“We discussed about migration, but also talked about how we could boost growth, investment opportunities, climate change, green growth and jobs,” said the Dutch premier Mark Rutte, welcoming the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Buinnenhof, The Hague, Netherlands.
Visiting the Dutch institutional capital, Mitsotakis completes his first European tour in important capitals since rising in power last July. Rutte was the last in the row after Paris and Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel in Berlin, a visit that provides the Netherlands with the status of the third political power in the bloc.
“After ten years of crisis, Greece opens its horizons, without forgetting that Europe stood by its side,” said Mitsotakis at his joint press conference with Rutte, after a working lunch that emphasized the prospects for economic cooperation, as well as the need to tackle increased migration flows.
“We want to continue to open Greece’s door to foreign investment because they are bringing new jobs to our country,” added Mitsotakis. The Greek premier had previously presented to his Dutch counterpart his program on structural changes. “A program that we want to implement and the Netherlands’s contribution to a number of areas,” said Mitsotakis, seconding premier Rutte’s remarks, about the Dutch assistance in agri-food industry, where the Netherlands has innovative technology.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte recalled the excellent bilateral relations of the two countries since the 19th century, relations which continue today within the framework of the EU and NATO, noting in fact that trade between Greece and the Netherlands reaches €3 billion.
Supportive on reforms, Rutte stressed that the Netherlands stand ready to provide expertise and assistance. Greece and the Netherlands will also implement the programme of international financial cooperation between the two member states, that had stalled since 2012.
As for the migration flows, both Rutte and Mitsotakis acknowledged the increase in flows, mentioning however that they are still lower than the 2015 flows, at the peak of the Greek migration crisis. These moderate numbers are somewhat alarming but are still on a manageable pace for Greece and the EU. “My colleague bears a message,” said Rutte, reiterating that the EU-Turkey statement affects the Greek society daily, applying “great amounts of pressure” for a problem that Greece has to deal on a daily basis.
“The EU needs to have a common viable asylum system for Europe, a system that will truly demonstrate solidarity. Some member states still do not want to take part but we need to apply pressure,” added Rutte.
Seconding Rutte’s remarks on the need for change, Mitsotakis called on the EU Member States to agree on the reform of the common asylum system within the Schengen area and in respect to the Schengen rules. “It is in Turkey’s interest to respect the EU-Turkey statement, ” Mitsotakis said, noting that Turkey’s politicians recognise this publicly, mentioning however the need for “significant improvement,” calling on the neighbouring country to implement the agreement of great economic benefit.
In relation to the other outstanding issues of EU-Turkish relations, Mitsotakis reiterated that the illegal activity within the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and made it clear that they cannot be left unaddressed, noting, however, that the overall EU-Turkey relationship is complex, developing at many levels and Greece as a pillar of stability will always have a leading role to play.