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Foreign Minister Lambrinidis’ speech in the Parliamentary debate on the PM’s call for a vote of confidence in the government

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Foreign Minister Lambrinidis’ speech in the Parliamentary debate on the PM’s call for a vote of confidence in the government Mr. Lambrinidis: Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,

Greece and Europe are currently facing the greatest crisis in their modern history. They are at a crossroads – not so much of politics as of values. The value of the responsibility of certain member states to fulfil their commitments to their partners and the value of solidarity among partners are two of the fundamental principles of the European Union, but they have been violated flagrantly of late. To emerge from this crisis on firm foundations, we need – as a nation and a continent – to find our soul again.

Our country violated the value of responsibility. It wasn’t the only country to do so, but unfortunately it outshone the others. In 2009 we had the volatile combination of debt, deficit and negative growth throughout the eurozone. New Democracy took on a country with chronic, but manageable, problems – a country with high European and global standing – and rendered it insolvent.

But along with responsibility, the value of solidarity was also violated. The Europe-wide movement of “I’m not going to pay”, currently led by certain other member states, was unprecedented in the European Union. Without solidarity, there would have been no Community Support Frameworks, no enlargement, no cohesion policy; no Europe as we know it today.

Unfortunately, however, the economic crisis didn’t just cause peoples to withdraw from each other in fear. It actually turned countries against each other. The Greeks, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish became “PIGS”. The Germans and Dutch became “ruthless exploiters”.

Dear colleagues, today the government and the people are making colossal efforts to return to the value of responsibility. This effort is not limited to the struggle we are mounting here at home, but extends to the diplomatic arena as well.

When Europe was institutionally and politically unprepared to help us, we managed to create the support mechanism from scratch. We succeeded, through our responsibility, in imposing their solidarity. We opened up the issue of economic governance and eurozone deficits. The progress we achieved was more than could be hoped for.

We brought to the fore tools like the tax on financial transactions and euro-bonds, which no one dared mention some months ago, but that today are an investment in the creation of a real European Economic Union.

In spite of great pressure and difficulties, the Pasok government did not retract into its shell, ladies and gentlemen MPs. The Prime Minister, Ministers, MPs and MEPs of Pasok – as well as the country’s excellent diplomatic service, despite the blow it has been dealt by the economic crisis – have been playing a leading role for some time now in keeping the callousness of uncontrolled markets and nationalism at bay, while also protecting growth, employment and the social state.

Ladies and gentlemen MPs, this effort is being made within an extremely negative international environment – particularly for our country. The New Democracy governments deprived the country of the only weapon that might have made this battle more manageable: its international credibility. In Brussels, and the European Parliament, I saw the birth of the stereotype of “Greek statistics” and unreliability. No EU government had ever told the lies – I know that’s a harsh word, but unfortunately it’s the only one that fits – that New Democracy told. No EU government had ever misinformed its own people like New Democracy did. And today, with its refusal to support the great national effort, with Mr. Samaras’s recent disastrous tour of the European Union, where he was unable …

*** [interruption off microphone]

Mr. Lambrinidis: My dear colleagues, both at the European Parliament and here I always try to talk based on facts. Sometimes it’s unpleasant, but I am completely open to being proved wrong; to someone’s saying, “that’s not the case.” But if what I say is the case, I won’t have my intentions questioned, because I see that as unfair to both you and me.

So I repeat that Mr. Samaras’s recent tour of the European Union, which I experienced and monitored closely, revealed not just that he couldn’t negotiate with courage and strength – as he very arrogantly, I would say, claims he can – but that he could not even convince his own conservative collocutors of the efficacy of his “magic formula for the economy”. And you all saw this from the statements that followed, from Mr. Barroso, Mr. Van Rompuy, from the French Prime Minister and others.

It is thus that New Democracy runs the risk of putting paid to our credibility today and leading our partners to abandon Greece. But credibility is the most vital of tools, and we have fought for it globally, each on our own front.

We still have critical and difficult negotiations ahead of us, ladies and gentlemen MPs. We have to ensure that our partners will continue to stand at our side. The new government has but one mission: to create a new Greece that will stand firmly on its own feet. The country has a national issue: to once again become strong everywhere.

Ladies and gentlemen MPs, there is continuity in foreign policy, and I will serve this continuity in pursuing consensus among all the political forces, because when we are united, we are strong.

The goals and principles of Greek foreign policy are longstanding; they are constant:

· Promotion of interests, increase of influence, defence of Greece’s rights.

· Creation of a space of peace, stability and development in our neighbourhood, and promotion of good neighbourly relations and regional cooperation.

· Respect for international law and peaceful resolution of differences.

Now more than ever, we need a proactive, bold, dynamic foreign policy. We need to cultivate our relations with our neighbours and create new alliances.

We need to have recourse, once again, to the great and inexhaustible resources of knowledge, contacts, development and devotion to the homeland that is Hellenism abroad.

We are active participants in the EU and NATO, but we need to invest in the deepening of relations with other important players as well, including Russia, which I will be visiting soon. We are pursuing the development of political and economic relations with emerging powers: China, Brazil, India.

We need to emphasize the internationalization of the Greek economy and support our enterprises, promote our tourism product and attract investments.

Finally, we need to repair the country’s international image. It is of vital importance that we shatter the stereotypes – and we will shatter them – and make everyone see that whoever invests in Greece’s failure is investing in European failure and will lose out in the end.

Ladies and gentlemen MPs, we are living in a region and time of challenges, and there is no excuse for inertia. Greece needs to play a leading role and be a factor for stability in the region.

It is in our interest to see the Balkans – where hundreds of Greek enterprises are dynamically active – join the EU. In 2003 we charted their European course with the Thessaloniki agenda. In 2009, right after taking office, George Papandreou presented Agenda 2014 – a Thessaloniki II. We are revitalizing the dialogue on the accession of the Western Balkans with time horizons and clear incentives for full democratization, for economic development, for combating organized crime, for full protection of the rights of minorities in our region, which is of paramount importance to us.

The region’s European perspective can function as a catalyst for solutions to regional problems that are impacting regional stability. We hope that the government in Skopje comes to understand this at some point. We support their Euroatlantic perspective and we will be their closest ally in this process. But our relations need to be founded on good neighbourliness. The resolution of the name issue is a decisive prerequisite, as NATO and the EU have said.

We have put forward constructive proposals within the framework of the negotiations at the UN: a name with a geographical qualifier for use in relation to everyone, erga omnes. We are awaiting a response. But, unfortunately, the statues raised by the Skopje government are a provocation, hindering the process and cultivating irredentism, which is the greatest threat to the Balkans. We - and I, personally - immediately brought these actions to the attention of the European organs, and just a few days ago the enlargement Commissioner condemned them openly and unequivocally.

Ladies and gentlemen MPs, the day after taking up my duties, I visited the Republic of Cyprus, stressing our brotherly ties and sending the message that Greece and Cyprus are struggling in common for a just solution to the Cyprus issue. We will stand by President Christofias’ side. But it needs to be clear to everyone that Ankara holds the key to the solution. Ankara has to change its stance, and this stance will also determine its relationship with Europe, because it is clear that there can be no accession as long as the occupation continues.

We want good neighbourly relations with Turkey; relations governed by respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and rights of each country. We initiated the effort towards normalization of Greek-Turkish relations, but the thread was lost in 2004. In 2009, George Papandreou, together with the Turkish Prime Minister, laid the foundations for a fresh effort.

We created the High-Level Cooperation Council, with tangible results for the day-to-day lives of citizens. We supported Turkey’s accession perspective, on the obvious condition that there would be no special treatment – no laxity – with regard to the obligations Turkey has undertaken to the EU and the member states. We intensified the exploratory contacts on the delimitation of the continental shelf within the framework provided by international law. Now, Turkey needs to show whether it really wants improved bilateral relations – as it says it does – and progress on its accession course. It has to show it in action. There can be no progress within the climate of threats and military provocations.

Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,

The Eastern Mediterranean is in the midst of a revolution – an explosion of democracy – that we need to embrace, in spite of the risks and uncertainties involved, and in spite of the violent suppression in some countries of the fundamental rights of citizens and even the organized killing of citizens.

Greece undertook initiatives from the very outset, is participating in the Contact Group and is maintaining open channels of communications with all influential parties.

We have intensive contacts with our partners the Arab states and Israel, and we are deepening our relations anew. Europe needs to invest in the transition process. This is a necessary investment in the stability of the Eastern Mediterranean; an investment that will have huge benefits for Europe itself.

Europe needs to exert strong pressure for a just solution to the Middle East issue: for the Palestinians to have the independent homeland that is their right, and for Israel to have the security that is its right.

Ladies and Gentlemen MPs,

In closing, I would like to invite all the political forces to join an open and substantial dialogue on foreign policy issues. Both within the Parliamentary Committees and the National Council on Foreign Policy, we can achieve convergences that in this difficult state of affairs will render Greece’s voice and positions stronger. And I am sure that this is what everyone in this chamber wants.

I assure you, my dear colleagues from all the parties, that my door is open and will remain open to discussion and consensus. This is a national effort. And it will be a national victory if we change the climate prevailing everywhere in Europe.

Thank you.