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Statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, following his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Heiko Maas (Berlin, 16 September 2019)
“Dear Heiko, thank you for the warm welcome.
It is a great pleasure to be in Berlin today, a few days after the new Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in a country that is one of Greece’s most important partners and allies.This is the second time we have had the opportunity to exchange views, following our short meeting in Helsinki.
We talked about a large number of issues on the bilateral, European and regional levels, such as the new state of affairs taking shape in Europe following the new European Commission’s entry into office, and our shared vision for the Future of Europe in a global environment that is changing very rapidly.Of course, all of this in a climate of cooperation with our international partners and based on the fundamental principles and values of Democracy, protection of human rights and solidarity that are the core of the EU – and not in a mindset of entrenchment or of a new isolationism.
The Multiannual Financial Framework and the optimal handling of the repercussions of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU were also discussed.
As you know, the waves of refugee and migrant flows have again taken on troubling dimensions. We very much appreciate Germany’s constructive stance on this issue. We share the view that this is a global phenomenon and that it therefore requires a holistic approach to its causes, as well as its consequences. And of course there has to be solidarity with the states that are on the front line of this problem.
I want to stress the importance of the full implementation of the EU-Turkey statement of March 2016.
We talked about EU enlargement in the Western Balkans. My country, the oldest EU member state in Southeast Europe, has always supported our neighbours’ European perspectives, on the strict condition, of course, of full compliance with the criteria and conditionality – rules that everyone has had to comply with.
I talked to Heiko about Greece’s will to continue to play the role of pillar of stability and cooperation in its wider region.
On the other extreme, we talked about Turkey’s dangerous conduct in the Eastern Mediterranean. In spite of the very clear messages from the EU, Turkey continues to flagrantly violate international law and the sovereignty and sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus – an EU member state – and has escalated its rhetoric.
Finally, with regard to bilateral issues, among other things we confirmed our shared will to even further deepen our cooperation based on the Joint Action Plan signed in 2016. And even though our economic and trade relations are already at a very high level, we want to boost them even further. This is why we chose Germany as an honoured country at the 2020 Thessaloniki International Fair.
My dear colleague, thank you once again for your warm hospitality, which I look forward to reciprocating at the earliest opportunity.
Thank you very much.”
JOURNALIST: Minister, the dispute over natural gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean has been escalating of late. Turkey is threatening Greece and Cyprus on almost a daily basis. But Germany is Turkey’s largest weapons supplier. This year has sold €180 million in weapons to Turkey. The question is: will this continue? And a question, if I may, for the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs. Minister, there is great concern in Germany, as there is in Greece, over the increasing flows of refugees to the islands of the Eastern Aegean. Key to the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement – which, as you said, you want to see fully implemented – is returns from Greece to Turkey, which have gone slowly. What are you doing about this? Do you need help? And what help could you get from Germany?
N. DENDIAS: Thank you. Allow me to make a brief comment regarding Turkey before I answer your question on the migration issue. I have to agree with everything the German Minister of Foreign Affairs just said. For talks to take place, there always has to be de-escalation. I’m sorry to say this, but Turkey isn’t helping. In fact, the recent statements regarding Turkey's intention to open the fenced-off city of Famagusta are probably exacerbating the situation and do not facilitate the search for a solution to the Cyprus problem.
I now come to the migration issue. I am well aware, the new government is well aware, that there have been only a small number of returns. There is a very large internal debate that has come to some initial conclusions. The initial conclusions have to do with, first of all, the resolution of administrative problems, to the extent this is feasible, so as to facilitate the return procedure. This has to do, first of all, with the Greek legislation on the asylum procedure. If I remember correctly, there was a specific announcement following the very large meeting at the Prime Minister’s office. On the other hand, however, we have a very active role in the major European debate on asylum procedure issues. This was one of the issues we discussed today with my German counterpart: the adoption – on the European level and in the form of a “Dublin III” – of a procedure for handling applications for asylum that, with absolute respect for human rights, would allow applications to be processed quickly and, beyond that, grant protection to those who are eligible for it.
JOURNALIST: My first question is for Mr. Maas. The Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs has delivered to you a note verbale calling you to a dialogue on the matter of war reparations. I know the German government’s longstanding position on the issue. But I would like to ask whether you are prepared to respond to this note verbale and in what way. And if I may, a question for Mr. Dendias. Do you think this claim from the Greek side can jeopardise the relaunching of Greek-German relations?
N. DENDIAS: Thank you. My dear colleague has already politely said that this subject was brought up and discussed. You know, Germany is a friend of Greece on the bilateral level and in the context of the European family. It isn’t absolutely necessary for us to agree on everything. There are points on which there are disagreements. But these disagreements will not poison our relationship. This will be part of our relations, and we will discuss it. Allow me to express the Greek side’s firm conviction that, in the end, this matter, too, will be resolved in the correct manner.
JOURNALIST: I have a question for both Ministers. Edward Snowden is currently accusing the countries of the EU, saying that six years ago no European state granted him asylum – and Germany, too, was against it at that time. In hindsight, do you think this stance was wrong? Would Greece support Edward Snowden’s being given the opportunity for a European future in Germany or Greece?
N. DENDIAS: Allow me to say that I find your question a little surprising. In 2013, when I was the Civil Protection Minister, I created a new Hellenic Asylum Service. I think it was an excellent Service, before it was flooded with applications in the crisis of 2015 and found itself overwhelmed. I don’t remember an application being submitted to that Service, but in any case, one of the things I’m proud of is its independence. Consequently, the Service itself decides who meets the conditions to receive asylum and who doesn’t. As my dear colleague rightly said, it’s not a matter of a government’s choice or government intervention. In Europe we have moved to the next level.