ATHENS: Greece on Thursday celebrated the 200th anniversary of the beginning of its struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire with a ceremony marking a new beginning after years of financial crisis that had to be resolved due to coronavirus restrictions.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne whose father Prince Philip was born in Corfu as part of the Greek royal family, and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin attended the annual Independence Day parade.
French President Emmanuel Macron withdrew due to COVID-19 blockades in parts of France.
Shortly after taking office in 2019, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis ’conservative government announced the celebration as a symbol of Greece’s return after a decade-long financial crisis that left half of young Greeks unemployed and sent about 500,000 people abroad in search of work.
“The challenge for our generation, 200 years after the‘ National Rebirth Revolution ’, is to make it a‘ National Revival Revolution ’,” Mitsotakis said in televised remarks.
After nearly 400 years under Turkish rule, Greek revolutionaries launched an uprising in 1821, and with the help of foreign sympathizers from countries including Britain, France, and Russia, won their independence in 1832.
Welcoming the resilience of the Greek people during the “desperately difficult years” of the economic crisis, Prince Charles said that the world needs to be rebuilt after COVID-19, which brought Greece back into a deep recession.
He added: “perhaps we can take inspiration from the courage, determination and ambition of 1821.”
The ceremonies on Thursday, at a time of renewed tension with Turkey, included a flight of Greek, American and French fighter jets, as well as a military parade that included cavalry units and “Evzones” – presidential guards in their ceremonial kilts.
The relic of the banner of Aghia Lavra, connected with the beginning of the Greek revolution, was presented for the first time at the annual parade.
After the dawn ceremony on the Acropolis, the center of Athens was strictly guarded, and the carpet of blue-and-white flowers that made up the Greek flag was spread out in Syntagma Square, the scene of riots during the crisis.
In a television message, US President Joe Biden said that the relationship between Greece and the United States will be closer than ever.
“Our shared commitment to freedom, human rights and the rule of law allows us to write our own future, either 200 years ago or today,” he said.