KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS, Prime Minister of Greece, observing that words are never quite matched by actions, and achievements never quite meet expectations, said: “It is as if the United Nations is not quite united enough.” Underscoring the need to tackle climate change and manage migration, he said the international community’s current approach to both issues “speaks to a failure to match rhetoric with policy”. The summer of 2023 was the hottest on record, and States continue to talk — rather than act — on tackling the main drivers of regular migration or implementing existing transnational agreements. Recalling his address in September 2022 that the devastating effects of climate change would soon become the norm, he stressed that — 12 months later — “that new norm has unfortunately arrived”. Fires, heat waves and landslides have gripped Southern Europe, Africa and the Mediterranean. For Greece, this is nowhere more apparent than across Evros, where the largest blaze ever recorded in the European Union burnt continuously for two weeks, leaving an area larger than New York razed to ashes.
While stating that “the climate crisis is not an alibi for everything”, he underscored that the science is clear — high temperatures resulting from global warming are driving these threats. “This is the new reality of climate change,” he observed. Detailing national efforts in response — such as pursuing green technology and investing heavily in renewable energy — he emphasized that, while the world acts decisively on long-term mitigation, the international community is “collectively guilty in not placing enough emphasis on short-term adaptation”. He therefore called for the creation of a global forum that can deliver access to new financing to drive such adaptation “before it is too late”. Additionally, he underlined the need to share technology in advanced forecasting and modelling to accurately predict “where the floods are coming from and where the fires are going”.
He also pointed out that Greece is at the forefront of the global migration crisis, providing shelter and protection to hundreds of thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers. “Greece will always be an open and welcoming country to those fleeing persecution and violence,” he stressed, “as well as to economic migrants who seek a new future by exercising legal pathways”. While Greece is home to many job opportunities, it must fill such vacancies on its own terms — not those set by criminal gangs. The international community, therefore, must work together to address the root causes of migration, counter human trafficking and foster legal pathways for mobility. This includes challenging the negative political socioeconomic and climate conditions in countries of origin, he said, observing: “No one wants to leave their home and risk finding work thousands of miles away.”
Turning to his country’s relationship with Türkiye, he said that — while the differences over the delimitation of maritime zones in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean are extremely important — they can be resolved in accordance with international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The two countries have made good progress in terms of normalizing relations, and it is in the mutual interest of both to continue down that path. On Cyprus, he underscored that the core issue remains the “illegal invasion and occupation” in violation of the Charter of the United Nations. This issue remains a priority for the Government, and he stressed Greece will continue to support UN-led efforts to facilitate resumed negotiations on the basis of relevant Security Council resolutions.
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