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Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Katrougalos attends meeting of EU General Affairs Council (Brussels, 14 May 2018)
Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Katrougalos participated in today’s meeting of the EU General Affairs Council, which held a preliminary discussion of the Commission’s recent proposal for the new EU Budget for 2021-2027.
In his intervention, Mr. Katrougalos thanked the Commission for its efforts, stressing, however, that the proposal is not as ambitious as is required to meet the existential challenges Europe is facing. The Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs also welcomed the increase in funding for new policies in support of research and development, migration, the digital economy, and European defence, underscoring, however, that this increase cannot be made to the detriment of traditional policies such as those of the Common Agricultural Policy and Convergence. He stressed that, on the contrary, we need a union with a social profile, internally cohesive, to strengthen its competitiveness and international influence, with a concurrent reduction in inequalities within and between the member states. Solidarity and respect for rule of law should be reflected in all of the EU’s policies and, from this perspective, Greece is not opposed to linking the budget to respect for rule of law, particularly if combined with other bold measures, such as the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.
His position was similar on the matter of the implementation of article 7 of the Convention in the case of Poland. However, regarding any conditionality on cohesion policies, he expressed the Greek government’s reservations in view of the need to ensure avoidance of linking the reforms to the deregulation and further downgrading of the social state.
The establishment of real new EU Own Resources, Mr. Katrougalos stated characteristically, is the only choice for the EU, so that a definitive end can be put to the logic of ‘fair return’ on the part of wealthier states – the so-called ‘net contributors’ – which continues to poison every negotiation on the budget. Such new Own Resources, which will not burden European citizens, include, indicatively, taxing the financial transactions of large internet companies in the countries where they provide their services, and establishment of a common corporate tax base.
Finally, Mr. Katrougalos stated that our country supports the European Commission’s proposal for the completion of the negotiations by the elections in 2019.
Regarding preparation of the June European Council, Mr. Katrougalos stressed the need for a comprehensive solution on the migration issue; a solution that protects European values and ensures equal sharing of responsibility for dealing with migration pressures, alleviating the disproportionate pressure countries of first reception have come under. Moreover, he referred to the very important meeting held in Sounion – where the EU member states of the Balkans and the Visegrad countries talked with the accession-candidate countries of our region – as a successful exercise in strengthening the unity of the European Union via a systematically organized dialogue.
Before the Council session, Mr. Katrougalos participated as an observer in the preparatory meeting of the Home Affairs ministers of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary of the UK Labour Party, also took part in this meeting. Mr. Katrougalos invited Mr. Starmer to visit Greece, acknowledging Labour’s very positive role, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, in renewing progressive ideas in Europe.