H.E. Athanassios Paressoglou

“Through diplomacy towards a meaningful impact”

H.E. Mr. Athanassios Paressoglou, Ambassador of Greece

Text: Martina Hošková, M.Zisso; Photos: Archive

“It always fascinates me to find myself in a new capital, where I can interact with the local people, learn their language, history, and culture, while at the same time working to promote relations with my own country of origin,” says Mr. Athanassios Paressoglou, Ambassador of Greece to the Czech Republic. “My passion for fostering international relationships and understanding between cultures was another driving force behind my decision to become a diplomat.”

Can you tell us about yourself, please?

First of all, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to communicate with your magazine’s readers.

I was born in Athens, Greece. After completing my secondary studies in the Greek-French High School “Lycée Léonin”, administered by the Catholic Monastic Community of the Marian Brothers (Frères Maristes), I studied law at the Law Faculty of the University of Athens. I then obtained four different Masters degrees, in “Public International Law and International Organizations” (Sorbonne Paris I University), “Geography and Planning”, (Sorbonne Paris V University), “International Relations, UN system 1945-present” (UN International Diplomatic Academy, Paris), and “Modern Turkish Studies” (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London).

In 1992, I joined the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs and thus began my career as a diplomat. I am interested in history and culture, and like reading history books and novels. I also like to communicate directly with foreign people in their own language – that’s why I spent a lot of my time, especially when I was young, learning several foreign languages.

With four different Masters degrees, you must have had a whole lot of career paths to choose from. What made you decide to become a diplomat?

I was inspired to become a diplomat by my academic background in international relations, as well as my profound belief in the power of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve conflicts. My studies provided me with a deep understanding of global politics and the complexities of international affairs. This knowledge, combined with a strong commitment to peace and global cooperation, naturally led me to a career in diplomacy. Additionally, my passion for fostering international relationships and understanding between cultures was another driving force behind my decision to become a diplomat.

From a young age, I was fascinated by learning about other countries’ cultures and history, and by global affairs and the intricate ways in which countries interact. This interest, coupled with my desire to actively contribute to creating a more connected and peaceful world, made diplomacy the perfect career choice for me. As a student, I had realized that, through diplomacy, I could not only represent my country’s interests but also work towards global cooperation and understanding. This conviction solidified my decision to pursue a career where I could make a meaningful impact on international relations.

You have already been working in the Czech Republic for three years. Can you share some of your impressions and highlights of that time?

I arrived in Prague in November 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown. It was a very particular period, and not the easiest one to begin my tenure here. This was because I didn’t have the opportunity to fully exercise my duties due to the COVID restrictions, which lasted until June 2021 and did not allow for normal diplomatic activities and social life.

We couldn’t have any personal or joint meetings with my colleagues or travel around the country, and there were no receptions being held by embassies. Most contacts were via video meetings, with a few live meetings with masks on and plexiglas windows, which was quite a frustrating experience. Nevertheless, the silver lining was that I had ample time to really enjoy Prague. It was quite special to discover this beautiful city with practically no tourists around, as if it was a city available only for me!

After the end of the COVID restrictions, and during the past two years, I had the opportunity to travel to a big part of the country, from Karlovy Vary and Plzeň to Krnov, close to the Polish border. Krnov is where a large Greek community lives, dating back to 1948-49 when political refugees came to Czechoslovakia after the Greek Civil War, in the aftermath of World War II. I also had the opportunity to visit Brno (on many occasions), Olomouc, and finally Terezín, which is not so far away but is still a very important place historically. Now, I am looking forward to visiting České Budějovice, Český Krumlov, Ostrava, Zlín, and other places in this beautiful country.

Czechia is your first ambassadorial appointment. How many countries did you serve in before reaching this point?

This is my fifth country. In 1997, I was posted as Consul of Greece at our Consulate General in Paris, France, where I served until 2001. Then, from 2001 to 2004, I was Consul of Greece at our Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey. I then returned to Greece. Two years later, I was posted as deputy head of mission at our Embassy in Madrid, Spain, until 2010. I then returned to Athens, and from 2014 to 2017 I served at our Embassy to the Holy See in Rome. After that, I went back to Athens again, where I assumed my duties as director of the Diplomatic Cabinet of the Greek Minister of European affairs. Finally, in November 2020, I was appointed as Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to the Czech Republic, as you correctly said, in my first ambassadorial appointment.

How does being an ambassador fit into your lifestyle?

I could say that my profession really fits perfectly into my lifestyle. Actually, this was one of the reasons why I decided to become a diplomat. I really enjoy living in a new country for a certain length of time, where I can discover a new culture, traditions, and way of living. It always fascinates me to find myself in a new capital where I can interact with the local people, learn their language, history, and culture, while at the same time working to promote relations with my own country of origin. Additionally, I believe that I am a sociable person and I really like to come into contact with other people – a fact that perfectly matches the needs of a profession with intense social activity such as that of a diplomat.

Of course, there are also some negative aspects in this life because you have to live far away from your friends and other beloved family members, but, as I said earlier, this is quite balanced by the new acquaintances and friendships you can make during your stay in the host country. All these experiences make you feel like a citizen of the world rather than the citizen of a specific country, and you realize that all people all over the world share the same concerns, problems, and challenges.

Is living far away from your home the most difficult part of being an ambassador?

The most challenging aspect of being an ambassador often involves navigating complex diplomatic situations, managing international relations delicately, and balancing the interests of your home country with those of others. Additionally, ambassadors are expected to have the right answer to any kind of topic and need to be well informed on foreign policy issues and on the socioeconomic issues of their own country, as well as of the country where they are accredited to, and be able to explain things in a very convincing way. All this requires everyday learning and following the news closely and constantly, which can be quite tiring. Finally, it is also very important for an ambassador to closely cooperate with his colleagues, and to be able to unite his Embassy’s staff, promoting teamwork in order to achieve the Embassy’s goals in an effective and efficient way.

Can you give a piece of advice to the next generation of ambassadors?

Effective diplomacy requires a combination of cultural sensitivity, strong communication skills, and a genuine commitment to understanding diverse perspectives. New ambassadors should be open-minded, foster genuine relationships, prioritize collaboration for positive global impact, and cultivate diplomatic skills, all in order to build bridges in an increasingly interconnected world.

Greece is a popular holiday destination for Czech people. How do you promote your country?

Greece is indeed a major tourist destination for Czech citizens. Only in 2023, over 650,000 Czechs visited Greece. To attract more visitors from the Czech Republic, we focus on showcasing our country’s rich historical heritage, as well as unique cultural and natural attractions. Greece is a very beautiful country with very high mountains, almost 3,000 islands, and amazing landscapes and beaches. We actively collaborate with Czech travel agencies to create tailored travel packages that highlight our scenic landscapes, historical sites, and vibrant local festivals. Additionally, we leverage social media and digital marketing to reach a wider Czech audience, sharing engaging content that highlights the beauty and diversity of our destinations. We also participate in international travel fairs in the Czech Republic, in order to directly connect with potential travellers and provide them with a taste of what they can experience in our country. Understanding the preferences of Czech tourists, we promote our country by highlighting aspects that resonate with them, such as outdoor activities and culinary experiences. We have developed multilingual resources, including Czech language brochures and websites, to make our country more accessible to Czech visitors.

Our promotional efforts also include fostering direct flights and travel connections between major Czech cities and our tourist destinations, making travel convenient and inviting. By emphasizing our warm hospitality and diverse attractions, we aim to make our country a top choice for Czech holidaymakers.

What do you do in your free time?

I really enjoy wandering around Prague because many of the most interesting sights in the historic centre of the city are only accessible on foot. Every time, I discover new beautiful buildings or iconic streets and places. I also take walks in the beautiful parks of the city when weather conditions permit, and I enjoy frequently attending concerts and operas, which are an integral part of the cultural life of this city, at the State Opera, the National Theater, and the Rudolfinum. Finally, on weekends, I often enjoy travelling around Czechia in order to discover new beautiful places, cities, and villages.

Can you give us a few words on the current status of Czech-Greek relations?

First of all, I would like to highlight the longstanding and cordial relations between the Czech Republic and Greece. These two nations, although geographically distant, share a rich history of diplomatic collaboration and cultural exchange.

Dating back to the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1920, the Czech-Greek relations have been characterized by mutual respect and a commitment to fostering cooperation. Over the years, both nations have worked together in various fields, including trade, education, and cultural endeavours, contributing to the strengthening of their bilateral bonds. Greece cooperates with Czechia, an important EU partner and NATO ally, in a very successful way, promoting our common interests within the European Union and continuously deepening our bilateral relations.

Economically, the Czech Republic and Greece have found common ground, with trade partnerships growing steadily. This collaboration has not only boosted economic growth in both countries, but has also laid the foundation for future business endeavours and investments.

Cultural exchange plays a pivotal role in the Greek-Czech relationship. From the rich history of Prague to the ancient wonders of Athens, our nations have embraced the opportunity to share and appreciate each other’s cultural heritage. The sharing of traditions, art, and heritage has enriched the cultural fabric of both nations. Through initiatives like cultural festivals, language programs, and artistic collaborations, our two countries have deepened their understanding and appreciation of each other’s unique contributions to the global cultural mosaic.

Moreover, the strong educational ties between Czech and Greek institutions have facilitated academic exchanges, fostering a spirit of learning and innovation. Students and researchers from both nations have had the opportunity to engage in collaborative projects, further enhancing the intellectual capital of our societies.

As we reflect on the journey of Czech-Greek relations, let us not only celebrate the achievements of the past but also look forward to a future marked by even greater collaboration. Together, we can continue to build bridges, promote dialogue, and create a world where the enduring friendship between the Czech Republic and Greece serves as a beacon of unity and cooperation.

This interview is done on the occasion of your national day. What are you wishing for your country, and for the Czech Republic?

On the occasion of this significant national day, my foremost wish for Greece is continued peace and prosperity. I wish for my country to achieve new heights in sustainable development and global cooperation. I also hope for advancements in education, healthcare, and technology that benefit all citizens, fostering an inclusive and progressive society. For the Czech Republic, a nation with a rich cultural heritage, vibrant history, and a resilient spirit, I extend my wishes for enduring peace and stability.

I also wish continued economic growth, cultural flourishing, and an ever-strengthening role in the European Union, as this year we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Czechia’s accession to the EU. May both our nations continue to strengthen our bonds and work together, collaborating towards mutual growth and understanding in the international community.