G. TERZI: Thank you for today’s visit and for accepting my invitation. I thank Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, with whom we discussed issues of mutual interest to our countries and that are binding for both Italy and Greece regarding the eurozone’s stabilization course and in light of the common development prospects mainly for our economy.
I would like to underscore that the Italian government fully supports and is in solidarity with Greece and the Greek government, as well as the domestic reforms Greece is carrying out in line with the financial stabilization process, as requested by the Troika and being implemented along the lines indicated by Prime Minister Samaras and being followed by Foreign Minister Avramopoulos.
We certainly want Greece, as well as the other 16 countries of the eurozone, to remain in the euro within the framework of the stability of the European Union. To get past the crisis, we need to take measures on the European level and re-establish trust and balance in the markets. Stability is of central importance to the economic and monetary policy of the European Union. It is important to continue the process of European integration, the European plan must continue to ensure all its potential for a positive outcome. The necessary measures need to be taken, as decided at the Summit Meeting at the end of June. This is the right path.
We talked about bilateral issues. We ascertained our excellent bilateral relations, which are an important tool in formulating a joint strategy in the economic and energy sectors, focusing our attention on the Adriatic natural gas pipeline (TAP). We exchanged information on that. The pipeline will be a bilateral priority in Italian-Greek relations, as well as in terms of cooperation with Albanian, the third partner in this effort.
D. AVRAMOPOULOS: First of all, I will tell you that it is really a great pleasure to be here in Rome, in the capital of Italy, and I would like to express my warmest thanks to my dear colleague, the Foreign Minister Guilio Terzi for his invitation and for his warm hospitality, as well as for the very interesting and substantial talks we had today.
As you know, Greece and Italy are strategic partners in the European Union and the Eurozone, allies in NATO and, of course, neighbors on the Ionian Sea. Our history, our culture and our people have been linked and intertwined for many centuries; therefore to describe our relations as just friendly is an understatement I would say. Our shared values are the results of over two millennia of shared experience. We have learned how to live together in a spirit of friendship and solidarity.
Today, our big family, the European Union, is facing the harshest economic crisis in its history. Five consecutive years of recession have taken their toll on people, especially the Greek people. It is imperative that we do everything in our power to reverse this destructive trend. Now, more than ever in the past, we need to demonstrate with concrete actions rather than words that the relationship among European Union partners consists of two main elements:
First, responsibility towards each other and towards our people to correct the mistakes of the past and never allow the Union to reach the same point again, and, solidarity among each other, so that together, united we can stand, we can move, we can work to overcome this crisis and form a deeper and stronger Union.
I would like to express our deep appreciation for the role that Italy has played in the handling of the crisis and the efforts to formulate a cohesive European response to the challenges we all face together. Italy is becoming a key player between Northern and Southern Europe, following the recent European tour, the initiatives and actions of Prime Minister Monti. Greece will work closely together with Italy in the next few months, as our country implements its ambitious reform agenda and returns, step by step, to the path of recovery, growth and job creation. Within this framework, we want to maximize the benefits of the Multiannual Financial Framework from 2014 to 2020. Our shared stance is that a strong cohesion policy and a growth-oriented budget will contribute significantly to our joint efforts to bringing Europe out of the crisis.
We also talked with Giulio in depth about the importance of our cooperation and synergy in the energy sector. First, about the southern corridor, which will carry Caspian natural gas to the Italian coast and directly to European markets, enhancing Europe’s energy security through diversification of its energy resources and routes of transport. Second, the significance of the natural gas deposits that have been discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean, which open new possibilities of cooperation as the European Union has the opportunity to make use of a new alternative energy resource. Our countries can guarantee its transport to the European market. So it is in this spirit we talked today and we opened a new chapter in our bilateral relations. Italy and Greece, Greece and Italy, can work and march together in the future. We are ready to face common challenges and of course respond to the needs of our region for peace, cooperation and stability.
Once again, I would like to thank my dear colleague, the Foreign Minister of Italy Terzi for these useful and valuable talks and for his hospitality today. I look forward to our continued cooperation on all issues. Let me close by reiterating that Italy and Greece are two countries with rich historical and cultural background. Our mutual understanding, our longstanding ties and our strong bonds facilitate and enhance cooperation in all fields: political, economic, energy, tourism and many more. I am really convinced and positive that working together in this spirit, we can overcome the crisis and pave the way for our peoples to progress and prosperity.
JOURNALIST: Was the issue of the EEZ between Greece and Italy discussed at your meeting?
G. TERZI: We focussed mainly on matters of infrastructure concerning the southern corridor and the potential for its supplying Europe with natural gas from Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea. We didn’t discuss the issue of delimitation of the EEZ between the two countries.
D. AVRAMOPOULOS: As the Minister said, that was the main subject of our consultations today. Our agreement today and the steps to follow will define the future of this project, to the benefit of both countries. We had with us the Under Secretaries of Energy, they can provide you with some more details if you want later on, but as I said, we did not get into technicalities. Actually, it was not our job. Our job and our mission is to set the framework and of course to give the political decision and orientation for this project, which, as I said, is to the benefit of all of us and of Europe as well. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Off the subject, Mr. Minister. What is your reaction to the slaughter of Christians in Nigeria?
G. TERZI: My Greek counterpart and I discussed the situation in Syria as well as the impact of the crisis on religious minorities. The violence against Christians in Nigeria is a horrible shock that concerns us greatly. Measures need to be taken on the European and international level to guarantee the freedom of the religious minorities.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe that Europe’s political profile can be strengthened ahead of the meetings in early September so as to avert the widening of the rift between North and South?
G. TERZI: The European plan as a whole need to continue being built. We are certain that there is potential for the results to be positive. All the necessary efforts need to be made to implement the measures decided upon by the June European Council. But I believe that we are on the right path and that we need to avoid deviations.
D. AVRAMOPOULOS: I agree with what Guilio said before. First of all we stressed today that we fully support all European initiatives in that direction, but, on the other hand, we have undertaken – I am talking about Greece – all the initiatives we need in order to overcome the crisis, and, of course, in fulfilling our commitments. In Greece *** after the recent elections the Government has decided to move ahead. We know what thorny questions we have to cope with; we know what the weak points are as far as our economy is concerned, but talking about optimism, allow me to tell you that you are an Italian, and we, Italians and Greeks, we have survived because we are optimistic, and we know why. We have gone through more difficult moments in the past, and we have managed to overcome crises and difficult moments and see the future with more optimism. But today the reality is there, we have to proceed with in-depth structural reforms, we have to change our systems, and, of course, make our economy more competitive. Of course, here we need the alliance and support of the public opinion, of the people, and that is what we try to do right now in Greece: to build an atmosphere of confidence among society and the political class, and all together to move ahead. I am sure that after some years this crisis will be nothing but a bad memory.