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Remarks by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece, Andrej Plenković, Prime Minister of Croatia, President Sassoli and President Michel

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op dinsdag 3 maart 2020.

Thank you very much Kyriakos, I want to thank you for the invitation.

Indeed, these are extraordinary circumstances. And we have just been to the border area and have seen how tense and how difficult the situation is. The Greek authorities are facing a very difficult task in containing the situation. And I want to thank the Greek border guards and the coast guards, I want to thank the civilians, the police, the servicemen and servicewomen, and I want to thank Frontex for their tireless effort. It is important to me to be here today with you and to tell you that the Greek worries are our worries.

This border is not only a Greek border but it is also a European border. And I stand here today as a European at your side. I also want to express my compassion for the migrants that have been lured through false promises into this desperate situation. We have come here today to send a very clear statement of European solidarity and support to Greece. Our first priority is making sure that order is maintained at the Greek external border, which is also a European border. I am fully committed to mobilising all the necessary operational support to the Greek authorities.

Following Greece's request, Frontex is now getting ready to deploy a Rapid Border Intervention Team. Frontex is preparing the deployment of one offshore patrol vessel and six coastal patrol vessels, two helicopters, one aircraft, and three thermo-vision vehicles. 100 border guards in addition to the current 530 border guards will be deployed by Frontex at the land and at the sea borders. Secondly, we can provide financial assistance of EUR 700 million to Greece. This consists of EUR 350 million, which is immediately available, plus an additional EUR 350 million that can be requested as part of an amending budget. The financial assistance is for migration management generally, for setting-up and managing the infrastructure needed. Thirdly, we launched the Civil Protection Mechanism based on a request made by Greece. Through this, Greece can receive assistance in terms of medical equipment, medical teams, shelters, tents, blankets, as needed.

Kyriakos, Charles, David, Andrej and I will remain in very close contact in the coming days and weeks to make sure that we deliver all the support that is needed. The situation at our border is not only Greece's issue to manage. It is the responsibility of Europe as a whole. And we will manage it in an orderly way, with unity, solidarity and determination.

Those who seek to test Europe's unity will be disappointed. We will hold the line and our unity will prevail. Now is the time for concerted action and cool heads and acting based on our values. Turkey is not an enemy and people are not just means to reach a goal. We would all do well to remember both in the days to come. I thank Greece for being our European ασπίδα [English: shield] in these times.

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