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Alternate FM Xenogiannakopoulou on NET Radio, with journalists T.Sarantis and P.Tsoutsias

Monday, 01 November 2010

Journalist: We have Alternate Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou on the line. Good day, Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou.

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: Good day. And I wish you a good month.

Journalist: You, too. Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou, we’d like to start with the Summit Meeting in Brussels. A European Council that gave us the impression that all the leaders who were there left satisfied and as winners.

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: First of all, it was an important Meeting – one of the meetings that determine developments. Greece’s participation was critical, and George Papandreou carried a large portion of the debate through his input, which was backed by most of the other prime ministers in the end. Essentially – to put it simply – he charmed the snake.

In the sense that two things were determined at this Council. First of all, they agreed on the need for a European mechanism for confronting crises, and this is something that Greece and the Prime Minister have fought hard for in the past months, so that that would be a support mechanism for our country in dealing with this crisis, given that – as you know – such a thing was not provided for within the framework of the European Treaty or the EMU.

Now, after this experience and the European dimension that emerged overall regarding the crisis, they agreed that Europe needs to have such a mechanism in the future, so that we won’t have the phenomenon of a country or countries being helpless and having to fight for a mechanism to support them.

Journalist: What does this mean in practical terms? Does it mean that all the countries will be under observation? At least those with a deficit over 3%?

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: That is what it means, and that is why we will now see – in the substance of the debate on the general characteristics of this mechanism – that there will be a need for limited amendment of the Treaty and the Stability Agreement …

Journalist: Is this good?

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: What is positive is that there will be a support mechanism for such instances within the framework of the Union.

Journalist: That depends on the terms of this mechanism.

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: I’ll come back to the terms.

Let’s look at the matter of principle. You are well aware of the anxiety Greece experienced from the beginning of the year through May in order to secure a support mechanism and for there to be, naturally, the European dimension of this effort. So the first positive thing about this case is that within the context of the eurozone, there will now be such a mechanism.

Now let’s go to the terms, because this is where the Greek Prime Minister fought a second battle last Thursday.

Within the framework of broadened surveillance and sanctions provided for, the Prime Minister said “no” to three things. No to automation – that is, that every country needs to be judged according to its own specific characteristics and problems. No to sanctions that strengthen the vicious cycle of the crisis – that is, the sanctions cannot concern the Structural Funds and cohesion policies, because this, as you can see, would sink the countries into even deeper problems.

And, most importantly of all, he said no to political sanctions. And this is where he fought hardest, in the end averting the attempt – mainly of Germany – to have the Conclusions state that a country that comes under such broadened surveillance will be deprived of its vote.

Journalist: How will this be fully clarified? What precisely is going to happen?

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: Given that this political sanction was averted, the Council mandated the President of the European Union, Mr. Rompuy, to work with the European Commission to present – at the upcoming December Council – the general outlines of this mechanism, as well as proposals, in collaboration with the member states, for a limited amendment of the Treaty so as to institutionalize such a mechanism, and regarding the requirements of this mechanism.

Journalist: A question. Will this revision/amendment have to by ratified by member-state parliaments?

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: It is clear that any amendment is ratified by national parliaments.

Journalist: And if a country decides to hold a referendum? It will be blocked, won’t it?

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: Look, the Lisbon Treaty already provides for the possibility, beyond the normal process of revision, for there to be a simplified procedure when the changes are focused on a very limited area.

But we will see all this based on the specific proposals put forward by the end of the year. In any case, we were able, through the political and diplomatic struggle last week, to secure a favourable framework. But we have negotiations ahead of us, and there will certainly be very important debates in the coming months; debates that we will naturally participate in with everything in our arsenal.

Journalist: Why is it, Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou, that I have the impression the term “solidarity” is somewhat weaker in the wake of the Council?

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: I would say that in the recent past – and I would take you even further back – it is true that the European Union has been problems of strategic direction. We asked ourselves how late Europe could possibly be in responding to the general crisis.

Journalist: Yes, perhaps because the strategies of individual countries come first.

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: It’s true that there are tendencies toward introversion, and that we need to take another look at issues concerning the European Union’s strategic orientation. That is why this was an important meeting, because these issues are being re-tabled.

And the Greek Prime Minister’s input was in this direction precisely: he made everyone take their share of responsibility. Because this debate concerns the future nature of the Union.

Journalist: The given here is whether anyone bats an eye.

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: Let me tell you something. Today, Greece and some other countries face problems. But the crisis is broader. No one can know who will be facing problems in future.

So, in essence, this battle against political sanctions is against this unacceptable mindset that a country facing fiscal problems is deprived of its vote, its does not only concern Greece. By contrast, let me tell you that in 2013, if all things go well and our programme continues to be implemented in a smooth manner, this mechanism will not be of concern to us.

But in a period of crisis, this development is of concern to everyone and this was one of the main arguments of the Prime Minister, who turning towards other countries, explained to them and insisted what this could mean for democracy and EU cohesions in future, but also for each country separately.

[...] I will remain on the Prime Minister’s position. On Saturday, he visited the western regions of Athens, and took part in a big event organised in Agii Anargyri, attended by all candidate mayors for Western Athens, and the message was clear. He made an association between the our country’s struggle abroad, which it carried out reliably, for an equal participation in decisions, by saying that every vote counts and that elections are crucial and important.

Journalist: The Prime Minister is right in saying that, but …

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: This importance is particularly highlighted by our fight in Europe to preserve our voting rights to co-shape EU decisions.

Journalist: Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou, thank you very much.

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: Thank you.

Journalist: Good morning.

Ms. Xenogiannakopoulou: Good day.