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Foreign Minister Kotzias’ interview with ANA-MPA

Friday, 15 July 2016

JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, you’re in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia for the 11th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit, but some news that came from Nice, from the south of France, has overshadowed all other events on the planet. What is your assessment, what is your view of the attack in France?

N. KOTZIAS: It think we are living in a transitional period, when many people think that human life has no value or other punishers have the right to strike what is most dear to our society: life itself. I condemn and we condemn – as the Greek government and all of Greece – this brutal crime, and we stand beside the French people and the French government. And I send my condolences, through the Athens News Agency, to the families of the victims.

JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, the Asia-Europe Meeting is very important, it’s been happening for 20 years now. Does it have anything new to offer?

N. KOTZIAS: Yes, it began during the Greek Presidency of 1996.

JOURNALIST: And I would say that you were among those who worked on the negotiations at that time …

N. KOTZIAS: Yes, and I always believe that Europe and Asia must have special institutional systems and forms of cooperation, to the benefit of both sides and of all the peoples on these two large continents.

JOURNALIST: Fifty-one countries participate in ASEM, the countries of the European Union and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). What is the central theme?

N. KOTZIAS: The central theme is how we will connect the societies and economies of Asia and  Europe. In the second intervention I made today, I underscored the importance of culture and the need for us to find forms of joint cultural action among the European and Asian states.

JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, with the Prime Minister, you recently visited China – Beijing and Shanghai – where, I would say, an important intervention was carried out regarding the strengthening of the political and economic ties between the two countries. How do you see Greece’s role in Asia? Are we perhaps too small a country to be able to play a role?

N. KOTZIAS: What you say is correct. Greece is a small country, but it has a great history and a great culture. And it is no coincidence that we agreed with the Chinese foreign minister to implement the proposal I have put to a number of states around the world over the past year: for forming a union of states with historic cultures that to this day are leaving their mark on the culture of humanity. The Chinese, for example, believe that only one state, only one culture was equal to theirs – which Asia formed thousands of years ago – and that is Greece’s culture. We have a great tradition. We have to respect it and capitalize on it to the benefit of the Greek people and Europe. I remind you that culture is not just something beautiful and good. Culture is a soft form of power, smart power, which also brings economic advantages, given that in our day the culture industry is one of the most important economic activities.

JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, one last question. At this Meeting, I would say that there has been a lot of talk about the developments in the South China Sea, where, to many observers, there are developments or issues that are analogous, if not similar, to our neighbourhood, in the Aegean and the Mediterranean. How do you see this situation developing?

N. KOTZIAS: In the South China Sea, what we see developing is a different interpretation of international law and the role of custom and history between China and seven states that have different interpretations. One of these, the Philippines, brought China to international arbitration – not to the International Court, because it was a unilateral referral, only on the part of the Philippines. And this decision rules against China, but China does not accept the legality of this action, as China itself did not agree – there was no agreement on bringing the case to arbitration. I would like to note this: that the text of the ruling, which is 475 pages long, is of very great political and scientific interest. Very few politicians have studied it so far. We at the Foreign Ministry, together with our team of special collaborators, have studied it. It has many, many positive elements with regard to the interests and views of Greece. It also has one or two points where a critical assessment is needed.