ATHENS — The European Council statement issued by the 27 European Union leaders is "realistic and balanced", government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni said on Friday in an interview with the radio station Real FM.
"The important thing is that it rests on the Borrell report and the previous decision of the European Council on Turkey and that it recalls any previous decision that exists," Peloni said.
She said it describes a "stick and carrot" approach to EU relations with Turkey, which includes proposals for positive measures while also putting restrictive measures on the table if Turkey relapses into unilateral actions or behaviour that contravenes the rights of EU member-states.
"This obviously concerns Greece and Cyprus. What we must keep is that any final decisions – as the common statement says – are initially referred to June. Mainly, however, that any positive measures and decision are conditional, they have terms and conditions and are, of course, reversible. This means that Turkey's behaviour will subject to constant monitoring and supervision for the final decisions and that, of course, any move in the opposite direction will also hold back any positive agenda. In other words, there is no carte blanche," Peloni said.
She emphasised the reversible and conditional nature of the decision, saying that this confirmed the position that Greece had adopted all along about the need to exert pressure on Turkey.
"The restrictive measures and sanctions are not an end in themselves; they are a tool to press for a change in behaviour," she added, saying the Council had acknowledge steps taken by Turkey toward de-escalation but that this must be seen to be lasting.
"It is now up to Turkey to decide what kind of relationship it wants with its neighbours and…the European Union, at the end of the day," Peloni added.
Concerning the phone call between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and US President Joe Biden, she said this took place after the US president's intervention at the European Council, which she described as "historic" as it has not happened in a very long time.
"It indicates the new American administration's desire to relaunch Transatlantic cooperation. Biden has said that he believes in this very much and in cooperation with multilateral institutions," Peloni said. She also noted the US president's close ties with the Greek-American community and deep knowledge of the issues in the region, as well as the fact that US-Greek ties are "at an exceptionally good level, the best level, perhaps, in recent years".
She noted that Greece was recognised as a crucial ally and force for stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and said it would be logical for the prime minister to visit Washington within 2021 if the conditions with the pandemic make it possible.
Regarding the pandemic, Peloni said an emergency plan for the national health system in Attica, where it has come under the greatest pressure, has been underway for many days and "everything humanly possible is being done". This included the addition of extra beds and cooperation with the private sector, she noted, adding that the cases remain high but appear to be stabilising in the last couple of days, with fewer admissions to hospitals.
While acknowledging society's weariness with the measures and noting that the Committee was constantly seeking ways to provide respite without worsening the epidemiological situation, she stressed that it was important to "be patient a little longer" so that vaccination rollout can progress and a greater wall of immunity built up.