Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ statement before his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Geoffrey Onyeama (Abuja, 10.01.2022)

My dear colleague,

Your Excellency,

Dear minister Onyeama,

It is such a great pleasure for me to be here in Abuja in Nigeria during my first visit of 2022, which in a way is symbolic.

But also, as you were kind enough to mention before, of the first visit of a Greek Foreign Minister or for that matter, of a Greek Minister ever in Nigeria.

And the first question I was asking myself, Sir, was why did it take us so long. If I should propose an answer, the answer would be we have not even one recorded difference between us. And when you don’t have a difference with somebody, you tend to forget that even the best of relations need cultivation, need development.

Thank you so much for referring to the vigorous presence of the Greek community of businessmen in Nigeria for almost 100 years now.  And thank you for mentioning that Greek names are household names for all Nigeria, which means that this Greek business community did not come to Nigeria to make a profit and leave, but became Greek and Nigerians at the same time, serving both countries, both nations, our common future.

Next time that I will be here, I hope shortly, I will visit Lagos and visit this Greek business community of ours, for which, if you will allow me Sir, we are very proud, and it is our connecting bridge, it can be our connecting bridge.

We have another connecting bridge, and I am speaking about the best basketball player in the United States and in the world now, Giannis Antetokounmpo, a household name for every Greek, as Giannis. He is of Nigerian origin, he is a Greek. Again, he is a connecting bridge between us in sport and we are both very proud of him.

I also have to say, I used to like and play football since I was a kid, and I always admired your football. I have to say we came across your national team in the 1994 World Cup, you beat us handsomely. We lost 2-0, if I remember well, and, I have to say, rightly so, you played much better. And if you will allow me to wish you every success in the Africa Cup, that takes place as I am here.

Sir, we consider you as a neighbour. And we consider you as a neighbour, because we see the Mediterranean Sea not as a dividing border but as a connecting bridge. We very well appreciate that Africa is home to the fastest growing economies in the world. Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa. We are not that big, but we are a proud member of the EU, and we see ourselves as being able to facilitate communication between Europe, where we stand at the southern border, and Africa, and Nigeria.

So, for me being here in Abuja today, in the name of my Government and of Prime Minister Mitsotakis, who sends his warmest regards to President Buhari and to the Nigerian Government and to the Nigerian people, I think this is the right place to be. The right place to start 2022.

Thank you so much for your kind words, thank you for appreciating the Memorandum we are going to sign shortly. There is a long list of Agreements we’re working on and which I hope we will conclude shortly. Maybe allow me also to invite you openly to come and visit us to Athens, you will find, Sir, that we are very hospitable.

And also, for me, there is an additional thing I would like to mention by closing this opening remarks of mine. I am happy that I am symbolically bringing with me a “present” to the Nigerian society and to the Nigerian people. And this is almost a million vaccines. All the world is suffering from COVID-19, all of us. But there is one huge achievement through this suffering, that we clearly understand, all of us, that we are a world community. That nobody is safe, unless everybody is safe. And that health is a global good. And all of us are under the moral obligation to be providers of help whenever and wherever assistance is needed.

So, I am so happy to make this small contribution to the Nigerian people.

Thank you so much. Allow me to wish you the happiest new year 2022 and may I express the hope to see you in Athens shortly. We have very capable Ambassadors, both of us, so they will arrange the details of your visit.

Thank you so much, Sir.

Antonis Tsagronis
Antonis Tsagronis
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