Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Partial transcript of the speech by Greek PM, Alexis Tsipras, during Supreme Council of Greek-Turkish Cooperation, Smyrna

19:21 approx.:

I would like, in my turn, to warmly thank the Turkish PM, my friend Ahmed. As he himself said earlier, we have been meeting very frequently lately. [...] We have highlighted the significant prospects presented by energy cooperation and the great importance of paths for natural gas, of the TAP and TANAP pipelines, the great importance of our cooperation in Tourism [...] Of course, no one can ignore the fact that the future of Greek-Turkish relation goes through major challenges, such as coping with the great crises we are facing, and specifically the refugee crisis. [...] 

In order to obtain a better life, [refugees] become victims of traffickers and many of them lose their lives in the Aegean. So we, the two governments, me and Ahmed, are here today, so we can commonly declare that what is going on in our sea is a shame to our values and our civilization.

We are not here to materialize a plan imposed on us by some of our partners. We are here to solve a problem that concerns us, our values, our civilization. And this problem will be solved through our partnership. No one will dictate to us how we' ll solve it. We know how it should be solved and are determined to cooperate to resolve it. 

We are also here to declare our conviction that the ceasefire in Syria should be respected, that the grounds for reconciliation and democracy should be emplaced, through the effective fight against terrorism and oppression, since we are against terrorism and oppression, no matter where it comes from; and at the same time [we are here] to make a common effort in order to strike against the networks of traffickers. I consider it unacceptable to have the ability to have such important and high-tech weapon systems in a race for armaments we had all the previous years [...] and at the same time, these high-tech systems can't locate smugglers, who are left undisturbed trafficking in people in our seas.

So this is unacceptable, and we cannot let it go on. [...] But I want to be clear: Greece and Turkey are not, at this moment, the causes of the problem central Europe is facing--as it receives, through our countries, the flows of tens of thousands of refugees and immigrants. Greece and Turkey are giving shelter to thousands of people. Turkey is hosting more than two and a half million --of course, other countries as well, Jordan, Lebanon-- and Greece is hosting tens of thousands of people, and despite the extremely tough financial circumstances it is facing, it has offered humanity and warmth --especially the citizens of our islands, where, during the last year more than 800,000 refugees have crossed through.

So I want to emphasize that Greece and Turkey will continue to show humanity and hospitality to the persecuted, but they will not be countries that will accept the permanent stay of all these people pursuing a better life who wish to --and are entitled to-- claim asylum in Europe. Therefore, and in the context of the EU, we jointly propose a mechanism for legal entry of the refugees, the people, who, according to International Law, are entitled to international protection -- a permanent flow toward the countries of the EU -- taking measures, at the same time, against illegal points of entry and against the network of traffickers.

I also wish to highlight that the further implementation of the Agreement for reentry provides a clear message to the immigrants coming from third countries --that is to say, not countries at war-- such as those who have tried to exploit the refugee flow, whereas they came from North African countries: [the message is] that at this moment there is neither the political will nor the capacity for them to cross into Europe. This is a reality, and we are obliged to tell them about this reality with honesty, so that this burdensome, for our countries, flow stops or decreases. And of course, in this direction, one should add the decision taken today by the relevant ministers, concerning the substantial upgrading of network communication of our two port authorities, whose first duty and priority is the salvaging of people in the Aegean, and their second is the location of traffickers and the decrease of flows.[...]

Q & A: I want to say that yesterday, Ahmed submitted an interesting proposal. Its basic logic is to strike against the model of trafficking. Of course, we need to examine this proposal, particularly as regards its legal aspect, but as regards its ethical side, we need to clarify something: This proposal argues that we should discourage the people who are entitled to cross into Europe from going through the exploitation of traffickers and from using the Aegean, at the risk of losing their lives. And, at the same time, that we should open a legal and controlled path, so that an equivalent, constant and sufficient number can apply for asylum here in Turkey, in a trustworthy apparatus responsible for relocation, and cross, in a safe and legal manner, from Turkey to countries of the EU. My view is that this proposal is very interesting, it changed the landscape at the meeting yesterday, and I think we will have the chance in the future [...] to take important decisions. But I think that yesterday we made an important first half step, which we are completing today, and then we have to make another leap on March 17.

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