Greece is now determine to move forward with agreements to delimitate its maritime zones, concluding agreements that have been pending for decades, though always on the basis of good neighbourly relations, international law and specifically the law of the sea, government spokesperson Stelios Petsas said on Friday, appearing on an ANT1 television morning show.
"We must all realise that we are going through a period, during which - to put a headline to it - there is an end to the era of hesitation," Petsas said, referring to the agreement signed on Thursday between Greece and Egypt.
"Greece has in a very short space of time delimitated its maritime zones with Italy and proceeded with a partial delimitation with Egypt...as the foreign minister said on Thursday, we want to delimitate our maritime zones with all the countries in the region and be done with the loose ends. It is in the interests of all the people of the region and their prosperity for such outstanding issues, which sometimes poison relations between states, to be finished with," he said.
Petsas added that Greece was willing to discuss and resolve such issues but always with respect for the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.
"I point out - and this was clear throughout the previous days - that even with Turkey, after the good message that it sent with its step toward de-escalation, we are ready to begin exploratory talks if the other side also wishes this," he added.
He rejected criticism from main opposition SYRIZA that the agreement with Egypt was "rushed" and pointed out that there had been 13 rounds of talks over 15 years with Egypt, while SYRIZA's leader had been fully briefed on its various points in a meeting with the prime minister.
He noted that the agreement was a "very bold step that pierces the illegal Turkish-Libyan memorandum" and which allows Greece and Egypt, which have opposite shores, to alone delimitate - in sections - a part of their maritime zones and for this to unlock developments in the region.
Regarding Turkey's reactions, Petsas stressed that Greece was not afraid and remained vigilant. "Apart from this, we are sending the right message. The message sent by [Foreign Minister Nikos] Dendias yesterday was clear, to all the countries in the region... We want to resolve the sole outstanding issue that we have with Turkey, which is the delimitation of our maritime zones, through exploratory contacts. The other side is also aware that we have appointed the head of our own delegation and we are waiting for them to do the same. We are ready to begin, even within August. If they want to delay, to go back, that is part of the game. What we will not accept, however, are threats and faits accomplis," he said.
Carelessness the problem with coronavirus, not tourism
Referring to the spread of coronavirus in Greece, Petsas repeated that the great worry remained carelessness and laxity in following the experts' advice, while the fears that tourism would bring imported cases had not been confirmed.
"The cases from tourism are very few. On the contrary, there are many domestic cases due to laxity and many in northern Greece due to the frequent [border crossings] by Greeks, expatriates and people who have residence permits, not for tourism but on a daily basis, for work, recreation and other reasons. We, therefore, took significant restrictive measures at the land borders and will continue to adopt harsh measures against congestion in the interior, which will extend to local lockdowns, such as in Poros," Petsas said.
He noted that Greece was still doing relatively well compared with other countries with a similar population, such as Belgium, and that the Greek plan had paid off, while the increase in cases had not yet led to increased pressure on hospital or more deaths.
"This is good and is why we are taking these measures now. We have an unprecedented situation that all the countries in the world are facing and which Greece appears to be facing a lot better, which is something we hope to maintain," Petsas added.
Turning to economic issues, the spokesperson said that the government will press ahead with its plans and that cuts in taxes and contributions remained the central pillar of its policy. "How quickly this will happen depends on the capability we have, given that this year is an extremely different year due to the pandemic...It is, however, a given that we will proceed to cut taxes and ENFIA on small islands and not just there," he said, adding that all the various plans now being examined must be incorporated into an overall government plan that will be submitted to the European Commission by mid October.
He emphasised, however, that cutting taxes and contributions was a priority because Greece was above the OECD average on this score, and this will help boost growth and jobs.