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Interview: Foreign Minister Droutsas on “Flash” radio with journalist E. Stai and N. Leivadari

Wednesday, 03 November 2010

Main points:

· This is a terrorist action that must be condemned, and we condemn it in the most absolute manner. And allow me to repeat the words used by the Prime Minister – and I think these few words say it all: “Democracies cannot be terrorized”. I think that our society, all of us, need to believe this profoundly. And together, united, we can fight these sorts of phenomena.

· It’s very important – given that we are talking about our country’s international image – that we stress categorically that these actions, what we saw yesterday and the day before, have nothing to do with international terrorism.

Full transcript (translation):

Journalist: We have Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas on the line. Good morning, Mr. Droutsas. How are you?

Mr. Droutsas: Good morning, Ms. Stai.

Journalist: Mr. Droutsas, let’s start with the terrorist parcels being sent by a number of senders to many, many recipients, including heads of state, embassies, etc.

Tell me, because this has been building over the past three days, what is the impact, what information do we have, who are we talking to, because this was broadcast all over Europe, internationally, and I imagine that this is not good publicity for us on such issues.

Mr. Droutsas: Ms. Stai, it would be neither serious nor credible for me to deny this and say that this issue, these images and these comments are doing our country good. This isn’t great for the country. I would just like to focus everyone’s attention on the fact that beyond these images that were unfortunately seen round the world, we need to look at the substance: that the Greek authorities and the Greek police functioned very well – excellently – and we aren’t the only ones saying this. These are the comments of all the foreigners we have communicated with, and I am referring here in particular to the embassies that yesterday received such parcel bombs. There were four embassies – those of Switzerland, Bulgaria, Germany and Russia – and the Greek police reacted immediately and destroyed these bombs, fortunately with any damage or, of course, victims.

Journalist: Mr. Droutsas, beyond the fact that we didn’t have any painful results – the small explosive force of these parcel-bombs contributed to this, I assume that this had something to do with it – beyond the success of the actions of the Greek police, it is unquestionable that there was communication, shall we say, terrorist activity that put us front and center worldwide. Where do you think this effort to expose our country might be coming from?

Mr. Droutsas: Ms. Stai, I ask for your understanding. I am not a specialist. Nor am I responsible for commenting on such investigations. These investigations are being carried out in a very responsible and systematic manner by the competent services, and I believe that very soon we will have the necessary answers to all of these questions.

Journalist: Right.

Mr. Droutsas: I think it is an obvious fact that our country is going through a difficult time, when a lot of grievances are being expressed, and it just might be – this is an interpretation that has been seen in the international news media – that there are some extremist organizations that want in this way to express their grievances. But this is a terrorist action that must be condemned, and we condemn it in the most absolute manner. And allow me to repeat the words used by the Prime Minister – and I think these few words say it all: “Democracies cannot be terrorized”. I think that our society, all of us, need to believe this profoundly. And together, united, we can fight these sorts of phenomena.

Journalist: Right. So we’ll wait for the investigations to see where they lead, because this question is very interesting – we’ll see who might use this kind of terrorism and why, beyond the obvious, they want to expose our country, because there will obviously be an ulterior motive.

Mr. Droutsas: Of course. Pardon me for interrupting.

Journalist: Go on.

Mr. Droutsas: It’s just that I think it is very important – given that we are talking about our country’s international image – that we stress categorically that these actions, what we saw yesterday and the day before, have nothing to do with international terrorism. And I am referring to the incidents we saw over this past weekend.

Journalist: In the U.S., yes.

Mr. Droutsas: Precisely, in the U.S., Yemen and all that.

Journalist: Nothing to do with international terrorism.

Mr. Droutsas: We need to stress this, in every way, that it has nothing to do with these issues. We don’t want to put Greece onto that course.

Journalist: Right. Let’s move on to another major issue. We’re just three days away from local elections, the Prime Minister has said that if support is lacking for the government’s efforts to confront the difficulties with the economy, the difficulties the country is facing, we will go to early elections. The opposition parties all say this is just a bluff, part of the governing party’s effort to rally supporters and voters. Tell me, Mr. Droutsas, because we have been asking this constantly in recent days, since the Prime Minister raised this dilemma. On what criterion will the elections on Sunday be judged as having provided a vote of confidence in the continuation of your programme, and what will be the criterion for the results’ being a vote of no confidence, which would mean we will probably be going to national elections.

Mr. Droutsas
: Ms. Stai, I don’t know who else you’ve talked to …

Journalist: With many in the government.

Mr. Droutsas: … and what kind of answers you’ve received. But allow me not to go into such scenarios: where the bar may or may not be set. I think it is important that we underscore – because you used the word “bluff” earlier …

Journalist: That’s the word the opposition is using.

Mr. Droutsas: The word the opposition is using. I think what characterizes the current government and the Prime Minister, George Papandreou, personally is a responsible stance. We don’t play – and no one is playing – with  such matters. It is a responsible stance because – let’s not forget – we are going through a very difficult time. The Greek people have been called upon to make very big sacrifices, and they have done so. We are halfway down a very difficult path. We have passed some difficult spots, but we still have a ways to go. So the issue we have to face is that we saw that certain parties were trying to undermine these efforts being made by the government and the Greek people to get out of this very difficult …

Journalist: Whom do you mean, Mr. Droutsas?

Mr. Droutsas: … position we are in.

Journalist: Whom do you mean?

Mr. Droutsas: That is what the Prime Minister said …

Journalist: Mr. Minister, whom do you mean?

Mr. Droutsas: And this is a responsible stance.

Journalist: Who made the efforts to undermine?

Mr. Droutsas: The opposition, Ms. Stai, and I think that …

Journalist: The whole of the opposition?

Mr. Droutsas: … yesterday, in particular the main opposition party, the rhetoric employed by Mr. Samaras, but I don’t leave out the other opposition forces we see, particularly to the Left, what is happening with certain actions being taken; actions that openly undermine these efforts and sacrifices of the Greek people. I want to stress this, Ms. Stai. It is a stance of responsibility that the Prime Minister has taken, and he said very clearly that he doesn’t want national elections. It isn’t our intention to go to national elections, but we cannot allow such actions to undermine all these efforts, right when we are midway down the path …

Journalist: With the rhetoric, as you said, of the opposition. Mr. Droutsas …

Mr. Droutsas: Ms. Stai, it isn’t just the rhetoric. The rhetoric creates certain reactions, creates a current, and this, in an irresponsible manner, can hinder the government’s work, what …

Journalist: You mean that it creates certain convictions and views among the people. Is that what you mean?

Mr. Droutsas: Ms. Stai, I think that the Greek citizens – as difficult as this time is for them – understand that what is happening is necessary. It isn’t easy for the government or the Prime Minister to take such decisions and measures.

Journalist: Mr. Droutsas, moving a step on, let me ask …

Mr. Droutsas: Let me finish this thought. Of course there are reactions. Each of us reacts to these measures, but I think that there is understanding from the vast majority of our fellow citizens as to the necessity of these measures and for the fact that we are on the right path. But there are those who are trying to exploit these feelings of grievance – which we all feel, of course – to create a tide of reaction and resistance. This is irresponsible politics. We have to remember the state the country was in.

Journalist: Mr. Droutsas, let me ask you another question, because you said that we are halfway down the path, a difficult path to the country’s economic recovery and salvation, as you have said repeatedly as the government, and as we are in the middle of the path, it is natural to ask where we will go from here. Because if we take as a given that many things have been achieved but elsewhere there are major difficulties, from the shortfall in revenues that we see to a possible revised deficit for 2009 following the elections, not to mention figures concerning the huge public debt. Everyone is asking whether the rest of this path, from the halfway point on, will include new measures, and whether that is why the government is asking for a vote of confidence:  so that you can move ahead with what you described as both painful and difficult. This is a matter that you should clarify is some way. That is, what can we expect from here on in?

Mr. Droutsas: Ms. Stai, I think the competent minister, Finance Minister Papakonstantinou, was always clear in his public statements. We have the programme we have agreed upon, the necessary measures have been taken and are being implemented, and I think that Mr. Papakonstantinou is very clear when he says there will be no new measures. There is the programme that has to be implemented …

Journalist: Allow me to say that Mr. Papakonstantinou has left things a little open. Because he said, when he submitted the draft budget, he talked to the TV channels and left this issue slightly open, because the draft budget will very likely have to be amended, and he is also expecting the revised deficit for 2009.

Mr. Droutsas: Ms. Stai, there is a specific programme that is well known. This programme is being implemented. Some measures have already been implemented, and unfortunately they have repercussions that we will see in the future, and that is what we mean when we say we are halfway down the path, and we still have a difficult journey ahead of us. Let’s not forget …

Journalist: Right.

Mr. Droutsas: … we always have to be frank with the citizens and ourselves. We need to know that we have already got past some difficult spots, we are on the right path, but this path goes on, and we need to be united and responsible in handling this future.

Journalist: Great. Thank you very much for talking to us, Mr. Droutsas.

Mr. Droutsas: And I thank you, Ms. Stai.

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