Greece and Germany pulling in the same direction in Europe
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas meets Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, © Thomas Koehler/photothek.net
Heiko Maas and his colleague Nikos Dendias are reaffirming their joint approach to migration and EU enlargement. Also at bilateral level, cooperation is closer than ever.
The new Greek Government has launched an ambitious programme. It is planning many more reforms to secure the long-term future of the economic upswing. Today, the new Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, paid a visit to Berlin. Foreign Minister Maas was optimistic about Greece's development and about the countries' shared goals in Europe:
In the EU, Greece and Germany are pulling in the same direction because we share many convictions. The reform tempo that the new Greek Government is demonstrating is promising.
Shared position on migration and EU enlargement
Dendias and Maas reaffirmed their shared approach to migration to Europe: “Greece is the country that refugees and migrants first arrive in, Germany is the prime country they are heading for,” as Maas put it, going on to emphasise people's concern that more people are coming once more to Greece from Turkey. He made plain that the two countries stand by the EU-Turkey Agreement and would fulfil their part of the obligations anchored in the Agreement. The new Government in Athens has since the summer been implementing emergency steps to improve the situation of refugees and migrants on the Greek islands. Given its long EU external border, Greece shoulders a particular burden. The two Ministers also spoke of possible plans to reform the European asylum system. Greece's new designated Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas is expected to deal with the migration dossier in the new Commission.
By reaching historic agreement in the name dispute with North Macedonia, Greece cleared the way for EU accession negotiations. Germany and Greece are supporting both North Macedonia, the newest member of NATO, and Albania on their journey to accede to the EU and are working to promote a peaceful and democratic development in the Western Balkans.
Greek upturn good for the EU as a whole
Greece suffered considerable hardship during the debt crisis. As a result of its improved financial situation, the country was released from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) almost exactly a year ago and the capital controls were halted just last week. Together with one of the lowest unemployment rates - it has fallen by 10% since 2013 - these are important upswing indicators for Greece and for the EU as a whole.
Bilaterally, the Joint Action Plan concluded in late 2016 has been driving relations forward. The State Secretaries meet regularly to dovetail German and Greek foreign policy even more closely. Maas emphasised that the two countries had moved much closer together once more thanks to successful projects such as the German-Greek Future Fund and the newly founded German-Greek Youth Office.