Statement by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the Euro-Mediterranean Conference MED7

Ladies and gentlemen, we have just concluded the first round of discussions, fruitful discussions, of what appears to be quite a successful Summit of the Southern EU countries. And part of the success may be attributed to the location where the Summit is being held. As President Macron said, Corsica is a bridge between people and cultures in the Mediterranean that shows us the way of solidarity and cooperation so that, together, we can face the great challenges of our shared sea. I would like to thank President Macron, my friend Emmanuel, for the excellent preparation, the warm hospitality, but also the extremely fruitful bilateral meeting we had.

First of all, I briefed my interlocutors on the Migration issue, the latest regrettable events in Moria, Lesvos. A Greek, but also a European frontier island on the eastern border of our continent. There, as you know, the Greek State is already addressing the problem of the riots that broke out when a number of guest immigrants reacted to tests and protection measures against the coronavirus. I wish to thank all my colleagues, Heads of State and Government, for their practical support to Greece during this difficult crisis. Let me assure you – I also had the opportunity to inform my colleagues – that our first concern was the care of unaccompanied minors. They have already all been transferred out of Lesvos, away from Moria, and I wish to thank President Macron, Chancellor Merkel for their kind offer to receive some of these children, thereby putting European solidarity into practice. Our priority is Health for all: We will take all necessary steps to manage this crisis effectively and humanely.

But at some point, we must face reality. You know that Greece, like other countries in the south of Europe, carry a heavy burden of what is a European problem. And, today, Europe must move from words of support to acts of solidarity. I fully agree with the framework for the common migration and asylum policy outlined by President Macron. We must quickly re-engage in the debate about the European Union’s priorities so that we can finally succeed where we have sadly failed in the past.

We have also had the opportunity to discuss the issue of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the role of Turkey; the escalation of tensions, the provocative behaviour, how Turkey is challenging the sovereign rights of two European Union Member-States, while still illegally occupying the territory of one of them, namely Cyprus. Moreover, it now openly distances itself from any effort to reach a sincere understanding. Paragraph 6 of the conclusions of the 7th Summit of the Southern EU countries sends a very clear message and shows the way for Turkey. If Turkey really wants an honest dialogue with Greece, with Cyprus, with the European Union, it must prove this in practice. It must stop unilateral actions at once and provide convincing indications that it respects international rules invariably, not selectively. As far as we are concerned, we still stand by what we have been saying for a long time: end the provocations, start the dialogue.

We have had the opportunity to emphasise that the Mediterranean is critical for European security. European security will not be delegated to third parties. As President Macron has said, it is the “mare nostrum” – our sea, the European sea. And in view of the Summit, we will not allow Turkey to attempt to divide Europe. As I mentioned in an article published today in the European press, support for Greece and Cyprus is not just an expression of solidarity. It is an acknowledgement that the very strategic interests of Europe itself are now at stake. There is still time before the Summit for our neighbour, Turkey, to take a step back and plot its own course out of this crisis. To refrain from maritime and research activities in non-delimited maritime zones. To contain its aggressive rhetoric. And as for its relations with Greece, to resume the exploratory talks it broke off in 2016. And if we cannot agree, as President Macron said, there is always the solution of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

We also addressed the issue of how the problem of migrants can be used by Turkey as a lever for the pursuit of geopolitical and strategic objectives. Therefore, a return to the status of the 2016 agreement is imperative today. I have already talked about guarding the borders and managing the refugee issue in general. I will just say that Greece is doing its duty by guarding the European borders. This, however, as we have discussed, is only one aspect of the problem. That is why today, more than ever, solidarity in practice is needed.

Let me conclude by saying that we will have the opportunity to discuss all other issues that concern our Mediterranean. The situation in Libya, how we will further strengthen operation “Irini”, the situation in Syria, the situation in Lebanon, still suffering from the devastating explosion of August 4th. To discuss and applaud the historic significant agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Possibly the best positive piece of news we have had in long time from the Middle East. To discuss, of course, the economic challenges and how the European south played a leading role in the great European achievement as reflected in the results of last July’s Summit. A common, courageous, European response to overcome the Coronavirus crisis together and, of course, to discuss the challenges relating to the future, the protection of biodiversity in the Mediterranean, the joint response to climate change.
It is true that this is my first time attending a MED7 Summit, but I cannot imagine that this Forum has had to address so many and so complex challenges ever before. But, never has our compassion been so strong and I am confident that next year, when the 8th Summit will be held in Greece, and specifically Crete where I come from, everything will be much more optimistic.

Thank you very much.