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Opening Remarks by Ambassador Ernst Reichel at George C. Marshall Center Event in Athens
Ambassador Ernst Reichel at George C. Marshall Center Event in Athens, © U.S. Embassy Athens
The spoken word is valid.
Dear Ms. Janca,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to participate in this networking event with so many distinguished participants. In my conviction, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of joint transatlantic institutions such as the George Marshall Center. Creating a web of mutual knowledge and trust across the Atlantic remains a matter of the greatest importance - particularly as we are living in the era of populism and social media - both thrive on quick, dismissive judgments and the much-quoted „alternative facts“.
How irreplaceable transatlantic cohesion and joint action are has become more obvious than ever during the run-up and since the beginning of Russia‘s brutal war of imperial conquest in Ukraine - a country I happen to know well. Only together can we support Ukraine and ensure Ukraine‘s survival as a nation. The successes Ukraine has achieved in this war - the failure of Russia‘s attack on Kyiv and Charkiv, the recent Ukrainian breakthrough in the Charkiv area - prove that this support is not useless, but indispensable. Just yesterday I visited the port of Alexandroupoli, a strategic gateway for military equipment on its way to Central and Eastern Europe.
Transatlantic support is indispensable not only for Ukraine, but for European security as a whole. If Russia leaves the battlefield as a winner, or looking like a winner, it will be tempted to repeat this perceived success by further aggression or the threat of aggression - be it in Ukraine or elsewhere. But this also goes beyond Russia. A perceived Russian success could be a temptation for other countries across the globe to follow the Russian example.
In Germany, we have come to realize the historical nature of this juncture - Chancellor Scholz has coined the term „Zeitenwende“, which I would translate with „change of epoch“. Large-scale war has returned to Europe. At this juncture, we Europeans are fortunate to have partners across the Atlantic who listen and cooperate, partners who share responsibility for our security and for the defense of the values we believe in. While at the same time we Europeans must learn to take more responsibility and engage more in our own defense - as Chancellor Scholz announced Germany would in his „Zeitenwende“ speech.
Here in Athens, at a phase where we are hearing shrill and aggressive rhetoric from nearby, it becomes obvious that the need to stand together applies just as much among European partners, within the European Union. Also we Europeans must stand together in defence of our values, in defence of international law. The most fundamental norm of international law - the prohibition of military aggression - is being violated in Ukraine every day. By the unprecedented sanctions we as the European Union have imposed on Russia, we have proven that we act with determination and common purpose. I am very glad that Greece and Germany are working hand in hand facing the many challenges of today, as the close European partners and friends that they are.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
with these few words, let me wish you a very pleasant and productive meeting, and let me say thank you for the invitation.