In an interview with the French newspaper “Le Monde” on Tuesday, the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou called on European countries to share the burdens of the migration crisis and stressed that “solidarity between states, but also with refugees, is essential.”
She also referred to the challenges presented by Turkey, dealing with the pandemic, the close relations between Greece and France and her election to the Presidency of the Republic.
Sakellaropoulou underlined that for the past six years, Greece has been lifting a disproportionate burden compared with other countries in terms of managing the migration crisis and she underlined the need for solidarity between states, but also towards refugees. However, she stressed that, unfortunately, there are countries in Europe that systematically refuse to accept asylum seekers, adding that European humanitarian principles should not be buried in the face of the rise of extremism. At the same time, she reiterated that the challenge for Europe is to maintain its unity, to safeguard its values, the rule of law and individual freedoms.
Referring to challenges to Greece from Turkey, Sakellaropoulou said that Ankara had attempted to instrumentalise the migration issue and allow thousands of migrants to cross into Europe, and stressed that Athens, with the support of its European partners, had succeeded in protecting its borders, which are also the borders of the whole of Europe.
She pointed out that Greece is basing its actions on international law and the rules of good neighbourliness, which it respects, “and expects its neighbours to do the same”. Referring to the second phase of exploratory talks between Greek and Turkish diplomats, she noted that “if Turkey proves that it is really willing to discuss and resolve issues that cause conflicts, then so are we. We want to improve our relations.”
On Greek-French relations, she stressed that with the crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean, the two countries have come together again, because “President Macron, before other European politicians, understood very well the danger that Turkish actions in the region could cause not only for Greece but also for the whole of Europe.”
In addition, she argued that the ties between France and Greece are very strong in all areas, cultural, political and economical, but also personally, as many Greeks found refuge in France after the civil war, or during the 1967-1973 dictatorship, and a large part of the population learned French at school.