From Prehistory to Modernity
28 November, 2013
From Prehistory to Modernity
Interview with Eleftherios Proios, Ambassador of Greece to Georgia

Georgia and Greece have many things in common. First and foremost, we share the same Christian Orthodox religion. Then there are close ties from ancient times: the Golden Fleece and the tragic love story of Georgian Medea and Greek Jason. In the past, there was a large Greek Diaspora in Georgia but many of them returned to the homeland. In contrast, many Georgians went to Greece for work enabling them to
be breadwinners for their Georgian families. So, Greece is a source of support for Georgia. In a recent interview, the Ambassador of Greece to Georgia HE Eleftherios Proios affirmed that his country and Georgia have a successful bilateral relationship.
G.J: You are in our newspaper for the first time. Welcome! Please introduce yourself.
E.P: Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to communicate with your readers.
I was born in 1950 in Piraeus, near Athens. I graduated from the Economic University of Athens and I entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1980. Tbilisi is my sixth post abroad, and one of the most interesting and pleasant. My previous posts were in Hungary, Switzerland, Azerbaijan, Albania and Germany. I am married and I have six children.
G.J: Georgians and Greeks share many things in common: history, culture and religion. What about existing ties between the two countries and what is on the agenda – are official visits planned to take place?
E.P: Greeks and Georgians have a very old relationship that begins during the pre-historical period and comes to modern times through the classical and Byzantine periods. There are a lot of links that unite us, such as our common religion. A bridge between the two peoples is also the big Georgian community, living in Greece, which has been harmoniously integrated into Greek society. Unfortunately, the important Greek community of Georgia (more than 100,000 people before 1990) left the country in the 1990’s, due to the problems that Georgia faced at that time. Today only 13,000 people of Greek origin still live in Georgia.
Our bilateral relations were given new impetus after the independence of Georgia. Greece was one of the first countries in the world to recognize the independence of Georgia and establish diplomatic relations. We opened the embassy in Tbilisi in 1995. During these 23 years, our relations have been very close and fruitful especially in the field of development aid.
Concerning recent bilateral visits, I would like to note that the Greek Minister of Defense Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos visited Tbilisi on 28 October and had talks with his Georgian counterpart Mr. Irakli Alasania, in a very friendly atmosphere. Mr. Avramopoulos reiterated to Mr. Alasania the unequivocal support of Greece for the territorial integrity of Georgia, as well as for the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the friendly country. He also expressed his appreciation for the contribution of Georgia to NATO, especially ISAF, and heavy sacrifices of the country in this context. Mr. Avramopoulos invited Mr. Alasania to visit Greece in order to continue their talks for the development of the bilateral relations in their respective fields. I hope that this visit will take place soon. Also, a visit of the Foreign Minister Mrs. Maia Panjikidze to Athens is planned for the near future.
G.J: Now, let’s talk about elections. How would you evaluate it, the pre and post-election period and inauguration of the newly-elected President?
E.P: Last year’s parliamentary elections were a milestone on the road to democracy in Georgia. They were fair and the people were given an opportunity to freely express their will. The 27 October presidential election was also a very important step for the consolidation of democracy in this country. The new leadership of the country has now an opportunity to work for progress of Georgia, economic development and prosperity of the people, for the enhancement of democracy and justice, and the fulfillment of the Euro-Atlantic aspirations, building on the progress that has been achieved during the last years.
G.J: In light of the recent changes, what would be your recommendations to the Georgian Government? What should they do first and foremost to avoid a political crisis, not hamper progress but to boost it?
E.P: The presence of a strong opposition is very positive for the function of democracy. The government, with its strong majority in the Parliament, should find common ground with the opposition in as many issues as possible for the benefit of the country. Happily, there is a consensus on at least one issue, i.e., the Euro-Atlantic aspirations, and this is very important.
Justice is one of the most important pillars of democracy, a condition sine qua non. Important steps for the establishment of an independent judiciary system have been made already. I am sure that the new leadership of the country will continue the efforts for the enhancement of justice, in order to be able to fulfill its highly important role. An independent judiciary, without political interference, is necessary for the punishment of criminal acts.
G.J: Already the Ex-Premier Ivanishvili started a policy of negotiations with Russia. Please comment on it.
E.P: Concerning Russia, I would like to note that the Prime Minister Mr. Ivanishvili has repeatedly expressed his will to work for the normalization of bilateral relations. This is a very wise policy that also has the support of the European Union. I believe that it is very important for Georgia, while continuing its independent policy and its approach to Euro-Atlantic institutions, to normalize relations with its northern neighbor.
G.J: Thank you very much. You are welcome to say something in closing.
E.P: Concluding this interview, I would like to extend my best wishes to the friendly Georgian people, for progress, prosperity, stability, democracy and success with their aspirations to approach the European family of nations to which Georgia belongs. Given the progress that the country has made already thanks to the huge efforts of the Georgian people, one can be hopeful for the future of Georgia.

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