A new era for Athens and SeoulMy visit in Seoul sets yet another important landmark in the relations between our two countries. It is the first visit by a Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, and I am greatly honored to be in a position to witness firsthand the way our relations have prospered, broadened, deepened and become mutually beneficial.
Within a period stretching just over half a century of established diplomatic relations, Greece and the Republic of Korea have demonstrated the strong will of two nations that, despite geographical distance, remain close and fully committed to forging even closer ties.
Ties that are growing stronger through mutual support in facing common challenges. And it is on this occasion, that I would like, first and foremost, to express the Greek government’s sincere gratitude to the Korean people and its government for their remarkable solidarity towards Greece these past few years in its efforts to deal with the refugee crisis.
The recent visit to Greece by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon highlighted the excellent Greek — Korean relations, as manifested during his meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. As both Prime Ministers underlined in Athens, the level of cooperation between our two countries remains solidly high. Greece and the Republic of Korea work closely together within the frameworks of the United Nations and the Intra-regional European-Asian Dialogue Process, ASEM. At the same time, our bilateral relations cover a wide range of joint projects and cooperation schemes in various fields such as new technologies, innovation, environment, transport networks, infrastructure, energy, culture and education.
In this respect, let us not forget that our two countries have established thriving economic ties, particularly in the field of shipping and shipbuilding. This sector has developed greatly since the 1970’s and today forms one of the cornerstones of our cooperation, providing vast opportunities for further development.
In addition, significant prospects for broader and deeper collaboration have opened up in the areas of innovation and high technology. Korean high-tech companies invest in Greek start-ups, while Greek public administration benefits significantly from Korean know-how on e-government, especially following the signing of a relevant memorandum of understanding in October.
Our broadened cooperation also includes top-quality Greek agro-food products that have lately reached the Korean market, contributing to Greek exports, whereas the upward tourism trend from the Republic of Korea to Greece provides new possibilities for further strengthening our ties.
Yet, we are determined not to rest on our laurels. We are ready to explore more opportunities of bilateral cooperation. Greece possesses great advantages in its capacity as Asia’s gateway to Europe. Solid steps have already been taken in this direction and the Republic of Korea can benefit highly from this prospect, as both Prime Ministers emphasized during their meeting.
Also of great importance is our belief in common principles and values. Over the last two and a half years, Greece has been pursuing a multidimensional foreign policy with a view to actively contribute to peace and stability, through the promotion of productive and concrete ideas in international fora and regional organizations, as well as through the promotion of a positive agenda of cooperation in its international initiatives.
Within this framework, Greece stands unwaveringly against attempts to undermine international and regional security. At the height of the Korean War it sent an expeditionary force to fight along the UN forces; today, Greece consistently condemns North Korea’s ballistic and nuclear tests and supports all efforts in the framework of the European Union and the United Nations to assuage and, ultimately, put an end to these threats.
Greece’s full commitment to the promotion of peace and stability is perfectly brought to the fore through the Olympic Spirit. And, in a few months from now, the Republic of Korea will become the center of the world as the host of the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang. An event of paramount importance and symbolism, but also an opportunity to reiterate to the world that the Olympic Spirit and its universal message is a timely reminder that any challenges jeopardizing international security and stability must be dealt with through cooperation, dialogue and respect of International Law.
I am fully convinced that Greece and the Republic of Korea, two nations blessed with rich history and unique culture, will continue to carry forward the ideals of Peace and Excellence while contributing tirelessly to international stability, friendship and progress.
*The author is Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece.