The Conservative Friends of Greece group held their second party conference event, this year in Manchester. The event marked two years since the founding of the group within the UK Conservative Party and has since gone from strength to strength with a record number of 12 Members in the House of Commons, two members of the House of Lords, and a member of the Greater London Assembly.
The event was hosted by Stephanos Ioannou, Chairman of the Conservative Friends of Greece, with special guests: The Rt. Hon. Alberto Costa MP President of the All Party- Parliamentary Group for Greece and House of Commons Leader for Conservative Friends of Greece, John Penrose MP, Martin Vickers MP, Christopher Pincher MP, Andrew Rosindell MP.
In addition the group were proud to announce their new leader for the House of Lords, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne. The event also welcomed H.E. Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic in the UK Dimitris Caramitsos-Tziras and Andrew Boff, Conservative member for the London Assembly.
Stephanos Ioannou opened the event by stating that: “For two years now Conservative Friends of Greece have been championing the voices of ordinary Greeks here in the UK. For two years we have welcomed Greeks into our party, given them a home, and made them feel that someone is on their side-the Conservative Party. We are the only political party here in the UK who is reaching out to the Greek community. Not Labour, nor the Liberal Democrats have acknowledged the difference Greek businesses and individuals themselves through society have made to the UK economy throughout the decades. But we do, and we say loud and clear “WE ARE ON YOUR SIDE!” “Even though the UK has voted to leave the European Union, we have not voted to fail our friendships with nations including Greece, that make up approximately 200,000 here in the UK. Conservative MP’s I’m sure will be lobbying hard to ensure the status of Greeks here in the UK and secure their future. We will never turn Greek people away from Britain, we will welcome you with open arms, and we will let you get on with your day to day life similar to Brits born here.”
The Rt. Hon Alberto Costa MP also said: “I have had the pleasure of being President of the APPG for Greece in Parliament, working with colleagues from all parties to enhance and strengthen the bond between the UK and Greece. Together we are fighting hard to make sure ordinary Greeks living in the UK have a say in how we manage our country, and I am optimistic that our future relationship even after we leave the EU will be better than ever. From tourism to agriculture and shipping to consulting Greek business and expertise will always be welcome to the UK, and we value your input and efforts.”
The Rt. Hon John Penrose MP also said: “Both the UK and Greece work very close together militarily, and this is emphasised by our NATO alliance that advocates peace, democracy and freedom.” “The UK has recently sent over HMS Duncan to Piraeus, a major vessel in our Royal Navy, to not only stem the flow of migrants but to undertake exercises with Greek military forces. This is alongside the more recent visit by Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon to Souda Bay in Crete, a panicle base that brings together Britain-Greece-United States forces.” “After Brexit, I do not expect, and don’t wish to see a change in the military relationship between the UK and Greece. Greece is a pillar of stability in a region of instability. They are part of a major crossroad between mainland Europe, the Middle East, and with close proximity to North Africa, and so I echo that the UK would not want to lose such a strategic ally.”
Baroness Nicholson said:”It is an honour for me to be present here this evening with the Conservative Friends of Greece group, and I look forward to working with the group and its members”. Non-governmental organisations are the backbone of the Greek civil society. From the Greek branches of international NGOs and nation-wide NGOs to local grassroots organisations, civil society in Greece is a diverse sector. The U.K. has played a key role also in the humanitarian work going on over in Greece. In February 1,000 tents were delivered by the British government to the General Secretariat for Civil Protection to help Greek authorities cope with the influx of refugees and migrants. The UK is providing ’940,000 of in-kind assistance delivered through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and NGOs in the form of 61,900 blankets, 1,000 tents, 200 solar lanterns, 8,000 inflatable mats, 8,000 sleeping bags, 4 generators and 1,000 floor tiles. In addition to the humanitarian effort, the U.K. recently deployed HMS Duncan to help with the stem of refugees coming into the country. With the help we are giving, not only are we providing assistance, but we are sending a message to Greece that they are not alone- and that the UK will be by their side even with difficult times such as now.”
H.E. Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic in the UK Dimitris Caramitsos-Tziras also said: “May I echo the Embassy’s appreciation and full support for the Group’s efforts. This is my second year at the groups conference event, and I am pleased to see that the number of parliamentarians has increased, as well as of course the new addition of Baroness Nicholson in the Lords. Greece has undergone a 7-year-long deep financial crisis. Throughout that period, and especially now that my country comes out of the crisis, it remained a pillar of stability and security in the otherwise turbulent eastern Mediterranean. Greece maintains good neighbourly relations with all countries in the SE Europe and the East Med region, and has forged strategic partnerships with key countries in those regions. And in terms of Brexit, but mostly in the effort of working out the future UK-EU relationship and the future UK-Greece bilateral relationship, Greece has been positive and will maintain a constructive role.”
Andrew Boff, GLA member, also said:”London is proud to be one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, that welcomes everyone and in particular Greeks. With over 20 Greek Orthodox Churches here in London, hundreds of businesses, many Greek students studying at London universities, and over 100 Greek schools, it’s clear that London has and continues to welcome Greeks seeking a better quality of life.”