Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union
In talks with Greek Foreign Minister Dendias, Prime Minister Mitsotakis and President Sakellaropoulou, Foreign Minister Maas will present the programme for Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union and call for support for the projects from the Greek Government. One thing is clear, which is that overcoming the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout is the Federal Government’s main priority. Greece has so far managed to get through the COVID-19 pandemic without a high caseload by taking decisive countermeasures. However, the Greek economy is facing hard times as a result of a prolonged lockdown and severe slump in its vital tourism sector.
Immediately after the conclusion of the Council of Heads of State and Government, it is clear for Germany that the agreement on the recovery fund is an important step for the future of the European Union. The objective now is to implement the programme as quickly as possible.
Foreign Minister Maas issued the following statement prior to his departure:
Even if the run-up was long, in the end we took a greater leap than many thought we could achieve. The European Union has shown that it is able to act decisively and in a spirit of solidarity even in the severest economic crisis it has ever experienced. This is a strong foundation for bringing all of Europe’s citizens safely through this crisis.
Dealing with Turkey
An important issue within the framework of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and also in other multilateral forums, is how to deal with Turkey. Tensions have arisen between the NATO partners Turkey and Greece due to Turkey’s drilling activities for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean. Germany is committed to de-escalation vis-à-vis Turkey and has repeatedly called for the drilling off Cyprus to be ceased and for disputes on maritime borders to be resolved through negotiations.
At the same time, it is clear that Turkey remains an important strategic partner for the EU. Germany therefore supports the dialogue between EU High Representative Borrell and Turkish Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu.
European refugee policy
Germany is looking to forge ahead with the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). The Federal Government is counting on close cooperation with Greece in this regard. The country is particularly affected on account of its external EU border. The situation in the refugee camps on the Greek islands remains dramatic. Together with other EU countries, Germany has taken in children from the refugee camps on the Greek islands who arrived there alone and without adult family members or who were in need of urgent medical assistance.
Foreign Minister Maas had the following to say in this regard:
I also want to make use of the talks in Athens today to discuss migration issues. Europe must not leave Greece to cope alone with the problems of migration in the Mediterranean. The humanitarian situation in the camps on Lesbos and other places is partly very difficult, so Germany has offered to take in further unaccompanied minors. However, our goal is a pan-European solution that will provide long-term support to the countries hit hardest by migration. We are thus making reform of the Common European Asylum System a priority of our Council Presidency and want to achieve results on this.