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Statements of FM Droutsas and his German counterpart, Mr. Westerwelle (Berlin, 9 November 2010)

Tuesday, 09 November 2010

Mr. Westerwelle: Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to the press conference with my Greek counterpart.

Dear Dimitris, a warm welcome to Germany and to Berlin. We are very happy to have you – an ardent European and well-known friend of Germany – as our guest here today.

The 9th of November is a very important and historic date for Germans. The Germans celebrate the happy memory of the fall of the Wall, but there are is also the horrible memory of the beginning of the persecutions of the Jews in 1938. That is why it is very important for us to accept the lessons of history and to appreciate and honor what Europe is for us and our relationship with Europe.

Regarding the European family, we should mention in particular the excellent foundations of Greek-German friendship, which we talked about and which we want to extend. An important topic in our discussion was, naturally, our common commitment to the long-term stability of the euro.

We appreciate the determination and discipline with which the Greek government is proceeding to structural reforms. These reforms are necessary. This is shown by the recently published financial data, but in any case we welcome the fact that the Greek government’s reforms are bold and substantial, and that, obviously, the Greek citizens want them.

The local elections over the weekend confirmed that the Greek people are also convinced of the necessity of these reforms. We welcome this fact, which is also in our interest.

And we also welcome that fact that in the rest of Europe, throughout Europe, we see similar tough and necessary decisions being taken. At the European Council, the foundations were laid for strengthening the Stability Agreement. We also need effective sanctions. We consider it vital that we have a mechanism for confronting crises; a mechanism that can be effective. And that is why we are discussing how the sanctions and a crisis management mechanism will be possible without giving rise to phenomena of political opportunism. We want a Stability Agreement that is forceful and that can be effective. And we believe that in this context there is room for the participation of private creditors as well.

We talked about Turkey’s accession negotiations with the European Union and we exchanged views on the issue. We both believe that the European perspective is the most effective way to strengthen the reforms in Turkey in the direction of more rule of law and more individual freedoms. In setting the pace of its reforms, Turkey is also setting the pace of its approach to Europe. This afternoon we are expecting the European Commission’s progress report on Turkey. For us, it is important to see the reforms in Turkey continuing, and we also think that there should be a European perspective on the part of Europe for Turkey.

In closing, I would like to refer to a current affair that we also discussed. I was very happy to receive the congratulations of the Greek counterpart on Germany’s participation as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

And I would like to take this occasion to say that at this point we see that the we here and the U.S. support the necessary reforms that must be carried out at the UN. We also welcome the clear statement of the U.S. President that India’s aspirations and those of our friends the Japanese will be supported by him. This is our conviction as well. We want a Security Council that reflects the global state of affairs better than it does currently. And that is why, together with India, Japan and Brazil – and Germany as the fourth new member – we will try to achieve and to work towards reforming the Security Council and the United Nations. We are prepared to undertake such a responsibility at the Security Council on the part of Germany.

Thank you, dear Dimitris – thank you very much. You will probably have noticed that my colleague is following my statements without headphones. This is because his German is very, very good. It is a great pleasure and honor for me that you will say a few words in German. This will certainly please the German journalists here with us today. Thank you very much. I thank you as a friend and with great personal appreciation.

Mr. Droutsas: My dear Guido, honorable Mr. Foreign Minister, I thank you very much for your warm words and the warm hospitality you have shown me and my delegation. I would like to address you in German. First of all I would like to stress – and I think that my visit here today and the excellent talks we had confirm this – that relations between Greece and Germany are at a very high level and that the cooperation between our two countries is very close.

I think this contributed to the fact that during the last visit of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to Berlin – when we met with Chancellor Merkel – decisions were taken on a joint cooperation initiative between the two countries in many fields of mutual interest. This cooperation shows – as I said – the very high level of our relations. This cooperation is – for us in Greece – very important and of very great value.

In this context, I would like once again to publicly express the gratitude of Greece – of the Greek government and the Greek people – to the German people for the support and solidarity they have shown to Greece in this difficult time of crisis.

I assure you that the Greek government is going to continue the course of reforms – the necessary reforms – that it is implementing with the same seriousness as it has done to date. And since the local elections were brought up, I would like to note that we see the result of these elections as an expression of support – the broad support – of the Greek people for the reform programme, and that this is a clear assurance from Greece and the Greek people that the reform programme that is being implemented will continue at the same intensive pace and with the same seriousness. This is something that I can guarantee you.

We talked about the permanent support mechanism. This is an issue that Greece promoted from the very outset. It is a thought that Greece put forward from the beginning and put on the table for discussion. This is a move that has our full support, and we are going to collaborate intensively with our partners on the final details of this permanent support mechanism. A mechanism that is effective, but that at the same time needs to be preventive in nature. I think we share this approach with the German government.

As Guido Westerwelle said, we also talked about the developments in Turkey and EU-Turkish relations. This is an important issue for Greece. The Greek position on this is that this is the most effective path to the achievement of the necessary reforms in Turkey, and we hope that Turkey – following the positive referendum a few weeks ago – will be able to follow an unswerving course on the reform path.

We also discussed other international developments, of course, and particularly an issue that is very important to us: Germany’s membership in the Security Council. I would like to express once again from this dais our warm congratulations on this achievement and wish you every success. And I would like to stress that Germany can always count on Greece’s solidarity and cooperation.

Thank you once again for the warm words and welcome, for the hospitality and the very constructive and fruitful meeting.

Mr. Westerwelle: Thank you very much. The German correspondents must be very satisfied. Their Greek colleagues maybe not so much. But we were very pleased that you did us the honor of speaking German. Again, thank you very much.

Journalist: (off microphone)

Mr. Droutsas: Guido Westerwelle and I always talk openly. I think that this is the best foundation on which to confront all the problems, and we have shown that in this way we are in a position to deal with difficult circumstances together.

Regarding the initial proposals for the support mechanism, the sanctions, our stance is well known and clear: there cannot be absolute sanctions; sanctions that will mean the horizontal loss of one’s vote. But I think that we can deal with all of these issues through the dialogue in the EU and find solutions that will take into account everyone’s sensitivities. I am certain that we will find the right solutions in the interest of the European Union.

Mr. Westerwelle: I want to add a couple of words. It is necessary in these talks – and during the negotiations we are carrying out on the European level – to bear in mind the interests and sensitivities of our partners. It is only when we understand how dialogue is carried out with a given country that we can move towards a good result on the European level as well. At this time, we are at the stage of exchanging views. We are exchanging views and ideas, and I am convinced that Greece and Germany will contribute particularly constructively to our reaching a result. Our goal is the stability of our common currency, in the interest of the citizens of both our countries.

We don’t have to take a decision here and now (on Turkey’s accession). It is in our interest for Turkey to have a European orientation and not take another course. The pace of reforms in Turkey determines the pace of its approach to Europe.

We have more than just economic interests regarding a country as successful as Turkey. It is not merely from an economic standpoint that it is in Europe’s interest. We also have political and strategic interests. Turkey is in a position to build bridges. It can contribute to finding solutions and dealing with tensions – for example, in regions of the world where dangers to our own country might arise. That is why we emphasise Turkey’s role as a bridge builder, and I repeat today that we are awaiting Turkey’s continued reform efforts, and we – for our part – will remain equitable collocutors. Turkey isn’t expecting us to tell it tomorrow that the time has come. Turkey expects us to handle things with respect and discuss things on an equal footing.

Journalist: Mr. Minister, you said that in his speech yesterday in India, President Obama said that he supports India’s permanent membership on the Security Council. He hasn’t said as much regarding Germany’s request. Is this a rebuff of Germany’s aspirations?

Mr. Westerwelle: On the contrary. I would be surprised if the U.S. President did not take this opportunity to say some clear words. The American President is in India. He is carrying out a visit to Asia. He is not on a visit to Germany. Moreover, I find it significant that the American President acknowledged the need for reforms at the UN, and that the U.S. administration is making positive statements regarding India and Japan. I also know that the U.S. administration very much appreciates Germany’s work within the framework of the UN.