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Home arrow Current Affairs arrow Top Story arrow FM N. Kotzias' opening statement to the Hellenic Parliament Plenary during the debate on the passing in principle of the articles and the whole of the Draft Law: "Amendment of the Code of the Statutes of the MFA, and other provisions" (07.02. 2017)

FM N. Kotzias' opening statement to the Hellenic Parliament Plenary during the debate on the passing in principle of the articles and the whole of the Draft Law: "Amendment of the Code of the Statutes of the MFA, and other provisions" (07.02. 2017)

Friday, 10 February 2017

FM N. Kotzias' opening statement to the Hellenic Parliament Plenary during the debate on the passing in principle of the articles and the whole of the Draft Law: "Amendment of the Code of the Statutes of the MFA, and other provisions" (07.02. 2017)N. KOTZIAS: Thank you, Mr. President.

I would like -- and I said this in one of the very rare public interviews I give -- to thank everyone for all of the observations being heard. I believe that, in all things, there is the potential for one to consider things from a different perspective.

I gave an interview to the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT), and I thanked everyone who participated in the discussion of this particular draft law. And I said that most of what was heard, regardless of whether one adopts it or not, was positive, in a spirit of consultation on the national needs of this country.

And that's how I hear the observations made today. Of course, among these observations I do not include the fantasies concerning 'tailor-made' provisions. I don't do that sort of thing. I hear, let's say, an observation that we want to second people to the Centre for Analysis and Planning (KAS), so I can extend political favours. But I have ten positions for seconded personnel, and I've taken only two. For two whole years, I haven't brought in the other eight. Was I waiting to draw up a bill and take seconded personnel and do I don't know what? That doesn't make sense and it doesn't correspond to my politics or to my personality type.

Moreover, that is why I did not accept amendments to the law. I said that, in the first law I bring to Parliament as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I don't want amendments from other Ministries, for reasons, in my opinion, of parliamentary order.

I would also like to say, initially, regarding the Statutes -- and I want to clarify it again -- that this law was drawn up at the end of 2015, early 2016. It was made public in April 2016. The Statutes began later and were posted on DIAVGEIA, you saw it.

For various reasons that don't have to do with the Foreign Ministry, or with the government -- General Accounting Office, etc. -- it remained pending, there were various issues, each time we discovered something else, there were outside forces, and that is why I delayed. But this is no reason for me to withdraw it and wait -- that is, for the Ministry itself to extend this delay. That is, the Statutes were an overall change.

Now I want to explain how I see and how we at the Ministry see these changes. We have a question as the Foreign Ministry, which by its very nature is an internationalized Ministry, public institution of the country. What age are we living in?

I think that the changes we are experiencing are in two directions. The one concerns the international system, also often referred to as the global system. There is globalization and fragmentation. A world that is more and more connected and interconnected and, at the same time, parts of that world become disconnected. It is a world connected through the digital revolution, but at the same time, 95% of the digital revolution is present in only a hundred cities in the world.

It is also an era when, next to globalization, the social conditions of politics are changing and great strides are being made in technology. It is an era some call the second machine age, with others calling it the fourth industrial revolution.

The characteristic of this age, the second machine age or the fourth industrial revolution, is the diffusion of information. It is the reproduction of digital technology through the technology itself. Robots making robots. Modern, third-generation robotics. It is the era of the creation of networks that are evolving in all of the technologies in a way that, to a great extent, is reminiscent of phenomena in biology and physics. We are living in an era of great strides.

If you look at globalization and fragmentation, on the one hand, which concerns the social sciences, and, on the other, politics and technology, which also concerns the social sciences, as well as the natural sciences and the way in which physics, the discoveries, the renewals of the natural sciences will be diffused through politics itself, a conclusion can be drawn: that we are living in an era of the rising importance of science to society as a whole and for politics.

The essence of the urgent changes with which the law began a year and a half ago was precisely to strengthen the scientific nature of the Foreign Ministry and precisely for us to render the Foreign Ministry capable of responding to these new phenomena, from the natural sciences to globalization.

I was shocked to hear people who saw political favours in this adaptation to historic changes in the world. This is a shocking phenomenon. Because it means two things. Beyond the politicking allegation against the governing parties and the Foreign Ministry, it means that we have to do with politicians, with persons in public life, who as a rule are very capable, exceptional -- and I very much want to have friendly relations with them -- but who haven't realised that there are changes in the world and that the country's institutional system has to change and that a Foreign Ministry cannot function without scientific personnel corresponding to the special kinds of problems.

Moreover, in an era like ours, while the Foreign Ministry must be firmly dedicated to its values, to the defence of the country, to the patriotic upgrading of the role the country plays on the global and European stage, at the same time there have to be places at the Ministry -- and all of our personnel have to do this -- and there have to be institutional places, where reflection can take place, in the Aristotelian sense; reflection, that is, on how things are evolving. And this reflection must provide the potential for free and democratic expression at the Foreign Ministry -- brainstorming on alternative solutions.

The Foreign Ministry must be able to reproduce its thinking and make as much use as possible of the best scientific tools at the country's disposal, in order to exercise foreign policy in the era of globalization, of the fourth industrial revolution. And some of you call on me to give up on these necessities and pretend these types of changes do not exist.

We have change, and we need to discuss it as a society -- this is my political opinion. I am not a career politician, but I have been a political being since I was twelve or thirteen. How do we see the world going? What place do we think the country should have in this world? And what kind of Foreign Ministry do we want? We are starting it today, a preamble to the major changes that have to be made to the Statutes but that have been taking place every day for two years now, through the manner in which we express foreign policy.

What Foreign Ministry do we want? We are preparing a series of laws. I told you this in the Committee, too. We have the law on the Venice Institute, the law on diaspora Hellenism, on the translation service, on the Statutes. But we have to have criteria. And for me the criteria are the changes that are taking place in the world in these two parallel mechanisms that are condensed into a single landscape.

But we also have to be clear. With the changes, two issues arise: The fragmentation in the world is causing wars and tensions that demand armaments and strong defence for a country. Globalization, on the other hand, is opening the horizons and bringing states to an international institutional system that demands good legal knowledge. But at the same time, in a dispute among states, like our state, what is most important is not armed conflicts in relations between states, but international law. And if we agree on this, then we must agree that there needs to be a thoroughgoing scientific establishment of institutional systems in the Greek state, including at the Foreign Ministry.
What does the Foreign Ministry need to do? To bring together the best forces. I hear some people who raise a dilemma for me. They say, there is also the Special Legal Service (ENY) or the old Special Legal Service for the European Communities (ENYEK). The old ENYEK deals, as you know, with the European Communities, then, and the European Union now. The ENY deals with the ongoing management of legal issues.

But there are policy issues that require a long-term strategy on the legal issue. For example, can the ENY on its own -- and, I say, all of our diplomats -- draw up maps for the EEZ? Aren't specialists required?

Do you want me to tell you the latest and the most different example? Many differences that exist in international horizons around the EEZ are due to the fact that there are states that make measurements on the EEZ map with vertical lines, while the new method and the devices that exist choose, recommend -- this is legally binding -- the hypotenuse. Now, do I demand of every employee or of myself that we know all of the mathematics of this function? Shouldn't we use scientists who have these capabilities? From personnel of the Hydrographic Service of the Hellenic Navy to professors who have taught them hydrographics.

Don't we need, to the degree that we can, with the capabilities we have, to bring together the best forces, in synergy with the Ministry's services? Because a third phenomenon of the modern age is that nothing is produced without synergy.

I'm not telling you to read the heavy science, but the books aimed at a more popular audience, about how Stanford University and Silicon Valley have been set up. How have they been set up? With new systems of scientific research, action, even entrepreneurial action. What are these new systems? Joint groups from different fields or different depths of knowledge.

And you say to me: "Oh, don't touch it!" Am I to go to the International Court in The Hague without our having with us, as the Foreign Ministry, the best professors, who have the best knowledge of the EEZ, of these issues, or who have the greatest experience or who are the teachers of our services?

That is the Scientific Council. And we are talking about seven people, who will not hold double positions. Do you really think that, to become the President of the Scientific Council -- which he has agreed to do -- Mr. Rozakis will need to hold two positions and make I don't know how much money? Please! You are disparaging people and disparaging the manner in which the Foreign Ministry works.

So the Scientific Council has a different role from that of the ENY. It devises a legal strategy, participates in the legal defence of the country, at the international courts and anywhere else it is necessary for long-term legal issues to be taken up. We aren't talking about everyday work people do. They are making a contribution.

We went to the talks in Switzerland with six law professors. Wouldn't you do it, too? One specialist on the FIR, another specialist on Federal International Constitutions, another specialist in the International Law of the Sea. So you wouldn't take them? And look at them: Apart from one, none of the six is close to the governing parties. These are the best the country has on this subject, and it is with them that we want to set up the Scientific Council.

Doesn't the new agreement on the Cyprus problem have issues? The attacks being made by Turkey, within Turkey, that is, regarding the Greek-Turkish positions, the demands concerning four freedoms in Cyprus, the issues of the Turkish "claims" of infringement of international law, which refer, from twelve and eighteen islets or islands, to what they now claim are 130. And you will remember that, for ten years now, they have been saying that even the island of Gavdos, inhabited and the western-most point of the country, is in their territorial waters. Won't we defend our country against these absurdities with the best legal minds the country has?

Now, there is another argument that says: "You are doing this as political favours. You'll hire people." That's for playing on the news shows, to play half the news. Because the positions we are changing are seventy positions that exist, which are being replaced by twelve positions. And from million to a million and a half euros a year that was being wasted, we are going to the amount – I am now referring to research-- of €120,000.

And you protest. You take the €120,000 and make a scene. Yes, but the €1.5 million being replaced, is that waste? And I will repeat what I said to the Committee: The €1.5 million that is becoming €120,000 -- even if you were in the first grade, you would know that it isn't waste. It is curtailing of expenses. It is curtailing and rationalisation.
And I'll give you another example. The Centre for Analysis and Planning put out a periodical that cost the Foreign Ministry €150,000 a year, and that no one read. And we made it electronic. Cost? Zero. Of course, with what I'm hearing, you will say that the €150,000 is less than zero and that therefore zero is the greatest possible mathematical waste. So we are cutting and rationalising expenses. We are cutting the number of positions.

If I wanted to have positions, why would I create four position at the KAS and not take the twenty-three positions the Hellenic Centre for European Studies (EKEM) had and hire twenty-three people? I am closing the EKEM with the twenty-three positions and putting four positions in the KAS. And some people say this is waste, that we are doing political favours. I think that the pupils who are watching us know that 23 is greater than 4, and so four positions means cuts.

And now they ask me, what do you want the legislative office for, why are you in a rush? Behold a shocking picture: No one else has one, he says, except for the Defence Ministry. I heard that from this floor. So, the Ministries of Interior, National Defence, Labour, Culture, Environment, Infrastructure, Rural Development and Tourism all have such an office, all created by your law, that of the current opposition, in 2012.

Now why does the Foreign Ministry need one? I'll tell you. The Foreign Ministry's 6th Directorate has a Legal Affairs department. Do you know it has two people? One employee has studied Commercial Law -- as if the Foreign Ministry were a commercial enterprise -- and the other is administrative staff, called upon to judge legislation and legislative cases. And the main thing? The contracts and procurements, ladies and gentlemen!

And if you caught them in an error, as happened the first year, they said: "Mr. Minister, I don't know about this stuff." But it's just fine to assign administrative personnel to look over the country's legislative initiatives and the Ministry's legal cases. Naturally, it is suspicious for me to assign this work to real lawyers.

And what else does this office have? It is responsible for providing opinions, it has responsibilities in the public contracts procedure, it is responsible for the legality of administrative documents. At the Ministry, we are often in a position where no one is sure if a piece of legislation is adequately written.

And I want to say something here -- because it is said to me by many people, including people from the other parties, and with very good proposals, like the Union of Centrists and Potami, and I thank them once again, as I do the National Council on Foreign Policy -- about those personnel who, because the law will be passed in 2017, have missed 2016. And if we take December 2016, I asked the Committee, what will happen?

And regarding the EKEM, let me remind you that the law says, in two of its parts, that the Foreign Ministry will take on all of the financial demands against the EKEM, which include the debts the Foreign Ministry is taking on and will examine them according to the legal procedure. On this we agree.

On the other we don't agree. This bad Greek principle that we are getting the end of 2016, and then, in a subsequent draft law comes the amendment, which says: "Why did you get February of 2017 and December of 2016 and you aren't getting November too?" Tell me why I will stop at December and not November, and why I won't get September and August too?

These tailor-made provisions -- this is a matter of personal principle for me -- have no end, my colleagues. When you open the door that says that the law is being implemented retroactively, who deems how far back the retroactive implementation goes in order for it to be fair? And why is it fair for me to get the third month back? And if I do get that month, isn't if fair for me to get the month before that? That's how the Greek state was made until now.

My opinion is that, when we have special laws -- if they are general laws, they can't be tailor made -- and they concern four or five persons, they are going to be tailor made, and behind them there will be another five or ten who want their own tailor-made provision. We can't have this. It is my principle that the law must be implemented from the moment it is passed. That is what's right. It's a pity it wasn't passed two years ago, it's a pity it wasn't passed ten years ago. But that is what's right, in my opinion.

Now, regarding the secret funds. It is a daring move. I heard the proposal that we appoint a judge, the Secretary General and the Speaker of Parliament. The Secretary General -- a career diplomat, not a political secretary general, is the Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry -- is the one who handles and controls spending from the secret funds. He can't also be the one who decides.

Second, let the judge come to the Foreign Ministry. The judges come. But the point of the law is not for me to appoint someone else above the Ministry. If we need to, we'll appoint ten. The point of the law is that there cannot be anything that is secret from Parliament. There is no political action that anyone can exclude from the monitoring scope of Parliament.

As a result, Parliament has to see these funds. It's not a matter of their being seen by the president of a court. Parliament has to see them.

How shall it see them? I consulted with the President of the Parliament, an excellent MP and parliamentary man, and we brought the specific amendment. They should be seen by the Committee. It won't be distributed to them. They will see it, decide, and it will be taken back to the Foreign Ministry on the spot.

The New Democracy spokesperson is right when he says we have to ensure the issues pertaining to transparency, but why should I have less confidence in the representatives of the parties, whom I am certain their parties will take responsibility for appointing to or proposing for this Committee, and have more confidence in the administrative personnel who see the secret expenses? I don't trust the Hellenic Parliament less that the Hellenic civil service. This is also our opinion with regard to the transparency we discussed.

Regarding the languages, it is correct that we also have to have people who know Albanian, Turkish, Chinese. That is why we hire experts. Unfortunately, we didn't hire anyone for Chinese. The best candidate hadn't turned thirty-two. She's a professor at Peking University. She teaches Chinese foreign policy at the university. The latest we hired, if you saw, were for Russian, but these are experts. The diplomat must have a broader nature, and that is why the languages we set are languages that are official languages of the European Union, at the UN, and at other international organizations; languages that facilitate diplomatic activities in large regions and areas.

I want to say something else, because I heard it here and in the Committee. He says, "it is under the Foreign Ministry." At the Foreign Ministry -- and anyone who has experience at the Foreign Ministry knows this -- there are certain institutions that report directly to the Foreign Minister. For example, the most powerful, which is the third in the hierarchy, the diplomat who heads it, is the Inspectorate General. The Inspectorate General checks the legality and the proper functioning of the Directorates and the Embassies. And the writer of the legislation wisely -- the diplomatic archive, etc. -- didn't put them to the trouble, let me put it that way, of being inspected by the Directorates. He put them separately. The Minister supervises directly because there is this contradiction. And it isn't like this just in Greece. There isn't a serious Foreign Ministry where it isn't like this.

Some want to follow the example of China, Russia, or I don't know what other country. Others want to follow the example of France or the U.S. All of these institutions -- and there are scientific councils and Centres for Analysis and Planning within all the serious ministries -- come under the Minister, because the Minister will give them instructions in consultation with the service. But the service, which has to implement a policy, cannot be the one that monitors whether the KAS does an adequate job producing alternative policies, from which the service itself must afterwards choose.

Last time, I was accused of two things by the Committee. First, for political favours -- showing preference -- and I demonstrated with numbers that this isn't true. And second, that I designed the law to get rid of certain people. I took the minutes, and the MP of a party was heard saying the following. Mr. Kalomiris, who is not from our political space, contacted us regarding issues that concerned the provisions on Foreign Ministry pensioners, and an issue was raised. "Mr. Kalomiris says that the Minister, in a conversation with him, said that this provision was created to get rid of employees." The Vice President of the Civil Servants' Confederation (ADEDY) makes a grave accusation and, in the name of this grave accusation, it was requested that he be called before the Committee. I read from the subsequent minutes. "I have not made," Mr. Kalomiris says, "any accusation regarding the Foreign Minister with this content." It is clear that both accusations are unsustained, and what the law does is in fact open the door to upgrading and orienting the Foreign Ministry, building stronger institutions, adequate to the changes taking place in today's world, to the changes linked with globalization, the new politics, the new technologies, social changes.

Thank you very much.

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