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Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, following his meeting with his Croatian counterpart Gordan Radman (Zagreb, 29.01.2020)

Thursday, 30 January 2020

N. DENDIAS: It is a real pleasure to be here in Zagreb today and to have had the opportunity to exchange views with my dear colleague, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Gordan Radman.

Firstly, let me congratulate you upon assuming the European Union Presidency, a difficult task, which I am sure you will carry out, dear colleague, impeccably.

We discussed issues having to do with our bilateral relations, but also issues of regional interest and EU affairs. Our two countries enjoy excellent bilateral relations that have greatly been enhanced since Croatia’s EU accession.

That is why we firmly support Croatia’s entry to the Schengen area, the Eurozone and the OECD.

During your EU Presidency, please rest assured of Greece’s constructive stance and cooperation, especially in strengthening regional cooperation and promoting the European perspective of our Western Balkan neighbours.

This constitutes a strategic goal for Greece, ever since the Thessaloniki Summit, in 2003. We are convinced that this is the best way to promote peace, stability and prosperity in our often-troubled region.

Naturally, we are looking forward to the EU-Western Balkans Summit, here in Zagreb this coming May, and we are highly appreciative of your support to the Ministerial Conference we are organising in Thessaloniki, on February the 24th.

A green light for opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania the soonest possible is crucial, in order to provide further momentum for reforms in those countries, as well as stability in the broader region. Provided, of course, that the set conditionality is met.

We also discussed recent developments in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean. We expressed our commitment to both the implementation of the Berlin Conference Conclusions and for respect for International Law, which is the cornerstone of the EU’s policies.

So, in line with the firm and clear EU position, we condemn the crescendo of continued illegal activities and provocations in our region.

In concluding, I ‘d like to thank you very much, dear colleague for hosting us here today. I would like to wish you every success in your Presidency. Please let me say that your success is our success and allow me to express the hope to welcome you soon in Athens.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible]

N. DENDIAS: When I’m talking about illegal activities, first of all I’m talking about the illegal drilling in the Exclusive Economic Zone and the territorial waters of an EU member state, namely the Republic of Cyprus. Τhere are many discussions at the European Council and there is a clear EU position on this. Also, I’ve mentioned the two null and void memoranda signed between Turkey and the government of Tripoli. These have also been characterized as null and void by the European Union Council.

As far as migration issues are concerned, please allow me to say that this is a most important issue; an issue that the Croatian Presidency appreciates all too well. We have been discussing with my dear colleague on how we could help create a better environment within the EU, in order to deal with the migration phenomenon. Let's be frank, it will not just go away. For example, a common asylum policy inall European member states will help a lot, a returns policy will help a lot.

As far as the external borders of the EU are concerned, my government is doing its best to create a better way of protecting the EU borders, but kindly allow me to say that, taking into account our maritime environment, the islands, their close proximity to the shores of Turkey, that is not the easiest of things. Yet again, we are sure that a huge improvement will appear in the coming months.

Generally, as you know, the Aegean is a difficult environment for migration, but also the behavior of Turkey in the Aegean does not make it any easier. And I am speaking about violations of the sovereign rights, the sovereignty of Greece. Overall, the Croatian Presidency has a huge role to play on dealing with Turkey. But this is something we discussed and we will keep engaging on it.

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