Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ speech at the Ancient Civilizations Forum (Athens, 24 April 2017)

Monday, 24 April 2017

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I, too, would like to welcome everyone – the representatives of the ten states participating here today, the Foreign Ministers and delegations of the ten states representing major ancient civilizations – to the founding Conference of the Ancient Civilizations Forum. I would like to thank Nikos Kotzias, because an idea of his that we have been discussing since 2015 is today being realised, and I think he can inspire his counterparts so that this initiative can continue.

So, I want to say that it is a very important initiative, which begins from Greece but is being fleshed out through the support of all the countries represented here today at this meeting; countries whose cultures have left an indelible mark on the course of human history. And I would say that it is a significant portion of global cultural heritage.

We may be separated geographically from many of the countries represented here today by hundreds, thousands of kilometres. But we share something very important. Something that unites us through enduring and mutual respect, and does not take into account kilometres and distances or economic and geopolitical dimensions.

And this is the pride and responsibility we feel. The responsibility of a great historical cultural heritage that laid the foundations for our common global cultural heritage.

And bearing this great responsibility and this great legacy, I would say that we also have the collective experience and knowledge:

First, to perceive that our cultural heritage no longer belongs exclusively to us, but is, I would say, the heritage of all humanity. It belongs to all of humanity, and not exclusively to each country separately.

And second, that cultural legacy is a form of power for our peoples and our countries. Not the power of weapons. Not economic power, which often divides both peoples and individuals. But it is a positive power: The power of knowledge, of education, of universal progress. This power that unites peoples and induviduals.

Our responsibility is certainly not to cling to the past, to the glorious past, or even – I would say – to idealise it. This would simply mean that we were unable to build, with vision, for the future.

Our responsibility is to capitalize on the past. Our responsibility is to capitalize on the precious tangible and intangible cultural treasure of the past and make a better tomorrow for us, for our children, for coming generations.

Because we know that we are living in a complex global reality with many challenges, many possibilities, but also many threats to humanity. Challenges that we need to face collectively, through cooperation. Cooperation between countries that share a similar, glorious historical past, but with the prospect of our pursuing similar endeavours in the future. But always having in mind a future of peace, stability, security and development.

A future based on our common principles and centred on the human being and on the common tools of communication and rules of understanding that we built, such as international law, for example.

And a future of peace, stability and progress centred on the human being is not ensured, cannot be ensured, on the basis of economic and military power alone, but is founded first and foremost on mutual understanding, mutual respect and dialogue, with culture as the springboard. I would say that this is the source of the Ancient Civilizations Forum initiative.

History and geography lead Greece to identify with the notion of cooperation and dialogue through our very existence in the world. It could not be otherwise.

Greece was and is at the crossroads of continents, cultures, ideas, religions, trade.

Hellenism's roots in Europe are deep, but the ideas and ideals on which Hellenism was and is based have spread far beyond Europe, connecting us, I would say, with peoples throughout the world: On the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, in the Balkans and the Middle East, and much further afield.

Hellenic culture became the heritage of the whole of the European continent and, with the passing of the centuries – I would say – of the whole world. Today, too, we want to follow the same logic; a logic imbued with the Hellenic spirit.

And especially in our foreign policy. Our foreign policy today is interwoven with a persistent and constant effort to create multidimensional networks of cooperation and dialogue. A conscious effort to build a 'positive agenda' in inter-state relations. On every level and at every opportunity.

And of course this 'positive agenda' cannot be built if we ignore the balance of power or the reality we are all experiencing around us, nor if we accept the world order as something immutable.

We are at a crossroads, and we are very well aware of this here in Greece; we are at an historic crossroads of crises, requiring us to be steadfast in our ideals, but also realistic.

We are all inundated, daily, with negative developments both in our neighbourhood and globally. But the solution does not lie – and never lay – in entrenchment, isolation, aggressiveness, agitation. The solution lies – and has always lain – in cooperation and collectivity.
In the conviction that we must confront the major challenges of our time with resolve – challenges that concern security, combating terrorism, war, inequality and poverty; managing migration and refugee flows, climate change and destruction of the environment.
In the conviction that there is always huge potential for developing relations through positive initiatives: In everything from economy and trade to education and culture.

Initiatives like those Greece has taken in recent years, including, for example:

The now established Summit of Southern EU Countries and the ongoing consultation within the framework of the European Union.

The trilateral cooperation schemes Greece and Cyprus have formed with important countries in our region.

The Conference on Peaceful Coexistence and Religious Pluralism in the Middle East, and

The Rhodes Conference for Security and Stability.

As well as today's initiative: the Ancient Civilizations Forum.

Ιnitiatives that underscore Greece's multifaceted role in the international environment, as a longstanding force for Stability, a constant force for Peace. As a country that always uses soft power to convince and engage. To contribute constructively to the peaceful resolution of disagreements and disputes.

Initiatives that highlight our unshakeable belief that History, Religion and Culture can be bridges of understanding and communication, and not tools of oppression and extremism. Not drivers of hatred and conflict.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is no doubt that, for our countries, culture is national capital.

I am convinced that the Ancient Civilizations Forum can contribute to optimizing this national capital for each of our countries, with complete respect for our cultural heritage. Capitalization that will create a reserve of prosperity for our peoples, pointing up the splendour of the past and our contemporary cultural production.

Capitalization that will bring us closer, that will bring our societies closer, our peoples closer, and people closer. Deepening understanding between us and further strengthening our ties.

There is an urgent need today for cultural cooperation. Against the darkness of those who would plunge humanity into paranoia and hatred, there is an urgent need today for us to shine the radiant light of the splendour of the human spirit; the radiant light given out by our ancient civilizations in the past.

And I am confident that we can accomplish this. And that this initiative will grow strong and flourish. And reap the fruits of closer cooperation and understanding. And I think that, in any case – and this is why it is such a pleasure for me – we are today taking a big and important step. Here in Athens, in the shadow of the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis, we are sending a resounding, strong message to humanity. A message of cooperation for world peace, mutual respect and mutual understanding.

My warm thanks.