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Statements by Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexis Tsipras, following the proceedings of the 5th Southern EU Countries Summit (Nicosia, 29 January 2019)

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Statements by Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alexis Tsipras, following the proceedings of the 5th Southern EU Countries Summit (Nicosia, 29 January 2019)"I would like to thank the President of the Republic of Cyprus, President and friend Nikos Anastasiades, for his hospitality. I would also of course like to thank Emmanuel, as well as all my colleagues who said very kind words at this Summit regarding Europe’s significant success -this is how I see it- which is not limited to Greece and North Macedonia, with respect to the settlement of an outstanding dispute.

Let me say that, as far as I am concerned, the most important thing today, and the most important piece of news is that we found ourselves together again, all seven of us, after almost a whole year. And even more importantly, I would say, is that the south of Europe is meeting at the South-easternmost corner of Europe, in Cyprus. And we are sending a message of unity and determination, despite any differences that we may have - and we do have political differences - to defend fundamental European values, to defend the prospect of European integration, but to also defend International Law and to play a catalytic role in the near future, both in the developments that concern Europe itself as well as in regional developments.

There is no doubt that the countries of the European south recently experienced, in a harsh way, the most significant crises that the European Union has been through; both the economic crisis as well as the refugee and migrant crisis.

Consequently, we have yet another reason, also based on the experience we have gained, to fight together and address regional inequalities within the European Union in a prospect of social convergence and convergence between countries, Member-States. But, of course, we also have every reason to wish for the migrant crisis to be handled through the prism of the principle of solidarity and sharing of responsibility, and not through a view that wants each of us to handle problems alone, especially when these problems do not concern each of us separately but pertain to the European Union as a whole.

I firmly believe that the countries of the European south, especially during a period when the logic of isolationism prevails, the logic of national entrenchment, in an era when racism and xenophobia are becoming leading political discourse, can also send a message deriving from their tradition and culture as well as their different visualisation of the future. Let's send a message of cooperation and a message that European solutions do exist to all the problems we face.

I would like to elaborate a bit on the issue of the migrant crisis. This perhaps took up the greatest amount of time during our discussion. We stressed the need for Europe to obtain a new common European system of asylum, based on solidarity and the fair distribution of responsibilities. But we cannot speak of solidarity without this being expressed in practice, without, in other words, the creation of a mechanism to redistribute asylum seekers among Member-States. Therefore, revision of the Dublin Regulation represents a significant priority for us in the near future.

Moreover, and with this I will move on to issues that concerned our meeting and pertain to the future of the Euro Area and the necessary reforms that are required in the European Union and more specifically in the Euro Area, we agreed that, in the near future, we must fight together, to seek, within the European Union, the prospect of a Euro Area budget, the completion of the banking union, as well as facing social inequalities, and the creation of a European fund for tackling unemployment.

And of course, we discussed regional developments and, since we find ourselves in Cyprus, we also talked about Turkey. We discussed the importance of cooperation and dialogue between Europe and Turkey in a number of sectors, from the economy and energy to immigration, as well as the developments in the Middle East. And I shall have the opportunity next week to visit Istanbul, and to meet with President Erdogan. Of course, beyond my own thoughts, I shall convey to him the climate of today's meeting, because I believe that all seven of us here agreed on the fact that the relations of each country separately with Turkey, as well as that of the EU as a whole, must be based on mutual respect and, above all, on respect of International Law. Turkey must respect International Law, both in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as in the Aegean.

In this context, it goes without saying that all of us support the prospect of a fair and sustainable solution to the Cyprus issue, based on UN resolutions, and also based on the European acquis. Which means that this solution cannot include interventions by third parties, third guarantors, nor of course occupation forces.

On the other hand, I would like to underscore that any solution will be, and it must be, for the benefit of the Cypriot people as a whole, this is what we are striving to achieve; in other words, for both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. Furthermore, I believe that any benefits from exploiting natural resources, which is a sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus - and we have repeatedly stressed this - must be benefits that will be fairly distributed both to Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.

Of course, we also talked about energy issues, and we shall discuss these further during the dinner. I would like to say that one energy project of special geopolitical significance is the East Med pipeline, for transporting energy resources from the region of the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe. And I believe that this project is an opportunity for all of us to work together, to make it happen and to ensure, I repeat, the safe transport of energy resources from the Eastern Mediterranean to Europe, in the context of course of the diversity of energy sources and routes, a principle which we all support.

With these thoughts, I would like once again to thank President Anastasiades, my friend Nikos, for his hospitality, and to reiterate that the message we are sending from here today is a message of travelling together down the path of finding common European solutions; a message underscored by the successful settlement we achieved regarding the 30-year disagreement on the name issue with North Macedonia; it is also a message that European solutions do exist, through dialogue and through mutual understanding. We believe in a Europe that is able to provide solutions instead of descending into introversion. And of course, we also believe in a Europe that will be more efficient, but at the same time also more democratic and more social; and of course, in a Europe that will be able, beyond solving its own problems, to also play a substantive role on the international scene, as a pillar of peace and stability.

And I would like to repeat that our effort, on the part of all seven of us, especially here in Cyprus, signals that we are decided to work towards peace and stability in this volatile region of Europe which is the Southeast Mediterranean.

With these thoughts, I again thank President Nikos Anastasiades for his hospitality."

Summit of the Southern European Union Countries – Nicosia Declaration