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Highlights of Foreign Minister Lambrinidis’s briefing of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Highlights of Foreign Minister Lambrinidis’s briefing of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs [on the financial rescue package]

•    Last Thursday, ladies and gentlemen MPs, our country got a second chance. It wasn’t given to us. It was earned by the Greek people, through the huge sacrifices they have made and are continuing to make. We earned it by proving to everyone that we mean what we say and act on it; that we can be trusted and that failure is not an option. We earned it because we strived diplomatically and politically to convince our partners that they need to stand by us in solidarity.

•    Lately, through unrelenting attacks on Greece’s image, those who are investing in the failure of the euro have cultivated unbelievable stereotypes about our country. The has been a lot of ‘punishment’ rhetoric.

•    But we need to undo these stereotypes, and that is the message I convey in my meetings with representatives of governments, with politicians, with the news media and with think tanks in the countries I visit; with shapers of public opinion, academics and everyday citizens.

[on foreign policy strategy]

•    There are two preconditions for achieving our goals, and I look forward to our dialogue and cooperation in meeting them:
o    We need vision and strategic planning.
o    We need a strong and effective diplomatic mechanism.

•    The five strategic axes of our foreign policy are:

1.    Security and prosperity. In our immediate neighbourhood, the resolution of the Cyprus issue and problems in our relations with neighbours. The promotion of good neighbourliness, security and stability in the wider region. The delimitation of maritime zones with all our neighbours and the upgrading of Greece’s role in the region. Emphasis is always on our nations interests and respect for international law.

2.    A dynamic Greece and internationalization. On the international and European stage, the development of an internationalized and dynamic foreign policy, through further development of our network of bilateral interstate relations, the broadening and deepening of relations with strategic partners, the upgrading of Greece’s role in international organizations, and the substantial contribution of Greece to the formulation of policies on the EU level and beyond.

3.    Economic diplomacy and economic presence. The development of a strategically planned economic diplomacy aimed at promoting exports, attracting investments, supporting Greek enterprises abroad, bolstering tourism and upgrading Greece’s role in critical sectors of the global economy, including energy, transport, shipping – sectors in which Greece has comparative advantages.

4.    Mobilization and rallying of Greeks abroad in the national endeavor to rebuild the state, as well as the approaching of other communities throughout the world: citizens of foreign countries who can support this endeavor.

5.    Greece’s image. The development of a dynamic, coordinated and effective communication and public diplomacy policy aimed at improving our country’s international image.

[on Cyprus]

•    The Cyprus issue is of the highest priority. Greece supports with all its power the Cypriot government’s efforts to reunify the island within the framework of a federation with a single sovereignty, citizenship and legal personality, based on the resolutions of the United Nations and the European acquis, so that the reunified Cyprus can function smoothly as a member of the European Union.

•    The definitive resolution of the Cyprus issue hinges on Turkey’s abandoning its dead-end policy of exploiting the Turkish Cypriot community and Cyprus to serve its own interests. The occupation forces must leave Cyprus once and for all, and soon.

[on Greek-Turkish relations]

•    On Greek-Turkish issues, we are proceeding with confidence. Greece has nothing to fear from exercising a policy of initiatives vis-à-vis Turkey. […] Our cooperation, the normalization of Greek-Turkish relations, is beneficial to both countries. We just need to believe this and work toward it, always guided by the defence of our rights and respect for international law.

•    Major Greek investments are being carried out in Turkey. Additional air links are being added between the two countries. We have seen a steep increase in tourist flows from our neighbouring country. There is still a lot that needs to be done, obviously, and there are prerequisites that need to be met. For us, there is no inertia-or-progress dilemma. We choose progress and we are moving ahead.

[on the FYROM name issue]

•    The most important thing is that we have convinced everyone of the sincerity of our intentions and our readiness to reach a solution. Mr. Gruevski, on the other hand, is mired in intransigent rhetoric. He has left everyone convinced of this, as regards his intentions. But he is holding his country’s European future hostage to a sterile obsession.

•    But it is time Mr. Gruevski realised that the time has come to write history rather than rewrite our history. Europe is unanimous in asking this of him. The U.S. and other major countries around the world are asking this of him.

[on the Balkans]

•    In the Balkans, in particular, it is in our strategic interest to see these countries join the European Union; to create a space of peace, security and development on our borders and a unified market for the products and services of all our countries.

•    We need to put our neighbours on the final approach to accession to the European family and give them a strong incentive to make the necessary changes. We need to do the same with our EU partners – especially those who seem hesitant about enlargement in the Western Balkans.

•    The recent tensions in Kosovo are not helping the accession course of the Western Balkans. These tensions are unnecessary, with unfavourable consequences for both sides. Greece’s position is that what is needed are diplomatic solutions, dialogue and consensus, not unilateral actions. We call on both sides to return to the negotiation table and avoid any escalation.

[on the Arab spring, Libya, Middle East]

•    We need to look at the Arab spring from two different but closely interlinked standpoints: On the one hand, there is the purely domestic dimension, which concerns the desire of the peoples in the countries of the region, such as Egypt and Tunisia, for a better, more democratic tomorrow that must be determined by these peoples themselves, without pressures from the outside as to the political, economic or social model they adopt. But if these countries request our assistance in building institutions, Greece, both bilaterally and through the European Union, is prepared to develop a multidimensional policy aimed at assisting in the establishment of strong democratic structures and processes.

•    The crisis in Libya cannot be resolved solely by exerting military pressure on the Gaddafi regime, however necessary that pressure may be. There needs to be a national dialogue, a political process.

•    Developments in the southern neighbourhood render more imperative than ever the resolution of the Palestinian problem. Having helped to formulate the European Union position, Greece firmly supports the creation of a sovereign, independent, sustainable, unified and democratic Palestinian state that will coexist in peace with Israel, within internationally recognized and secure borders.

[on national unity]

•    I believe in responsibility, transparency and accountability. In my way and through my positions, I promoted these principles at the European Parliament, and I know that your role is instrumental in ensuring that they are abided by. In closing, I repeat that on foreign affairs we need to be united, as a single fist. And I make a commitment to pursuing this.