I am delighted to return to Greece almost 10 years after the end of my term as Australia’s ambassador, the first Greek-born Australian ambassador to Greece and the first woman in the role. My visit has personal significance, coming at the end of a 29-year career with the Australian diplomatic service and following a personal challenge after the loss in 2016 of my husband James Bloomfield, fellow Australian diplomat and lifelong friend of Greece. Our family will always remember the friendship, love and support we received from Greek friends through that period.

My term as Australia’s ambassador coincided with one of the most difficult periods in Greece’s recent history as the country worked to overcome the profound Greek and eurozone debt crisis. Over that period Greece’s debt surged, wages and pensions were cut, and unemployment exceeded 25%. The country lost a quarter of its GDP, plunging into a severe recession and becoming cut off from global financial markets. Greece’s EU partners stepped in to bail Greece out of its financial difficulties in exchange for strict austerity measures and painful structural reforms, changes which upended Greece’s entire political system, economy and society and tested values, principles and social cohesion.

Throughout those difficulties, the Greek people remained resolute, determined to confront their challenges and to overcome them. And Australia stood by Greece as a true friend through that difficult period, demonstrating in tangible ways Australians’ solidarity and compassion. We also practically assisted Greece’s reform efforts by sharing expertise from Australia’s own successful record of productivity-enhancing reforms; established the first ever Hellenic-Australian Business Council to boost two-way trade and investment; and deepened links between Greece’s world-leading shipping industry and Australia’s resource sector. Greek shipping has long played a key role in transporting Australian exports to our markets, enhancing national prosperity.

Today, Greece has been transformed. Though work is ongoing, the country has made a remarkable recovery with a sharp drop in unemployment rates, improved public finances and a decline in public and private debt. Greek GDP grew by 2.2% in 2023, its stock market surged by over 40% and Greek debt, at around 160% of GDP, is expected to fall further, underpinned by positive growth prospects post-Covid.

Importantly, Greece’s recovery has allowed Greek society to begin to heal, and ongoing reforms and investments have helped put its economy on a more sustainable, resilient footing, better prepared to tackle future challenges and make the most of opportunities.

Greece’s recovery is good news for Australia, for our Indo-Pacific region and for the world. Greece is a country with which Australia shares strong community links, history, and democratic values and interests; a global shipping superpower underpinning international trade; a long-standing EU member and advanced economy with significant strengths in areas such as tourism, energy and agriculture; an entrepreneurial people with a highly skilled, capable workforce; and a regional hub playing a key role as a force of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and broader region.

Greece is also a country of warm hospitality and a welcoming people, where Australians feel at home.

People all over the world recognize and respect Greece’s outstanding contribution to world civilization and all humanity. Australia, through our democracy, through our institutions, is an heir to this extraordinary legacy, and we have built on that to achieve some extraordinary things.

From our Indigenous Australians, who have cared for Australia’s land and waters for over 60,000 years, to people from every corner of the Earth who call Australia home, Australians of all backgrounds have worked together to build one of the world’s most open, diverse societies and one of the most successful economies.

The Greek community, along with our other migrant communities, has played a vital role in the building of modern Australia. In decades past, thousands of Greeks took the brave decision to seek a new life and new opportunities in a welcoming country on the other side of the world. They have gone on to form strong communities and make important contributions to their new homeland. In all areas of professional and public life – in politics, in business, in culture and the arts, in science, in sports, in community service – the contribution of Greek Australians has been immense.

The Greek diaspora in Australia and around the world is a source of strength, inspiration and support.

As a first-generation Greek migrant to Australia, and as the first Greek-born, and first female Australian ambassador to Greece, I am proud to have had the opportunity to contribute to both my homelands by working to further strengthen and deepen the relationship between Australia and Greece – two countries inexorably linked by shared values, history, and strong and enduring ties between our peoples.

At this critical juncture in our respective regions and globally, when our rules-based international order, democratic freedoms and way of life are being tested, including two wars, we need to recommit to our values and principles at home. We need to bridge divisions, work together, build trust, invest in our national power and in strong partnerships. At this critical time, the new Greece – the Greece beyond the crisis – is a key partner as we work to ensure an open, peaceful and free world.

Jenny Bloomfield was the Australian ambassador to Greece from 2011 until 2014.

This article was originally published in “Kathimerini”