South Australia Premier Mike Rann stressed that “Macedonia is as Greek as the Acropolis“, during a meeting in Thessaloniki on the weekend with Macedonia-Thrace minister George Kalantzis, noting the “efforts we have been making for many years now, since the 1990s, so that the name ‘Republic of Macedonia’ (for FYROM) is not recognized, because no nation should steal the history and symbols of another nation”.
“For all of us who love History, and know History, Macedonia is as Greek as the Acropolis,” said Rann, who was on Sunday presented with the Municipality of Thessaloniki’s highest distinction, the Gold Medal of the City, by mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos at an official ceremony. The medal was bestowed on Rann, by unanimous decision of the City Council, in recognition of his contribution to Greece and the promotion of Greece’s national issues.
Rann arrived in Athens on Friday on a three-day visit to Greece. He arrived in Thessaloniki on Saturday afternoon, following talks with government officials in Athens and visits to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum. He returned Sunday evening to Athens where, during the working leg of his visit on Monday, Rann will hold meetings with Greek officials, culminating in a meeting with Greece’s President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, who will bestow on him a medal of honor.
Rann, for many years a patron of Australia’s “Justice for Cyprus” Committee, will leave later on Monday for a working visit to Cyprus.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Kalantzis on Saturday, Rann expressed pleasure at “visiting Macedonia once again, and indeed just a few short weeks ahead of Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis’ visit to Australia”.
“For many years, since the decade of the ’90s, we have been making efforts so that the name ‘Republic of Macedonia’ (for FYROM) is not recognized, because no nation should steal the history and symbols of another nation”.
Rann also noted his efforts on the Cyprus issue as well over the past 30 years.
Kalantzis, in turn, thanked the South Australia premier for his fervent support of the Greek positions.
“When the responsible politicians know the truth, the state it, And the premier spoke the truth. We welcome him, and in his person we meet all those great men who recognize a reality, that no one can forget Hellenism’s contribution to the world. The Greeks gave light to Humanity,” Kalantzis said.
During the 45-minute meeting, Rann also stressed the strong bonds of friendship between Greece and Australia, and praised the large Greek community that lives and works in his country.
Rann was presented with the Gold Medal of the City of Thessaloniki on Sunday by Mayor Papageorgopoulos. During the ceremony, City Council president Sotiris Kapetanopoulos read out the Council’s unanimous decision, while the Mayor stressed that the honor was being bestowed “on a great political man who has contributed much to his homeland, but also to a very great philhellene who has contributed much to Greece and to the promotion of its national issues”.
Papageorgopoulos noted that Rann has “boldly and outspokenly” defended Macedonia and the just cause of Cyprus vis-à-vis the Turkish invasion and occupation, and also assistance financially the Cypriot Australians, who lost their properties and possessions during the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island republic, to seek their rights. In recent years, Rann has spoken at more than 40 events of Greek Australians, and taken party in many Greek community events, the Mayor said, also noting Rann’s substantial contribution to the founding of the Greek Orthodox College and Greek Primary School in Adelaide.
“We present to you the Gold Medal of the City, with the certainty that this honor is two-way.
We unanimously, and as one spirit, honor you with the Gold Medal, and you honor us with your continuous support,” Papageorgopoulos said.
Rann, who was born in Britain and moved with his family to New Zealand at the age of 9, and afterwards to Australia, said that upon arriving in Australia it was the Greek Australians who welcomed him into their homes, opened up their arms to him and helped him better understand the Greek issues. And, of course, “it is Greece that has given an immense gift to Australia and the world, immigration”.
“Greece’s greatest contribution to the world, however, is the meaning of Democracy, and for this reason it is very important for all of us who believe in freedom and in human rights to defend them wherever we are in the world,” Rann said, and cited the Cyprus problem and the FYROM issue.
On the Cyprus issue and Turkey, Rann said: “It is very important not only to proclaim it to the world, but also to defend Cyprus and its rights, against the 1974 Turkish invasion”.
Today, he continued, Cyprus was one of the few states in the world that remains divided, following the illegal invasion. “Apartheid has eclipsed, the Berlin Wall has fallen, but the horrendous scar that divides Cyprus remains. Turkey wishes to become a full member of the European Union, but it does not abide by the basic and fundamental rules of the EU, nor with the rulings of the Court of Human Rights. Turkey wants everything for itself, but it cannot continue like this. It must accept the European rules,” Rann said.
On the FYROM name issue, Rann said: “Greece has given immense support to FYROM and helped it regarding its future accession of the EU. I consider it wrong for any state to usurp and steal the symbol of the civilization and culture of other peoples”.
Rann further recalled his first visit to the Vergina archaeological site, noting that “there I saw first-hand and realized the true history and origin of Macedonia”. “In Vergina, one can ‘live’ the Greekness of this region, recognizing its Greek history, which is not recent but begins in the years of antiquity, and is as certain as are the Old and New Testaments”.
On Greek-Australian relations, he said they were “optimum”, adding that he looked forward to welcoming Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis in his country, during Karamanlis’ upcoming visit.
In closing, Rann said “I promise you that I will continue to fight for the just demands of Greece and Greek Macedonia”.
Rann was visited the Royal Tombs at Vergina and given a tour of the Byzantine Museum before returning to Athens.
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