The Minister of National Defence, Mr. Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, met today, June 24th 2020, with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mr. Josep Borrell.
After the end of the meeting, the following statements were made:
NIKOLAOS PANAGIOTOPOULOS: “Today, Ι had the pleasure of welcoming at the Ministry of National Defence the High Representative, Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr. Josep Borrell and discussing about the current Defence and Security challenges that the European Union is required to address, primarily emphasising the importance of demonstrating unity and solidarity between member-states.
To be more specific, I underlined the need to strengthen European Union’s operational involvement in the context of the Common Security and Defence Policy, for the protection of the Europeans, its interests, but also its values.
At this point, I stressed the importance of the operation codenamed “Irini” for the security and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, but also Greece’s substantial contribution – despite the great challenges that we are facing at international level – with Greek frigate “Spetsai” and the assumption of the rotating Force Command of the Operation, despite the significant challenges that we are facing at a national level.
At the same time, we share the conviction with the High Representative that the other Member-States should also contribute to “Irini” operation with naval resources.
It is imperative for “Irini” to succeed in its mission. What is at stake is the European Union’s capacity and credibility to carry out operations within the area of its essential geopolitical interests.
It is understood that as a result of its geographical proximity, the European Union is directly and in its entirety affected by the instability in the region, while the uncontrolled involvement of third parties that are violating the arms embargo, contrary to UN resolution and the Berlin process, aggravates the situation in the wider area, thereby leading to unforeseen consequences for the European Union. I have had the opportunity to repeat Turkey’s unlawful conduct and the fact that its policy towards Greece and Cyprus constitutes the main destabilising factor in the region, while the escalation of violations of Greek territorial waters and the national airspace increase the likelihood of unintended accidents.
However, I made clear to the High Representative that we are not to tolerate any violation of our sovereign rights and that we have already made pretty clear to everyone what is the red line on this matter. In any case, we are always defending resolutely our national sovereignty, but also safeguarding our borders, which let us not forget that they are also the European Union’s borders, consistently, with a sense of responsibility and in strict compliance with the rules of International Law.
With regard to European Union’s defence initiatives, I emphasized our country’s support to the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) as an important step forward towards Europe of Defence. I firmly believe that it should be further strengthened, in order to play a crucial role in the protection of the Union and its citizens.
Finally, I welcomed the recent decision on the funding of defence capabilities development programmes under the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP).
Our Country has been remarkably successful in all four programmes submitted, fact that indicates the opportunities of our effective participation in the development of new European Defence initiatives. The fact that Small and Medium-sized related Enterprises have been supported, gives rise to positive expectations for the operation of the European Defence Fund as of 2021.
Mr. Josep Borrell, welcome”.
JOSEP BORRELL: “Thank you, Minister; thank you Nikolaos! Thank you for the invitation and for this excellent meeting that we have just had.
I came to Greece to meet you, the Prime Minister and my counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in order to discuss about the recent incidents and the deteriorating situation in the Aegean Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean, the drillings, the demands in the Aegean and the overflights; we should remain united. I visited the borders and I would like to stress that Greece’s borders are also the European Union’s borders and as such, we are determined to defend the European Union’s external borders and my message is a message of strong solidarity and support.
Such full solidarity with Greece will take the form of a discussion on the subject at the next Foreign Affairs Council and possibly later, at a European Council, if required; However, today, we had the opportunity of discussing about how to find a solution to these worrying developments.
Because it is in the European Union and Turkey’s interest to improve the relations, as well as in the Greece’s interest to have the best possible relations with its neighbors, and I believe that we should find a way to de-escalate tensions, so that this this momentum would stop and convert into a relationship based on a common agenda, improving cooperation in all areas of common interest. And I hope that the discussions at the next Foreign Affairs Council will assist in clearing up the options and the form of action for the future of our relations (and when I say OUR relations, I mean the relations of the European Union and Greece in particular, as an EU member-state) with Turkey and I am willing and prepared to support and contribute to an honest and all-encompassing dialogue with Turkey.
However, I cannot fail to express my gratitude towards Greece and its Navy for its significant contribution to IRINI operation. The supervision of arms embargo is the most important thing that we can do, in order to stop the war on Libya. IRINI operation has been specifically conceived to this aim and, thanks to Greece, we are already implementing this activity.
More is needed and I hope that our member-states will follow Greece’s example.
We also discussed about PESCO, the programmes for optimising spending jointly, for the strengthening of our potential and our military capabilities, since through cooperation we will become stronger. And the European Defence Policy that we are trying to implement is a way to show the rest of the world that Europe remains united, by developing its potential and its power, so that its voice would be heard in the world.
Minister, I would to congratulate you for the honor of being Greece’s Minister of Defence and I thank you for the very interesting discussion”.