European Council
Council of the European Union

Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting in Athens with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras

European Council
  • 16/02/2016
  • 11:00
  • Statements and remarks
  • 66/16
  • Home Affairs
  • Institutional affairs
16/02/2016
Press contacts

Preben Aamann
European Council President Spokesperson
+32 22815150
+32 476850543

Good morning. Before anything else, let me thank you, Prime Minister Tsipras, for your hospitality here in Athens.

The European Council is meeting this week with the biggest challenges to the future of the European Union on the agenda: The United Kingdom's future membership of the European Union and the migration crisis.

On Britain. My trip to Paris, Bucharest, Athens, Prague and Berlin is part of the hopefully last but still fragile negotiations on a new settlement for the United Kingdom. The proposal I have put on the table is a fair and balanced one. It helps the UK to address all the concerns raised by Prime Minister Cameron, without compromising on our common freedoms and values. There are still many difficult issues to solve. Prime Minister Tsipras and I shared our views on these issues and I am happy that there is convergence between us. Thank you for your constructive approach. I will need your help in Brussels as well.

Now let me turn to the migration and refugee crisis. The migratory crisis we are currently witnessing is testing our Union to its limits. And Greece is among the most affected countries. It is no coincidence that the Greek citizens on the islands have been nominated to the Nobel Peace Prize for their generosity in helping people in need.

Greece did not cause this crisis, nor did Europe. To all those talking of excluding Greece from Schengen, thinking this is a solution to the migration crisis. I say: No, it is not. Let me be clear, excluding Greece from Schengen solves none of our problems. It does not end the war in Syria. It does not end Europe's attraction of migrants. And it is not a common European solution. What we must do is to improve the protection of our external borders, not least here in Greece. This requires more Greek efforts and it also requires more support from EU partners.

This week, I want leaders to engage in an honest discussion on where we stand on all the dimensions of our common response to the crisis. We are not meeting to alter course but to ensure that the decisions we have already taken are also carried out. Importantly, we need to take a close look at how our joint arrangements with Turkey are working.

Talking about migration, we cannot avoid referring to the situation in Syria. The whole world is hoping for peace and is ready for talks. Even though, the Russian bombing in Syria leaves us with little hope. The Assad regime is strengthened, the moderate Syrian opposition is weakened, and Europe is flooded with new waves of refugees.

I also want to underline that the EU appreciates and recognises all the efforts undertaken by Greece in the economic area. After our talks today, I feel more optimistic, also when it comes to the ongoing review process.

Let me conclude by once again thanking you, Prime Minister, dear Alexis, for your constructive approach that will allow us to move forward, together, on all the challenges ahead. Thank you.