“European citizens must participate in the discussion on the future of Europe”

Statement by the Prime Minister following the conclusion of the Summit.

At the regular European Council autumn session we may not have made extremely important decisions regarding the immediate prospect, the immediate future, but we have discussed about many significant issues, strategic issues that concern the present and the future of Europe. We had the opportunity to discuss about the crucial issue of the future of Europe and the transformation processes, as well as the course of the discussion, the road map that will lead us to these proposed changes.

We had the opportunity to discuss about Brexit and the course of the negotiations, the migration issue, of course, which has been of concern to us in previous years and will also concern us in the future as it is perhaps one of the most important problems of the next day. And, of course, we discussed last night about the EU’s relationship with Turkey.

As far as the immigration matter is concerned, I had the opportunity, together with my Italian and the Spanish counterpart, to state our concern on both current flows and future dangers, as this is an issue that has to do with the major inequalities between Europe and the Third World.

I expressed my concern on the issue, despite the largely effective – but difficult – agreement with Turkey, the flows are still present, to a much lesser extent, of course, but they are still present. Therefore, we need to stay alert and find a more direct and efficient way of managing the flows, in a direction, of course, that will not damage the framework of our values. In this direction, we discussed both the possibility of future reinforcing of both the refugees’ and immigrants’ countries of origin, as well as the diplomatic initiatives to end the crisis in these countries, end the wars and conflicts, but also the immediate management, more effective management of the refugee flows, and I had the opportunity to present a few proposals on this.

As far as our relationship with Turkey is concerned, we have decided to adopt a calm but at the same time firm attitude towards Turkey. Firm, because it is obvious that there are deviations from the prerequisites in order for convergence to proceed. There have been transgressions in the Aegean every day and they are extremely crucial, and I highlighted them, so as the inability to resolve the Cyprus problem, but also the abandonment of the spirit of Copenhagen. Therefore, our message to the Neighbor is a strict message. But, at the same time, calm, in the sense that we continue to believe in the great importance of maintaining the accession perspective and the accession process. In addition, we attach great importance to our cooperation with Turkey on the management of the refugee crisis, a global problem in which Turkey has a significant role to play.

As far as the Brexit discussion is concerned, I must admit that important steps have been taken, but the distance is still long. Our attitude towards the British people is not a punitive one. The roots and relationships of the peoples of Europe with the British people are historic. We are concerned and interested in the next day, the possibility for European citizens not to lose the framework of the rights currently enjoyed by those who live or study in Britain. We are interested in the very close relationship with Britain. However, there are differences that should be bridged as soon as possible so that we will not find ourselves at the next regular December Summit in front of a very difficult discussion.

Finally, with regard to the future of Europe, we have decided on the roadmap. The fact that we came to an agreement can be supposed as news, even though substantial disagreements exist, by June we will have to make crucial decisions. I asked for this discussion not to be held in closed chambers. So that the proposals can be transparent and open to discussion with the presence of the people, in the sense that it is necessary in our countries, and also through the new technologies of the Internet, to conduct this dialogue in an open, public, transparent and interactive manner.

The European citizens must be involved in the discussion concerning their future and the next day of the final constitution and functioning of the EU. I believe that from Gothenburg onwards, where we have scheduled thematic discussions, and especially after the formation of the German government – I imagine at the beginning of the New Year – this debate will take form and crystallization in terms of individual breakthroughs and reforms. We are in a process perhaps unprecedented for the EU, because we do not settle or end the process – if you wish – only at the necessary combination of different views, but we, actually, want to record every different aspect, as the possibility of resulting in compositions of those who want to take brave steps forward without excluding anyone. In other words, to give the opportunity to those who so wish and not to be hindered by those who may be more cautious or more conservative.

Our aspiration is to proceed towards a substantive discussion, because I will use a mundane expression – it has been heard a lot before, but I think it suits the current circumstances – everyone has realized that if we do not change, we will sink. So I think we have all decided that we need to change, but we will figure how and where. Greece will play a decisive role, with very specific views and proposals, in this discussion.