The Greek government is striving for a comprehensive solution on June 15, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told reporters on Monday, after a joint press conference with Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and their meeting at the Maximos Mansion.
A solution must come and “the sooner the better,” the prime minister replied to reporters, when asked if this would happen at the Eurogroup on June 15 or the European leaders’ summit on June 22.
“We hope for a solution within June, before Estonia takes over the presidency [of the Council of the European Union] for a final settlement on a reduction of the Greek debt,” he added.
During the meeting with the Estonian premier, the main issues on the agenda were bilateral relations and the Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2017. They also discussed the Cyprus issue, the situation in the Balkans and the refugee crisis.
In a joint press conference after the meeting, Tsipras said their talks had been “constructive” and that Estonia was taking over the EU presidency at a time presenting serious challenges, including the need to build a new vision on which to build the foundations of a stable Eurozone, so that there can be a steady Eurozone exit from the economic crisis.
He said Greece will support the Estonian presidency’s efforts to eradicate inequality for European citizens, called for a revision of the Dublin Treaty in response to the refugee crisis and also referred to relations with Turkey. He stressed that Greece will keep diplomatic channels with Ankara open but was also determined to protect its sovereign rights, especially in the Aegean.
Regarding the Cyprus issue, Tsipras repeated Athens’ support for a solution in the framework of UN resolutions and accused Turkey of stalling and failing to take steps for improvement on key issues. He also repeated that the Cyprus problem was not a bilateral but European issue.
“I did not fail to express my disappointment at the dilatory attitude adopted by neighbouring Turkey,” he said, noting that Turkey’s stance was proved by the fact that “it does not show the same political will that we do, in order to discuss and resolve important issues, to take steps to bridge the differences on important matters, chiefly those concerning security and guarantees.”
The Greek premier said that he and Ratas, who recently visited Cyprus and held talks with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades, “had agreed that the Cyprus issue is not a bilateral issue, that it is a European issue.” This meant that European leaders must be fully informed and ensure over the coming period “that we have the best possible developments, that dialogue remains open and for substantive steps to be taken,” Tsipras added.
Ratas said he had an opportunity to discuss the Estonian presidency’s priorities with the Greek premier, while noting the very good relations between Greece and Estonia as EU member-states and NATO allies. He also praised Greece’s stance on the refugee crisis and said that Athens and Tallinn had excellent cooperation in the relocation of refugees.
The EU can and must show that it is united and that we can all work together to get results for European citizens, he said. “Difficult decision will have to be made but it is more important to bring good results. It is more important to know that we must show, again and again and again, that the EU is a valuable part of the everyday life of all our citizens and the answer to the challenges we face today,” he said.
Noting that the role of the presidency was to seek a common denominator and the optimum balance between the various sides and forces in the EU, Ratas ended by saying that he needed to cooperation of the Greek premier and all his colleagues in Europe “so we can handle the economic crisis, the refugee crisis and terrorism. To upgrade electronic governance and continue to live in a European framework.”
The meeting was also attended by Alternate Foreign Minister for European Issues George Katrougalos and other government officials.
It also served as an opportunity to decide to finally activate a memorandum of cooperation in electronic governance – an area where Estonia excels – signed by Greece and Estonia in 2013 and to intensify cooperation in line with Greece’s goals for reorganizing the public sector.