Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis’ remarks on the opening of the Ministerial Meeting of the Mediterranean countries of EU/EU-MED and the joint press conference (Athens, 11.06.2021) – Joint Statement of 8+1 conclusions

With the opening addresses of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, the Ministerial Meeting of the Mediterranean countries of the European Union (EU-MED) began today in Athens. This was the first Ministerial Meeting to have been attended with physical presence in the post-Covid era, aimed at the preparation of the EU-MED Summit of Heads of State to be held in Chania in September.

The Meeting was attended by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs of the seven countries of the European South, at the invitation of Alternate Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis.

More specifically,  arrived in Athens to attend the meeting Mr.Nikos Christodoulides (Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus), Mr.Clement Beaune (French Minister of State for European Affairs), Mr.Vincenzo Amendola (Italian State Secretary to the Prime Minister’s office for European Affairs), Ms.Anna Paula Zacarias (Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs),   Dr Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi (Maltese Parliamentary Secretary for European Funds), while the Spanish State Secretary for the EU, Mr. Juan Gonzalez Barba, was represented by the Spanish Ambassador to Greece, Mr. Enrique Viguera.

Welcoming his counterparts, Mr. Varvitsiotis stated as follows:

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you in Athens today to the Meeting of the Mediterranean countries of EU/EU-MED. Since the first Ministerial Meeting in 2014, we have seen this initiative grow steadily both in terms of content and responsibilities. It has led to seven EU MED Summits held in all participating countries, from Athens to Ajaccio, with the next one to be held in Crete in autumn. During this period, the importance of the Mediterranean region for our security, economies and sustainability has increased in an unprecedented way. As Southern European countries representing almost 200 million European citizens, we have realized that together, we can strengthen our voice in Brussels and beyond. The Conference on the Future of Europe is an opportunity to achieve this goal. Together we can shape the Future of Europe that our citizens demand and deserve, a future that protects and respects our environment, the unique natural wealth and beauty of the Mediterranean. To this end, a special session on the marine environment has been included at the EU MED ministerial Meeting with valuable contribution of the Hellenic Center for Marine Research and WWF Greece.

Our discussions today are more timely than ever. Vaccination campaigns are in progress in our countries. We are gradually removing the restrictive measures and we are ready to welcome the first tourists who will use the European Digital Certificate. This proposal was submitted initially by you, Mr Prime Minister, and adopted by the European Parliament at unprecedented speed, thanks to the continued efforts of the Portuguese Presidency.

At the same time, we must ensure that the recovery of our economies is rapid and bolsters the Digital and Green Transition, leaving no one behind, as EU leaders recently agreed at the Porto Social Summit.

We also need to discuss the common challenges we face as Southern European countries. Together we must find a comprehensive solution to the challenges of migration, balancing between a fair distribution of responsibility and solidarity.

We need to strengthen our cooperation with our Southern Neighbours, because we share a common interest in a prosperous and sustainable Mediterranean. Our common sea is threatened by climate change while the marine environment is deteriorating. Now it’s time for action.

In the Eastern Mediterranean, we aspire to maintain a stable and secure environment, through continued de-escalation and respect for international law. This must be the cornerstone of our relations with Turkey. Our solidarity with Cyprus remains stronger than ever and we are committed to a sustainable and comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue, based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation with political equality, as set out in the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

Dear friends, it is my great pleasure to have with us today the Greek Prime Minister who will share his thoughts and his views. As you know, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has played a very active role as a leader in the European Union and dedicated European. “

Subsequently, during the Joint Press Conference of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs of the Mediterranean countries of the European Union, the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis referred to the conclusions of the EUMED Ministerial Meeting.

“We are here to jointly seek solutions to the great challenges of the Mediterranean, which is a key reference point and a field of vital interest for all of us,” he noted, emphasizing the protection of the marine environment and its unique natural wealth.

The issue of serious environmental degradation was a separate topic of the Meeting, at the initiative of the Greek side, emerging as a matter of the highest priority in the Joint Statement of the 7 Ministers of Cyprus, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta and Greece

Read the full text of the Joint Statement here.

In particular, regarding the triptych “pandemic – mobility – tourism”, Mr. Varvitsiotis expressed the full support of EUMED for the European decision to introduce the European Digital Certificate, which will allow citizens who have been vaccinated or tested negative to travel unhindered.

Regarding the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility, he noted that “key lessons have been learned concerning our readiness to address situations such as the pandemic and very interesting views have already been expressed on how to make the best possible use of the generous funding that comes in from Next Generation EU “. “It is very important that the programs submitted by almost all European countries be applied and begin bearing fruit in July”, the Alternate Minister added.

Referring to the environmental and social dimension of the Recovery, the Alternate Minister pointed out that “Green and Digital Transition as well as the way we will transform our energy mix are issues of major importance, allowing young scientists to work in a very competitive environment”.

Mr. Varvitsiotis placed special emphasis on the challenges of migration and the Pact on Migration and Asylum, as the issue concerns all the Mediterranean countries since they are frontline states. Referring to the additional burden placed on these countries, he pointed out that EU should demonstrate real solidarity, while a fair and equitable burden-sharing must be ensured before new asylum mechanisms come into force. Moreover, these countries should not be left alone to address the increased migratory flows or their instrumentalization for political purposes, as happened in the case of Greece and Spain. Because, as he stated, such a thing would make us extremely vulnerable and geopolitically weak.

In addition, he briefed his counterparts on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean as well as on recent developments in Greek-Turkish relations, stressing that everyone expressed their concern about Turkey’s stance and their support for Cyprus and Greece. In particular, the Ministers of the Mediterranean countries welcomed the fact that the next European Council will again deal with Turkey, an issue that continues to concern the European leaderships, but also with de-escalation in the field. On the other hand, however, as Mr. Varvitsiotis stressed, it was pointed out that the rhetoric on the part of Ankara has not changed and it is important that at some point Turkey comes in line with the European acquis. He reiterated, finally, that concerning the settlement of the Cyprus issue, Greece remains committed to the European Councils’ conclusions.

Concluding, the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs invited all Greeks to participate, along with the other Europeans, in the Conference on the Future of Europe, taking, as he noted, a step towards making their authentic voice for the Europe of tomorrow heard.

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