the islands, enjoying the natural beauty, fresh Mediterranean food, and world-class hospitality that Greece has to offer.

I want to thank the World Hellenic Inter-Parliamentary Association (WHIA) for the important work it does to build bridges between Greece and Cyprus and legislatures around the world.

This organization is a testament to the tenacity and hard work of the Greek diaspora.  Wherever they land, Greek people have a special ability to innovate, create communities, and become leaders in their fields, all the while maintaining a strong connection to their homeland.

And nowhere is this more true than in the United States, where Greek Americans form such an important part of the fabric and history of our nation.

The Greek diaspora is the secret ingredient in our remarkable alliance with Greece, strengthening the bonds of friendship and mutual understanding between our peoples.

The unique friendship between the United States and Greece goes back to the founding of our nations, which were rooted in our shared belief in equality, human liberty, and self-government.

Then, as now, Americans felt great pride and responsibility as the inheritors of ancient Athenian principles.  So all across America, citizens established philhellenic societies to provide humanitarian aid to the Greek people and lobby their elected officials to recognize Greek independence.

Two centuries later, the friendship between the United States and Greece is stronger than ever.  As you know, President Biden and his team have a great deal of experience and knowledge of this region.  The President cares deeply about the democratic values that were born here in ancient Athens and has committed to taking our bilateral relationship to the next level.

Tonight, I’d like to give you a brief overview of the U.S.-Greece relationship, focusing on areas of particular interest for WHIA: our collaboration on trade and investment, defense and security, tourism, and culture.

As we emerge from the global pandemic, Greece will gain access to about 32 billion euros in EU recovery funds, which has the potential to dramatically reshape the Greek economy.  I was very pleased to hear that the EU approved the Greece 2.0 plan to use these funds earlier this month, and that the Greek government wasted no time in approving its first 12 projects.

This ambitious plan shares many priorities with President Biden’s infrastructure bill.  Prime Minister Mitsotakis is committed to targeting EU recovery funds towards investments in digitization and the green agenda, areas where we see fantastic opportunities for Greece, and where the United States is Greece’s partner of choice.

The word is out among American investors about the value proposition that Greece’s skilled workforce and strategic location represents.  Microsoft has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a complex of data centers in Attica, a real gamechanger that promises to transform Greece into the cloud computing hub of southeast Europe.

Meanwhile, in northern Greece, Pfizer, Cisco, and Deloitte are expanding their footprint in Thessaloniki, taking advantage of that city’s proximity to the Balkan market of 30 million people.

With the Biden-Harris administration’s focus on climate and the green economy, we also have new opportunities to explore in renewables, energy infrastructure, e-mobility, and the circular economy.  I’m encouraged that the U.S. footprint in Greece’s green energy sector is increasing, bringing American technology and innovation to the Greek market.

In addition, American industry is helping the Greek government modernize the Hellenic Armed Forces after a decade of economic crisis.  I was very proud to see all the state-of-the-art U.S. defense technology on display at DEFEA this month.

The United States is helping Greece to upgrade its capabilities and strengthen interoperability through the F-16 Viper upgrade and P-3 modernization programs.

We are also fully committed to our bid for the Hellenic Navy’s Frigate Modernization Program, which represents a generational opportunity to deepen and sustain our naval partnership.  The American proposal is invested in the renaissance of the Greek shipbuilding industry and will help the Hellenic Navy expand its maritime domain awareness in conjunction with other recent acquisitions like the seven Lockheed Martin Sikorsky MH-60 Romeos.

But our security and defense relationship is about more than just hardware.  It’s about deepening our commitment to a long-term partnership to advance security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans.

So we’re very excited about the U.S.-Greece Defense and Interparliamentary Partnership Act introduced by Senator Menendez and Senator Rubio, which will further increase our forces’ interoperability.  And both of our governments, at the highest levels, are committed to increasing the length and scope of the MDCA to advance joint security goals in this region and beyond.

We also see great opportunities in the tourism sector, which accounts for about a fifth of Greek GDP.  American demand to visit Greece has skyrocketed this summer, and airlines have launched an unprecedented nine direct flights from the United States to Athens, which reflects how the U.S. market is looking at Greece today.

Finally, I want to highlight the fantastic work of Ambassador Angelopoulos and the Greece 2021 Committee to commemorate the Greek bicentennial this year.

To complement the Committee’s program, the Embassy launched the campaign, “USA and Greece: Celebrating 200 Years of Friendship,” which is designed to highlight the role of American philhellenes in the Greek Revolution, honor our countries’ strong people-to-people ties, and look to the future of our strategic relationship.

If you have time this week, I’d encourage you to visit both the new Museum of Philhellenism, particularly the third floor which focuses on American philhellenes, and the Gennadius Library special exhibit entitled, “The Free and the Brave: American Philhellenes and the Glorious Struggle of the Greeks.”  Both of these exhibits were supported by the Embassy.

As the United States joins Greeks around the world in celebrating the birth of the modern Greek state, we are proud to recognize the contributions of organizations like WHIA to our alliance.

Together, we look forward to honoring the unwavering friendship between the U.S. and Greek democracies, and charting an ambitious and bold agenda for an even stronger and more prosperous shared future together.  Efcharisto poli.