“Greece defends vigorously its sovereign rights”

Press conference by Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, following the sessions of the European Council.

Συνέντευξη Τύπου του Πρωθυπουργού, Αλέξη Τσίπρα, μετά το πέρας των εργασιών της Συνόδου του Ευρωπαϊκού Συμβουλίου
Συνέντευξη Τύπου του Πρωθυπουργού, Αλέξη Τσίπρα, μετά το πέρας των εργασιών της Συνόδου του Ευρωπαϊκού Συμβουλίου

At the press conference, following the European Council session, in Brussels (March 22-23, 2018), Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stated:

“Before I begin, I would like to express my outspoken condemnation of the two terrorist attacks that took place in the southwestern part of France and of course to express my condolences and my solidarity to the French people on behalf of the Greek people. As you know, the Spring Council meeting of the European Council included crucial issues for Europe, the future of Europe, and its international role. Matters of work, growth and competitiveness with references to social issues, the European Semester and, of course, the international trade. For the upcoming initiative regarding the digital group taxation, Brexit, the future of the Eurozone, as well as critical geopolitical issues such as Euro-Turkish relations, with particular reference to Turkey’s provocative behavior in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, the famous Skripal case in Britain , the Western Balkans and other crucial geopolitical issues.

I would like to start with yesterday’s debate on the taxation of digital economy companies and the need for tax convergence and justice within the EU. For the need for fiscal convergence in order to avoid this enormous divergence of tax rates between the member states, and this divergence is used by multinational corporations to exploit tax avoidance methods, and of course the need to tackle tax havens and reduce the tax burden competition in the EU.

I have expressed Greece’s assent to the initiative to impose a European tax on these multinational digital giants, not a national tax, a tax burdening our citizens, but a new “resource” for Europe, I would say, which will increase budget revenue, and particularly crucial, especially after Britain’s withdrawal, the budget is reduced. And a tax that should be imposed where those companies produce wealth. We need not only to tax these companies, but also to make their taxation effective, while closing the legislative loopholes that currently permit this tax avoidance activity.

And of course, for that reason, we will have to work the following period to establish a unified, clear and fair tax regime, but also a common consolidated corporate tax base so that this unfair speculation cannot continue, this illicit activity, I would say.

I, also, pointed out that we should tighten the institutional framework in relation to tax havens. Not only do they affect the concept of tax justice, which is fundamental to our citizens, but also that it is paradoxical and absurd to discuss and promote the deepening of the Eurozone and fiscal integration and, on the other hand, to turn a blind eye to this reality, to maintain fiscal opacity, to maintain fiscal competition among Member States, which is one of the causes of social dumping, and to close our eyes on tax havens. We can, only, have the one or the other. The deepening of the Eurozone and fiscal integration or the maintenance of these imbalances.

We, also, discussed the annual cycle of economic and budgetary policy coordination in the Union, the European Semester. We presented a specific proposal, you know this from the winter session, for the inclusion in the European Semester of the European Pillar of Social Rights that we decided in Gothenburg, but with a binding effect. Our proposal was supported by several countries, but unfortunately there was unanimity. This issue is very important to us, it presents a Europe that has no institutional counterbalance to the institutional integration of budgetary discipline, it has no institutional counterparts in the creation of social protection structures, and that is a permanent setback for us, thus a constant demand, a lasting objective in the prospect of a more social Europe.

The last issue on today’s agenda was the changes in Eurozone architecture, changes that are being drafted by the European Commission, and these were discussed in the framework of the meeting of the Eurozone leaders, the member states of the Eurozone.

For us, the reform of the Eurozone should go hand in hand with addressing its identified imbalances so that it is real and sustainable. Otherwise, it will be an embellishment of today’s reality, but it will not deceive anyone. It will be just another evasion until we find ourselves in the face of the next crisis and without having the tools to address it effectively.

I pointed out that we cannot prepare ourselves for the best possible crisis response, by utilizing and using the materials we have had up to date. We need to find new materials. We cannot recycle the materials of the crisis, these materials that have led us to crises. I spoke about the need to remove the macroeconomic imbalance that is evident in the Eurozone, and this is mainly about the systematic high surpluses, especially of the northern countries, in the current account.

To explain this, the deficits of the South are often the mirror of the surpluses of the North. And, of course, there are rules that we follow with great rigor in terms of budgetary discipline and the effort not to escape deficits, but there is no effective surveillance institution or political will, if you wish, to respect the rules in relation to the surpluses of the countries of the North. In this sense, I believe and I have presented it to my colleagues that the new Eurozone institutions we are discussing should be in line with the principles of solidarity and risk-sharing. And against this background, I supported, among other things, the need for a strong Eurozone budget with a stabilizing, investing and redistributive role.

There should be a credible European deposit guarantee system support mechanism, the so-called “fiscal backstop”, support by the European Monetary Fund, as we expect the ESM to evolve, and banking integration.

Now, regarding the European Stability Mechanism: I supported the need for it to develop into a European Monetary Fund. I supported the view that we are late, that it was a deficit for Europe and a weakness as well that did not have the strong confidence to rely on its own forces for so many years and had to turn to the IMF technocrats. I, also, supported that this European Monetary Fund, the evolution of the ESM, should operate not as an independent technocratic organization but with democratic accountability and without assuming the powers that the European Commission has today the macroeconomic and budgetary surveillance.

I supported the need to have a Minister of Economy and Finance in line with the European Commission’s proposal. At the same time, however, I supported beyond these important initiatives, the need for deepening democracy and accountability. And the minister, but especially the crucial institutions of the Eurozone, must be subject to constant democratic control. In order to end this scandal, as others have said, and not just myself, the scandal that we have lived, particularly regarding the Greek crisis, an informal body, an informal institution, the Eurogroup, making critical decisions behind closed doors, without transparency, without accountability, without control, and of course this has the effect of taking mistaken decisions, mistakes that have caused great social wounds especially in our country, especially in Greece.

I will now refer to the issues of the EU’s international and regional role. As you know, there has been much debate on Euro-Turkish relations. Together with President Anastasiades, we had the opportunity to present once again the escalating provocative actions of Turkey both in the Aegean and the Southeastern Mediterranean, in relation to the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone. In this context, I stressed that we are facing a qualitative change in Turkey’s attitude, which we must seriously evaluate. A qualitative change that must worry us. I stressed, however, that Greece will always try to exploit the channels of communication that it has struggled with its neighbor, that it will strategically continue to support Turkey’s EU accession course, even though this has been going in the opposite direction.

I stressed that Greece will continue to strive for the best possible cooperation with Turkey in addressing major regional challenges such as the immigration crisis and that it will continue to treat calmly any difficulty, as a European country should do when seeking peace, security and stability in its region. But I also stressed that from now on, it must be absolutely clear to everyone that Greece is determined to defend its sovereign rights with all determination and effectiveness against any threat and controversy. Regarding the defense of our borders in particular, which are at the same time the EU’s borders, the EU’s eastern and southeastern borders, and I have asked for clear guarantees in order for any Euro-Turkish dialogue to proceed. It must be made clear to Turkey that it has to abandon its tactics of persistent provocation, since it has nothing to gain but only to lose. In this context and taking these guarantees from our partners, I supported that the Varna Summit should be held. As you know, our partners expressed their solidarity last night, strongly condemning the illegal Turkish actions and urging Turkey to respect international law and to normalize its relations with all the member states, including the Republic of Cyprus. It is clear to me that this is, in general, a clear message to the neighbor and certainly the most powerful one in the history of the EU and especially the most powerful regarding the Aegean. Because strong messages have been formulated for Cyprus many times, but I think that the regarding the Aegean it was the strongest message ever formulated in the EU Conclusions.

Of course, I had the opportunity in this context to inform our partners about the continued detention of the two Greek military in Turkey, demanding guarantees that this issue will arise in Varna. As you know, a clear reference was made in the Conclusions on the two Greek military, the need for a quick and positive solution to the issue and assured both the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council that they will raise this issue at their meeting in Varna to President Erdogan. Allow me here to make a small comment. It is obvious that we are entering a new phase with regard to the issue of our two soldiers. During the previous period, we made every effort to resolve this issue bilaterally, with the discrete support of our partners in order to be resolved before the European Council in March. This, as you have seen, was not possible. We will continue our efforts through our bilateral channels – we are not abandoning the bilateral channels – but we also rely on the formal and open mobilization of our partners, our allies and the wider support of Greece.

I would like to inform you in this context that I had the opportunity to talk with President Putin yesterday morning to congratulate him on his re-election. We talked about the contacts of our countries in the following period and our bilateral cooperation, but at the same time, I had the opportunity to inform him about our views in relation to Turkey, in view of the meeting he will have with President Erdogan in Istanbul in about a week from now, on April 3rd. We discussed about major critical issues concerning global security, we discussed about US-Russian relations, following the telephone call that he had with President Trump, and also we talked about Euro-Russian relations, which are particularly burdensome after the assassination attack at Salisbury. In this context, I expressed the conviction that this case should be clarified as soon as possible with the cooperation of Russia. I also expressed to President Putin and later to the European Council our unreserved solidarity with Britain, stressing that the chemical weapons attack in an EU Member State is an attack on our common European security. I stressed to the European Council the need to be decisive on this issue, but at the same time I underlined the need to keep the dialogue channel with Russia open, but also to leave an open window through the completion of the research of the relevant international organization before we have our final conclusions. I reminded that when Greece speaks of a dialogue that needs to be maintained, away from cold-war logic, it does not play safe. We support it daily with our actions in the most difficult circumstances. Because in the case of the violations of our sovereignty – if I may this – which we see daily in the Aegean, we have no high probability, we have facts. But we do not ask for contact, dialogue and communication with Turkey to stop, and I myself have advised – using this word – our partners that the EU should also deal with Russia, however difficult this relationship may be.

Of course, in the Conclusions there is also a reference to the Western Balkans. The Sofia Summit for the Western Balkans in May is a very important event, but we will also have the opportunity to discuss the EU enlargement in the European Council in June. So I had the opportunity to inform them my counterparts in person for the negotiations that are taking place, and even in real time, as far as you know, with Albania and with Macedonia. Today, as you know, the Greek Foreign Minister is in Skopje on a high symbolic visit, as this is the first time, if I am not mistaken, after at least twelve years, when a Greek aircraft landed at Skopje Airport, since 2005 and until yesterday it had the name of the airport that hindered the relations of honesty between the two countries. By renaming the airport, I think that this opportunity was given. This has a high symbolism. Of course, the negotiations are in progress. Our position is firm: that the opening of accession negotiations with these two countries will only be possible if all the terms and conditions agreed by the Council are met. We are looking, particularly with Macedonia, for an honest compromise, which will be beneficial not only to the two countries but also to Europe as a whole, in the light of the principles and positions we have described, positions which I think are known by the Greek side for more than a decade.

With these thoughts – perhaps a little more detailed introduction than other times, but there were many issues, so you can understand me – I’ll give you the floor for your questions. ”

PANTELAKIS: We have for the first time this so strong message from the EU to Turkey, in relation to the meeting in Varna, the Trump statement, Putin’s commitment to discuss the issue of Turkish actions with President Erdogan. Can all this lead to a retreat of Ankara and ending the provocative actions, but also the ending of the extreme rhetoric of the last period?

PRIME MINISTER: “I want to believe this. I want to believe that logic will prevail and that in the next period we will have a change of behavior. I have stated from the first moment that this attitude does not primarily favor the interests of Turkey in the region. And of course it does not favor cooperation, peace, understanding, which constitute a very stable pillar on which good neighborly relations can be built. I think there are many who are worried about whether this behavior is due to a strategic choice or to events that have taken place lately and have to do with either internal tensions or developments in Syria. In any case, what I want to repeat is that we will remain focused on trying to have the door of dialogue and friendship open to the other side. This, however, does not mean weakness. Greece is a strong country, Greece is a country that belongs to the EU and has the solidarity of the EU member states of the whole of the EU and is a country that knows how to effectively defend its sovereign rights. We want cooperation, we want dialogue, we want conciliation, and we want peace. That’s what we want, but we also know very well to claim our right. ”

TSAKIRIS: Mr. President, I would like to ask you in practice these historical references, especially the reference to the two Greek soldiers, how do you think they can help in their release and their return to Greece and if you include into the information that existed, that the text for Turkey will be hard, the effort with the neighboring country publications on the mobile phones of the two military, that there were military plans and everything we saw yesterday.

PRIME MINISTER: “I do not wish to go into this debate. I think this story is enough. We had an espionage story that took us several hours to discuss. We do not want a second one. I want to say with great clarity that anyone who attempts to use a fact that is obvious, obvious to everyone, that it is a misconduct in order to raise a question between the two countries will make a huge mistake also for its credibility, but also towards the relationship of trust we have been trying to establish lately. I believe that these reports have nothing to add but to create a serious breach in the neighbor’s credibility and I hope that they will be discarded as soon as possible. ”

KALOGEROPOULOU: Mr. President, you spoke of a qualitative change in Turkey’s behavior. Are you afraid of a hot episode in the Aegean? And I ask you because the information about the American factor expressing some of these fears is growing, namely that Turkey can cause a hot episode in the Aegean even in a residential area …

PRIME MINISTER: “Look, we are not afraid. And the Greek people should not have that sense of fear. We are not afraid first and foremost because we have the dissuasive capacity. Secondly, because such an action is clear that whoever caused it would actually be like shooting his own feet. We may often think that our neighbors like the challenges, we may think they are irritable, we may think that they are often crowds and polyglots, but we do not consider them foolish. In this sense, I believe that a lasting fear should not be dominated in the public debate and I think that our presence here, the very solidarity that Greece has accepted by all the international organizations in which it participates, is a sample, if you wish, of trust to us, but also to the fact that we must have a security sample to our partners, which we should evaluate positively. We are not afraid, but at the same time we are troubled. We are worried because today we should be discussing other things. Today we should be discussing how to prepare the Intergovernmental Conference that after Smyrna where I went is to be done on the Greek side and therefore to see how to ensure better investment cooperation and joint initiatives in the Aegean so that together, to make use of the possibilities offered by tourism, to attract more tourists, to attract Turkish tourists to Greece, to Greeks to Turkey. We should talk about them and not about hot episodes and nonsense. And in this sense, I would like to make an appeal to the other side to realize that this road does not lead anywhere. And we all have to be serious, and especially they should be serious and stop those challenges. I believe the message is clear, strong, stronger could not be. I want to reiterate that we remain committed to the principles of good neighborliness and they should have recognized this. There is no other country in the EU who so persistently supports Turkey’s European perspective. We want cooperation, we want consensus and that’s why, if you wish, we have taken all these initiatives to convince our neighbors that they must come to their senses. ”

ANTZOLETOS: Mr. President, you have just talked about a strong message that came from the European Council to the neighboring country, a message of high volume, and we are actually seeing a change of cruise, because you said that it is not a bilateral issue. High tones, however, have been used all previous period by your government partner, Mr. Kammenos. And I wanted to ask you, because today he made a reference, what do you think? Are the two Greek soldiers actually hostage or are they not?

PRIME MINISTER: “Look, Mr. Antzoletos, it is obvious that within the framework of a division of duties and within a government it is not necessary for everyone to use the same terminology and the same tones. This does not mean that there is no conciliation. Well, since you ask me, I will reply that we have an event that could have been resolved the same day. It was not solved on the same day, and that is something that troubles us. From the time on we have the transfer of the two Greek military to high security prisons in Adrianople and their 20-day stay there without the judicial process being conducted in order to know why they are detained and what they are accused of. This in itself is obvious that it can create questions, doubts, suspicion. The sooner, then, this is resolved, – I think – the clearer the prospects for our countries’ relations will be so that they can return to the level of good neighborliness and understanding. From that point on, I repeat that if in some people’s thoughts is a fact that could happen either form the one part or the other, in order to exploit it in terms of hostage, then I think that they should think again and a second and a third time, because I think it would have a very negative impact on both Greek-Turkish and Euro-Turkish relations. I still want to believe that there is no such option and that we will have a positive development very soon. ”

ROUMPOS: If you can tell us from the discussion with Mr. Putin, in all that you said, if there is a possibility of an intervention to President Erdogan, which he will soon see, on the issue of the two Greek military, but also about the situation in the Aegean.

PRIME MINISTER: “Mr. Roumpos, you know very well, because you know me for a long time that I do not get used to disclose the views and intentions of my interlocutors in private telephone conversations, much less when these interlocutors are leaders of important countries. I can tell you that I have presented our positions to President Putin, our views on both major issues concerning international security, Euro-Russian relations, and our concern for Turkey’s attitude towards the region during the last period. Obviously, I have also conveyed our views and opinions on the issue of the two military. ”

TSIKRIKA: Mr. President, while Europe sent a strong message to Mr. Erdogan, you actually said that it is also of historical importance that they referred to illegal actions in the Aegean, at the same time Mr. Erdogan is preparing to send a drill in the EEZ of Cyprus and he has further attacked Europe in relation to this message by saying that it is not its job to interfere with justice, and indeed what we have as a question is that if Turkey refuses to receive this message, what are the next steps? What are you thinking; Are there still voices, for example, who believe that its European perspective must stop? Are there any measures you are working on?

PRIME MINISTER: “Look, Mrs. Tsikrika, I did not have the impression that after yesterday’s strong message, this morning Mr. Erdogan would apologize or change his strategy. I believe, however, that (Mr. Erdogan) with all these facts concerning not only the attitude of Greece, which is an attitude of maturity, seriousness, responsibility, not aggressive towards Turkey but a stance of maturity, I repeat, the fact that both the EU and the so-called international factor weigh everything that is happening, it will take it into account and make its decisions. ”

MILEVSKA (MIA, Macedonia): I would like to know, first of all, with your Foreign Minister in Skopje at the moment, what kind of information do you have? Will Mr. Nimetz soon have something tangible from Mr. Kotzia’s meetings in order to proceed? The Russian Foreign Ministry threatened the Republic of Macedonia two or three days ago that any accession of the Republic of Macedonia to NATO would have a negative impact on the stability of the region. Since Greece is a guarantor of stability in the region, what can it do to avoid these negative effects, given that if the name is not agreed, the Republic of Macedonia will not enter NATO?

PRIME MINISTER: “First of all, Mrs. Milevska to tell you that I wish in a few months to introduce yourself here as a representative of” Gorna Macedonia “, or in any case with any other name we jointly agree – I do not qualify” Gorna “, you may agree on something else, that is the Foreign Ministers to agree on something else that they are currently in negotiations. This has a value. Because some people think that we are going to give a name, which is used here for over twenty-five years, not to say after the Second World War. I would like to say the following: The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kotzias, is in Skopje today to try to explore the possibility of taking forward steps that will enable us to reach an agreement, but our side has long been described with great clarity. We have two conditions, not tens, hundreds. There are many issues, we are all open to discussing them in a constructive way, but there are two prerequisites that are very important to us. The first condition is that a compromise has to be found in terms of name, a complex name either geographically or temporally, for the very simple reason that our peoples in perpetuity cannot be in a permanent conflict, having the impression – and especially the Greek people – that there is an attempted usurpation of a very important piece of our story. So, a complex name precisely because the friendly neighboring country of the North cannot have the name that has a geographical area in our country with a long history. And the second important term is that this solution is not a fast solution, it is an essential solution that will solve misunderstandings and will create the prerequisites for establishing on solid basis the relations of our peoples. In short, to be a solution for all uses, this name is also used in international organizations, in bilateral relations with other countries, but also within our neighbor, and of course it is related to the fact that there can be no other name in the UN and in relations with other countries and another name in the Constitution, and then you to come to the press conference today, after the solution, and I will refer to that name, while you tell me that I am from “Repubblica Macedonia”. This will not be a solution. This will perpetuate our difference. We have set these two conditions. And we have presented them with the best intention, knowing that there are reactions from some in my country, Greece.

We respect them, these are sensitive issues, but at the same time we have assured everyone inside and outside the country that this government and I personally am determined to move forward as long as I see that we have a historical challenge ahead of us to defend and, if you wish, to reinforce what, in the broadest sense, we perceive as a national interest. And to solve a dispute with a neighboring country that is not threatening Greece it is of national interest, in our view. All this, however, remains to be proved. And I imagine that steps will be taken today in Skopje. I am not fully informed because, as you can see, I was all day, yesterday and today, at the Summit. The Minister of Foreign Affairs will inform me. In that case, I want to repeat something I have said before. We have all the good intention, we have, if you wish, the historic will to solve the problem, but no one is pushing us to solve it. For us it is a historic initiative, but it is not an existential affair. We can live without the solution. I do not think the same is true for the other side. This does not mean that we are going into negotiations having this in our minds and thus how to offend our interlocutors. On the contrary. But that’s what I have to say. I have to say to the Greek people, who are listening to us today, as well as to our friends in FYROM and our partners that are in Skopje today, because we want the solution, not because NATO or the EU or the international factor is pressuring us. And as far as the second part of your question is concerned, we are dealing with this issue as a bilateral issue. Whether the sovereign neighboring state decides whether or not to join NATO or any other organization it is its own decision, it is not our decision. And in this sense, we also consider that third party interventions, and I am not referring to NATO or the EU now, of third countries, do not have a positive impact, they do not help. They do not help. If we can concentrate on a bilateral level, with the apparent help of the United Nations and the contribution of Mr. Nimetz, I think we can see a positive development. If not, and there are interventions by third parties happen, they will probably make things worse.”

SPINTHOURAKIS: Mr. President, I want to get to finance. I may be the only one, but forgive me. That’s because it looks like there will be two major changes in June. One is that, Greece exiting the programs, anyone can wonder what role this European mechanism will play and the second is that, what you have said to us, are you already thinking in the European Council what will be the new structure of economic governance. What we have seen over the years in economic governance is that we had Mr. Regling who was talking about political, especially deflationary, and we had the ECB talking about inflationary policies. That is schizophrenia. Can this thing change and to do so, must the treaty change, or it can be done in an agreement where the European Council, as a good family man, combine both discipline and generosity?

PRIME MINISTER: “My view is that there is no prerequisite for a change of the treaty, it is a prerequisite to have political will and, above all, political determination that the structures and political choices so far did not give us the necessary tools to be effective in dealing with of the crisis. This lasting Manichaean logic, the lasting conflict, we have lived very well, we have known it for many years. I think the time has come to express judgments and make bold decisions. You obviously realize that this is also a question of political correlations in Europe. Europe has the advantage of being the continent that has accomplished the most important achievements, conquests in terms of both social subjects and democracy. On the other hand, Democracy also has its own weaknesses. We have coalition governments in many countries, we cannot form governments in other countries, so the intergovernmental circle has its ups and downs. Right now I want to believe that at least a minimal common denominator of changes, critical changes, will be found by June. There will not be the changes that we are envisioning and wishing, but, in any case, I think there will be some steps forward. Without constitutional change, the change of the Treaty, but changes that can move things forward and create the conditions so that in the next crises we can be more effective and not repeat the big mistakes of the past. These mistakes in Greece have cost a lot. And indeed today we are at a point where we are too close to the end of this adventure, but we have obligations that we have to respect, for example we are obliged to have high primary surpluses for another four years, so the potential for the economy to grow at a high rate is crucial. In order for this to happen, some inherent weaknesses of the Eurozone must be combated. Some critical decisions will be made in the following period. We are in intensive negotiations and I am optimistic that we will have a clearer and more optimistic picture by June 21st. »

TSIGOURIS: Mr. President, I would like to ask if you believe that there is really room for withdrawal or change of attitude from the neighboring country, given that after the European message there was – as my colleagues mentioned – a strong response from the Turkish side. Given that the neighboring country and geographic location is able to control the increase or decrease of migratory and refugee flows, and when it peaked, it almost destabilized the whole of the EU, how effective a pressure can be when the neighbor has this strong card that interests all European partners? And, secondly, on the occasion of your reply and the Greek fear of a horrific episode, I would like to ask whether today’s answer marks a change of attitude while you have often said that Greece is in a position to effectively defend the sovereign rights. If something changes, from what we have seen in recent decades.

PRIME MINISTER: “I think all the times I had been asked about something similar, I said the following. We have the strong deterrent capacity and we can defend our sovereign rights. I have not changed anything about this. And I think this is a determination. Since you have been dealing with defense reports for years, you will agree with me that it is a plausible statement that Greece is at a cost, at a high social cost (because a very large percentage of GDP went for many years in the defense field , unfortunately multiplied by some percentages that were for bribes, that’s one of the causes of the crisis, but let us not talk about it now), in any case I want to tell you that it has a very strong deterrent capacity and one of the most powerful armies compared with all other European Union countries. Of course, I want to say that this strong deterrent force we do not have in order to provoke or attack. We have it to defend peace. We did that and we continue to do that. I think that the way we have managed a nervousness from the other side is a way of showing responsibility and seriousness. So we will continue and I believe that at the same time we are making the best use of the fact that we are not just a country with strong deterrent capabilities in a difficult region, but also a NATO member country with strong ties, traditional ties with other powerful countries in the wider region. We have recently had a strategy of partnerships, tripartite strategic partnerships with Cyprus with both Egypt and Israel or with Jordan. We have very positive, traditional, good relations with both Russia and the countries of the Balkans. Greece, therefore, I want to assure you that it is a country that is not easy to deal with. That’s what I want you to remember. Thereafter, I repeat, the great majority of the Greek people who are following these developments with a concern, are fully aware that Greece is a pillar of stability and security and will continue to be and that we have learned to live in the past with a neighbor, who sometimes has an unpredictable and provocative attitude. I am confident that, as in the past, these issues have been resolved, we will now find the way and with the support of our partners, the international community, to have the best possible positive development in any disputes that have arisen. ”

ZAMBOUKAS: I heard from what you stayed that you are now among the most fervent federalists. You make suggestions about the (European) finance minister and others, which show that you are a very fanatical European, and I really enjoy this. On the other hand, at the same time, you are starting some contacts with Mr. Putin and, at the same time, within Greece, the reforms would not say that they are so much Western, as pro-European as we would expect. At the moment, which you want to have, – and you do, the Europeans now love you – this understanding, is there a contradiction in your internal politics?

PRIME MINISTER: “Allow me first to tell you that federalism is one of the basic, if you want, that left-wing Europeanism has expressed. A little further next to this building, in the European Parliament, was once an important representative of the renewing Left, Michalis Papayannakis, of the main, if you wish, ideological mentors of this idea. But look, I want to answer your question in essence: Europeans do not love us because we are good children, but because we have succeeded in stabilizing the country. We took it in a state of bankruptcy, which was led by those who ruled it for many years, and Europeans know very well who they were and how they looted the Greek people that they did not take advantage of the great potential of the place during the years of growth and how all the past years, through conditions of corruption and interdependence, led Greece to the rocks. And they know that we are a new political force that has never denied the European orientation of the country, but has lifted these timeless injustices, made very difficult reforms, through a very difficult – first period – and tough negotiations led to a compromise, we were honest, but we have managed and led the country today to the economic recovery at the same time as our great effort to let the independent Greek judiciary proceed to the clearance that is, if you want, a request of the Greek people. I therefore think that our European partners are very well aware of whether they are sympathetic ideologically or politically to us, like the Social Democrats, or do not like us ideologically and politically, like the Christian Democrats and other leaders with whom we have a relationship of trust over the years. I therefore consider that Greece, which in 2015 was a country that no one wanted seriously to deal with it, has been upgraded within three years, and geopolitically, it plays an important role in the region, has never won such references in Conclusions( European Council ) for its relations with Turkey and this is extremely important, it played a central role in the management of a major pan-European crisis, the refugee crisis, it plays an important role because it has the potential to be a reputable country with which the big leaders communicate, the President of the United States, both the previous and the current one, I met with them, the previous one came to our country, like President Putin who came to our country, and I will visit Moscow for the second time, all these mean something. And those who do not understand it is best for them to realize that Greece has turned a page and that it will move forward and will not go back.

Thank you”.