By David Bjorkgren, Editor
Special to the Hellenic News
Speaking at a joint news conference Oct. 17 with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, President Donald Trump pledged the American people’s support as Greece recovers from its economic crisis. The prime minister paid a diplomatic call to the White House, meeting with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
“I have encouraged the prime minister in his continued implementation of reform and reform programs and I have totally reaffirmed our support for a responsible debt-relief plan,” Trump said. “I thank the Prime Minister, his predecessors, and the Greek people for their efforts to return stability and prosperity to Greece.”
Prime Minister Tsipras said Greece looks forward to attracting U.S. investments, with economic officials from both countries looking for opportunities to invest.
President Trump described the friendship between America and the Greek people as “long and enduring”, owing to Greek’s role as the cradle of western civilization and democracy.
In March, the White House celebrated Greek Independence Day, reaffirming America’s ties to Greece.
“America and Greece draw on this common history and heritage and on our peoples’ abiding commitment to freedom and sovereignty in working together on great challenges and opportunities now before us,” Trump said.
The U.S. President reported the two nations have agreed to cooperate on defense, energy, commerce and trade.
He thanked the Prime Minister and Greece for “serving as gracious hosts to our U.S. naval forces at Souda Bay” and for being one of the few NATO countries spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense. The President added a U.S. deal was in the works to upgrade the Hellenic Air Force’s F-16 aircraft.
President Trump said he appreciated Greece’s support of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector and the liquefied natural gas facilities that will transport diverse sources of energy to Europe, including potential liquefied natural gas exports from the United States.
The United States will be the “Honored Country” at next year’s International Fair in Greece. “This historic and trade exhibition will showcase American technology, enterprise and innovation on the world stage,” he said. “We look very much forward to sending a high-level delegation to attend this wonderful event.”
Prime Minister Tsipras thanked the president for his hospitality and for their productive discussions.
“The friendship between our two countries is very strong, and it’s based on our common democratic principles, on the values that we jointly share as peoples,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.
“It is correct that the founders of the United States were inspired by Ancient Greece, and the Greek revolution was inspired by the American Revolution for independence. At the same time, our relationship is also based on a very dynamic diaspora of Greek people here in the U.S., which has many to offer for both countries.”
He pointed to “wonderful” growth rates in Greece as a sign that the country was coming out of its crisis. That growth is attracting investments and an increase in exports, he said.
Greece also provides security in a region of the world that can be one of the most unstable, sensitive areas of the planet, Prime Minister Tsipras said. “It’s a country which maintains the dialogue with Turkey despite the difficulties we face and the challenges, but knowing the very important European course of Turkey.”
Greece is becoming a significant crossroads for transportation and energy. He gave a nod to the completion of the TAP and EastMed pipeline, and an agreement for an LNG station in Alexandroupolis in northeast Greece, enabling it to receive natural gas exports from the United States.
The Prime Minister also pointed to the ports in Athens and Thessaloniki and the promotion of strong and fast rail connections with the rest of the Balkans.
The United States has a significant role to play in helping Greece create a pillar of stability and security by freeing the nation’s concerns regarding security and defense, he said.
Greece wants a fair and viable solution the Cypriot issue, based on the decision of the U.N. Security Council, that will benefit all Cypriots “without guarantors or occupying military forces,” adding that the “dangerous intervention-type presence of Turkey in the Aegean must end.” “It undermines on a daily basis the relationship between two NATO allies in a broader unstable and sensitive area,” Prime Minister Tsipras said.
When asked by reporters how Greece would attract long-term foreign direct investments, Prime Minister Tsipras said proper legislation would attract investments, like a fixed tax rate for 12 years for high value investments, a fast track process for strategic investments and a reduction in bureaucracy through digital innovations. “Investments mean jobs. Jobs mean less unemployment. And it means return of young people that have left Greece—educated Greeks that have left Greece to go to other countries—to come back to Greece,” he said.
President Trump referred to Greece as a country of “tremendous potential.” “I know many people are looking to invest in Greece,” he said.
Vice President Mike Pence congratulated the Prime Minister on Greece’s return to economic growth and to the financial markets. The Vice President underscored continued U.S. support for a comprehensive settlement to reunify Cyprus as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation and welcomed Greece’s increasing cooperation with Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt in the eastern Mediterranean.
In remarks during a working lunch with President Trump and Prime Minister Tsipras, the president promised to continue discussions.
“I commend you on what you’ve been able to do in a short period of time,” he said. “Many, many friends from Greece. And we are with you.”