Greek – Austrian talks mark the return of Greek Ambassador to Vienna

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and Foreign Minister of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, in a joint media briefing following their meeting in Vienna said:

S. KURZ: […] Today we had a very in-depth conversation. I am happy to have welcomed you in Vienna, on your first bilateral visit, and at the same time I extend to the Ambassador, who returned once again to Austria, a warm welcome to Vienna.

I am very pleased that we had this exchange of opinions today, as Greece and Austria are two states that are collaborating in the European Union, and they are also two states that, on many issues – and you, too, have experienced this – have different views and different solutions.

As such, we used our time today to talk, on the one hand, in great detail about the refugee issue, by which we have both been hit – mainly Greece, as a transit country; as a country in which countless people have arrived in the past year.

We Austrians have also been hit very hard, given that our country is a final destination, with the second largest number of refugees per capita in the last year, with 90,000 refugees. I am pleased that in recent weeks and months, through various measures, we have managed to reduce the flows to Greece from Turkey, and also to reduce the flows through the Western Balkan route towards Central Europe.

I believe that we have agreed that the situation has been somewhat defused, but, nevertheless, we should work further together for a joint European solution, because even if things have now calmed down somewhat, we must, as before, watch the agreement with Turkey very carefully to avoid the creation of any dependence on Turkey, and we also need to be so well prepared that the crisis, as we experienced it last year, does not repeat itself.

We also talked about other issues, particularly regarding the Western Balkans, a region that is very dear to us, not only economically, but also culturally and politically. We feel very close to it. It is also very dear to the Greeks, as Greece, on the other geographical side, is very, very close to the Western Balkans.

So it was very good that we exchanged views in this sector, and naturally regarding other issues on which we want to work together, and in particular with regard to the dialogue between different cultures, the dialogue between different religions. This is something that interests us both, and we agreed to work together even more on this issue.

Allow me to welcome you once again to Austria and to thank you for our in-depth talks. I am pleased that, within the framework of your visit, you have a meeting with the Federal President and other meetings. I thank you very much for the invitation to travel to Greece, which, obviously, I accept. I believe that it is important for one to maintain one’s stance, but I believe it is equally important for us to work within the European Union for common solutions and for us to begin to find the least common denominator. We achieved all of this in our talks, and once again, I welcome you warmly.

N. KOTZIAS: […] We are linked not only by how we will deal with the crisis now. One of the most important periods in our history – that is, the period of liberation from the Ottoman Empire, is related to Austria. Moreover, the printing of a large portion of our modern literature was made possible here.

This means that we are linked by many more things that we realize in our day-to-day lives. I thank you once again for the invitation, because it gave us the opportunity to converse in complete sincerity; that is, with the sincerity that distinguishes Mr. Kurz and with the sincerity with which I always speak.

Both of us have concerns, fears and reservations regarding how the refugee issue will evolve in the future.

We are two politicians fully oriented towards Europe. We are seeking solutions for Europe and we want to work together in this direction. This will happen in cooperation with Ambassador Aliferi, who has returned and will remain here.

We also talked about many, many problems. One of the issues we looked at is solidarity. We expect solidarity from our partners in Europe – solidarity that is not always a given – on economic issues, the economic situation in Greece, on how we need to deal with the refugee issue.

I also showed Sebastian an analysis that shows that, for us, this issue is very difficult and complicated, given that it arose in Greece in a time of economic crisis. Thus, the economic and refugee issues are ending up developing into matters of national security.

We also talked about our stance on the Western Balkans and the relevant potential for cooperation. I briefed the minister on the proposals we have submitted to our neighbours for possible forms of cooperation.

The last thing I would like to mention, and which is no less important, is that we held an international conference last year, in Athens, with communities from the Near East, and I am grateful for what took place. In 2017 we want to jointly host another international meeting, and then we will see even more clearly the common points that link Austria and Greece, as well as the common points for shaping the future, despite the differences that also exist.

And I, on my part, invited the minister to visit Greece, which he knows very well from his youth. I will be very pleased to welcome him […]