Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Greek leaders on Tuesday called from Athens for stronger cooperation among European countries to collectively and effectively face the common challenges of the economic and refugee crises. Mattarella started on Tuesday a two-day official visit to Athens aiming to deepen bilateral ties and discuss regional challenges upon an invitation by Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos. Greece and Italy share common ideals for the future of Europe and Greek people are ready to cooperate with Italy on the common challenges to jointly protect the future of the European Union and its cohesion, Pavlopoulos said, welcoming the Italian leader at the presidential mansion. "Ancient Greece and Rome marched together to build a civilization, upon which rests the entire western civilization today. Rest assured that we will defend this civilization together, with all our strength," Pavlopoulos said, according to an emailed press statement. On his part, Mattarella also stressed that bilateral cooperation is based on history, shared values and a shared vision of the future. "We share a common view of the EU, of the challenges and problems. Both countries believe that the EU should focus on economic growth and boosting employment, in particular for young people," the Italian president said. "Today we stand as member states of the EU and euro zone, as countries of the south Europe, facing common challenges, the challenge of the economic crisis and the refugee crisis. Therefore, our collaboration, as well as cooperation between all European countries across the Mediterranean, is crucial for the creation of a better Europe," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said when welcoming the Italian leader at his office a few hours later. Speaking on camera at the start of their meeting, Mattarella underscored the need of more support by the EU in efforts made by Italy and Greece to tackle the refugee crisis. "Greece and Italy have respected the timeless duty to welcome and provide hospitality as an indication of civilization, offering aid to thousands of women, men and children... Europe should commit more," Mattarellas said. "Europe must offer more assistance to Greece and Italy, because the refugee and migrant issue does not concern only Italy and Greece, but the entire Europe," the Italian president said. Mattarella expressed hope that in March this year on the occasion of the 60 years of the signing of the Treaty of Rome which established the European Economic Community, EU member states will " rekindle the sense of solidarity, which should govern the EU and its peoples."