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Foreign Minister Droutsas’s interview on Skai TV’s “Front Line” (excerpts)

Monday, 10 January 2011

The following are excerpts from Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas’s interview on Skai TV’s “Front Line” on Monday, 10 January 2011.

[on Greek-Turkish relations]

· “When you have such a grave past in your relations with a country, it isn’t easy to begin to build this necessary relationship of trust so that issues that have been plaguing our relations for a long time now can be talked about openly and frankly. That is what we are building. It takes time. It takes effort. Don’t forget that this intensive effort was started a year by the current government; a little over a year ago.”

· “The exploratory talks process cannot, of course, be open-ended in terms of time. There needs to be a time horizon, and if we see that we can’t reach a conclusion, Greece proposes that we go to international justice: the International Court in The Hague.”

· “For the Republic of Cyprus and for Greece, it would be good if we could have a solution tomorrow. For us, the framework for this solution is clear, and it is clear to the whole of the international community. It is based on the resolutions of the United Nations, it is based on respect for the European acquis, because we mustn’t forget that the Republic of Cyprus is a member state of the European Union.”

· “In recent years, Turkey has gone through a phase during which it has received mixed messages from the European Union. The clear message we sent to Turkey was that if you comply, if you carry out all of the necessary reforms, if you meet all your obligations to the European Union and all of its member states, then you will become a member state – a full member state of the European Union. So, this clear message from the European Union has, in recent years, unfortunately become a little vague. This message is received by Turkey and certain forces in Turkey that don’t want to see these types of reforms, that don’t want to see the Cyprus issue resolved based on this framework, and they are trying to block this process.”

[on exercising foreign policy in the current economic state of affairs]

· “Just look at the results of our exercising of Greece’s foreign policy in the past year. Let’s take Greek-Turkish issues. The fact alone that the Greek Prime Minister went to Turkey and, before this audience, with confidence, said these things forthrightly says it all, I think. Look at Greece’s activities in its immediate neighbourhood, the Balkans. Greece once again took the initiative to promote the European perspective of the Balkan countries – a European perspective that had lost impetus in recent years. Greece took the initiative and provided momentum. In the Middle East, again Greece is present.”

[on the Prime Minister’s speech in Erzurum]

· “To me, national issues are sacred issues. They are serious issues that do not admit of populism, and PR considerations or the tactics of party politics cannot guide us. Looking at the reactions of the political parties, I must say here that I think all of the Greek people agree that they saw a Greek Prime Minister – with pride and confidence – defend and promote Greek positions and Greek interests in Turkey, before that difficult audience.”

[on illegal migration and the construction of an artificial barrier along a section of the Greek-Turkish border]

· “Illegal migration was one of the main subjects. And here we agreed on close Greek-Turkish cooperation, because we said that this is not an issue that concerns only Greece. Unfortunately, Greece has borne the brunt of this phenomenon, but because the migration flows come from Turkey, today we need close cooperation with Turkey in this sector.”

· “We made it clear that this is not a measure against Turkey and the Turkish people. It concerns the effort to protect Greece’s borders from the illegal migration flow. And Turkey and the Turkish Prime Minister understood that Turkey has an immediate interest in cooperating closely with Greece. Turkey wants the visa requirement for Turks visiting the EU to be abolished. The EU is maintaining a guarded stance on this. I say it outright so that we can be clear on this: Greece has no problem with the lifting of the visa requirement for Turks, because we saw this summer, for example, that there can be major gains in the tourism sector. Removing the visa requirement – and let’s be clear on this – doesn’t mean that you can’t carry out the necessary controls at your borders. It just means that you facilitate access for Turkish nationals. So Turkey wants the visa requirement abolished for Turkish nationals visiting the European Union. So, here, our argument was that it is in Turkey’s interest for us to control the flow of illegal migrants from Turkey more effectively, because if we do control it, it can’t be used as an argument for the visa requirement anymore.”