The close ties between the European Union and Australia were emphasised by the Vice-President of the European Commission, Mr. Margaritis Schinas, in an interview he gave with the Greek Program on Radio SBS and to the journalist – Director of the Program, Mr. Themis Kallos. Also, Mr. Schinas declared his pride for the Greeks of Australia, who are excelling and progressing in all fields.
Furthermore, the Greek Vice-President of the Commission, who successively visited Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, while today he will attend an event at the Sydney Opera House, entitled “Maria Callas: A Concert in Hologram”, was asked and spoke about the issue of concluding a Free Trade Agreement between E.U. – Australia, a subject of his portfolio which is the promotion of the European Way of Life, the meaning and purposes of European integration, the rise of extreme political forces in Europe, Ukraine’s request for EU membership. and the situation in the Middle East.
Regarding the relations between Europe and Australia, Mr. Schinas explained that “we belong to the same side of history”, since, as he pointed out, “we are democracies, we have the same views on major geopolitical developments, we defend the same social model, we are preferential economic and commercial partners”. He also reminded that “as the European Union we are the second foreign investor in this country and the third trading partner. We are closer than ever.”
Referring in particular to the Free Trade Agreement, he admitted that some difficulties arose which prevented its completion during the G7 Summit in Osaka, Japan. But he appeared optimistic about the development and progress of the negotiations. “Perhaps the fact that I am the first politician from Brussels to visit Australia after Osaka also creates an interest,” he pointed out, while he added that “beyond that, I think I also have a strong message for Australia, that in this world that seems dark, difficult, insecure, Europe and Australia together are something like beacons of light, and of democracy. We have solutions, we have positive contributions.” Finally, he clarified that the Greek Feta is not among the “difficult points” of the Agreement under negotiation.
Referring to the experience of his first official visit to Australia, Mr. Schinas expressed his joy that he was given the opportunity to socialise with his compatriots who live on the fifth continent. “The borders of Hellenism reach as far as where Greeks live”, he characteristically observed during this report, pointing out that he feels very honoured to see his compatriots stand out and progress throughout the world.
Asked about his responsibilities at the European Commission, which include the promotion of the European Way of Life, Mr. Schinas explained: “We are a union of 27 Republics. The rights of minorities are protected, we are global “champions” of freedoms, the protection of personal data, we have universal and free health and education systems, we look after our elderly, the role of women is enshrined in the family, society and work, and we don’t have the death penalty. All this together is the European Way of Life. We do not impose the European Way of Life, but we want it to inspire our partners around the world.”
Regarding the concept of European integration, he explained that it responds to the idea of the cooperation of European countries in order to avoid quarrels and, by extension, wars, an idea that was born and emerged after the destruction caused by World War II. Having fulfilled the above target in many areas, the next steps, as pointed out by the Vice-President of the European Commission, is to integrate the Defence and Taxation sectors into the European integration.
Regarding the apparent strengthening of the Far Right in Europe in recent years, Mr. Schinas estimated that although it is worrying, it is not going to endanger European integration. In particular, he answered that “on the one hand, I am worried, because extreme views, nationalist, and populist, have a tendency to present simple solutions and answers to very complex problems. I know how misleading and populist it is to promise easy things when you have to fight difficult things. But on the other hand, when I see what we Europeans have achieved together, I understand that even this rise of the extremes, although it is recorded in our electoral procedures, I don’t think it will gain the upper hand. In other words, it will not bring us to a point that will threaten European integration.”
Also asked about the issue of Ukraine and the country’s request to join the European family, the Vice-President of the Commission openly supported this request, while he estimated that the integration procedures will not be completed immediately, but within a decade or so. In more detail, he emphasised that there is a moral and political responsibility of Europe towards the people of Ukraine, who for many years, and with sacrifices, seek the country’s accession to the European Union. Furthermore, he estimated that Ukraine has the formal requirements and guarantees to become a member of the Union, while he expressed the opinion that such a development would have a positive contribution to Europe itself.
Finally, regarding the crisis in the Middle East, Mr. Schinas described the framework of the European Union’s objectives, which, first of all, is to contribute to the ceasefire and the end of the bloodshed, secondly to make humanitarian aid available the next day, and thirdly to help shape a framework of guarantees that will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in two states, in safety and peace.
Find below video of the interview on SBS Radio (In Greek):