By Hillary Rodham Clinton, US Secretary of State
Good afternoon, everyone. It is a great pleasure to welcome the foreign minister of Greece here today. I have appreciated the opportunity to work with him and had now several occasions, including in Athens, to meet and discuss not only our bilateral relationship, which continues strong and very consequential to us both, but also regional and international matters, and of course, the international economic challenges that Greece, along with the rest of the world, is facing.
Tomorrow marks the 71st anniversary of Oxi Day, when Greeks celebrate the freedom and courage of the Greek people. And today, Greece is being asked to summon its courage again. This time, the challenge is economic. The Greek people are making major changes and big sacrifices to return their country to financial health and economic competitiveness. And while those changes and sacrifices are certainly painful, they are necessary. And in the long run, they will benefit Greece and its partners, but most particularly the children and future generations of Greek citizens.
The United States applauds Greece’s commitment to fiscal and structural reform. Decisive and bold actions in the EU are also critical to resolving the European economic crisis, and Greece’s debt crisis in particular. Early this morning in Brussels, European leaders made vital decisions to address the significant and pressing economic challenges they face.
Greece is a longstanding and important ally of the United States. In ways large and small, life in our country is enriched by the energy and contributions of our many Greek Americans. And abroad, Greece and the United States share common goals for stability and prosperity in Southeastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The United States looks forward to broadening, deepening, and strengthening this already very vital relationship.
Stavros, thank you so much for being here.
FOREIGN MINISTER LAMBRINIDIS: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Secretary. Thank you, Hillary. It’s a great pleasure to be here. Let me begin by wishing you a happy birthday, which now, since I know how many years before me you were at Yale Law School, I can also guess your age, I guess, but I will not tell anyone.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is really unkind. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER LAMBRINIDIS: That’s really – I’m sorry. No, it’s a good age. It’s a good age.
Now, this is a wonderful occasion for me to be here and for me to have a chance to talk to the Secretary of State of the U.S. on a number of very important issues in – for our bilateral relations, but also for Europe. Yesterday, a new leaf was turned in Europe, and I think a number of very hopeful days are ahead of us, both for Greece and for Europe and for the United States, as indeed our economies and our fates, in many ways in this world, are tied together. And I think it is imperative of me to underline the extremely important and helpful role that the U.S. has played, and Hillary Clinton in particular, throughout these difficult months.
It is often said that friendships get tried during difficult times. And since these are indeed the Oxi Days, as you mentioned, Greece and the United States do know of difficulties. We have been together and stood by each other during difficult wars, and we are standing by each other today as well. I think that we will have a wonderful opportunity to discuss issues in our neighborhood and in our region that concern us both deeply, in which Greece has a very active involvement and a great desire to be able itself, through the EU, and with the U.S. to bring peace and stability that we all need.
So thank you very much for this opportunity to see you again after only a few months. When you came to Greece the first time that you came, I told you you were the first foreign visitor who came. And I wished that you would bring me luck. I can say that up to now, things have gone well for my country. The difficulties are there. As you mentioned, the Greek people are making a tremendous amount of sacrifices. I am grateful that (inaudible) will have the opportunity to recognize them. We know we have tough days ahead of us. We are changing our country, and Europe is indicating that it doesn’t only have the ability but also the will to stand by us and to stand by the European Union project.