‘Greek is so expressive’

You were in Greece in the mid-’80s and now you’re back. What is your image of Greece? There are two or three things which strike me on returning to Greece, albeit as a newcomer on this occasion. The first thing I would say is that Greece is clearly a country that is now at the heart of the European Union. When I first came here in 1984 Greece had only been a member of the European Community for three years. I have to say that there were all sorts of different influences on Greece, many different influences within Greece, some of them historical, some of them political, which perhaps made Greece face in different directions in terms of its outlook in foreign policy. Returning to Greece I’m struck by how Greece feels now like a European country and how the thought process of Greeks is very much attuned to a European thought process. The second thing which I notice is that Greece seems to me to be a country which has a newfound self-confidence. I think when I was here 20 years ago Greece was still trying to find its place in the world. I think that is now something that Greece has and of course membership of the Security Council is a demonstration that other countries feel that too. but this is not just a matter of the Olympics. I think this is a much longer process. The third point is the economy, which has changed a great deal. The economy, like most European economies, still faces a number of challenges, there’s no doubt about that. But when I compare it with the economy as I found it 20 years ago, it’s changed and improved and strengthened tremendously. I’m sure you’re impressing people to an astonishing degree with your excellent Greek. I’m sure my Greek needs some further work but it’s a language I’m very fond of. I first learned it 20 years ago I suppose, so its a little rusty still. But one of the reasons I love the language is that it’s so expressive, especially when you start talking about thought processes and feelings and philosophies. There is a whole vocabulary in Greek which does not translate at all easily into English. And so I find it not only a linguistic journey but it also opens your eyes sometimes to aspects of Greek culture that you might not otherwise have come across. So it’s a great experience for me.

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