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Statements of FM Lambrinidis and his Austrian counterpart Mr. Spindelegger following their meeting
Mr. Spindelegger: Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to welcome the Greek Foreign Minister on his first visit to Vienna. We discussed a number of issues. As you know, we started with the reform process in Greece, and I will convey to you three messages from my point of view, and them Mr. Lambrinidis will make a statement.
First, we talked about the reforms and the decisions taken by the Hellenic Parliament by a large majority, following the proposal from the Greek government. This gives grounds for hope that through these reforms, Greece will follow another path. We see this as very positive. We made assurances regarding the support Greece will have as regards loans from the EU.
Second, we talked about the impending privatization programme that is very important for Greece within the framework of the reform programme. My collocutor informed me that there is great interest in Greece in the participation of Austrian enterprises. I think this is very positive and, provided specific programmes are formulated, we will bring this to the attention of Austrian enterprises that might participate in this programme via, for example, joint ventures.
Third, we also discussed our joint initiative on the issue of the Western Balkans, which started in Greece, and which we have continued with a view to achieving a specific timeframe of the accession of all the countries of the region to the EU. We have already had an initial success with Croatia, and Greece and Austria will continue to effort so that no state is outside the EU.
Mr. Lambrinidis: I am particularly pleased that the stops on my first tour are Austria and, yesterday, Germany. On this trip, I wanted to convey certain messages with as much emphasis as possible. The first is to convey the deep gratitude of the Greek people for the support and solidarity for the necessary major reform programmes that Greece has undertaken to implement.
My second message is that the Greek government, with the sacrifices of the Greek people, has committed itself to implementing these major changes effectively. The truth is that the second package of economic measures, which was just passed by Parliament, is more ambitious than the first, and I assure you that it will be implemented without delay. And this is due to our resolve, to the sacrifices of the Greek people and the support of the Austrian government and the Austrian people. Not a single euro invested by Austria will be lost, despite the rumors over the past 18 months regarding economic collapse. And this is a commitment that we assure you of.
I am very pleased to be here at a time when we are launching a major development programme in my country. Growth is just as important as financial stability – not just for Greece, but for Europe as well.
I had the chance to talk to Mr. Spindelegger about the opportunities opening up in the coming months for major investments in Greece. Hopefully, major Austrian investors will participate in these procedures. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the two countries to collaborate, not just in words, but in deeds.
We talked about the Western Balkans and our joint commitment to ensure the accession of these countries to the EU, which is vital for peace and stability in the region and in Europe. This will, of course, also contribute to economic growth in the Balkans. We will do everything in our power to keep this process going.
We talked about issues concerning the Middle East. As you know, Greece is geographically very close to the region, and we have a number of contacts. And we are both committed again to ensuring that Europe supports the realization of the democratic vision of these peoples, not just in words, but in deeds.
Finally, we talked about tourism. I invited the Foreign Minister to visit Greece this summer. I would be very glad to welcome him. I will be in Greece all summer, because I don’t think I will be taking any time off. A significant increase in tourism has been observed in Greece recently. Revenues from tourism have so far increased by about 10%.
I hope as many Austrian tourists as possible come, as this will bring our countries even closer together, further strengthening our bilateral relations, which are traditionally very close. I am convinced that they will remain so, and I am committed to working in that direction.
Journalist: Based on what law did Greece prohibit the flotilla from sailing for Gaza?
Mr. Lambrinidis: The Civilian Protection Ministry used a law that allows the government to prohibit vessels from leaving port when it thinks this will jeopardize the safety of passengers. This case falls within the provisions of this law. I also want to note that I contacted the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, regarding this issue last Sunday, and I briefed him on our proposal for Greece to undertake the safe transporting of humanitarian aid. This is a proposal that we are discussing with other countries in the region, as well, and it continues to be on the table.
It is vital that the international community ensure the optimum conditions for the reopening of the negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians; negotiations aimed at the creation of a Palestinian state that will coexist in peace with Israel. If we succeed in creating these conditions, I hope that we will have a first success, which we all need, and which the Palestinian people are seeking and the Israeli people are awaiting.
Journalist: Do you understand the anger of the Europeans and the fact that they are losing their patience with Greece?
Mr. Lambrinidis: Yes, I understand it, and I am afraid that it is due in part to the fact that in the past Greece did not meet its obligations to its partners – but this has changed drastically in the past year. Big changes are being made; big changes that are necessary. What we want now is to move ahead. It isn’t good for us to have this kind of negative climate, which does not support the solutions that we need.
Europe needs to be strong. But I am hearing a lot of voices that are asking – in the midst of a crisis – for everyone to entrench themselves; to retract into their shells. I think this would be disastrous. Europe’s power lies in the fact that over 500 million people have joined forces on investments, on foreign policy, on the economy.
I cannot think of any other political power in the world that can compete with Europe. But I don’t think a Europe where one turns against another at a time of crisis is the Europe we deserve.
I am a European by conviction. I am making a commitment that my country will honor it obligations. I am committed to fighting so that Europe can remain firm on the principle of solidarity, which is one of the EU’s fundamental principles. This is my vision. If we succeed in changing this climate, I will be very pleased and proud.