“I am especially pleased to welcome Germany’s Defence Minister Dr. Ursula von der Leyen to Athens today, with whom we are connected by profound esteem and – she allows me to say – also friendship. I would also like to welcome her associates, as well as the German reporters who are with us today.
Our countries have common views as far as defence and security matters are concerned. Regarding the migrants and refugees’ issue that concerns Greece and Germany, in particular, nowadays – Greece is concerned as the main point of entry and reception of people who are trafficked illegally or legally from the Turkish coast towards the Greek islands and Germany is concerned as country of reception – we make common efforts, always in cooperation with the institutions of the EU and NATO.
I would like, at this point, to stress that thanks to the Minister’s persistence and hard work which was done during the last NATO Summit, we were able, for the first time within the alliance, to hold a trilateral meeting with our Turkish colleague and reach a political agreement which was, also for the first time, accepted by all of the member-states of the Alliance. It was a political agreement which immediately took a military character and we strongly believe that this agreement may be the final solution to the migrant issue, or the beginning of the solution.
All these agreement have problems too, nevertheless. However, the most important is to see the results and the results, as far as flows of migrants and refugees from the Turkish coasts are concerned, they have reduced from 5,000-9,000 per day to 20-100 refugees and migrants.
There are still several problems, mainly created by the position of Turkey, not in relation to the Alliance, but in relation to the continuation of the breaches and violations of the national air space and Greek territorial waters which are European borders too, as well as of overflights above Greek islands which are continued creating a huge problem, as well as the probability of an accident in the Aegean.
As it is normal, Greece will continue defending its sovereign rights. Of course, we ask Europe too – because after the 2008 Agreement the Greek borders are also European borders – to protect the European borders from this kind of violations and breaches which, I hope, are decisions of hotheads.
Germany has undertaken a particular burden and responsibility for this activity. It provides not only the material assets, but the tactical command as well. As it is normal, it is interested and informed about our views for the improvement and the effectiveness of the action taken. At this point, I wish to say that on the coastline between the Asia Minor and the Greek islands there is an excellent cooperation in the first two sectors where the agreement has been activated, that is in Mytilini, Chios and Oinousses, but this agreement regards the entire Aegean Sea. It is a clear political decision and, if needed, it will be activated in the other sectors too over the next days.
I would also like to say that we had an excellent discussion yesterday in Luxembourg regarding the developments in Libya. It is sure that every EU country is interested in the developments in Libya. It is also important to say that these developments can by no means result in creating a new flow of refugees and, of course, Greece cannot bear any bigger burden, especially in the area of Crete or other areas.
Any political decision is made, it will be made commonly, not only to stop the illegal flows of refugees, but also to stop the illegal trafficking of human, weapons, drugs, armament, as well as oil which finances terrorism and Daesh, in particular. The issue of terrorism is an issue that concerns us too.
Concluding, I would like to thank Germany’s Defence Minister for her big support that she offered Greece in relation to the funding that we asked from the European Union and for her personal intervention.
You know, the other Ministers tell us: “If you add each other’s children, you have twelve children in total”. We have many things in common and I would like to say that the personal intervention of the Defence Minister to the other ministers, as well as her profound knowledge of Greece’s concerns gave the possibility to other countries too, especially to northern countries, to realize what is happening in the Aegean Sea.
I am sure that this cooperation will be continued and, from the part of Greece, there is good will for that. We consider it very important that ships of our European allies are in the Aegean and that they have a personal knowledge and report on what really happens particularly with the opposite side.
Allow me to conclude by saying: Ursula, welcome to the Ministry of National Defence, we welcome you as a friend, as an ally and you are always welcome to Greece.”