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Foreign Minister Droutsas’ statements following his meeting with Serbian Foreign Minister Jeremic

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Foreign Minister Droutsas’ statements following his meeting with Serbian Foreign Minister Jeremic Mr. Droutsas: A warm welcome to Athens to the Serbian Foreign Minister and our very close friend, Vuk Jeremic. Welcome.

Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to visit Belgrade recently for the opening of the restored Nebojsa tower, where Rigas Feraios was martyred. But I learned that it was an extremely moving ceremony, with the participation of our Presidents, Mr. Papoulias and Mr. Tadic. The monument that was restored with the participation of the two states will be there to remind us forever of our historic relations, our friendship and our common future.

With regard to our bilateral relations, I can reiterate once again, and with certainty, that they are excellent and are on a steadily upward course. I will refer to just one sector: tourism, which is timely, given that the tourist season is beginning in Greece. It is with great satisfaction that we see the increased influx of Serbian visitors. The waiving of the visa requirement had something to do with this, but I would like to believe that it also has to do with the quality of the services offered in our country at very good prices.

I would like to stress that Serbia has made impressive progress recently on its European course. We encourage and support Serbia’s continuing with the same energy it has shown so far, and it is important for us to have such examples of success in our region. They function as an incentive for everyone, accelerating the pace of the whole Western Balkans – not just Serbia – towards the goal, which is common: the accession of the whole region to the European Union. As we have already announced, Greece is working systematically in this direction and is now preparing to link its 2014 EU Presidency – as it did in 2003 – with substantial progress towards this goal: seeing all of the countries in the Western Balkans in the European Union as soon as possible.

Another recent development makes us optimistic that the region’s course to the European Union is a given. I am referring here to the direct meetings between Belgrade and Pristina. This takes political courage and responsibility. This is a basic precondition for our moving ahead in our region, and the EU and Greece naturally support the two sides – we are at Serbia’s side and are investing a lot of hope in this dialogue.

We will have the opportunity to discuss all of this today as our meeting continues. Once again, Vuk, a very warm welcome to Athens.

Mr. Minister, I would like to ask if you have any comment on an article we saw today in a Greek newspaper, regarding Wikileaks, which refers to Farmakonisi and Agathonisi.

Mr. Droutsas: From the very outset, we have said that we will not comment on leaked State Department dispatches, the so-called Wikileaks, and this is a matter of principle to me. I think that the publication of confidential diplomatic correspondence is deplorable and undermines the exercising of foreign policy.

But on the issue of Farmakonisi and Agathonisi, or any other point within Greek territory, I want to make it clear – and I say this again, emphatically – that we do not tolerate such claims and there is not the slightest doubt concerning even a speck of Greek land. Everyone, and particularly our friends across the Aegean, needs to get this into their head at long last.