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Briefing of diplomatic correspondents by Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregory Delavekouras

Thursday, 11 April 2013

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Good morning. I’ll start with the programme. A short while ago, Foreign Minister Avramopoulos completed his meeting with the Ambassador of Qatar, who delivered an invitation from the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar to participate from 20 to 22 May in the 13th Doha Forum on international political issues.

Mr. Avramopoulos will meet tomorrow with the Serbian Ambassador to Athens, and on Tuesday, 16 April, the tenth anniversary of the signing in Athens of the Accession Treaties of ten new EU member states, he will be the keynote speaker at an event being held at the Foreign Ministry’s Kranidiotis Amphitheatre to mark the anniversary, with the participation of the ambassadors of the 10 member states who joined the EU in 2003.

On the same day, Mr. Avramopoulos will meet with members of a Council of Foreign Relations delegation that will be carrying out a visit to Greece.

On Monday, 22 April, the Foreign Minister will be in Luxembourg to participate in the General Affairs and Foreign Affairs Councils. The agenda of the General Affairs Council includes preparations for the 22 May European Council and the multiannual financial framework, and the European Commission progress reports on Serbia, Kosovo and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will be presented. The agenda for the Foreign Affairs Council includes the European Energy Policy; Eastern Neighbourhood Policy; recent developments in Syria; Lebanon and Egypt; and the situation in Mali and Myanmar.

From Luxembourg, the Minister will travel directly to Brussels, where, on 23 April, he will participate in the spring meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers. The agenda for the meeting hasn’t been finalized yet, but it will include, among other topics, the prospects for further developing partnerships with the Mediterranean dialogue countries, developments in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the outlook for after 2014. And a NATO-Russia Council will also take place.

On Wednesday, 24 April, Mr. Avramopoulos will receive his Bosnia and Herzegovina counterpart, in Athens, for one-on-one and expanded talks. Following their meeting, they will make statements to the news media, and Mr. Avramopoulos will host a luncheon in honor of his colleague.

On Thursday, 25 April, the Foreign Minister will convene a meeting of the National Council on Foreign Policy, with the participation of representatives of the political parties. The agenda for the meeting includes Greece’s relations with its European partners, Greek-Turkish relations and developments in the Cyprus issue, the latest developments in the Middle East, as well as the European perspective of the Western Balkans and Greece’s relations with the countries of the Western Balkans.

Finally, on Monday and Tuesday, 29 and 30 April, Mr. Avramopoulos will carry out an official visit to Azerbaijan. His meetings with the political leadership will cover the whole range of bilateral relations, with emphasis on the further development of Greek-Azerbaijani economic relations, and EU-Azerbaijani relations ahead of Greece’s EU Presidency in the first half of 2014. Naturally, the talks will cover developments in Greek-Azerbaijani energy cooperation in light of the ratification of the Greece-Italy-Albania agreement on realization of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kourkoulas is participating today in the Parliamentary plenary session for debate of the draft law on “establishing a Greek EU Presidency office and other provisions,” while tomorrow, Friday, 12 April, he will co-chair, together with Russian Transport Minister Sokolov, the 8th Greek-Russian Joint Interministerial Committee on Economic, Industrial, Technological and Scientific Cooperation. Following the proceedings of the JIC, which will take place at the Foreign Ministry, a relevant protocol will be signed and statements will be made to the media. Mr. Kourkoulas will then declare the opening of the 5th Greek-Russian business council at the premises of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises.

The Foreign Ministry’s Secretary General for International Economic Relations and Development Cooperation, Mr. Mihalos, will be in Rome on Friday, 19 April, to participate in a Greek-Italian-Albania trilateral informal political committee on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP)

That’s it for announcements. Your questions, please.

G. VLAVIANOS: Mr. Spokesman, I want to ask whether you can give us any details regarding Mr. Nimetz’s proposal for the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: We are expecting Greece’s envoy to the negotiations, Mr. Vassilakis, to get back to Greece today, and he will provide a briefing on the talks and the new proposal presented by Mr. Nimetz to the two sides a few days ago, in New York City.

This process – a process that Greece has supported firmly all these years – has unfortunately gone on for a very long time, due to a lack of political will. We hope and see this latest meeting as one more step in this process, which is aimed at bringing us closer, so that at some point we will be able to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

So, within this framework we are continuing to support the process, we will assess the new proposals from the UN envoy, and, naturally, we will inform him, as always, in a constructive spirit, of Greece’s positions, bearing in mind that we have to find a solution that will clarify matters, provide a definitive solution on this issue, and respect the history and culture of each country, not leaving any room for misinterpretations.

S. RISTOVSKA: I wanted you to clarify something for me, because we read in yesterday’s papers here regarding the geographical qualifier. The Greek side wants it to be before the word Macedonia, not the word Republic?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: First of all – and to make this clear from the outset, because after every meeting, articles start coming out with various names – I will not deny or confirm or comment on these news items. Beyond that, it is clear that a geographical qualifier qualifies a geographical region, and, as we said, we need to reach a solution that is not open to misinterpretation.

A. ATHANASOPOULOS: Can you reiterate for us Greece’s longstanding position, so there is no misunderstanding as to what solution we are pursuing? Thank you.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Greece’s longstanding position is well known: we are talking about a name with a geographical qualifier for erga omnes use.

Μ. ΚΟΤΟVSKA: Foreign Minister, Mr. Popovski, yesterday addressed a public invitation to his Greek colleague, Mr. Avramopoulos, regarding the Ministerial meeting that will be held in the town of Ohrid in May. So is Mr. Avramopoulos going to consider this invitation?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: The Foreign Minister’s programme for May hasn’t been finalized yet, so I have nothing to announce to you at this time.

J. TASEVSKA: During yesterday’s meeting with the Greek President, Mr. Avramopoulos said that Greece is turning to a positive diplomacy and moving forward. What does that mean?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Honest diplomacy. We are talking about a principle of Greek foreign policy. A principle that is aimed at moving things forward so that we can consolidate a region of security, stability and development in our neighbourhood. Problems exist, and we see them around us. There are still pending issues that we want to resolve, and the problems have to be confronted on that basis: they have to be discussed, and diplomatic solutions have to be sought. Greece speaks the language of truth. It speaks clearly, it has clear positions based on international law, and Greece wants to see progress on all fronts so that we can really achieve this objective, always bearing in mind that we are talking about a region that has a clear European orientation, and we want to see all our neighbours move ahead in that direction.

But I must tell you something else about the developments in our region. Right now, Southeast Europe is going through a very difficult phase, because we are seeing a resurgence of nationalism. This is cause for concern. Our region has paid very dearly because of nationalism, with conflicts, with wars, which we need to leave behind. We need to look ahead to the future.

Unfortunately, however, we don’t see progress being made wherever it is needed, and at this point I would like to mention and example that we saw unfold in recent months in our neighbouring country of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where we saw fierce political clashes, we see essential issues for freedom of the press, we see agreements that have not been fulfilled, even though they were reached through the mediation of the European Union.

These are all serious matters that are obviously being monitored very carefully by the European Commission as well, but Greece is doing so too, as a responsible member state that has to assess the situation in the context of the accession process and assist in the direction of the reforms. Greece is working to give our neighbouring countries a steady, substantial course towards the European Union.

But there are European standards, and these European standards need to be met. Right now, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia there are serious problems, and we shouldn’t sweep them under the carpet. We need to deal with them. Reforms have to be implemented. There needs to be determination and political will. Greece is standing by in support, hoping that Skopje can gradually adopt these European standards. Obviously, we’re not there yet, and that’s why conscientiousness and reforms are needed. It doesn’t suffice to pass laws. The laws have to be implemented. There are some areas that are very sensitive and very important to us, like the issue of freedom of the press, because we have seen throughout these months that the press is not functioning freely. This is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with, and it is something that Commissioner Fule referred to on his recent visit to Skopje.

There are specific agreements – even the agreement of 1 March, between the government and the opposition – that have yet to be implemented and need to be implemented. Just as there are still serious issues concerning the way elections are carried out, which has already been pointed to by the OSCE’s preliminary report. I repeat, these are matters that we mustn’t ignore. It jeopardizes our region. We need to identify the issues and deal with them.

C. BOUATARD: Something on the Fyrom name issue. Is the Nimetz proposal in English? Because I tried to collate everything being said in the press, and it doesn’t work in French and Greek. That is, the concern arising according to the press. So I would like to know what languages the proposal …

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I never go into the content of the ideas or proposals of Mr. Nimetz. However, I can say that the working language in the negotiations is English, so the his proposals and ideas, when they are presented, are presented in the English language.

A. PELONI: Regarding the German reparations, given that we also had the statement from Mr. Avramopoulos a short while ago, and given the Foreign Ministry gave the findings of the State General Accounting Office – I don’t know if this was at the Foreign Minister’s initiative – whether you think this is the right time to reopen such an issue. We are already seeing reactions from Germany, and what does the Foreign Ministry intend to do if the State Legal Service opinion says there are legal grounds for taking it further? What will the next steps be?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: A report has been drawn up by the Finance Ministry, by the State General Accounting Office, that lists all the archive material there is, and then this material was forwarded, in the form of the report we have received from the State General Accounting Office, to the State Legal Service for a legal assessment and so that the Greek states claims can be set out.

It is vital that these steps be completed, and they are under way, and I think that this confirms the political will that exists. But a major legal analysis has to be carried out. As Foreign Minister Avramopoulos said, the matter of German reparations is an issue that has been raised consistently by the Greek state for many years now, and international justice will determine whether the issue is closed.

Right now, the matter is with the State Legal Service. We are awaiting the completion of the assessment and the opinion they will give us.

C. BOUATARD: About how long are we talking about?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: That depends on the State Legal Service, which has to carry out the assessment and prepare the opinion.

D. VAGENA: When the Foreign Minister uses – as you do, Mr. Spokesman – the term “international justice,” what does it mean? How far are we prepared to take the issue of German reparations in view of the categorical refusal on the part of Berlin? Will we refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: As I said a short while ago, because this matter has a legal dimension and rests on data, on facts, that are being assessed right now, we need to wait for the assessment to be completed. And we need to see what the State Legal Service opinion is. Beyond that, it is not up to Greece or Germany to say whether or not this matter has been resolved, because it has a clear legal dimension and concerns international justice.

D. VAGENA: So The Hague isn’t ruled out as a prospect – its among the options.

G. DELAVEKOURAS: I’m not doing any hypothesizing right now, because it would be irresponsible of me to hypothesize. We have to wait for the State Legal Service opinion, and then we will be able to talk about this.

C. KAPOUTSIS: On the same subject, Mr. Spokesman. You described the social dimension of the issue. Don’t you see a political dimension?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: Clearly, and that is why I said that the political will is confirmed by the fact that a series of steps are being carried out in a responsible manner, so that we can know exactly what data there is.

A. GIAMALI: Does the government think the first Memorandum’s provision for non-compensation of claims creates problems? Was it wrong?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: There can be no correlation whatsoever between the matter of German reparations and the current economic state of affairs. The matter of German reparations is a matter that has existed for many years now, and it has been raised systematically by the Greek state. We are dealing with it in this context, and don’t forget that we are talking about an issue that has a significant moral and historical dimension for Greece.

A. ATHANASOPOULOS: Just a clarification. The German reparations issue has two facets: one is the facet of private reparations, the other is the matter of the coerced loan. Which will the State Legal Service express and opinion on? On both? Because I heard you make a differentiation, you talked about claims of the Greek state. Will it opine on both, and how is this process carried out from a technical perspective?

G. DELAVEKOURAS: First of all, let me clarify that the contents of the State General Accounting Office report are confidential, so I can’t comment. We are talking about state archives, archives that the Finance Ministry had and that right now have been studied by the State General Accounting Office. That’s what we are talking about: assessing the claims of the Greek state.