Prime Minister Mitsotakis, dear Kyriakos,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very honoured to speak today at this very special occasion for Greece and for Europe.
This year we are celebrating two landmark events at once, two anniversaries, which are central to the spirit and identity of modern Greece: 200 years ago the Revolution of Independence started - a revolution which led to the birth of the modern Greek state.
And 40 years ago, Greece - the ancient cradle of democracy - fulfilled its historic destiny and took its place at the heart of our modern, democratic European family. So I want to congratulate the Greek people twice today:
On their independence.
And on their proud membership of our Union.
Joining the EU helped Greece's young democracy to bloom. EU membership strengthened Greek institutions. And, maybe most importantly: Europe offered new horizons for Greek citizens. Vast EU investment in high quality infrastructure has transformed their daily life. And Greek businesses got access to our single market, a unique place of opportunities.
But it is not only Greece, that benefits from being a member of the European Union. The same is true vice versa. Our Union has also gained enormous benefits from having Greece at its core, not least in recent months. The country's vaccination campaign is one of the most efficient in Europe. It is a shining example of what we can achieve when we work together. The EU Commission procured the most promising vaccines for all European citizens. And the Greek authorities organized a roll-out which is the envy of many other countries.
Also when it comes to the EU certificate, Greece and the EU worked hand in hand. Prime Minister Mitsotakis was among the first to push this idea to facilitate travel, among others, for vaccinated citizens. And I am proud to say that the EU certificate will be up and running already in June.
The good thing about such a close friendship is that you can learn from each other. Just think of NextGenerationEU, our recovery program to counter the economic consequences of the pandemic. With this plan, the EU has started to do something it has never done before on such a scale: With the strong backing of 27 Member States the European Commission is raising money on the capital market. Together we will invest billions in a badly needed joint recovery. We jointly invest to counter the crisis. And make our Union more digital and greener.
32 billion euros of NextGenerationEU are earmarked for the Greek recovery. And the Commission works hand in hand with the Greek authorities to make the best use of this unique opportunity. We want to give the Greek economy a boost. We want to invest in people, in jobs, in prosperity. And to achieve a better quality of life for every citizen.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Konstantinos Karamanlis, the great statesman who masterminded Greece's accession to the EU, once said: “The future of Europe lies in its integration. And the future of Greece lies in a united Europe.”
These words are as true today as they were 40 years ago. So let´s use these wise words as an inspiration for the next forty years.
Saranta chronia pio dinati mazi!