United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Madam Ban Soon-taek arrived in Athens from London late on Tuesday, 4 November, for an official visit to Greece.
He began the day on Wednesday with a working breakfast with the so-called Troika of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, comprising of Teodora Tzakri, Deputy Minister of Interior, Decentralization and E-Governance of Greece; Estban Conejos Jr., Under-Secretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines; and Juan Manuel Gomez-Robledo, Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico.
The Secretary-General then addressed the Third Global Forum on Migration and Development, and he called for policies on migration to be founded on evidence, not fuelled by prejudice. (See Press Release SG/SM/12587)
He warned that the conditions in which many migrants move and live continue to be treacherous. He spelled out three major challenges facing migrants worldwide.
First, on the economic front, the global recession has highlighted the vulnerability of migrants, particularly recent migrants. Second, on climate change, he said that the effects of global warming will be far-reaching and could prompt further migration. And third, he said that we must devote special attention to the most vulnerable migrants of all: victims of human trafficking, especially women and girls. Human trafficking injures, traumatizes and kills, the Secretary-General said.
He also held a joint press conference with the 2009 Chair of the Global Forum, Teodora Tzakri, where he stressed the need to deepen our common values of inclusion, social acceptance and understanding.
The Secretary-General met later with George Papandreou, who is the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Greece, at the Maximos Mansion.
He told reporters afterwards that they discussed, among other things, climate change, migration and development, Cyprus, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Nations peacekeeping operations and reform, piracy and the Millennium Development Goals.
The Secretary-General met with and then attended a luncheon hosted by Greek President Karolos Papoulias at the Presidential Palace.
In the afternoon, he held bilateral meetings with Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Lambis Nikolau, Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee, and took part in a video conference on climate change.
He and Madam Ban visited the new Acropolis Museum, before meeting with the leader of the major opposition, Kostas Karamanlis, at the Hellenic Parliament.
In the evening, he had back-to-back meetings with the Greek Minister of Finance, Giorgos Papaconstantinou; the former Foreign Minister, Dora Bacoyannis; and the former President of the Hellenic Parliament, Dimitris Sioufas, before he and Madam Ban attended a dinner hosted in their honour by the Prime Minister.
On Thursday, he became the first Secretary-General of the United Nations to address the Hellenic Parliament. (See Press Release SG/SM/12589)
He also spoke about the prospects for a deal on climate change, saying that there is no doubt that the Copenhagen negotiations are complex with many actors and many moving pieces. The Secretary-General emphasized that we must have a global agreement that is comprehensive, balanced, equitable and binding.
He reiterated that he is “cautiously optimistic” about prospects for a settlement in Cyprus, and that he was also encouraged by the Greek Government’s clear endorsement of a continuing role for the United Nations in the negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the name issue.
Before his speech to Parliament, the Secretary-General met with the Alternate Foreign Affairs Minister, Dimitris Droutsas, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, and then met with the President of the Hellenic Parliament, Philippos Petsalnikos.
Before leaving Athens, the Secretary-General also met with the staff of the United Nations agencies in Athens and Hellenic United Nations Association representatives.
He also met with Robert Gallucci, President of the MacArthur Foundation, and Louka Katseli, Minister of Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping.
The Secretary-General and Madam Ban left Athens on Thursday afternoon for New York.