Ambassador of Greece wants to explore Vietnam by motorbike
(VNF) – On occasion of Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pham Binh Minh’s official visit to Greece on July 1 & 2, Greek Ambassador to Vietnam, Ioannis Raptakis, recently joined an interview with The World and Vietnam, in which he expressed his ideas on the prospect of developing bilateral ties, and his personal affection for the country.
Ambassador of Greece to Vietnam, Ioannis Raptakis. (source: The World and Vietnam)
Please share with us some highlights of the Vietnam – Greece relations in recent time, and your thought on the prospect of the relations in the future?
The diplomatic ties and friendship between Vietnam and Greece have been experiencing positive change. Two nations have been lending valuable supports to each other in every sphere in regional and international forums.
Since the beginning of diplomatic relations (April 15, 1975), bilateral ties have been tremendously reinforced.
In particular, after the official visit of Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, to Vietnam in February 2017, vast progress in bilateral ties has taken place.
In May 2018, Poliburo Members, Central Party Secretary, Head of the Central Committee's Commission for Propaganda and Training, Vo Van Thuong, made an official visit to Greece, during which he met with Greece's General Secretary, Vice National Assembly and General Secretary of the ruling radical leftwing party Syriza.
He was also interviewed by one of Greece’s biggest news agencies and took the occasion to introduce to Greek friends the beauty of Vietnam.
In the time to come, we will keep supporting each other in regional and global multilateral forums. For instance, Greece had been standing by Vietnam on the run for non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Another milestone in bilateral relations was the recent visit to Greece of Deputy PM, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pham Binh Minh. The visit was a precious opportunity for Vietnam and Greece to deepen the long-standing relationship and jointly seek new direction for the next stage of development.
“Vietnam and Greece share certain similarities, including the two countries share a rich culture, an impressive history with several resistence wars against foreign invaders.” What do you think about this statement?
Like Vietnam, Greece had to spend 400 years fighting for independence. However, it is not the only thing in common that we share. For example, most Vietnamese kids know about Greek mythology. That’s an astounding fact which signifies the strong bond we share in terms of culture.
Based on this commonality, the government of Greece would love to offer more scholarships to Vietnamese students to take Greek language courses in Athens, with the aim of enhancing cultural diplomacy and nourish the people-to-peope link.
In recent years, Vietnam – Greece bilateral trade value has witnessed a remarkable growth. The growth rate is maintained at above 20% in the last five years. From your point of views, which areas should be focused on to beef up bilateral trade ties?
The trade relations between Vietnam and Greece hold huge potential for development, despite the two sides’ twoways trade remain a modest figure (USD 239 million in 2016).
In my opinion, I think what we need to do is to increase the frequency of high-level exchange and visits.
In addition, there are two impending agreements waiting for Vietnam and Greece to sign, which are the agreement on maritime transportation cooperation and the Double Taxation Agreements, which will facilitate two countries’ trade in the future.
At the same time, Vietnam and the European Union (EU) are striving toward the signing and ratification of the Vietnam – EU Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), one of the determining agreements to push forward Vietnam – EU trade relations in general, and Vietnam-Greece two-way trade in particular. Vietnam is taking account of the issue, and Greece is in strong favor for it.
I look forward to the ratification of EVFTA at the end of this year. This would be an ambitious and the most comprehensive agreement which has been signed by EU and a developing country. When the agreement officially takes effect, it will serve as a new standard for EU to cooperate with an admirable developing country like Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Vietnam is showcasing its dynamism toward international integration for the prosperity of its people.
Some field of trade will be benefited once the Vietnam - EU FTA is ratified, such as the issuance of phytosanitary certificate, the import and export of agricultural produces.
Moreover, since maritime is Greece’s core competency, as the country with the world’s biggest vessel/ship fleets, if cooperation in this field is fostered, it will become an essential driving force for two sides economic ties.
Ambassador Raptakis meets Deputy PM Pham Binh Minh. (source: The World and Vietnam)
Furthermore, tourism is an area which is in need of investment. Both Vietnam and Greece’ economies are on the right track of growth and thanks to this momentum, Vietnamese people are having more opportunities to travel to countries outside of South East Asia. In the year 2017, there were 100,000 visa issued for Vietnamese people to travel to Europe.
In addition, our people are looking forward to traveling to Vietnam, to explore the country’s historical sights of interests and the beautiful landscape.
However, as we are yet to have a direct flight route, visa procedure still takes quite a long time, the number of Greek tourists coming to Vietnam does not precisely reflect the interest of Greek people in this destination.
At the moment, Greek is taking part in a visa exemption project for tourists travelling to Vietnam, like what has been applying for tourists from other countries like the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
As long as the aforementioned issues are cleared, I am sure that the number of Greek tourists coming to Vietnam will increase significantly.
You started taking office in Vietnam in October 2017. Before the tenure, had you ever been to Vietnam?
It is the first time I came to Vietnam. Before arriving here as the Ambassador of Greece, I had learned about Vietnam's history and other information from books.
Specially, I learned about Vietnam’s history in Edessa city, where President Ho Chi Minh stayed during the first World War, as part of his revolutionary path.
In order to mark this memory, the authorities of Edessa is now considering building a statue and a park named after him in the city.
Moreover, I have many Vietnamese-decent friends across Europe, who told me about the thousand-year culture of Vietnam, the spectacular landscape, marvellous mountains and enchanting idyllic beaches.
Coming to Vietnam is a dream which comes true. At the moment, I am looking forward to exploring the whole country on motorbike, to enjoy everything to the fullest./.
( Translated by Phi Yen )