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Press Office

Athens, 23 May 2022

President of Hellenic Parliament meets with Speaker of Parliament of New Zealand

The President of the Hellenic Parliament Constantine Tassoulas welcomed today to his office the Speaker of the Parliament of New Zealand Trevor Mallard and a group of New Zealand MPs.

During the meeting, the historical ties between the two countries were explored, their most important moment being the participation of New Zealand soldiers in the Battle of Crete in May 1941; the two countries’ exemplary cooperation was highlighted, as well as Greece's support to the Free Trade Agreement between the European Union and New Zealand. Other issues discussed, also in the framework of the meeting of the New Zealand parliamentary delegation with members of the respective Hellenic Parliament Friendship Group were cooperation in the agricultural sector, as well as in joint research for the development of Renewable Energy Sources, a field in which the Pacific country is a pioneer.

Welcoming his counterpart and the New Zealand MPs, the President of the Hellenic Parliament stated:

"Today I welcome to the Hellenic Parliament a group of MPs from New Zealand, headed by the Speaker of the Parliament of New Zealand, a prosperous democratic country, which, although geographically distant, -situated in the Pacific Ocean- is very close to Greece in historical terms. This was illustrated just a few days ago in Crete, in the framework of the famous Battle of Crete celebrations, a glorious combat that delayed the Nazi troops, and reversed their plans. The celebration of the Battle of Crete also included the expression of our people’s gratitude to the New Zealand troops, who, together with troops from other countries of the British Commonwealth and the Greek army, jointly defended the Greek territory and, in May 1941, defended Crete from Nazi invasion. The heroic battle of Crete hindered, among other things, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, thus inflicting a serious blow against Nazi Germany. Eight decades after those glorious years, mankind, Europe, the western world, the free world is now faced with new ordeals and challenges.

I read in your curriculum vitae, dear Mr Speaker, that, further to being a great teacher, further to your love for the environment and to your dedication to protect democracy in your distant country, you also enjoy watching horror movies. I'm afraid that all that is happening today in the world, such as, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the pandemic,  the threats we are facing, our delays in dealing with the climate crisis, are a horror movie I'm certain you do not enjoy at all. Our country, Greece, the Hellenic Parliament where you had a meeting with the Greece-New Zealand Friendship Group and the Chair Christos Dermentzopoulos, MP from Thrace, who is also here with us, so, our country and your country right from the start condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Our country, moreover, supports the efforts towards reaching a free trade agreement between New Zealand and Europe. Today, President Biden, visiting Southeast Asia, will speak in Japan on his long-planned Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).

All these incongruous things happening around us signal that we must work together, to put an end to the war horror, but also the pandemic horror, and then engage -as we used to- in areas of our interest:  prosperity, economic growth and the protection of the environment, a field in which your country is a pioneer.

It is with great pleasure Mr Speaker, that I welcome you and your colleagues, representatives of the people of New Zealand, to the Hellenic Parliament, reminding that, two centuries ago, the first Greek to arrive in New Zealand came from the island of Ithaca, the island of Odysseus. The heroic Odysseus, after wandering for ten years, managed to return to his homeland and join his family again and the land he governed. I am, therefore, convinced that, following the example of the Greece-New Zealand exemplary cooperation,and building on this model, we will manage to bring an end to mankind’s odyssey,  find our Ithaca again, and restore our original priorities, that is to pursue our economic development and engage in the protection of the environment, leaving behind all these incredible ordeals we are experiencing, such as revisionist attempts, warfare and having to deal with health crises. I welcome you again ".*

For his part, the Speaker of the Parliament of New Zealand stated the following:

"Thank you very much, it’s a real pleasure for this group of New Zealand Parliament members to be so much welcomed by the President of the Hellenic Parliament and also earlier by the Friendship Group, where we had some positive discussions. Our trip to Greece was deliberately timed in order to go to Crete for the commemoration ceremonies. It is a place which is deep in the heart of many New Zealanders, because people of my generation knew the generation who fought there and while over a thousand New Zealanders died in Greece, 774 died on that island alone in WWII. There were already good relations back from WWI, when New Zealanders staged attacks on Gallipoli, out of the Greek islands. But what happened in Crete was something special and meant that a lot of New Zealanders went back to Crete because they’d been fighting in the hills and developed friendships and relationships and there were a lot of new families as a result of New Zealanders going back there.

We’ve had some discussions already about the importance of renewable energy and the possibilities of learning from each other and doing joint research in that area. We are a lucky country in that we have a lot of rain and it falls down in valleys and so the vast majority of our electricity is renewable. But like other countries we are looking for new methods for developing fuel and we would especially like to cooperate with Greece, because we know that the current situation in Ukraine has emphasised to all of Europe that we cannot rely in the long-term on Russia to be a reliable supplier.

Because New Zealand is on the other side of the world, and we are a small country, there is not as much as we can do against the Russians as many others, but we are making our best attempt, we have a lot of people working with the United Kingdom and Brussels in the intelligence area. We have one of our very old but very big planes flying around Europe with supplies and only today the New Zealand government announced that we are sending 30 of our troops to train Ukrainians in the use of a specialist piece of artillery. Now, I’m not going to pretend it’s the most advanced artillery in the world, but it is artillery that is available now for the Ukrainians and we are one of the few countries who still know how to use that artillery and we have the special devices to upgrade them, so that they can target better.

So, Mr President, we see some real opportunities in agricultural research, to do together, and I do want to thank Greece for the support that they are giving to the Free Trade Agreement, which I’m sure both in the medium and long term will make a difference to both of our economies and make our people richer."**

The Speaker of the Parliament of New Zealand Trevor Mallard was accompanied by MPs Judith Collins, Barbara Kuriger, Duncan Webb and Helen White, the New Zealand Ambassador to Rome Anthony George Simpson and the Honourary Consul to Athens Ioanna Gouvatsou

Present at the meeting were the Chairman of the Greece-New Zealand Friendship Group Christos Dermentzopoulos and the Diplomatic Advisor of the Parliament Ambassador Constantine Economidis. During the meeting of the Greece-New Zealand Friendship Group, coordinated by the Chair Christos Dermentzopoulos and with the participation of the Deputy Chair, MP Theano Fotiou and the members, MPs Evangelos Liakos and Athanasios Lioupis, extensive reference was made to the historical and traditional relations connecting the two peoples, the turning point being the Battle of Crete. It was also stressed that the presence of the Greek diaspora in New Zealand has been bridge that has strengthened ties between the two countries. For the further development of trade, agricultural and investment relations, a crucial role will be played by the EU-New Zealand FTA which Greece strongly supports. Lastly, the mutual wish was expressed to find new paths of cooperation on Education and Culture.


* Translation from Greek delivery 

** Transcript

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