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Home arrow Current Affairs arrow Announcements - Statements - Speeches arrow Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' speech at the Yerevan State University (10 March 2017)

Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' speech at the Yerevan State University (10 March 2017)

Friday, 10 March 2017

Mr. Rector, thank you very much for the invitation. Normally, before I became Minister, every Friday between 2 to 3 p.m. I used to teach Foreign Policy of China, and between 3 to 6 p.m., Foreign Policy of Russia.

It is a great pleasure to be here in Yerevan, the capital of a friendly country with which Greece maintains close historical, cultural and religious ties.

It is an even greater pleasure, and very moving, to be here among students of the International Relations Department of the University of Yerevan.

You may know that I have taught International Relations for almost three decades.

And I am deeply grateful and honoured to be receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Yerevan.

Yesterday, as I was laying a wreath at the Armenian Genocide Memorial, I was thinking that Armenians and Greeks, throughout their centuries-long common History, have experienced similar dramas; they have suffered many tragedies. At the same time, thinking and re-thinking about the past, we have to walk together on the path of the future; the path of peace and cooperation.

And this is something we need to remind to our common neighbours, who need to realise that the path of confrontation and revisionism leads nowhere.

We live in an era when the world is changing in two directions. One direction is globalisation. And the second is that society is moving on to a paradigm, a new manner of production, which some refer to as the "second machine age". Others call it the "fourth industrial revolution."

What is the fundamental characteristic of this change in production?
It is that physical power is being replaced, to a great extent, by intellectual power.

Humankind is no longer in the first machine age, when the machine was an extension of its physical strength.

Man is now in the second machine age, where his intellectual attributes are being adopted, replaced, used by new types of machines associated with informatics and other new technologies.

And the question is: what capacity do these digital machines have?
They reproduce intellectual wealth and knowledge, and they reproduce it in a special way. We have the digital machines themselves, which reproduce knowledge. After the era of the industrial revolution, when large industrial units were built, we have now an opposite trend, which is the trend towards nanotechnology. A tiny robot circulates in your blood and it can even photograph or alter what it finds in front of it. Even in the most widespread medical treatment, you can swallow a tiny chip and it can film the body's whole medical record.

So, next to the trend we had in the first machine age, which brought, we now have the small machine. For example, we have the bulky old photocopy machine that your professors send you to for photocopies. And we now have the 3-D printer, which can produce anything from buildings to weapons. It can be very useful in construction, but very dangerous when used by terrorists.

What is more interesting to me about this new smart era we are living in is that machines are gaining the capacity to replicate natural phenomena and act like organic beings. You will see many machines reproducing, like plants that climb and weave themselves, like parasites, around a tree. Or machines that can replicate the movements of animals. For instance, scientists know that one of the most interesting living things is the ant. A creature we usually walk past and ignore as something unworthy of our attention.

But ant societies can weigh as much as 30 or 40 kilos, with considerable power when they move, with unique systems of communication, with exceptional internal organization of work which we are studying. And they are part of this replication of nature's systems. We don't have just the replication of one movement of the hand, as in the industrial revolution.

Nowadays, we have the replication of whole systems or whole systems of teamwork.

We have to add robotics, the technology that produces robots, even replicating the movements of the human being. And, for sure, investment in this sector is very important for both countries.

So, the first trend is that of the fourth industrial revolution, the time for creation. On the other hand, we have the trend of the 'unification' of the world: globalisation. But there is no pure trend of globalisation. And there is also the trend of fragmentation. Look at how the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke up.

In the 1990s, a debate began at the universities -in California at the beginning- as to whether or not the nation state will survive. Are we going towards a global society where the nation state will not survive? Or is the nation state acquiring a new function in the system? In fact, in the 1990s there was a significant trend that said that the nation state is obsolete and that from now on the dynamics of globalisation will prevail, or at least of regional integration. Others –fewer- had the opinion that the national state, now, in the time of globalisation, will become stronger. Will we have nation states or not?

In my view, which I made public in a discussion we had at Harvard at the beginning of this century, each nation state has its capabilities. It depends on these capabilities whether it can survive or not.

The question is: can it survive? Can it have the capacity in the era of globalisation? Will the nation state be proactive enough to survive in the 21st century? After all, as you may know from history, more than 6,600 nations and political entities have become extinct. Life is tough, and the nation state, despite what they said, is surviving -that is my position.

But the nation state that survives is one that is more proactive. One that has a proactive foreign policy and develops specific capabilities, this one will survive.

What capabilities does it need to grow strong in the 21st century? Three.

First, to have the capacity to recognize the problems in a timely manner, before they become too big to deal with.

Second, to come up with alternative scenarios and alternative solutions. Looking for what might happen without restraining ourselves and by thinking "outside of the box".

Third, to be able to choose the best possible solution. As we know from game theory, the 'best solution' is one thing, and the 'best possible solution' is another.

I don't know if you remember a scene from the movie "A Beautiful Mind". Four men are in a bar, and five women walk in. Four couples form. Which woman is left out? The most beautiful.

Why? Because each man believes that the most beautiful woman “is not for me, is for somebody else", and they go for the second best solution. This is a classic scenario in game theory. This is why I say: "To find the 'best possible', and not the best of all."

In this new era of ours, with its new technologies and innovation -the second machine age, the special role of a proactive nation state and foreign policy requires certain things. It requires a focus on the protection of the rights of the individual and of personal liberties.

Why personal liberties are so important today, more than ever? Because it is an era that needs creativity. It is an era when there should not be self-censorship. Always you have to express your opinion. It is an era when one has to be able to put forward ground-breaking proposals.

So, liberty is not only a moral right for the human beings. As it was first said by the great Nobel Laureate of the poor, Amartya Sen -- "the main thing is that this freedom is, not only a moral, but also an economic necessity." But this personal liberty must be integrated into collective efforts. This freedom must be manifested and protected within a framework. The freedom of action as a freedom to think about the future –and that is special for young people- we have to have the right to dream. Neither individuals nor nation states can thrive without dreams, without vision, without values. And the problem of vision and values today is a problem of the European Union.

One of the problems the European Union has today is that we limit our thinking. We are thinking more and more like a bureaucracy and not like a creative politician.

We are constantly thinking about whom to impose sanctions on, where we will impose an embargo. Or on how we will force an austerity memorandum on a country – as it happened in Greece. Is it possible that young people are dreaming about sanctions and embargo? Are these the values that we offer them?

We have lost the ability to reflect on what kind of Europe we want in the 21st century, what we want its role to be. How we can make our European home attractive.

We need dreams. To have a vision, to secure our countries economically. We need to think about high technology as a social good. What else we need? Energy, investment, education and research.

But, the most decisive element of the new society of knowledge is the individual and his capacity to innovate. To dream, to change. From a small thing, to a whole society. You must not cut spending on the human being, on the human mind. And by "investing in the individual", I mean investment in the mind of the people, in their culture, so that we are not just "idiot specialists", as they said in the 19th century.

We need to widen the horizons of the young people, not be afraid of 'the new', and we need to learn from history. As I always say, to my students and colleagues at the Foreign Affairs Council, history has to be a school, not a prison. Because if it is a prison, you have to future. If you learn from history, then you will have the best possible future.

If we want history to be a school, we need to learn how to create a social political model that can face crises. We have many forms of crises in the European Union. Refugee crisis, financial crisis, currency crisis. We have Brexit.

But the core of these crises is that the EU does not have the mechanisms to manage the crises. We have a crisis of management. And why? Because we do not have a vision, we forget our values and without vision, without a plan or a thought where we would like to be in the 21st century, after 20 or 30 years, there is no future.

And you need personalities who take the risks and think about creating a new situation. Not bureaucrats. The debate on the future of Europe must open once again. And the participants in this debate must include citizens and politicians as well as scientists from countries with close ties to Europe, like Armenia.

I have to say that our European policy is a part of our foreign policy. A very important part of our foreign policy is what we call "a policy of triangles". Relationships, that is, between European and non-European states to help bring them closer to the European Union.

Greece has developed systematic cooperation, on all levels and in the most diverse political regions, in multiple sectors, ranging from culture and education to economy and industry.

The core of these triangular partnerships are Greece and Cyprus –two European States -and we are about to form a new one between Greece and Bulgaria- cooperating with countries that are outside of the EU.

We maintain such partnerships with Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon, and we are going to form a new one with two European countries and Armenia too.

We are also promoting a cooperation platform between six European countries and the Arab world -- now twelve Arab countries. The Rhodes Conference for Security and Stability because the first meeting was in Rhodes. We are planning on holding the second conference this coming May.

If you look at a map, the geography, Southern Europe --the Balkans and Italy-- forms a continuous region with the Eastern Mediterranean and the six Gulf States. This continuity existed in the past, for 3000 years, forming a region of wealth and cooperation, with major trade networks and exchange of knowledge and culture. T his continuity was lost over time, like it was between Europe and Armenia, Europe and the Caucasus.

We are now making an effort to develop a positive agenda in the region, an effort our partners in the Eastern Mediterranean started referring to as the "Spirit of Rhodes". A positive agenda on youth relations, cultural relations, from cultural festivals to exchange of cultural goods. Forming networks between Universities and Research Centres. I hope that it will be possible to include Armenia in this big project.

We have also forged an alliance -- in a manner of speaking -- of the EU member states of the south: The Euromed. Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus.

We have also developed a cooperation platform for the protection of the religious communities in the Middle East.

I would like to make a remark about the West –where we belong. The West is always talking about its pluralistic societies, but pluralistic societies existed and exist beyond the West. In the Middle East, Judaism, the Muslim world, Christianity coexisted for 2,000 years. This is now being destroyed. We will be glad –and we have expressed it- to welcome once again representatives from Armenia at the next Conference on the protection of multiculturalism and religious communities in the Middle East which is going to be held in Athens this coming November.

Finally, we formed a number of other cooperation schemes, a dream of mine since 25 years. The GC10 -that we are launching with China in April this year. It is a cooperation scheme that I initially called the GC10 as it brings together ten great ancient cultures that have influence on today's world.

Culture is a great power, you know it. Next to the hard power of guns, there is culture, civilization, which we call the smart or soft power. And this power has an economic dimension too. So we are taking the initiative to bring together ten countries: Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, China, India, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Italy and Greece, to create this formation which will be open to other countries too.

With these initiatives, Greece is pursuing a proactive foreign policy. A policy that allows it to meet the requirements of our modern era and to fully exploit all new possibilities and synergies.

Last but not least. From this very podium, I would like to say that I am here in Armenia in order to explore ways by which Armenia could work together with us, in a strategic partnership, in common initiatives such as the ones I mentioned before in order to promote peace and regional stability.

And in this regard, I would like to reiterate that the path to regional stability and good neighbourly relations lies, of course, in the respect of international law. And I am saying that to all our neighbours, common or not.

And good neighbourly relations include the respect of international treaties, customary law and the principles of the UN Charter.

Last but not least, I would like to express once again my country's fervent desire to build stronger ties with Armenia and the people of Armenia. And in order to achieve this, we have to address three fundamental asymmetries in our relation: first, between the feelings that exist between our two nations and the actual relation between them. Our feelings are very deep, they have historical roots. But our relation s are not deep enough. Secondly, between the excellent level of our political relations and the low -until now- level of our economic relations. Our economic relations have the a very small volume. And thirdly, between our willingness to cooperate and the actual implementation of that willingness.

We want to pursue, together with Armenia, a common course towards peace and prosperity to the benefit of the people and the nations of the region. Working more closely together and based on a positive agenda, we can move forward together towards a better future without conflict or instability.

Mr. Rector, once again, thank you very much for your invitation and the opportunity to address your students.

It is a great honour for me to meet again, after a long time, students. Thank you very much.