Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ statements after his meeting with Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk in Warsaw

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met today with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk in Warsaw. The Prime Minister’s statements, made at the joint press conference of the two leaders, follow:

“Dear Donald, thank you first of all for your kind words and thank you for the very warm welcome to Warsaw. I have a strong political but also personal reason to be very happy every time I visit Poland.

Let me start with the second. As you know, my wife is half Polish, so I always get a feeling that coming to Poland is almost a sense of coming to a country with which I also have very strong family ties. But also on the political front, it’s been many years since a Greek Prime Minister has visited Poland.

I’m very happy that we had an opportunity to discuss today, to take stock of our bilateral relationship, but also to address the common European challenges that we are facing. Of course, we place particular emphasis on Ukraine. We’re now in the third year of this unprovoked and illegal war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine, the impact of which is, of course, strongly felt here in Poland as a neighbouring country.

I had an opportunity to restate to Prime Minister Tusk, but also to President Zelenskyy, who I saw yesterday in Vilnius at the Three Seas Summit, our steadfast commitment to continue to support Ukraine to provide political, financial, but also military assistance for as long as it takes.

We also had an opportunity to address the common challenges regarding illegal migration. We may be at different parts of the continent, facing different challenges, when it comes to our specific geography. But I think we share a common premise, as it was articulated by Donald, we need to defend our borders.

Our borders are not just the borders of our countries, they’re also the borders of the European Union. I think it is important that we have made progress over the past years at the European Council in recognising the importance of the external dimension of migration. It is up to us, as sovereign states, to decide who enters our territory. It is not up to the smugglers to do so. And of course, there will be significant cooperation between our two countries in sharing experiences regarding how we manage this extremely complicated problem.

We also discussed common European challenges. And thank you for hosting what was a very interesting dinner discussion we had yesterday with some of our colleagues at the European Council, in light of the new strategic agenda which will be finalised over the next months. I think we both agree that defence and security need to be very high up on our agenda.

We have many things in common with Poland. One thing we have in common is that we both spend significantly more than 2% of our GDP on defence. We feel that we have to be at the forefront of more common European defence initiatives. And if that would also involve some sort of common borrowing in order to fund these common defence initiatives that would strengthen the security of European citizens, this is also something that will need to be discussed after the next European elections.

And of course, speaking of European elections, we are also two leaders who share the same political family, the European People’s Party. We very much believe that we need to be at the forefront of the important initiatives that Europe needs to undertake in the next electoral cycle, whether it is related to defence and security, whether it is related to competitiveness, to job creation, whether it is related to agriculture, where I think we also both feel that the green transition, which is absolutely necessary, needs to happen at the pace that is not detrimental to our farmers. We need to give them the tools to adjust, and they should not feel threatened by this transition. If changes need to be made in the Common Agriculture Policy, I think we will agree, and we will lead these initiatives after the next European elections.

Let me conclude with what Donald mentioned regarding the presence of Polish firefighters in Greece. We’re very, very grateful for the fact that when Greece faced a big climate-related disaster, our Polish friends were there to support us. We are very much examining a mechanism by which some Polish firefighters could be permanently stationed in Greece for weeks or even months during the summer in order to help us in case of an emergency. This would be a very good example of European solidarity in practice. We’re always very grateful for the assistance that Poland provided us in a very difficult time for my own country.

Let me thank you again, Donald, for the wonderful welcome. There’s a lot to be discussed also in our bilateral meetings regarding the strengthening of our economic cooperation. I should point out that 1.3 million Polish tourists come to Greece every year, and of course, quite a few Greeks come to Poland, but we certainly would like to see this number increase significantly. So this is also an open invitation for those listening to us to choose Greece as a tourist destination for your summer holidays.

But again, thank you so much for having me and my team here in Warsaw today. Thank you”.

Responding to a question on further sanctions or strengthening of existing sanctions against Russia, the Prime Minister noted:

“Just one quick point on sanctions. Let me just start with a general observation that the European Union has been remarkably united in its support of Ukraine, which is not what the Russian regime expected when it attacked Ukraine back in 2022.

In terms of providing financial assistance, we were at the European Council together and finally managed to unblock 50 billion of additional European funding for Ukraine for the next four years, in terms of providing military assistance, both at the bilateral level, but also using European instruments, but also in terms of implementing a series of packages of sanctions, which, of course, need to be properly monitored. We need to pay particular attention to those countries that currently help Russia by circumventing sanctions and making the life of the Russian regime and the Russian economy easier.

When it comes to frozen assets, in principle, we are supportive of the idea of using either the interest or even the capital of frozen assets to finance initiatives that we take in Ukraine. We just need to be certain that whatever we do is legally air-tight and is not open to any legal challenges in the future”.

Asked about the challenges that Europe faces, the common defence policy and the debate on the possibility of joint borrowing for defence, Kyriakos Mitsotakis replied:

“First of all, you’re right to point out that we are two leaders with fresh and strong mandates to implement significant reforms in our countries. This is something else we have in common.

We’ve spoken a lot about the future of our European defence union and what it would mean not just to invest more as individual countries in defence -we are doing that, we certainly far exceed our obligation as NATO allies- but we need to explore new pathways to cooperate as Europeans, using European technology to address common challenges.

And in that respect, yes, I do think that the discussion regarding using some sort of joint borrowing to finance a new European defence fund that would purchase European equipment for common European security needs is a discussion that needs to take place now. We cannot postpone this discussion much later. We have common challenges such as missile defence, for example, which affect all European countries.

I do believe that if we were to create such a fund using common borrowing, we need some flagship projects, in order to highlight the fact that these initiatives offer security to all European citizens against any possible threat.

We live in a completely different geopolitical landscape. When the last strategic concept was developed back in 2019, no one thought that it would be possible to have a war in the European continent. But 2024 is not 2019, unfortunately, when it comes to the geopolitical situation. And these new security challenges need to be at the forefront of our initiatives after the next European elections and I’m sure that with Donald we see eye to eye when it comes to these issues”.