Robert Menendez's speech at the Acropolis Museum, in the context of the "Greece 2021" Committee's event entitled Forum "Greece in 2040"
The pandemic, the climate change, the fight for freedom, human rights, open societies and peace, the significance of international collaboration, the strong USA-Greece relations, and above all, the geostrategic and geopolitical role of Greece in the new global environment in the following decades were the key points of the speech of the Chairman of the United States Congress Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Menendez at the Acropolis Museum. Mr. Menendez was in Athens invited by the Greece2021 Committee to participate in a Committee event in the context of the Forum "Greece in 2040."
"A future we can build together"
With the sacred rock of Acropolis as the backdrop, the American senator referred to the long-standing bonds that tie Greece and the United States and made a profound and multifaceted analysis on the international geopolitical equilibrium, and also the situation in our region and the collaboration between the two countries. "This evening, we meet here in the birthplace of democracy, during the bicentennial year of the Hellenic Republic's independence. This is a time to reflect on how our two young republics have intersected over centuries and what lies ahead for the U.S.-Greece bilateral relationship. Tonight, I wish to share with you my vision, both for the region and for the future of our partnership. It is a vision guided by the challenges we face, the values we share, and the future we can build if — and only if - we do it together," the American senator mentioned in his speech's opening statement.
Mr. Menendez described how the ancient Greeks, philosophers and politicians who introduced Democracy and the Rule of Law, influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, the friendship that connected Thomas Jefferson with Adamantios Korais, and also the movement of American philhellenism during the Greek Revolution.
"Today, aspiring democrats around the world continue to draw inspiration from the founding of the modern Hellenic Republic. The people of Greece fought hard for freedom from the Ottoman Empire. Thousands gave their lives so that they might build a modern Republic atop this sacred ground."
"Turn a time of great peril into a time of great promise"
"Today, Lord Byron's dream is a reality, and we revel in the fact that Greece is free, that Greece is prosperous. Yet, we cannot take this dream for granted. Not at a time when so many challenges to our collective security abound," stated Mr. Menendez, adding:
"The human race remains locked in an epic battle against a deadly pandemic that has claimed millions of lives and destabilized economies around the world. We face an existential threat in the form of climate change, which has already devastated communities throughout Greece and the United States this summer. And if that were not enough, the rules-based international order that brought us so much prosperity, peace, and progress in the decades since World War II are under threat like never before. We built this system of global governance atop a foundation of shared ideals, like democracy, human rights, free and fair competition, and open societies. Yet today, new forces are chipping away at that foundation."
"At a time like this, going it alone will never do. We must work together. Because only together can we turn a time of great peril into a time of great promise, both for the Hellenic Republic and the partnership between our nations, "noted the American senator in his speech.
The international environment and the new possibilities
Mr. Menendez referred to the new global environment that affects the broader area as it is shaped by the strategic antagonism between the United States and China, Russia's latest behavior in a series of issues, and Turkey's attitude. "The United States stands ready to support efforts in the region to improve relations and ease tensions. But we also cannot be silent when Turkey's behavior exacerbates tensions. All too often, the current leadership in Turkey seems intent on stoking division, be it in the eastern Mediterranean, the South Caucasus, or elsewhere," he mentioned.
Speaking about the future, Mr. Menendez underlined that "while bicentennial celebrations are a great opportunity to reflect on past accomplishments, they also spur the imagination to see what can be. And the possibilities that await the Hellenic Republic are limitless. Two hundred years ago, you won your independence. Today, you are a leader in the region, promoting peace and stability in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean, in Europe, and around the world. And I have no doubt that the boundless energy and creativity of the Greek people will empower this nation to soar to new heights for another two centuries and beyond."
"Greece is an ideal partner to the United States. The tenets of democracy were born in this place, and today, you are well-positioned to help lead diplomatic efforts to counter autocracy and protect human rights worldwide," he mentioned in his speech.
Climate change and the future of U.S.-Greece collaboration
Mr. Menendez also described the challenges posed by the issue of climate change and referred to the recent devastating fires in Greece. "I will tell you, watching hundreds of fires burn across this beautiful country broke my heart. I offer my deepest sympathies for the loss of life and have called on the Biden Administration to assist with relief, rebuilding, and reforestation. The United States was one of the first to respond to the Greek government's request for assistance with a U.S. Navy P-8 that provided Greek firefighters with indispensable real-time surveillance data to locate the fastest spreading fires," he noted.
Lastly, he emphasized "the exciting new opportunities for Greece's economic leadership in the years ahead," while he stressed the significance of the 3+1 partnership (Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and the United States), which is now ripe for expansion beyond energy cooperation, in areas like security and trade. "On all of these fronts, the alliance between the United States and Greece has never been stronger. You are a reliable partner, a fellow democracy, a NATO ally, an EU member, and a champion for peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans, and beyond," he stated.
Closing his speech, Mr. Menendez noted: "From the ancient Greek thinkers who inspired America's Fathers, to the friendship between Jefferson and Korais that gave succor to the Greek independence movement, to our shared commitment to advancing human freedom in the 21st century, our destinies have been and always will be forever linked. Our love of freedom, our belief in democracy, our trust in the rule of law is all part of our collective DNA. And that DNA will remain the foundation of the friendship between our nations for generations to come. Today Greece is on the cusp of a new future, one with deep roots that both inspired the ancient world and continue to illuminate and inspire today. Just like the shining Acropolis standing behind me."
"Greece 2021" Committee President: The challenges of the future at the heart of the Forum "Greece in 2040"
"The bicentennial of the Revolution of 1821 coincided with a year of unusually complicated circumstances. But the history of Greece is full of "stones that did not sink," Elytis writes. Our people, over the centuries, have learned how to turn the stone into sand, how to overcome difficulties and dead ends, and always trail on the path of progress and growth. This prompted us, the "Greece 2021" Committee, to go beyond what is casually expected of us," noted the President of the "Greece 2021" Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, in a greeting addressed at the event and added: "In the Committee, we felt that our history is equally honored with commemorations and also with acts of contribution and solidarity. That's why at the beginning of the year when the second wave of the pandemic peaked, we donated 18 mobile ICU beds to the National Health System and funded research towards an innovative Greek drug against Covid-19. With the same reasoning, we decided to allocate the proceeds of the Numismatic Programme of the Committee, from now and until the end of the Programme, to the effort to heal the wounds left in our country by the recent fires".
"Greece, like the rest of the planet, needs to prepare and protect itself from the extreme weather phenomena brought on by climate change - one of the greatest challenges of the not-so-distant future. Several factors, such as the giant steps in technology, migration, demographics, changes in work relations, the need for intercultural and interreligious dialogue, define our era as a time of great change. The outlining of these changes, in the context of the Forum "Greece in 2040", is an important project of the Committee," noted the President of the Committee, referring to the attempted extroverted assessment of the challenges and requirements that Greece will have to face in the next 20 years.
For months now, all the social and productive institutions of our country have been participating in it, while the outcome of their work will be presented to the public on October 19th and will be documented in detail in a "White Paper," which will be a helpful tool accessible to all.
It is noted that the speech of Senator Menendez was attended, among others, by the President of the Hellenic Parliament, Konstantinos Tasoulas, former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the members of Government Nikos Dendias, Christos Staikouras, Theodoros Skylakakis, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Vassilis Kikilias, Nikos Papathanasis, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Haris Theocharis, the Chief of Defence Konstantinos Floros, Ignatios, Metropolitan Bishop of Dimitrias and Almyros, former ministers Evangelos Venizelos, Georgios Katrougalos and Dora Bakoyannis, the U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, the Ambassador of Greece to Washington Alexandra Papadopoulou, representatives of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, representatives of productive bodies participating in the works of the Forum, members of the Assembly of the "Greece 2021" Committee, and more.