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Foreign Minister N. Kotzias’ intervention at the meeting of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers (Nicosia, 19 May 2017)
N. KOTZIAS: Thank you, Ioannis. You have shown again that small states can have an excellent chairmanship – and not the big ones.
I am always very thankful to the Council of Europe for the solidarity and support we had during the dictatorship we had from 1967 to 1974, and the fight against fascism and torture systems.
My position is always that what we need in Europe and in the European Union is a political culture of compromise and consensus. We need this political culture between states, in international relations, and in domestic affairs too.
And my experience is that countries that cannot behave within this culture of political consensus in international relations will, in the end, lack this in their domestic affairs too.
What does ‘political culture of consensus and compromise’ mean?
To me, it means that we prefer dialogue over conflict. That we prefer to integrate into our pluralistic democratic system other opinions, other movements, rather than to destroy them. That we are working to create relations of trust between plural opinions, rather than allow an atmosphere of distrust or lack of confidence come through.
For me, the culture of political consensus and compromise means that democracy is a system where the minority has the perspective of becoming the majority. That there is a mechanism that ensures that minorities, political minorities, can become majorities, and restrain the power of majorities. Otherwise, as Aristotle was always saying, we will have the dictatorship or tyranny of the majority.
And the political culture of consensus means being ruled by law and not by the authority of institutions; that we are fighting for freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of speech; to protect individuals’ rights from institutional powers.
And in the end, this culture of political consensus means that we can understand and that we know that in every society there are many contradictions, and we shouldn’t be afraid of these contradictions inside our society, but, to the contrary, we should use these contradictions to move our society and to always create and renew the system of checks and balances.
So, in my opinion, what is very important for Europe nowadays is to create this atmosphere of the culture of compromise and consensus, and not a culture of using power against the other side.
Thank you again.