A timely and extremely valuable dialogue, under the auspices of the Economic Forum of Delphi and the French Ocean Institute, opened on Thursday in Paris at the conference “Thalassa – From the Archipelago to the Oceans”, a scientific initiative of Professors Michel Foucher and George Prevelakis.

As part of the conference, which was held with the support of Greek newspapers “TA NEA” and “TO VIMA”, approximately 30 Greek and French academics, politicians, and businessmen took part in a discussion, exchanging insightful ideas and information related to the main themes chosen by the organizers, including the journey of commercial shipping over time, the possibilities of exploiting marine resources against the backdrop of the current rising tensions at sea, as well as issues related to security, international law, borders, and the role of the sea in the development of culture in the West.

In his opening welcoming speech, the President of the Economic Forum of Delphi, Symeon G. Tsomokos, expressed the hope that the conference would add a “small footprint” to the excellent level of relations between Greece and France, emphasizing that the Sea has an almost sacred connection with Greek History and Tradition in our collective subconscious and that it constitutes a strong link with France.

Characterizing the Sea as the “Mother of all humanity”, in his welcome, Yiannis Pretenteris, after expressing the common concern for the global conflicts that have intensified lately at Sea, creating problems in the safety of navigation, then called on the participants – politicians and scientists – to delve into the topic.

Taking the floor first among the speakers, Greek Minister of Shipping and Island Policy, Christos Stylianides, initially recalled that the history of Hellenism is inextricably linked to the sea and that the Archipelago was the artistic, intellectual, and economic focus – not only on the ancient Greek and Hellenistic world – but also of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires.

The Greek minister referred to the need for cooperation to address common challenges at sea, such as transnational and organized crime, threats to freedom of navigation, threats to biodiversity, illegal, clandestine, and unregulated fishing, and environmental degradation.

In her speech on Shipping as a Global Constant, Marily Fragkista (member of the Board of Directors of the Union of Greek Shipowners and the Shipping Committee and the French-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Industry and President of the Union of Maltese Shipowners Association) cited the positive results of Greek-French cooperation in shipping, emphasizing that for the European Union, shipping made a crucial contribution to the well-being of its citizens by ensuring the supply of most of the necessary raw materials, energy, food, and other basic commodities.

Taking the stage next, Judge Panagiotis Pikrammenos, who served as Deputy Prime Minister of Greece (2019-2023), spoke about the future of fuels in shipping, noting that in recent years public scrutiny has focused on environmental protection and specifically on reducing gas emissions. The former Prime Minister referred to the European legislation that would come into force in January 2025, which favors the use of renewable energy sources in ships and specifically synthetic fuels based on either hydrogen or biomass.

Professor George Prevelakis, who followed, emphasized that the Archipelago has been a source of Western values, such as freedom and democracy, noting that, regarding contemporary Europe, the question is whether we want a Europe closed to itself or an archipelago Europe, that is, open to the oceans.

Following the opening remarks, Greece’s Permanent Representative to UNESCO, George Koumoutsakos, introduced the final discussion of the conference on the theme “THE ARCHIPELAGO, SOURCE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION,” in the framework of which he referred to the recent submission of the candidacy file of the Minoan Palaces of Crete to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The scientific conclusions of the conference (which included, among others, Deputy Minister of Migration and Asylum Sofia Voultepsi, MP, Professor Angelos Syrigos, former Commissioner Maria Damanaki, shipowners Nikos Vernikos and Charalampos Simantonis, entrepreneur Athanasios Polychronopoulos, etc.) were presented at the end by Professor Michel Foucher while Symeon Tsomokos and Christophe Prazuck (Director of the Institut de l’Océan, Alliance Sorbonne Université) who formulated the final remarks.