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Politics

Migration, Recovery Fund, Turkey’s Provocations Dominate Mitsotakis-Von Der Leyen Meeting

ATHENS — Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had a video conference on Thursday with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, covering a rich agenda of important issues. The video conference focused on the implementation of the Recovery Fund, the migration and refugee issue, folliwng the presentation of the Commission's proposals for a new Migration and Asylum Pact and the new hosting structure in Lesvos, as well as Turkey's provocative decision to open up access to the Varosha beach front in Famagusta that has been sealed off since 1974, contrary to United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Von der Leyen welcomed the government's progress regarding the Recovery Fund, which includes but is not limited to digital transformation, phasing out lignite and green growth.

Mitsotakis stressed that the government has ambitious reform ideas and that the Recovery Fund is a unique opportunity for the complete transformation of the country, which the government does not intend to waste. The prime minister underlined that the citizens have great expectations from the Recovery Fund, while he made special reference to the private investments that the country attracts and to the recent announcement of Microsoft's large investment in Greece.

Mitsotakis raised the issue of Turkey's latest provocative actions, such as reopening the Varosha beach front. He stressed that this move by Turkey comes just days after the conclusions of the special European Council on EU-Turkey relations and that the issue should be raised again at the European Council.

According to a joint statement of the prime minister and the European Commission president, there was an agreement that: "Europe needs a predictable, fair and resilient system for managing migration, which will include the right balance between sharing responsibilities and solidarity, and the full protection of European values and fundamental rights, including the right to asylum." They pledged to work together in this direction, based on the Commission's proposals for the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, while the Greek side stressed the need for the New Pact to solve the issue of extra pressure on the frontline countries.

Also, "both sides pointed out that the situation on the island of Lesvos is still urgent after the fires in the Moria camp . They praised the prompt response of Greek ambulance crews and recognised the key role of European direct assistance."

They noted the significant joint efforts made over the last nine months to deal with overcrowding and to improve conditions on the islands, including the European programme for the relocation of unaccompanied children. They also acknowledged that more work needs to be done together to ensure the protection of those on the islands and to address the effects on local communities, which have come under considerable pressure in recent years.

In this context, they pledged to support the work of the Task Force set up by the Commission and to launch a joint process for migration management and asylum procedures, including the establishment of appropriate new facilities on Lesvos. This reflects the proposals of the New Pact and recalls both the need for continued strengthening of the Greek migration and asylum system based on European principles, as well as European solidarity.

The discussion focused on the strategy to ensure that Greece and the rest of the European Union will be able to emerge stronger, economically and socially, from the pandemic.

Finally, the two leaders discussed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially in the light of the latest worrying developments concerning Varosha, and reiterated that full respect for the UN Security Council Resolutions remains essential. They expressed their determination to act on the conclusions of the October 2 European Council, reiterating that Turkey must take the necessary steps to reduce tension in the region, and enter into a constructive dialogue with Greece, Cyprus and the EU. Both look forward to the forthcoming discussions at the level of the European Council meetings.

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