Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis delivered a historic address to a joint session of the American Congress during his Official Visit to the US on May 16th-17th, not only because it was the first time ever that a Greek leader was accorded the singular honour of addressing the US Senate and House of Representatives, but also because it came at a critical juncture for Greek foreign policy and at a time of tectonic global political shifts, of a struggle between authoritarianism and democracy and of a struggle within democratic States to safeguard and protect democracy from the threats of populism and the bitter internal divisions that it breeds.
During his meeting with US President Joe Biden, but also in the extended talks between the two delegations that followed, a wide range of issues of bilateral, regional and international interest were raised.
The Greek side appeared very satisfied with the Greek Prime Minister’s contacts in Washington, noting that the climate at the meeting of the two leaders was very good. The US President was well versed on the issues of the Eastern Mediterranean, showing special interest in them, while his extremely positive feelings toward Greece were reflected both in his frequent references to the Greek-American community and in the time he devoted to these contacts.
It was highlighted that US-Greek relations are at their best and Greece has an important role to play in the matter of defending and consolidating democracy worldwide, an issue for which President Biden shows lively interest, namely the battle between democracies and authoritarian regimes. Discussions also focused on Ukraine and the united western front against the Russian invasion, but also on how the USA will contribute in practice to making Europe independent of Russian gas. They also discussed the transformation of Alexandroupolis into a regional energy hub, as well as the many and important US investments in Greece.
During the contacts, it became clear, that Greek democracy has now proved its resilience as it has overcome the difficult years of the economic crisis, with the economy emerging stronger and its institutions becoming better protected. In fact, the Greek side expressed the desire for bilateral cooperation to be extended to all possible areas, while Premier Mitsotakis expressed the hope that President Biden will be able to visit Greece in the near future.
During the discussion between the two leaders, Premier Mitsotakis set out all the details concerning the intensifying Turkish provocations, namely the overflights over inhabited Greek islands. “It is now clear that everyone understands that expansionism and revisionism have no place in an increasingly complex global landscape,” government sources said after the meeting at the White House, confirming that the issue of Turkish provocations was not raised on its own, but as part of security concerns in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Regarding the issue of the sale of American F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, a competent government source referred to the speech by the Greek Prime Minister to Congress, stressing, however, that it is better for some issues not to be discussed in public. Premier Mitsotakis referred to the Cyprus issue, reiterating that a two-State solution in Cyprus cannot be accepted.
It was also confirmed that within the context of bilateral defence cooperation, Greece has decided that the 5th generation fighter aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force will be the American F-35s. Premier Mitsotakis expressed the desire for Greece to join this programme, clarifying that Athens is interested in buying an F-35 squadron before the end of the current 10-year period, and specifically after 2028, when there will be the necessary fiscal space for a such a move.
It was revealed that a few days ago the company producing the F-35s, Lockheed Martin, also expressed in writing its interest for Greece to join the specific programme and Greece’s affirmative response will be sent the immediate future. “If we can agree on all the parameters, the specific aircraft will be acquired after 2028, while the best way of financing such a long-term investment for Greece in 2030 will be sought,” revealing Lockheed Martin’s interest in investing in the Hellenic Aerospace Industry (EAV) with the necessary clarification that the Greek State will retain the majority stake and control of the company.
The two leaders also agreed on the issue of reducing the price of gas internationally through the imposition of a ceiling. In fact, the two leaders agreed to coordinate their actions in view of the crucial extraordinary EU Summit at the end of May. Regarding the Eastmed pipeline, the Greek side reiterated its positions that the final choice, namely whether the solution of the pipeline or that of the liquefied natural gas transportation will be approved, will ultimately be determined by the market and the cost. However, the warm US support for electricity interconnections was reaffirmed, without excluding US investments in them in the future.
Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi met with Prime Minister Mitsotakis following his address to a joint meeting of Congress. They offered their congratulations on Greece’s 201 years of independence and reaffirmed the strong alliance between the United States and Greece, as well as their shared commitment to democratic values, international norms and the rule of law. They also thanked the Prime Minister for Greece’s robust support to Ukraine and solidarity in the face of Russian aggression and for Greece’s contributions to Europe’s efforts to diversify its energy supplies. The two leaders also discussed security issues in the Eastern Mediterranean and wider Middle East.
Prime Minister Mitsotakis also addressed guests at a dinner organised in his honour by representatives of Greek-American organisations in Washington, DC. The Greek Premier was honoured by the community and in turn, he honoured 12 Greek-Americans.
The recipients included Supreme President of the Order of AHEPA Jimmy Kokotas on behalf of the organisation that is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Michael Karloutsos on behalf of his father Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, businessmen and grand benefactors Angelos Tsakopoulos and George Behrakis, Executive Director of HALC Endy Zemenides, Marina Hatsopoulos representing her family of entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Consul General of Greece in New York Dr. Konstantinos Koutras on behalf of New York University Provost Katherine Fleming, Consul General of Greece in Boston Stratos Efthymiou for retired Greek-American US Senator Olympia Snowe and Consul General of Greece in San Francisco Socrates Sourvinos on behalf of noted businessman and philanthropist George Marcus.
The Prime Minister was accompanied in his US visit by Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, Education Minister Niki Kerameus and Deputy Foreign Minister Kostas Frangogiannis. Minister Dendias had separate meetings at the State Department, successively with his US counterpart, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and with the Special Envoy of the US President for Climate, John Kerry.
The Greek-US strategic relationship, developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Balkans and Ukraine were discussed with the Secretary of State. The prospects of bilateral cooperation in tackling climate change and taking joint initiatives to protect the seas based on respect for the international law of the sea were examined with the President’s Special Envoy for Climate.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis delivers a historic address to a joint session of the US Congress, the first-ever by a Greek leader. Being welcomed to the White House by President Joe Biden; with Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris; in discussion with Speaker Pelosi accompanied by Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and Defence Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos; Minister Dendias and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. The President and Premier with their wives; President Biden and his good friend Protopresbyter of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Rev. Alexander Karloutsos – one of the most prominent religious figures in the US.
(Photos: D.Papamitsos/Office to the Prime Minister.)