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Foreign Minister Kotzias’ speech in Parliament during the debate on the budget for 2016 (5 December 2015)

Monday, 07 December 2015

The country’s foreign policy is principled. It is founded on values. It serves the good of the country and the people. In contributes to providing relief to society. It produces stability, seriousness, optimism. It defends the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

Its criteria are the national interest, patriotism, the course of the EU and international developments, international law, internationalism.

It is a policy of a country that is a member state of the EU and that, at the same time, has special historical and cultural relations, traditions and a common heritage with a number of states beyond the West.

Greece is endeavoring to be a bridge of cooperation between the west and the east. The development of our relations with these states expands our economic and geostrategic potential.

Greece supports – with no ifs ands or buts – the creation of a Palestinian state. It maintains brotherly relations with the Palestinian people, and the Hellenic Parliament will soon, it is my hope, recognize Palestine.

I recently signed a decision committing the whole of the Greece public sector to refer to Palestine as Palestine in all cases, and we will have the great pleasure of welcoming Palestinian President Abbas to Athens on 21 December 2015.

And in a few days the trilateral meeting with Israel and Cyprus will be taking place in Nicosia.

Thanks to this multidimensional policy, we were received by Iran as real friends with thousands of years of common and turbulent history. We started the engine for the development of economic, cultural and social relations. In fact, Prime Minister Tsipras, who is  popular and highly respected in Iran, as well as in all of the capitals I have visited, is expected there at the beginning of next year.

I am aware that many have a problem with the multidimensional policy. As soon as we see the Americans, we are pro-American. Next, in Moscow, they call us pro-Russian. We go to China, we are called pro-Chinese. In Iran, pro-Iran, and so on. The truth is simple: We defend the country's values, interests and rights everywhere and at all times, without exception.

Our foreign policy is sincere and straightforward. Everyone appreciates this. From what they told me, I was the first foreign minister to speak at the University of Tehran. Asked by the audience, and on the country's channels, I referred to the friendly relations with Israel and the dialogue with Turkey, without a second comment from the Iranian side.

A certain domestic criticism of our activities is reminiscent of a tasteless fairy tale, in which the evil and “irrelevant” dragon flies alone directly from Israel to Iran. You see, when there isn't any substantial criticism, there is uncritical nonsense.

I found that the bourgeois, petty conceptual pairing of “relevant-irrelevant”, void of content and without substance, also supplants dialectic and historical materialism.

That we managed to have good relations, in tandem, with countries that are in opposition, even in conflict, is the result of the proactive, multidimensional foreign policy we are exercising.

Correspondingly, in international forums and at the UN, we vote based on our interests and choices. We are not a given for anyone apart from the Greek people, whom we serve. We supported the raising of the Palestinian flag, as well as the debt resolutions.

In the context of our multidimensional policy, we have good relations with Russia – as was shown by the recent statements from my counterpart Sergey Lavrov – as well as with the U.S., as shown by yesterday's press conference with John Kerry.

In fact, the U.S. Secretary of State underscored for the international news media that the refugee issue is not a Greek problem, but a global problem. That it is a problem of bringing peace to Syria itself, where we support a political solution, based on a new constitution, with fair elections in which the refugees, too, will participate.

So that there should be no misunderstanding, we categorically rejected any thought of Greece's involvement in military operations in Syria or our participation in any such thing via NATO.

Today we are gathering the fruit of the initiatives we took for the protection of the religious and cultural communities in the Middle East. We are talking to everyone there: all of the patriarchates, leaders of Islam, Judaism, of the Catholic and Protestant churches, with political and scientific centers from Holland to Pakistan and India. And we agreed to set up, in Athens, an international forum/observatory for the rights of these communities and to support them.

Our multidimensional policy is linked with the fact that, as a European country, a member of the EU, we became a bridge of friendship with the countries of Latin America and, in particular, Southeast Asia. At the recent ASEAM, the Chinese side thanked us warmly for the successful mediating role we played so that disagreements could be overcome.

Our relations with Turkey are of particular importance and present a number of problems in Greek foreign policy. I accompanied the Prime Minister to Istanbul and Ankara, to meetings with productive content. We underscored the need for the flyovers and violations of territorial waters to stop. At the same time, we jump-started our relations. There will be reciprocal visits.

The main issue, of course, for Greek foreign policy, is the just resolution of the Cyprus issue. In contrast to Turkey, we are not intervening in the island's domestic issues.

We protect its independence and sovereignty. As a guarantor power, in accordance with the treaties, and as a member state of the EU, we stated from the outset that the solution to the Cyprus issue must be compatible with (a) European law, without permanent divergences with regard to the four fundamental freedoms, (b) with the abolition of the guarantee system, the departure of the occupation forces, the creation of a security system of the Republic of Cyprus.

Greece's foreign policy is proactive. In contrast to many, we do not believe that inertia leads anywhere beyond the stagnation of problems and the fouling of the water. Life has shown that we need initiatives, bold policies and their consistent promotion. Experience shows that wherever there is inertia, third parties intervene.

Today we are moving ahead not only to the reactivation of the Romania-Bulgaria and Greece line of cooperation, which was correctly promoted by previous governments as a Balkan cooperation, but we are also planning and implementing the creation of an alliance of more EU member states with regard to the internal developments within the EU itself.

This past spring, I made a public proposal to FYROM that we should begin confidence-building measures in order for their to be cross-border cooperation. Initially, this idea was rejected by both Skopje and third parties. Life vindicated us.

It is my deep belief that Greece must learn from its history, believe in it and capitalize on it. It must ensure its continuity without becoming its prisoner. This also holds true for our relations with Albania. Relations with pending issues for which we need to find a package of mutually beneficial solutions set down in a renewed friendship agreement.

Of course, for this to happen, the rights of the indigenous Greek minority must be safeguarded.

Greece must hold the reins for initiatives of principles, firmly, and not have resort to solutions that look easy today but will have a high cost tomorrow.

We are following a policy that does not tolerate pressures. It promotes our specialization as a force for negotiation, arbitration and mediation between states that have difficulty communicating, between opposing powers. We believe in these virtues/practices, but they are not practices for public statements.

In the last month alone, we have had three major international victories: election to the board of UNESCO, with the most votes; corresponding election to the IMO; the election of Professor Raikos to the UN appeals tribunal.

Last but not least, I want to talk about the EU.

We are endeavoring to help it find its values and principles again. That cohesive substance that can hold it together on a democratic and socially just path. Against its current neoliberal dogmatism.

There is an imperative need for the EU to break out of a mindset that limits its external action to sanctions, embargoes and punitive actions. A mindset that is often accompanied by threats.

Europe needs to change towards the more social, the more progressive. And this is what we are fighting for. We are consistently proposing an open and democratic debate on the future of Europe itself. On what Europe we want in the 21st century, on the security architecture of the continent as a whole.

Our foreign policy has taken a step forward. And this is in spite of the economic problems. The Foreign Ministry is systematically and professionally safeguarding the country's interests, creating hope through self-confidence.

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