04 November 2009

Remarks at joint press encounter with Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece

Ban Ki-moon

Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media,

Kalispera sas.

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to visit Greece in my capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations. I thank you very much for your very kind invitation and hospitality rendered to me and to my delegation by the Government of Greece and its people.

When it comes to Greece, it means a lot to me, as well as to all the people in the world. The beauty of your country is renowned, and so too is your rich cultural history. The epic poems of Homer, the concept of peaceful competition embodied in the Olympic Games, the philosophical teachings of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. Greek thought and words imbue much of our language and our intellectual discourse.

Perhaps the greatest gift your people have given us, to human beings, would be the concept of democracy, the principle of the power of the people. Democracy, human rights and the rule of law are core values of the United Nations Charter.

I am very happy to work together with the Prime Minister in this very important period. I know that the European Union is going through a very crucial and historic integration, through the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. In that regard, the new leadership of this great country, under Prime Minister Papandreou, will be very much important, and I count on your continuing leadership, and I am looking forward to working very closely with you.

As the Prime Minister has just said, we had a very good meeting with each other. I will not repeat what he had already explained on what we had already discussed. I can only name the titles on a number of regional and global issues, including climate change, migration and development, Cyprus, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UN peacekeeping operations and reform, and also piracy and the Millennium Development Goals.

On Cyprus, I told the Prime Minister that I appreciate his commitment to help Cypriots achieve a settlement. The international community has invested a great deal in this Cypriot-driven process, and has high expectations. I believe the talks are making reasonably good progress, and this momentum must be kept up.

My Special [Adviser], Mr. Alexander Downer, will continue to work together with the leaders of the two communities. And I will spare no effort, as Secretary-General, to facilitate such progress.

And speaking of momentum, my [Personal] Envoy, Matthew Nimetz, hopes to keep up the momentum that was developing last summer on the name issue between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. I told the Prime Minister that my Envoy is set to restart the talks as soon as both parties are ready. I am encouraged that the Prime Minister told me that Greece is ready and will fully support the ongoing facilitation role by my [Personal] Envoy.

As you probably know, earlier today I attended the Global Forum on Migration and Development. I want to thank the Greek Government for organising and hosting this gathering and for inviting me to participate.

In recent years the Greek economy has benefited enormously from the contribution of migrant workers. I am also, at the same time, aware that the various UN refugee and human rights mechanisms express their concerns about the conditions of migrants detained in Greece, and the problem of protection, adequate protection of migrant workers.

I sincerely hope that Greece, as a country of destination for these migrant workers, will continue to promote and protect the rights of migrants.

I also hope that the Greek Government will follow up on the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, with regard to their treatment of asylum seekers.

Finally, I feel very honoured to have been given the opportunity to address the Greek Parliament. I intend to speak to them tomorrow, on the United Nations and renewed multilateralism in the 21st century.

With that, I am very happy again to visit this great country, which is very special to me, as a citizen of Korea as well as Secretary-General of the United Nations.