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Foreign Minister N. Kotzias’ statements following his meeting with the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, B. Johnson (MFA, 6 April 2017)
N. KOTZIAS: Good evening. I would like to welcome my friend, and our country’s friend, Boris Johnson, and I want to thank our interpreter, who always does the most important part of the work.
It is a pleasure to have Boris here. Last year, during the summer, I “found” him on Pelion, across my beloved island of Alonnisos.
The relations between Greece and the United Kingdom are historic relations, long-term relations, relations with a great future. Today we stand before an historic turning point, with the decisions taken democratically by the British people and the British Parliament, and I am certain that these decisions will give future historians a great deal to think and write about.
I want to say, once again, that we respect the decisions of the British people, and we want to formulate the best possible agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. An agreement that serves both sides, with friendship and without malice.
We want the Brexit from the European Union to happen in a coordinated manner, with a plan. In a way that keeps the United Kingdom as close as possible to the European Union, with the best possible relations with states like Greece.
In other words, we want to minimize the losses there will be from the Brexit and maximize our capabilities.
We are not abolishing relations – we are redefining our relations within a new framework. To this end, we are having honest and open discussions. I think that the friendly relationship between Boris and myself is based on my admiration for him and on great experience of open and creative discussions.
We want the negotiations between the European Union and Britain to be smart and to be carried out in a composed manner.
We know that the advantages of an agreement are always accompanied by obligations, and we want to safeguard the collaboration between the two sides in as many sectors as possible, with the maximum possible depth, protecting the rights of our citizens, of course.
Greece is interested in three things: in averting negative fiscal repercussions from the Brexit, in safeguarding the rights of Greeks working and studying in the United Kingdom – and the rights of the British people living in Greece, who number some 45,000 – and we don’t want there to be negative repercussions for our trade in goods and services or for tourism, as we host millions of British people every year.
I want to say something. The Brexit is not due solely to the decision of the British people. The Brexit is also the result of how the European Union evolved in recent years. A European Union that has crises, including a crisis in establishing the mechanism for resolving these crises.
A European Union that lacks adequate vision and that has not redefined its values or how it sees them functioning in the 21st century, and often a European Union in which we limit ourselves exclusively to certain tools of diplomacy – and, in fact, some of these are negative.
Boris and I talked in depth about the Cyprus issue. We are two people who want to seek correct, just and intelligent solutions. And of course you know our firm view: that we are against third powers’ rights of intervention, guarantor rights or military in Cyprus.
We also discussed about the situation developing in Syria. We talked about the initiatives the UK has taken on this issue in international organizations.
We are against unjust wars and terrorism, and we, too, have condemned – you saw our announcement and you will also have seen the announcements from the British side – the deadly attack in Syria.
We also talked about developments in the Western Balkans and how we can support the region’s countries heading towards growth.
Finally, we discussed about the need for us to find means of stabilization and, if need be, new structures in the eastern Mediterranean. And I made an exception in inviting my friend Boris to come to the meeting of southern European and Arab states in Rhodes, because I know that he loves the Greek islands. I have secret information that he will be on a Greek island in a few days – I won’t say where, but I was very pleased by his choice.
Boris, welcome, you are always welcome, and I thank you very much for being here in Athens.