Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the 16th Bled Strategic Forum 2021

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis participated today in the panel discussion “Future of Europe – To Stand and Withstand”, organized in the framework of the 16th Bled Strategic Forum 2021, held in Bled, Slovenia.

David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, Ms Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President for Demography and Democracy of the European Commission, Janez Janša, Prime Minister of Slovenia and many more European officials participated in the panel.

Among others, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated:

Politics for me is being both a manager and a leader at the same time. We are constant problem solvers and we need to address crises, big and small ones. At the end of the day, we need to deliver results that citizens expect from us. Being a leader means first of all speaking the truth and occasionally taking unpopular decisions.

We are in this job because we have to take decisions that many others would not want to take because they fear that they would suffer if they do so. So, being able to distinguish between what is important and what is less important. Looking at the short-term future, but also balancing long-term strategic requirements, that is the job of a politician today.

I took note of what David said and I share his ambitious agenda regarding the reform of European institutions but I would politely disagree with his assessment regarding the decision taken yesterday by the European Council at the level of the Ministers, regarding Afghanistan. What we said was very clear; that we do not want a repeat of the uncontrolled and unregulated massive migration flows that we experienced in 2015. And I stand by that decision as a country that was a victim of a policy that ended up highlighting significant failures of European institutions, because we have not yet been able to agree on a common Migration and Refugee Pact.

But we have agreed that we need to protect our borders. We need to do it in a disciplined and principled manner with full respect to international law. But we should also acknowledge as Europe and as European institutions that we need to learn from our mistakes. And I think what happened in 2015 was a mistake. We acknowledge it openly. We address the need to support refugees closer to the source of the problem, which is Afghanistan, and we are sending a very very clear signal to smugglers and to those who exploit human pain and desperation that they cannot repeat what they have been doing systematically for the past years.

So allow me, David, to disagree with this aspect of your speech.

If someone was to listen to this debate knowing little about the European politics, they would reach the conclusion that these people cannot agree on anything. But this is not true. I want to end to a note of optimism. We have achieved a lot over the past year and we talk little about our successes and a lot about our shortcomings. The RRF, the response to Covid, the digital certificate, Climate neutrality by 2050.

All these are big achievements. Why did we manage to get to that point, because we were able as member states occasionally to take a step back in order to make a great leap into the future. So for me, Europe is the art of the small compromises in order to reach big ambitions. That is what is in my mind is at the core of us being stronger together.

If in an era unanimity – and Charles knows very well what we are talking about and how difficult it is – if we just think about the priorities of our nation states and not look at the big picture – we will not be able to be meaningful in a rapidly changing world.