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Interview of Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias on ERT1’s “Epomeni Mera” with journalist S. Kotrotsos (29 January 2018)
JOURNALIST: Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Welcome to “Epomeni Mera”. On 18 December, on the last show of 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, was our guest here the ERT1 studio.
That evening we carried out an initial assessment of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Greece and discussed, among other things, Balkan issues and mainly the Skopje and Albanian issues. What the Minister of Foreign Affairs said that night set, to a great extent, the political, journalistic, media agenda in the following weeks.
At the end of that show, I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs if he would come back to join us again when the framework of the Skopje issue had become clearer. Since then we have seen Matthew Nimetz meet with the two countries’ negotiators in New York, and everything that followed.
Tonight we have the pleasure and honour of having Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias here with us again, and I thank him.
Good evening, Mr. Kotzias. Good evening, Minister.
N. KOTZIAS: Good evening, good evening to everyone. Let me remind you that we had said I hoped the next time I was on your show it would be at least an hour earlier, which is the case.
JOURNALIST: So we should see you as bringing us good luck in that respect. Together with me tonight, three good friends and colleagues: Manolis Kottakis, Director of the newspaper “Estia,” Vasilis Skouris, editor of “Real News” and “real.gr,” and Vasilis Nedos, diplomatic reporter and columnist and political reporter for “Kathimerini.” Thank you for being with us this evening.
In an effort to order the discussion, which should be very interesting – Mr. Kotzias always gives us news – I want everyone to participate in this discussion. Via the EpomeniMeraErt account on Twitter and Facebook, you can send your questions, which my colleagues Alekos Vasilopoulos and Chronis Diamantopoulos will sort and pass on to me during the show.
To start the conversation, Minister, I would like to ask you – we want to try to understand what the time frame is for the Skopje issue from here on in. Tomorrow afternoon, at 13:30 if I’m not mistaken, you have a meeting, the first meeting, with the UN special mediator, Matthew Nimetz, who will be travelling on to Skopje after his stay in Athens. So, from tomorrow on, into the coming months, how will the Skopje issue develop and, mainly, when might a draft agreement come before the Hellenic Parliament, if everything goes as planned?
N. KOTZIAS: First of all, let me say that the negotiations with the current government in our neighbouring country started on 14 January, so we are only 15 days into the negotiations.
JOURNALIST: But a lot has happened, politically.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, but I say this because various people are complaining that we are out of time. In other words, we are now starting the substantial negotiations and I think everyone was informed in the proper manner, in the most appropriate manner, which is by the Prime Minister. I don’t have a time frame I can announce on television.
JOURNALIST: I say this in the sense of whether the process might last a long time.
N. KOTZIAS: I can tell you what needs to happen. Certain discussions have to take place, and we, the Greek side, have undertaken – and I think this is positive and a show of confidence from the other side – to prepare a Pact. This Pact will include all of the issues that are pending regarding the name, a special chapter on irredentism, as well as issues that have to do with the future of fYROM, its accession to international organizations and policies. I would say it is a positive agenda so as to further develop our relations. As you know, for two and a half years now, on our initiative, we have moved ahead with confidence-building measures, which facilitate understanding between the two societies.
When I visited Skopje for the first time, two and a half years ago, where I had a four-hour press conference with hundreds of reporters, with very persistent questions, I explained to them why we have to stop this irredentism. The first message I got across to Skopje, from the day I got there, was the issue of irredentism.
The first message they gave me was that they have the feeling we want their country to break up. This is why I used the well-known phrase in English: that we see God in their existence, but that they have the wrong Godfather. And it bothered them a little, that they have the wrong Godfather, because it is the substance that is encapsulated in the name, the problem that is behind the name.
JOURNALIST: You said we want to conclude a Pact.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, which we are preparing and we think we will be able to present some time in February.
JOURNALIST: Will you present it to the Zaev government and to Mr. Nimetz?
N. KOTZIAS: First to our government, and then to the Zaev government.
JOURNALIST: So the Pact, its draft, will be drawn up by the Greek side?
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, I think that, in negotiations, it is always good to be the one who draws up the draft.
JOURNALIST: And the chapters will include irredentism ...
N. KOTZIAS: The chapters will be the points Mr. Nimetz has put up for discussion, where we don’t have agreement, and I wonder why it is that, every time someone talks about fYROM or makes proposals – someone serious or not – New Democracy poses questions to me and holds me responsible. As if no one else is allowed to speak – just the person who is the voice of the Greek government.
Mr. Nimetz is a mediator and functions on behalf of the UN. I have a much better relationship with him than I had with Mr. Eide, who served the other side’s interests.
JOURNALIST: Your battles with Eide were epic ...
N. KOTZIAS: Yes. So it isn't that someone is disciplining us or not. Mr. Nimetz has some proposals that one might assess as positive. He also has some proposals that we don’t agree with, and I don’t see us agreeing on them by the end. So we are here to negotiate.
But I will not wage the public war the opposition is asking for, with Mr. Nimetz, because they didn’t like one statement or another that he made. And as you know, Mr. Nimetz will also meet with the New Democracy leadership.
JOURNALIST: Of course. With Mr. Koumoutsakos.
N. KOTZIAS: They can tell him, because they didn’t usually say these things in the past.
JOURNALIST: Can I stay on this, to clarify it. The chapters of the Pact the Greek side is going to draw up and present to the government in Skopje by the end of February are irredentism, you said ...
N. KOTZIAS: The pending issues are irredentism, the international and regional position of this state, as we see it, and a positive agenda for developing our relations. So this whole theory I have been hearing today, the nonsense about salami tactics, doesn’t reflect the reality of the situation. And if they had been following everything we have been saying for the past ten days, they would have seen that we are trying to put all of the issues into a Pact.
JOURNALIST: So this Pact you are describing is essentially a package solution, and you are already responding to the question ...
N. KOTZIAS: This doesn’t mean that the other side will necessarily agree with what we are going to write.
JOURNALIST: Obviously. But there is the major issue of the changes to the fYROM Constitution. The question is: Will these changes to the Constitution be made? Does the Zaev government have enough time before July, when the critical NATO Meeting is taking place?
N. KOTZIAS: First of all, right now the Zaev government doesn’t have the 2/3 majority it needs to make the constitutional amendment.
JOURNALIST: That’s why I’m asking.
N. KOTZIAS: The Constitution of our friendly northern neighbour has certain elements that all Constitutions have. For one, it provides for the process regarding who proposes the change to the Constitution and, afterwards, the process for amending the Constitution. So, the first thing they have to do is initiate the amendment process. We’ll see how it goes from there. But they have to agree on this as well.
The second thing I want to say is, there are some people who are demanding the change to the Constitution. We are asking for it, while they, when in government, never asked for it. I have many, many documents containing agreements made in the most implausible, compliant ways. I don’t think it is in our country’s interest – and Greek diplomacy doesn’t want to do this – to make these public. But those who concluded the agreements know what I am talking about. And I ask them to be a little more modest.
What I see is that those who shaped the negotiations – and by whose fault we have had this problem for 25 years – make demands of us every day in order to make the negotiations more difficult. Let me give you an example, and I want to emphasize this because it has to do with the derivatives of the name. It is an issue that has to do with fYROM’s language. FYROM has two languages. For the time being, one is official and the second will be made official, and I hope soon.
The first is what we called Slavomacedonian in the past, and the second is Albanian. Do you know that the name “Macedonian language” was established at the UN? Tell me. Why is everyone saying “you are going to give them the language and call it Macedonian,” as if everything they had done in previous years didn’t exist. I ask your respected colleagues: Does anyone know when the first agreement was made by Greece for the language of this region, today’s state, to be called “Macedonian.”
JOURNALIST: I admit I don’t know.
N. KOTZIAS: I’ll tell you: In 1977, under Konstantinos Karamanlis. And do you know where this agreement was made? At a UN Conference in Athens. So they should stop pretending they fought the good fight. We won’t leave the name of the language as it is. But I’m telling you who gave them the name.
And do you know when this name and its derivatives were established internationally, under ISO – the Special Committee on abbreviations, acronyms, etc.? When? In the negotiations that took place at the UN from 1992 to 1994. And do you know why FYROM won the negotiations on the “Macedonian” language easily at that time? Because for three years not a single representative of the two Greek governments – of 1992-1993 and 1993-1994 – attended these negotiations. When I read the archives at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I am shocked.
JOURNALIST: There were no representatives of the Greek governments at that time?
N. KOTZIAS: There was no representative of the corresponding Greek organization, the national one, to attend the negotiations on the language for three years. And in 2010, when some good diplomats raised the language issue for the first time – that it couldn’t remain as is – Ms. Spehar, whom we all know of and who is now in Cyprus and is the UN representative in Cyprus – at that time she was Director for Southeastern Europe at the UN – responded that “why you are now asking us to proceed to adjustments; for 40 years no one asked for anything.”
We have this in writing. I don’t want to put the blame one anyone, I just want to say that those who surrendered ground shouldn’t be the ones asking to raise the bar. From our part we will reach our goals, but they should show more modesty. They gave the language in 1977, I want our viewers to retain that.
JOURNALIST: In 1977 or 1972?
N. KOTZIAS: In 1977. I have the despatch and I went back and checked again two months ago, and I have it confirmed. And in 1992-1994 we didn’t even go to negotiate the language. Now they act like this is more dear to them than it is to me, while I am the one looking into these things and studying them very thoroughly with the Service.
And I want to say something that I often say about the Service. I heard an opposition politician say today that “we are carrying out some secret diplomacy in which public servants are excluded.” In fact, we carry out negotiations only with members of the Service. Proof of this is that at the last negotiations with Albania, there were 12 members of the Service, all of the Servive leadership, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Political Director, the Director of the competent Directorate, her assistants, and the experts. They are participating in these procedures and they all say the same thing to me: That it is the first time they participate in such procedures, because in the past, any negotiations held just used to involve three people.
JOURNALIST: One more question and I’ll pass the baton to Manolis, Vasilis and the other Vasilis. Will this Pact include an express commitment from Skopje to change the Constitution?
N. KOTZIAS: In this Pact we will make our proposals.
JOURNALIST: Will you make your proposals regarding the Constitution? Regarding the changes to the Constitution?
N. KOTZIAS: And the procedure for changing the Constitution.
JOURNALIST: Do you see this – the amendment of the Constitution – as a necessary condition for resolving the issue and for fYROM’s accession to NATO?
N. KOTZIAS: As I see it, at least for now, and as I understand it, any agreement we make if not accompanied by constitutional changes, or adjustments, will be prone to change later on by any new Prime Minister from another political partly.
I would also say that the current government of fYROM would find itself in a difficult position if it doesn’t change the Constitution, proceeds to international agreements, and then the next government says they acted unconstitutionally.
The second is that the Constitution provides for procedures. I can’t say what our thinking is for fear to be seen as interfering in their domestic affairs. And the third thing is what Mr. Venizelos – whose legal thinking is always sharp – noted, without claiming that it does the trick: the fact that, under certain conditions, international agreements in a way have primacy over the Constitution; not every international agreement, agreements of a specific kind. For example, agreements that concern the European Union have primacy over the law of the EU member states. Not every international rule has primacy over national law, but under certain circumstances it can be the case. So there are some interesting thoughts, and let us express them ...
JOURNALIST: So, if you will, we are talking about a second interim accord ...
N. KOTZIAS: No, not interim. The interim accord has multiple problems. It had some positive aspects, but it also had multiple problems. For example, the fact that it provide that we don’t have the right to object the accession to international organizations under their provisional name, but it made no substantial provision on the consequences for them in case of not fulfilling their obligation to negotiate. So they could essentially not negotiate and just have us look on.
JOURNALIST: To finish with this question, I would like to ask whether this Pact you are referring to will replace the interim accord until we reach a solution – I’m saying it in that sense – because it regulates certain relations ...
N. KOTZIAS: The interim accord is interim. The Pact will be comprehensive, part of it will be submitted to the UN as well – that is my thinking, that is what I will propose – and will concern issues related to the two UN resolutions referring to the name.
JOURNALIST: Will the Pact be co-signed by anyone else beyond the two governments and the UN?
N. KOTZIAS: No.
JOURNALIST: Will you include violation of borders? And I’ll leave it there.
N. KOTZIAS: That is a sine qua non. We have taken all the proposals there were, from the proposals of the Portuguese Presidency of 1992, of Piniero, of Vance-Owen, etc. And we have taken all of this necessary data, but because we haven’t presented it to our friends and we are still in the process of setting it down, allow me not to go into it further. I would just like to say that we don’t use samami tactics and such things ...
JOURNALIST: Yes, this salami tactics reference is of importance, because it didn’t come from us. There were statements yesterday from Mr. Nimetz in “Kathimerini” and an addition to the reporting that the special mediator said that if you reach an agreement on the name ...
N. KOTZIAS: He proposes.
JOURNALIST: He proposes the name’s general use being put off until the country’s accession to the European Union in 2025-2030, that late.
N. KOTZIAS: Your observation is correct. You are absolutely right. Look, this proposal Mr. Nimetz is making – in a way, Commissioner Hahn makes it from time to time, he has stopped now – was to begin the process for the negotiations with the European Union, and later on, when fYROM is close to join, then the changes to be made.
I said to them, “Listen, reading history in retrospect” – not that it means they did it in the right way – “one could say that the country was granted candidacy for EU membership,” just so we don’t forget. It was granted candidacy without giving anything substantial in exchange. It was granted candidacy, and supposedly, during the period of time leading up to the opening of its accession negotiations, which is already a period of 14 years, the name change would happen. So we can’t afford to do that again, because I have told my foreigners colleagues that if we do that, on the day fYROM is set to join the European Union, we would find ourselves to object its accession under its constitutional name and ask for another name, and, then, they would say to us: “We have been negotiating for it to join for 40 years, and now you Greeks are going to ruin everything over a name you have accepted in any case?” That is why we aren’t going to do what they want or what was done when fYROM was granted candidacy.
JOURNALIST: Obviously, constitutional amendments are the sovereign right of every state.
N. KOTZIAS: That's how it is.
JOURNALIST: However, I would like to ask you, to the extent that their Constitution creates issues and irredentism for us, what do you see as a priority change in the Constitution? The issue of the constitutional name, the issue of article 49, which refers to Macedonian minorities in adjacent areas?
N. KOTZIAS: With a change that was made by an interim accord ...
JOURNALIST: No major change has been made. Final provision? What exactly do you want to change in Skopje’s Constitution?
N. KOTZIAS: I pinpoint the preamble and two articles.
JOURNALIST: When you say the preamble, are you referring to the constitutional name?
N. KOTZIAS: If you read it, the preamble has everything in it.
JOURNALIST: Because there is also the reference to the anti-fascist assembly of 1944, which refers to the “Macedonian people” etc. Do we want this to change?
N. KOTZIAS: I have no problem with the anti-fascist reference.
JOURNALIST: You have no problem ...
N. KOTZIAS: ..with the anti-fascist reference, not the rest.
JOURNALIST: Obviously, but the preamble talks about a “Macedonian people,” which exists ...
N. KOTZIAS: I think you got a good piece of news today: that we are demanding a Pact, but I can’t tell you in detail how I will handle the negotiations.
JOURNALIST: Of course, I’ll keep the news.
N. KOTZIAS: Because my main aim is not to please you, it is to reach an agreement.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, we have to ask, because when we learn today that the Serbs have decided to amend their Constitution and to remove Kosovo from their Constitution – and we know what Kosovo is to them – and amend it through a referendum, we can’t go for the minimum in such a process. We have to ask for the maximum. Or in the negotiations, in any case, you have to start from the maximum, right?
N. KOTZIAS: How negotiations are conducted in one issue. Let’s hold back on that, I would say. The second is that everyone is asking us – and I have every intention of responding – for things that weren’t requested and weren’t done by anyone before. And you, as journalists, have a right to do this, but those who negotiated and have forgotten all of this don’t have that right.
JOURNALIST: This is on a political level, in relation to the other parties, and I say this because we will discuss precisely the political aspects during the second half of the show. I want to stay on the negotiations.
JOURNALIST: Let me close the question with the issue of the use of the name, Mr. Minister. We read that Mr. Nimetz is talking about general use later on, postponed indefinitely. Greece’s position?
N. KOTZIAS: Look, Mr. Nimetz is trying to strike a balance. He has some proposals that fYROM and its negotiator didn’t like at all. You know that fYROM’s negotiator denounced Nimetz’s proposals, and you also know that the government of fYROM removed him.
JOURNALIST: He isn’t completely innocent ...
N. KOTZIAS: I didn’t say he was innocent. I’m just saying that Nimetz has things that we don’t like and things that they don’t like. And I will see Mr. Nimetz tomorrow. I don’t want to get ahead of things and announce what I’m going to say to him ...
JOURNALIST: Okay, but use of the name is a very big issue, as you can see.
N. KOTZIAS: I want to say something about the use of the name. We want a name for all uses, and I have explained this to everyone since I became Minister. As an academic, I am a specialist in globalization, I have written a number of books. I have told them that, in the age of globalization, there is no longer domestic use in the way it once existed. And I always carried an identity card and a passport with me, to help them understand. I ask them, What is a passport? An international document that allows one to travel.
JOURNALIST: Do you say this to the Skopje side?
N. KOTZIAS: To everyone, when I became Minister, to finish with everyone. What is an identity card? A domestic document. What is the nature of identity card in the era of the European Union? It is now an international document, because it is in Latin characters and you can travel with it. This is an indication that there are no traditional domestic documents, as in the 19th century when one could distinguish them. And since no distinction can be made, a procedure is required. And let’s say we have an agreement, and I hope we will have one, all the passports and identity cards, etc., will have to change. This can’t happen overnight, there is no state that can change 5 million passports ...
JOURNALIST: No, but when and if they get to the point to join NATO, there will have to be a clear decision on the use of the name.
N. KOTZIAS: Regarding the extent of use, which we are raising, in contrast with the other negotiators who didn’t raise it, or they compromised or said, “we’ll see,” and the time frame for implementation of this use.
JOURNALIST: Could it even happen after a possible accession?
N. KOTZIAS: No, I’m saying a time frame. Let me be clear. If we can’t agree by June, which is when the NATO Summit is scheduled for, what can we do? They can’t join without an agreement, and Mr. Stoltenberg told them this. I think it is the first time we’ve had such a clear statement ...
JOURNALIST: Not even as an observer?
N. KOTZIAS: What does ‘observer’ mean? With the status of non-member? It already has been for many years now ...
JOURNALIST: We aren’t saying this. Diplomats are. Without an agreement, they can’t join NATO as members.
N. KOTZIAS: FYROM has been an observer for many, many years now, long before I became Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr. Tsipras became Prime Minister, because they participated in the NATO presence in third countries, in Afghanistan, for example. When it has been under discussion for 12 or 13 years now ...
JOURNALIST: I mean the special relationship. I don’t know what the NATO charter says.
N. KOTZIAS: NATO doesn’t have a special relationship. What it has is that countries participating in its operations can attend the relevant discussions.
JOURNALIST: So you described the framework until July.
N. KOTZIAS: I want to make a clarification: The NATO process is not because we want or do not want to put them in NATO. They ask to join and we associate this to the negotiations. This is the right way to proceed and I only say this because I have heard various criticisms from various sides.
JOURNALIST: You are right to clarify that. Provided the Pact, what you described, and which we will have within February ...
N. KOTZIAS: No. They will have it.
JOURNALIST: If they agree on the Pact, what will the next steps be? Will the Zaev government have to bring it to Parliament in Skopje, with the Tsipras government then bringing it before the Hellenic Parliament?
N. KOTZIAS: The two governments will have to follow their constitutions’ dictates for approving an international agreement.
JOURNALIST: As such, we don’t have any problem with their holding a referendum?
N. KOTZIAS: We aren’t going to do what they did with the Interim Accord, which they didn’t submit to Parliament, as they should have, in my opinion ...
JOURNALIST: Just a signature. It is initialled.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes.
JOURNALIST: So, if everything goes well, in the coming months, by Easter or after Easter, we may have such a pact come before the Hellenic Parliament for a vote?
N. KOTZIAS: If the other side agrees and we can reach some compromises, certainly. Because compromise is part of our European culture. This product of discussions and negotiations will certainly go before the Hellenic Parliament. We will not pass it with initialling and without Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, is the signing of this pact a condition for Skopje’s European perspective, the accession date?
N. KOTZIAS: Their agreement to this pact, yes. The practical measures ...
JOURNALIST: And it unlocks the EU accession process. But there is an intervening date. The 17th of May. The European Union’s Meeting on the Western Balkans, if I’m not mistaken. Might the issue be raised there?
N. KOTZIAS: In Bulgaria.
JOURNALIST: Exactly. In Bulgaria.
N. KOTZIAS: There is no point. Let me tell you something: The Commission wanted to introduce a text in February that sets a time frame for the opening of negotiations for Western Balkan countries. And fYROM is one of the states whose accession negotiations haven’t opened. And I told them that there is no point, because I will object it. Instead of letting us moving ahead in a friendly atmosphere to resolve the problem, you, the Europeans, will again create hostility between the two states.
I have sent a clear message to everyone – to NATO and the European Union, to the Americans and the Russians, to everyone – not to get involved. Anyone who does get involved will hurt the negotiations or doesn’t want a solution to be found.
JOURNALIST: Did you also have a problem with Sergey Lavrov’s recent statement?
N. KOTZIAS: Sergey Lavrov made two statements in his recent proposal. The first was problematic, because he said the negotiations are starting under pressure from NATO. We explained to the Russians, here and in Moscow, that whatever we do – we explained in no uncertain terms – that whatever we do as Greece, we do for our national interest. And that it is in our interest for this problem to be resolved. That it is a problem between two states and that no one should get involved in.
And I’ll tell you why it is in our interest: First of all, because Greece is emerging from the crisis, and we now know very well – and all the studies show this – that it will be easier for the country to develop if it develops in tandem with the whole region. If anyone thinks we can develop on our own while the rest of the region is destroyed, with wars to our south, they are greatly mistaken. These things have a cost.
Second, because in a Europe of 35 or 40 states – when the Western Balkans join – the countries of Southeast Europe need to have friendly relations so that we can have a common stance as far as possible. Like the Visegrad countries, Benelux, the Baltic states. Countries with a population of one, two, five, even ten or eleven million will no longer count in a Europe of 35 or 40 states.
As a friend of mine says, we have a visionary perspective on the issue. We have to resolve the economic problems. We need stability. And now, to be clear, once we have resolved the name issue and stopped the irredentism, this country that exists will be Greece’s best friend. And we shouldn’t want this country to break up, as some people say, because if it did break up – which won’t happen – it would lead to the expansion of other states, and we would have new conflicts, new nationalist movements, etc., hanging over our heads.
Unfortunately, various politicians or various people who pretend to be serious individuals – the first are serious, the second aren’t – don’t take this adequately into account.
Just as they don’t bear adequately in mind that, if we don’t resolve the name issue, the same thing will happen that happened 20 years ago. Then, as you remember, we didn’t agree to join the technical/scientific Committee of the European Union – the EEC at that time – to discuss what solutions we have to the “Macedonian” issue. And what did they do after that? They went to the UN under the provisional name and became a UN member state. The next thing they will do, which, through out diplomacy, we won’t allow, but which there are intentions to do, is to go to the UN, to the General Assembly, and ask to be recognised under their constitutional name.
JOURNALIST: I think a draft text was circulated by nationalist centres in Skopje.
N. KOTZIAS: I want to say that people shouldn’t think we have won a war against fYROM and are dictating terms to the defeated. FYROM is a state with many problems, with various supporters and capabilities on the international horizon, so it can act differently, as it showed in the 1990s.
JOURNALIST: Coming back to the pact briefly. You said article 1 ...
JOURNALIST: Will the first article of the Pact contain a proposal from the Greek government on the name, as you are taking the initiative?
N. KOTZIAS: It will have everything. Yes, it will have our proposals.
JOURNALIST: Your proposal.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Or will it include the proposals from others as well? Will there be alternative proposals?
N. KOTZIAS: It will have our proposal, certainly.
JOURNALIST: I assume you will consult, have meetings and develop ideas, Mr. Minister? It won’t happen just like that.
JOURNALIST: And will these proposals, some of them, be proposals from Nimetz that were heard at the table? Because a lot of people are interested in this. To put it clearly, Mr. Minister. Will Gorna Makedonija, Nova Makedonija, or Severna Makedonija, which I read, possibly be among the proposals?
JOURNALIST: In Slavic?
N. KOTZIAS: Listen: Of the names proposed by Mr. Nimetz, four names are in Slavic and one name is Macedonia (Skopje), which is a proposal made by the Skopje leadership 12 years ago, 15, 20, 30 years ago. It was a proposal from Vance and from Greek governments.
JOURNALIST: Is it true that Mr. Zaev gave you a paper with ...
N. KOTZIAS: The Prime Minister discussed this with the heads of the political parties.
JOURNALIST: So you can’t say it?
N. KOTZIAS: When the Prime Minister talks to the heads of the political parties, I am not present.
JOURNALIST: I’m saying when you were in Davos, because you were in a meeting ...
N. KOTZIAS: I wasn’t present. In the meeting, Zaev, in reaction to our proposals, produced various documents from past negotiations. But we had them. We have them in the archive and they were found.
JOURNALIST: So what you are saying is Macedonia-Skopje.
N. KOTZIAS: Not with a hyphen. Skopje in parentheses.
JOURNALIST: Right. Macedonia (Skopje) was accepted by some Greek governments. Is that what you are saying?
N. KOTZIAS: That is what I’m saying. That is the fifth.
JOURNALIST: Because there is an interview today – and tell me if you confirm this – in the “Efimerida ton Syntakton” there is an interesting interview with the former ambassador to Skopje, Dora Grosomanidou, who says that the Karamanlis government accepted this particular name. I have the interview here somewhere. Is that accurate?
N. KOTZIAS: Ms. Grosomanidou was ambassador to Skopje and expresses views according to her experience. I am not here to ...
JOURNALIST: Can I tell you what is accurate, Serafim? What ambassador Christos Zacharakis, who was our special negotiator at the UN, writes in his book ...
JOURNALIST: That was another time. I’m referring to another time.
JOURNALIST: Not another time. Up until about 2004, when Mr. Zacharakis reveals that he twice received written instructions from the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, with a decision of the then Prime Minister, Mr. Simitis, to accept the Vance proposal. The name Macedonia (Skopje) was proposed by Vance.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Zacharakis has said that. You’re right.
JOURNALIST: And that became the Greek position. At that time. No one can rule out that it was re-tabled later on by Skopje with other governments, but the first ...
JOURNALIST: Shall I read it out exactly?
N. KOTZIAS: No.
JOURNALIST: Ms. Grosomanidou’s interview?
N. KOTZIAS: Invite her for an interview.
JOURNALIST: I’m asking you because you have seen the documents.
N. KOTZIAS: Mr. Kotrotsos, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, I do not comment on the assessments or experiences of ambassadors. That is not my job.
My job is to find solutions on the name issue. And what I am simply underscoring is, “Why does this solution benefit the country?” It has economic benefits, social benefits, national benefits, geostrategic benefits. It strengthens our position internationally, and it strengthens our position with the friendly people of our bordering country.
JOURNALIST: And it allows us, I assume, to deal with a large front, which is Turkey.
N. KOTZIAS: That's how it is.
Greek diplomacy cannot wake up in the morning and explain to foreigners the footnotes we put on the name. Then we have to explain to them why we are against Albania’s accession, on one issue or another, because we have the one dispute or the other, the minority issue, Himara, etc. Then we have to explain to them why, on the Cyprus issue, we are so strict regarding the matter of guarantees. The afternoon has passed, it is now evening, we are still explaining ...
JOURNALIST: But let’s talk about the names.
JOURNALIST: Before we go to the names, I would like to ask something ...
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, but decide what you want to ask me, because ...
JOURNALIST: Regarding your historical reference ...
N. KOTZIAS: Which question do I answer?
JOURNALIST: Let’s not get onto another subject before we finish with the previous one.
JOURNALIST: I haven’t finished with it.
JOURNALIST: Just a minute. We’re talking about the names.
N. KOTZIAS: I return to the name.
JOURNALIST: Let’s talk about this, and then we will immediately go to your question.
N. KOTZIAS: We put the very serious issue of guarantees and security in the Cyprus issue, which had been taken off the table, back on the table, because all of the governments that negotiated after 1980 had accepted Turkey’s having some kind of right to intervene and guarantor rights over Cyprus. We ended that. These issues are back on the table. The UN has agreed that we have to finish dealing with these chapters.
In the same way, in the Skopje issue it is very important what word will be used for “Macedonia of ...” A compound name, as everyone has agreed. Now they are discovering some differences and disagreements. That it not be in English, that it be in the country’s language or languages.
JOURNALIST: And the nationality on passports?
N. KOTZIAS: In our opinion this country’s language – and this doesn’t mean this is how it will be in the end, but in our opinion in the negotiations – should be untranslated. In other words, we have country names that are untranslated. Sri Lanka, for example. Who translates Sri Lanka? Or who understands ...
JOURNALIST: Is Zaev open to this?
N. KOTZIAS: Or who can tell whether Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan are compound words or compound names of states that all have the same suffix, “stan”, at the end? In other words, I’m saying there is international experience with this issue. We have studied it and are using it in the negotiations.
JOURNALIST: Is Zaev open to a name with a an untranslated Slavic ...
N. KOTZIAS: We’ll see in the negotiations. I don’t think it will be easy.
JOURNALIST: Is it the same with the nationality? Will your proposal be for the nationality to be descriptive? As you said, in passports too?
N. KOTZIAS: I’m not going to go here into detail on all issues under negotiation.
JOURNALIST: We have to ask you these questions, Mr. Minister.
N. KOTZIAS: You are right to ask. And I have to respond, and that is why I’m here.
JOURNALIST: Because the Greek people, and especially the Macedonians in Northern Greece, are very interested.
N. KOTZIAS: I just wonder why the opposition or opposition politics are raising all of these issues and didn’t raise them with themselves when they were negotiating. They didn’t raise them. And I discern doublespeak here, aimed at hindering a solution. I’m not saying we won’t do it, as I said regarding the language as well, but those who gave in on the language issue, agreeing to “Macedonian,” can’t criticize us.
JOURNALIST: If you want to agree, to give them the nation and the language and the other things. Who is stopping you, Mr. Minister?
N. KOTZIAS: We won’t give them these things.
JOURNALIST: I’m just saying, in case you want to.
N. KOTZIAS: I say that we won’t give them these things, but others have given them.
JOURNALIST: So our proposal, I say this so we have something to report ...
N. KOTZIAS: You haven’t got anything so far?
JOURNALIST: Quite a bit.
N. KOTZIAS: So!!
JOURNALIST: Will our proposal in the pact, our proposal for the name, be a name in the Slavic dialect and untranslated? Our proposal – I’m not saying they’ll accept it.
N. KOTZIAS: I say it again: in the discussion that takes place, the first thing will be what the name will be, the content of the name and the qualifier basically, because the second component of the name will include Macedonia as a geographical area. The second will be whether it will be one word or two. The third will be whether it will initially be stated in a language of that country or in an international language, and the fourth, in case of international language, whether it will be untranslated or not. These are the four issues for negotiation.
JOURNALIST: This is the description of the name ...
JOURNALIST: And the fifth is use.
N. KOTZIAS: That is separate.
JOURNALIST I think that we are being unfair to our colleague, let ….
JOURNALIST I don’t want to monopolize the conversation.
N. KOTZIAS: Mr. Kottakis...
JOURNALIST: The use issue is important.
N. KOTZIAS: The negotiations on the name consist of seven issues, which unfortunately we put in order, as they hadn’t been put in order in the past. These are the name, the use of the name, the language, the identity, the commercial use, the acronyms and the …..
JOURNALIST So, the use issue represents another chapter. We shall hold on to that.
N. KOTZIAS: It is an important chapter, but it is, from the standpoint of methodology, in other words...
JOURNALIST You had something to ask, that’s why I was addressing you.
JOURNALIST It doesn’t matter. There is an issue ….
JOURNALIST As you wish.
N. KOTZIAS: I thank you for your interest.
JOURNALIST You referred to what happened 20 years ago. Is there is a risk at the moment - because I perceived this in your reply a little earlier, before taking up the issue of the name - that if we do not reach an agreement with Skopje, there is a risk that they will be able to circumvent us and join international organizations?
JOURNALIST Even if we attempt to prevent them from doing so.
N. KOTZIAS: If we don’t show good will to find a solution and the other side can show that we, in bad faith, didn’t negotiate a compromise and, for example, block the admittance to NATO, then they have the right to apply to third organizations beyond the framework of the European Union, NATO, etc. They have done it before, and we did not come out winners.
JOURNALIST So again, this risk does exist.
N. KOTZIAS: No, because our negotiations sincerely aim at finding a solution and leave no room for bad faith.
JOURNALIST For a “blame game” scenario to be created at our expense.
N. KOTZIAS: We have no reason at all. We want a solution. We understand why it is necessary. We also know that we are not starting the negotiations from scratch, because unfortunately there are things behind us. There is the Interim Accord, which refers to this country as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. From the point of view of the typology of names, it is a compound name with the temporal qualifier the “Former Yugoslav,” which also includes the word "Macedonia". Let’s not deceive ourselves ….
JOURNALIST Let Vasilis Skouris ask his question
N. KOTZIAS: Just a minute so I can finish. It was after the embargo. The embargo that we didn’t win. Some people made money, in the name of nationalism ….
JOURNALIST Are you referring to the name?
N. KOTZIAS: The embargo, yes. In my personal opinion, certain smugglers made a lot of money.
JOURNALIST What you are saying is not accurate.
N. KOTZIAS: I am stating my opinion. It is accurate to say that this is my opinion.
JOURNALIST Not as to whether they made money. When the name FYROM was accepted, as far as I know from the accounts of diplomats.
N. KOTZIAS: Since '92.
JOURNALIST Since ‘92 when the UN peacekeeping force had to come to the Serbia-Skopje border.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, but I say the Interim Accord granted it officially, on our part, and the embargo that preceded and led to the interim solution was not productive, despite the fact that it expressed everything that was at the rally. This real anxiety of people who don’t want their historical heritage and identity to be tampered with.
After that we went to the International Court of Justice in the The Hague, where they cited a veto that did not exist. And we lost at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The International Court of Justice in The Hague demands that we find a solution. If we let this fester, we will not only have violated the Interim Accord, which is the least of all; we will also have violated the ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
JOURNALIST The Hague has no such name though.
N. KOTZIAS: It said, however, that we must resolve these issues without a court.
JOURNALIST Mr. Minister, I would like to ask the following, because I really do not like, in the sense of the effort being made for a real national agreement, because you may be right about certain things you say in terms of the opposition. When you reveal on air that there were former Prime Ministers who did these things it comes off as a threat. Does dialogue help, in your opinion? When we say something, why don’t we say it completely?
N. KOTZIAS: No. Nobody is threatening anybody. And you especially, as a journalist, should not feel threatened.
JOURNALIST I am not saying it as regards myself. I am saying it for the political system and how it is being discussed. I am obligated to find the truth about what you say, and I must pressure you about it.
N. KOTZIAS: Quite simply, the political system cannot provoke the Greek people, as if the Macedonian issue and the name just came up today, as if all the innocents got together and they see someone who is ferocious and evil. That is not how it is. They were in power for 25 years. We did not create the problem, we found it. The problem could have been resolved by Mitsotakis. It could have been resolved by someone else. It was not resolved, only attempts were made to resolve it.
For two months I have been hearing about how splendidly they did everything before, and that we messed it all up. This is not true, and later we will get to “secret diplomacy”. We work only with officials. We do not work with the former commanders of the National Intelligence Service, or departments of the National Intelligence Service.
In other words, they may denigrate from morning to night, saying that we do things, etc. And I say to them: during the negotiation that you carried out, you should have achieved them: and the name that you wanted, and the way you wanted it, take it. You were in power for 25 years. We are here now. We started the negotiations on 14 January, and they are on the verge of telling us that we have destroyed the country.
JOURNALIST I say, for example, because we hear that various Prime Ministers accepted – various others did nothing of the kind – either names, or anything else, and all that is still up in the air.
N. KOTZIAS: No, it is not still up in the air several old ….
JOURNALIST Can I pose the question directly?
N. KOTZIAS: Diplomats, several old diplomats, such as Ms. Grosomanidou, such as Mr. Zacharakis - who were not mentioned by me, and I said that I won’t be commenting - accused the Prime Ministers at the time, whom they were serving, of not negotiating well.
JOURNALIST Should the minutes of the Council of Party Leaders be made public?
N. KOTZIAS: As a matter of fact, I said that I do not comment on the statements of diplomats. How does not commenting constitute a threat? So that we understand each other. I don’t follow...
JOURNALIST I follow, because in a government announcement, they said that some Prime Minister said “Macedonia” and accepted the Macedonia - Skopje, so we do understand each other. I will take it a step further, and I ask yet another question: should the minutes of the Council of Party Leaders of ’92 be made public?
N. KOTZIAS: That is an issue for the President of the Republic.
JOURNALIST The President of the Republic is required to do it if he is requested to do so by the parties...
N. KOTZIAS: No, no.
JOURNALIST Is it not solely the responsibility of the President of the Republic?
N. KOTZIAS: There are rules that govern the functioning of the Greek State and the protection of such information that the Greek State deems should not be made public, and in such a manner, furthermore, for every third party to know the details of it all. We, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have a procedure. When dealing with confidential issues ….
JOURNALIST Is what you say binding?
N. KOTZIAS: I am not bound by any policy that the leaders – or the officials participating – did not commit to.
JOURNALIST Because, Ms. Damanaki the predecessor of Mr. Τsipras, in the broad sense.
N. KOTZIAS: Ms. Damanaki is not his predecessor.
JOURNALIST So how is she not his predecessor? Synaspismos has splintered.
N. KOTZIAS: So, okay. So Charilaos Florakis is also his predecessor. Tsipras was a member of the Communist Youth of Greece.
JOURNALIST I do not know if he admits this.
N. KOTZIAS: He does admit it.
JOURNALIST We will go to a short commercial break and when we return we will have Nicol Livadari with us first, to describe to us the political landscape in Greece in which, for the last few days, the issue of the name of Skopje is being intensely discussed.
To start the political debate now. Mr. Minister And to raise the issue of secret diplomacy which New Democracy also accuses you of, but there have also been complaints on the part of the Ms. Gennimata, but let’s also broach the issue of your government partner, Mr. Kammenos, of the Independent Greeks, who today made a very interesting statement, which I think also serves to start the debate.
Let’s go a commercial break, and we will be right back.
JOURNALIST Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. Welcome to “Epomeni Mera [The Day After]”. We have with us this evening the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Nikos Kotzias, at an extremely critical moment, as we find ourselves just a few days after the meeting between the two Prime Ministers, Alexis Τsipras and Zoran Zaev in Davos, 48 hours after the cycle of talks that the Prime Minister had with party leaders on Saturday at the Maximos Mansion, and a few hours before the arrival of UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz, and the beginning of the discussions which he will hold in Athens with Mr. Kotzias.
Already, in the first part of the debate, Mr. Kotzias provided us with a great piece of news, in terms of journalism it is great piece of news, that in February, the Greek Government will present to the government of Skopje, and to the UN mediator, a Draft Pact which shall include everything. In other words, it shall include the issue of irredentism and changes to the Constitution, the name issue, indeed, as the Minister said, with 7 paragraphs relating to the full range of use of the name and the language, and even including textbooks. So all this is going take place in February and hopefully, if the government of Skopje agrees, Zaev’s government will take it to the Parliament in Skopje, and Alexis Tsipras’s government will take it to the Hellenic Parliament.
Now let’s see how this is all reflected in the national political scene, if I can have Nicol Livadari in the window with us..
Good evening, Nicol.
JOURNALIST Good evening. The Minister broke the news to you this evening...
JOURNALIST And not just that. I just mentioned that piece of news. I tried to sum things up because I know they are watching, at media outlets, this very moment - I received many messages earlier - so I think it is a good idea to describe what has come out of this so far.
JOURNALIST I think that this story, the Pact that the Foreign Minister said that the Greek Government was preparing and shall present in the near future, will determine not only the future dynamics of the solution, but also the dynamics in actions on the domestic political scene.
JOURNALIST That is why I want you to tell us.
JOURNALIST Where exactly we stand right now, I would say, a repositioning, a first indication of repositioning, on the part of political parties, on the basis of the issue of Macedonia. What have we got so far? We do not have a national line. This is clear, after the clear “no” on the part of New Democracy, “no to everything", and the hard line of its President.
We also have an “approximate no” from the Union of Centrists, but we do have, even though we do not have a national line, signs of a potential broad consensus. Why? Because from now on, let’s hold on to everything else that we have got, an exercise of balance on the part of Panos Kammenos and on the part of Independent Greeks, today once again, they assured us that there is no question as regards government cohesion. They have confidence in the negotiations of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
JOURNALIST This is the second time they have said this in a short period of time, that “I have confidence in the negotiations of Nikos Kotzias".
JOURNALIST Exactly. Always with the well known condition, that the term “Macedonia” does not exist. I remember that Mr. Kotzias had told us the last time that he does not accept it in Greek, even if we keep it for the entire course of the negotiations. It is a difficult exercise, however, politically, what Mr. Kammenos is attempting. He is trying, on the one hand, not to disrupt the cohesion of the government, and on the other hand not to jeopardize his relationship with the conservative audience of his party. We shall see how this is going to play out for him.
JOURNALIST But you mentioned the convergence of views, that some convergence is taking shape.
JOURNALIST So let’ go to the convergence, and what have we got here: We also have a clear-cut fixed position on the part of the Communist Party of Greece in favour of the solution, under certain clear-cut conditions which seem to be observed so far in the negotiating framework, we have a clear “yes” and a “maybe” from the Movement for Change. And this is interesting, we have a clear “yes” from Stavros Theodorakis. On the basis of his public positions to date he has said that he will vote for the agreement also, under the conditions we are talking about, and we have a “maybe” on the part of on Fofi Gennimata, which rests on a very difficult and complex scenario, on the unified organization of the Centre-left.
That is where George Papandreou’s position lies, that of Stavros Theodorakis and Giorgos Κaminis, in favour of the solution with variations, Nikos Androulakis, the second powerful pole, has distanced himself somewhat, and there is also, according to reports, and according also to the public positions that we have, also a very great reluctance/refusal from old patriotic PASOK, which is more suspicious of these developments.
JOURNALIST But in other terms than those of New Democracy, we must differentiate this.
JOURNALIST Absolutely, completely different. With New Democracy, we have a shift towards a non-solution. In other words, the position expressed by Kyriakos Mitsotakis is very clear, that New Democracy prefers the non-solution, he said at some later time. As far as the rest, I think you will be discussing it in detail.
And now regarding this prospect of a consensus which is forming, and with the obstacles we described, perhaps on the part of Democratic Coalition, for this proposal to provide the way forward, the position rather of Evangelos Venizelos, which has to do with whether international treaties have primacy over constitutional changes, and how to make the signing of an international agreement – which will force FYROM to include those commitments in its Constitution as well – work on another level.
It is interesting, however. This is a game that is just beginning, and it will be interesting to see where it leads. I also suggest we remember a recent statement, an assessment of the Speaker of the Parliament, Nikos Voutsis, that the Macedonian issue may horizontally lead to a reorganization of the political map.
JOURNALIST Nicol, thank you very much.
Let’s devote 30 more seconds to watch the statement by Mr. Kammenos this afternoon, to add this to the debate as well:
“The long-standing position of Independent Greeks, expressed in all conferences and certified also by the Political Council, which met a few days ago, is that it shall not agree to any name for the name of Skopje which will bear the term ‘Macedonia” or a variation thereof. In other words, we retain the national position of 1992, the Political Leaders Council, led by the President of the Republic.
We trust the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kotzias, to proceed with negotiations, because we truly want a solution to exist, and of course we want this solution to include the absolute condition which we lay down".
JOURNALIST Mr. President, on December 18, in this studio, on this show, you had made a statement for the first time, if I remember correctly, when you were asked if an agreement could be passed by the Hellenic Parliament as regards Skopje. So, you had said then that you are certain that a majority of MPs can be formed. Not parties, you said, but a majority of MPs. So I ask: Are you equally certain, or more or less confident, that in fact this Pact, if things go smoothly, can be passed by the Hellenic Parliament?
N. KOTZIAS: Let me repeat it: We have Golden Dawn, the Union of Centrists, New Democracy, which are in favour of an agreement and a solution, each for different reasons. I do not lump them all together. This may mean that a plethora of parties exists. So I specified during our conversation that the Hellenic Parliament is not simply a Parliament of parties, it is a Parliament also of MPs, and the constitution stipulates the responsibilities of the MPs. I predicted, therefore, and I have counted - to the extent that I am able to count and estimate politically - that a majority of MPs will exist in Parliament, and that it shall pass. Since then, if I remember correctly, Syriza has added a Member, Ms. Megalooikonomou, to its lines. The Potami has a very positive attitude, and a responsible one I would say, as regards this issue. These forces alone not only result in a majority in Parliament, but an absolute majority in Parliament. So I stick to my assessment, and even more optimistically now.
JOURNALIST Do you believe that Members from the Movement, from the Democratic Rally, can support - can vote for such an agreement?
N. KOTZIAS: I have listened carefully to the President of the Democratic Left, Mr. Theocharopoulos. I think he will add his voice and his vote in support of a favourable agreement.
JOURNALIST Right. So …
N. KOTZIAS: Other MPs are too. Can I tell you something? Mr. Skouris told me before that I sound threatening, but I will not remove the argument from my arsenal: I wonder, have they been informed, and have they read the negotiations that their Prime Ministers carried out, or the Prime Ministers of PASOK, as regards fYROM? And do the negotiations that we are carrying out bring more or less? I say this: Years have passed, the country’s positions have fallen back because of the embargo, the ruling in The Hague, and many other things and, nevertheless, what we have managed to do and seek in the negotiations is far ahead of what they sought. Now, if for reasons pertaining to opposition, people want to forget what they pursued, and to set the bar even higher - and I see that each week they add yet another element - the debate is an opposition tactic.
JOURNALIST: But, is it not a paradox, on the other hand, that you call attention to the fact that consensus can be formed in order to get this agreement passed?
N. KOTZIAS: This happens in all Parliaments around the world.
JOURNALIST: And on the other hand, your government partner, Mr. Kammenos, saying on the one hand that he supports you and, on the other hand, that he does not want a compound name or the term “Macedonia.”
N. KOTZIAS: First of all, given all these things I hear about a national line, I have a different understanding of the national patriotic line. I do not understand whether Mr. Mitsotakis agrees or not with the line that the Government has. I understand it as whether the Government proposes patriotic reasons of national necessity for the policy it is following. And I explained to you that, if we want cohesion in S.E. Europe, if we want stability and security in the region, if we do not want fYROM to break up, but rather to prosper, to grow, to strengthen through collaboration, if we do not want to have negative repercussions due to non-negotiation, then what we are doing is patriotically and nationally correct. The other things, for example those of New Democracy, may be correct as regards party lines, so that no crossing of those lines occurs.
JOURNALIST: Yes, but Mr Kammenos says almost the same thing, as what New Democracy is saying now, because it had a different position earlier.
N. KOTZIAS: They are not saying exactly the same thing. Second of all, it is not the first Government in Europe, or in Greece, where different views exist on an issue that was not set down in the platform agreement. The issue of the name of Skopje was not in the agreement which was made by the Syriza with Independent Greeks, because the main aim and goal of this government was the Memoranda and the economy.
JOURNALIST: The Government had this in its platform commitments if I’m not mistaken, Mr. Minister.
N. KOTZIAS: This is true. Not only this Government, but I’m saying the agreement between the two Parties. Consequently, it is in the context of the rights of this Party to have this, and I fully respect a different point of view. What I mean is this: we see what a great impression it makes on everybody that the smallest Party participating in the Government has its own separate view. Let me remind you that with the one-party Governments in the past, there were different opinions even within the Parties, which is - it is democratic in my opinion, but on the basis of the logic that I hear- a greater lapse.
Shall I tell you about the battle fought at the New Democracy cabinet on the Cyprus issue, where there was a minority of Ministers directly connected with this matter, and a majority of Ministers with a different issue regarding the Annan plan? Should I tell you that there was no agreement on major foreign policy issues within the New Democracy Party, in terms of handling of fYROM? None exists today either, but I am saying, as a Government.
Shall I tell you that with the PASOK Governments there was continuous conflict between the patriotic wing of PASOK - as it wanted to define itself; I don’t want to define them - and the modernisers? In other words, contradictions and conflicts are permitted to exist within the Parties, but no difference is permitted to exist between the two parties when in power?
JOURNALIST: The Government should have one single stance. Differing views are one thing, and it is a whole other thing for the Defence Minister to say, for example, “I will vote against".
JOURNALIST: Who will be going to the NATO summit in July.
JOURNALIST: I mean to say that it is a whole different thing.
N. KOTZIAS: In the Councils of Ministers of the preceding Governments, there were votes with majorities and minorities. A government line does exist. The government line is what is expressed by the Cabinet. We held three Cabinet meetings and we do have decisions. The decisions of the Cabinet are the line of the country, the line is expressed by the Prime Minister of the country and can be expressed by a competent Minister in conjunction with the Prime Minister. And as for the fact that Ministers may have a differing opinion? Take any Government, take the British Government today, for example. Does anyone tell it to resign because Boris Johnson does not have the same views in terms of Brexit as May? No one is saying that. This is a Greek novelty, that if there is disagreement in a Government, the Government should resign.
JOURNALIST: So, you’re saying that Mr. Kammenos, as Minister of Defence, if we have agreed by July …
N. KOTZIAS: Mr. Boris Johnson is British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and he disagrees on foreign policy issues with the Prime Minister. I have not heard you say that it is unreasonable.
JOURNALIST: No, because obviously I do not live in London, I live in Athens. So, in fact, my priorities have to do with the Greek Government.
N. KOTZIAS: Mr. Kammenos, through his statements, gave the false impression to certain individuals that it is currently possible to topple the government.
JOURNALIST: This has to do of course with New Democracy. I am asking something else.
N. KOTZIAS: And other forces.
JOURNALIST: Because in July, if everything has gone smoothly, and I personally hope it does...
N. KOTZIAS: Thank you.
JOURNALIST: And we have reached an agreement on a package solution, Mr. Kammenos who disagrees with this package solution ...
N. KOTZIAS: He will not vote for it, or he will say "present".
JOURNALIST: He will not vote for it. Will it be the Minister of Defence who shall represent the country at the NATO Summit, from which the procedures will begin for the integration of fYROM?
N. KOTZIAS: No, it is the Foreign Minister who represents the country at the NATO Summit. The procedures for fYROM are a foreign policy issue.
JOURNALIST: So in other words, you will be at the NATO Summit.
N. KOTZIAS: In Cabinet, there is a majority and a minority. There is nothing strange about this. This could occur in a single-party government.
JOURNALIST: The question is whether a Minister is able to state a differing opinion publicly, Minister, and to express a different policy. That is the question.
N. KOTZIAS: I do not recall this issue existing in '92, '93, '94. I remember two distinct groups within New Democracy, Mr. Samaras being Minister of Foreign Affairs for some time.
JOURNALIST: Do you think a similar situation can exist today?
N. KOTZIAS: But the Minister of Defence disagrees. This exists as a given. It is not something that does not exist.
JOURNALIST: And you are saying he may remain in the government afterwards.
N. KOTZIAS: If he supports the overall project of the government, he will remain with this different stance of his. It won’t be the first time that a difference exists between two Parties – but two Parties that do not want to topple this Government because they hold a common view on the main issue which concerned the Government, and for which it was formed; that is, the economic and social problems.
JOURNALIST: Have you been communicating with Mr Kammenos this whole time? Does he ask you? Does he monitor things? Does he want to know how it is progressing?
N. KOTZIAS: The Prime Minister also updated him before the last Council of Ministers separately, as leader of Independent Greeks.
JOURNALIST: On Friday.
N. KOTZIAS: And I would like to tell you that we have held, in the last two weeks, three Cabinet meetings and the decisions of the other meetings were unanimous. I do not understand what is so terrible about it. In Greece, we pass off the most normal things arising in democracy as an absurdity that is not consistent with democratic survival, process, development of a government. Everywhere in the world, there are Ministers who have differing views; everywhere in the world, there are even minority Governments. All the Benelux countries and the entire Scandinavian North, as a rule, have minority Governments. These exist, they are not absurd. But we have suddenly discovered that Democracy must fit our requirements. We don’t like Tsipras, Kammenos disagrees, should we topple him so Tsipras leaves over the Macedonian issue. That is what this is about.
And suddenly all these people are being mobilized – but wrongly so. They shouldn’t be participating in the rallies that are being held, though holding rallies is fine from a democratic perspective. They implemented their policy and gave away all those things that they are now screaming for us not to give away, which we are not giving away. That is what this is about.
In other words, this has to do with doublespeak, hypocrisy, which has nothing to do with reality.
I want to give you just one example. Mr. Zaev came out and said he is getting rid of ”Alexander the Great” motorway which runs from Evzones all the way up to Skopje. He will call it “Friendship” motorway and will also get rid of the name of the airport, “Alexander the Great.” The opposition came out and said “big deal!” If it wasn’t such a “big deal,” why didn’t they do it all these years?
And can I tell you something else? FYROM did not initially have such names. Do you remember when these names were given? In 2007, during New Democracy Governments. And New Democracy came out and said that this is a reason not to continue the negotiations - they were holding negotiations when it came out - that this was a very serious misstep and that this is political foul play, which we must fail to take into account.
When it was done, it was a terrible event that shocked Greece, shocked the New Democracy Government, forced it to make very severe statements. And when we negotiate, through our negotiators we reduce – we don’t eliminate, we reduce – irredentism and take back all these awful things that happened under New Democracy, because of Gruevski, saying, “What is this? This isn’t enough for us." But these things happened during the period of your governance, and we are picking up the pieces. This is what I have been saying from the outset: we found a situation which should not have deteriorated so far, and now we are fixing the situation.
JOURNALIST: New Democracy criticizes you, and I also heard Ms. Bakoyannis, for not updating them in a timely manner, not convening the Council on Foreign Policy. Do you intend to do this in the near future. Is it necessary?
N. KOTZIAS: When we have moved ahead and an update on the briefings the Prime Minister carried out are needed, I will certainly convene the Council. But, when the Prime Minister of the country informs the Heads of the political Parties, what should I do, inform the officials of the Parties? The briefing of party presidents or secretaries general takes precedent and is a significant event.
JOURNALIST: In terms of a head count, in the event of a vote, have you got hard-core members of the SYRIZA? Because there are SYRIZA MPs from Northern Greece also.
N. KOTZIAS: I …
JOURNALIST: Not you personally, I mean the Government.
N. KOTZIAS: I do not belong to SYRIZA. The Government considers that it has a majority of the members and officials of SYRIZA. If someone disagrees, I am not God, so I can’t read people’s minds. That is an intra-party matter for SYRIZA I don't think so. What I understand is that, in SYRIZA, this is an issue on which there is full agreement with government policy.
JOURNALIST: Will a party line be imposed regarding this?
N. KOTZIAS: I cannot impose conditions on a party that I’m not a part of.
JOURNALIST: No, it’s the general principle I’m talking about.
N. KOTZIAS: No. Why, will there be a party line in New Democracy? I should think not. The matter will be dealt with by the Party Leaders in Parliament.
JOURNALIST: Minister, I’ve been listening to you all this while, and I must admit to feeling somewhat despondent: ESTIA’s front-page title tomorrow shall be...
N. KOTZIAS: But you’ve written it before giving me a hearing! So, you are feeling despondent...
JOURNALIST: I will tell you, since you confirm it: «Nervous breakdown in Athens, gag order in Skopje». The reason I’m saying this is that while we’ve had all this merry-go-round going on since the morning, there’s Government internet and Government Twitter, and the Government goes to bed to Konstantinos Mitsotakis, and wakes up to Konstantinos Mitsotakis.
JOURNALIST: You’ve got to spell out what you mean by this, because people won’t be making any sense of it.
JOURNALIST: I meant with statements made by Konstantinos Mitsotakis in the past.
JOURNALIST: There’s a video clip from 1994, where he takes a stand in favour of a compound name.
JOURNALIST: At a time when we have this on-going public bickering between members of your parliamentary Groups, this is not just a case of the Defence Minister, Mr Kammenos, disagreeing; you see people spoiling for a fight starting this morning, there’s Mr Papadopoulos on the one hand, Mr Dimitris Kammenos on the other, Mr Balaouras...
N. KOTZIAS: A vibrant Democracy!
JOURNALIST: A vibrant Democracy indeed.
N. KOTZIAS: Why does Democracy’s vitality make you despondent?
JOURNALIST: I will tell you why. Because, Minister, the people of Skopje, while we are engaged in a public negotiation of this sort, and constantly plucking our eyes out with our own hands by harping on the past, the moment the Council of Party leaders ended yesterday, President Ivanov said there’s a general ‘gag order’, an agreement among them that they should make no statements at all so that they wouldn’t be under any pressure over the negotiations. While we, from morning till night engage in a competition as to who can lay the most blame for what occurred in the past. You will have seen that I’ve kept quiet all this time, but, by way of an example, one might argue that in the ranks of your Government there is a Minister who publicly, apropos of the refugee issue, used the term “Macedonia” for Skopje and Mr Kammenos demanded he be replaced, regardless of whether he wasn’t.
N. KOTZIAS: He explained that it was a slip of the tongue.
JOURNALIST: You mean Mr. Mouzalas.
JOURNALIST: Because occasionally such slips of the tongue...
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, but there’s a big difference...
JOURNALIST: I’ll tell you one other thing too.
N. KOTZIAS: Please, allow me to speak.
JOURNALIST: Of course.
N. KOTZIAS: There’d be a big difference if I had been the one to say this, as the Minister in charge, or if it’s someone that gets carried away. We are here discussing the negotiations under way, and I’m not having any disputes over the negotiations, I’m only negotiating with ministry staff. None of my personal associates is involved in the negotiations, neither on FYROM, nor on Albania, nor on the Cyprus issue, nor on anything.
Previous Governments engaged in the negotiations with people from outside the Government. With someone who belonged to the National Intelligence Service, the State Intelligence Service as it was then known.
JOURNALIST: He’s no longer alive.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, his book was outstanding. I suggest you distribute it with your newspaper.
JOURNALIST: We are talking about General Gryllakis.
N. KOTZIAS: Give it out with your newspaper, this book «Apokalyptika» [Revelations] so we can read what the man is saying. Because, in there, the negotiator for New Democracy, who is not a government functionary, who is negotiating and is making moves clandestinely, is saying that “those who are opposed to a solution being found for the name in the «Macedonian issue”, are those who are rendering services –regardless of whatever they say, and irrespective of whatever they are after, for themselves– to Turkish interests which seek to have us at loggerheads in the Balkans, so that Turkey can take over this arc, namely the Balkans, so that they can train the elites of those countries situated above us and train the Army, as it does with fYROM’s Army, and have the country in a pincer, that begins at Kastellorizo and reaches up to our north-western borders...» this is what Gryllakis says based on his fund of experience.
JOURNALIST: Would you allow a rebuttal?
N. KOTZIAS: He says all this, let’s agree on this.
JOURNALIST: He says it. Would you allow a rebuttal? Because apart from ’92, there’s also 2016. Aside from the Minister for Migration Policy, there’s Mr Katrougalos’ predecessor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during your time. He had been to Slovakia and granted an interview to PRAVDA newspaper, and, Minister, he would repeatedly use the name «Macedonia». We had conceded it before your talking today about a compound name.
N. KOTZIAS: Will you let me tell you? The compound name...
JOURNALIST: I’m not talking about the compound name, I’m talking about naked “Macedonia” at this moment.
JOURNALIST: Just one thing Manolis, let us pose questions and refrain from a debate, we’re journalists.
JOURNALIST: Just as schoolbooks contain a map with the name “Macedonia”. It was December 2015 when this was discovered by the Minister, Mr Filis. It was discovered. I don’t know whether it was Mr Filis’ responsibility, and you ought to say what you will be doing with the schoolbooks.
N. KOTZIAS: Those existed from the previous Governments.
JOURNALIST: I don’t know whether it’s the previous ones or this one, but since we are holding this discussion and you want to turn it into a general one, let’s make this a general discussion. Is this to anyone’s benefit?
N. KOTZIAS: Mr Kottakis, you sound to me like a party representative.
JOURNALIST: Well, ok then!
N. KOTZIAS: But that’s what you sound like to me.
JOURNALIST: When you hear something said that’s not to your liking, your interlocutor becomes a party representative.
N. KOTZIAS: No, I hear you take a stand as a party representative.
JOURNALIST: Why don’t you present an argument? I give you an argument, and, because you don’t like it, I’m a party representative?
N. KOTZIAS: No, I don’t see you asking me. I see you passionately defending New Democracy.
JOURNALIST: Passionately, Minister, I’m giving you a few facts.
N. KOTZIAS: What facts are those?
JOURNALIST: I told you: Mr Katrougalos’ predecessor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during your time in office, used the name “Macedonia” as his term for Skopje. Do you have something to say about this abroad? This is what people who are not from New Democracy are also wondering, you know. Not just me, and you can call me whatever names you please.
N. KOTZIAS: I’m not calling anyone anything.
JOURNALIST: You’ve already done it.
N. KOTZIAS: I use “as...”.
JOURNALIST: You did do it, but I don’t have any problem with it, Minister, we’re used to things of this sort.
N. KOTZIAS: All right.
JOURNALIST: Manolis, let’s ask some questions.
N. KOTZIAS: What I see happening is this: there are those, including your newspaper, who are telling us how to negotiate, you are telling us, I read your pieces often, I hold you in high regard as a journalist...
JOURNALIST: I, too.
N. KOTZIAS: I know that, and I thank you. I hold you in high regard as a journalist, you’re telling us, in a manner of speaking, that we are dangerous because we might concede this or that. And I’m simply making it clear that this or that is not something that we are conceding. Those things were conceded by others. And so I cited the example of the language. It wasn’t I that conceded that in ’77. It wasn’t I that couldn’t be bothered to go and spend three long years negotiating so as to salvage the name, so that the language would not be called “Macedonian”. That’s what I’m talking about.
And the Government’s position, in its foreign policy, is expressed by its Minister of Foreign Affairs and is, of course, expressed by the Prime Minister himself. If people get carried away as they speak, and speak wrongly, that’s wrong. If they called it so in Slovakia, that’s wrong, and this is very, very clear.
JOURNALIST: I’m glad to hear it.
N. KOTZIAS: I don’t know whether he said it. But if he did say it, it’s wrong. That country isn’t called “Macedonia” and it is not called “Macedonia” by our side, I want to be very, very clear.
JOURNALIST: Minister, I’m glad to hear this coming from you.
N. KOTZIAS: I’ll say it again that there is a big difference between saying something that is mistaken and a negotiation that allows itself to call this country “Macedonia – Skopje”, there’s a big difference. A mistake made by some politician is one thing, and the official negotiating line accepting it is another thing altogether.
JOURNALIST: Manolis, there’s a comment I’d like to make, which I’m making to corroborate what you’ve said, that there are some people who, for many years now, would see the name Macedonia crawling across TV screens either for international sports meetings, or on Eurovision, or on the occasion of other international events: many Governments [did so] in the past, and nothing was ever done about it. There are 140 countries around the world that call Skopje “Macedonia”, we see it happening before our eyes and it is quite obvious that, whoever said this was wrong. I don’t know who you have in mind, but we shouldn’t be discovering America anew, all of a sudden. Such is my opinion.
JOURNALIST: I’d like to ask the Minister about the rallies, and particularly the one in Athens. Do you believe it will help, Minister? And I’d like you to clarify your stance vis-à-vis the leadership of the Church. Because there’s a lot of talk and you’ve been under attack many times.
N. KOTZIAS: For a start, the rallies are Democracy manifesting itself. And they must be used in democratic fashion, and not for far-right elements to parade around, in the pursuit of other objectives. Gatherings responding to the democratic valorisation of such democratic precepts are a good thing.
Now whether they are helpful politically is another issue. And it doesn’t seem to me that the prerogative of one’s manifesting a concern – I’m not talking about people acting so because they belong with those professing themselves to be “fighters for Macedonia”, or about vested interests, including in the far right, exploiting it – the ordinary people who are concerned and identify themselves as Macedonian, and feel that there are those out there who are trying to wrest it away from them, are entitled to proceed in this manner. Quite simply, I need to explain to them that this “Macedonia” has been in existence for 70 years now, that Greek Governments had agreed to the name “Socialist Republic of Macedonia”, which, with the collapse of communism, only saw the word “Socialist” removed from the name, leaving “Republic of Macedonia” behind, and we aren’t the ones who discovered it and want to concede it.
We are seeking to salvage this situation, and it is a thousand times better for the country, instead of its being called the “Republic of Macedonia”, if it were to be called by means of a compound name that clearly shows that it has nothing to do with Greek Macedonia. That today we don’t have to choose between... I’ve been given several suggestions, let’s call it “Central Balkan Republic”, “Upper Balkans Socialist Republic”. We are not involved in a baptism here; I said this the previous time too. Today we have to deal with a reality that we did not shape. We are dealing with a reality in the most radical, patriotic and responsible manner possible, and in line with the path we follow as a nation, which is to leave behind us the 140 countries that recognize it as the “Republic of Macedonia” and to go for a name erga omnes, which shall be a compound name and one that does not refer to, nor hint at, any irredentism, to Greece’s detriment.
JOURNALIST: Alekos Vassilopoulos, the show’s editor informs me that, just now, a short while ago, a major news website posted what you said a bit earlier – and I’m saying this because if this news item escaped our notice, we should point to it– the title is that “Mr Kotzias says that Skopje needs to be recognized by its constitutional name”.
N. KOTZIAS: I never said that anywhere!
JOURNALIST: Since we’ve been told that there is this news item, let’s clarify the point. They are telling me that it’s been aired on a major news site.
N. KOTZIAS: This is provocation. I made it clear a thousand times over that Skopje cannot be named “Macedonia”.
JOURNALIST: And you also made this clear just a little earlier, and it’s why I’m pointing it out.
N. KOTZIAS: Can you tell me what site that is?
JOURNALIST: Your team will see to that afterwards.
N. KOTZIAS: Why? I don’t get it; may I not comment on those commenting on me?
JOURNALIST: Obviously. Alekos Vassilopoullos, what site is that? It is the “Proto Thema” site.
N. KOTZIAS: All right, that is their way of engaging in politics. They can cut up phrases and ascribe them to me. But it is absolutely clear that I’ve said one thousand times that it cannot be recognized under its constitutional name. I’ve said so a thousand times and you’ve heard it here, you are my witnesses, whatever our differences.
JOURNALIST: I don’t know if there’s something that has slipped our notice.
N. KOTZIAS: Even if it slipped your notice, I’ve said it a thousand times.
JOURNALIST: You were saying something about identity a little earlier.
N. KOTZIAS: Still, I have a second question from Mr Skouris regarding the Church. Look here, Mr Skouris, what is the problem that the Church regards as paramount? The Archbishop said that, beyond all other national issues, there is a problem with the name of the Church of fYROM that is reflected in the state name. This is not accurate; in terms of scholarship it is inaccurate. There is the Niš accord of 2002, in which Niš accord of 2002 it is provided that the Church under the name of “Macedonian Orthodox Church of FYROM” shall become autonomous, or even autocephalous, and shall be renamed “Church of Ochrid”, as it was called in Medieval times, when it also had an adjunct I don’t need to bring up now. I think it would be very, very good if the Church of Greece were to help, along with the ecclesiastical authorities that have some say in the matter, for the reversion of the name of that Church to “Archbishopric of Ochrid”. If I may say so, I think that is where the main duty of the Church lies.
JOURNALIST: Serafim will call me back to order, but apropos of what you’ve said about the Balkans and the pincer that Turkey is trying to forge...
JOURNALIST: Will you go to the Turkish issue?
JOURNALIST: I will go to the Turkish issue.
JOURNALIST: One final question, before moving on to the Turkish issue.
JOURNALIST: Something about the schoolbooks is what I wanted to ask.
JOURNALIST: Taking up from what Vasilis has said, I would like, in view of the Sunday rally, to ask you plainly, Minister, whether you consider –as some would have it– that the rallies help with the negotiation, or whether you maintain that you cannot exercise foreign policy by means of rallies.
N. KOTZIAS: What everybody abroad is seeing – I told you myself that rallies are an expression of Democracy – and interpreting it as, is that it’s not Skopje alone that is in the grip of irredentist sentiment, that it is also to be met with in Greece.
JOURNALIST: So do you consider that, abroad, the rally is regarded as an instance of irredentism?
N. KOTZIAS: “Macedonia is solely Greek”, which is a most profound sentiment for Greeks, is construed abroad as suggesting that we do not accept the 19th century treaties, that we do not accept the early 20th century treaties, when there were three Macedonias. One of them was “Pirin Macedonia”, in Bulgaria. What are we to do with this “Pirin Macedonia” in Bulgaria? Are we not to acknowledge its existence? “Yugoslav Macedonia” going further back. Why did we forget that one for 70 years? Why did we countenance it? Which Greek Governments conceded that their language is “Macedonian”, that it could exist as the “Republic of Macedonia”?
What I’m saying is that these things are construed abroad in a different manner to how they are construed here in Greece, with our own democratic sensitivities. I’m not saying whether this is right or wrong, I’m just saying how it is construed.
JOURNALIST: Does the territorial extent comprised by the state of Skopje have any relation –because, geographically speaking, it is 38% of Macedonia– to ancient Greek Macedonia?
N. KOTZIAS: Now, we’ve got to be serious!
JOURNALIST: But Minister, we are being serious.
N. KOTZIAS: Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying this about you.
JOURNALIST: And one last thing about the rally, and then I’ve got to hand over, because we are coming to a close presently.
N. KOTZIAS: Let me make one thing clear. The cultural and historical heritage of Macedonia is Greek. Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great in Greek. Let us be agreed on that.
JOURNALIST: The fact that the keynote speaker at the rally on Sunday will be Mikis Theodorakis, and this I am saying to Nikos Kotzias, who has clocked up many a mile with the Left, is it a cause for concern?
N. KOTZIAS: Mikis Theodorakis is a great artist and I am enamoured of him and his work. In politics he hasn’t always maintained positions on which I could agree with him. For instance I haven’t served as a Government Minister, Government Deputy Minister with New Democracy, I didn’t hold the same views within the Left. I do have great respect for his enormous cultural output, but that doesn’t mean that I would adopt his political views.
JOURNALIST: After his meeting with the council of political leaders yesterday, Mr. Zaev, said he would set up a joint Committee to rewrite the textbooks. Is that true Mr Minister?
N. KOTZIAS: What we discussed in September with Mr. Dimitrov is that a Committee must be established for the textbooks – it was my proposal for that country – for the irredentism. He said to me, “You mean we can’t have a look at yours?” “Have a look,” I told him, “we do not have irredentist intentions". That is the conversation that we had.
JOURNALIST: So, we will have a look at theirs.
N. KOTZIAS: Certainly, the same way we look at the Albanian ones. We have a Committee for the Albanian books which has been operating for a long time now, and which, we have agreed, will reach its joint conclusions. Whether we, too, have overlooked something. We have no irredentist intentions, and in September for Albania will have made the necessary corrections to its new school books.
JOURNALIST: So as early as the coming school year?
N. KOTZIAS: They should make the effort to. In any case, that is the deal. Plus the fact that Mr. Rama made a very positive proposal yesterday, telling us that instead of their translating Greek books into Albanian, for the Greek national minority in Albania, that we should do it. I think that this, too, is a very favourable proposal.
JOURNALIST: In other words for us to send textbooks...?
N. KOTZIAS: Specially written – I’m not saying in what language – for the children of the Greek National Minority in Albania.
JOURNALIST: That is noteworthy.
N. KOTZIAS: I think it is a step forward.
JOURNALIST: Minister, given the major discussion, and the accusations from the opposition – questions were asked in Parliament – did you discuss the “Cham” issue?
N. KOTZIAS: No. The Albanian side is raising the issue, the Greek side says it won’t discuss it, and that’s the end of it. I think the Albanian side would like to make proposals and will make proposals on certain general principles, regarding human rights.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Minister, a few months ago it was Edi Rama, in a number of interviews he gave, who was very provocative, including on the “Cham” issue. What has changed in a few short months?
N. KOTZIAS: I think we have been negotiating with Albania for two years now, and negotiations carried out with composure, patience and persistence produce results.
JOURNALIST: Is it possible there is a foreign player involved?
N. KOTZIAS: No, they aren’t getting involved. At this stage, I consider myself lucky that the foreign player you mentioned is not getting involved in the Western Balkans in the way many people think. They aren’t concerning themselves with the matter.
JOURNALIST: The Germans, however, are more interested at this time.
N. KOTZIAS: They don’t deal with such things. The Germans do not have the expertise required to deal with such issues. I believe it is a major development that we agreed on the cemeteries, that Churches that had been destroyed in Himara will be restored, that they finally gave Albanian nationality to the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Albania, in recognition of his work, since that is what it is all about, the formalities are of secondary importance. That we were able to agree on a set of issues and we will be making a joint political statement and a joint action plan with the Albanian Government.
JOURNALIST: When will the Prime Minister visit Albania?
N. KOTZIAS: Probably just before Easter.
JOURNALIST: The EEZ?
N. KOTZIAS: We’ve agreed on that.
JOURNALIST: You’ve agreed?
N. KOTZIAS: Yes.
JOURNALIST: Because Mr Bushati made some statements today and blamed his predecessors. When you say “we’ve agreed”, will you be extending Greek territorial waters - we had also discussed this last time in answer to a question by Vasilis if I remember well- to 12 miles by Presidential Decree?
N. KOTZIAS: That is the “territorial sea”, yes we will do that, all in good time.
JOURNALIST: And that will be followed by the declaration of the EEZ, that is what I am asking.
N. KOTZIAS: You can declare the EEZ when the other side has accepted that, in any case, you are entitled to the 12 miles.
JOURNALIST: So they have accepted this.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes.
JOURNALIST: That is important, Mr Minister.
N. KOTZIAS: Many more important things are also happening.
JOURNALIST: When we need to act as the opposition, we will act as the opposition. And when something is important, we will tell you it is important.
N. KOTZIAS: Mr Kottakis, you are a distinguished journalist, you have studied matters in depth from a particular viewpoint. I, on the other hand, have been trying to apply my practical and academic knowledge. What I want to say is that we negotiated for 13 hours in the final phase for the EEZ. Which means we began at some point, then looked at the situation in detail in Crete during the 4-day negotiations and now we have the 3-day…
JOURNALIST: Mr Minister, Vasilis Nedos will ask his question on Turkey, and please give an overall answer, since we only have two or three more minutes left, we don’t have any more time.
JOURNALIST: I shall be as brief as possible. Since we have once again had various incidents around Imia, the incident with the wreath yesterday, if I remember well- and I’m sure I remember well- since I watch all your interviews, which are extremely rare, with great attention…
N. KOTZIAS: That is kind of you.
JOURNALIST: You had said that the Turks are nearing a red line and I wanted to ask you whether, over the last few days, and when the wreath was being thrown by Panos Kammenos in the area of Imia, and after the two warships nearly collided last week, generally speaking, whether Turkey is close to this red line. And does this red line exist?
N. KOTZIAS: The understanding I had with the Turks is that we need to deescalate the tension and withdraw the ships. When there is no such understanding, then you can ask me that question.
JOURNALIST: Why are you so angry about secret diplomacy?
N. KOTZIAS: First of all, I’m not angry.
JOURNALIST: You said so two or three times during this discussion.
N. KOTZIAS: I said it for the following reason: people are not well informed. Secret diplomacy is when two or more states secretly agree on actions against a third, fourth or fifth state.
JOURNALIST: That is not what I meant. They are calling secret diplomacy the fact that Dimitrov entered Macedonia Palace hotel through the basement when you met him in Thessaloniki.
N. KOTZIAS: He came in his car and came up through the parking garage. The fact that he came up through the parking garage is not secret diplomacy.
JOURNALIST: I know that Macedonia Palace has a basement parking garage.
N. KOTZIAS: You also come up by lift from the open-air parking lot at the back. Secret diplomacy means two or three states preparing a plan at the expense of a fourth, or a fifth state. For example, Austria and Germany agreed to stage a pan-European war if a, b and c happened. When it did, they declared war on Russia, on France and the rest. That is secret diplomacy.
JOURNALIST: Greek people call it secret diplomacy, for example Mr Minister. I’m not saying that is what you’re doing, since that is also secret diplomacy, something is going on.
N. KOTZIAS: It is considered secret diplomacy when the result of the negotiation is not announced to public authorities, for example in Parliament. Secret diplomacy is conducted through third parties not through officials, such as the official diplomatic staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who have this duty based on the Constitution, the laws and the rest. When you use the secret services to carry out diplomatic negotiations, then it is secret diplomacy. We don’t do all that.
We will bring the agreement to Parliament when there is one. The Prime Minister has informed the Presidents of the Parties. We only work with officials, and there are actually 15-20 officials. I think what worries New Democracy is the fact that they felt that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs belonged to them, that everything is like a sieve, that they have to get their hands on. So since they have no idea about certain aspects of the negotiation, they are calling it secret diplomacy out of irritation. Because negotiating does not mean secret diplomacy.
And Mitsotakis himself said, when Mr Erdogan came, that when certain things are under negotiation, they are not left in plain view. I mean, is it absurd to want to abolish secret diplomacy, meaning the diplomacy that uses the secret services? Others did that, we don’t. Wanting to keep the agreements secret? We have no such intention. As you heard, we will bring them to Parliament. We have nothing to do with secret diplomacy, and young people, students, are being taught the wrong things.
JOURNALIST: Since you referred –which you also did tonight, of course, without going into details- to stages of past negotiations, in which various names were put on the table etc., have you thought of, or do you intend to, open up a conversation and meet with your predecessors at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from former Governments, who handled such stages in the negotiation.
N. KOTZIAS: When we began, with the thought that we must negotiate, I wrote a letter to all the Parties inviting them to a discussion, so that they could express their thoughts on the issue. May I remind you that two of these Parties, one of which I have now excluded from the National Council on Foreign Policy for this reason, came out with my confidential letter and said “What is this you’re asking, you want to discuss fYROM and the “Macedonian issue” with the National Council on Foreign Policy?”
JOURNALIST: Golden Dawn did that.
N. KOTZIAS: Not only Golden Dawn. It was supported, not for the first time, by a Parliamentary Representative from another Party. Those who criticized me in Parliament, for wanting to talk with them about fYROM, are now asking “why I didn’t talk to them”. After accusing me and refusing to have that discussion with me then. We’re not talking about the past, this only happened a year ago.
JOURNALIST: We have no more time, I am being asked to conclude. I will conclude in the same way I concluded the broadcast on the 18th or rather in the early hours of the 19th of December. When will you be visiting us again? When do you think there will be a reason to have another round of this discussion?
N. KOTZIAS: We’ll see.
JOURNALIST: Before Easter?
N. KOTZIAS: Probably, but we will also have the pact with the Albanians, which did not really interest you.
JOURNALIST: When do you see that happening?
N. KOTZIAS: I told you.
JOURNALIST: We’ll have the pact before Easter.
N. KOTZIAS: I hope so, because we might not agree in the end.
JOURNALIST: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been flooded with messages, I think most of the questions you raised have been answered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I want to thank you very much for your participation.
Vasilis Nedos, Vasilis Kouris, Manolis Kottakis. Thank you very much. Mr Minister, thank you very much for being here tonight on ΕRΤ1 and “Epomeni Mera”.
N. KOTZIAS: I thank you for being active journalists! I’ve been dealing with –and I know you well- four active journalists, with an in-depth knowledge of foreign affairs, which is sometimes better than that of my academic colleagues.
JOURNALIST: Goodnight, and all the best.