Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier held talks with the new Greek Foreign Minister, Nikos Kotzias, at the Federal Foreign Office on Tuesday (10 February). They discussed Greece’s reform policies following the change of government, the approach to European partners, and major international conflicts such as the Ukraine crisis.
“Welcome back”: Foreign Minister Steinmeier gave a warm welcome to his new counterpart from Athens. Nikos Kotzias, who has been in office for a week, found asylum in Germany as a young man. He studied in Giessen, and also lived and worked in Marburg. Speaking in fluent German, Kotzias added that his daughter was born in Germany.
The two Foreign Ministers gave a press conference at the start of their meeting. Steinmeier said they would discuss ways of resolving “major foreign policy issues” such as the Ukraine conflict, the situation in the Middle East, how to deal with influxes of refugees and other topics.
“Extremely interested in Athens’ consolidated ideas”
However, the new Greek Government’s “change of course” in economic, social and financial policy would also be an important part of their discussion, Steinmeier said. He added that the “open question” of whether current EU programmes would be extended had to be clarified:
We are extremely interested in seeing which consolidated ideas the Greek Government will develop in the coming days.
Steinmeier said that the aim of his meeting with his Greek counterpart was to find out what each side was thinking, and to do so through dialogue and “without harsh words”. In this context, Germany was counting on “reliability and adherence to what has been agreed”.
Speaking in German, Foreign Minister Kotzias underlined the Greek Government’s will to undertake further reforms. However, it was also important to overcome the social crisis in the country and to restore hope among Greeks that their situation would improve, he said. Kotzias also stressed the close friendship with Germany, and said he was keen to further these ties, “including with critical comments on both sides”.
Steinmeier also rejected calls for reparation payments to Greece. At the same time, he underlined Germany’s responsibility for the crimes of National Socialism:
We Germans are aware of the political and moral responsibility for the terrible events in Greece between 1941 and 1944.
Minsk meeting: Seizing the great chance for de-escalation
The two Foreign Ministers were united in their approach to the Ukraine crisis. The implementation of the Minsk Protocol was what counted, and thus it was a matter of not sparing any effort as regards tomorrow’s meeting in Minsk between the heads of state and government of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier emphasised that crucial hours and days had now come. Following the talks of the past days between the heads of government and the foreign ministers, negotiation groups had been working together since yesterday. Talks are due to resume in Minsk this evening following yesterday’s meeting in Berlin.
Steinmeier underlined the importance of the planned Minsk meeting:
All those involved should know that we have a great opportunity once more tomorrow to take a first important step towards de-escalating the conflict, and hopefully towards a ceasefire.
However, he reiterated his warning that nothing had been resolved yet. “I hope that Kyiv and Moscow will take this seriously and in view of the threat of a military conflict truly grasp the opportunity I just mentioned.”