European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, on behalf of the rest of the EU leadership, thanked Greece for being Europe’s shield in these difficult times in her speech from the border town of Kastanies, Evros on Tuesday.
Welcoming the leaders in Evros, Greek Premier Mitsotakis used a tone of stern determination, stating that ”It is my obligation to safeguard the integrity of my country and this is exactly what I will do. The security of Greece and the security of Europe are my guides.”
Mitsotakis’ exact words were ”Erdogan’s threats did not succeed. They crashed into the readiness of the Greek people and our European solidarity.”
On her behalf, President von der Leyen stated ”I thank Greece for being our European aspida,” using the Greek word for shield, aspis/aspida.
Joint press conference in Greece with President @vonderleyen, @eucopresident Charles Michel, @EP_President David Sassoli, Prime Minister @kmitsotakis and Prime Minister @AndrejPlenkovic.https://t.co/Q8d7QVTghk
— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) March 3, 2020
Von der Leyen announced a series of concrete measures which will assist Greece at this extraordinarily difficult time.
The Commission President said that the EU will make 350 million euros immediately available for Greece to deal with the consequences of the current situation and an additional sum of €350 million will be available for Athens upon Greece’s request.
The European Union will also send medical equipment to Greece if the country needs it, as well as other necessary materiel, including tents or anything else of that nature.
Von der Leyen also said that Frontex, the EU’s border and Coast Guard agency, will assist Greece by sending as many officers as needed to the Greek-Turkish border.
”It’s Europe’s responsibility, not just Greece’s,” the Commission President said referring to guarding the Union’s borders.
Europe will not be blackmailed by Turkey over the refugee issue. We stand ready to support Turkey in dealing with its refugee problem and find a solution to the Syria conundrum. But not under these circumstances. pic.twitter.com/8mIQ8DBM1o
— Prime Minister GR (@PrimeministerGR) March 3, 2020
Von der Leyen also sent a clear message to ”all those who want to test Europe’s unity, solidarity and determination.”
”They will be disappointed,” the President said forcefully, noting that people are not to be used as means to reach a goal, referring to Ankara’s behavior in the last several days.
The remarks of the rest of the EU leaders echoed von der Leyen’s, including those of European Council President Charles Michel, European Parliament President David Sassoli and Croatian Premier Andrej Plenković, who is currently holding the rotating Presidency of the EU.
Th European Union Council’s Charles Michel warmly thanked Greece for its efforts and noted that Turkey must respect the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement.
Croatian Premier Plenković thanked the current administration of Greece for not allowing this most recent massive illegal entry inside the EU to take place.
Parliamentary President Sassoli made a special reference to all the unaccompanied refugee minors currently living in Greece, noting the need for a European strategy which will ”safeguard their future.”
In his concluding remarks, Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Greece sends the following clear message to the world: ”Migrants and refugees cannot be used as pawns in a geopolitical game. They’re the true victims. This is an approach not acceptable for Europe.”
The Greek Prime Minister agreed that his administration does indeed follow a different approach on the migration crisis, as it responds to a changing reality.
— Charles Michel (@eucopresident) March 3, 2020
Earlier, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was at the Alexandroupolis airport to welcome the European leaders, who later climbed into a military helicopter which flew over the land border with Turkey.