Obama states US sup­port on cru­cial is­sues for Greece

The Cyprus is­sue, the need for debt re­lief, the refugee cri­sis, NATO

Kathimerini English - - Focus -

Pur­pose of the trip

Our work has also helped to sta­bi­lize the global econ­omy… I’ll spend this week re­in­forc­ing Amer­ica’s sup­port for the ap­proaches that we’ve taken to pro­mote eco­nomic growth and global se­cu­rity on a range of is­sues.

I look for­ward to my first visit in Greece. And then, in Ger­many, I’ll visit with Chan­cel­lor Merkel, who’s prob­a­bly been my clos­est in­ter­na­tional part­ner these past eight years. I’ll also sig­nal our sol­i­dar­ity with our clos­est al­lies, and ex­press our sup­port for a strong, in­te­grated and united Europe. It’s es­sen­tial to our na­tional se­cu­rity and it’s es­sen­tial to global sta­bil­ity. And that’s why the Transat­lantic Al­liance and the NATO Al­liance have en­dured for decades un­der Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tions…

In my con­ver­sa­tion with the pres­i­dent-elect, he ex­pressed a great in­ter­est in main­tain­ing our core strate­gic re­la­tion­ships. And so one of the mes­sages I will be able to de­liver is his com­mit­ment to NATO and the Transat­lantic Al­liance. I think that’s one of the most im­por­tant func­tions I can serve at this stage, dur­ing this trip, is to let them know that there is no weak­en­ing of re­solve when it comes to Amer­ica’s com­mit­ment to main­tain­ing a strong and ro­bust NATO re­la­tion­ship, and a recog­ni­tion that those al­liances aren’t just good for Europe, they’re good for the United States, and they’re vi­tal for the world.

Greece and the US

I’ve al­ways wanted to come to Greece and I’m de­lighted to be able to make this part of my last trip over­seas as pres­i­dent of the United States.

I think we all know that the world owes an enor­mous debt to Greece and the Greek peo­ple. So many of our ideas of democ­racy, so much of our lit­er­a­ture and phi­los­o­phy and science can be traced back to roots right here in Athens.

I’m told there’s a say­ing from those an­cient times, ka­los kai agathos, when some­one or some­thing is good and beau­ti­ful on the out­side, but is also good and no­ble on the in­side in terms of char­ac­ter and in terms of pur­pose. And I think that’s a fine de­scrip­tion of the friend­ship that ex­ists be­tween the Greek peo­ple and the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

Now, the ideas of an­cient Greece helped in­spire Amer­ica’s found­ing fa­thers as they reached for democ­racy. Our rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas helped in­spire Greeks as they sought their own free­dom. And Amer­i­cans came here to help fight for Greek in­de­pen­dence. At the dawn of the Cold War, when Pres­i­dent Tru­man com­mit­ted the United States to the de­fense of Greece, he said, “I be­lieve that we must as­sist free peo­ples to work out their own des­tinies in their own way.”

To this day, the United States is pro­foundly grate­ful for our friend­ship and al­liance with Greece. And I’m per­son­ally very grate­ful to my many friends in the GreekAmer­i­can com­mu­nity, sons and daugh­ters of Ellines who have found suc­cess in ev­ery walk of Amer­i­can life.

Sup­port for Greece

Ob­vi­ously, Greece has gone through very chal­leng­ing eco­nomic times over the last sev­eral years. And it has been the pol­icy of my ad­min­is­tra­tion to do ev­ery­thing we can to work with the Greek gov­ern­ment and the Greek peo­ple to re­store growth and op­ti­mism and to al­le­vi­ate hard­ship. And we are glad to see that progress is be­ing made, al­though we rec­og­nize that there are sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges ahead, and we in­tend to stand shoul­der-to-shoul­der with the Greek peo­ple through­out this process. And fi­nally, whether it’s deal­ing with ter­ror­ism, ad­dress­ing some of the chal­lenges that are oc­cur­ring in the Mid­dle East, host­ing our naval ves­sels, co­op­er­a­tion in the Aegean Sea, the strong NATO re­la­tion­ship be­tween the United States in Greece is of the ut­most im­por­tance. And I want to reaf­firm not only our ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the Greek peo­ple in that al­liance, but un­der­score how im­por­tant we con­sider the Transat­lantic Al­liance.

Sup­port for Europe

We be­lieve that a strong, pros­per­ous and uni­fied Europe is not only good for the peo­ple of Europe, but good for the world and good for the United States. And we also be­lieve that it’s im­por­tant that all peo­ple have op­por­tu­nity and in­clu­sion in growth in­side of Europe. And part of my mes­sage as I travel not just to Greece but to meet with other Euro­pean lead­ers is to en­cour­age a process that en­sures op­por­tu­nity for all, par­tic­u­larly for the youth of Europe and youth here in Greece.

The refugee cri­sis

I also want to ex­tend the world’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the hu­man­i­tar­ian and com­pas­sion­ate man­ner that Greece has dealt with the se­vere mi­gra­tion and refugee cri­sis that’s been tak­ing place.

As I said at the UN Sum­mit on Refugees that I hosted in Septem­ber, it’s im­por­tant that we don’t have any sin­gle coun­try bear the en­tire bur­den of these chal­lenges – that all of us are con­tribut­ing and par­tic­i­pat­ing in alle­vi­at­ing suf­fer­ing and deal­ing with mi­gra­tion in an or­derly and com­pas­sion­ate way. And we have been very glad to part­ner with the Greek gov­ern­ment in manag­ing this sit­u­a­tion ap­pro­pri­ately.

The need for debt re­lief

Our ar­gu­ment has al­ways been that when the econ­omy con­tracted this fast, when un­em­ploy­ment is this high, that there also has to be a growth agenda to go with it. And it is very dif­fi­cult to imag­ine the kind of growth strat­egy that’s needed with­out some debt re­lief mech­a­nism. Now, the pol­i­tics of this are dif­fi­cult in Europe. And I think in fair­ness to some of the gov­ern­ments up north that I know are not al­ways pop­u­lar here in Greece, it’s im­por­tant to rec­og­nize that, you know, they have their own poli­cies and their pop­u­la­tions and their in­sti­tu­tions of­ten are re­sis­tant to some of these debt re­lief for­mu­las. But I think that hav­ing seen Greece be­gin many of these dif­fi­cult steps to­ward struc­tural re­form, hav­ing shown a com­mit­ment to change, with the Greek peo­ple hav­ing en­dured some sig­nif­i­cant hard­ships for many years now, there should be an op­por­tu­nity I think for both sides to rec­og­nize that if we can come up with a durable so­lu­tion as op­posed to each year or ev­ery six months hav­ing a new ne­go­ti­a­tion, that that could po­ten­tially be good for ev­ery­one.

And now that the Greek econ­omy is grow­ing again, the tim­ing may be right.

We spent much of our time dis­cussing the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion here in Greece and how Greece can con­tinue to move for­ward. I know this has been a painful and dif­fi­cult time, es­pe­cially for Greek work­ers and fam­i­lies, pen­sion­ers and young peo­ple.

This cri­sis is not an ob­struc­tion, but has had a very con­crete and dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on the lives and liveli­hoods of mil­lions of peo­ple across this coun­try…

I’ve been clear from the be­gin­ning of this cri­sis that in or­der to make re­forms sus­tain­able, the Greek econ­omy needs the space to re­turn to growth and start creat­ing jobs again. We can­not sim­ply look to aus­ter­ity as a strat­egy and it is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant that the Greek peo­ple see im­prove­ments in their daily lives so that they can carry with them the hope that their lives will get bet­ter.

And in this con­text, as Greece con­tin­ues re­form, the IMF has said that debt re­lief is cru­cial. I will con­tinue to urge cred­i­tors to take the steps needed to put Greece on a path to­ward a durable eco­nomic re­cov­ery be­cause it’s in all of our in­ter­ests that Greece suc­ceeds. We all want the Greek peo­ple to pros­per, to be able to pro­vide a good life for their fam­i­lies and their chil­dren. That would be good for Greece, that would be good for the Euro­pean Union, good for the United States, and ul­ti­mately, good for the world.


We dis­cussed Cyprus, where the prospects for a just, com­pre­hen­sive and last­ing set­tle­ment are the best that they’ve been for some time. It doesn’t mean that suc­cess is guar­an­teed, but the pos­si­bil­ity of re­solv­ing a decades-long con­flict is there and we urge the par­ties to con­tinue their work. The in­ter­ests of all Cypri­ots would be ad­vanced with a bi­zonal bi­com­mu­nal fed­er­a­tion.

We’re hope­ful that a so­lu­tion that’s durable, which would cre­ate new eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for all the peo­ple across Cyprus, is within reach. And it would be a pow­er­ful ex­am­ple to the world of what’s pos­si­ble with diplo­macy and com­pro­mise. This is ul­ti­mately a ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween Cypri­ots – Turk­ish Cypri­ots and Greek Cypri­ots. And the good news is that you have two lead­ers who seem gen­uinely com­mit­ted to find­ing com­pro­mises and an ap­proach that would serve both their peo­ples well. If, in fact, you can see a meet­ing of the minds be­tween them, then the is­sue will be can we make sure that all of us – the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, Turkey, Greece, the United States – sup­port that agree­ment in a way that can be rat­i­fied by both sides.

And we’ve in­vested a lot of time, Vice Pres­i­dent Bi­den’s been ac­tively in­volved in this. We are en­cour­aged by the progress that’s been made. I think there’s a win­dow in the next few weeks, months, where this is­sue [will ac­tu­ally be] re­solved and I think if we can find an eq­ui­table so­lu­tion, it won’t pro­vide 100 per­cent of what ei­ther side wants. There may be some mech­a­nisms for a tran­si­tion from sta­tus quo to the fu­ture that both sides en­vi­sion, but I think it’s achiev­able and we’re go­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can to sup­port the process.


Barack Obama re­views a pres­i­den­tial honor guard in Athens yes­ter­day, dur­ing the of­fi­cial wel­com­ing cer­e­mony at the Pres­i­den­tial Man­sion. Obama ar­rived in the Greek cap­i­tal as part of his fi­nal for­eign trip as pres­i­dent of the United States.

Be­yond eco­nomic is­sues, we dis­cussed the press­ing se­cu­rity chal­lenges that we face as NATO al­lies. I want to take this op­por­tu­nity to com­mend Greece for be­ing one of the five NATO al­lies that spends 2 per­cent of GDP on de­fense, a goal that we have con­sis­tently set but not ev­ery­body has met. Greece has done this even dur­ing dif­fi­cult eco­nomic times. If Greece can meet this NATO com­mit­ment, all our al­lies should be able to do so.

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