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Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' speech at the New Year’s Event (cutting of the traditional St. Basil's Pie, Vasilopita) at the Foreign Ministry

Thursday, 02 February 2017

Foreign Minister N. Kotzias' speech at the New Year’s Event (cutting of the traditional Basil Pie, Vasilopita) at the Foreign Ministry"I would like to thank you all and wish you a happy new year. The first month went well even without my wishes. I would like to thank you for your work and collaboration, and for the fact that we are holding the Ministry up high. I am proud of our Ministry, and despite any weaknesses, I believe that we are the best Ministry in the country and one of the best in Europe.

Our personnel are highly specialized, hard-working and collaborate well together. I want to thank you in particular. I want to thank all of the personnel, from all of our Ministry's branches, who stay with me here late at night -- or into the morning hours, if necessary -- for their self-sacrifice and their belief that the country must have a proactive, multidimensional foreign policy and that we need to be a step ahead of where our country is at any given time.

I would like to express my thanks because all of us defend international law, European law and the perception that our country's “weapon” on the international stage is legality.

And I want to thank all of those who, through hard work, uncover the exceptions that violate legality, whether in our country -- and I mean even at our Ministry -- or from the perspective of international law; that is, international legality.

We are a country that believes in peaceful coexistence and cooperation with our neighbours internationally and globally. We are a country that does not want needless friction with anyone, but also that will not back down under pressure from anyone.

I would like to reiterate that we are a country that believes in international law, in international institutions, in international processes, which we defend along with human rights for every person. We are a country that promotes good relations with its neighbours.

We developed the two trilateral cooperation platforms we already had -- Greece-Cyprus-Egypt, Greece-Cyprus-Israel -- into relations that are not just on the level of Foreign Ministries, but of all the ministries and on all levels, and we also extended our trilateral relations with Lebanon and Palestine and Jordan.

We set up a new structure -- and we will repeat this in the first week of June -- that our Arab friends call the spirit of Rhodes; that is, the Rhodes security and stability structure, the primary characteristic of which -- and I think this has to hold for all of the sectors of our foreign policy -- is its role in promoting a positive agenda. We need to have positive proposals, even at the most difficult time or during conflicts, to promote the potential for the development of networks and cooperation in all fields, from the economy to culture and research.

We have developed good neighbourly relations in the Balkans. We have two new cooperation platforms: the cooperation of the four EU member states -- Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia - and we have built the cross-border cooperation with our three northern neighbours.

We have also established the international Conference for the protection of the religious and cultural communities of the Middle East, and this year, in the first week of November, we will be co-organizing it with Austria, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. Because our thinking and objective in these initiatives we have taken -- and there are 16 new structures and formats in all -- is to include third countries along the way, as these formats mature, and consolidate these cooperation platforms.

We are also moving ahead, as you know, with the re-establishment of the Analysis and Planning Centre -- today is the second debate of the draft law in Parliament -- and of the Scientific Council, while we are preparing the new Statute of the Ministry, which I hope will be ready in three or four months.

We are also opening, as you know, an Embassy in Singapore, in a city-state that brings together all of the new activities of emerging Asia, Southeast Asia. And we are also opening a Consulate General in Erbil. You are aware of the geostrategic role played by the region of Northern Iraq, otherwise known as Kurdistan.

We intend to become active again diplomatically in Libya -- where we went recently and saw our Embassy, which is in good condition -- and in Syria.

Greek diplomacy, Greek foreign policy, is paid much greater attention today than it was a few years ago. We have achieved this thanks to your work, the work of all the personnel of our Ministry, and thanks to the assistance of our Ministers, and I am pleased that we have with us here today Deputy Minister Terens Quick -- the others are abroad -- and thanks to our Secretaries General, Dimitrios Paraskevopoulos and Giorgos Tsipras.

Let's cut a piece for our Ministry, for our government. Let me also thank the President of the Republic, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who is very active in supporting and bolstering our foreign policy.

Let me thank the opposition parties, which, through their critical observations, often prompt us to reflect and to think.

And let me thank every Ministry employee who, whether orally or in writing, makes it possible -at meetings and in dialogue- for us to open up and enrich our thoughts with theirs. We want a Ministry that thinks and is bold, where each of us dreams and promotes one thought or another, rather than worrying just about one individual issue or another.

Thank you very much.