Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Thank you very much. Your Eminence. Senator Menendez, ladies and gentlemen, thank you to all the organizers, for putting together this amazing gathering. I had prepared some remarks, but allow me to briefly speak from the heart. Because this, indeed, was a very important visit. An important visit for me personally, but an important visit for Greece, for Hellenism. It was the first time a Greek Prime Minister had the privilege of addressing a joint session of Congress.
And it was a unique opportunity for me to speak about the special bonds that connect our two democracies. American democracy, tracing its origin back to Athenian democracy, inspired by this unique experiment in the history of civilization. When in the fifth century BC, a small group of Greeks decided that self-governance and equality against the law was the proper way to govern their affairs. And of course, the Greek revolution, which started in 1821, was inspired by the founding fathers and by what happened here in America a few decades before. And indeed, against all odds, Greece managed to fight and win its independence. The first nation state to be established in the Balkan Peninsula. And those 201 years since the beginning of the war of independence were not always easy.
They were difficult. But Greece made progress because it was always, like the United States, on the right side of history. And this Bicentennial, which we are celebrating today with probably six months of delay, well, it was good because we had 18 months to celebrate. What was indeed a momentous event in Greek history has reminded us of this path and has reminded us that the history of Greece was a succession of great leaps forward, but also of catastrophes from which Hellenism has suffered. But overall, the progress has been remarkable.
And today, Greece is a vibrant democracy with a flourishing economy, a country that has managed to overcome a very painful financial crisis, and a country which is again offering hope to its young citizens. Probably the most encouraging thing that is happening in Greece today is the fact that many young people who left the country during the crisis have decided to return to Greece.
They do so not just because we offer more employment opportunities. Unemployment has been significantly reduced over the past years. Investment has accelerated in the country. There are good jobs in Greece. But no one decides to take their family back to the homeland unless they feel confident that the long-term trajectory of the country is moving in a positive direction. And this is exactly, I believe, how Greeks feel about Greece today.
We had to address numerous challenges over the past three years since we came into office. We had to fight with what was essentially an organized attempt to breach our borders by Turkey when they tried to send tens of thousands of migrants across the Evros border. Then we had to face the global pandemic. And of course, now we have to deal with the implications of a horrible war which is taking place in Ukraine. But during those three years, we never lost our focus.
And we always remember the reason why Greeks put their trust in us in the first place. The reason was to deliver growth, deliver jobs, change the state, reform education, transform Greece from a “laggard” into a protagonist within the European Union.
And I believe that we are very well on the way to achieve these goals. At the same time, Greece is punching above its weight when it comes to its regional presence. I had an opportunity to also discuss with President Biden the importance of this bilateral relationship, not just within the context of our strategic cooperation, but also within the context of the new energy architecture in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greece is becoming an entry point for natural gas from the region, but also from the United States. We’re investing in our energy infrastructure.
We are helping Balkan countries to diversify away from Russian gas. And this is only one example of the breadth of the cooperation that we can establish between Greece and the United States. So, what I can tell you today is that the future of the country is indeed very promising. We’ve managed to turn crises into opportunities, and we will remain committed to this course. We will stay this course until the job will be done. And the job will only be done when we will have reached the point to say that we have transformed the country, we have changed the fabric of Greek society, and Greece will become the modern state, the modern country that Greeks deserve, that you deserve.
But tonight is not about me. It’s not about Greece. It’s about you. It’s about honoring the Greek American community. I was so moved when I spoke today in Congress, when I looked up at the galleries and saw so many of you feeling proud about my presence, they are feeling proud about Greece.
And the purpose of this event is for me to honor twelve very important Greek Americans who have contributed significantly, not just to their home country, the United States, but also to Greece. It is my great honor to do so today. I was very concerned about the fact that we would have left out people which we would need to honor. So what I can tell you is that this is going to be a continuous process. So do not feel offended, if you’re not honored today. But I think once you hear the people who will be honored, you will recognize that this is something which probably should have taken place a long time ago.
So without further delays, let me thank you again for your presence. Let me thank you for your support to Greece. I am happy that you are feeling happy today. It was indeed a special day for Hellenism, a special day for Greece, a special day for Cyprus, a special day for all of you. I think you have every reason today to feel as proud as I do.
Thank you very much for your presence. Thank you very much for your support and for your warm applause.
It means a lot to me, as someone who first came to the United States when I was 18 years old, to be able to return as Prime Minister in this position. It is very important to me. So thank you very much.