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Alternate FM for European Affairs N. Xydakis speaks to EU Ambassadors at Slovak Presidency luncheon (Athens, 12.09.16)
Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs Nikos Xydakis addressed EU member-states Ambassadors and European officials at the luncheon Ambassador Peter Michalko hosted in his honour on behalf of the Slovak Presidency. He said that this is the right moment for Europe, following last week’s diplomatic initiatives as well, to unite and work to pursue cohesion by means of our shared faith in core European values.
Mr. Xydakis updated the Ambassadors of the EU28 on the positions of Greece both in view of the informal Summit in Bratislava and posterior to the 1st Euro-Med Summit, the Rhodes Conference for Security and Stability and the meeting of European Affairs Ministers with EP members and officials.
In his opening address, the Alternate MFA referred to the multitude of crises the EU is facing. ‘Brexit showed that, as far as Europe is concerned, this recent crisis is overlapping with the last one, which was not sufficiently addressed’, Alternate Minister Xydakis pointed out and then went on to add that
• ‘The economic crisis of 2008 has not been resolved. We are not back to satisfactory growth rates, with growing unemployment in many European countries’.
• ‘We are witnessing the explosion of a phenomenon of historical proportions. Yet, should we read history properly, it is clear that the refugee crisis we have been witnessing in recent years is here to stay. Europe ought to provide an effective answer and proceed with correct future estimates. The problem still remains for Europe in the absence of respect for common decisions’.
• Concerning Brexit, our objective is to have a moderate transition for the sake of both sides, and respect the rules. Europe has failed to convince the public opinion of the UK it is able to deal with the challenges of our times in an effective manner. To us, Great Britain is a historical ally and an integral part of the European continent’.
Mr. Xydakis underscored ‘we need to address these big issues simultaneously, bearing in mind circumstances in the wider region, especially the Mediterranean, which at this point in time is the most critical place for Europe and the world geopolitically. There are countries in the Middle East and Africa where destabilization is not contained in situ any longer; it is turning into crises’ exports. Poverty is being exported along with refugees but so is fear and insecurity, too. As a result thereof, we cannot afford to opt for ‘pretend and extend’.
"I am focusing on crisis management because I am a firm proponent of the founding principles and values of Europe, the values which 19th and 20th century revolutions instilled in us with: Freedom, Equality, Fraternity. If we do not defend those founding values, then we are not defending Europe. Europe must stand up for democracy in the face of the upsetting rise of the far-right. Lately we have been hearing voices resounding xenophobia, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia. Hate speech is being used against European institutions in Brussels and often even against partners in the Union. We ought to stand up for Europe in the face of such voices", the Minister concluded.
In the subsequent discussion, upon being asked about the refugee issue and the implementation of the deal between the European Union and Turkey, the Alternate Minister of European Affairs stressed it is problematic that not all member-states share the same understanding of the issue. ‘The resettlement mechanism is essentially not working. This is a fact that is putting the political identity of Europe and the European culture itself to the test’, he stated.
Mr. Xydakis noted the need for a change in political direction so that the Union is appealing to citizens. "Over the past, neo-liberal doctrines have established themselves in Europe as if they were a law of nature. Yet, that was a political choice which today needs to change. Europe ought to be an area for democracy, justice and social cohesion".
Last, referring to the upcoming Bratislava Summit, Alternate Minister Xydakis underlined that "Greece is expecting a return to political reasoning as opposed to the current bureaucratic and technocratic approach. Only thus can a productive road map be drawn towards having a Europe of pragmatism but also with a vision".