Statement by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the occasion of his participation in EUMED-9 Summit

Robert, thank you for the wonderful hospitality, fantastic location you picked for this gathering. Thank you also for very comprehensively summarizing the discussion that we had and which was put on paper in the declaration that was just agreed.

I don’t want to repeat what was said by the previous speakers. Let me just make three quick points: First of all, on the climate crisis, thank you all for the support you offered Greece during what was a very, very difficult summer where we faced some of the worst fires and certainly the worst floods in our history. I think it should be evident to all of us that the climate crisis is affecting the Mediterranean in a disproportionate manner. This should be a reason not just of concern, but of immediate action for all of us.

Thank you all for agreeing with the content of the letter that I sent you, which essentially urges us at the European level to place much more emphasis on adaptation and in particular on disaster relief and managing the very costly aftermath of these natural disasters as both us and our Slovenian friends know very well.

But also urges us to cooperate more comprehensively on issues and topics of prevention in order to ensure that there is a reasonable balance between our ambitious mitigation agenda, which however is a long term agenda, and our immediate adaptation needs, because I feel that this is the only way of making sure that we keep our populations engaged and involved in the green transition. Because right now it is clear to me that this has not been a balanced approach, especially if we look at the European money that is available for immediate disaster relief.

Of course, we should not forget that these disasters don’t just affect our countries, our European countries, they also affect the countries of the Southern Neighborhood. When a disaster strikes a country that has significant problems in terms of a functioning state, the disaster is multiplied. The same storm that cost the lives of less than 20 people in Greece resulted in more than 10,000 deaths in Libya. This is just the comparison in terms of the difference that climate change makes when it strikes a well-organized country vis-a-vis a country which is faced with significant problems.

Second point, on migration, I couldn’t agree more with what was said by the Italian Prime Minister, Georgia Meloni, and by the French President, Emmanuel Macron, in terms of focusing on the 10-point action plan that was put together by the President of the Commission. I think we have made a lot of progress at the European level in recognizing the importance of the external dimension of the migration problem. And at the end of the day, the need to determine on our own terms who enters the European Union. Because this is about us, as sovereign states, but also members of our European family, exercising what is a right that we can simply not outsource to smugglers, because this is exactly what we are currently doing. It’s smugglers who decide who gets to enter the European Union and this must change.

We need to be much more effective in terms of ensuring that unseaworthy boats don’t leave the shores of the neighboring countries and put people at risk of losing their lives in what is a very treacherous journey. We need to work more with the countries of transit. We’re trying to do that, for example, with Turkey. We need to focus on repatriations and make sure that people who are not entitled asylum will be returned to the country of origin. Finally, of course, we need to focus on legal pathways of migration. If we want to be more vigilant in terms of protecting our borders, the counterbalance needs to be that we offer opportunities to those people who can come to the European Union and help us support our economic growth to do so, but do so in a safe manner and again, on our own terms.

Finally, on the issues of economic governance, again, full agreement with what was said. Just two quick points. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past and we know something about mistakes being made at the European level and essentially forcing countries to a very abrupt fiscal adjustment which plunged them into a much deeper recession.

I think we need to return to the context of the initial proposal of the Commission, which in our mind was very well balanced in terms of giving more flexibility but also ownership to the member states to devise their own fiscal paths in terms of fiscal adjustment.

And of course, yes, we need to make space for those critical investments that we need in order to protect our strategic autonomy, whether it’s defense or important collective investments in the green transition, because otherwise we will find ourselves in a position where other countries or other major blocks will be making those investments, whereas we are curtailed by the fiscal rules that we impose upon ourselves at a time when we need to invest more.

Let me stop here. Thank you again very much, Robert, for the wonderful hospitality and best of luck to Cyprus and looking forward to visiting Cyprus for the 11th gathering on what has proven to be, I think, a very successful and very constructive format of cooperation.