Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen,
I feel great joy that my presence in Libya here today goes hand-in-hand with a double restart: a new start of the country itself and for our bilateral relations as well. Thank you for the warm welcome, the productive conversation that we had, following our first phone conversation a few weeks ago.
I accepted your kind offer and traveled -for the first time, in fact- to Libya for one main purpose: to showcase the reopening of the Greek Embassy in Tripoli as a landmark in the dynamic restart of Greek-Libyan relations. I want to send a message of support for Libya’s efforts for peace and progress. In both the European Union and the United Nations our country will stand by your side in the path towards credible elections, political normality and the reconstruction of your country, without foreign armies and interests. With security and prosperity in our neighbourhood and the Mediterranean as the only compass.
I think it is time to leave behind everything that tested our relations lately. And since (the reopening) of the Embassy in Tripoli will be followed by the Greek Consulate General in Benghazi, we can quickly develop our cooperation in all fields.
The events of this last ten years may have limited our economic relations. In truth however, the involvement of Greek businesses in Libya never lapsed. Now that the political situation is getting more and more stable, this interest is being reinvigorated.
With the Prime Minister -and his team, his Ministers- we discussed cooperation prospects in fields such as energy, construction, sea transport and health. There are however more fields, such as tourism, education, culture, where much can be achieved as well.
A predominant issue is, of course, the full restoration of our energy cooperation. This could extend to renewable energy sources and electricity interconnections, where exceptional opportunities for public and private investments are now emerging.
Defence and security has, of course, been an area of traditional ties. Prime Minister, more than 280 Libyan officers graduated from the training schools of the Greek Armed Forces in the past decades. While members of the Libyan Coast Guard are being and have been trained in our maritime deterrence centre (KENAP), which has special geopolitical significance since your Coast Guard plays a leading role in the circumscription of migration flows. Therefore, our cooperation is deeply rooted and has a multifaceted future.
As I pointed out to the Prime Minister, the bedrock in the restart in our relationship should always be honesty, the will for dialogue and, above all, faith in the principles of international legality, of international law. This means that when writing this new page in our common path, we will be able to find the way to erase the mistakes (penned) in the previous one. I also wish to be perfectly clear and reiterate what the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said during his visit to your friendly country: the immediate and complete withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from libyan territory is a prerequisite for any progress. This has been requested by all European countries after all. And, of course, the abrogation of illegal documents is very important to us, documents that have been presented as supposed inter-state agreements but have no legal standing, as the European Council has explicitly concluded.
These last days have been intense in Libya, given that the Prime Minister of Malta, the Prime Minister of Italy and now myself have paid a visit, all following the visit by the President of the European Council. Greece and Italy, in fact, recently signed legal agreements on the delimitation of maritime zones and territorial waters.
Hence, the symbolism is exceptionally powerful. Libya’s friends can be found by its side, not far away. Besides, as we talked about, the closest piece of European soil to Libya is the island of Gavdos and my homeland, Crete. At the end of the day, Prime Minister, it is geography that defines the framework of our bilateral relations, not the artificial lines that some draw on maps. Therefore, I welcome your willingness that we be able to discuss directly and bilaterally the issues that concern the delimitation of our maritime zones -as we ought to do, as neighbouring countries- and resume the discussion that was interrupted in 2010. Always with respect to International Law, which serves as the compass for the resolution of such differences between countries that are on friendly terms.
I want to reiterate, Prime Minister, that in your difficult endeavor to reconstruct your country you are not alone. The European Union and its members are here. And they are determined to support the Libyan people, who has suffered greatly this past decade.
Allow me to close my remarks with another reference to Greco-Libyan relations, which trace their origins to 2,600 years ago. In the era when travelers from Santorini reached your coasts, founding Cyrene, Benghazi and the Greek Pentapolis. Back then, we cultivated together a very rare therapeutic herb, “silphium”, known as “Libya’s gold”. In the 21st century, the “gold” of our two people is peace, cooperation and prosperity.
Once again, thank you for your warm welcome.