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Statements of Foreign Minister S. Lambrinidis and Foreign Minister of Norway, J.G. Store (Oslo, 08.08.2011)
JONAS GAHR STØRE: I would like to welcome my colleague, Stavros, in Oslo. Today, I received condolences from Greece, which we appreciate and consider a gesture of friendship. We discussed about the 22nd of July, about what happened in Norway. We had a good exchange, we had a good discussion on the economic developments in Europe and the Minister has explained to me the significance of the decision of the 21st of July in Europe, regarding the new measures that would facilitate Greece’s efforts. It is known that I give particular attention to Greece’s tremendous efforts to push through structural reforms in the Greek economy, to get back on the track of growth and employment. I also told the Ministers that unfortunately in May we were suspending our EEA financial mechanism with Greece, due to structural problems on the other side that did not meet standards set by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. However, I have the pleasure of informing you today that, as of the 5th of August, we have reinstalled our mechanism because of the measures that have been taken by the Greek side, which I believe constitute considerable efforts of the Greek government to create structures that are fully compatible with what we expect from the international community and from a friend such as Norway. Therefore, I am glad to say that after the termination of the previous EEA financial mechanism, we are now back on track and we are soon expecting to sign quite a substantial program of cooperation for the next years, until 2014.
Then, we have been comparing notes on the Middle East, on the situation in Libya and other issues, which we will discuss again in New York in the end of September, at the United Nations. And on many of these issues Norway and Greece really look eye-to-eye and have similar positions and a great cooperation, so this has been a good round, and a useful round, but above all we appreciate the solidarity that the Minister is showing by coming to Norway on this special moment. Stavros?
S. LAMBRINIDIS: Thank you, Jonas. I think first and foremost I wish to express the profound condolences of the Greek people for this unspeakable tragedy. A tragedy spurred by intolerance and hatred, and also the deep admiration and appreciation of the Greek people for the way that the great people of Norway dealt with this tragedy, getting together, not in rage, but in a quiet and a determined message of reaffirming the values of unity, solidarity, openness, democracy. In the midst of this tragedy, you inspired us all, in Greece, in Europe. I am deeply saddened for the families of these young kids and I am deeply proud of the way that Norway communicated to the rest of the world its reaction to this. As you understand, we had a very interesting discussion on a number of topics. I wish to express my gratitude to him for the announcement he made today about the resumption of the program and the contributions of Norway in the EEA program. I take this as a concrete proof that Norway is recognizing that things are changing in Greece, that the efforts that the Greek government and the sacrifices that the Greek people have been making in the past year and a half, are not simply words. We are changing the country. We have a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of pain ahead of us, but we are determined and committed to change the country. And we are also determined and committed to help in this process to keep Europe in the path of solidarity that it showed in the 21st of July this year. The biggest danger that we had in Europe in the past year and a half was that we, instead of holding hands, we started pointing fingers at each other. And that kind of rhetoric of punishment now ends and we are moving forward in a way that I think is not only hopeful for the Euro, but also hopeful for any country that deals with politically and economically with Europe and the Euro. We are going to come out of this much stronger and much bigger, I assure you.
And finally, let me just say that we discussed, as Jonas said, a number of issues in our region. The Middle East is of great importance for us. We are both inspired by the desire to ensure that negotiations begin. Negotiations are the only way to find a solution for two states living peacefully next to each other, Israel and Palestine. We are devoting all our efforts up to September to ensure that this can happen. We are working very closely on the issue of Libya, promoting and pushing for a political solution, now, to begin the discussion for a political solution we must not wait. And Norway and Greece have been at the forefront of advocating this for a while. We also touched a little bit upon our neighbourhood, the Balkans and the importance that it is for the EU to embrace the prospect of enlargement issues, such as Turkey’s accession and the importance that we both place in a Turkey that is a full member of the EU, provided that it fulfils all the obligations of the EU and that includes, of course, respecting Cyprus and the fact that Cyprus is a member of the EU. And we are committed to keep this conversation going.
Norway and Greece may appear to be very far away but during the Greek dictatorship, Andreas Papandreou, at the time had one passport, a Norwegian one, that Norway gave him, to be able when in exile to travel around and to organize a resistance. These are memories that never fade. They never fade. And I hope and the little bit that we can contribute both of us in strengthening this friendship even further, that we will not disappoint the Greeks or the Norwegians for that matter. Thank you very much for your hospitality.