The African dimension of Greece’s foreign policy
The African dimension of Greece’s foreign policy was demonstrated with the visit by Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias to Rwanda; the first visit of a Greek Foreign Minister to the African country beginning the effort to build strong cooperation relations with African countries. Foreign Minister Dendias’ visit clearly exhibits Athens’ intention to open up to sub-Saharan Africa, which for years remained outside the framework of Greek foreign policy priorities.
Greece is determined to establish closer relations with African countries, Minister Dendias said in joint statements after meeting with his Rwandan counterpart Vincent Biruta in Kigali, a few weeks after their discussions on the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly in New York. “We want to strengthen our relations with African countries because, among others, Africa will be an economic powerhouse of the world. Some of the fastest-growing economies are on this beautiful continent,” he said. He also highlighted that “We, Greece, do not have a colonial past and consequently we do not have a similar history. Thousands of Greeks have migrated to Africa and established thriving Greek communities throughout the continent.”
The Greek Foreign Minister said that cooperation had to be strengthened with countries that shared the same values and principles, expressing his conviction that relations between countries must be governed by International Law. He noted that respect of the Charter of the UN promotes a peaceful resolution of differences on the basis of International Law, sending a message that the use of force or the threat of the use of force had no place in the 21st Century.
The Greek head of diplomacy noted that his visit to Rwanda was his first to sub-Saharan Africa and “long overdue”. He recollected the last agreement signed by Greece and Rwanda 35 years earlier and acknowledged that this had never been implemented, adding that this “was completely unacceptable.”
In a tweet after the meeting, he said this had focused on strengthening bilateral relations in areas of common interest, including economic cooperation, investments, green growth and tourism, as well as EU-Rwanda relations. He highlighted the potential for improving economic ties between the two countries “which are currently almost non-existent” as Rwanda was one of the best African destinations for business activity and a rapidly-growing economy.
He pointed to Rwanda’s contribution to UN peacekeeping missions and the important role it played in international organisations, such as the African Union and the global Francophonie Organisation. In Africa, the continent with the greatest dynamics of economic growth, Rwanda is considered a model of economic reconstruction and growth and is among the three African economies with the best performance in entrepreneurship.
“Today, the Government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wants to present tangible proof of its willingness to support the people and society of Rwanda,” he added, announcing that the Greek Government will make a donation to finance projects related to the protection of journalists and freedom of press.
During the visit, Ministers Dendias and Biruta signed two Memorandums of Understanding between the Foreign Ministries of Greece and Rwanda, one concerning political negotiations and the second concerning cooperation in diplomatic training.
Minister Dendias was accompanied on his visit to Kigali by the Secretary General of Primary Health Care, Marios Themistocleous, and together they handed over 330,000 Covid-19 vaccines to Rwandan authorities. Greece had donated another 200,000 vaccines to Rwanda in September to fight the pandemic.
Pictured above: President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, receives visiting Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias; the Foreign Ministers of Greece, Nikos Dendias, and of Rwanda, Vincent Biruta, exchange Memorandums of Understanding between the two Ministries; Minister Dendias pays his respects at the Kigali Genocide Monument, saying that after its recovery after one of the worst genocides in human history, Rwanda is a worldwide model for reconciliation, rebuilding and national unity. He noted that he had found the ceremony deeply moving. The handing over of the 330,000 Covid-19 vaccines.
(Photos: Hellenic MoFA)