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Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras
- “Greece has said from the very outset that we need to pursue a political solution in Libya. It is very important that the international community took a clear stance in Resolutions 1970 and 1973, to stop the humanitarian disaster and protect civilians. Beyond that, however, we believe that we won’t be able to reach a solution in Libya without political means, by military means alone. That is why we have kept all the channels of communication open – with both Benghazi and Tripoli – in the general effort being made to launch a political process. Unfortunately, things don’t seem to have matured yet, despite the coordinated efforts of the international community. We believe that the UN and the Secretary General’s representative, Mr. Khatib, must play a decisive role in this, and we have been in ongoing contact with Mr. Khatib.”
[on Albanian certificates]
- “Greece has always supported the European perspective of the Western Balkans, and specifically of Albania, as evident from the Thessaloniki Agenda and Agenda 2014. But it remains for Albania to comply fully with the specific obligations to and terms set by the European Union, on which the smooth continuation of its European course depends. Based on the Copenhagen criteria, these include respect for human rights, minorities and European standards, which is of paramount importance to Greece. Within this framework, our country will notify the competent community organs in detail.”
[on the elections in FYROM]
- “We don’t see any difference between, nor do we have a different approach to, Ms. Sekerinska and Mr. Gruevski and the parties they represent. What we want [following the elections in FYROM] is a government in FYROM that will come to the negotiations in a constructive manner so that we can reach a solution. We believe that the time has come for a solution. We believe that it would be mutually beneficial – in the interests of both countries. Greece wants to see FYROM become a member of the European Union. We want to support this effort. Greece will be the closest partner in FYROM’s accession negotiations with the 27.”
Complete transcript of the briefing (translation):
Mr. Delavekouras: Good afternoon. I’ll start with the Ministers’ programmes.
On Friday and Saturday, 3 and 4 June, Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas will carry out a visit to Mount Athos, as a pilgrimage as well as in his capacity as Chairman of the “Committee for the Study and Promotion of the Protection of Mount Athos and other Athos Community issues”.
On 6 and 7 June, Mr. Droutsas will be in Hungary to participate in the 10th Meeting of ASEM Foreign Ministers. This Meeting will be attended by delegations from the 48 ASEM member states, and the general theme of the Meeting is “Working together on non-traditional security challenges”. Mr. Droutsas will have bilateral meetings on the margins of the Ministerial.
Mr. Droutsas will be in Vienna on Wednesday, 8 June, to participate in the World Economic Forum for Europe and Central Asia. He will be sitting on panel A, on “A vision for a sustainable future”.
During his stay in Vienna, Mr. Droutsas will also have a bilateral meeting with the Austrian Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister, Mr. Spindelegger, and he will attend, with the heads of the other delegations, a dinner hosted by Austrian President Heinz Fischer.
Mr. Droutsas will be in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, 9 June, to participate in the meeting there of the Contact Group on Libya, where there will be a discussion of the political process and coordination of participants on achieving a political solution under the auspices of the UN, as well as long-term humanitarian aid.
On Wednesday, 8 June, Alternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou will meet with Polish Deputy Foreign Minister for EU enlargement issues Grazyna Bernatowicz.
Tomorrow, 3 June, Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis will reply in Parliament to a question from LAOS MP Korantis, and will meet at 13:30 with Messrs. Kanellopoulos and Liberis, the President and Director General of Unicef, respectively.
On Monday, 6 June, Mr. Kouvelis will travel to Baghdad for meetings with Iraqi officials.
At 10:30 on Tuesday, 7 June, Mr. Kouvelis will meet with Ambassador Laura Thompson, the Deputy Directory General of the International Organization for Migration. At 13:00 the same day, Mr. Kouvelis will host a working luncheon for his Cuban counterpart, Mr. Barreras, who will be visiting Greece (Acropolis Museum). At 15:00 – still on Tuesday – Mr. Kouvelis will speak at a conference on “The Future of Banking in Greece,” which is being hosted by the Financial Times, at the Hotel Intercontinental.
And on Wednesday, 8 June, Mr. Kouvelis will participate in the BSEC Ministerial in Bucharest.
Journalist: Good morning. Could you possibly tell us some more about yesterday’s attack in Benghazi?
Mr. Delavekouras: The information we have from the head of the Foreign Ministry team in Baghdad is that a car-bomb went off outside the hotel where the Greek and other teams of diplomats are staying, and the only thing I can tell you is that the members of the Foreign Ministry team and the medical team in Benghazi are unhurt.
Journalist: Is there a time horizon for how long the Greek delegation will stay in Benghazi, and whether security measures have already been taken. If not, whether stronger security measures will be taken after yesterday’s incident.
Mr. Delavekouras: The Greek Foreign Ministry team will stay there as long as needed. As you know, Greece has said from the very outset that we need to pursue a political solution in Libya. It is very important that the international community took a clear stance in Resolutions 1970 and 1973, to stop the humanitarian disaster and protect civilians. Beyond that, however, we believe that we won’t be able to reach a solution in Libya without political means, by military means alone. That is why we have kept all the channels of communication open – with both Benghazi and Tripoli – in the general effort being made to launch a political process.
Unfortunately, things don’t seem to have matured yet, despite the coordinated efforts of the international community. We believe that the UN and the Secretary General’s representative, Mr. Khatib, must play a decisive role in this, and we have been in ongoing contact with Mr. Khatib – he visited Athens recently.
This is something that was also reaffirmed at the Contact Group meeting in Rome, and something that we believe in deeply. And we will continue to support the efforts of the Secretary General’s Representative in this direction.
Regarding the issue of the Greek Foreign Ministry team’s security, they have taken all the necessary measures to be secure. As you can understand, naturally, as yesterday’s attack showed, we are talking about security conditions that demand very great care.
Journalist: I wanted to ask you, Mr. Spokesman, about the Albanian government’s decision to omit the ethnicity of Albanian citizens from individual birth certificates, passports and other official documents. This has to do with the demographic registration of the minority.
Mr. Delavekouras: We are aware of this issue and we are monitoring it very closely. The Albanian government’s decisions to omit data on national origin from the new personal and family information certificates, without prior consultation with the Minorities residing in the country, raises understandable questions and concerns regarding the motives behind the change in a decades-old practice.
In combination with the postponement of the census, under pressure from nationalist factions who oppose the inclusion of optional questions on national origin, language and religion, it gives the impression of the Albanian government’s decisions gradually bending to pressures from extremist nationalist elements that are against the recording of the unquestionable fact of the existence of minorities in the country and that are systematically undermining our country’s bilateral relations with Albania.
Greece has always supported the European perspective of the Western Balkans, and specifically of Albania, as evident from the Thessaloniki Agenda and Agenda 2014. But it remains for Albania to comply fully with the specific obligations to and terms set by the European Union, on which the smooth continuation of its European course depends. Based on the Copenhagen criteria, these include respect for human rights, minorities and European standards, which is of paramount importance to Greece. Within this framework, our country will notify the competent community organs in detail.
We will continue to monitor developments closely, particularly with regard to the need for respect of the rights of the Greek National Minority in Albania. We call on the Albanian government to consult on this issue, in a constructive spirit, with representatives of the minorities, who have already expressed their strong opposition to this specific decision with a view to achieving a solution that will take into consideration their understandable concerns.
Mr. Kalarytis: With regard to Sunday’s elections in Skopje, what do we expect following the elections?
Mr. Delavekouras: First of all, let me say that we hope that the elections will be carried out smoothly in FYROM, indicating firm dedication on the part of the country to the European Union; to its European course. A course that Greece clearly supports, and what I said previously holds here with regard to Greece efforts, via the Thessaloniki Agenda and Agenda 2014.
Beyond that, I want to say that we don’t see any difference between the positions of Ms. Sekerinska and those of Mr. Gruevski, the SDSM and VMRO positions; the positions adopted all these years by successive FYROM governments. What we are awaiting following the elections is a government that will maintain a constructive stance.
We believe that the defining moment has arrived for us to reach a solution. Greece has show by its actions its constructive role in the negotiations taking place within the framework of the UN, and its support for the Secretary General’s envoy, Mr. Nimetz. We hope that the government produced by the 5 June elections will come to the negotiating table in a constructive spirit so that we can at long last achieve a solution on the name issue.
Mr. Papathansiou: Mr. Spokesman, I wanted to ask a question that we have been hearing a lot in recent days. Every afternoon, we see the square fill with citizens protesting against the government and against the Memorandum; a Memorandum that, as we know, contains some articles that provide for a potential relinquishing of national sovereignty. Last week, we saw the Turkish headlines talking about deals on purchases in Greece; we see the Minister, Mr. Droutsas – and it is understandable and accepted that he is expressing personal opinions – submitting his proposals, given the people’s grievances, on the terms of MPs. But he came in for harsh criticism from PASOK MPs and cabinet members. I wanted to ask this: Within this negative framework that has taken shape right now and the questions being posed by some of our fellow citizens, to what extent is our foreign policy strong and credible? Thank you very much.
Mr. Delavekouras: As you can understand, you have touched on a number of issues that are outside the Foreign Ministry’s competencies and, by extension, my own role, as spokesperson. Beyond that, however, I would like to say that we need to be very careful in our use of phrases like “relinquishing national sovereignty”.
Moreover, as you can see, I will not comment on the domestic political dialogue regarding the political system. But I want to make it clear that although Greece is going through a serious economic crisis – an economic crisis that has put unprecedented pressure on Greek society – it nevertheless continues to have all the elements rendering it a decisive player in its region. A factor for stability, normalcy, peace and development.
We mustn’t forget the role our country is playing in its wider region. The role it is playing in the Balkans, where, in a decisive manner, it was able to create the framework for the EU accession of these countries – and we are continuing to do this today, with Agenda 2014 and the prospect of an EU-Western Balkans Summit Meeting after many years, aimed at giving fresh momentum to this perspective, which is a very important factor for peace, stability and development in our wider region. And this is one of Greece’s strategic goals.
We mustn’t forget Greece’s role in the Mediterranean region, the Middle East and North Africa; the decisive role we played just a few months ago, evacuating tens of thousands of foreigners in Libya who were at risk from the constant clashes; the fact that Greece was able to accommodate them and help them return safely to their countries.
We mustn’t forget Greece’s efforts to find a solution in Libya, as well as our efforts in the Middle East, so that we can relaunch the peace process on the Palestinian issue and be able to see stability in this region as well.
We mustn’t forget the initiatives being taken by Greece within the framework of the European Union, with its partners, so that we, as the EU, can have a common line and strong tools that will allow us to emerge even from this crisis.
We mustn’t forget the initiatives Greece took to coordinate the countries of our region on environmental protection, when we held the Summit Meeting in Athens some months ago, precisely to coordinate the voices of the countries of the region ahead of the proceedings at the UN. These are things being done for the first time, and they are very important steps. I can go on and on telling you about the initiatives and efforts Greece is making.
There is one thing we must bear in mind: Greece has all the characteristics – the elements – that allow it to follow a dynamic foreign policy, protect its interests in the region, and at the same time function as a pole of stability and development. And we will continue to do this.
Ms. Kourbela: Mr. Spokesman, I want to ask you this: It is understandable that interest has shifted to the debt, dealing with the debt, what will happen on this issue at the Summit Meeting, on economic governance and this whole institutional matter. However, right now other issues are starting that are very important to Greece, including the new financial perspectives – the EU multi-year budget, with the Commission presenting its proposals in July – the revision of the CAP and, of course, the revision of the budget. Are we monitoring all these things satisfactorily, or is our attention exclusively on the so-called burning issues?
Mr. Delavekouras: Obviously, we are monitoring all of this constantly and participating actively in the discussions. The Alternate Foreign Minister is in constant contact with countries that have views similar to Greece’s so that we can coordinate our positions and get the best possible result to the benefit of Greece and, I believe, the European Union. Greece is a country that follows a firm and consistent European policy, believing in the strengthening of European institutions. This is the basic axis of our policy in the European Union. It is with these positions that we go into all the discussions taking place in the EU, and we believe that through the very good preparations we have carried out, we will already be able to get good results on all of the important issues you referred to and that are under discussion at this time.
Ms. Kourbela: A question about the Polish Presidency. Are there any priorities that we want to promote within the framework of the Polish Presidency?
Mr. Delavekouras: The priorities are those of the Polish Presidency, with which we are in close contact. There have been meetings on all levels, and, as I said a short while ago, the Alternate Foreign Minister will have a meeting in the coming days with the competent Polish Deputy Minister. We look forward to a successful Polish Presidency, and we are in close cooperation with them on all the issues they will be called upon to handle.
Mr. Kalarytis: If I am not mistaken, the Polish Presidency has expressed certain views on the Skopje issue – the accession of Skopje to the European Union – that do not coincide with our own views. Have you discussed this issue at all? Have they done any groundwork, so that we aren’t taken by surprise? Whether the Polish Presidency is undertaking any initiative. Thank you.
Mr. Delavekouras: As you can understand, our positions and our consultations with all our partners – particularly countries that are to hold the upcoming Presidencies – are ongoing, and they are very well aware of the efforts, the constant efforts, Greece is making so that we can find a solution on this issue.
They know very well the constructive spirit of the Greek government and our readiness to proceed to a solution, and they recognize all of the difficulties involved in achieving this goal. This is something Greece has informed them of consistently.
Beyond that, I would like to remind you that the European Union has taken collective decisions – as has NATO – regarding this issue. These are clear decisions, unanimous decisions, that state precisely the interest of these organizations in our reaching a solution.
Greece really is working and trying for this solution, and we are waiting to see a response from the FYROM leadership that will emerge from these elections.
Ms. Popovik: Mr. Spokesman, can you say a few more words about why you believe that Ms. Sekerinska and Mr. Gruevski have the same policy on the name issue?
Mr. Delavekouras: History has borne this out. These negotiations have been going on for many years, and throughout this time the leaderships in Skopje have failed to show the constructive stance needed for us to be able to reach a solution.
What we are waiting for now – this is why I said earlier that we don’t see any difference between, nor do we have a different approach to, Ms. Sekerinska and Mr. Gruevski and the parties they represent. What we want is a government in FYROM that will come to the negotiations in a constructive manner so that we can reach a solution.
We believe that the time has come for a solution. We believe that it would be mutually beneficial – in the interests of both countries. Greece wants to see FYROM become a member of the European Union. We want to support this effort. Greece will be the closest partner in FYROM’s accession negotiations with the 27.
These will all be tools for FYROM, and we believe in and are investing in a future of stability and growth in FYROM. And we are not just saying this. We are showing it through our active participation and presence in the economic life of the country; through our efforts to reach a solution on the name issue.
We want this to be understood. And we really hope that following the 5 June elections, we will have a government that will come to the negotiating table in a constructive spirit so that we can finally achieve a solution.