News & Media
print this page send this page
News & Media
The Princeton Speech
1 December 1999
Category: Speeches

Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Constantine, and I am the former King of Greece.

What, you may be wondering, are my special qualifications for tackling such a subject? I assure you I don't lay claim to any. It certainly has nothing to do with being a royal!

It has everything to do with the fact that as King, I was head of state of the Greek nation. A nation whose territorial borders lie within the Balkan region.

Whenever I'm asked what it's like to be a King, the answer I would like to give - but never have - is the one Shakespeare gave to Shylock in the Merchant of Venice - with just two minor changes.

"Hath not a royal eyes? Hath not a royal hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, fashions? Are we not fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a commoner? If you prick us, do we not bleed, if you tickle us, do we not laugh?"

If you press me, - this is me speaking now, not Shylock - I could dig a little deeper and say I was trained to be King and what I was brought up to be, stays with me. I was brought up to serve others. Service was drummed into me virtually from birth in the hope that I might, in time, grow up to contribute something to my fellow man.

The other reason I feel qualified to tackle this subject, is my connection with education. As Chairman of the Round Square Conference, I am very actively involved with the education of young people.

It is, of course, the youth of today which will shape the world of tomorrow. It is we however, who are responsible for the future they will inherit. This also makes us responsible for their education.

During the last Annual Round Square Conference, I was involved in a heated discussion with a number of students from many different countries about the consequences of war on the young people of the countries involved. Taking as an example Kosovo, one of the students remarked, and I quote:

'You ask me, Sir, to describe the future of youth at our age, growing up today in Kosovo. It doesn't take a lot of imagination. This is precisely the problem; it doesn't take any imagination. They have been stripped of their alternatives and choices we here take for granted; those dilemmas that help form a child into adulthood and which broaden one's fantasy and perspective. They will have no such luxuries - the next few years, the years of education and creation have already been decided for them. By the time their cities are reconstructed, by the time their government is able to provide them again with education, recreational and employment opportunities, generations of children will have lost their appetite, which drives people to yearn and aspire for something better.

These young people, people like us, (like you ...), are being robbed of simple choices: Should I go to university, or take up employment? Should I go to the movies or the library? Should I study at home or abroad? And will there be food on the table tonight?

This is unacceptable at a time when technological advances are promoting an equalitarian and meritocratic society. Some people are lucky to be enjoying these amazing times of infinite opportunities for knowledge. And yet, our generation will experience an immense gap in the relative opportunities between countries at peace and those at war.

As a former gold medal winner at the 1960 Olympic Games, and now as an honorary member of the IOC, it would be prudent to borrow from the Olympic ideology: the promotion of fair competition among equals; its ability to transcend borders and enemies.

Most importantly, however, is the notion of "Ekecheria". This notion stems from an ancient Greek tradition, which stipulates that during the games, all conflicts pause. Since this were true in those days, then why not today? And if we can achieve this for a period of a few weeks, then why not for a longer period of time?

Relationship between Europe and USA

Ladies and gentlemen, in speaking at the Woodrow Wilson School, I feel faced with an exceptionally serious challenge.

Woodrow Wilson serves as an important landmark for American and European history. He was the first great American statesman to involve the USA in European affairs.

In the course of this century, on three different occasions, the Europeans called on their great ally, the United States of America, asking them to intervene in order to resolve impasses that were facing them at the time. These impasses were threatening the continent's stability. Thus resulted the creation of a powerful bond between Europe and the USA.

This relationship, however, has also highlighted points of friction. Because in spite of having identical goals, there were, and still are, differences, just as is common among members of the same family.

As we prepare to celebrate the beginning of the third millennium, it would serve a useful purpose to call to mind certain facts:

1. That the early part of the twentieth century saw America's entry into the Great European War.

The outcome of the First World War was decisive not only for Imperial Germany and Tsarist Russia, but also for the remains of the Hapsburgs and of the Ottomans.

2. That Wilson's proposed fourteen points for peace to the Europeans included a very important item: the right of self-determination for the peoples of the world.

Unfortunately Cyprus, a member state of the United Nations, has still not been permitted to exercise this right.

With this fourteen point proposal, Wilson set his seal on developments in Europe.

America's involvement in European affairs did not stop with Wilson. It continued in the form of the USA's entry into the Second World War. This was again of decisive importance for the victory over the Third Reich and its partners.

The part played by the Americans in the Second World War, led to the crushing of the Third Reich. The commitment of the USA to battle against the Soviet Union and its allies contributed to the collapse of the communist system in Europe.

Nevertheless, the final shape of America's approach to European political life took a definite form in the course of the Cold War, during the common efforts of the West. It was within the framework of the Atlantic Alliance to deal with the threat from the Soviet bloc.

The Kosovo conflict

Both this century and the second millennium are closing with the very vivid memories of a war, in which the USA once more played a leading role; this time, in Yugoslavia and against Slobodan Milosevic.

The purpose of this war was said to be for the sake of "interests", the nature of which was not understood by all. What puzzled many in the region, was that the defence of the so called "human ideals" was pursued by means which were far from "humanitarian", even for those who were supposed to be protected.

The war was fought with the primary aim of establishing the coexistence of people belonging to different communities and religious backgrounds. Instead, however, of obtaining general consent for this aim, it was virtually imposed.

I have cited four cases of US involvement in crises. Victory in three of the four cases was undisputed.

By way of contrast the latest involvement of the USA in Europe - and I refer to the break-up of Yugoslavia and of NATO's war against Yugoslavia over Kosovo - was, in terms of its results, unsuccessful or at least unfinished. Slobodan Milosevic is still in power, and Kosovo has not been transformed into the multi-communal and multi-cultural province, which had been promised.

Kosovo is now the domain of an admittedly violent organisation: the KLA and one of its leaders.

Today, almost the whole of this region is in urgent need of Western aid. In this way, their economic, political and social reconstruction can begin on solid foundations. Greece has already given 10 million dollars. The United States on the other hand has invested 12 million, and given 25 million in aid.

After centuries of almost constant fighting, the countries of Europe today are enjoying the benefits of long lasting peace and the fruits of close cooperation in both politics and economics.

Recognising Serbia

This observation has given me reasons to believe that a similar approach, applied to all the Balkan countries, would have substantially beneficial results.

The European Union should make it possible for all the Balkan countries to join it. This will provide them with a strong stimulus for getting rid of their differences, recognise each other's borders and national independence, and force them to concentrate in the regional economic cooperation. The thought of becoming a member of a market of over 500 million consumers, a frontier free area, in an expanded zone of stability and security, must contribute to the easing of tensions and bring about a much needed peace.

This is what I mean by humanitarianism; to alleviate the pain and suffering of people, whose lives have been destroyed.

Serbia needs to be part of the international community. In order to be recognised and accepted, she needs to have a legitimate government, the result of free and fair elections.

Given Serbian history, free and fair elections can only be guaranteed by the presence of international monitors, whose observers will have extensive powers. How can the international community convince Serbia to accept these monitors? By guaranteeing, in turn, that it will accept the winner of such an election, whoever it turns out to be.

This, of course, should also apply to other member states of the United Nations.

The only guarantee for a new beginning in peace would be absolute respect for the principle of established frontiers, for historical tradition, social institutions and religious freedom of each community. We must retain the democratic and free economy systems which most of us believe in. Any other method of dealing with the problems of the region runs the risk of producing exactly the opposite results, which would be: destabilisation, border disputes, economic degradation, social inequalities and upheavals.

Great powers, even world civilisations, have paid for their leaders' disdain for moral principles by the collapse of their cultures. Moral degradation and descent into corruption were the consequence.

Without morality and without scruples to guide the conduct of their leadership, great and powerful states have quickly receded from the forefront of history. No nation can remain intact for long when respect for ideals and morals gives way to greed and selfish aims.

I would be the last person to want to question the good intentions of today's world leadership. But their success, the success of us all, will depend on visible results.

A new world order

The creation of a new world order has presented itself after the fall of the communist regimes in Europe. The collapse of the bipolar system would, in the natural course of events, facilitate the emergence of four or five great powers, which in turn would be flanked by smaller countries, depending, of course, upon the interests of the latter. This would bring back the balance of power, which Wilson so strongly deplored.

It is no accident that two successive Presidents of the USA, George Bush and Bill Clinton, have tried to set up the framework of a universal new order of things, invoking principles common to the whole of humanity. They attempted to exclude the possibility of the re-activation of a power balance, which has indeed proved particularly dangerous in the past.

George Bush proclaimed in 1990 before the U.N.: "We have a vision of a new partnership of nations that transcends the Cold War?, a partnership whose goals are to increase democracy, increase prosperity, increase peace and reduce arms."

For his part, President Clinton, at the General Assembly of the UN in 1993, added to the American vision, when he said:

"In a new era of peril and opportunity the world's community of market-based democracies ? seek to enlarge the circle of nations that live under those free institutions."

The tone of the message of the new world order used by both Mr Bush and Mr Clinton, comes as a welcome relief in an age in which a spirit of practicality and a time of materialistic prosperity rule. Of course, the new order is not something which will be created in haste in the immediate future. Let us not forget, that the new order proclaimed by Wilson did not avert either the emergence of the Third Reich or the establishment and persistence of communism in Europe ... for 70 years or more.

If we examine the basic tendency of the new order, its core seems to have developed around a political approach. This approach sometimes ignores established structures; revises ideas held through centuries and instead of modifying them, places them aside, thus risking destabilisation of society. This political approach hopes to create a new reality, at the epicentre of which will be the individual and not the structurally ordered society. What about the family and the particular culture each one of us belongs to?

The New World Order, which rests upon the principles of liberalism - both in economy and in politics - is a positive movement in the sense that it releases creative powers. But since its aims are so general, when they are individualised, they are likely to lead to anarchy and chaos.

Let me quote T.S. Eliot from his book: "The Idea of a Christian Society":

"By destroying traditional social habits of the people, by dissolving their natural collective consciousness into individual constituents?, liberalism can prepare the way for what is now its own negation: the artificial, mechanised or brutalised control which is a desperate remedy for its chaos".

Eliot wrote this as early as 1939, at a time when liberalism was a rare commodity in Europe.

The principles on which the new order ought to be built are: human rights and democracy in a free economy.

Often, when I hear political leaders and certain thinkers of the West speak of globalisation, I ask myself whether all this is perhaps, in essence, a nostalgia for a return to earlier patterns, such as the 'world states' and 'world empires' of the past, which mankind has gradually rejected as the years have passed.

Democracy will triumph

World empires in Europe, beginning with that of Alexander the Great, then Rome and Byzantium, followed by the Holy Roman Empire, had a clear and religious reference. If they lasted for centuries, this was due to the fact that in the consciousness of the peoples and subjects of these empires, their adversaries were not opposing only an earthly power, in the person of the Emperor, but a heaven-ordained order. This is how they saw it long ago.

But we are now very distant from those times. Our society has ceased to be theocratic in almost all but one area of the globe. Now the principles of freedom and democracy are promoted. These have been violated many times down the centuries. Nevertheless, they are with us still. Freedom and democracy cannot be held down by absolute authority, such as that which imposed cohesion in earlier empires.

In recent times, the successive collapse of autocratic regimes shows that the principles of democracy will finally triumph. And yet, we behave as though our principles are threatened and must be imposed at once, regardless of reactions and without tolerating a period of adaptation.

It is my belief, that the urgency which possesses us, stems from the idea that everything has to be completed within a human life-span, or even a term of political office. We may not admit it but this is what drives us. Otherwise why the hurry?

This is essentially an approach which overlooks the past, attaches no importance to the present and faces the future in a mechanistic, and I would add, fearful way. It is the expression of an absolutely materialistic approach.

This sometimes makes me think that for seventy years we have been combating one materialistic system only to find ourselves in danger of adopting another: the domination of the economic parameter over every aspect of human life.

Nevertheless, the pursuit of materialistic plenty degrades the individual to the level of an aimless mob. Especially if it leaves out traditional values, pushes aside existing norms and the ethical values of the various groups and by overlooking the specific aspirations and objectives of particular cultures. A mob does not cease to be a mob just because it is better dressed or has better homes, even if it is more disciplined.

European Security Charter

A few weeks ago, the European Security Charter, issued by fifty-four leaders in Constantinople, amounted to a remarkable break with the past. For the first time since the treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the states of Europe have openly challenged the primacy of territorial borders, suggesting a new right to intervene in one another's internal affairs for "humanitarian" reasons. It would seem that anyone who believes in all that is good, should rejoice in this achievement.

This charter raises the hope that bad regimes no longer will be able to hide behind a formal barricade of state sovereignty in committing atrocities. Virtuous men and women no longer will be forced to stand idle while barbaric demagogues run free to menace their own people. At last, civilised Europe can strive to stop such evil before it snowballs into a threat to its very existence.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe owes its existence to the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, which affirmed the territorial integrity of states and forbade the use of force between or by them. Isn't it therefore ironic that the OSCE should now suggest an erosion of state sovereignty in Europe as we know it?

Who determines the standards of government behaviour? And who determines the penalties? To think that those on the losing side will accept that these standards depend on universal laws rather than sheer power is not merely hubris, it is na?ve in the extreme.

Tolerance and understanding

Diplomacy should not be about remaking the world in any one image, however righteous that image may seem to its promoters. It should be about maximising one's own interest while smoothing over differences.

One way of smoothing over differences is education.

The young people in the troubled region of the former Yugoslavia are growing up with an inbred hatred. This, or more importantly, the next generation of children around the world should be brought up and educated with tolerance and international understanding for their fellow man.

Ideas of peaceful coexistence can only flourish if they are sowed at a very young age.

The doctrine of collective security assumes that all nations perceive international problems in the same way and are prepared to take the same risks to vindicate their view. But this is unrealistic. Even during the Cold War, when a global threat existed, it was rarely possible to obtain an international consensus. The only exception was the defence of Central Europe, and that was the task of NATO, a traditional alliance, and not of the United Nations.

What is needed is an increased sense of responsibility on the part of all governments concerned and an unshakeable faith that peace alone can safeguard the coexistence of the various countries and the survival and welfare of their peoples. The successful formulation and exercise of foreign policy requires an overall knowledge of international relations, as well as the display of the necessary imagination in determining the country's strategic aims. To attain these aims, the foreign policy must be pursued with a sense of responsibility, continuity, consistency and persistence.

Achievements of the 20th century

As we approach the new millennium, we have the satisfaction of looking back upon the achievements of the twentieth century.

We have succeeded in bringing more knowledge to our citizens, and we have increased the range of options available to each individual. The future would seem to belong to us and to our children.

It is with greater self-confidence in what we have achieved so far, that we can go ahead calmly and solidly, without haste or impatience. We need not destroy existing structures but we should adapt and modify those which hinder further development.

Yet I strongly believe it would be a mistake if we were to become bound to one idea alone. Uniformity of human beings, the ironing out of national characteristics, the neutralisation of our societies, would only limit our human goal. The concept of unity in diversity, would be a more inspiring principle, and would lead us to a culturally richer existence.

For decades now, European leaders have been attempting, through the procedures of consensus, to achieve a new political and economic synthesis, a fusion of the states of Europe. This is an admirable, but laborious process.

I firmly believe that, if this enlightened approach to politics and economics could be extended to a synthesis of cultures, more of our citizens would adopt it enthusiastically. They would then use their own abilities in an environment of inspiration and creativity.

Can we live together in cheerful competition, mutual respect and peace?

The future

The future of this enterprise, in spite of the progress which has been achieved, will be judged in the years immediately ahead. This is the challenge which Europe and the world face in the third millennium.

To come back to my country, the traditional phase through which the former Communist countries of the Balkans are now passing, and the very acute political, economic and minority problems give rise to an environment marked by a dangerous flux. The Greek nation has to live and to survive within that environment.

Greece is a nation whose unique contribution to the culture of the world cannot be denied. Its name has been linked, throughout its history, with the ideals of freedom and democracy.

Its past has been marked by its opposition to the totalitarianism of Nazism, Fascism and Communism and, more recently, the Colonels. The Greek people are undoubtedly ready to overcome successfully any challenge of the future and to survive. This survival should rest on our commitment to contribute and promote peace and stability in the Balkans.

I would like to express my appreciation for President Clinton's recent words in Greece, when he acknowledged the important fact that the United States of America allowed its interests in prosecuting the Cold War to prevail over its interests or its obligations to support democracy during the 1967 Colonels coup.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if I were to be asked what, to my mind, is Hellenism's most important contribution to the history of the world, I shall have to quote without hesitation, the great Greek author, Nicos Kazantjakis:

"Neither to the right into the precipice of slavery, nor to the left into the precipice of anarchy, the Greeks have been the first to tread the narrow and difficult path of liberty and human dignity".

How I wish Europe could emulate the great American tradition of welcoming those from different backgrounds and nationalities, irrespective of who they are or where they come from.

I'm afraid it is a pipe dream. America is a young country. Europe is an ancient battlefield, her borders fought over time and again, generation after generation.

Yet we trade with each other and compete peacefully enough in sport. Our young people study together, fall in love and marry, just as yours do.

We have even reached a point where the coming millennium is beginning to have a moral, even a religious aspect.

Surely now is the time to be done with war, and to fight poverty, disease and famine instead of each other.

We think we know how to solve the problems of the world. But we would be best listening to the whispering prayers from the people around the world, so they do not become the shouts of anger behind the gun.

As Solzhenitsyn said on receiving his Nobel Prize "the salvation of mankind lies only in making everything the concern of all".

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me end with this thought: Will man mark the new millennium by finally defeating the war machine? If so, then indeed the long road to peace will end, not in a shattering nuclear explosion, but in the ultimate triumph of freedom and human decency.

Browse our extensive media gallery using the options below.
Containing media:
Video Clip
Audio Clip

Press Releases
In The Press
   © 2006-2011 Greek Royal Family Site Index | Legal Information | Site Credits