Greece celebrates this year the 194th anniversary of the start of the national Revolution for Independence against the Ottoman rule, on the 25th of March 1821. Although it is not widely known, the first heroic incidents of the Hellenic Revolution took place here, in the Principalities. Alexandros Ypsilantis leading a few but determined Greek students crossed the river Prut, on 22 February 1821. The battles that ensued in Dragasani and Focsani, and the unselfishness displayed by Yorgakis Olympios defending to death the Secu Monastery, were desperate, against the superior Ottoman troops, but they helped consolidate the Revolution in continental Greece. Thus, we never forget that the almost ten year struggle for the Greek Independence has started here, in Romania. And we are furthermore flattered to believe that the memories of that rebellion contributed somehow to inspire the strong Independence movement in the Principalities, which led to the autonomy and then the Independence of Romania some years later. Since then, the close ties and friendship between Romania and Greece have been reconfirmed in many other occasions throughout the centuries. The longstanding spiritual bonds and trust that link Greece and Romania are the firm foundations on which our multifaceted relations and cooperation are built, both on the bilateral as well as on the regional, European and international level.
This year also marks the 135th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Greece and Romania. That anniversary provides us with an opportunity not only for looking back to what has been achieved already, as a result of our longstanding friendly relations, but for further strengthening our cooperation and synergies at every level as well. It gives us the necessary time space to revisit this period of time and realise that the respect for pan-human ideals such as freedom, justice and respect for international law and the principles of good neighbourly relations provided both our countries with this specific power overcoming difficulties.
All these years, we have kept an in depth political dialogue at all political and diplomatic levels, through frequent consultations. At a time of multiple challenges for our region -and opportunities as well-, we are determined to work for the dynamic development of our relations. And the outcome so far tells much about the proximity of interests and the solidarity between our two nations. The European integration process has given both, Greeks and Romanians, further opportunities to intensify exchanges and define new fields of joint work for the promotion of new common interests within the Union. And in light of the economic crisis that still lingers in our continent, synergies look like the evident means of getting ahead. This is why the new Greek Government is setting a paramount focus on policies and actions supporting all the citizens heavily hit by the crisis, at the same time re-orienting the economy, through reforms, so that growth, employment opportunities, economic and social cohesion may return and help create a new economic mixture as a viable alternative to the current austerity impasse. In this scope, the use of tools provided by the EU may contribute substantially to solutions.
Romania and Greece are working together in bilateral, European, Euro-Atlantic and multilateral level and also within the framework of many regional organizations and initiatives. Back to the 00’s, Greece offered a strong backing to Romania’s NATO and EU aspirations and this proved to be mutually useful. Bucharest and Athens share similar positions on the agenda of the European Union (EU) for a strong Cohesion Policy and a further use of the European Structural Funds to this end. Greece warmly supports the completion of the EU integration and foremost the right of free movement and residence. We remain a steady supporter of the accession of Romania to the Schengen area. Our countries, aiming at consolidating stability and development in our neighbourhood, are also working intensively together in the framework of the South East Cooperation Process (SEECP) and the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC).
Greek – Romanian economic and commercial relations
Besides the traditional historical and cultural ties between the Romanian and Greek peoples and the excellent political relations, Greek – Romanian economic and trade relations are of main importance for both countries and they have proved solid, over the years. Greece is among the top destinations for about one million Romanian tourists, offering a leisure season throughout the year. In Bucharest, a bilateral Chamber of Commerce and Industry and an office of the Greek National Tourism Organisation are at the disposal of investors and travellers.
Investments – Greek companies came to Romania early, since the very beginning of the 90’s, that is, during the challenging years of deep democratic transformation of the country. They have displayed thorough trust in the potential of the Romanian economy and society, for no regret. Instead of waiting for the optimal conditions that the EU accession provided in the mid-2000s, they have proceeded to productive investments, thus contributing to a faster modernization of the Romanian economy. Greek companies were the sixth largest investors in the Romanian economy at the end of 2014, with an invested capital of around 4 billion euros. These funds not only remained intact in size during the crisis, but they have been slightly increased, over the last two years. Today, the number of registered companies of Greek capital or participation exceeds 5000. Telecommunications, constructions, heavy industry, services, naval industry, banking sector, food and medical equipment are the main domains of Greek entrepreneurial activities here. In some of these sectors Greek companies owe more than 10% of the national whole. It is worthy stressing that the Greek business presence has created so far some 40000 job positions in Romania.
Trade – As Greece and Romania were both affected by the global financial and economic crisis, they are reducing their trade deficit by intensifying export activity. But even so, one could say that the bilateral commercial relations have become stronger. Bilateral trade is balanced and its volume has been stabilized on over 1 billion Euros over the last few years.
In conclusion allow me to stress my personal optimism for the future. The historical background and recent developments in the relationship between Greece and Romania show that bilateral ties remain strong and maintain a high potential. This dynamism can further be exploited and organised through the opportunities offered to both countries by their EU membership. Our long standing friendship and the enhancement of our multilevel cooperation show us the way to take more from our common political, economic, commercial and cultural agenda with mutually advantageous results.