Athens.- Greeks on Friday celebrated then Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas’ refusal to allow Italian troops to pass through the country on October 28, 1940 with parades throughout the country. In Thessaloniki, the annual military parade was held in the presence of President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Defence Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos.
Immediately after the parade, Papoulias greeted handicapped veterans and National Resistance fighters.
“Today is a great day; a historic day and one of national pride,” Papoulias told reporters.
“However, it is also a day during which we pay honour and respect to the country’s Armed Forces, whose ultimate duty is safeguarding our country’s territorial integrity and security,” he said.
Turning to current events, Papoulias said that the country will fight in coming days for a just and definitive solution to the Cyprus issue, a solution that will not allow occupational forces in an EU member state.
“We will fight for a mutually-acceptable name for FYROM. We will not accept ultimatums nor blackmail,” he said.
Referring to Greek-Turkish relations, Papoulias said that on that issue too Greece is fighting daily to improve relations.
“There is much potential and many benefits to be derived from such a cooperation between Greece and Turkey, but Turkey’s political and military leadership must take that into account,” he said.
On his part, Spiliotopoulos said: “We honour those heroes who sacrificed even their lives so that we today can live under free and democratic rule. Our powerful and modern Armed Forces are an impenetrable shield and a guarantee for the defense and security of Greek citizens, who contribute to the armed forces’ modernization.”
Spiliotopoulos thanked Greek citizens for their contribution and assured them that the government manages public funds carefully and respectfully.
Also attending the parade were former President of the Republic Christos Sartzetakis, military leaders, government and party officials, as well as local authority officials.
In Athens, students from the city’s schools marched by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Education Minister Marietta Giannakou and main opposition PASOK President George Papandreou attended the annual parade.
In comments she made after the parade, Giannakou said that youngsters understand that this parade as well as other symbols are related to the timeless struggles Greeks underwent in order “to make this land our country.”
“Greece is not just a geographic unit, a grand tradition, it is a very beautiful idea; the idea to serve man and our values – those of democracy, freedom, social solidarity and peace,” Papandreou said.
“With the great ‘No’ (Ochi) of 1940 as well as many other eras, including modern ones, Greece shows that when it sets goals it succeeds in meeting them and emerges a universal power,” Papandreou concluded.
“Turkey’s European prospect and the theory of casus belli are incompatible notions. The EU acquis and the occupation army are two conflicting realities,” underscored the President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias, while delivering a speech at the dinner offered by the commander of the 3rd Army Corps, General Ilias Petsas in Thessaloniki. Furthermore, Mr Papoulias noted that Turkey’s persistence in making unilateral claims on the Aegean Sea has severe consequences on the economy of both countries, since they are obliged to invest huge amounts in army equipment.
Earlier, form the archaeological site of Vergina, northern Greece, Ms Papoulias sent a straight message to those who question the fact that Macedonia is an integral part of Greece. When questioned regarding the FYROM’s provocative stance on Macedonia, Mr Papoulias replied, “Let those gentlemen visit this very museum.” Mr Papoulias visited the outdoor sites, the tombs and the workshops, and voiced his sheer enthusiasm. Greek Defence Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos also visited Vergina.
“The EU acquis and the occupation army are two conflicting realities. Turkey has found itself in front of a crossroad. It will either march on the avenue of the European future with consistency, or it will never achieve full accession,” argued Mr Papoulias and underlined that provided Turkey decides to follow the European road, then it must revise the keynote areas of its policy.
In particular, he noted that Ankara should proceed with:
The commencement of Turkey’s accession talks has created a new climate and nourished optimism, but not complacency, over the course of the Greek-Turkish relations. Furthermore, the neighbouring country has undertaken to meet clear-cut pledges towards the EU,” noted the President.
He also voiced his belief that Turkey’s European turbulences.”