Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper held talks with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, paid a visit to the Greek Parliament and attended a roundtable between Greek and Canadian business delegations in Athens on Saturday, during the first day of a two-day official visit to Greece.
Papandreou and the Canadian prime minister, who arrived in Greece after attending the G8 summit in Deauville, discussed bilateral relations and global economic developments, including those in the Eurozone and the economic difficulties faced by Greece. They also signed a bilateral agreement for promoting the mobility of young people in the two countries.
Arriving at the Greek Parliament on Saturday morning, Harper was received by Greek Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos. Noting that relations between Greece and Canada were good, he said that an effort will be made to make improve them further.Petsalnikos referred to the important role of the Greek expatriate community in Canada as a bridge between the two countries, noting that Canada had been a hospitable country for Greeks fleeing the seven-year military dictatorship of 1967-1974.
The Canadian premier noted that there were roughly 250,000 people of Greek background living in Canada, including government minister Tony Clement and MP Costas Menegakis that had accompanied him on his visit to Greece.
Petsalnikos presented Harper with the gold medal of Pericles, a symbol of Athens’ Golden Age and of democracy.
After visiting Parliament, the Canadian premier addressed a roundtable meeting of Greek and Canadian business people at the city’s Hilton Hotel. At this, he stressed the need to develop bilateral trade and business relations between the two countries.
He also underlined Canada’s interest in concluding a free trade agreement with the European Union, now in the final stages of negotiation.
On Sunday, Harper and Papandreou are due to visit the historic visit of Kalavryta, site of a WWII Nazi massacre, in order to pay tribute to the Greeks slain by the 117th Commando Division on December 13, 1943.