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Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, following his meeting with Foreign Minister Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz (Pristina, 04.06.2021)
«Dear friend, dear Donika,
Allow me to thank you for your kind hospitality today here in Pristina. I am coming back here just after a few months, and my visit here today underlines our attachment to further enhancing our relation with you. Let me stress that we wish to expand our economic relations and our trade relations. We are close.
And this is the reason why, today, I am accompanied by Deputy Minister Kostas Frangogiannis, who is responsible for International Economic and Trade relations. I have asked Kostas to “put meat on the bone” of our relations.
We have a significant presence already here on the ground, but we believe that there is a huge scope to develop it further. There are several areas where there is very significant potential. These include, among others, infrastructure, agricultural products and transportation.
Furthermore, there is a very broad spectrum for cooperation in the energy field, by enhancing energy security and the diversification of energy sources. We believe that the whole Western Balkans should be connected to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline,through gas interconnectors. We could also provide support and know-how on reducing the dependence on lignite and expanding the use of renewable energy resources. That’s where humanity is going, because we do have to protect our environment.
Another area, in which we attach great importance and we discussed it between us, and where there is huge untapped potential, is our cultural relations. We should move forward on that field as well.
My presence here is also sending another message. Greece has consistently now, for two decades, been advocating for the EU integration of the Western Balkans. The government of Prime Minister Mitsotakis remains firmly anchored to this commitment. And we have taken several initiatives in this regard. We strongly support the holding of the first intergovernmental conference with Albania and North Macedonia, as soon as possible. Ideally this month.
We have also made sure that the issue of the Western Balkans remains high on the EU agenda. We do this, not out of interest, but out of a firm belief that this region should form an integral part of the European experiment. We should not allow other powers to undermine the fragile stability of our region by attempting to create spheres of influence or trying to entrench themselves by referring to cultural, historical or religious affinities. To cut a long story short, we believe that the Western Balkans belong to Europe and should be an integral part of the EU.
In this regard, we have steadily been in favor of visa liberalization for you, since you have fulfilled the benchmarks set out in the relevant Roadmap. We have openly taken this position in the Council of EU Foreign Ministers. We will continue supporting on these issues.
And we have taken very good note of your efforts in the fields of rule of law, public administration and the fight against corruption and organized crime, and without resources. We are here to help you, if you wish so.
In this regard, we value the work undertaken by EULEX Kosovo, in which several Greek officials are currently serving. I am going to see them at the end of my presence here.
You are well aware that Greece follows a constructive approach with regard to Kosovo in line with the EU "status neutral" approach.
We have an "Office of Trade and Economic Affairs of Kosovo” in Athens, operational since 2019, but as you were kind enough to note, recently, we moved to enhance our cooperation and facilitate the operation of this Office, it was upgraded to "Office of Interests of Kosovo in Athens." And this, we hope that it will allow the Office to broaden its contacts with Greece.
It is clear - and we have said that privately again - that we fully support the continuation of the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue. I take this opportunity, of my presence here today, to urge, once again, all parties to intensify their efforts, in order to reach a legally binding and viable solution. Such a solution will do miracles to stabilize the whole region, as well as bring the region closer to the European family. I am in very regular contact with my dear friend and former colleague, the EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajčák. And Greece actively supports all his efforts.
Last but not least, I would like to underline Greece's commitment to NATO's longest standing operation, KFOR. We will continue supporting it to fulfill its mandate in a fair and impartial way. Our position is that any possible change in the Force's posture should be conditions'-based and not calendar-driven.
With these words, dear Donika, allow me to thank you once again for your very kind hospitality. I am so glad to be in Pristina today. Thank you so much. »