Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kostas Fragogiannis’ interview with newspaper “Vradyni tis Kyriakis” and journalist V. Giakoumis (28.08.2021)

JOURNALIST: We would like you to give us an assessment of the situation in Afghanistan and whether there is a risk of an increase in migration flows to Greece due to this event.
K. FRAGOGIANNIS: The volatility caused by the latest developments in Afghanistan makes any prediction of future developments particularly difficult. The situation remains confusing and no radical changes are expected before the total withdrawal of all foreign troops on August 31. Of course, everything will depend on the attitude of the Taliban: if they really keep their recent promises and statements, it is very likely that we will not witness a big wave of migration, as occurred in the recent past. The opposite is expected to happen, if after the withdrawal of the allied forces, the Taliban return to practices of the past.

JOURNALIST: Do you think that our Turkish neighbours will again use the refugees as human shields, triggering a new refugee crisis?
K. FRAGOGIANNIS: We have been closely monitoring Turkey’s action in Afghanistan following the latest rapid developments and we hope that its involvement will be constructive. As is well known, our neighbouring country already hosts a large number of refugees. As you can see, there is a common understanding on both sides that Greece and Turkey are in danger of facing new refugee flows, which may intensify significantly in the near future. In this context, the Prime Minister, during his recent telephone conversation with President Erdoğan, stressed that it is in the common interest to ensure that there will be no mass influx of migrants and refugees and that flows should be limited to regions as close to Afghanistan as possible.

JOURNALIST: How can we, as a country, prevent that from happening?
K. FRAGOGIANNIS: In any case, our country is on the alert, taking all the necessary measures and it is able to deal with a possible new instrumentalization of migration, as happened in March 2020. Our task is to protect the borders of Greece, which are also borders of the EU, always with full respect for human rights. This is what we did in the past and, if deemed necessary, we will follow the same policy in the future.

JOURNALIST: Could you give us an idea of the strategic goals of economic diplomacy in the wider region of the Southeastern Mediterranean given the latest developments? What is the meaning of the agreements on trilateral schemes in the Middle East, the visits and agreements with Gulf countries and your recent visit to Libya?
K. FRAGOGIANNIS: As a European coastal state of the Southeastern Mediterranean, Greece actively promotes, without exception, the peaceful coexistence of all countries in the region, as well as moderation, prosperity, and the International Law. We consider the Mediterranean to be a sea of communication, trade and cooperation, seeking to promote actions, projects and synergies in all areas, with the primary aim of stability and security, given that European security is interrelated with that of neighbouring countries in the wider Mediterranean region.
This strategic goal is served with the trilateral cooperation schemes we have developed with Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and Jordan, as well as with the agreements with the Gulf countries. This is our practical response to the “arc of fundamentalism”, which extends from North Africa to the Eastern Mediterranean and reaches as far as Central Asia and Afghanistan.

JOURNALIST: The opening of the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) will be held in two weeks. What do we expect on the financial front from this important trade event? What data can we present?
K. FRAGOGIANNIS: I would rather focus on the triptych: competitiveness, extroversion and digital integration which constitute the core of the modern policy we implement in Economic Diplomacy, rather than make predictions for the TIF where we will soon have the opportunity to hear the important announcements to be made by the Prime Minister.
For many decades, attracting large investments to the country had been, among other things, a field of political controversy that usually ended up stifling any initiative, and ultimately creating a hostile investment climate. As a result, Greece remained a relatively closed economy. The investment-friendly strategy adopted by the government, since July 2019, has brought about a radical change in the country’s image in the international community, despite the outbreak of the pandemic.
At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we and the General Secretariat for International Economic Relations have jointly planned specific actions that support the extroversion of the Greek Economy and utilize the basic principles of the plan. In the context of the triptych: a) Promotion of the economic and commercial status of the country at regional and international level, b) Promotion of extroversion structures and c) Strengthening of multilateral economic relations, we have launched a campaign to support Greek companies abroad.
Along with an extensive digital integration plan, we connect all extroversion services with modern digital governance tools, while after the adoption of the Law on the Organization and Operation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we proceed with all the necessary reform changes to strengthen our services.
At this year’s TIF, we will have the opportunity to present this project to a wide international audience but also to the institutional partners who will help us with its implementation.

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