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Dear Nikos [Dendias], dear Minister [of Foreign Affairs of Greece], dear friend. It is me who has to thank you for your invitation, for your warm reception and for accompanying me on today’s visit to the border region: a border of Greece and also a border of the European Union, because when we are inside the European Union, we share our external borders.
I would also like to thank all the army and police commanders for the explanations they have given to me about what happened in this part of the border several months ago. It has been very important to know it first hand.
This visit was scheduled before the last European Council. We were talking about when I could pay this visit to Greece. But the European Council talked a lot about the situation in Greece, because your Prime Minister [Kyriakos Mitsotakis] and also the President of Cyprus [Nicos Anastasiades] explained to their colleagues the situation of the relationship with Turkey and this has accelerated my visit in order to show our solidarity and to show how much we share your concerns.
Later on, we will continue discussing with the Prime Minister of Greece and with the Minister of Defence [Nikos Panagiotopoulos]. For sure, we are going to talk about the deterioration of the situation in the Aegean Sea and in the Eastern Mediterranean.
You [Nikos Dendias, Minister of Foreign Affairs] have been informing the Foreign Affairs Council and myself about the drilling activities, maritime claims and overflights that have led to a significant deterioration of relations between Greece and Turkey and what it means also to the European Union-Turkey relations.
I wanted to come and see for myself and observe the situation at our EU external border. Today’s visit of the region, with your explanations and the insightful briefing that the Police and the Army have given me has allowed me to gain a better understanding of the situation Greece was facing and may be facing in the future.
That is why there are almost one hundred Frontex officers belonging to 20 different Member States that were here and will stay here in order to show the support of the European Union. It is very clear that we are determined to protect the external borders of the European Union and to strongly support Greece’s sovereignty.
I know from you about the [escalation of Turkey’s] overflights, the violations of the [Greek] national airspace and territorial sea and what we witnessed at this border. We share your concern, we discussed about it, about how can we stop the dynamics of escalation. No one more than Greece has important reasons to be a good neighbour to Turkey. Because at the end of the day we have to be good neighbours. And that is why the European Union was invented, to become good neighbours.
And I think that we have to stand by our interests, and to engage and re-establish trust. I think this is in our interest, the interest of the European Union and Turkey and Greece, to try to solve the current difficulties and improve our relations.
I am sure that my meetings today with you, with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence will allow us to develop a common agenda to increase cooperation on all matters of common interest and look to a dialogue with Turkey to safeguard our interests and to foster regional stability.
I think the European Union is the best example of the world about how you can improve relationships between neighbours and I think this is possible also with the neighbours of the European Union who also intend to be part of it.
Thank you very much for your explanations and I hope that this visit will be very much fruitful.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-192509