Norwegian minister Elisabeth Aspaker visits Foreign Ministry

Norwegian Minister for the European Economic Area and European Affairs, Elisabeth Aspaker met yesterday with her Greek counterpart Nikos Xydakis at the Foreign Ministry. The meeting between the two Ministers, which was carried out within the framework of Aspaker’s scheduled visit to Greece at the Foreign Ministry. Aspaker, who is visiting Greece for the first time in her capacity as Minister, expressed her fondness for our country, which she has visited many times in the past.

Xydakis said: “Norway is a country that speaks through its actions and teaches us how we need to confront global issues, how we can contribute to bringing peace and stability to the region of the Mediterranean, the Middle East and North Africa. The Greek government and I, personally, are grateful for the visit and the talks. We know that support will follow.”

The talks between the two Ministers focused on the strengthening of the longstanding, close relations of cooperation between Greece and Norway, as well as on current European affairs. Special reference was made to the refugee crisis and developments in Syria. The two Ministers agreed on the need to deal with the refugee and migration flows reaching Europe, through a common and cohesive European policy inspired by the principles of solidarity and humanism. Moreover, they stressed the need for the countries of Europe to play an active role in bringing peace and stability to Syria and the wider Mediterranean region.

In the context of the shaping of the new programme of the European Economic Area, there was an in-depth discussion of and exchange of views on specific issues the approach to which can be strengthened via close cooperation between the two countries. Among these, and constituting shared priorities for both sides, are youth unemployment, development of entrepreneurship, and best practices for managing the migration and refugee issue.

Xydakis noted the great warmth and productivity of his meeting with Aspaker, highlighting that “the day before yesterday, assistance came from the Portuguese people. Yesterday it was the region of Valencia that extended a helping hand. Today it is Norway’s turn.” Aspaker stated: “we support Greece with regard to both the issue of handling the refugee and migration crisis, as well as the programmes that concern Greek society. For the coming years, through the programmes of the EEA and of Norwegian Grants, we support the programmes for entrepreneurship, innovation, job creation, strengthening civil society. Thus, today, we are talking about ways to develop the next such programmes. I would also like to add that there is €100 million in grants that could be allocated to programmes for confronting youth unemployment and strengthening bilateral cooperation between the EEA countries and Europe. This money also bears directly on the cooperation between Norway and Greece.”

Regarding the migration crisis, Aspaker stated that “it is a common European responsibility and it should not be handled unilaterally, but through collective cooperation. Norway is not a member of the European Union, but it belongs to the Schengen Area and believes that there must be common solutions to common problems,” stressing that “Europe must show solidarity, and this means Greece cannot be left on its own to face the crisis.”

Xydakis highlighted that “the member states of the European Union and all of the European countries will meet soon – it is a matter of days. Subsequently, we will again take care of the desperate people reaching Europe from war zones. I am certain that the countries of Europe, the peoples of Europe, will respect international regulations and the foundations of European culture.”