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Source: Republic of Greece – Foreign Affairs

During his speech at Parliament as part of the debate for the ratification of the state budget for the 2021 fiscal year, Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis referred to the results of yesterday’s European Council meeting.

With specific regard to the issue of sanctions against Turkey, the Alternate Minister stressed that “as long as the issue of Turkey’s provocative actions and violations remains on the table of the European Council, as long as Turkey is being asked to demonstrate cooperation in the sense of avoiding unilateral provocative actions in a persistent and reliable way and to manage refugee flows, and as long as the Council is asking European institutions to prepare an overall assessment of European-Turkish relations, this proves that the issue is not one between Greece and Turkey, but one between Europe and Turkey”. He added that it is very important to see Europe taking steps forward, albeit slow and sparing, rather than closing the issue, calling it a bilateral one and declaring that Greece and Turkey must resolve it.

In the same context, Mr Varvitsiotis underlined that sanctions are the means to exert pressure on Turkey to stop its provocative conduct, return to the negotiation table and engage in dialogue with Greece on delimiting our maritime zones with respect for international law. Moreover, in his words, it is the first time this was set out and described in such a manner in the conclusions of yesterday’s European Council meeting, stressing that “we cannot expect every European Council meeting to resolve all issues between Greece and Turkey. However, the clear condemnation of Turkey’s provocativeness, clear and unwavering support to Greece and Cyprus and, of course, the widening of the sanctions decided upon in 2019 have definitely become common ground”.

Furthermore, the Alternate Minister referred to the Recovery Fund on which Europe’s leaders reached an agreement yesterday. He called it a major step towards shielding the European economy from recession and the first step towards debt mutualisation, adding that our country is aiming to leverage the EUR 72 billion for the recovery and transformation of its economy, which is why it has already prepared a comprehensive plan, which has been submitted to the European Commission and is pending approval.

After stressing two further major successes of the European Union, namely the joint procurement of coronavirus vaccines as a comprehensive response to the pandemic and the agreement on the 55% cut to emissions by 2030 in order to combat climate change, the Alternate Minister highlighted the challenges that the European Union will be facing next year.

As he noted, the primary strategy is one of security for the protection of territorial sovereignty, effective control of external borders and establishment of a common migration and asylum policy. A key second axis is the economic recovery of Europe through Green Development and Digital Transformation, with Mr Varvitsiotis stating that “our country must absolutely be on the front line of this effort”. The Alternate Minister also commented on the need “to discuss what Europe is and how its strength is displayed with regard to geopolitical developments”. In the context of the Dialogue on the Future of Europe, we must raise the issue that Europe cannot examine the system for security in the wider region through the lens of bilateral economic interests. Europe must adopt a role and a position, as well as consistency in its positions. Because our policy, one which wishes to see Greece grow, become stronger and create prospects, calls for Greece to be at the very core of the European Union”.

In conclusion, Mr Varvitsiotis reviewed 2020, calling it a difficult year during which Greece handled a multilevel (health, economic and national) crisis through which, nevertheless, our country is not at a worse position, particularly in relation to the multidimensional foreign policy followed. As he stressed, “we managed to forge many alliances, promote a common understanding as a mean of deterrence and develop and deepen strong, traditional relations with allies such as the United States and France”. He also made specific reference to our country’s strategic cooperation with Egypt, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, as well as the progress made in the policy of Enlargement of the European Union in the Western Balkans, thus concluding a National Strategy adopted in 2003 as a European Strategy during the Thessaloniki Summit.

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