Statements by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, following the informal "Gymnich" meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of EU member states (Tallinn, 7-8 September 2017)
N. KOTZIAS: Following my official visit to Latvia, I participated in two days of creative and productive discussions at the Informal Council of Foreign Ministers. We talked about the need to contribute to peace in the Middle East and the two-state solution. I made the point that the changes that have come about in Syria should be taken into account. Moreover, that the European Union should formulate a more comprehensive opinion on the wider region, on issues such as the integrity of Syria, Iraq, the protection of the Kurds, and so on. We discussed North Korea and its nuclear and missile programme. We underscored the necessity to condemn not just North Korea, but also these countries that provide it with knowhow, technology and materials. I named these countries and the Commission promised to consider this issue.
Today we talked more extensively on the working methods of the EU Foreign Affairs Council. I underscored that the working methods should be subordinate to political oversight and that various bureaucrats in the Commission should not have the first saying. In other words, that issues agreed upon at the Ministerial level should not be re-tabled by some EU officials.
I also stressed that issues of human rights should not be touched upon selectively and I presented a number of past cases manifesting abuse. Finally, we held discussions with the countries of the Eastern Neighbourhood, with the four Western Balkan countries that are candidates for EU membership, as well as with Turkey, and we exchanged views on how this issue can be promoted. I also discussed with a number of Ministers and Commissioners and I made it very clear under which terms and conditions the negotiations with some of these candidate countries could be launched.
JOURNALIST: Minister, there are many voices who now call for a stop to Turkey's accession process.
N. KOTZIAS: There are indeed voices calling for a discontinuation, there are voices calling for postponement, but I think there is agreement that we should look seriously at the issue of the Customs Union.
JOURNALIST: Thank you very much.