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Minister of Foreign Affairs George Katrougalos' interview on SKY NEWS network, with Sarah Hewson (08.04.2019)

Monday, 08 April 2019

Sky News Minister of Foreign Affairs G. Katrougalos spoke live with Sarah Hewson on SKY NEWS network from Luxembourg, where he attended the EU General Affairs Council:

"JOURNALIST: A lot for you to be discussing at this meeting: Afghanistan, Venezuela, Libya. How much of a factor is Brexit?

G. KATROUGALOS: Well, Brexit was not on the agenda today, because it is not one of the issues discussed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs. But, we had a general discussion about the fact that we would like to have a 'civilised divorce', an orderly Brexit and not a disorderly one. But, I am very much afraid that does not depend any more on the Europeans' but on the UK’s side.

JOURNALIST: What was the mood like towards the Prime Minister’s request for a short extension to Brexit?

G. KATROUGALOS: Well, an extension is dependent on when or whether we can expect something out of it, I mean a meaningful solution. Greece has been from the beginning against any kind of punishing Brexit negotiations. We know, because of the crisis we were immersed, what it is to be in an asymmetric negotiation; and we want the member states of the European Union to stay in the Union, because they want to be members, not because there is a huge penalty pending for those leaving the club. But, during the negotiations, it is true that we have not heard real, concrete proposals by the UK till recently. Till very recently, its proposals have been like 'eating your cake and having it too'.

JOURNALIST:  Yes, as you said, Greece is used to negotiating with the EU and coming up against the European Union around the negotiating table. From your perspective how has Theresa May handled this process?

G. KATROUGALOS: Well, Theresa May is certainly a resilient politician, but I am afraid the proposals she has put on the table have been very volatile till the end. They have not been concrete enough so as to be the basis of an agreement. And when we reached the agreement, this agreement was not accepted by the majority in parliament. I repeat, I have the feeling that the European Union has tried to forge an agreement that would be mutually profitable to both sides. And it is exactly because of the problems of the British political scene that we have not reached till now a positive outcome.

JOURNALIST:  Do you think that Britain deserves more time? Deserves an extension? Or, Britain already had more than enough time to sort this out?

G. KATROUGALOS: I look forward to the meetings of Prime Minister May and Mr. Corbyn. If something positive comes out of this, different than “business as usual”, I think that we could discuss an extension. I repeat, the extension is very much dependent on whether we can have tangible hope that something more concrete can come out of it.

JOURNALIST: Do you get a sense of frustration and impatience that all of this could have been done so much sooner?

G. KATROUGALOS: Yes, of course. Because, as I mentioned before that we have heard a lot of contradictory policy-options from the UK. First, we heard that no deal is better than a bad deal, then we heard options for cherry picking that could not be accepted by us, because one cannot leave a club and have all the privileges as when belonging to this club. So, till the end, we still expect to hear positive things from your side, because Greece believes that the UK is a strategic partner, both of Europe and of Greece, and we want to have the best possible relations with you.

JOURNALIST: Your party came to power promising to take on the EU. Do you have any political sympathies with the Brexiteers?

G. KATROUGALOS: Well, it depends. Brexiteers are very much representative of an urge to go back to a golden past, that does not exist, that never existed. We think that we must fight for a new Europe. We are not satisfied, as the Brexiteers, with the existing policies for different reasons, we are against austerity. But contrary to the Brexiteers, we think that the best policy is to remain within the European Union in order to change it. This is also our message before the European elections. "