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Statements of Deputy FM Kourkoulas and his German counterpart, Michael Link, following their meeting

Monday, 16 July 2012

D. KOURKOULAS: I would like to once again welcome the German Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Michael Link. I want to thank him for visiting Greece at such an important time for Greek-German relations and for our two countries’ relations with the European Union. Mr. Link is responsible for European Affairs in the German government, and we look forward to close cooperation with him on all the pending issues of the European Union that will be on the decision-making agenda in the coming weeks and months.

We discussed a long list of issues relating to the European Union’s financial perspectives, which is an issue that is being discussed and will be decided on soon. And we look forward to cooperation with Germany on this. We also discussed other issues: EU enlargement, bilateral relations. I expressed to Mr. Link the Greek government’s desire to do everything we can so that Greek-German relations – which have an historical depth and breadth that goes beyond just the relations of lender and borrower – can gain a perspective that will go beyond the narrow relationship of lender and borrower and will reflect the historical and strategic depth of the two countries’ relations.

M. LINK: So, thank you very much for the invitation first of all.

First of all thanks to Dimitris Kourkoulas, my Greek colleague from the new Greek Government for receiving me so warmly today, not only warmly, but even also hot; I understand that even for Athens that is a really hot day.

Well, politically it is hot anyway since long and maybe you noticed, you heard that today also the German Constitutional Court announced its final ruling, well, that is the ruling on the future on the constitutionality of ESM, so you see we have politically tough times in Germany as well as in Greece. But even more, I am thankful of having had already very-very good talks today, first of all with the Speaker of the Parliament, then with my Greek colleague, Dimitris Kourkoulas, then we had a short meeting with the Foreign Minister, and later on there will be also a very important working meeting with the Minister of Finance, and later on with IMF before, in this case, flying to Brussels today.

Dimitris Kourkoulas has highlighted the historically very important relation and very close relation between Greece and Germany, and I could not agree more, because so many things are linking us, and in times of crisis we sometimes forget that we both are equal parts of the European Union, equal parts and not only of the European Union but also of the Eurozone, and in order to overcome this critical moment of Greece's future in the Eurozone, where we both want, both governments want, of course, to keep a common, successful future in the Eurozone, therefore it is very important right now that we give the right signals, and, therefore, the German Government wants to support the enormous and courageous reform agenda of the Greek Government. We very much count on the Greek Government with that solid parliamentary majority. I also had the meeting with the Speaker of the Parliament, with the *** majority now step by step, and hopefully also using these summer months step by step to implement the reforms that have been agreed, because this is the only way to get back the trust of the markets, to get the trust of the other members of the Eurozone, and to earn the trust especially, because that is what politics is also about, of the voters, because finally every government is first of all responsible and accountable in the faces and in the eyes of their voters. Therefore, we encourage, fully encourage, the reform agenda of the Greek Government.

We did speak about a lot of topics; my colleague Dimitris Kourkoulas mentioned them. It is not all about the Euro, some things even are about other things in Europe, and we have of course touched the issue, the very important issue of the future budget of the European Union. As you know, the decision is due, hopefully, for December, to decide for the new framework 2014-2020, and, so, we have very intensive cooperation on that, looking forward to even intensify it in the next months, in order to get a swift decision and an especially good position for both countries concerning the next budget.

Again, we are very much supportive of the Greek Government in this reform agenda and we hope very much that the next months will be used; we all know that a very important assessment Troika mission is under way. It will take some time of course to make the assessment, but it is very important to have a conclusive, substantial, comprehensive assessment. Therefore, this clear commitment of the Greek Government is highly welcome, and we should work together in order to really put it in place.

Thanks and looking forward to your questions.

CHRISTINA POULIDOU (ANA) : I have two questions for you. First, what is the main issue of your visit here in Athens? Second, recently Minister Rosler said, in an interview in the Bild, that he is fed up with Greece. So my question is what is the political meaning of this statement? Is there any political meaning on that? Since you are in the same party, I thought that perhaps you have a better understanding of his statement.

M. LINK: Well, in general, the purpose of the visit - and being the first member of the German government coming here after the government has been formed – is to meet the counterparts and to get a personal feeling. Of course, we meet in Brussels regularly, but having intensive bilateral talks is much better than just to meet in Brussels and therefore I think it is also a question of respect to go to Athens and to speak with the new government as well as also, of course, I have invited Dimitris to come to Berlin where we have to continue.

Mr. Rosler did not make a comment, a complete comment on the Greek government. Of course he is disappointed, and he shares that with a lot of other Germans of course, not only Germans but other members of the Eurozone as well, is that in total so much time has been lost. So, I think that this is nothing neither new nor a surprising statement that a lot of time has been lost. Even more so the program, what we hear from the party leaders of the Coalition, and I also know that the Coalition is a new case also for Greece at least in such a composition, even more so, the commitment, the political commitment of the party leaders is very much welcomed by the government but nevertheless before we say anything more substantial, we, as well as the other governments in the Eurozone, we concretely now wait for a substantive, comprehensive assessment of the Troika which is due sometime in the end of August or in the beginning of September and this is extremely important. Until that moment, of course, we will not give any substantial comments, we can just encourage that reform agenda and we think it is the first time since long that we have heard such a concrete reform agenda from a Greek government. Now, we wait for it to be implemented.

D. KOURKOULAS: I just wanted to add that as far as I am concerned, I am extremely happy that Mr. Link came and that he is among the first officials to visit Greece. Because, as you know, the mandate of the Greek people to the new government was to restore Greece’s place in the center of the European Union, of the Eurozone. So Germany, being one of the most important countries in the European Union and myself sitting very often, at least once or twice per month in the Council meetings, I very much appreciate to have very good contacts with the Minister. Because, as I said before, it is not only about the memorandum; of course, this is a very important issue for everybody, for both Greece and the other countries, but it is about the future of Europe. You know that there are very important decisions that will be taken in the near future about the institutional set up. The European Union will not be the same in three years time, as it is today and we want Greece to be part of the decision making, of the hard core of the decision making and there we need to exchange views, to compare notes, even when we disagree, to discuss with our partners about the future of Europe and the future of Greece in the European Union. In this respect, I really learned a lot and I very much appreciate the presence of the Minister here in Athens.