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Statements of Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias following the proceedings of the Trilateral Ministerial Meeting between Greece, Romania and Bulgaria (Bucharest, 12 March 2018)
N. KOTZIAS: I would like to thank my friend Teodor for the invitation and hospitality, for the kindness and wisdom with which he raised the issues we discussed. I would like to thank the interpreter/translator and the other translators, because without them we would not be able to do our work here.
I would like to express my support for Bulgaria and Romania’s accession to the Schengen Area. In Europe we will feel much better with them in the Schengen Area. I would like to thank the Bulgarian Presidency and wish the best of luck to the Romanian Presidency.
In my understanding, when we are talking about EU enlargement, we should also be thinking on ways to deepen European integration. And I understand the modern history of our states in the region in three periods. In the first period, with the collapse of the communist regimes, we focused on rebuilding our relations here in the Balkans, our investments, banking, human and family networks. For the first 15 years of the 21st century, everyone focused on preparing to become member states of the European Union.
Our meeting today -and all the work being done- endeavour to combine these two periods. For the all states in the region to become member-states of the European Union, but also for us to develop the relations between us in a way that benefits everyone’s presence in the European Union.
And this is why we underscored, each of us in turn, that enlargement and the “Eastern Neighbourhood” also interest us. This is why, on 11-12 May, we are holding an international conference on the future of Europe – the second we have held – together with the candidates for EU membership. Because we want to create the future together. We, the member states, and those who will be joining.
In our view the ten years – ending next year – since the initiation of the Eastern Neighbourhood Policy play and important role, and we are very pleased to have agreed on a number of initiatives, especially to support the states that are next to us and belong to the “Eastern Neighbourhood”.
I listened very carefully to and support the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affair’s thoughts, particularly regarding Moldova. I am also pleased that we will be discussing the Middle East issues. Greece has five trilateral cooperation schemes with countries of the Middle East, and we bring them together in Rhodes every year, where my friends the Ministers participate. All the Arab countries of the region and eight European countries.
So, we have a lot of work ahead of us. We will meet often to implement our initiatives for the countries of the “Eastern Neighbourhood”, for the countries of the Western Balkans, in a three-state collaboration that comes from very far back in history and will go far into the future. Thank you very much.
REPORTER: (off microphone)
N. KOTZIAS: I agree with everything I heard. The matter of funding is linked to the kind of Europe we want. The model of Europe you want is discernible in the size of its budget. If you want a more federal Europe, you increase the budget. If you are moving backwards in Europe, you think about how to reduce funding. This is a separate matter from the good management of money. But sometimes people confuse the two. By good management they mean reduction. We have the issue that in the first two enlargements – from 10 to 12, with Spain and Portugal; and from 12 to 15, with Austria, Finland and Sweden – the money increased, at that time with the Mediterranean Programmes and with the Cohesion Fund, because wealthy countries joined. Now the wealthy countries don’t want to increase the funds the poorer countries receive. This is why I say ‘yes’ to the rule of law, but a rule of law implemented in a European Union that is evolving and not retreating.
REPORTER: What are Greece’s next steps going to be following the tension Turkey is creating?
N. KOTZIAS: We didn’t talk about third countries outside of Southeast Europe. This is understandable, since we must develop our initiatives in our immediate region. As Ms. Zaharieva rightly said, we talked about Turkey at the informal Council [of EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs] in Sofia. At that meeting I underscored that a further criterion should be added to the Copenhagen criteria. That a candidate state for membership in the European Union or a state that wants a Customs Union with the European Union needs to: First, follow a peaceful and not an aggressive policy – particularly foreign policy. Second, implement international law and accept it creatively. Third, implement the International Law of the Sea. It is up to Turkey itself whether it will stop violating international law, the Law of the Sea and the rules of peaceful foreign policy. My other comments aren’t for this meeting.