Willkommen auf den Seiten des Auswärtigen Amts
Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues and friends,
A very heartfelt welcome to this reception on the occasion of Germany assuming the EU Council Presidency. Maybe you are feeling the way I do: I really looked forward to being with you tonight, after a long period of almost isolation. On the other hand, we had to keep this reception small and limited. And I would ask you to show your newly acquired skills in keeping the required physical distance. Thank you in advance for that.
I am talking to you tonight also on behalf of my colleagues from Portugal and Slovenia. Our three countries form the so-called Trio Presidency. For the next 18 months, we are close partners in moving Europe forward, on the basis of a joint program we adopted.
And our gratitude goes to the outgoing Presidency, Croatia, which had to assume this role for the first time under the most challenging circumstances. They did a remarkable job.
Another big word of thanks goes to Minister Varvitsiotis, who has agreed to speak to us in a moment.
You can imagine – assuming the EU Presidency under the current, unprecedented double crisis of pandemic and economic recession is a daunting task. A lot of the long preparation work for the Presidency had to be scrapped and redone on the fly. New top priority tasks came up with top urgency. Other top priority tasks with top urgency were already known before and remain. At the same time, the virus has greatly diminished the working capacity of the Council structures in Brussels.
I don’t want to give you the exhausting list of all top priorities, but just name a few: Before the summer break, we need an agreement on the Recovery Fund of up to 750 billion Euros, designed to alleviate the economic consequences of the pandemic, and in connection with the Multiannual Financial Framework for the coming seven years. The Recovery Fund plus the preceding, already agreed measures add up to roughly 1,5 trillion Euros. They are a remarkable display of the European solidarity that many negativists denied exists.
After August, the negotiations on the future relationship to the UK will keep the EU highly busy. The urgency and pressure are tremendous, because neither the UK nor the EU can afford an additional hard blow to our economies in a no-deal-scenario at the end of the year.
And then, just let me name a few more hugely challenging topics: reform of the European Asylum System, climate policy (the so-called Green Deal), rule of law.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Europe’s recovery – in all senses and in all aspects – must now be front and center for us all. And it is up to us Europeans to rise to this occasion. Greece is a valued and indispensable friend and partner in this endeavor, a partner with the experience of coming out of a major crisis under big, but at the same time necessary, sacrifice. We Europeans must take not only our solidarity – I already spoke about that – but also our coherence and our ability to address problems and crises to a new level. And we can only overcome our challenges together. The exceptional situation we are in today must push us into action.
And being here in Greece, in the Eastern Mediterranean, I cannot fail to say that also in international politics, we Europeans must strengthen our cohesion and loyalty. To each other, to our European values, and to the European idea. If we allow ourselves to be divided, in the region or on the global scene, we run the danger of being swept around like autumn leaves in the wind. This is true for every EU country, also for a comparatively larger one like Germany.
Thank you in advance for working with us over the months to come. But before we come to that, let us spend a pleasant evening.
I am now happy to pass the floor to Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis.