Good morning Mr. Chairman, good morning from the Greek Embassy in Bucharest.
I would like to thank you for this very kind invitation. It is always a big pleasure to exchange views with the elected representatives of the peoples.
As you know, I have been a member of the Greek Parliament now for almost seventeen years.
And I attach particular importance to exchanging views with Parliamentarians.
So it is such a great pleasure to have this exchange with Parliamentarians from EU Mediterranean countries.
Nowadays, we witness a significant paradigm shift in our overall region.
A shift that will have long-term consequences, not just for the immediate region, but for Europe as a whole.
The traditional fault lines in the Mediterranean, such as Israelis versus Arabs, North versus South are becoming, as a matter of fact, completely irrelevant.
Also as a result of the recent Abraham accords.
Similarly, the geographical sub-divisions between Eastern, Central and Western Mediterranean are becoming increasingly blurred.
To the point that they make almost no sense anymore.
Moreover, the distinction between Mediterranean states, Middle Eastern States and Gulf states is also becoming a notion of the past.
Furthermore, new actors are emerging in the region.
In the not so distant future, we are going to witness a much more visible Chinese presence in the Mediterranean.
And possibly -may I say hopefully- other states, such as India.
However, the key change we are witnessing, and the major challenge we have to address, is the emergence of two distinct approaches.
They are largely contradictory.
On the one hand we have forces of stability, cooperation and prosperity.
And on the other hand, the forces that try to destabilise the region.
On the one hand, states like ours that adhere to international values and principles:
respect for international law, Law of the Sea, the peaceful resolution of disputes and respect of sovereignty, territorial integrity and sovereign rights of states.
These countries aim at developing regional understanding and cooperation.
In order to address the common challenges that we all face.
In this context, formal and informal multilateral frameworks that we see emerging are important.
Their goal is to seek ways of increasing cooperation among the countries of the region.
In order to discuss a wide variety of issues, including economy, energy, transport, civil protection, tourism and so on.
This is the 21st Century approach to addressing the future of our region and the Mediterranean as a whole.
However, there are, on the other side, some, fortunately –I have to say- few, states that remain stuck in the past. They refuse to see the light of the future.
They believe and act, on the basis of ideas and policies that were applicable in the 19th century.
These states try to redraw the map of the Mediterranean on the basis of illegal, artificial and completely irrational schemes.
They disregard geography and they do contest borders. They wish to revive empires of the past.
They have the ambition to bring back to life empires like the Ottoman Empire, that ruled most of the Eastern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean.
In order to achieve their objectives, these countries, contrary to fundamental UN principles, threaten and occasionally use force against other states.
They illegally deploy military forces, as Turkey has done in Cyprus, in Syria, in Libya.
And they send proxies, mercenaries to do their bid.
They do not hesitate to instrumentalise the plight of people fleeing from their home countries in order to blackmail the EU.
These countries do not share our principles.
They ignore international law.
Through their actions, they risk further destabilizing a very fragile region.
And they put at immediate risk the stability of our Southern neighbourhood and partners, such as Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.
But, they also risk the security, stability and prosperity of our own countries.
And the well-being of our own societies.
The question is how can we address this challenge.
There is no silver bullet.
But I would like to propose a three-fold approach.
First of all, we, the European countries, have to show solidarity and support our partners in need.
The Greek government, the government of Prime Minister Mitsotakis, is implementing this in practice.
Just two days ago, I received in Athens the Libyan Foreign Minister.
And yesterday I was in Tunisia.
Greece donated 200,000 vaccines to Libya and a further 100,000 to Tunisia. Plus cargos with medical material.
This is a concrete support to address the pandemic.
But we also carried a political message to both North African countries.
That we support the political processes seeking to bring local solutions for the benefit of local societies.
In Libya, by holding elections as planned, and ensuring the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from the ground, including any kind of force.
In Tunisia, by supporting the reforms, in line with the Constitution.
Second, we need to erect a barrier to illegality and practices that do not have a place in the 21st century.
We have to encourage the forces of moderation.
In this context, we have to underline to Turkey that its current behaviour is totally unacceptable.
And that unless Turkey changes its course, there will be repercussions.
And, most important of all, we need to keep Turkey’s European perspective open.
We should not close our door.
But encourage those forces in the Turkish society that believe in a European future, in European ideals, in European principles.
Last, but not least, we need to get our act together.
The EU Mediterranean countries should join forces in order to push for a holistic European approach to the region.
25 years after the launching of the Barcelona process, the spirit – I am sorry to say – seems to be fading way.
We have to reverse course and launch a European response to the Mediterranean challenges.
I understand that all of the above is easier said than done.
But unless we try, we cannot succeed.
And success comes only by working together, at the level of governments, Parliaments and civil society.
Thank you so much for your attention.