It was with great pleasure that I received today in Athens the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Sophie Wilmès. Dear friend Sophie, welcome to Athens.
This is our second meeting within a few months, since the end of January, when I visited Brussels at a bilateral level. I am really very happy, because after almost fifteen years of having allowed our bilateral relations to fall behind, we are now picking up the threads to enhance them.
The solid foundations already exist – our partnership in the European Union, our allied bonds at NATO, and an excellent climate between our two countries.
As we have already had the opportunity to discuss – our discussions will continue over lunch – and as noted yesterday at the meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, there is much room for strengthening cooperation both bilaterally and in the context of our participation in international organizations.
After all, our countries have a lot in common, not only in terms of size and population, but also historically. Allow me to emphasize that our countries became sovereign, independent states around the same time in the 19th century, after the Napoleonic Wars. This year we celebrate the bicentennial since the beginning of the Greek revolution in 1821, which led to the indepence with the London Protocol of February 1830. A few months later, Belgium declared its independence, which was also recognised with a treaty signed in London.
Looking to the future, I think you will agree with me, my dear Sophie, that significant prospects are opening up for enhancing our cooperation in various sectors like the economy, energy, renewable energy sources, new technologies and the environment. We must seize the opportunity to encourage business contacts between our countries. Belgium is a very important investor in Greece.
We also hope that tourism will resume, now that we are overcoming the pandemic and that our Belgian friends will visit Greece again in large numbers as they did in the past.
We discussed other issues, as well. As you know, there is a Council of Foreign Ministers on Monday in Luxembourg.
We talked about Turkey. I briefed my dear Minister of Belgium in detail, both on my meetings with my Turkish counterpart, and on the meeting of the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis with President Erdogan, but also on the overall situation of Greek-Turkish relations. I explained very clearly that although “the ice has broken”, major, very serious differences with Turkey still exist.
We discussed the Cyprus issue and I reiterated the Greek position, that Greece always supports the framework laid down in the UN Security Council Resolutions, as well as international law, and considers the Turkish approach of a two-state solution completely out of the question.
We hope that regarding the Cyprus issue, as well as in all other issues, Turkey will choose the path of international legality and cooperation.
After all, I think that this is the way that the European Council is also approaching the EU-Turkey relations, dear Sophie, with a conditionality and a reversibility in case Turkey lapses into unlawful activities again.
We will discuss Libya and Syria over lunch. The agenda was so full that we did not have the time to do it until now. I will reiterate to my Belgian counterpart the firm Greek position that all foreign forces and mercenaries should leave Libya immediately, before the elections are held.
We discussed the Western Balkans extensively. I had the opportunity to explain to Sophie the Greek position on the great importance the Western Balkans and their perspective hold for the future of Europe. We cannot leave a “black hole” at the heart of Europe.
We also discussed issues concerning NATO and our cooperation within its framework.
It was a great opportunity for me and I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart, Sophie, for your presence here in Athens and also to express the hope that our bilateral contacts will continue to take place at regular and short intervals.
Thank you very much for being here today.
Finally, I would like to wish you good luck in today’s game against Denmark. As you know, Denmark has all the sympathy because of what happened to Eriksen, but it is also very important that De Bruyne is back on the Belgian team. I wish you the best.”