Greeting at the opening of the international conference for the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne

The President of the Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou announced the opening of the international conference for the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Lausanne organized by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, in the Great Hall of the EKPA.

The following is the greeting of the President of the Republic:

“I am happy to inaugurate today the proceedings of the international conference for the 100 years since the Treaty of Lausanne. Allow me to congratulate the organizers for taking this very important initiative and inviting such distinguished foreign and Greek speakers, thus paving the way for a fruitful exchange of views and an in-depth reflection on key issues related to this international Treaty, the which continues to be of decisive importance for the region and the world.

The Treaty of Lausanne is indeed a landmark treaty, which established national borders in our neighborhood and in the Middle East, with the aim of restoring peace after the devastating First World War. The centenary of its signature is an excellent opportunity to reaffirm its strength and the stable framework it created, which continues to be a pillar of peace in the region.

Undoubtedly, one of the most radical elements of the Lausanne Conference, from which the Treaty of the same name emerged, especially from a humanitarian point of view, was the mandatory population exchange between Greece and Turkey. Indeed, this was the only exchange of its kind in world history carried out by virtue of a treaty between states. The Muslims of Western Thrace and the Greek Orthodox Christians of Constantinople, Imbros and Tenedos were excluded from the exchange, with the Treaty explicitly defining the framework for the protection of the rights of the two minorities. It would be remiss not to mention Thrace’s thriving Muslim minority, in sad contrast to Turkey’s ever-shrinking Greek minority.

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Of course, Lausanne did not only settle issues between Greece and Turkey after the end of the Greek-Turkish war, which marked the disastrous withdrawal of our country from Asia Minor and the cruel fate of the Greek population that lived there for centuries.

As a multilateral act, signed by the Republic of Turkey, on the one hand, and the Allied Powers, on the other, the Treaty had wider geopolitical significance, as it defined – and continues to define – Turkey’s borders with its neighbours, from the southeastern tip of the European continent to the northwestern fringes of the Middle East.

Few international treaties have shown as much resilience as Lausanne. The signatory states, by entering into a treaty to define borders and territorial sovereignty, sought to achieve stability and finality. Any attempt to overthrow it would inevitably undermine the peace and balance that has remained unchanged for a century.

Besides, according to fundamental principles of international law, the treaties that define borders cannot and do not “expire”. Nor can they be revised unilaterally by one party, without the consent of the others.

I take this opportunity to point out that the final territorial settlement is the very cornerstone of the Treaty. Only on such a solid foundation can friendship between peoples and the peaceful coexistence of states be maintained.

As revisionism, nationalism and illegal aggression make their ominous appearance once again on our continent, I remain confident that this Conference will illuminate the legacy of Lausanne as a model for peacebuilding that can also inspire us and others in the future.

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I wish every success in the work of the conference”.

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