Your Eminencies,

Your Excellencies,

Trustees of the Onassis Foundation,

Mr President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I promise to keep my comments short and hopefully to the point since there are only so many Yeroulanos’ one can listen to in one evening,

on one subject.

As I mentioned earlier today, Byzantium and US popular media have not really met.

They have come across each other and they have flirted cautiously.

But no sparks have flown yet.

This may not come as a surprise since the apparent austerity of Byzantine culture does not inspire immediately the flamboyant nature of film and Television.

If Byzantine waters run deep, the media does not have the patience to help them surface.

So they prefer to nod politely to each other and walk away from the prospect of a long lasting passionate relationship.

However, for those who know Byzantium, and in this room I would not dare claim to be among them,

and for those of us who love it

we are fully aware of what you see in Byzantium is rarely what you get.

Take closer look and austerity gives way to subtlety.

In its own, potent way Byzantium marked the history of civilizations.

It bridged several worlds and touched all of them.

It offered tremendous art but also science, both of which led to the greatest cultural revolution of all times.

Fascinating is Byzantium’s relationship with religion and its role in society,

but also with faith and its involvement in anything made or crafted.

And ultimately the most telling of Byzantine stories is its survival through a passionate approach to multi culturalism and its richness.

Combine these characteristics with enough intrigue, conspiracy, passion and violence, of which Byzantium had its shape, and you have the works of great storytelling.

And when you have great stories, mass media looms near.

Its only a matter of time before America sees in Byzantium the richness, the qualities and the vices of its own world.

As in every other dialogue of culture, first introductions are and will continue to be awkward for a while,

just as awkward is the meeting of East and West in several paintings in this wonderful exhibition.

But when the first awkwardness is overcome and the true association of these cultures surfaces it will be a fascinating relationship to watch.

Because Byzantium is more open to interpretation than Ancient Greece,

the way the relationship develops will depend to a very large extent on who makes the introductions and how.

For Greece, as a modern day country, this hides great dangers as well as awesome opportunity.

The richness of Greek culture through the ages can be presented in new light,

The historical role of Greece in the region can be presented in a new dimension,

And the current developments in the region, including our relationship with Turkey, FYROM, Albania and Bulgaria, not to mention the Middle East, can be presented differently in this as well as other countries.

The manner in which Byzantium and the US are brought together will have a large saying in how the relationship is shaped.

This is why as Minister of Culture and Tourism of my country I am both aware and sensitive to monitor the relationship, influence it if I can, and also eager to see the sparks fly.

I see around these tables several guests who can come to my assistance and I would like to ask for it.

It is for this reason that I am grateful to the Onassis Foundation for setting the right stage on which such a relationship might be built.