The Minister of National Defence Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos participated in the Informal Meeting of EU Defence Ministers, which took place on 4 and 5 March 2020 in Zagreb-Croatia.
At the Informal Meeting, the Minister of National Defence thoroughly filled in NATO Secretary General Mr. Jens Stoltenberg and UN Under-Secretary General for Peace Operations Mr. Jean – Pierre Lacroix on Turkish-led migratory pressures received by the Greek borderline.
After presenting the emergency measures taken by decision of the Governmental Council on Foreign Policy and National Defence, he also underlined EU’s equal obligation to demonstrate concrete and essential solidarity, and assume responsibility for an international lurking problem which may develop into a serious crisis within its borders.
On the matter that has emerged with the migratory pressures at our east borders, Mr. Panagiotopoulos briefed the new High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Mr. Yosep Borrell, at a private meeting.
As regards all other matters of the Defence Ministers Meeting, in the context of the discussion on EU’s operational priorities, he highlighted the importance of retaining stability in the Sahel, which is of great geostrategic importance for the European Union; he also had the opportunity to express our country’s full support to ‘Irene’, EU’s new operation in the Mediterranean, main mission of which is to implement arms embargo in Libya. In parallel, he repeated that Turkey’s intervention in the Libyan crisis and its agreements with the government in Tripoli, in violation of international law, cause major concern to us, as they contribute to the destabilization of the Eastern Mediterranean.
At the first Working Session, referring to EU’s defence priorities, Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos emphasized the importance Greece gives to writing joint threat assessments, in which all the concerns from all m-s, regarding the security threats they are facing, will be taken into account. He pointed out that the enhancement of their defence capabilities, as well as the Union’s protection and resilience to emerging security challenges, should be prioritised.
At the second Working Session, regarding PESCO’s Strategic Compass and Strategic Review, the Minister of National Defence underlined that under no circumstances should EU’s hospitality level reduce, in full compliance with its Global Strategy, and a common strategic culture should develop within the EU, so that it will be able to assume autonomous action, whenever necessary.
In the margins of the Meeting, Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos had bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Austria, Ms. Klaudia Tanner, and from Germany, Ms. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. He also had a quadrilateral meeting with his counterparts from France, Ms. Florance Parly, from Italy Mr. Lorenzo Guerini, and from Cyprus Mr. Savvas Angelides.
After the completion of the Informal Meeting of EU Defence Ministers, the Minister of National Defence made the following statement:
“During the Informal Meeting of EU Defence Ministers, first of all I had the opportunity to thoroughly inform my counterparts, as well as NATO Secretary General Mr. Jens Stoltenberg who joined our working dinner, on the sudden, massive and organized pressure created by the transfer of populations to our eastern borders, which was incited by Turkey, under conditions of a true and organized invasion. At the same time, we discussed with the EU Defence Ministers on EU’s priorities in defence and operational matters, as well as on the strategic review of the member-states’ defence cooperation key aspects.
Turkey exploits human despair as a means to promote its geopolitical agenda, acting as an official state immigrants’ trafficker, violating International Law and the Joint Statement with EU, by which it is obliged to keep refugees within its territory, and to obstruct their illegal entry into Greek territory. Turkey also conducts a tactical disinformation campaign, which is a well-known key component of hybrid threats, and finally implemented its initial threat to open the routes towards Europe, tactically sending thousands of people towards our territory. I made it clear to my counterparts that Greece fully defends its national sovereignty and its borders, which also are the EU’s external borders; in parallel, I exalted the critical and hard task performed by the Greek authorities, i.e. the Army, the Police and the Coast Guard at sea, who are tackling this asymmetrical threat.
In the margins of the meeting’s works, I had the opportunity to hold essential bilateral meetings with my counterparts from Austria and Germany, as well as a decisive quadrilateral meeting with France, Italy and Cyprus. Our discussions focused on the timely issue of the migration crisis at our borders, and the specific actions of bilateral cooperation at Defence and Security level. Moreover, I underlined the importance we give to further enhancing allied activity in the Aegean and the Mediterranean, so as to intercept migratory flows from Turkey, and our reinforced naval presence in the East Mediterranean.
Finally, at a private meeting I had with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Mr. Yosep Borrell, I had the opportunity to present a full image of the current situation at the Greek eastern borders, and I reiterated our commitment to closely cooperate, so as to define and further promote EU’s security interests, fully responding to every emerging challenge”.