The March 25th national anniversary, marking the commencement of the 1821 Revolution against Ottoman rule, was celebrated throughout Greece on Thursday, with the main military parade in central Athens and local school parades in all parts of the country.

Before the parade, a doxology was held in Athens, officiated by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece and attended by President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias, Health Minister Mariliza Xenoyiannakopoulou representing the government, Parliament President Philippos Petsalnikos, and representatives of the political parties and the country’s military and religious leadership.

Prime Minister George Papandreou and main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras were both in Brussels for an EU Summit and European People’s Party (EPP) summit, respectively.

“As in 1821, the wave of Philhellenes hastened to manifest their solidarity to Greece, so today in Brussels a tough battle is being waged, and we ask the solidarity of the Europeans,” Papoulias said after the parade.

Xenoyiannakopoulou said that the obstacles will be overcome “with unity and solidarity for democracy”, while Petsalnikos stressed that “we can achieve prosperity in Greece through struggles and a responsible attitude”.

Only infantry divisions took part in this year’s parade, following a defence ministry decision to avoid the movement of motorised units from the borders for reasons of economy and environmental protection.

PM Papandreou’s message

In a message, prime minister George Papandreou stressed that March 25 “symbolises the strength of will of an entire people to break its bonds and demand its most fundamental right, freedom, its very existence”.

“In 1821 the Greeks rose up and won their freedom, Greece’s independence, its right to determine its fate itself. 189 years after the start of the great struggle, Greece is once again today at a critical crossroads, as it has found itself many times in its history. What was sought then was our liberation from the yoke of the conqueror. Today, it is our liberation from all that led us to today’s big economic and social impasse, to the biggest crisis in our recent history,” the Premier stressed in his message.

“All we Greeks are called on to work together, to make every possible effort for an exit from the present crisis and the rebirth of our country. For a Greece in which justice, solidarity, equal opportunities and potential prevail,” the Premier continued, adding: “I am certain that, once again, we will stand worthy of our history, emerging stronger and once again standing firmly on our own two feet.”

“It is the minimum tribute we are called on to actively pay to those who, 189 years ago, believed in the impossible and succeeded in making it possible,” the Premier’s message concluded.

Thessaloniki – Defence Minister

Defence Minister Evangelos Venizelos expressed certainty that Greece will overcome its present difficult situation on its own power, in statements after the March 25 parade in Thessaloniki.

Greece, he said, has a strong economy, is an EU and eurozone member country, ranks 30th country in the world with respect to GDP, 15th in the world with respect to investments and savings, has big economic prospects, and can overcome – and will overcome – the difficulties on its own strength.

“We once again need a liberation…A liberation of the powers and abilities of the nation. We will achieve this on our own, with our own power,” he added.

What Greece is seeking from the EU are self-evident and basic things, namely that Europe comprehends its problem, “because its problem is not a Greek problem but a European problem”, and show that it has the political ability to anticipate, manage and overcome crises, Venizelos stressed.

Regarding Turkey’s provocations in the Aegean, Venizelos said that Greece was carefully and vigilantly monitoring what was happening in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. It was taking account of the situations, without underestimating them or exaggerating them.

“We don’t have dependent reflexes, we don’t chase after provocations, we always have a firm axis: peace in the region arising from respect of international law, national sovereignty, existing borders, the sovereign rights that have been recognised by international treaties or resolutions of international organisations,” Venizelos said, adding that Greece is once again sending to its neighbors a message of cooperation, stability and mutual understanding.

He warned, however, that “we must not remain at the level of rhetoric, we must proceed to actions and initiatives”.

ND deputy Costas Giulekas stressed that the main opposition party “supports Greece, supports our country, but not the government…we are not giving blank cheques…in hard times, however, we put in our support, and this is what (ND leader) Antonis Samaras is doing on his trip abroad”.