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Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to welcome our international partners here in Greece, in particular here in Zakynthos. And I would like to welcome you at this excellent event, the Search & Rescue Workshop, which is hosted on this really very beautiful, very exciting island, Zakynthos.
But also I would like to congratulate Yelena Votskar for taking this really very demanding initiative. A big thank you to Frontex as well for its support to implement this initiative at this very demanding period.
Because, as you know, we are facing big challenges due to geopolitical developments close to us in the Eastern Mediterranean, in Gaza, in Israel. This is a global challenge.
Moreover, it is a great pleasure for me, as Minister for Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, to welcome here in Zakynthos officers from Frontex, the European Fisheries Control Agency, EFCA, the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, from DG Home and of course representatives from France, Italy, Spain, the United States of America, my home country Cyprus, Estonia, Bulgaria, Finland, Turkey. And of course representatives from our Greek Ministries, the Hellenic Ministry of Migration and Assignments, the Hellenic Armed Forces, and the regional and local authorities.
The presence here today in Zakynthos of so many representatives from so many states, institutions, and agencies, is a clear, tangible proof of the importance of this two-day exercise.
At the same time, the diverse and international representation in today's workshop and exercise underlines the global nature of search and rescue operations and underscores the importance of cooperation on a worldwide scale.
But it also reaffirms the strong commitment of our government, the Greek government and our Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Hellenic Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy, and, of course, our operational arm, the Hellenic Coast Guard to save lives. This is our main priority. And this is, for us, non-negotiable. Under any circumstances, under any conditions.
Moreover, it highlights that we remain dedicated to strengthening and improving search and rescue operations. I watched the excellent presentation by the previous speaker, and I was impressed by the structure of the presentation and by the deep meanings of this presentation.
As I said, we remain dedicated to strengthening and improving search and rescue operations. Not just in our shores, our Greek shores, in all of our islands and our mainland shores, but across international borders. And we focus on this, because this is our mission.
Here, let me remind you that the Hellenic Coast Guard was the first to undertake a similar initiative in collaboration with Frontex in 2017. So, we engaged from the beginning in tackling all these demanding challenges and we were at the front line at a very critical time in 2017.
Now, few words about the workshop. The purpose of this workshop is, first, to strengthen the coordination and cooperation among all stakeholders. Second, and maybe the most important, to exchange best practices.
We have to work together, we have to talk with each other, we have to see together aspects of this demanding field in order to reach best practices. And, of course, thirdly, we have to identify and discuss any challenges and obstacles in order to overcome them together.
We need collaboration, we need cooperation. I know from my many experiences as former European Commissioner for Crisis Management, and also from my previous mandate as Minister for Civil Protection and Climate Crisis, that above all, is to work together, to work together to achieve common goals. And to find sometimes difficult ways in order to overcome difficult obstacles in the field.
In the current situation in the world, faced with ever increasing challenges, from maritime incidents to natural disasters, and, of course, the ongoing complexities of human mobility, the significance of this workshop is evident. Nobody can deny this fact I think.
This Workshop is a concrete example of our enduring dedication to safety and security. Our ability to collaborate and coordinate effectively together is paramount.
As we embark on two days of intensive discussions, exercises, and knowledge sharing, I'm really confident that we will emerge stronger and better equipped to face the challenges of search and rescue operations.
Let us use this occasion as an opportunity not only to learn from each other, but also to strengthen further the bonds of cooperation. This so important. Greeks, Italians, Turks, French, everyone, needs to be able to understand each other at the critical time.
This brings the real bonding. And from my experience, I know that during a very difficult situation, this is the most important thing. You know better than me this experience. You know that bonding at the critical time might be the only instrument to meet a very demanding task.
So, dear friends, I strongly believe that only together we can make a difference. Only together we can save lives. This is our common goal. This is our common mission.
Thanks once again to all of you, for your presence here in Greece, in order to look together how we can save lives, how we can offer and provide safety and security to our people.
Thanks a lot.