Remarks by President Donald Tusk after his meeting with Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras
Porta-voz do Presidente do Conselho Europeu
Good afternoon. Let me start out by thanking you, Prime Minister Tsipras, for your hospitality and for receiving me, once again, here in Athens. Each time I return to Greece, and meet you and the President of the Republic, I feel at home and among friends.
Since my last visit, the situation in Greece has improved a lot. This is true for the economic situation. And it is true for the migration crisis.
Let me start with the economy, which was also the main topic of our discussions today with the Prime Minister. Fighting unemployment remains our number one economic priority across Europe. No doubt there is still a long way to go. But after so many years of bad news, the outlook is better than at any moment over the last decade.
I know it has been hard won, but Greece is also showing signs of growth. 2016 was a record year for tourist arrivals; and the sector has helped boost the Greek economy and create jobs. Other sectors have also demonstrated the Greek dynamism, ingenuity and hard work. And your fight against tax evasion is bearing fruit.
Too often we fail to appreciate the enormous efforts undertaken by Greece's citizens and enterprises, as well as the financial support provided by Greece's partners. They are the best examples of determination and European solidarity. This is also important to recall in the ongoing talks between you and the institutions. Everyday we get closer to an agreement. Yesterday we made significant progress and as you know, talks will continue today. I hope that you will be able to find an agreement on Friday in the Eurogroup. And I want to underline that the responsibility for achieving this agreement is shared among all the participants of this process.
Let me now turn to migration. Another area where Greece has been in the frontline. The peak of the crisis is now behind us, also here in Greece. EU countries have sent hundreds of border guards, asylum experts and millions of euros in aid. Now we must speed up our efforts, both to keep the Western Balkan route closed and to effectively manage migration flows. Those who have come here irregularly need to either be given asylum or returned quickly. The EU is fully confident that Syrians can be returned to Turkey. Turkey has a track record of protecting Syrian refugees, and Europe is making a huge effort to support their care there. Moreover, relocation has now accelerated to 11,000. And we can reach 20,000 in the coming months, but it also depends on you and of course on other member states.
Before concluding, let me add my voice to all those condemning the chemical attack yesterday in Idlib in the strongest possible terms. The indiscriminate killing of children, women and men with chemical weapons is another tragic reminder of the brutality of this conflict and the Syrian regime. And this is not the first report of such attacks in Syria. As I have said before, the perpetrators of these acts must be held accountable. The Syrian regime bears the primary responsibility for the atrocities. But all those who support the regime share the moral and political responsibility for the situation. Thank you.