Article by Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis in the newspaper “TA NEA Savvatokyriako” on the occasion of the Ministerial Meeting of EU-MED (12.06.2021)

The Ministerial Meeting of Athens heralds a new Euro-Mediterranean policy

The Ministerial Meeting of the Mediterranean Countries of the European Union that Athens had the honor to host yesterday was the first one to have been attended with physical presence in the post-Covid era. We succeeded in agreeing on a Joint Statement, which paves the way for the Summit to be held in September in Chania. At the same time, we have noted that greater cooperation between countries with traditional ties and common challenges is required. Our ambition is to make the Mediterranean dimension of the EU a strong political trend in Europe.

EU-Med brings together powerful, political and naval forces, island countries and states on the continent’s borders.

Representing almost 200 million Europeans, we can make our voices heard louder in Brussels, express and enhance the southern dimension in European policies as well as shape the Future that our peoples demand and deserve.

This future should primarily preserve the marine environment of the Mediterranean. By adopting sustainability policies, we must protect its rich ecosystem from climate change. The answer to its degradation should not be postponed any longer. To this end, a special session was included in the Ministerial Meeting, aimed at the integrated management of its resources through Sustainable Blue Economy.

At the same time, we must ensure that we emerge from the pandemic smoothly, effectively, with joint coordination. We should see to it that vaccination programs be completed successfully and that tourism fuel our countries’ economies again. The Green Digital Certificate – originally proposed by the Greek Prime Minister – was embraced by all Mediterranean countries, as it promotes a strategy for extroversion towards a resilient economic recovery

This recovery should be immediate and without social exclusions. It should guarantee the transition to a resilient Green Digital Economy and allow young people to stay in their own countries. It should strengthen the competitiveness of the Union. The tools are there/ are at our disposal, starting with the emblematic Recovery Fund, which the Southern countries have fought hard for.

The Southern countries should also jointly address security issues. Jointly committed to common political and democratic principles, we should turn the Mediterranean into a place of peace and political stability, based on International Law, the Law of the Sea and good neighbourliness. And that is something that Turkey must also respect. We should demonstrate our solidarity towards Cyprus for a sustainable solution/settlement on the basis of the bi-communal, bi-zonal Federation.

And, of course, we are called upon to guard Europe’s external borders through an integrated migration policy, so that they do not turn into “human landfills”. Europe must primarily set rules at its maritime borders, increase its forces, conclude agreements with third countries for the return of those who are not entitled to international protection, and then show solidarity with refugee host countries. Otherwise, no Immigration Pact could be accepted.

So now it’s time for Europe to invest in its Mediterranean neighbourhood. Greece, as an ancient naval nation situated in the middle of the Mediterranean and in the core of the European Union, has a strategic interest to play a leading role in the new Euro-Mediterranean policy. The first chapter was written in Athens while the next step will be taken in Chania.