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The two top priorities for Greece’s foreign ministry are to push for a new EU social rights protocol during the discussion on the future of Europe and to protect the rights of Greeks and Greek-Cypriots living in the United Kingdom after Brexit, Alternate Foreign Minister for European Affairs George Katrougalos said on Tuesday.
Briefing journalists covering the foreign ministry, Katrougalos noted that two important milestones for the first goal will be the European Commission’s reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe by 2025, due to be released on April 26 as part of the White Paper process, and the EU Summit in Goteborg on November 17.
Katrougalos admitted that adopting such a protocol would require modifying EU treaties. “The discussion can begin now, we can have the first steps on the social pillar, then seen what can happen intergovernmentally, so we arrive at a protocol,” he said.
Part of this effort were his recent visits to Sweden and Estonia, where Greece’s proposals were well received, the minister added. Greece wants the discussion on the future of Europe to put great emphasis on the social dimension, Katrougalos explained. Its proposals to the Commission included action to make economic governance more social and democratic, as well as the introduction of European social targets, such as European social insurance against unemployment and protecting the social acquis.
“Either we will succeed in making Europe more social or it will cease to exist,” he concluded.
Regarding the protection of some 70,000 Greeks and 250,000 Greek-Cypriots currently living in the UK after Brexit, Katrougalos said that Greece “wants to negotiate together with the other 27. We do not want this process to take on a punitive dimension. We want a discussion to begin on the method of departure and to discuss the future relationship as soon as possible.”
Finally, Katrougalos announced that Greece plans to put in a bid for the European Medicines Agency when this is transferred from its current base in the United Kingdom, saying that he would be meeting officials at the health and economy ministries, Attica Region and pharmaceutical companies to discuss the plan.