Written by Jacopo Maria Bosica
Edited by Michele Puggia
Supervised by Cansu Macit Karaduman
On 21 August, as part of his tour around European capitals, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stopped in Athens for a bilateral summit with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The two signed a joint declaration to reiterate their mutual commitment to Ukraine’s efforts to access NATO in the short-term period (Ekathimerini, 2023). At the same time, while stressing the vital nature of Kyiv’s domestic security to ensure stability in the Euro-Atlantic area, the parties expressed their full support for the newly established NATO-Ukraine Council as a forum to further expand cooperation and consolidate Kyiv’s entrance in the Euro-Atlantic family (Interfax Ukraine, 2023). Along these lines, the text of the declaration begins with Greece acknowledging Ukraine’s achievements towards integration with NATO, with special regard to Kyiv’s armed forces’ efforts in the realm of military interoperability (Amna, 2023).
Matters get more blurred when it comes to defining the specific military commitments: the declaration only provides a vague hint at point 3, which states that Greece will continue to supply Ukraine with military, technical, defence and humanitarian support (Amna, 2023). Hence, no tangible reference is made to President Zelenskyy’s suggestions about Greece’s agreement to train Ukrainian pilots to fly U.S.-made F-16 warplanes (Paphitis, 2023). Furthermore, given its current engagement in a weapons procurement programme amongst tense relations with Türkiye, Athens has declined to provide Kyiv with its Russian-made air defence missile system which is currently located on the island of Crete (Paphitis, 2023).
Amongst the other pledges agreed upon in the joint declaration, Greece emphasised its steadfast participation in Ukraine’s post-war recovery and reconstruction as part of a concerted effort with international organisations, Allies and partners (Amna, 2023). As for Kyiv’s NATO membership, instead, Athens referred to the Vilnius Summit Declaration, which vaguely stipulated the need for Allied powers to reach consensus and for Ukraine to meet the necessary conditions (Ekathimerini, 2023; NATO, 2023). In parallel, Athens clarified that its contribution to NATO’s political and material support for Kyiv to defend its territory on land, at sea and in the air will remain untouched (Amna, 2023).
The Greece-Ukraine declaration was signed on the margins of a broader summit which, coordinated by European Commission and European Council presidents von der Leyen and Michel, witnessed the participation of presidents and prime ministers from EU (potential) candidate countries, namely Moldova and the Western Balkan states willing to join the Union (European Western Balkans, 2023). Besides recalling the 20th anniversary of the Thessaloniki Summit, which acknowledged the Western Balkans’ belonging to the EU family (European Commission, 2003), the joint declaration restated the common European heritage, history and future of the concerned states as defined by shared opportunities and challenges (The Greek Herald, 2023; Greek Government, 2023). Although no more clarity is given about the accession timeline of these states, one of the key takeaways emerging from the final declaration is that enlargement is back on the EU policy-making’s priority list, as also underlined by European Council president Michel’s tweet as the Athens summit drew to a close (Michel, 2023).
Amna. (2023, 21 August). Mistotakis, Zelensky sign Joint Declaration on Ukraine’ Euro-Atlantic integration, in Athens. Athens – Macedonian News Agency. https://www.amna.gr/en/article/754259/Mitsotakis–Zelensky-sign-Joint-Declaration-on-Ukraines-Euro-Atlantic-integration–in-Athens.
Ekathimerini. (2023, 21 August). Full text: Mitsotakis, Zelenskyy sign joint declaration on Ukraine’s NATO prospects. https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1218192/full-text-mitsotakis-zelenskyy-sign-joint-declaration-on-ukraines-nato-prospects/.
European Commission. (2003, 21 June). EU-Western Balkans Summit Thessaloniki, 21 June 2023. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/PRES_03_163.
European Western Balkans. (2023, 22 August). Athens Declaration: Leaders support territorial integrity of Ukraine, stress the need for re-energized enlargement. https://europeanwesternbalkans.com/2023/08/22/athens-declaration-leaders-support-territorial-integrity-of-ukraine-stress-the-need-for-re-energized-enlargement/.
Interfax Ukraine. (2023, 22 August). Greece supports Ukraine’s acquisition of NATO membership – Joint Declaration. https://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/930210.html.
Michel, C. [@CharlesMichel]. (2023, 21 August). #WesternBalkans, #Ukraine & Moldova have a common European heritage, history & culture … [Image Attached]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/CharlesMichel/status/1693706206311838019.
NATO. (2023, 11 July). Vilnius Summit Communiqué. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_217320.htm.
Paphitis, N. (2023, 21 August). Greece’s leader pledges to keep up military support for Ukraine as Zelenskyy visits Athens. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/ukraines-zelenskyy-visits-athens-attend-meeting-balkan-leaders-102425336.
The Greek Herald. (2023, 22 August). Mitsotakis confirms Greek support for Ukraine as Joint Declarations signed in Athens. https://greekherald.com.au/news/mitsotakis-confirms-greek-support-for-ukraine-as-joint-declarations-signed-in-athens/.