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Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Katrougalos’ interview on ‘ERA 1’ radio, with journalist T. Siafakas. Excerpt on foreign policy issues
JOURNALIST: Yesterday, the Greek Ambassador to Berlin delivered a Note Verbale to the German Foreign Ministry concerning compensation from the First and Second World Wars. Would you like to say anything about that?
G. KATROUGALOS: Yes, this isn’t a bolt from the blue. As you know, there was a special Plenary Session of Parliament. All parties, apart from the neo-Nazi party, took a stance in favour of these claims. I think one of the most positive aspects of our politics is that on national issues, including this one, political forces were unanimous. And when I was and MEP, together with all of the Greek MEPs we promoted this issue, which is of great historical, moral, political and legal importance, and now we are doing the obvious. Essentially, we are making the diplomatic move that is the culmination of this whole political initiative.
JOURNALIST: But every time we make these moves, the response is that the issue of compensation is finished, closed.
G. KATROUGALOS: This is exactly why we always have to keep the matter open: regarding the legal dimension, so we don’t appear to have withdrawn our claims, and regarding the obvious political and moral dimensions of the issue.
JOURNALIST: I want to ask you about the timing of the delivery of the Note Verbale, and along the lines of my colleague’s earlier question: whether you believe we will get anywhere this time.
G. KATROUGALOS: We are certainly making moves to get a result. We aren't just striking a pose. As for the timing, we chose to do it after the European elections, so that it wouldn’t appear that we wanted to politicize an issue in terms of the elections.
JOURNALIST: Yes, but now we are in the run-up to national elections, and one could accuse you of doing what you just said.
G. KATROUGALOS: I’m talking about Germany. We didn’t want to create an issue in the European elections for Germany, precisely because we want this issue to be beyond the political differences and discussions we might have on other issues. We had an obligation to carry through on the parliamentary resolution, which, as I said in any case, was passed almost unanimously. And there was no other time after the European elections.
JOURNALIST: Could this €377 billion, as Manolis Glezos often says, take the form of infrastructure projects, education?
G. KATROUGALOS: Provided we first agree on the compensation owed to us, we can then discuss the ways it can be paid. But that is an issue for discussion much later on. This is not the time to discuss it.
JOURNALIST: So, are we now in negotiations?
G. KATROUGALOS: That’s the point of the Note Verbale: that we are saying this issue has been tabled and we are calling on the other side to respond.
JOURNALIST: Last question, Minister: Do you think that in the run-up to the national elections there could be a ‘hot incident’ with our neighbour Turkey? And what is your view of the resignation, at this stage, of the lieutenant general who was responsible for the confidence-building measures?
G. KATROUGALOS: No one wants a war in the Aegean. Greece doesn’t and Turkey doesn’t. And no one wants to see a hot incident that could lead to a result that everyone rules out. But as more and more tension builds, no one can rule out an accident. This is why we are discussing the confidence-building measures with the other side: to resolve this tension that is building up – not by any fault of our own, but because of the Turkish side’s unlawful acts.
Now, regarding the resignation, this was a political stance on the part of the government. I haven’t heard a serious response from any opposition party, and, in any case, these are not issues that are decided by military personnel in democracies. In democracies, political decisions are made by those who have the democratic responsibility to govern the country. Only in dictatorships are military personnel responsible for political issues. So I think it is completely outside the competencies of a military officer to choose a government’s policy for negotiating an issue that, in any case, I don’t think is essentially contentious.