Ladies and gentlemen,
We made you wait a little, but the Minister wanted to come to Paris – and I thank him for doing so – for this long meeting. We had a very interesting meeting that allowed us to discuss many subjects, which I’m going to tell you about.
Minister, cher Nikos,
It’s a great pleasure to welcome you to Paris today; I know it’s been a long day, but thank you for coming to see me. I told you this, and we very much appreciate it, in the context of this long-standing friendship between Greece and France and also of our partnership, renewed last September.
I also expressed my thanks to the Minister for the solidarity Greece showed at the start of the tragic fires that have devastated some of our forests. A gesture of solidarity, you’ll remember, with the dispatch of two Canadairs that really helped us combat the fires. The situation is difficult in many of our countries, and so we especially appreciated that gesture. Last summer it was France that came to Greece’s assistance, and it’s a good thing to see that the European mechanisms of friendship and solidarity, in addition to the legal mechanisms we’ve now acquired in the European Union framework, are working and are working spontaneously, because we’re facing the same challenges and we’re more effective together. Yet another lesson, if it were needed, that we’re stronger together.
I was talking about the strategic partnership between France and Greece, which since last autumn has been building on the hugely long-standing and close links existing between our two countries. We made an initial assessment of the first months of this strategic partnership’s implementation and discussed the continuation of our cooperation. I told the Minister that I was obviously entirely at his disposal for this, just like my predecessor, Jean-Yves Le Drian. We’re going to continue along this fine path we’ve starting marking out.
Obviously we discussed the situation in the eastern Mediterranean. It’s an area of special focus for our two countries. And I even want to say an issue of concern, in addition to the focus. The Minister told me of his great concern, even his worry, I think I can say, in view of recent developments in the region, threats against his country’s sovereignty and some statements by one of our partners. He’ll speak about this, but I want to repeat here and in front of you – as France has said many times, including through the President at the end of May – that France is Greece’s friend and ally and that it stands shoulder to shoulder with it in the face of all the attempts to undermine Greece’s sovereignty, and all the threats that could be made to its sovereignty. So we’ll keep following developments in the situation, and you can count on us, Minister.
We also talked about the war in Ukraine and, of course, the importance of maintaining a united approach by Europeans that is firm towards Russia. It’s important to be fully conscious of the need to combat the disinformation transmitted by Moscow about the war it’s unleashed, which tends to make people forget the causes. And perhaps we must increase our ability to fight actively against this false narrative Russia is creating, about the situation and the consequences of the situation in many countries in Europe and beyond Europe. It is indeed Russia – I repeat to you, and I often repeat it – that is solely responsible for the economic and geopolitical consequences of its aggression against Ukraine. It’s the war it is waging that is creating upheavals on the agricultural markets, which are bringing heightened risks of food insecurity. It’s the war it is waging that is creating tensions in the energy markets. These are obvious facts; I have to remind people of them. And I think everyone must remember this, so as not to fall into the disinformation trap, as the President emphasized a few days ago and again yesterday when he was in Africa. Russia is now using not only bombs and military weapons, committing atrocities and crimes, but also the weapons of disinformation, energy and food. We must be aware of this and perhaps say it more than we’ve been doing until now.
We also had a useful discussion about the European Union’s energy security. You’ve seen the latest decisions adopted by the European Union, which are positive, which enable us to maintain European unity while taking into account each country’s particular situation. We agreed to continue our discussions in this regard, and in general we know we’ll have to continue. Continue reducing our dependence on foreign countries generally and on Russian hydrocarbons in particular. So the agreement reached a few days ago, this week, on 26 July, is a good agreement. We may have to go further and think about guaranteeing the European Union’s sovereignty and autonomy even more effectively.
We also reviewed a few regional issues; I don’t want to take too long. But we spoke about Libya, we spoke about the situation in the Balkans, and we also spoke about Africa and in particular the situation in the Sahel. And then, turning to the European Union, we welcomed the opening of the first intergovernmental conferences with North Macedonia and Albania, while stressing that beyond this positive gesture, which was really necessary and I think long-awaited in the region, we now have to give – in the implementation, we’ll have to go on conducting the negotiations at their pace, according to the normal procedures, but also ensure we continue stabilizing the whole Western Balkans in a lasting way.
There you are; I’ll stop there. The Minister can expand on a number of issues that I’ve very, very briefly mentioned. But I don’t want to finish without thanking the Minister once again for coming to Paris to illustrate the vibrancy of our strategic partnership, but also thank him for all the assistance Greece gave us when we were conducting the French presidency of the Council of the European Union. We’ve often been able to count on its decisive help. I thanked him during our meeting and I also want to do so in front of you. There you are. Many thanks to you, Minister.