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Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras

Thursday, 19 July 2012

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Good morning. I’ll start with the Ministers’ programmes.

At 13:00 this afternoon, Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos will meet with Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania. Mr. Tsiaras will also attend that meeting.

Mr. Avramopoulos will meet tomorrow, 20 July, with the Chairman of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, also hosting a luncheon in his honor. Later tomorrow, Mr. Avramopoulos will meet with the Indian Ambassador to Greece, and on Wednesday, 25 July, he will meet with the Israeli and Serbian Ambassadors.

Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas will meet tomorrow, 20 July, with the French Ambassador to Athens, and on 23 and 24 July he will be in Brussels to participate in the meetings of the Foreign Affairs and General Affairs Councils, as well as a Ministerial meeting on the Eastern Partnership. The Foreign Affairs Council will focus on the situation in Syria and the latest developments in the wider region of North Africa and the Middle East. The General Affairs Council agenda focuses on the debate on the Multiannual Financial Framework. On Thursday, 26 July 2012, Mr. Kourkoulas will hold meetings with the Ambassadors of Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Egypt.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kostas Tsiara will meet at 14:30 today with the President of the World Council of Hellenes, Mr. Tamvakis. Tomorrow, 20 July, Mr. Tsiaras will meet with the Turkish Ambassador to Athens. On Sunday, 22 July, he will attend the annual memorial service for those who died during the 1974 coup and Turkish invasion in Cyprus, which is being held by Athens Municipality at the Cathedral of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite. On Monday, 23 July, Mr. Tsiaras will meet with the Australian Ambassador, and on Tuesday, 24 July, he will meet with the Ambassadors of Egypt and Vietnam.

Before we move on to your questions, I would like to say that the Foreign Ministry expresses its abhorrence of yesterday’s terrorist bombing attack on a tour bus in Burgas, Bulgaria, which resulted in the death of Israeli tourists and the Bulgarian bus driver, while many others were injured. We express our support for our friends the Israeli people and condemn outright this barbarous act of terrorism. We send our wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured, and our deep condolences to the families of the victims, and we express our solidarity with Israel and Bulgaria.

Your questions, please.

P. PAPATHANASIOU: Mr. Spokesman, I would like your comment on the developments in Syria, and specifically on whether you have a picture regarding the Greeks who live or work there, and whether we should expect some initiative on the part of the Foreign Ministry beyond yesterday’s travel advisory. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: As you yourselves have seen, and as was stated in the advisory issued by the Foreign Ministry yesterday, the security situation in Syria has deteriorated, the clashes have now spread to the capital, Damascus, where there is a lot of tension. That’s why the Foreign Ministry issued yesterday’s travel advisory. As you can see, additionally, we are monitoring the security situation constantly and very closely. The Greek Embassy in Damascus is in contact with the Greek communities living throughout Syria, as well as with the Greeks working there, whom we have asked to take all necessary precautions and stay in contact with our Embassy.

The developments in Syria are cause for very great concern. The situation has essentially developed into a civil war with vast, tragic consequences for the civilian population. There is a UN Security Council discussion scheduled for today, there is the Geneva meeting and its conclusions, and there are the proposals that have been submitted by the special envoy of UN and the Arab League, Mr. Annan, which set out a roadmap out of the crisis. We believe that these plans must be implemented immediately, and it is vital that the Security Council be able to put its political weight behind these decisions so that we can move ahead to a political solution.

Greece’s firm position is that there needs to be a political solution in Syria, that military means can provide no response in the existing crisis and that any developments must respect the sovereignty and independence of Syria and the will of the Syrian people. We will continue to do this. We have traditional, historical relations with the Syrian people, whom we want to see exit the crisis as soon as possible, and we will do everything in our power to help in that direction.

K. FRYSSA: Is Greece prepared to accept refugees from Syria?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: So far, no such issue has been raised. As you have seen, Greece is always willing and able to support large-scale humanitarian operations, as we did with great success and positive results during the Libyan crisis. At that time we were able to help tens of thousands of people – from various countries – who were evacuated from Libya during the fighting. Greece can, and knows how to, play this role, and it is a given that we will support any humanitarian effort that takes place, but so far no such issue has been raised.

M. KOURBELA: Does Greece have any specific positions on issues concerning the multiannual financial framework?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: This is one of the parameters that we naturally want borne in mind. The debate on the multiannual financial framework has been under way for some time now. The plan is for these discussions to be completed during the Cypriot Presidency; that is, by the end of the year. Deputy Foreign Minister Kourkoulas had meetings this week with his counterpart from the Republic of Cyprus, which is exercising the Presidency of the Council of the European Union at this time, and they had the opportunity to discuss all of these issues. In Greece’s view, the EU budget also needs to be a development tool, and that is why we think it is important  that there be an increase in available funding and that we have a clear development orientation.

As you can understand, it is a multilateral negotiation, a negotiation in which there are different positions from the member states – but this negotiation needs to continue. We are in contact with countries with whom we share a perspective on financial framework issues, so that we can jointly promote these positions, and we hope that these efforts have a positive outcome so that by the end of the year we can reach a satisfactory result.

K. FRYSSA: There is an article in today’s “Epikaira” that refers to the setting up of a National Committee on determining the EEZ. Do you confirm that? Do you have any comment?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I too saw those reports, but I must tell you that they are inaccurate. No such committee – as described in the article – has been set up. The issue of the EEZs and the maritime zones in general is an issue that we are handling with great care, and it is an issue that is being monitored very seriously by the competent state and government authorities. Beyond that, I remind you of the Foreign Minister’s stance on the EEZ in the policy papers, and, as you know, there is a relevant agreement among the partners in the government.

L. KALARRYTIS: Wasn’t a meeting scheduled at the Maximus Mansion for a specific Committee to look at the EEZ issue? If you want, I can mention names. Are you sure that there is no such Committee being set up and that there is no such meeting today?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: As I said, no such Committee has been set up. The competent state and government authorities are handling issues concerning the exclusive economic zone and maritime zones.

L. KALARRYTIS: I repeat, isn’t the setting up of a committee, with the participation of specific persons, being considered?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I’ve answered your question.

L. KALARRYTIS: Sorry, but I will insist, on the planning, I repeat, because there is specific mention and because this is crosschecked information, whether the setting up of a committee is being looked …

G. DELAVEKOURAS: There is an article …

L. KALARRYTIS: … and whether those persons are going to convene today at the Maximus Mansion for a first meeting.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I have no information on any meeting at the Maximus Mansion. But what I am saying is that no committee has been set up to deal with EEZ or maritime zone issues, and that these issues are being dealt with by the competent state and government services and authorities.

L. KALARRYTIS: I will insist […] the setting up with specific persons […]

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I am referring to the specific article as it is written. Thank you.

M. TOMPALOVA: Regarding yesterday’s terrorist attack in Bulgaria, because a lot of Israeli tourists also come to Greece, I would like to ask whether Greece has done anything for their security and whether any measures have been taken at Greek airports.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Greece is one of the safest tourist destinations in the world and it is obvious that all the necessary security measures are being taken so that there be no danger for the tourists who visit our country.

L. KALARRYTIS: As the specific persons referred to in the specific article have been notified, are you sure, I repeat, that the setting up of this committee is not being considered – this committee with the specific persons? I ask because these specific persons have been notified and they have been notified by competent government authorities.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I answered you that, at this time, no such committee has been set up to prepare a draft law to be submitted to parliament regarding the exclusive economic zone, and that these issues are being monitored very carefully by the responsible government and state authorities.

M. TOPALOVA: Was the Minister’s meeting with the Israeli Ambassador scheduled beforehand, or was with something that …?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: It was scheduled beforehand – it has nothing to do with the attack.

G. HADOULIS: I would like to ask whether we are expecting Mr. Clinton this weekend, as reported recently, in relation to an initiative by Greek American entrepreneurs. And related to the previous question, whether Mr. Shimon Perez will be visiting in early August. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Regarding the first issue, an initiative is being prepared by Greek Americans, and we believe it is important. But I don’t have anything to announce regarding the programming for the coming days. Regarding an upcoming visit from the Israeli President, as you know, such visits, at the highest level, on the level of heads of state, are announced by the competent authorities, so I am not in a position at this time to announce anything.

G. HADOULIS: Can you tell us anything about this initiative?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: This initiative will be presented on Sunday and we will have the opportunity to discuss it in depth afterwards.

F. PAPATHANASIOU: Mr. Spokesman, I will insist a little, because we read in “To Vima” that the Foreign Minister is leading this initiative, is in contact with Greek Americans. Would you like to tell us how the Foreign Ministry is contributing to this effort and the philosophy of this initiative to help the country?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Of course. First of all I will repeat that it is a private initiative and a major initiative. On the part of the Foreign Ministry, as Mr. Avramopoulos has repeatedly stated, in the policy papers as well as at every opportunity in the meetings he has had to date, it is very important for Greece to gain a dynamic, extroverted foreign policy that is comprehensive and can point up all of Greece’s comparative advantages.

Let’s not forget that Greece is the most developed country in its neighborhood, with the best infrastructure, the best human resources, and it is a country that can support security, stability and can create conditions of development for the whole region. These characteristics of Greece, which we tend to forget due to the economic crisis and negative media coverage we have been getting for a long time now, have to be brought back to mind.

Greece really has major comparative advantages. It is a very important investment destination, and we have already seen this from the meetings the Foreign Minister has had with representatives of countries in every part of the world. That is, we see that there is increased interest in the potential for economic cooperation and investment in our country.

Greeks abroad are a principal, invaluable tool in this effort Greece is making. The Greek communities abroad are an inexhaustible source of strength that can help, can embrace, can support and promote these efforts Greece is making – efforts to rehabilitate our image and attract economic interest – in the countries where they live.

The initiative being taken right now is important, and there will be many others, and these initiatives will certainly enjoy the support of, and coordination with, the Foreign Ministry, because we really believe that through a dynamic mobilization of world Hellenism we can achieve very significant results and contribute decisively to our country’s exiting the crisis.

M. KOURBELA: Can you tell us anything else about the composition of this delegation? That is, how many will be participating, and what issues are they mainly interested in? Another question I want to raise is this: there are a large number of visitors coming. Are we inviting them, or are they coming by themselves? That’s what I want to know, because there is a qualitative difference. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: There are a large number of visits and there will be even more, just as we are going on many trips abroad. This is a central choice, because Greece has decided to communicate to the whole world the message that the country is determined to come out of this crisis, to fight it and win. It is important for us to have all of our partners as allies in this effort: the partners in the EU, our friends in the Arab world, in our neighborhood, the Balkans. All of these countries can help Greece to exit the crisis. A condition for this is many and frequent contacts so that our collocutors have a very good picture of the effort being made in our country right now.

N. PAPACHRISTOU: As far as I know, this is not the first time Greeks abroad, and particularly from the U.S., have shown their interest in supporting Greece in this crisis. But it seems that their recent efforts faltered due to the inability of the Greek side to serve these businesspersons. So, what will the Foreign Ministry do now so that this effort they are making can bear fruit – apart from the moral support they will give and its willingness to work with the diaspora Greeks on this private sector effort? What will it do within Greece to facilitate the entrepreneurs who want to come and invest in Greece?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: It is a fact that there have been problems in Greece; problems that have some share of the responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in today, and these things have to change. A huge reform effort is being made in our country right now. This effort has to succeed, and I think everyone has realized this. This presupposes better functioning of the state mechanism so as to attract investments, to point up the advantages that exist, to create conditions for entrepreneurship that can be substantial and mutually beneficial, to create jobs, to create growth. All of these are top priorities – they have been set as a top priority and will be achieved.

The Foreign Ministry has a central, coordinating role in this effort, because it is the basic pillar of our country’s extroversion. And I think this has already become apparent with the first moves that were made, like the Foreign Minister’s meeting with the Tourism Minister and the collaboration that was announced on that level. There needs to be interaction between the ministries and agencies so that we can achieve the optimum results.

So, the Foreign Ministry will assist every effort that has to do with serious business proposals and investments in our country, as well as the promotion of exports, having the network of some 140 missions throughout the world, which can function as relays for this message Greece is sending to all its partners.

At the same time, in tourism, which is a development tool of huge value for our country, we have already undertaken – as we said last week – initiatives to simplify the visa regime as much as possible; we are exhausting the potential provided in the Schengen framework and at the same time we are collaborating, with the Tourism Ministry so that we can handle any problems that arise in specific markets, so that we can react fast and resolve problems immediately, thus removing obstacles to the flow of tourists into our country.

We already have very good results from important markets for Greek tourism in the visa sector – that is, we have significant increases in Russia and Ukraine and in Turkey regarding the issuing of visas, even though we started from an already high percentage. There were certainly problems this year with the country’s image, but we have indications that we can confront these and have a good year.

S. RISTOVSKA: Mr. Spokesman, Mr. Vassilakis will be meeting with Mr. Nimetz in Thessaloniki next week. What does Greece expect from this meeting? Whether you are optimistic that we might see some development on the name issue, or whether you expect some proposal. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: As you know, the UN Secretary General has decided to carry out a tour of the countries of the former Yugoslavia – a tour that we consider very important, precisely because we need to send the message, and I believe that this message will be sent by the UN, that the Balkans are leaving the past behind, the past of nationalism and conflicts, and moving ahead to a new page in their history, a page of cooperation and development.

We believe that the UN will send precisely this message, and it is the message that Greece will support. The UN Secretary General will visit FYROM and will be accompanied on that part of his trip by his personal envoy Mr. Nimetz.

Greece has invited Mr. Nimetz to visit Thessaloniki afterwards for a meeting with our representative, Mr. Vassilakis, for a briefing on what Mr. Nimetz meets with in Skopje. We are firmly dedicated to the achievement of a solution. We want a solution and we want one as soon as possible. But it needs to be clear that this can only be achieved in terms of substance, and not in communication terms.

If on one day you attack Greece in the harshest of terms, the next day you make cooperation proposals, and the day after you again attack Greece – while at no time in this process making a substantial move towards the negotiations, a move of compromise on the name issue – we obviously won’t move towards a solution.

If we are to reach a solution, both sides need to sit at the table and be determined to reach a mutually acceptable result. Greece has taken huge steps toward achieving this. What we are waiting for is for a similar move to be made by the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

I hope this will be the message conveyed by Mr. Nimetz after the UN officials’ meetings in Skopje. But I can’t say that I am optimistic that this will be the message.

We are ready and willing, but we need a sincere collocutor who truly wants to make progress. Let’s hope that we will have positive messages. As you know, we support the UN process and we are working to achieve a mutually acceptable solution. Let’s wait and see whether we have a collocutor.

L. KALARRYTIS: If I’m correct, the Foreign Minister discussed the possibility of re-convening the Greek-Turkish High-level Cooperation Council with the Turkish Ambassador a few days ago – as to whether it will happen by the end of this year. As criticism was leveled at the previous government when it convened the Greek-Turkish joint Ministerial Council here in Athens, on the grounds that Turkey’s conduct did not justify such a meeting, I want to ask whether anything has changed in Turkey’s conduct so that such a meeting is now justified – and on Turkish territory, at that – and why the Foreign Ministry is discussing it.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: The Greek-Turkish High-level Cooperation Council is a tool for deepening and extending our cooperation in sectors of mutual interest and to our mutual benefit, and it is a tool that essentially makes cooperation between the two countries more systematic in a number of sectors where we have already diagnosed that there is room for both peoples to benefit.

There are trade transactions, there is great improvement in the balance of trade, as well as of trade between the two countries. There is a significant increase in tourism, which is very important, because it is not only a development tool, but also brings the two peoples into contact, helping the two countries get better acquainted with one another.

There are meetings, there is cooperation, even in difficult sectors like illegal migration, where we want to have much better cooperation and much better results, because Greece is under huge pressure from migration, which basically comes from Turkey, and that is why there is still a lot of room for improvement.

All of this is one basic aspect of Greek-Turkish relations that it will benefit both countries to promote. It is obvious that, on the one hand, we want the full normalization of Greek-Turkish relations, but this can’t happen when we have conduct that is contrary to international law, as we see in  specific instances of violation of international law, as we see in the activity in the Aegean, as we see from the fact that Turkey has not contributed to the resolution – progress toward the resolution – of the Cyprus issue. And all of these are issues that we bear very seriously in mind.

Right now we are at the point of preparation. Preparation means that the Public Administrations of the two countries are analyzing the data in order to identify the points where progress can be made. We will continue this preparation and we will announce the next steps as soon as they are worked out.

L. KALARRYTIS: With Turkey having the casus belli in effect in the Aegean, not recognizing the Cypriot Presidency of the European Union, and the rest of its conduct that you referred to, do you believe that there is justification, from the point of view of Greek interests and the impressions of third countries, for the convening of a Ministerial Council?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I will say that these points are areas pointed to by the Foreign Minister in the policy paper statements in Parliament, and these are very serious and critical areas. It goes without saying that the casus belli is an anachronism that must be withdrawn. It is unthinkable that we have two Nato allies and one is threatening the other with war for the exercising of self-evident rights provided for by international law.

It is obvious that Turkey cannot affront in this manner an EU institution like the Presidency, because this conduct is an affront not only to the Republic of Cyprus, which Turkey refuses to recognize, but also to the whole of the European Union, each of us, each partner who is participating in the European Union.

These are wrong choices on the part of Turkey; choices that have to be changed. And we stress this in every meeting we have. Beyond that, I repeat that at this time we are at the preparation stage, so that we can see what the next steps are for moving ahead. When we are in a position to make specific announcements, they will obviously be made.

M. KOURBELA: Mr. Spokesman, you mentioned tourism, and there really is an improvement in the conditions abroad and greater promotion. But hasn’t something similar been done with regard to imports – the internationalization of businesses. A very large number of economic and commercial affairs councilors are here, at the central service, sitting at desks that …

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Excuse me, but before you go on, that is an oversimplification that I don’t accept. That is, the fact that some Foreign Ministry staff are in Athens doesn’t mean they are just sitting around – and the diplomatic staff in Athens aren’t just sitting around.

M. KOURBELA: No, no, you’re right.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: The Diplomatic Service needs to have a central service that has a staff role, setting goals, issuing instructions, monitoring developments – it has an overall picture, so we shouldn’t make oversimplifications.

M. KOURBELA: Sorry, I take that back, it was a matter of wording, but I talk to these people and they say these things – I don’t make them up. First of all, they say that the commercial bureaus are understaffed, they can’t do their work – they tell me this outright. Second, they tell me there are many more here than are needed – I correct my earlier phrasing – and I ask: will something be done there? That’s it. Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: You already presented a picture that I don’t believe corresponds to the current reality. First of all, the Foreign Ministry puts great emphasis on the sector of economic and trade relations. The network of economic and commercial affairs bureaus has been modernized and has very good cooperation with companies and the chambers, and naturally with the Foreign Ministry’s Central Service, and I know that it has a very significant response from the market due to the fact that it provides support and information to a large number of companies. And every year, year on year, the requests they respond to are increasing, and we have constant improvement, just as we have improved numbers in the exports sector.

They certainly have to improve further. It is very important that the Greek economy become even  more ‘international’. But this obviously isn’t something that can happen from one day to the next. This requires a change in the structure of the market itself, it requires that the enterprises themselves focus abroad and put more emphasis on internationalizing their business. This is a process that has begun and is bringing results. We are hoping and trying to get results even faster.

M. KOURBELA: Mr. Spokesman, I would like to come back to the issue. First of all, because I am aware of the efforts being made by the Foreign Ministry to strengthen international business activities – and these efforts are very important – that is why I raise the issue: What more can it do, because there are unexploited markets – from what they tell me and from what I read – that would really bring relief to the Greek economy if they were better exploited and because efforts are being made in tourism, I’m asking if something similar is happening with the internationalization of enterprises.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Efforts are being made to bolster the internationalization of enterprises and we have seen significant improvement. As an indication, I refer to the case of Turkey, where we have a very large increase in Greek foreign trade to Turkey, which is a major development. We are identifying markets where we can get better results, and we are promoting initiatives there so that we can achieve those results. Efforts are being made constantly. We certainly need greater efficiency, but let’s not forget that this requires that all the forces come together – from both the state and the private sector – so we can get these results.

K. FRYSSA: Are you expecting a visit from Mr. Davutoglu in the early autumn?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Within the framework of the preparations being made for the scheduling of the High-level Cooperation Council, there is an understanding in principle and a visit from the Turkish Foreign Minister to Greece is being scheduled for the autumn.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: Mr. Spokesman, I want to ask, because we have signed an agreement on military cooperation with Israel, in the case of an American or Israeli attack on Syria and Iran, does the Greek government intend to assist in any way via the provision of facilitations, and do you believe that this would be in Greece’s national interest?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I said this today, and we have said it repeatedly at every opportunity, that Greece believes that Syria needs a political solution. Only a political solution can bring the stability needed by the Syrian people right now, so that they can stand on their feet again. I will not go into war scenarios. I rest on what I said: Greece supports diplomatic, political efforts to achieve a solution, and efforts that respect the sovereignty and independence of the Syrian people.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: Excuse me, your answer concerns only Syria, not Iran.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I said I won’t go into “war scenarios”. I answered that Greece support diplomatic solutions. As for Iran, you are aware that there are discussions that have been under way for some time now, and we hope a solution can be found. We believe that there is a need to build the necessary trust among the six and Iran so that we can reach an understanding. Beyond that, I will not enter into any discussion of war scenarios. We have had this discussion before, in this very room.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: Yes, but I want to ask you this: from the manner in which you answered me, there are two possible interpretations. One is that Greece will not cooperate in any way in war scenarios. The second interpretation is that if there is a war, there will be other things you aren’t talking to us about right now. Which of the two is the case? That is, I mentioned a specific thing that is of intense concern to the Greek people’s sense of security.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: And I replied that Greece is a force for peace and believes that all international issues call for efforts toward political and diplomatic solutions. We believe that in the case of Iran’s nuclear programme, as well, these talks that are under way need to bear fruit, and that is why it is very important for there to be a sincere dialogue that will produce results. The sooner the better.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: Another question. Mr. Zepos, I think, called the UK Ambassador a few days ago and complained about some statements, but there are 1,783 statements – I counted them – from European officials on different levels and from different countries about the possibility of Greece’s exit from the eurozone – the possibility of Greece’s not succeeding, the possibility of Greece’s defaulting. Statements they shouldn’t have made. It goes against EU deontology. For what reason, from what I know, has the Greek Government left the country undefended internationally, and particularly within the European Union. Why don’t you call the Ambassadors of these countries every day – countries that are essentially feeding the global rumor mill regarding Greece’s defaulting and exiting the Euro  …

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I don’t accept what you said. There is always a reaction from the Greek side on the appropriate level when such comments and such …

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: I read one announcement.

G. DELAVEKOURAS:  That doesn’t mean there aren’t others and that there aren’t constant contacts with this issue raised constantly.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: And why are the statements continuing? Are these demarches effective?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: What has to be realized is that through such statements, the officials who make them are essentially sawing through the branch they are sitting on. It is important for there to be unity among the Europeans in this effort we are making. This issue we are facing today, the crisis in Europe, goes far beyond Greece’s borders, and this has to be seen by everyone: we need unity, we need resolve, we need diligence if we are to get through this crisis all together. Europe has the ability to do it and is moving ahead to do it. Beyond that, I do not accept what you said about there not being a reaction from Greece. In every case there is a reaction from Greece on the appropriate level.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: I would gladly accept this, but this is a reaction not seen by any of the observers. In any case, let me ask you something else, then, about our Embassies, the Press Offices, in which 3/4 of officials and 2/3 of the European press say that the whole problem in Greece is due to the Memorandum, that the Memorandum is fine, that is, and that the Greeks aren’t implementing the measures. How do they reply? What instructions have you issued? To what do Greek diplomats attribute the startling economic and humanitarian crisis that has surpassed all of Greece’s borders? That is, what do they say to their collocutors – that we are at fault because we didn’t implement, or that the Memorandum is at fault? Or perhaps that extraterrestrials are to blame? How do they defend Greece internationally?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: This is an uninterrupted effort being made by all of our missions abroad, including the Press Offices, in all their contacts, so that we can convey the real situation that exists in our country right now, the huge efforts and sacrifices the Greek people have made and the determination of the Greek government for all these necessary reforms to be carried out so that we can emerge from the crisis.

No one is left out of this effort. Each of us, in every contact we have with a foreigner, conveys the image of Greece. Naturally, the first role is played by the Embassy, the Press Office, our missions abroad, which are in constant and daily contact with our partners there. But this is an effort that cannot stop.

It is a battle we need to fight at every level, on every point, so that we can reverse the negative image that is in many cases based on stereotypes that are wrong and that need to change. It is a very difficult battle, and that is why a very great effort is required, and we cannot stop fighting for even a second.

D. KONSTANTAKOPOULOS: You say, if I understand correctly, that the only specific argument you have given me is that we explain what we are doing or need to carry out the necessary reforms. But that’s the whole issue. What the Europeans are saying is that because we don’t want, or refuse, to implement the reforms, we are destroying ourselves. Does the Greek government accept this argument? And to …

G. DELAVEKOURAS: You have to realize that right now things are completely different. The European crisis has now taken on proportions that touch on the whole of the Eurozone and all of the EU, at its core, and that is why it is very important for Europe to fight this battle as one. We are working in this spirit, this is what we convey to our partners, and these are the efforts we are making.

Greece is determined to do its part, and everyone has to do their best so that Europe can come out of this crisis stronger and more unified. I am convinced that Europe has the means and the capability to achieve this.

L. KALARRYTIS: Regarding the travel advisory on Syria issued by the Foreign Ministry yesterday, do we have a picture of how many Greeks are there, who might be working there or be there for some other reason, and whether anyone has requested help from our Embassy.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: As I said, the Embassy is in ongoing contact with the communities and the Greeks working in Syria. All the necessary actions have been taken so that these people, in case they decide they want to leave Syria, have what they need. At this time, no Greeks have asked to leave Syria. As you can see, it is a very fluid situation and very serious, and that is why the Embassy is in constant contact with them, so that on a daily basis it has a picture of all the developments regarding their conditions and needs. Beyond that, as the situation develops, we will take any actions necessary.

N. PAPCHRISTOU: A clarification regarding the previous issue. You said that officials who make these statements against Greece, if I understood correctly, are sawing through the branch we are all sitting on. To whom are you referring?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: It hurts everyone when someone calls into question the European Union’s ability to handle the crisis. What has to be realized is that we are a group of countries who have the same currency and who are moving towards a deepening of our union. No one can be isolated at this time, in the conditions that exist, because we are fighting this battle, this struggle, together. So when someone make comments that heighten the discussion of doubts, of Europe’s inability to deal with the crisis, they are essentially hurting their own interests. This is what has to be seen: that we are fighting this battle together and that is why we must be unified.

Thank you very much.