Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Prime Minister, it is a great honor to welcome you here in Athens today, four decades after the last visit of an Indian leader to our country, that of Indira Gandhi, in September 1983.
Our meeting today is indeed a new starting point in the relations between Greece and India, marking, I believe, a very important moment in our shared path and the ties that have united our countries for many centuries, from the ancient trade routes and the path of Alexander the Great to the philosophical quests that shaped our civilisations.
Our history, as we discussed, is accompanied by the same values: democracy, peace and justice. And it is precisely on the basis of these powerful foundations of our long-standing relationship that we have the great pleasure of now upgrading our cooperation to a strategic relationship, thus underlining that Greece and India are in fact much closer than the geographical distance that separates them. But also that they are ready to walk side by side on the path of modern challenges. Especially at a time of international turmoil and war in Ukraine, events that make it even more imperative to uphold the United Nations Charter.
I am pleased to note that in recent years our relations have improved significantly, our high-level contacts have intensified. But there is so much more we can do together.
Therefore, we have the basis for a very broad framework for bilateral cooperation – we had the opportunity to discuss this in detail – from the economy and defence to culture and tourism, from cooperation in the agricultural sector following the signing yesterday of the relevant memorandum, to joint defence against the consequences of climate change.
Thank you for your kind words, for your support to Greece in difficult times, as your visit coincides with a major challenge, not only for our country but also for the entire Mediterranean region, due to unprecedented wildfires. Thank you again both for your solidarity and for including this issue in our agenda of discussions. The sharing of experience, particularly with regard to the use of technology in the prevention of natural threats, is becoming a key priority.
However, the spectrum of our common bilateral interests is broad and that is why we will continue to work to turn today’s possibilities into tomorrow’s tangible realities, with the first objective of doubling – why not within the next four years – our bilateral trade, an area with significant room for improvement. At the same time, we should move forward with multiple parallel initiatives that will bring our two peoples even closer, with an emphasis on economic cooperation, on the investments we can make in India or Indian companies can make in our country.
Moreover, our governments have adopted a very important Joint Declaration, which transforms our relationship into a strategic one, thus highlighting the need to walk together as fellow travellers to face the stakes of tomorrow on one side, acting jointly on fronts related to diplomacy and security.
We agreed that we are fully committed to the objective of maintaining maritime security, to our commitment to International Law and to the Convention on the Law of the Sea – a critical issue given the common knowledge that concerns both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
On the other hand, by intensifying transnational economic contacts, such as those between Greek and Indian businesses and institutions, we discussed the great importance of having, for example, a direct air connection between India and Greece, the great opportunities that exist in areas such as tourism, economic cooperation, in sectors such as agri-food, pharmaceuticals, the technology sector.
And, of course, the need for our cultures and especially our young people to be able to meet more quickly, more often, more easily, to encourage relations between our two peoples. There is, after all, a very dynamic Indian community living and working peacefully in our country.
I saw that many of them greeted you with great enthusiasm this morning when you arrived at the hotel, because I have no doubt that your state is now the size of a real Asian giant. But ours is the dynamic gateway, the eastern gateway to Europe, a huge opportunity for India, as the country in continental Europe that is closest to this great economic superpower.
And, of course, this would also open up opportunities for a transcontinental approach, which would clearly seal an ambitious free trade agreement between India and the European Union.
India has made huge strides forward. Again congratulations on your technological achievements, the conquest of the south pole of the Moon by your spacecraft. Prime Minister, you really seem to be aiming very high.
You know that our country has also left a crisis behind, it is developing at a fast pace, will soon regain the investment grade status, and is playing a leading role in the Balkans, in Eastern Europe, in the Mediterranean. It is becoming a global investment destination and a new economic, energy and trade bridge of cooperation between three continents.
It is no coincidence, and allow me to conclude with this, that both our governments are undertaking bold economic reforms. Like you, I am now serving my second term, while you are at the end of yours, I am at the beginning, but with strong governments, with determination to implement economic reforms for the benefit of our citizens. Today, the most populous, the largest democracy on the planet is hosted by the first democracy on earth. The omens, therefore, are very favourable.
Prime Minister, dear Narendra, I am pleased to accept your invitation to visit India in order to give a new impetus to this strategic partnership. After all, there is an Indian proverb that says “when two friends stand next to each other, they cease to be two. For they form the number 11”. So it is up to us to follow it and to do it justice.
Thank you for the productive discussions. And once again, on behalf of the Greek people, I welcome you to Athens.
Upgrading the Greek-Indian relationship to “Strategic”
The two leaders agreed in a Joint Statement to upgrade the Greek-Indian relationship to a “Strategic Partnership”, while they agreed to work towards expanding bilateral cooperation at the political, security and economic levels, with the aim of doubling bilateral trade in the coming years.
The Joint Statement reflects the common understanding between Greece and India for a free, open and rule-based Mediterranean Sea and Indo-Pacific, “in accordance with the Law of the Sea and in particular with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and with full respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and freedom of navigation for the benefit of international peace, stability and security”, as stated.
Earlier, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Agricultural Sector, while an agreement on Mobility and Migration is expected to be finalized in the near future, which is already under preparation and the importance of which was stressed by the Prime Minister during the expanded talks with the participation of the two delegations.
The two leaders discussed and agreed to deepen and intensify the cooperation between the two countries in the fields of defence, shipping, science, technology, cyber, education, culture, tourism and agriculture.
They also exchanged views on regional and international issues. The Prime Minister underlined Greece’s role as a pillar of stability, peace and security in the region and as a bridge of cooperation between three continents.