The Athens Declaration, adopted by the European Union’s seven Mediterranean countries (Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain), during last week’s 1st Mediterranean EU Countries’ Summit in the Greek capital, will form the basis of the Greek positions at the informal European Council starting today (16.9) in Bratislava, government sources told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA).  In the Athens Declaration, the 7 Med Countries propose the following priorities: ensuring the internal and external security of Europe; reinforcing the cooperation in the Mediterranean and with African countries; foster growth and investment in Europe; strengthening programmes for youth and finally, and finally, addressing the challenge of migration. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had said that the aim of the Mediterranean Summit was to arrive at a constructive contribution to the dialogue on the future of Europe, so that the Bratislava summit could serve as “democratic Europe’s reply to populism, xenophobia and racism”.

Greek positions at Bratislava will also include proposals for enhancing the defence of EU’s external borders and internal security, for showing solidarity in dealing with the refugee crisis,  and fairly distributing the burden between the EU member-states, as well as steps to establish an EU border and coast guard and to cooperate with third countries.

The refugee issue was predominant in the telephone conversation the Greek prime minister had yesterday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where they agreed on the need to reinforce the presence of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Greece with additional staff and speed to up relocation procedures.

On the economic front, there seems to be movement toward the positions outlined in the Athens Declaration, calling for more emphasis on growth, social cohesion and greater flexibility in implementing the Stability and Growth Pact, as reflected in European Commission’s President Jean-Paul Juncker’s speech on the state of the union.

On the eve of the summit, President of the European Council Donald Tusk called on EU leaders to take a “brutally honest” look at the bloc’s problems, declaring: “We must not let this crisis go to waste.” “We haven’t come to Bratislava to comfort each other or even worse to deny the real challenges we face in this particular moment in the history of our community after the vote in the UK,” said Tusk.

President of the Republic Pavlopoulos on the need for European unity and bailout programs for Greece

Talking about Europe’s future in an interview with CNN, President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that “the European Union must exist with one face and in one speed, otherwise it cannot exist at all”. Pavlopoulos was responding to a question in about Brexit and its effects and whether it is possible to create a two-speed Europe, like Hungary has suggested. He added that the EU was created so that we don’t relive the nightmares of the Second World War, something which “presupposes a Europe where there’s solidarity and equality.” He finally stressed that “we must defend this and we cannot do that with a two-speed Europe. You cannot be a little of very European. Either you’re European or you’re not.”

Concerning the three bailout programs for Greece, Pavlopoulos said mistakes were made by both Greece and its lenders during these past six years, resulting in a deep recession. “Let me remind you of the last report concerning the work of the IMF, where there was an admission that some reforms were in the wrong direction and particularly those that had a dramatic recessionary effect on the Greek economy. Therefore, without underestimating the mistakes and delays for which we are responsible, I want to stress to our partners that this rapid reform operation was not always the best option,” he added “We have also waited a long time for them [the creditors] to fulfill their own obligations. Don’t forget that the issue of debt relief is a commitment dating from 2012. Unfortunately they have not started on this.”

Professor Loukas Tsoukalis on the economic and political division of Europe

Professor Loukas Tsoukalis of Athens University has commented to Al Jazeera that the economic and political division of Europe is now very difficult to overcome. “What happened between 2010 and today is that the burden of adjustment has fallen exclusively on the deficit countries,” he says. “Greece had to adjust, Spain, Portugal, no doubt about it. But Germany has to adjust as well, because what is happening today is that Germany is running a current account surplus in the order of 7-8 pc of GDP. While Greece does more and should do more in terms of domestic reform … the Germans should also do something to encourage domestic demand in Germany, to encourage public investment in Germany,  so that they may help regenerate growth in Europe. And that will be their contribution,” he says.