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Foreign Minister Kotzias’ intervention at the EU Foreign Affairs Council’s extraordinary meeting on Ukraine (Brussels, 29 January 2015)

Friday, 06 February 2015

During the EU Foreign Affairs Council’s extraordinary meeting on Ukraine, which was held yesterday in Brussels, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias expressed the Greek government’s deep concern at the attacks on innocent civilians. Mr. Kotzias referred in particular to the situation in Mariupol, where 160,000 Ukrainian citizens of Greek origin reside, noting that, to date, we have unfortunately counted six dead. He underscored that there is a need for a more secure environment, for a ceasefire based on the Minsk Agreements, and for withdrawal of heavy armaments, adding that, within this framework, it is vital to engage Russia in the search for a solution.

Mr. Kotzias argued that this is a profound humanitarian disaster, and this is why, in paragraph 8 of the Council Conclusions, on economic assistance, Greece asked for the addition of a reference to the need for social stability. He also posed the question of whether sanctions are the best and most effective weapon for confronting the situation, stressing that Greece perceives the Ukrainian people’s deep sense of pain, is in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and condemns policy that leads to humanitarian disasters. Foreign Minister Kotzias stated, however, that the policy of sanction does not resolve the major political issues, and that the Greek government is not convinced that the sanctions have had the results we were pursuing when we adopted them.

Mr. Kotzias then asked the European partners not to lead the EU to equating a Europeanist with one who agrees with the sanctions, arguing that, although we are determined to work to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity, we have to think in the long term: What are we pursuing with Russia? Do we want Russia’s institutional system to collapse? Referring to the taking of measures in support of Ukraine – measures aimed at averting the destabilization of Europe – Mr. Kotzias underscored that neither should the measures against Russia lead to the disruption of the country, its institutions and its society.

Mr. Kotzias expressed his concern at the fact that Greece is in a triangle of insecurity – the three vertices of which are Libya, Ukraine and the Middle East – stressing that Greece has its own stabilizing role in the region. He posed the question of the potential impact on Europe’s stability in the case of the destabilization of Greece and a generalized destabilization in a region that extends from Russia and Ukraine to North Africa and the Middle East. He also called on his collocutors to consider the domino effect that the measures they take might have, and to begin a general strategic debate on that issue.

Mr. Kotzias stated that, despite Greece’s general objections to the text, it will accept it – desiring to safeguard the EU’s unity – although the expression of different views is among Europe’s values. And it would certainly be a negative development if someone thought that Europeanism identifies with the stance of one or another state against the sanctions: a measure that, wherever implemented, has shown anything but success.

Foreign Minister Kotzias thanked the Council for adopting the Greek position on “the protection of the ethnic minorities” in Ukraine, among which is the Greek minority, and submitted three specific proposals for amendments to paragraph 3 of the Conclusions. However, despite the reflections of the Greek side, it limited itself to a few observations in order to facilitate the Council, which must take decisions within the framework of long-term strategy. Finally, Mr. Kotzias called on the European partners to support Ukraine so as to weaken separatist trends, but not to follow barren processes that will cause more general instability that is much worse that today’s.

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