Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Sanna welcome. Welcome to Athens. It’s a real pleasure to welcome you during your working visit to Greece. Obviously, the agenda of our deliberations is very full. It ranges from the great developments in Ukraine and the consequences of the unprovoked Russian attack to EU affairs, and obviously our very strong and friendly bilateral relations. We’ve already had a very productive exchange of views with Sanna. We will continue our discussions in an enlarged format right after the statements.
As I said, Ukraine was obviously on the top of our agenda. From the very beginning of the Russian attack, as we discussed, Greece took a very clear stance. It’s a position that is fully consistent with the fundamentals of our foreign policy, which is based on international law and the paramount principle of the inviolability of borders and the respect for the sovereignty and independence and integrity of all states.
And let me repeat in the most vocal way possible that the Russian invasion of Ukraine, an aggressive war against an independent and sovereign country, cannot be tolerated in Europe in the 21st century. Together with our EU partners, we have reacted immediately, swiftly, decisively – to the surprise of some I think – in imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russia. And we stand both in word and, most importantly, in deed, in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, including of course the historic Greek community.
Unfortunately, areas where Greeks have lived for millennia have suffered the hardest blows from the Russian invasion, and the situation in the coastal area of the Black Sea is unfortunately tragic. The hardship of Mariupol is beyond words. Who could really imagine that in Europe – in the 21st century – we would be witnessing such horrors. And yes. We emphasize that allegations of war crimes should be thoroughly investigated and the guilty parties should be brought to justice. Greece, as you know, has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate possible crimes committed in Mariupol, but also in the surrounding villages where Russian air strikes have caused casualties among our compatriots since the first day of the war.
The current international situation and the developments in Ukraine in particular, bring to the fore the need to enhance our common security and defense. It’s something that we have discussed extensively also at the level of the European Council. We understand that we need to strengthen the resilience of our states and societies to common threats. And of course, we also touched upon the issue of a potential application of Finland to join NATO. I would like to repeat that it is up to the people of Finland and the people of Finland alone to make such an important choice. And for my part, Greece will respect the sovereign decision of the Finnish people, also in light of our close cooperation in the framework of the EU, and of course the already long-term partnership between Finland and the Alliance.
We’ll have an opportunity to further discuss our active involvement in European Affairs. We have always had very constructive discussions at the level of the Council, and I think that the recent developments create scope for new convergences. Let’s take migration, for example. I remember when Greece was practically alone in trying to highlight the dangers stemming from the weaponization of migration flows at our Eastern borders. And when Belarus became the theater of such attempts, it became obvious to others that this instrumentalization of human suffering can actually be a hybrid threat for the EU as a whole and needs to be countered.
And of course, Helsinki holds the European Center of Excellence for countering hybrid threats, where Greece actively participates. And in this field, we can further develop our cooperation to address common challenges. And Sanna’s visit is also an excellent opportunity to take stock of our bilateral relations at all levels. Political, economic, cultural. I remember that as a new Parliamentarian, as a young Parliamentarian back in 2005, I was the President of the Greek – Finnish Friendship Committee in Parliament, and I’ve been closely following the impressive progress that the Finnish society has made, especially in areas such as education. This is an area where we all learn from your achievements.
And of course, we can further strengthen trade. Our priority is to focus on investment opportunities. As you know the Greek economy has recovered significantly since the very difficult last decade. We are welcoming foreign investment and would also like to strengthen the business ties between our two countries and, of course, also to strengthen tourism flows. We’ve made a very promising start through the tourism season this year. We welcome visitors from Finland. And of course, we are looking to reciprocate by also having more Greeks travel to your beautiful country. We will continue our discussions in a bit.
We will also speak about the regional challenges. Energy diversification, which is a very important topic for all of us these days. But of course, I have the opportunity to brief Sanna on recent developments regarding our relations with Turkey. And on the last point, I spoke earlier with the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg to inform him of the latest provocative behavior of the Turkish armed forces violating Greek airspace, dangerously overflying Greek Islands, such as Samos, Lesvos, Chios, Karpathos, to name but a few. And I made it clear to Secretary General Stoltenberg that this type of behavior by a NATO ally in the Southeast flank of the Alliance is simply unacceptable.
It undermines European security as well as the unity of purpose of NATO at a time when amongst NATO members it is indispensable for all of us to remain united, as we face the continued aggression of Russia in Ukraine. But this behavior also undermines the recent progress made during my meeting with President Erdogan a few months ago. He needs to stop immediately. Greece will, of course, be raising this issue at all international fora. And I do recall that Turkey has not aligned with any of the sanctions implemented by the European Union and by all the other NATO members. And I simply want to point out that this is not the typical behavior of a country aspiring to join the European family.
But let me stop here. Let me thank you again, Sanna, for your visit. We’re very happy to welcome you and your delegation to Greece for these important and timely discussions.
Sanna Marin: Thank you. Efharisto, Kyriakos. It is a great pleasure to visit Athens and to discuss bilateral and European issues with my Greek colleague. In today’s meeting we will focus on the topical European agenda and especially on Russia’s war against Ukraine and its effects on the European security environment. Finland and Greece share strong feelings of solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian suffering from the continuing military aggression. We will stand with Ukraine in this difficult time.
Finland has delivered both humanitarian aid and military equipment, arms and material assistance to Ukraine. We strongly support increased assistance from the European Union to help Ukraine. Russia’s military actions in Ukraine have created the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War.
Finland and Greece are both welcoming Ukrainians to our countries and making best efforts to help the refugees, mostly women and children. Finland has so far received more than 20.000 Ukrainians fleeing the war and we are expecting to see more coming as the war unfortunately continues. The government is working with the local authorities to help refugees settle, find accommodation for families and schools for children. We also need coordination in Europe to prevent human trafficking of vulnerable persons. We are working directly with the Ukrainian authorities to transfer targeted groups of extremely vulnerable people to Finland.
This could include disabled persons and children traveling alone. The EU together with our close allies has responded strongly to Russia’s aggression. The sanctions we have adopted are effective and hit hard Russia’s economy. But we can do even more. Finland is ready to consider new joint measures of the EU in order to diminish Russia’s revenue from exports. I urge for even more effective sanctions against imports of energy from Russia.
We should look for all possible solutions to make us less dependent on fossil fuels that we import from Russia. Speeding up the Green transition, increasing the use of renewable resources of energy which we need to accomplish in any case, in order to fight Climate Change is crucial. We need now massive investments to both production of clean energy and to European energy interconnectors. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally changed the security landscape in Finland, in our neighborhood and the whole of Europe.
The Finnish Parliament is currently discussing a government report on the changes in the foreign and security policy environment and the implications for Finland. Apart from the foreign security and defense policy implications, the report looks at the economic impacts of the changed situation, security of supply, preparedness, border security, cybersecurity and hybrid influence activities.
The report takes into account the important role played by our membership in the European Union. The European Union is a security community for Finland and we wish to develop further the EU security and defense policy. The Parliament and the government of Finland, together with the President, will assess all the implications of the new security situation and will have to consider the question of whether to apply for membership of NATO.
Decision in this issue will be taken very soon. The fundamental aim is to guarantee peace for Finland also in the future. Finland has created credible national defense and – like Greece – we maintain a strong and modern conscript army. We are already very able to act with NATO thanks to our close partnership.
We have participated with NATO in many international operations during over two decades. I wish to thank Greece for its consistent support of deepening our NATO partnership. This partnership makes us ready to join NATO if we decide so. Our message to NATO allies is this: If Finland will join NATO we will contribute to the security of the whole alliance.
Last but not least I want to thank my colleague Kyriakos for hosting me today in Athens. Finland and Greece may be geographically distant but we share the same European convictions. I would like to congratulate Prime Minister Mitsotakis for guiding Greece on a path of recovery from harsh economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like my own country, Greece is also investing now heavily on digital and green transition. Like my own country, Greece is also investing heavily on digitisation, not only to the green. These investments are important for sustainable economic recovery everywhere in Europe and it will help us in building a strategically more autonomous European Union. So thank you very much Kyriakos. Efharisto.