By Arab News
By Alexis Konstantopoulos*
Today, March 25, 2021, marks the bicentennial of the beginning of the Greek struggle for independence after roughly four centuries of Ottoman occupation. For Greeks, in Greece and throughout the world, it is a day to celebrate our national identity, millennial culture, arts and traditions, and values and beliefs. It is a day of pride.
The rebirth of Greece was the accomplishment of a new modern vision, the establishment and gradual shaping of a new free, independent and proud nation-state, able to defend itself, its territory and its people, willing to occupy its own place in the region and in the world and contribute accordingly.
It is the same sense of vision that has ushered Saudi Arabia’s radical transformation since 2016. Vision 2030 embodies these modern values and principles, a proud country and people, a modern, integrated economy promoting its competitive advantages, rich not only in natural resources but also from its young population full of untapped potential and its advanced knowhow.
Today, we celebrate together these modern visions. Throughout the world, wherever there are Greeks, together with our hosts, we are proud to celebrate our friendship. In Saudi Arabia, we have even more reasons to celebrate — we share a lot in common: Similar mentalities, people with solid bonds of friendship, booming political, military, trade and investment bilateral relations. We also share a solid commitment to abide by international law.
Since the establishment of the modern Saudi state, Greek individuals and companies have contributed to the shaping of this country; our common history is rich. In 1972, Doxiadis Associates established a visionary first urban plan of Riyadh. Since then, the city’s growth has been impressive.
Our bilateral relations are vibrant and booming. Greece aims to become one of Europe’s leading actors in shaping a new trans-Mediterranean connectivity, the emerging nexus of energy transit routes and commercial transportation corridors connecting Europe and the Middle East to the Gulf and Africa.
Our countries are strongly associated in this endeavor for a strategic shift not only in our relations, but also as active regional and international political and economic actors.
Together, we are establishing a new bilateral and regional connectivity. On Feb. 11 in Athens, Saudi Arabia participated in the landmark Philia/Friendship Forum “Building friendship, peace and prosperity from the Mediterranean to the Gulf,” together with Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, France and the UAE.
It emphasized deepening economic, technological, and cultural cooperation. Currently, the Royal Saudi and Hellenic Air Forces are taking part in the “Falcon Eye 1” exercise over the Mediterranean Sea; we are establishing a new military partnership and more is to follow.
There is great untapped potential for further growth. Greece holds many assets; according to Bloomberg’s 2021 Innovation Index, we now rank as the 30th most innovative economy.
Greece has a long history in the construction of the port, marina and energy infrastructures in Jeddah, and it can provide further significant support to the development not only of NEOM, but also of all the mega projects under construction.
Greece can substantially contribute to the development of AlUla and other important Saudi archaeological and heritage sites, whether in expertise or knowledge sharing. We should further develop commerce and investment between our countries to bring them up to the level of our mutual ambitions, especially in tourism, shipping, energy and green and solar energy, as well as defense.
We need to streamline procedures to fast-track trade and investment, to develop the natural synergies between our venture capital investment platforms, to promote innovative SMEs and digital cooperation as well as a joint action plan for tourism.
Greece will be opening its doors on May 14, and we are looking forward to welcoming many Saudi friends to an exceptional destination where history and mythology blend with a favorable climate, astonishing seas, beaches, islands and natural sites all bathed in a beautiful natural light.
Greece can provide renewed perceptions and incredible experiences. It is not only our culture and arts that make Greece exceptional, but also our hospitality and cuisine. We cater to all and many different tastes and lifestyles, offering destinations as diverse as our vibrant capital Athens, home of the Acropolis, many historical sites and museums, as well as our famous islands of Mykonos and Santorini. There are many more exceptional places waiting to be discovered throughout the year, such as the ski resort of Arachova.
This week we celebrate the bicentennial of the Greek awakening with a number of events: A conference entitled “Ancient Greece and Arabs Civilizations: Historical Encounters,” organized with the King Faisal Center for Islamic Studies and Research; followed by a webinar organized by Arab News on recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, culminating in today’s brilliant supplement in the Arab News. Later this evening, the emblematic Al-Faisaliah Tower will illuminate the Riyadh skyline with the Greek colors, thus offering us the opportunity to participate in the Noor Festival.
I would like to thank all the amazing friends of Greece — I cannot name them all — who have made all this possible, and encourage all our friends to enjoy this interesting and insightful supplement.
Saudi Arabia is very close to our hearts in Greece and it is important we raise mutual awareness and understanding. Greece and Saudi Arabia are stronger together, creating synergies and exploring mutual opportunities. We will do even more in the future.
- Alexis Konstantopoulos is the Greek ambassador to Saudi Arabia.