European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was named honorary doctor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in a ceremony on Thursday evening.
Juncker’s declaration has a special symbolism for the university “that is firmly oriented to modern Western way of thinking and to European ideals,” its Rector Pericles Mitkas said.
In his address, Juncker expressed his support for Greece: “I wanted to be loyal to the legacy of this big nation,” Juncker said. “Sometimes I am reading in German papers and others Austrian, Dutch that Greece is a small country. That is not true; Greece is a big nation. And that is the reason why I fell in love with this nation,” he added.
Speaking of the economy, he said the outlook on growth was optimistic, thanks to the sacrifices of the Greek people.
“I am paying tribute to those Greeks nobody knows. The poorer part of the society, they were paying the price. Not the elites the poorer part of this country was paying the price and in no other country would this have been possible,” the Commision’s president said.
At the end of his speech Juncker spoke some Greek: “MAZI ΘΑ ΠΕΤΥΧΟΥΜΕ!” – for those who are less fluent in Greek than I am, that means: “Together we will succeed”, he said.
Earlier President Juncker met with Greek PM Alexis Tsipras who is also in Thessaloniki for a tripartite summit with Serb President Aleksandar Vucic and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov.
All three attended the ceremony for Juncker at the Thessaloniki concert hall.
Earlier, small-scale clashes erupted near the venue between leftist demonstrators, opposed to EU policies towards Greece, and police forces.
Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd and stop the demonstration from reaching the concert hall.