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Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs T. Quick participates in Greek-British Symposium on Brexit (Nafplio, 22 October 2017)
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Terens Quick participated in the two-day symposium on the Brexit, which was hosted in Nafplio by the British Embassy.
In his speech, he mentioned the following:
“No one can say that we are pleased that the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. We are focusing on what Prime Minister May said: that Britain is leaving the European Union, not Europe. We respect the British people’s decision. And Britain’s decision to exit the European Union is irreversible. The negotiations, particularly on economic issues, may have their difficulties, but it has been decided that they will move forward as quickly as possible.
Of course, one has to wonder how we got this result in the British referendum. There are many important questions. Why did the young people vote ‘no’ and older ones ‘yes’ to the departure from the EU? Does this mean that younger people have expectations from the great European family? That they want to build a different future for themselves within the EU, and that we are depriving them of this? Was the ‘no’ result a product of anger at many things? For example, that they saw Great Britain being unable to hold its own with other European powers like Germany and France?
I too am a European citizen. And as a citizen, beyond my institutional office, I ask myself: Did the British perhaps see what many other peoples are seeing: that an attempt is being made for us to have, for example, not the Germany of Europe at the table, but the Europe of Germany? Because there is no doubt that, in recent years, Germany has played its own special role in European developments. Moreover, Schäuble’s stifling influence in the Eurogroup area is well known. We Greeks have felt this first hand.
Is it their anger at seeing a Europe that has diverged from the values of its Founding Declaration? A Europe that is no longer a Europe of the nation states, of humanity, solidarity, equality? A Europe whose economy was once guided by its politicians, through their policies, while politicians and their policies are now driven by the economy, by economic factors and the bankers?
It is precisely what the Greek government and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras highlight at every opportunity: it is the Europe that cannot be a multi-speed Europe, but needs to be a Europe of multiple choices. The Europe of equal opportunity, with pillars of humanity and solidarity.
Look, for example, at what is happening with the migration issue: we are on Europe’s border, adjacent to restless neighbours that are pressing us on issues like the visa, and, in spite of our economic problems, we are building bridges of humanity, while some of our European neighbours are building walls and laying razor wire.
We also need to become a properly structured Europe, from an economic standpoint. The main thing the majority of European countries share is the monetary/customs Union. The common currency. But meanwhile we lack substantial common foreign and defence policy.
Does the example of Cyprus ring any bells? Europe tolerating one of its members to be under occupation? I’m not saying this for all the member states. I mean some member states. Some have a stance anywhere from tepid to indifferent on the presence of 42,000 Turkish troops and the anachronistic system of guarantees. Issues that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of my homeland, Nikos Kotzias, repeatedly raises, frankly and uncompromisingly, as key conditions for achieving a solution. The best-read politician on the Cyprus problem. Where is a united Europe on the Cyprus issue?
I imagine that the Brexit and its repercussions will be managed by the British in the best possible manner. But for all of us, the other 27, it should be the point of departure for reflection on the profile the European Union needs to have and that has to do with the things I mentioned earlier.
Regardless of whether the UK is in the EU, Greece’s traditional relations with Britain will not be disrupted. In fact, I am certain that they will remain stable and grow even stronger, benefiting all of our common actions and interests in the economic, cultural, diplomatic and other sectors.
What’s more, some 100,000 Greeks live in Britain, and close to 50,000 Britons reside permanently in Greece. I will not forget to mention the over 2 million Britons who spend their holidays in Greece. In our bilateral talks, as well as those that take place in Brussels, we are taking care to safeguard the interests and residency status of the Greeks who live, work and study in Britain.
Nor will I forget to mention figures such as Lord Byron, who hastened to Greece’s side in its struggle against the Turks. And I will also point out that, based on the Lisbon Treaty, a new, major debate has begun on the return of the Parthenon Sculptures. Relevant initiatives are being taken by organized groups of citizens with distinguished legal experts, not only in Greece, but wherever there is an organized Greek diaspora community, as in the U.S., Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the large European countries”.