It is a real pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, to be able to be with you today at the Louvre to inaugurate what is indeed a very particular, dare I say, very sophisticated exhibition to celebrate the 200 years since the beginning of our War of Independence. It is indeed true that when Greeks rose against the Ottoman Empire, their chances to secure their freedom were limited. They were fighting against all odds.
And if it were not for the assistance of foreign powers – France included – the creation of the first nation state in the southeastern tip of Europe would not have been a reality. And part of this exhibition is also a “thank you” to all those who contributed to the cause of Greek independence.
And,of course, France was always there from the very beginning. I think we are all moved by the fact that during the Revolution, works of art were commissioned and sold on auctions to finance the War of Independence. And it is indeed fitting, I think, that probably the most emblematic painting which mobilized public opinion in support of the Greek cause, “The Massacre of Chios” has been brilliantly restored to its original colors. And you have the possibility to actually see it in the Museum of the Louvre.
Indeed, these 200 years exhibit the complicated history of the creation of the Greek nation state and this constant struggle between people who viewed themselves as the “Guardians” of one of the world’s most important ancient cultures, which struggled to maintain within the creation of their newborn country, the spirit of Orthodox Christianity, which kept Hellenism and the Greek spirit alive during the difficult years of the Ottoman occupation and reconcile those historical trends with a desire to create a truly modern European nation state. And I think it is exactly this complexity of this trip, this 200-years trip, which is so brilliantly presented in this magnificent exhibition.
And I would like to thank again all the contributors, all the museums from France and from Greece who contributed works of art in order to present this fascinating, this very, very unique story.
And I think it is fitting, Mr. President, to take a step back and think that when France celebrated its Bicentennial, it did so at a time of profound seismic historical changes back in 1989, when the Berlin Wall was coming down, when we thought that the end of history had arrived. When essentially Eastern Europe was liberated.
But I dare to say that we are also celebrating our 200 years of independence at another absolutely critical period when new challenges, the most important one being Climate Change emerge. And when again collective reaction is so absolutely necessary. And maybe the next chapter in Greek history, the next chapter in French history would be very much dependent on our ability to superimpose upon our national identities, which were created through difficult struggles, an additional layer of identity. And that is the European identity for which both myself and the French President are constantly fighting.
So I would like to thank you again for putting together this exhibition. This has been a difficult year for us. We have not been able to celebrate our Bicentennial exactly as we had desired due to Covid.
But as the year is coming to an end, I’m very happy that the visitors to the Louvre will have the ability to appreciate, through this exhibition, the strong ties between France and Greece and the contribution that France played in the creation of the Greek modern nation state.
Thank you very much.