- Über uns
- Griechenland und Österreich
Joint press conference of Foreign Minister Kotzias and the Foreign Minister of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, following their meeting (Vienna, 11 May 2016)
S. KURZ: Ladies and gentlemen, a heartfelt welcome. Dear ladies and
gentlemen, dear Mr. Minister of Foreign Affairs, I welcome you cordially
to our press conference.
Today we had a very in-depth conversation. I am happy to have welcomed you in
Vienna, on your first bilateral visit, and at the same time I extend to the Ambassador, who returned once again to Austria, a warm welcome to Vienna.
I am very pleased that we had this exchange of opinions today, as Greece and Austria are two states that are collaborating in the European Union, and they are also two states that, on many issues – and you, too, have experienced this – have different views and different solutions.
As such, we used our time today to talk, on the one hand, in great detail about the refugee issue, by which we have both been hit – mainly Greece, as a transit country; as a country in which countless people have arrived in the past year.
We Austrians have also been hit very hard, given that our country is a final destination, with the second largest number of refugees per capita in the last year, with 90,000 refugees. I am pleased that in recent weeks and months, through various measures, we have managed to reduce the flows to Greece from Turkey, and also to reduce the flows through the Western Balkan route towards Central Europe.
I believe that we have agreed that the situation has been somewhat defused, but, nevertheless, we should work further together for a joint European solution, because even if things have now calmed down somewhat, we must, as before, watch the agreement with Turkey very carefully to avoid the creation of any dependence on Turkey, and we also need to be so well prepared that the crisis, as we experienced it last year, does not repeat itself.
We also talked about other issues, particularly regarding the Western Balkans, a region that is very dear to us, not only economically, but also culturally and politically. We feel very close to it. It is also very dear to the Greeks, as Greece, on the other geographical side, is very, very close to the Western Balkans.
So it was very good that we exchanged views in this sector, and naturally regarding other issues on which we want to work together, and in particular with regard to the dialogue between different cultures, the dialogue between different religions. This is something that interests us both, and we agreed to work together even more on this issue.
Allow me to welcome you once again to Austria and to thank you for our in-depth talks. I am pleased that, within the framework of your visit, you have a meeting with the Federal President and other meetings. I thank you very much for the invitation to travel to Greece, which, obviously, I accept. I believe that it is important for one to maintain one’s stance, but I believe it is equally important for us to work within the European Union for common solutions and for us to begin to find the least common denominator. We achieved all of this in our talks, and once again, I welcome you warmly.
N. KOTZIAS: A big thankyou to my counterpart and colleague, Mr. Sebastian Kurz, for his invitation. It is very nice to be in Vienna. Today is a very beautiful day, and I am in a beautiful city that has many points of intersection with the history and culture of Greece.
We are linked not only by how we will deal with the crisis now. One of the most important periods in our history – that is, the period of liberation from the Ottoman empire, is related to Austria. Moreover, the printing of a large portion of our modern literature was made possible here.
This means that we are linked by many more things that we realize in our day-to-day lives. I thank you once again for the invitation, because it gave us the opportunity to converse in complete sincerity; that is, with the sincerity that distinguishes Mr. Kurz and with the sincerity with which I always speak.
Both of us have concerns, fears and reservations regarding how the refugee issue will evolve in the future.
We are two politicians fully oriented towards Europe. We are seeking solutions for Europe and we want to work together in this direction. This will happen in cooperation with Ambassador Aliferi, who has returned and will remain here.
We also talked about many, many problems. One of the issues we looked at is solidarity. We expect solidarity from our partners in Europe – solidarity that is not always a given – on economic issues, the economic situation in Greece, on how we need to deal with the refugee issue.
I also showed Sebastian an analysis that shows that, for us, this issue is very difficult and complicated, given that it arose in Greece in a time of economic crisis. Thus, the economic and refugee issues are ending up developing into matters of national security.
We also talked about our stance on the Western Balkans and the relevant potential for cooperation. I briefed the minister on the proposals we have submitted to our neighbours for possible forms of cooperation.
The last thing I would like to mention, and which is no less important, is that we held an international conference last year, in Athens, with communities from the Near East, and I am grateful for what took place. In 2017 we want to jointly host another international meeting, and then we will see even more clearly the common points that link Austria and Greece, as well as the common points for shaping the future, despite the differences that also exist.
And I, on my part, invited the minister to visit Greece, which he knows very well from his youth. I will be very pleased to welcome him. We will be very happy to see him in Athens, and I hope we also have nice weather, because I always feel a little guilty when my colleagues from abroad visit and the weather isn’t so good, and I need to apologize. Once again, my warm thanks for the invitation and for that talks we had.
JOURNALIST (Servus TV): What are your intentions if the agreement with Turkey is not successful? The Turkish President, Erdogan, isn’t all that reliable a partner.
N. KOTZIAS: I believe that Turkey will stay on the course of cooperation with Europe and will implement everything it has to implement. We have to think positively and, of course, deal with our large neighbour, Turkey, positively. I see that there are developments in Turkey’s political system and I can only hope that there won’t be negative repercussions for relations with the other countries of Europe.
JOURNALIST (Austrian Television): You said that it is very nice for you to be in Vienna, and we see with great pleasure that you brought your ambassador with you. What was the reason for her being recalled to Greece, and why can she return now? Because in Idomeni there are 10,000 people who are refusing to be moved from there, and there are also many refugees in Athens.
N. KOTZIAS: First I want to talk about the refugee crisis. And in particular about the refugees from Syria, whom I respect very much. I respect the people of Syria. They are a proud people who would not come to Europe if there weren’t a war. What Austria and Greece have in common is that we aren’t involved in Iraq, Syria or Libya. We see that war is the cause of the refugee crisis. Sometimes we forget here in Europe that it isn’t peoples’ mindset that drives them to flee, but war. And of course, here there is an anti-war effort that is pursuing the ending of this war.
The second thing, and I have to say it publicly, is that we clearly respect the work being done by the NGOs and volunteer organizations. But there are many such organizations that do business, rather than helping people. It’s a lot of money. €9 billion in profit for those on the Turkish side who deal in this trade, and €1 million for those dealing in it on our side. Of course, many of these organizations do excellent work, but others are only trying to make money. Not everyone is a saint, and not everyone is a devil. In Idomeni there are forces, there are NGO people, who insist on the refugees’ not being removed from there, and, unfortunately, they are essentially giving them the wrong picture: that the borders will open and that if the refugees leave they will miss this opportunity. Unfortunately they are lying. The borders are closed. We have created a number of camps, and it would be wiser for the refugees to be house in them. There are thousands of tents, as well as other refugees who are on the islands of the Eastern Aegean.
Greece likes foreigners. It is a hospitable country. But the thing is that the refugees cannot have more rights than the locals. You can’t have some people squatting and not have them removed from there. Measures should be taken.
As for Madam Ambassador, I didn’t bring her here with me. We just traveled together. I have the sense that, with the escalation of the refugee issue, tensions were created and, for a short time, friendship was supplanted. Because we are linked to Austria by a great friendship, and empress Sisi, who everyone loves here, and her palace was in Corfu, and because we have precisely all of this history and the ties from the time of the liberation of the Greeks from Ottoman rule, I believe that the wisest move I could make today would be to come with the Ambassador to Vienna, to meet with my colleague, my counterpart, Sebastian, and to have a sincere conversation with him, which happened. I believe that much of any tension has been defused, and the great friendship of our peoples is being reaffirmed, despite the fact that there was disappointment in Greece too. All of these are human sentiments, understandable, but today the climate is much more positive.
JOURNALIST (Eastern Europe correspondent): Greece and Austria have similar problems, due to the many thousands of refugees. What advice would you give to your colleagues in the eastern countries? What should be done by the three countries that are refusing to show their solidarity?
N. KOTZIAS: First of all I would like to give a basic answer with regard to the two previous questions. The first question is, why are people leaving, why are they fleeing Syria? And I would say that there is no longer state sovereignty in their country. And the people are not sovereign – as they should be – due to the dictatorship of Assad. And precisely because the people no longer have this place that they should have in their country, they are seeking better fortune as refugees. I want to talk about the refugees in Greece.
And now that we are a government of the Left, discussions are naturally arising. What has greater priority? Human rights, the protection of people? Or how the state manages? Of course, we have to say that human rights are important. The state has sovereignty. My answer is that for there to be human rights, for the fundamental rights of humanity to exist and be respected, the people themselves and the state must be sovereign. Otherwise, if the state does not have this basic capacity, if the state does not function, then nor can there be human rights. Because human rights function only when the state functions. And this happened in Syria: precisely this state sovereignty was lost. And autonomy and, as a result, the very existence of human rights.
Right now, the European Union does not have a long-term perspective, even for its own existence. What are our visions? What is happening with our youth? The memorandums are not the solution. Europe always provides very myopic and short-sighted solutions. It was clear. We saw that they refugees would come from the Middle East, and moves were made at the United Nations, where there is money. Initially, $340 went for every refugee, and now it’s only $13 per month. How can they get by on that?
But when we said something, we got the answer that we were making a threat, because we are a leftist government. We simply carried out a detached analysis, made an objective observation, but Europe did not prepare. It is very basic for Europe’s image to be clear to our citizens and to the citizens of other countries. Its image depends greatly on whether we will be able to resolve the refugee problem or not. Because if we cannot handle it correctly, I think that Europe will have another problem, a problem with itself. And now the third – I come to your question. My opinion is that no country can give advice – from on high, in a sense – to other countries, but that there should be consultations so that we can find solutions together.