Source: Republic of Greece – Foreign Affairs
JOURNALIST: What does the postponement of the Oruc Reis’s surveys in the Eastern Mediterranean, as announced by the Turkish president this week, actually mean?
M. VARVITSIOTIS: Greece always reacts with determination and composure to every move Turkey makes. And we have shown this by our actions, not just words. The operational alert and immediate reflexes shown by the Greek side last week played a key role in the postponement of the Oruc Reis’s surveys in the Eastern Mediterranean. While Turkey’s backing down is a positive development, we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions. If Turkey wants to contribute to the de-escalation of the tensions it has created through its own provocative actions in recent months, it has to show this in practice.
JOURNALIST: Did Germany play a key role in the de-escalation in the Aegean?
M. VARVITSIOTIS: As the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Germany has every reason to want to avert tensions in the Southeastern Mediterranean region. So, any initiatives it takes in the direction of de-escalating the tension, and mainly persuading Turkey to stop its provocative actions, obviously help. But it’s not just Germany. Other countries, including France and President Macron himself, sent stern messages to Turkey. Mr. Macron’s message in Greek was of great and historic importance.
JOURNALIST: The Turks are essentially asking for dialogue on all the issues. In a potential dialogue, what will our agenda consist of? And under what conditions could this dialogue take place?
M. VARVITSIOTIS: The dialogue Turkey is calling for now, if it is actually being sincere, cannot take place as long as there are threats, blackmail or provocative illegal conduct. And of course, nor can dialogue take place under the threat of gunboats or with an open agenda, if this is what Ankara is pursuing. Obviously, we also need to have open channels of communication with Turkey, but if these channels had closed recently, it was Turkey’s fault, not Greece’s. Greece’s position has not changed. Greece recognizes the continental shelf as the sole dispute with Turkey. And this is the only issue that can be put on the table or, at a future time, taken to The Hague. If Turkey is looking for a package solution for all the so-called disputes with Greece that it comes up with from time to time, it can forget it.
JOURNALIST: In any event, are you concerned there might be a heated incident with Turkey? If Erdogan doesn’t get what he wants, might he provoke us again, like he did to Cyprus by issuing the Navtex for the Barbaros in the Cypriot EEZ?
M. VARVITSIOTIS: First of all, Erdogan should choose what he wants for his own country. By converting Hagia Sophia into a mosque, he showed that he wants to return Turkey to an Islamist path, far from European values. At the same time, the Turkish economy is in deep recession. All of this, in combination with Turkey’s ongoing provocations, means that we have to be on constant alert. There is no room for complacency. Greece is prepared for any eventuality. We have the ways and means to respond if we are provoked. Our national sovereignty is non-negotiable. Turkey also needs to be aware that Brussels is preparing a list of sanctions that could be imposed on Turkey at any time if Ankara proceeds to new provocations against Greece or Cyprus.
JOURNALIST: When will the €32 billion package secured by our country from the Recovery Fund be available?
M. VARVITSIOTIS: The Agreement reached at the Summit Meeting in Brussels was a make or break agreement for our country. It’s not just the €32 billion from the Recovery Fund, but also the €40 billion from the new European budget. A total of €72 billion. It’s like getting two NSRFs! Two large packets in a larger one. The Recovery Fund is front-loaded, as 70% of the grants are resources that will be committed in 2021 and 2022. The other 30% will be committed by the end of 2023. Moreover, the grants our country is to receive will have retroactive effect from February 2020. And our country also secured an increase in resources from the Cohesion Fund, while maintaining the same level of funding from the CAP for 2021-2027. We are now starting our engines so that, by mid-October, we can present the National Recovery Plan for building a new Greece. Capitalizing on this great opportunity and challenge for our country. As the Prime Minister called it in Parliament, Next Generation Hellas!