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Thank you Minister, thank you dear Nikolaos [Panagiotopoulos, Greek Minister of National Defence], thank you for your invitation and for the very good meeting we just had.
I have come to Greece to meet with you, with the Greek Prime Minister [Kyriakos Mitsotakis], and my colleague the Minister of Foreign Affairs [Nikos Dendias], to discuss recent events and the deteriorating situation in the Aegean Sea and in the Eastern Mediterranean. On drilling activities, maritime claims and overflights, we have to remain united.
I visited the border and I want to stress that Greece’s border is the European Union’s border. It is going to be considered like this and we are determined to protect the external borders of the European Union. And my message today is one of strong solidarity and support. This full solidary with Greece will bring us to a discussion at the next Foreign Affairs Council and later maybe at the European Council if needed.
Today we have had the opportunity to discuss how we can find a solution to these worrisome developments. Because the European Union and Turkey have a strong interest in improving relations. Greece also has the best interest of having the best possible relations with its neighbours. We have to look for a de-escalation to stop this dynamic and transform it into a relationship anchored in a common agenda, increasing cooperation on all matters of common interests.
I hope that the forthcoming discussion at the next Foreign Affairs Council will help clarify the options and the way forward in our relations – when I say ‘our’ relations I mean the European Union’s relations, and Greece particularly as a member of the European Union, with Turkey. I am keen and ready to foster and to contribute to a honest and comprehensive dialogue with Turkey.
But I could not stop talking without expressing my gratitude to Greece and to the Greek navy for your important contribution to Operation Irini, to try to control the arms embargo. It is the most important thing we can do to stop the fighting in Libya. Operation Irini was conceived for that and, thanks to Greece, we are already implementing this activity. More is needed and I hope that all Member States will follow the example that Greece is giving.
We have also talked about PESCO [Permanent Structured Cooperation] projects in order to spend better together to enhance our military capabilities. Because, working together, we will be stronger and the European Defence policy that we are trying to implement will be a way of showing to the rest of the world that Europe remains united, developing its capabilities and strengths to make its voice heard in the world.
Minister [Panagiotopoulos], I congratulate you on having the honour of being Minister of Defence of Greece and thank you very much for this interesting conversation.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-192495