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Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, N. Kotzias, at the joint press conference following the meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Visegrad 4 and the Balkan EU member states (Balkan 4), in Budapest (4 December 2017)
I thank you for the invitation and your hospitality. As always, it was a meeting well organized by the Hungarian side.
It was thousands of years ago that god Zeus abducted the beautiful Europa from Libya, leading us, today, to the process of the European Union and its further enlargement.
Greece supports the enlargement of the European Union with the Balkan countries that have not yet joined it. It also supports an energy security policy for Europe, and that is why we decided to step up the cooperation of the ten states and create a team of experts that will monitor energy issues.
Moreover, Greece aspires to a Europe that is more social, responsive to the sentiments of its people and citizens, that bears in mind the needs of the nation states while itself becoming stronger. We believe that the European Union itself must courageously launch an open, sincere and creative debate on the future of the European Union: What do we want this Union to be in the 21st century? In an era when the international balance of power is changing, when the global centre of power is shifting towards South - East Asia, and when it is necessary for us to strengthen our institutions if we are to be able to better serve our citizens.
It is these issues, with these criteria, that we discussed today, and we agreed that we need to continue our discussion of the future of Europe, of our dreams, of our values, and of precisely what we believe must happen on our continent. We discussed Europe’s international role in a changing global landscape, in an era of great upheavals, and we talked about the role the European Union needs to play for stability in its neighbouring regions and for world peace.
I think today was a good and fortuitous day for me, as I was here in beautiful Budapest, together with our colleagues, at the invitation of Péter Szijjártó.
REPORTER: (off microphone - question on the refugee and migration crisis)
N. KOTZIAS: It is usual for us, while we discuss the future of Europe, to be asked on migration. This is one of Europe’s problems; it cannot discuss on its future, it has always to discuss on the particulars. I would like to share a few thoughts I have on this.
First, refugeeism and migration are profoundly human phenomena. They have to do with people who are out of work, who flee from war for various reasons, as refugees or as economic migrants, with or without their families. No matter how many difficulties may arise, we mustn’t lose our humanity. We need to try to confront this. On the other hand, small states – like ours, and during the crisis – have limited resources and capabilities. And this policy has a difficulty. You want to be open to everyone, to take ten million people into your home, but you don’t have the wherewithal. And in a given case, one tries to resolve this by striking a balance. And this balance means that the people fleeing the conflict zones will respect the law and the rule of law. Because if they leave a place, due to war, and they go somewhere else with different intentions, then this becomes a problem.
The second matter is how a migration flow stops. In my opinion, when you treat the causes. I often say in interviews that I am surprised that there is no anti-war movement in Europe – no substantial, real anti-war movement – aiming at stopping the war in Syria, the conflicts in Libya, etc. Personally, I have been part of major anti-war movements: Vietnam, Indochina, Cambodia, Laos, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique – I could go on for hours. What I’m saying is, we shouldn’t deal with the problem only in terms of its effects – migration – but also in terms of its causes. And war is a cause.
The second reason is that the International Organizations found themselves without money, and the funding was cut for Lebanon and Jordan, which had facilities for millions of people. As soon as the money ran out, the large waves of refugees and economic migrants came. The cost of dealing with the repercussions of these waves is much greater than the funding that was cut. So even from a neoliberal standpoint, which isn’t my standpoint, I would say that cutting funding is an irrational move.
And the third point, which has to do with the causes of war, is that some people confuse the protection of human rights with the need for there to be human life, from which these rights derive. “You cannot protect human rights without protecting human life.” And the wars fought in the Middle East, in the name of protecting human rights, ended up killing 500,000 people in Syria alone and forcing 14,000,000 people from their homes. So let me put it to you differently: One group of people is deciding to go to war, and others are paying for these wars. Refugees from conflict zones don’t always move to the countries that caused the conflicts.
The fourth point I would like to make is that migration won’t end even if the wars do. First, because migration is a constant historical phenomenon, and second, because I am afraid there will be extreme climate changes in Africa, which will have a population of two billion in 2045, up from one billion today. If we refuse to face the problems that come with climate change, economic development, energy problems, institutional responses in Africa itself, and migration, Europe will be facing the same surprises after 2040. I don't want to lose my human soul to the geopolitical problem of migration. But at the same time, I don’t want to fail in my responsibility, as a citizen of a country and of Europe, and being aware of the matter of resources and capabilities I mentioned earlier. And it is very difficult to strike a balance between the two criteria. I don't think there is a politician who has seen war refugees – or economic migrants who don’t have enough to eat – who hasn’t been torn between his feelings and his duty. And I must say that I am happy overall, because in my country, in the midst of a deep crisis – the deepest crisis since the Second World War – people who didn’t have homes or didn’t have food for their families helped the refugees. But at the same time, the political responsibility was to shape conditions that would stem these flows. And this is why we welcomed the EU-Turkey agreement that regulated these issues.
Tayyip Erdogan is coming to Athens in three days. I saw him a few days ago in Ankara, and I hope we find even better solutions on this issue. It isn’t a pleasant issue, it is a bitter one. Because it has to do with bitter people, but sentiment cannot always overrule the demands of duty. One has to respond to the demands in one’s area of responsibility. Let me put it differently, and I’ll leave it there. Am I responsible for every human life on this planet? I am – as a human being, I’m saying – but if I also have a child, or two or three children, do I have a greater responsibility to them? I do, because I decided, or was part of the decision, to bring them into this world. In other words, I said to them: I will protect you. So I will protect them, and I will protect the others as much as I can. This is the way life is: we don’t descend into barbarity, but neither do we forget our immediate duties to the people closest to us. I don’t think anyone who has seen refugees living in camps and in deprivation can sleep easy or not dream that there are no refugees, no war. But every one of us is obliged, from time to time, to deal with these issues in a way that is more pragmatic, more realistic than his feelings. There is a contradiction here, involving sentiment and duty, and we deal with it and carry it with us throughout our lives.