The future of the EU and the strengthening of bilateral relations at the focus Kotzias visit to Czech Republic

The future of the EU and the strengthening of bilateral relations at the focus Kotzias visit to Czech Republic

Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, officially visited Prague on Tuesday 16 May where he met with his Czech counterpart, Lubomir Zaoralek, with the Prime Minister, Bohuslav Socotka, and with the President of the Senate, Milan Stech.

According to diplomatic sources, the two Foreign Ministers discussed the future of Europe as well as issues related to the stance and policy of the Visegrad Group.

At the working lunch held in the presence of the two delegations, ways of expanding bilateral co-operation were agreed. At the same time, Mr Zaoralek invited his Greek counterpart to the European Security Conference to be held in Prague on 9 June and expressed his country’s willingness to open an Honorary Consulate in Corfu, a request accepted by the Greek Minister Foreign Affairs.

Also explored was the scope for strengthening economic cooperation in various sectors, with emphasis on tourism – especially in the field of spa tourism in Central Greece through the exchange of know-how with areas of the Czech Republic, such as Karlovy Vary.

During the meeting with Mr. Zaoralek, issues of mutual support of candidacies were also explored. More specifically, the Czech side asked for support from Greece for the candidacy of the former European Commissioner, former Minister of European Affairs and now Czech envoy to the Balkans, Stefan Fule, for the post of OSCE Secretary General.

On Greece’s part, the desire to expand the cooperation of the two countries was expressed. Specifically, the two countries could develop regional-level cooperation despite belonging to different geographical areas.

It was additionally proposed – and accepted by the Czech side – that the Foreign Ministers meet once a year and that political consultations be held between the Foreign Ministries on a number of issues, such as immigration, the future of Europe and the situation in the Balkans. Concerning the Middle East, emphasis was placed on Syria, in which the Czech Republic is the only European country that still has an Embassy. The two countries have agreed to work closely on the issue – given that Greece is sending a special envoy to be based in Beirut who will follow developments in Syria. The debate was extended to the stance of both countries towards Egypt, relations with Turkey and the refugee issue.

Following the completion of his contacts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kotzias met with the President of the Senate, Mr. Milan Stech. Their talks focused on the refugee issue with Mr. Kotzias noting that Greece had timely warned of the risk of the refugee crisis escalating (due to the reduction in funding for UN food and housing programs for refugees in Lebanon and Jordan), and underlined the need for both the EU and Turkey to respect their Agreement on the issue.

“We are two countries that we have the same size, we have the same population, we have common interests and we have to cooperate in a number of areas,” the Foreign Minister stressed in his statement, with which the President of the Czech Senate agreed.

The Foreign Minister then referred to the relations between Turkey and the European Union and stressed that Turkey is revisionist, full of contradictions and a “nervous force”. “We want Turkey on a European trajectory, we want a more European Turkey, a Turkey that respects international law, a Turkey that is bound by the agreement on immigration. And Europe, as far as the issue of immigration is concerned, has to respect its commitments,” the Foreign Minister stressed.

Finally, the Foreign Minister referred to Greece’s position on the Cyprus issue, explaining the core of the whole problem, which is an issue of invasion and occupation. He underlined the clear and self-evident position that the issue is not resolved by preserving Turkey’s invasive rights. Greece seeks a solution based on international law for the benefit of both communities and the three religious groups.

Greece supports the solution which, however, must aim at peace and stability on the island and not in securing Turkey’s geo-strategic interests or the satisfaction of unreasonable demands, such as the one regarding the four freedoms, which seeks to equate – even though they cannot be equated in any way – the rights of Greek citizens, who are citizens of the European Union, with the rights of third country nationals.

Finally, the meeting with the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mr. Subotka, was conducted in a warm atmosphere and both sides expressed satisfaction over the success of the Greek Foreign Minister’s visit to Prague, which will lead to the strengthening of bilateral relations. Specifically, a series of ongoing issues were discussed at the meeting, including the situation of the Greek economy, relations between Turkey and the European Union, the implementation of the Turkey-EU agreement on the management of migration flows, the future of Europe, and the institutional operation of the European Union. Finally, they both opposed proposals for a two-speed Europe that have been heard from time to time./IBNA