Mist President of the Hellenic Republic,
It is with a feeling of profound esteem that I wish to thank you for the warm words that you kindly addressed to Italy and express my sincerest gratitude for the welcome that you gave me and the delegation accompanying me.
It is truly a special pleasure, in addition to a great honour, to be here today, slightly more than one year after your visit to Italy, testifying to the unique millennial ties that unite our two peoples and to the relationship of true friendship that exists between our two Countries.
It is a relationship rooted in history, thriving in the present and projected into the future, in the name of common roots and ideals and shared principles.
Geography - and history - have put Greece and Italy on the same road, irradiating a civilization that has placed the human being at the centre of its attention. This has ushered us along a long path, whose milestones have been marked by the emergence of the very concept of citizenship and self-government - the Demos enshrined in the ancient Greek Poleis - and subsequently embodied in the many events that have characterised the history of our people, up to the rebirth of our nations in the 1800s.
If democracy is the ideal space - tangibly experienced and fuelled daily - that binds us, the Mediterranean represents the physical space of our history.
The very essence of the West lies in the geopolitical element of the sea, in its power to connect and interrelate, in its complexity as the crossroads of different realities, the fertile roots of our natural predisposition to welcome and openness.
Greece and Italy have played, in different historic periods, a leading role in developing the loftiest values of human thought, values that are now the cornerstones of representative democracy everywhere it thrives.
Values that, sixty years after the birth of the first European construction, see the Union as their authoritative advocate and champion, maintaining unchanged our Countries' peculiar historic responsibility to attest them, making it possible for those same values of democracy, solidarity, and reception - that we have contributed to forge - to remain central in the common European project.
It is a demanding task because Europe is faced with crucial and non-contingent challenges; challenges that put to the test the very nature of a community of ideals and forcefully bring back to mind the founding reasons of this community of free peoples.
First of all, the economic and financial crisis which - for too many years now - has been gnawing at our model of social coexistence, especially affecting the legitimate expectations of our generation of young people, who should instead be enabled to look at the future with confidence and optimism and to fully achieve their aspirations.
We are experiencing great difficulties because of this crisis. It has hit many European Countries. It has produced new poverty thresholds, involving ever-broader segments of the population. It has triggered new forms of marginalisation and has increasingly bolstered centrifugal forces.
The second historical challenge is now represented by the hundreds of thousands of women, children and men who undertake a journey - putting their own lives at risk - to flee from wars, terrorism and hunger, in the pursuit of a dream place - Europe - that they too perceive to be the land of liberty, security and wellbeing.
In order to be able to firmly and effectively pass these tests, we must recover the ideal momentum that characterised the start-up phase of the European process, an ideal thrust to live side by side and not merely to cooperate.
Despite the weighty, and at times extreme difficulties, the Greek people have not betrayed their millennium-old vocation to welcome and be open to others and to solidarity, with an enthusiasm that continues to elicit widespread and unanimous appreciation.
It is precisely examples such as these, of ideal passions combined with concrete actions, that the European Union now needs to follow.
We collectively need positive strategies to guide us beyond the passing, short-sighted national interests that undermine the harmony of the Union and its possibility to cooperate with neighbouring peoples. They are also anti-historical in a world in which the capacity of single Countries to give isolated responses is drastically reduced.
Allow me to recall, here in Athens, the figure of Emperor Hadrian in the year marking the anniversary of his being crowned emperor in 117 AD. Hadrian was the quintessential philellenist Roman Emperor, an enlightened ruler who chose Athens to be the Empire's cultural capital and his homeland of election, and where he chose to spend long periods of his life.
His figure stimulates us to make a further reflection, mainly addressed to our youth and hinged on the harmony between the traditions of the West and the Orient; on peace as a necessary condition in the pursuit of prosperity; and on studying and reasoning in order to fully understand the complex world that surrounds us.
Therefore, it is not the celebration of a man as such but rather of the value of the trend that he championed: interpreting his time, evaluating the dynamics, and designing a strategy thereon.
It is a process that, almost two thousand years later, is still necessarily based on respecting and understanding others, tirelessly defending the achievements of democracy and civilisation, as well as on solidarity and the courage of finding far-sighted solutions.
Principles that have contributed to making the European civilisation great.
in walking down this path together, we cannot forget that the construction of Europe was also based on the strengthening of bilateral relations between Member States.
Our relations are absolutely excellent, based on mutual respect and trust, and we will continue to work to increase our commitment to further promote cooperation in all sectors, not only commercial and economic, but towards an authentic and increasingly integrated partnership.
Greece and Italy share a millennium-old history, the result of a common culture that constitutes the foundations for our actions and our living together, and represents the best ground on which to build our future.
With this thought in mind, I invite all the people present to raise their glasses and join me in a toast to the prosperity of our people and to the friendship between the Hellenic Republic and the Republic of Italy.