AL. PAPAIOANNOU: Good afternoon. I wish you a happy winter season. I am glad to see you in person at last and I hope that from now on we will be meeting more often.
First, on three procedural issues:
1) The briefing of the diplomatic correspondents will take place every two weeks, on Wednesday at 13.00, barring any unforeseen circumstances or prior commitments with the Minister.I will try to stick to this timetable. In any case, an announcement will be issued in time.
2) Depending on attendance and availability, briefings will take place either in this hall or in a larger one.
3) I would be glad to answer your questions.
However, out of respect for your precious time, Ι will take only one question from each of you who takes the floor.
I would very much appreciate it if you kept the protective measures throughout the briefing.
Since we have only one microphone for everyone, please do not take off your mask when asking your question and indicate your name as well as the medium you represent.
Now, to the substantive issues.
First of all, allow me to give a brief account of what has happened in the past few weeks.
The contacts of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dendias, both in Athens and abroad, are part of a strategy, comprised of three concentric circles.
Our common goal and vision have always been to ensure security and prosperity in the wider region, both in the Western Balkans and in the wider region of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, always on the basis of respect for International Law, including the Law of the Sea.
The first concentric circle concerns the strengthening of strategic and partnership relations with our traditional allies and partners, within the EU, but of course also with the USA.
In this context, I would highlight the visit of the Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Menendez, as well as, a few days later, of Senators Murphy and Ossoff, who met, among others, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The contacts focused on strengthening the bilateral strategic relationship as well as on developments, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. An area, where significant changes-shifts are taking place due to the implementation of the Abraham accords, but also because of the threatening spread of extremism.
As you have already heard, there are plans being made – I repeat, plans – for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to travel, barring any unforeseen circumstances, to the United States on October 14 so as to sign the renewed Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement, as well as to participate in the US-Greece strategic dialogue, to be held with physical presence for the first time since October 2019, when it took place in Athens.
I will come back in more detail later, when we get closer to the date of the visit.
Regarding the agreement, as stated by the Prime Minister, the American side has requested a five-year extension, which is of course considered very positive, in the context of excellent bilateral relations, but also with the prospect of ensuring a kind of stability.
As for the other issues concerning the agreement under negotiation, discussions are still ongoing between the competent Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense of the two countries and at this stage I am not able to go into details.
Greece remains firmly committed to strengthening the European Union in all areas, and in this context, it actively participates in European affairs.
During the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers (Gymnich) in Slovenia 10 days ago, the Minister participated in the discussions on Afghanistan, which almost monopolized the interest of the Ministers. There was also a working luncheon with their Indian counterpart, who had visited Athens in June.
Emphasis was placed on the humanitarian dimension, the migration-refugee issue, as well as on the possibility of contacts with the new regime.
Regarding the last point, there was a clear position expressed by HR / VP Borrell, who spoke on behalf of all EU member states.
As part of the strengthening of bilateral ties with EU member states, Mr. Dendias visited Romania, which is a traditional friend and ally of Greece.
The main topic discussed was the Western Balkans’ accession perspective, as well as the strengthening of the EU’s relations with the countries of the Eastern Neighbourhood.
It is noted that this was Mr. Dendias’ first visit to Romania in his capacity as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
This brings me to the second concentric circle: promoting the accession perspective of the Western Balkans.
This issue was at the center of the Minister’s visit to North Macedonia.
As you know, Greece supports the accession process of North Macedonia to the EU, based on the well-known conditionality, and we hope that the first intergovernmental conference will be convened as soon as possible.
To be precise, we are constantly and feverishly working together with other EU member states, such as Romania, the previous Portuguese Presidency and the current Slovenian Presidency, so as to enhance the European Perspective of the Western Balkans.
Furthermore, bilateral relations in all areas, as well as the prospects of strengthening them, were also examined in depth.
Of course, it was stressed by the Greek side that the full, consistent and in good faith implementation of the Prespa Agreement is a necessary precondition for further strengthening our bilateral relations and for the European perspective, as it is noted in the relevant conclusions of the European Council of March 2020.
Greece will continue to support in every way the European perspective of the Western Balkans, which is the only way towards stability and development in the region.
In the same vein, during the first visit of a Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs to Moldova since 2014, the need to strengthen bilateral ties was stressed, but at the same time the active support of Greece in strengthening the country’s ties with the European Union was underlined.
The third concentric cycle involves strengthening ties with strategic partners in the Mediterranean region, as well as supporting countries that seek to create a better future for their peoples away from the influence of foreign powers and extremist elements.
This includes the trilateral meeting of Greece-Cyprus-Israel, held in Jerusalem on August 22, but also the bilateral contacts of the Minister with the political and state leadership of Israel.
It is noted, in this respect, that this visit was the third one to Israel within three months, a fact which speaks for itself.
At the same time, Mr. Dendias met with his Libyan counterpart Ms. El Mangoush in Athens, while the next day he visited Tunis. The Minister stressed to all his interlocutors the importance that Greece attaches to the consolidation of stability in the region.
It should be highlighted that Greece has donated vaccines to North Macedonia, Libya, Tunisia, Albania and Rwanda, while other countries will follow.
Now, regarding the Minister’s schedule.
A while ago, he met with the new Secretary-General of AKEL, Mr. Stefanou.
He then met with the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates.
As you know, tonight he will address the opening of an exhibition organized by the Service of Diplomatic and Historical Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution.
On Friday, he will receive the Ambassadors of the ASEAN countries (Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There is a possibility that he will also meet with his Portuguese counterpart, who is expected to be in Athens to attend the MED9 Summit, representing the President of his country.
From Monday on, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dendias will be in New York for the High-Level Week at the UN General Assembly.
In this context, he will participate in a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the European Union on Monday, September 20.
On Tuesday, the Minister will attend virtually from New York and deliver an address at the event for the presentation of the National Strategic Openness Plan. The same event will be addressed by the Deputy Minister for Economic Diplomacy and Openness, Mr. Kostas Fragogiannis and the Secretary General for International Economic Affairs, Mr. Ioannis Smyrlis, who will present the National Strategic Plan. The event will then be addressed by the Prime Minister. The aim of this initiative is to further promote Greek economic diplomacy, but also to enhance the image of our country abroad.
The Minister is also expected to participate, via videoconference, in the 10th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies, which is organized on the initiative of Romania (Wednesday 22.9).
Regarding bilateral contacts, the schedule is still being formulated and may change. To name a few, I can tell you that, as things stand at present, he is expected to meet with his counterparts, in chronological order, from: The Gambia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Algeria, Kyrgyzstan, (Minister of Industry) United Arab Emirates, Panama, Armenia, Egypt and Ghana.
Other meetings are pending, which will be finalized soon. In any case, you will be kept informed.
The following week, he is expected to travel to Poland on September 28, while on Wednesday, September 29, he is expected to meet with the Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Ms. Bregu, in Athens.
It is reminded that Greece holds the Chairmanship-in office of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), until July 2022.
That’s all for the moment, regarding the Minister’s schedule.
As for Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Varvitsiotis, earlier today (at 12.30) he spoke at the Delphi Economic Forum, in the framework of the Thessaloniki International Fair, in a discussion on the Future of Europe.
Later today, at 4 o’clock, a special event will be held, under the Alternate Minister, in the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe, titled “The Western Balkans join the dialogue on the Future of Europe”. The event, at the invitation of the Alternate Minister, will be attended by the Ministers of Foreign and European Affairs of the Western Balkans. After the event, statements to the Press will follow.
On Friday 17.9, the Alternate Minister will accompany the Prime Minister to the EUMED Summit and will attend the bilateral meetings of the Prime Minister.
On Tuesday 21.9, he will participate in the EU General Affairs Council in Brussels and the next day he will hold a series of meetings with European Commissioners.
Deputy Minister Andreas Katsaniotis is scheduled to travel to Mexico between September 26 and 28, where he will represent the Prime Minister at events marking the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence. During his stay, he will hold meetings with representatives of the Greek Diaspora and the Church.
That’s all regarding my introductory remarks.
Thank you very much for your patience.
N. STAMOULI: I would like to ask if a meeting is scheduled, if you are planning a meeting in New York with Mr. N. Dendias’ Turkish counterpart. In light of the statements made today regarding the refugee-migration issue, I would like to ask if there is any kind of cooperation, or understanding with Turkey regarding any new migration flows. Thank you.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you very much. Well, regarding the first issue, that is, the meeting with Mr. Çavuşoğlu, we have not requested a meeting and such a meeting is not on the horizon, as things stand at present.
Regarding the second issue, allow me to refer you to the Ministry of Migration and Asylum for further details on this. Of course, Greece’s stance regarding cooperation between the European Union and Turkey in addressing the refugee-–migration issue is well known: the Joint Declaration of 2016 and its implementation. We have referred to the obligations assumed by Turkey in this area. They are known. And on this, Greece’s position remains firm. I do not have anything else to add at this stage.
J. PSAROPOULOS: Greece, as is known, signed a new Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement (MDCA) with the USA in 2019 with fanfare. What makes it necessary to sign a new MDCA today?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thanks very much for the question. Its renewal. This agreement has a specific duration and must be renewed. This is the primary reason why a new agreement must be concluded. Beyond that, of course, there is a negotiation on the content of this agreement. And as I said, it is an ongoing negotiation that is not conducted only by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; it is conducted, in full coordination, by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense.
A. VOUDOURI: Do we have any news regarding the next round of exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey? Are there any discussions with Turkey on that matter? Have there been any changes in the Greek negotiating team? Thank you very much.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thanks very much for the questions. Look, I do not have anything tangible at the moment for the next round of exploratory talks, which of course, as you know, will be held in Turkey. It is Turkey’s turn to host them. When we have something to announce, there will be a press release from both our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is done in tandem, as has always been the case. Unfortunately, I have nothing further to tell you about this.
As far as the Greek team is concerned, the main thing I want to emphasize is that Ambassador (ad hon.), Mr. Apostolidis, an outstanding colleague, is, was and remains in charge.
Beyond that, and due to employee transfers within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there will necessarily be some changes. But at the moment, I do not have anything to announce. However, the point is that Mr. Apostolidis will lead the team. Actually, it is not a negotiating team, pardon me. It is a team for exploratory talks. Exploratory talks are not negotiations. They are contacts, let me emphasize this. Thank you very much.
G. MELNIK: At the end of this year, the Prime Minister, Mr. Mitsotakis, is scheduled to visit Russia. In the context of preparatory work, will there be any contacts or any visits of the two Foreign Ministers? One more question. Mr. Dendias keeps changing the interpretation of historic events. When he meets with Mr. Lavrov, he says that the Greek revolution started in Russia and when he was in Kiev, he said that the revolution started in Ukraine. What is the official history of the Greek Revolution?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you very much for your questions. Well, first of all, regarding the Prime Minister, as you know, it does not fall within my competence to talk about the visit to Russia. I have nothing to say at the moment about a forthcoming meeting between Mr. Dendias and Mr. Lavrov, either in Greece or in Russia.
As you know, they met last October, I mean a year ago in Athens. After that, last May, in Sochi, the two Ministers had a very friendly and cordial meeting.
The Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is also the Co-Chair of the Joint Interministerial Committee together with the Minister of Transport of Russia, held several teleconferences and said that at some point they wanted to meet in person.
So, there are regular contacts, not to mention the very regular telephone conversations the two ministers have had. So, these contacts continue. But I do not have anything tangible at the moment.
Now, as for the second question, allow me to tell you that it does not fall within my area of expertise. All I can say is that Mr. Dendias has a profound knowledge of Greek history and has proved that on several occasions. And on a personal basis, I would like to add that he often corrects me.
A. FOTAKI: We recently saw the reaction of the Turkish Foreign Ministry to the conclusions of the Arab League. Do you have any comments on this? Are you concerned about the fact that Turkey continues its rapprochement efforts with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, for example, or with other countries or regions? Thank you.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you very much. As a principle, I do not comment on decisions by third parties, such as the Arab League, and especially with regard to third countries, such as Turkey.
Allow me to deviate from this rule by saying that we take note with particular interest of the statement made by the Arab League regarding Turkey. I do not need to repeat what they said. You can look it up. And of course, we take note of both the content of the press release issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry as a reaction thereof as well as its tone. I do not want to expand too much on that.
Allow me to say of course, since we are talking about the Arab League, that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dendias met twice with the Secretary General, Mr. Aboul Gheit, first in March and then last July when we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Arab League. The fact that we hadn’t done it for so many years is something I must admit that I was particularly impressed by, given the traditional close ties that Greece has with the Arab countries. Anyway, it’s never too late.
Now, as regards the second part of your question, that is, whether Greece is concerned about Turkey’s apparent efforts at rapprochement with some other countries in the wider region.
To start with, we have never said that we are against any other country. What we have said, and the Minister has repeatedly said so, is that even Turkey is certainly welcome to participate in various cooperation schemes, as long as it respects the fundamental rules, values and principles.
So, this is not a matter of who is with whom, it is on what basis, with what principles, with what values. Of course, as a third party we are following the various statements issued by both the Turkish and the Egyptian side.
And allow me to emphasize the particularly close relations Greece enjoys with Egypt, since you have mentioned it, but also with other Arab countries. As I said previously, the Minister met with the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates. He will meet with the Minister of Industry of the UAE next week in New York – it seems that the Emirati Minister of Foreign Affairs will not be there. He will also meet with the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Shoukry.
There may be – I say this with some reservation – a trilateral meeting between Greece, Cyprus and Egypt in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The dialogue with these countries is open, sincere and always constructive. We have no reason to worry, nor any hesitation or concern.
CHR. FRAGOU: Taking the opportunity from the question about the meeting between Mitsotakis and Putin, over the last few days, two or three weeks, there has been a plethora of statements by the Russian diplomacy and especially by Mr. Lavrov concerning the Ecumenical Patriarch. The Foreign Ministry has so far kept silent. How intensely are these issues being raised in the bilateral dialogue with Russia, and does this generally affect the prospects of the dialogue?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you very much for your question. The stance of the Hellenic Republic as regards the institution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and most certainly His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is very well known and I have nothing else to add on this.
SP. SIDERIS: I do not know if you are aware of the fact that the President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Milorad Dodic, put forward a proposal, which is under discussion, to terminate or renew the Dayton Agreement, and that Serbia, Croatia and Turkey should undertake the monitoring of the new agreement. Do you know if this has indeed happened, are there any diplomatic moves made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this issue, the prospect of seeing Turkey get involved in a country such as Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Balkans?
Recently we witnessed tragic scenes of division in Montenegro, during the enthronement of the Metropolitan of Montenegro. I did not see any statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although you claim that you are interested in the Balkans and you are trying to promote relations with the Balkans.
And the last question, is there going to be an official inquiry into the fiasco in Afghanistan, in Kabul, regarding the safe evacuation of Afghan citizens of Greek interest? Thank you.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: I thank you. Forgive me but I have to follow the rule and out of respect for colleagues, I will answer only one question. Tell me which one you want me to answer and I am at your disposal.
SP. SIDERIS: The last one.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: The last one, thank you very much
SP. SIDERIS: …anyway
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Pardon me?
SP. SIDERIS: You probably don’t know about the others….
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you very much. First, regarding the safe evacuation of Greek citizens, of all Greek citizens in Afghanistan, it has been successfully completed, as you know. Now, for the issue you are referring to, that is, the efforts made, in close coordination, by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense – let me emphasize this – for the safe evacuation of Afghan citizens of Greek interest. There were no efforts spared, I would say enormous efforts, for their safe evacuation by air until the airport closed on August 31. This was not made possible not because we did not try, but simply because there were objective difficulties, insurmountable difficulties which, allow me to say, did not only concern the Afghan citizens of Greek interest but also many Afghans of interest for other Western countries in the region. And of course, I am referring specifically to the security situation in Kabul, with the Taliban in control, I am referring to the clear danger that existed and was unfortunately confirmed, of a terrorist attack. And on top of that, there was an additional issue for us, for Greece, concerning these Afghan citizens, which did not make things any easier, the fact that they did not have travel documents. They did not have passports; they did not have IDs.
We did all we could. We issued identity papers for them; we are in contact with them. And I conclude by saying that we continue our efforts, we do not stop here and we are trying to find an optimal way to evacuate them, taking their safety into account.
K. TSAMOURI: We were informed that Turkish President Erdoğan spoke with Mr. Steinmeier, stating that Turkey is unable to carry a new migratory burden. We also saw the video at the banks of river Evros with a Turk trying to smuggle 60 migrants into Greek territory. I would like to ask you if you believe that Ankara is setting the stage for a new 2015, a storming so to speak. What is the position of Athens?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: As regards Evros, border protection does not fall within the scope of our responsibilities, but to the extent of the competency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I must emphasize what both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have repeatedly stated – in fact I remember that the Prime Minister explicitly stated it at the Bled Strategic Forum the week before last – that our country, Greece, will not tolerate any attempt from any country to instrumentalize the refugee/migration issue. This remains our position and it does not change. If you allow me, this is all there is to say.
S. RISTOVSKA: Good morning. You said that you are working together with other countries on the European perspective of the Western Balkans. I would like to ask if there is something concrete, any specific initiatives concerning North Macedonia also, because there is a Bulgarian veto. Could Greece somehow help, since it supports convening the first intergovernmental conference and hopes that it will be held soon? Thank you very much.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: I thank you very much. I should emphasize once more that the position of Greece is clear; it supports the European perspective of the Western Balkans. As I previously said, we consider it to be the only way, simply because it is beneficial to the stability, security and prosperity in the region, but it is in the interest of Greece as well. And we will continue to do so.
This was an issue that we had already put on the agenda of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union, the issue of the Western Balkans. We actually raised it in January when Mr. Dendias met with the Portuguese Foreign Minister bilaterally in Lisbon. After that, we convened a meeting along with Romania last May – unfortunately via video conference, it could not be done otherwise – with the Foreign Ministers of the Member States of the European Union and the Foreign Ministers of North Macedonia and Albania.
It was the first time that the Western Balkans were discussed at the level of EU Foreign Ministers for at least a year and a half. And of course, now that Slovenia has taken over the presidency and in view of its desire to convene, if I am not mistaken, a Summit of the European Union with the Western Balkans, we clearly support these efforts and this is something that the Minister stressed to his Slovenian counterpart when they met in Ljubljana on the sidelines of Gymnich.
And of course, we will continue. Besides, when the Minister was in North Macedonia, he explicitly reiterated that we are clearly in favour of its European perspective. It was, I would say, one of the key issues Mr. Dendias discussed with all his interlocutors in Skopje.
And we said that we are certainly ready to continue, let me reiterate that, to help and provide any assistance, technical assistance that North Macedonia wants for its European perspective. This was, allow me to say, very well received by the other side, the side of North Macedonia. We said that we are standing by their side; that “we want to help, to continue to do so”, I stress “to continue”. As far as I know, we have been providing technical assistance since 2012.
That’s about it. Please.
CHR. KRATSI: Christina Kratsi, from ALPHA TV. I would like you to elaborate more on the Minister’s trip to Washington on October 14. Will there be a private meeting with his American counterpart? Or will he have other contacts there with other officials?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you very much.
Look, it’s still too early to give you a full schedule. But yes, the prospect is that there will be a bilateral meeting with his American counterpart, Mr. Blinken.
All of this will apply mutatis mutandis and if the course of the pandemic permits, but at the moment the planning is this: to have a meeting, to sign the renewal of MDCA and then to start the strategic dialogue -we will see when-, which will take place between various ministries. As regards other contacts with members of Congress, I do not have anything tangible to announce at the moment.
Of course, I can tell you that this issue was raised with Mr. Menendez and also with Senators Murphy and Ossoff, and they said that when the Minister is in Washington there will be contacts, but that remains to be finalized. We will see.
K. BALI: From Avgi newspapaper.
I would like to follow on the question of Ms. Stamouli at the beginning when you were very explicit that there will be no meeting with Çavuşoğlu in New York, that is, you do not request for one anyway.
Given the fact that when events in Afghanistan began to unfold, there was an immediate contact by telephone between Mitsotakis and Erdoğan and a willingness to cooperate on the issue of possible refugee flows, is there a specific reason for being so categorical that this meeting is out of the question?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: No, pardon me. Thank you so much for your question, I do not know whether I sounded categorical, it was not my intention. I simply said that at the moment there is no request for a meeting with Mr. Çavuşoğlu and as far as I know, there is no such meeting on the horizon. I do not want to elaborate further now, there is nothing else to say.
TH. ARGYRAKIS: You said before that a meeting is not foreseen, as things stand now.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Pardon me, if you allow me, you may ask your question when there are no other colleagues waiting.
TH. ARGYRAKIS: It is on the same subject, that’s why.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Pardon me but we must follow the order.
P. MICHOS: From “TO VIMA” newspaper. Is there any official planning for convening a Berlin Conference? And if so, when? Since there may be a governmental change in Germany and, of course, will there be a Greek participation? Thank you very much.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you very much.
You have already answered, if you allow me. As far as I know, it is not foreseen in the immediate future. At least I am not aware of something. The elections will be held on September 26, after that we’ll see. But I do not know anything about any follow-up to the Berlin meeting that took place last June, if I am not mistaken.
TH. ARGYRAKIS: What has taken place between Dendias’ statement during his meeting with Menendez, that he will travel to the USA on December 14, until now? What has changed and why?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Pardon me, I mentioned the 14th of October.
TH. ARGYRAKIS: Ok, my mistake.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: It’s alright, please.
TH. ARGYRAKIS: The second question is complementary to the first, you said before that we have not requested, there is no meeting scheduled with Çavuşoğlu, as things stand at the moment. Has something occurred with Turkey that has annoyed us, has annoyed you and for this reason you are not requesting a meeting?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you very much for your question. I have already answered it; we have not requested a meeting with Mr. Çavuşoğlu, I do not have something else to add. Thank you very much.
TH. ARGYRAKIS: May I ask one more question?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Pardon me, Mr. Argyrakis, you will allow me, we must give the floor to people who have not taken it yet. Please.
TH. BALODIMAS: From “Rizospastis” newspaper.
In your introductory speech you said that the Government wants to work for the strengthening of the European Union in all fields. After Afghanistan, a debate on the so-called strategic autonomy of the European Union has re-opened, rather a military autonomy in relation to NATO. I would like to ask if there are any considerations or plans from the part of the government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this direction.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you so much for your question, we could be discussing this for two hours.
To begin with, the debate on the strategic autonomy of the European Union is as old as European unification itself. It began in 1952, to be precise, of course under completely different circumstances. As you know, Greece has always been in favour of strengthening a common foreign policy and then the European Union’s common defense and security policy and we are in favour of further strengthening European integration in the field of foreign policy and defense policy. Of course, Greece and another 21 countries, if I am not mistaken, are also NATO allies and, of course, we have stressed that these two policies should go hand in hand. They are not opposite.
We are also in favour of preserving and strengthening the transatlantic tie, as we have said, in the bilateral framework, but also of strengthening the European Union’s relations with the United States.
K. FRYSSA: From ERT radio station.
My question is whether there is any assessment by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs on developments in Iraqi Kurdistan and whether the Minister of Foreign Affairs has any immediate plans to visit Erbil?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you very much.
As you may recall, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dendias visited Baghdad last October and then he was to go to Erbil. For purely technical reasons, unfortunately, this visit was postponed, literally at the last minute. And since then, it has not been scheduled, as things stand at present.
Of course, this does not mean that it is out of the picture. And let me remind you that even before the summer, in June, if I am not mistaken, Mr. Dendias hosted a working luncheon for the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Mr. Barzani.
That’s all the information I have for now, I have nothing else tangible to tell you about it. Of course, our country’s interest in this Region is increased. That is why we established a Consulate General in Erbil a few years ago.
Allow me, if there is anyone who has not taken the floor, you will allow me …
SP. SOURMELIDIS: From KONTRA CHANNEL. It was Mr. Dendias in North Macedonia, you said so, who asked for the full, consistent and in good-faith implementation of the Prespa agreement. Then he did not make statements; Mr. Osmani did and raised various issues, committees, road signs, various things that were discussed.
The question is: does the Greek side implement fully, consistently and in good faith the Prespa agreement?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you very much for your question.
Well, there were joint statements by the two Foreign Ministers. I actually have the text here; it is from August 31st.
SP. SOURMELIDIS: Not the questions, the answers from Mr. Dendias.
A PAPAIOANNOU: Joint statements were made as had been agreed between the two sides, we had agreed to make joint statements, and this is what happened.
When the joint statements were completed, Mr. Dendias left immediately because he had a meeting with the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Mr. Zaev
As for what he said, I believe you can read it, the text of Mr. Dendias’ statements is also on our website. It is clear. I have nothing to add.
Thank you very much. Oh, sir, here, pardon me.
TH. THEODOROU: From “TO PONTIKI” newspaper. You mentioned the technical cooperation we want to offer to North Macedonia for its accession process towards Europe. Does this mean that a technical committee at staff level has already been set up as has happened in the past with other cases where we have provided technical assistance or is there going to be a joint committee from both sides that will work out the whole process for the accession of North Macedonia to the European Union?
Thank you very much.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: I thank you very much.
We have been providing technical assistance since 2012, if I am not mistaken, in terms of helping North Macedonia in its accession process, first regarding its getting closer to the EU and then with its accession process. This is something we have done; we keep doing it and we will continue to do so.
And what Mr. Dendias clearly conveyed to Skopje was that we are here to help you in your European perspective.
Beyond that, of course, the competent directorates of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Directorates A3 and C1, are responsible for this issue, and beyond that, they also cooperate with the competent Ministries in Greece on issues that fall outside the competence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Well, allow me to conclude here. Thank you very much.