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Foreign Minister Droutsas’ speech in the Parliamentary Debate regarding national issues, on the level of party leaders

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Mr. Droutsas: Madam Speaker, ladies and gentlemen MPs, much has been said in this room about the government’s choices in the area of foreign policy. We heard arguments – of a critical bent, of course, but fully respected – but, unfortunately, we also heard slogans. We heard stereotypes and clichés that we have been hearing for some time now and are repeated more or less reflexively every time the county’s government makes some external move; every time it acts in directions that others neither dared nor imagined; every time the government challenges entrenched views.

Get used to it. We are here to take initiatives and solve problems. We saw where inertia and conservatism got us. That’s why one would expect greater moderation, at least from those who put the country in the situation it was in when we came to office: on the verge of bankruptcy, and weak on the international stage.

I don’t want to raise the tone. Nor do I like to make allegations about the past. But some things have to be said, particularly when we behold an effort to write off the heavy responsibilities of bad choices, bad moves and oversights.

But allow me to say something briefly about the Foreign Ministry and the people who work there, because some things were said, and I feel I need to reply.

Naturally, the Foreign Ministry was not exempted from the great national effort to reduce public spending, and I think we have done a satisfactory job so far. And I need to say this before Parliament: that the Foreign Ministry personnel have personally shouldered the commensurate weight – perhaps even more – and continue to provide their services to the homeland with dedication and a sense of national duty. Let’s all of us in this hall agree at least that these people are carrying out their mission unselfishly.

I will address Mr. Samaras, who is not here in the chamber right now, but to say that you are talking today about the country’s choices and potential for negotiations on economic issues as well. But you are responsible for limiting the country’s options. You are responsible for the country’s having been in a position of weakness. And you charge us. You advertise New Democracy’s self-criticism a lot, but I’m sorry, Mr. Samaras, because you still have a long way to go with self-criticism, and the Greek people know it.

In Erzurum – because this was said today, you referred to it often – the Greek Prime Minister stated the obvious, yes. You’re right. But it was obvious in the past, as well. And at that time, when Mr. Karamanlis visited Turkey as prime minister, or when Mr. Molyviatis did so as foreign minister, we neither saw nor heard anyone dare to state the obvious back then.

So what are your real “beliefs”, Mr. Samaras – and I address you again. Those of 1992? Those of the government of Kostas Karamanlis, or the beliefs you set out today? If you disagreed then, why didn’t you react? Why didn’t you raise your voice back then? You were a minister in the government. You need to say what you believe. So where were you when Mr. Karamanlis announced on CNN that he wouldn’t veto Turkey, squandering the largest store of capital Greek diplomacy had every created? A truly historic opportunity for Greece, and I’m not exaggerating.

And since we’re on the subject of the veto, allow me to call on everyone not to use this term with regard to the FYROM issue. As patriotic as it sounds, using this word hurts our national interests with regard to this matter at the International Court in The Hague. As a minister of the previous government, Mr. Samaras, you should have been aware of this, and I genuinely call on you not to sacrifice everything on the altar of easy impressions and party politics, without any respect for the country’s real interests.

And while we’re on the subject of the FYROM issue, where were you, Mr. Samaras, when the U.S. recognized FYROM under its so-called constitutional name?

And as you referred, Mr. Samaras, to the mutuality of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Muslim Minority, where were you when Mr. Erdogan referred to exactly the same issue – during his joint press conference with then-prime minister Karamanlis, during his visit to Turkey – and Mr. Karamanlis let the matter go unanswered? I’m not saying you can change ideas, positions expressed by the other side, but at the very least you cannot let such things go unanswered.

And finally, Mr. Samaras, as you referred extensively in your speech to the issue of the Annan plan, what exactly was New Democracy’s position on the Annan plan? Just to clear this up at long last, because a lot is being said – and much has been said here in Parliament today. I ask you this because you’ve confused me, personally.

You spoke a while ago about New Democracy’s proud “No!”. And allow me to read the declaration of the prime minister at that time – of Mr. Karamanlis – an excerpt, the most important: “The specific state of affairs necessitates our not allowing the injustices to keep us from looking at the long term. What is most important today, what we need to do, is to look calmly at how we can use the positive aspects of the Annan plan within the framework of the European dynamic. Personally, I have a profound belief in the strength of the European reality, in its power to resolve any difficulties. And that is why I think that, within the framework of the European perspective, the positive points might prove to outweigh the negative points.”

To me, at least, that sounds like a “Yes!” – and a clear one. Or is it perhaps a dialect or language that only New Democracy understands? Your two statements don’t tally. Explain to us, Mr. Samaras, where your voice was at that time on this issue. Because it’s easy to talk big when you are the opposition party. But you have had the opportunity, personally, at least twice, Mr. Samaras, to put what you believe into action. And we all know how you conducted yourself and we all know the results.

Ladies and gentlemen, Greek foreign policy’s strategic goals are longstanding. We are struggling for the same goals. And we all need to fight for the same goals. Yes, today we are exercising a dynamic foreign policy, with more action and courage than the previous government. But the goals remain the same.

We sincerely want consensus. We are working and will continue to work for consensus. It is our principle that national issues must not become vehicles for party politicking. We want you with us. Greece needs us united. We want you with us – not with shouts, but with arguments. But anyone who plays political games with national issues jeopardises the country’s vital interests. And we will counter them with fiercely. So everyone has to face their responsibilities.

Thank you very much.