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Interview of Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias on ERT1’s ‘The Day After’, with journalist S. Kotrotsos (04.06.2018)
S. KOTROTSOS: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to ‘The Day After’. We are literally on the razor’s edge in the negotiations on the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We are at the point where it will be decided in the next few days whether the Skopje side, Zoran Zaev's government, can do what the government has said it will do and take the decisive step so that we can reach an agreement. And at this critical moment, I have the pleasure and honour of hosting the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, here at ERT1’s main studio, on ‘The Next Day’. Minister, thank you very much for being here this evening.
N. KOTZIAS: I thank you for the invitation and I thank our viewers, who I hope will be staying up with us.
S. KOTROTSOS:I will just say the following: In the last few days I have received many, many phone calls, many messages from colleagues who, indirectly, through me, would like to ask you some questions, from political opponents, from MPs of the governing party, Syriza, and Independent Greeks. I think there is also a great deal of interest from the news media, who are watching the situation, because, without question, after everything that has happened in the past few days, I think everyone wants to hear what has really happened and, mainly, what is going to happen from here on in.
N. KOTZIAS: And you can be sure they will be internationalinterest, because – as you know, I rarely speak – they want to see what we are thinking and how we assess the situation.
S. KOTROTSOS: But before we go to the main issue, the issue of the name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and because this is a live show, as a live transmission we had developments a little while ago, and I would like to ask you how you respond, as the Minister of Foreign affairs, to the insolent attack from the Turkish side a few hours ago. An attack on the Prime Minister himself.
I quote: “Greece is protecting and supporting putschists, terrorists, Gulen supporters. We thought that Alexis Tsipras’ word was a man’s word.” This is what the government spokesperson, Bekir Bozdağ, said a short while ago, and he notes: “There is political direction in this ruling.” He is referring to the decision to release 4 of the 8 Turkish officers. “There is direction. We thought Tsipras honoured his commitments.”
N. KOTZIAS: The only commitment he has,as the country’s prime minister, is to ensure the functioning of the rule of law in Greece. Unfortunately, I find that some Turkish politicians cannot understand the relationship between politics and the rule of law. I think that, with regard to the content, the statements are worthless and unacceptable. But I want to note one more thing. Inappropriate statements like these are characteristic of those who exercise foreign policy with their eyes on the domestic audience. As you know, I and our government – and first and foremost Alexis Tsipras – exercise foreign policy with our eyes on how we can upgrade the country internationally and how we can resolve the country’s problems, to make it stronger.
S. KOTROTSOS: Are you concerned at the fact that this statement says something that might be interpreted in many ways. It says, for example, that “it is Turkey’s duty to ensure that the military personnel accused of participating in the coup return to the country.” Given that, for a certain amount of time, until the asylum issue has been resolved, the Turkish officers in question will remain in Greece, at an undisclosed location and under draconian security measures, and given that we recently had an intervention by Turkey’s special MIT unit in Kosovo regarding a similar case – not the same, but similar. Gulen’s supporters again. Are you concerned that this phrase in the announcement might suggest an intention on the part of Turkey to come to Greece to abduct them?
N. KOTZIAS: I have stated many times that Turkey is very well aware of the fact that we are not one of the states with which they can play games. That Turkey cannot come and ‘take’ someone from here. It doesn’t have the right, and that we won’t let them.
S. KOTROTSOS: I think your stance is very clear. And as you said yourself, this response is probably already making its way to the other side of the Aegean.
N. KOTZIAS: Which is in the midst of an election campaign, and I would say that the Turkish government spokesperson who said this does not have experience of international relations and spoke in the context of the election campaign, in an absolutely unacceptable manner, of course.
S. KOTROTSOS: Are you afraid that we might have an escalation in the run-up to the elections?
N. KOTZIAS: I do not have fears with regard to Turkey. We analyze Turkey, assess it, and conduct ourselves in a manner that defends Greece’s position and interests.
S. KOTROTSOS: Let’s go to the issue that concerns and interests all Greeks. The political controversy over the past few days has literally gone off the charts. Tomorrow, Wednesday, we have the first round of demonstrations on the issue ...
N. KOTZIAS: The second round.
S. KOTROTSOS Yes. the first round because there will probably be a second round in the larger cities.
N. KOTZIAS: And third.
S. KOTROTSOS: And third and fourth. Who knows? In 13, 14 cities in Northern Greece. First of all, I want us to clarify the following: Up until the end of last week, all of us had the impression that, following the meeting you had with Nikola Dimitrov and Matthew Nimetz in New York, and again, afterwards, in Brussels, and the statements you and Nikola Dimitrov made there, that we had an agreement, at least a draft agreement, on the table, and, as you said, now the next step – “we, the Foreign Ministers, have finished,” you said – is the Prime Ministers. There was a report that a telephone conversation is impending between Zoran Zaev and Alexis Tsipras to close the agreement, and that a meeting of the Prime Ministers, on a final agreement, is to take place in Prespes. What changed all of a sudden?
N. KOTZIAS: I think that, as my favourite poet, and favourite poet of many Greeks, Cavafy says, the time is coming when you have to say the ‘big yes’ or the ‘big no’, and when that moment comes, you understand the difficulties facing you in replying with a‘big yes’ or a‘big no’. I have the feeling that the leadership of our friendly country to the north, the leadership in Skopje, now that it has to finish with this whole story, realised the great difficulties involved in the agreement’s implementation, its promotion, and this played role in its wanting to re-think, to discuss certain clarifications in the agreement itself. But, it is my deep conviction and hope that these issues will be resolved very soon, in a few days.
I want to say something else, as well. Negotiations are not a straight path. It’s not a 100-yard dash: we start, speed up, finish. It’s not even a 10k, where we start, get tired, speed up again. Negotiations have their ups and downs. Moments when the end is very close, and moments when the end moves a little farther off. A negotiator – and the first negotiator for every country is the Minister of Foreign Affairs – has to demonstrate great patience and composure. He must not be beguiled by the Sirens of one day or another, much less by the issues raised by the press or issues raised by the opposition to play domestic political games. I think the leadership in Skopje is gathering this experience.
S. KOTROTSOS: I will tell you why I do not think – not your answer, obviously – why I think this does not suffice as an explanation. I assume that Zoran Zaev has made a commitment not only to the Greek Prime Minister, but also to the mediator, to his international interlocutors. Because just as the Greek Prime Minister and you talk to foreign leaders, so does he. He has committed to being on the verge of an agreement. It is ante portas. Could he possibly not have foreseen that Gjorge Ivanov or VMRO’s Hristijan Mickoski wouldn’t react? Could he really have been surprised by the developments with the demonstration we saw the day before yesterday in Skopje?
N. KOTZIAS: The demonstration was not of great magnitude. Some might say it was large, with 50,000 demonstrators. The assessment we have at the Ministry is that it was an assembly of between 15,000 to fewer than 20,000 demonstrators. I remind you that the main goal of the demonstration was overall government policy, and in fact ...
S. KOTROTSOS: They even asked for elections.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, the VMRO leader is being criticized for not emphasising the name issue enough. I just think that every leader reflects when the time comes to take major decisions. I do not think that one or two or five days makes any difference. I hope and understand that that we will have this agreement. The agreement is a good compromise in the sense that both of us win. It is a compromise that gives and takes, and it is a compromise that will be good for the growth of our country and our friendly country and their relations, and for the whole region. Regarding foreign players, I should tell you my own experience. In my experience, no one got involved at any point in the negotiations.
S. KOTROTSOS: You are already answering many of the questions I wanted to ask.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, but it doesn’t matter. Since you mentioned it, no foreign player got involved at any point, for the very simple reason that Greek foreign policy, serving Greek interests, has concluded that these issues we had with our northern neighbours, Albania and Skopje in particular, need to be resolved, and that this solution will be in their interest, in our interest, and in the interest of the whole region. It is in our own national interest to do this. Consequently, it was a proactive, democratic foreign policy. In other words, it was a foreign policy that took initiatives, and all the foreigners and the others were very much behind the initiatives we took.
I remind you that I am the first Minister of Foreign Affairs who visited Skopje as Minister of Foreign Affairs and not as a representative of the European Union. In fact, in the first press conference I held in Skopje, which lasted over four hours, I talked for three of those hours about irredentism, arguing it had to stop.
We are the government that instituted the confidence-building measures. Confidence-building measures are measures for the development of the two countries’ social and economic relations, to build greater trust so we can find a solution. Both sides gained from these confidence-building measures. We developed cooperation between the universities of Northern Greece, of Greek Macedonia, and of Skopje. We developed cooperation between the police and the forces that guard the border on both sides. The Fire Service that protects against fire. There are large wildfires that you cannot protect yourself from through national measures. We have confidence-building measures to repair the railway line between Florina and Bitola. We have the opening of the natural gas pipeline. We have measures that bond the two countries and show that we have common interests for the future. A common future, as long as we resolve the name problem and the problems that stem from it.
S. KOTROTSOS: So the first piece of news from tonight’s interview is that the diplomatic efforts haven’t foundered; it’s a matter of a few days before the climate created over the weekend is reversed.
N. KOTZIAS: That’s my feeling, but never say never. Not until the documents are signed, which I hope will be soon. We'll see.
S. KOTROTSOS: Obviously. Let’s look at what kind of agreement we’re talking about. You said –and I remember the statements you made in Brussels very clearly– that it is now up to the two Prime Ministers, that we at least have a draft, an initial agreement. Is it “Severna Makedonija”, the headline I saw on a Sunday paper? “Documento”?
N. KOTZIAS: I am not a journalist, and nor do I give information to newspapers, as you know.
S. KOTROTSOS: Obviously, obviously.
N. KOTZIAS: The Minister of Foreign Affairs shouldn’t talk. I will not talk about the name. It is included in the package we are resolving, and it should be announced by the two governments, the two prime ministers.
S. KOTROTSOS: From the ‘package’, of names proposed by Matthew Nimetz, with the exception of ‘Macedonia – Skopje’, which I would like us to talk about in particular later on. Because it is a name that has been floated a number of times during the 25 years of negotiations.
N. KOTZIAS: Quite right. It was a name proposed, adopted by previous Greek governments and everyone accusing me and playing at being defenders of Macedonia; that they don’t accept the term ‘Macedonia’ in the compound name. They gave it without its even being compound; completely. And I want to say that they should be a little more modest, because, unfortunately for them, I read the Ministry’s archives. I’ve read them all. They know very well what I have read, and I’m saying it now: if anyone provokes me again in Parliament, all of these documents will be submitted if necessary. Politically, I don’t necessarily have to do it. I am protecting them. But the fact that I am protecting them so that we can finish with this issue does not mean they have the right to make accusations against and provoke the government and me personally ‘Macedonia – Skopje’ was accepted by Greek governments.
S. KOTROTSOS: You mentioned it and I want us to clarify it. I wanted us to discuss this later in the interview, but I’m happy if you disrupt the flow of the conversation, as long as you do it in an interesting way. You said there were, in fact, Greek governments that adopted ‘Macedonia – Skopje’?
N. KOTZIAS: There were Greek government that adopted ‘Macedonia – Skopje’ as an international name. And at the same time they accepted the name ‘Macedonia’ being kept for domestic use. On its own.
S. KOTROTSOS: So, a double name, with just ‘Macedonia’ for domestic use. No erga omnes, in other words.
N. KOTZIAS: Listen. At that time, in the international debate regarding Greece’s negotiations, erga omnes was defined as ‘use in all international relations’, because there was an initial discussion to find a bilateral name for use by Greece and fYROM. The second discussion was for use in international organizations. The third was for Skopje’s international inter-state relations, and after these three – in other words, all international relations – these three became a single name that they called erga omnes. What is erga omnes? Erga omnes is the use – and Mr. Venizelos explained this very well during the Samaras era, because Mr. Samaras acts as if he doesn’t remember what his Minister of Foreign Affairs very rightly said – that erga omnes pertains to domestic and international use. In other words, all uses. And I would say that in the age of globalization there are no documents that are only for domestic or international use. For example, in the old days, the only document you could travel with was a passport. Today – and our citizens know this – you can travel to the 27 countries of the European Union and associated countries with only your ID card. And our friends in Skopje have bilateral agreements that allow them to travel to Albania and Serbia with only their ID cards. Suddenly, a domestic document becomes international, and this has to be dealt with. ‘Suddenly’ covers a whole period of time, but in a manner of speaking.
S. KOTROTSOS: So ‘Macedonia – Skopje’ was adopted and virtually agreed...
N. KOTZIAS: Let me read something I have here, not from our archives. What the former...
S. KOTROTSOS: If you have archives to read to us, that’s fine too.
N. KOTZIAS: Our former ambassador to Skopje says: “In the spring of 2006, Mr. Nimetz proposed the name Republic of ‘Macedonia – Skopje’, which the Greek side accepted without hesitation,” says the ambassador at that time. Just so we don’t kid ourselves.
S. KOTROTSOS: In 2006.
N. KOTZIAS: She says the name ‘Macedonia – Skopje’ was accepted without hesitation and had been on the table since 1996. And let me say this: In the negotiations from 1996 to 2000, the discussion that took place, that Vance requested earlier, and later Nimetz, was ‘Macedonia – Skopje’, and fYROM said we should find a name for international use that was close to the constitutional name. In other words, that was the criterion in the discussion at that time. As a result, we have a name circulating from 1995-1996 on, and this has its significance, because some people want to say that someone negotiated for three years.
S. KOTROTSOS: It is one thing for Skopje to put it on the table, or even for the mediators to do it, and another for Greek governments to have adopted and accepted it.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, Greek governments and negotiators have promoted and accepted ‘Macedonia – Skopje’.
S. KOTROTSOS: That’s the serious thing.
N. KOTZIAS: There were two three-year periods with different governments during which our side negotiated this, and at some point, in fact, Skopje rejected ‘Macedonia – Skopje’. Which they later proposed again. It was a game of proposals and counter-proposals.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, but look, when there is such an intense political controversy within the country, and not just political, when some people, representing someone or whatever, come out and say, straight out, look, not everyone, pan-Macedonian organizations, or extremists, and they talk about traitors and treason, when they directly threaten the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs and the MPs of the Hellenic Parliament, warning them not to even think about voting for a compound name containing the term ‘Macedonia’, and you know, due to your position, that these things ...
N. KOTZIAS: And due to my studying. Because all these texts, the Ministry’s competent directorates didn’t...
S. KOTROTSOS: I am well read too, Mr. Minister. But I don’t have the data. I don’t have the archives.
N. KOTZIAS: They never looked at them. But they were there and no one read them.
S. KOTROTSOS: I see that. But I’m saying that when things like this have happened, like what you revealed to us a little while ago, why don’t you take the initiative for a closed-door meeting of the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, where you can ‘have it out’ with your colleagues from the other parties and say – because some of them might not know this – look at this, and don't accuse us of being traitors. Or we aren’t the ones you should accuse of being traitors.
N. KOTZIAS: There’s Mr. Koumoutsakos, who will tell us tomorrow that, yes, you know, we were doing it as a ploy, etc. There is an interview of his from 11 January 2007. Everyone knows about this. And in this interview he says that the ‘Macedonia – Skopje’ proposal, has been on the table since 2005 and is up for discussion, and he knows it because he was on the negotiating team. I think it is hypocritical of him to come out and say that they don’t accept an agreement on a compound name containing the term ‘Macedonia’. He can come out and say that he proposed it, it was a mistake, he takes it back and calls on Kotzias not to make the same mistake he did. But instead they make out that they don’t have a past and didn’t negotiate, that they don’t know anything about what really happened during the years when these various gentlemen were in office.
S. KOTROTSOS: But be aware, and I say this for the discussion, that from the reporting I did, the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at that time, under New Democracy, explains and interprets the stance of that period, but we obviously won’t discuss that now, but there is an interpretation.
N. KOTZIAS: A discussion to explain and interpret is one thing. A false discussion, saying that we didn’t do it, is another. In other words, the compound name for ‘Macedonia’ was first presented in 1996, after the interim accord. And by way of concession –says the negotiator at that time, and, later, New Democracy MEP– we accept a compound name to show how nice we are, including the term ‘Macedonia’. The only person in New Democracy who disagreed, starting in 1993, with the inclusion of the term ‘Macedonia’, beyond the well-known case of Mr. Samaras, as Mr. Samaras left, was Mr. Evert. Who told Mr. Mitsotakis that you should notbe negotiating the use of a compound name that includes the name ‘Macedonia’. Mr. Evert.
My big question is, all of the people who negotiated under New Democracy, all those people who were promoted by Konstantinos Mitsotakis, all those people who made their careers under Konstantinos Mitsotakis have nothing to say? They suddenly all became Evert supporters? And not just Evert supporters: do they subscribe to the view that Mr. Mitsotakis and the majority of New Democracy at that time are traitors? There is an interesting book by Mr. Barbitsiotis, which I read as an ‘honest’ book...
S. KOTROTSOS: I talked to him on a radio show for over an hour, and he told me a lot about that period.
N. KOTZIAS: Who has a different opinion, in an honest manner, faithful ...
S. KOTROTSOS: Ioannis Barbitsiotis was in favour of a solution with a compound name.
N. KOTZIAS: Were they called traitors? What is this situation in Greece?
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, but New Democracy didn’t call you a traitor either.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, but those who are holding the demonstrations and calling on people ...
S. KOTROTSOS: Some of the representatives of some organizations.
N. KOTZIAS: No, a part of New Democracy is officially calling on people to participate. And Mr. Patelis is among the co-organizers, isn’t he? Isn’t that right?
S. KOTROTSOS: Patoulis.
N. KOTZIAS: Patoulis. The Mayor of Marousi and ...
SS. KOTROTSOS: And President of the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE).
N. KOTZIAS: On New Democracy’s account. And a candidate for mayor of Athens, wants to protest on New Democracy’s account. They cannot divert the discussion and present what we found had been given and what we stopped, saying that we are traitors, but they were right in everything they did, while the name ‘Macedonia’ was given in 1993 the first time, again in 1995 with the interim accord, and after 1995. And let me say something else, Mr. Kotrotsos. I am irritated by the ease with which some people I mentioned earlier act as if they didn’t know or, in spite of the fact that they don’t understand, act like they are experts. And I want to come to a discussion that has been going on these days about the ‘Macedonian language’.
S. KOTROTSOS: Let’s take things in order. I want to ask you, because there was an article by Mr. Babiniotis ...
N. KOTZIAS: Mr. Babiniotis is an excellent lexicographer, unfamiliar with how the UN and international law operate, and because he is a good scientist, a good philologist, he should be careful. Because he does not know how the UN works. He has no idea, and he has no idea how international law works. He proves this in his article. I’m not criticizing him. He should not get involved in things he does not understand. I’ll explain this today.
S. KOTROTSOS: In other words, in 1977, since you brought it up, we’ll mix things up a bit, but I think this discussion is of interest. In 1977, Mr. Babiniotis says that the discussion that took place ...
N. KOTZIAS: He doesn’t say – was he on the team that let the ‘Macedonian language’ get through?
S. KOTROTSOS: I don’t know.
N. KOTZIAS: He should tell us. He may bear personal responsibility. I don’t know if he was. He should tell us.
S. KOTROTSOS: But he says there was no acceptance of ‘Macedonian language’, and he concludes his article by saying that the most we can accept is that the language is ‘Slavomacedonian’.
N. KOTZIAS: Right. One at atime. A discussion started in 1977, at the UN special Conference on languages, which took place in Athens. Where we accepted –not we as the government- Konstantinos Karamanlis and his government, Averof. Perhaps Mr. Babiniotis was there too.
S. KOTROTSOS: I think Konstantinos Trypanis was there, as the Minister of Culture.
N. KOTZIAS: Trypanis, the Minister of Culture, etc. – they accepted Yugoslavia’s proposal for the ‘Macedonian language’ to be recognized as an official language, in Cyrillic and Roman script. From that day on, the ‘Macedonian language’ – always in inverted commas – appeared on the UN’s list as one of the official languages of Yugoslavia. That is when it was recognized. And since then, if one looks at any UN resolution, or at the UN’s official table of languages, the language is referred to as ‘Macedonian’. In other words, Mr. Babiniotis should look into what the UN says. What does it call the language right now, before we go to any agreement on fYROM’s language? The UN calls it ‘Macedonian’. And since when has it called it ‘Macedonian’? Since 1977. What does Mr. Babiniotis fail to grasp – getting involved in things he doesn’t understand? That in international law, as in European law, a proposed agreement, a sprout, is planted. Which means what? That it puts down roots. The root was the decision taken at the Conference in Athens, here in our country, by the UN. Afterwards, this root is transferred as an official language on the UN’s list, and fifteen years later it goes to ISO.
S. KOTROTSOS: There was no state then. It was a federal statelet, it was a province of the region of the still unified Yugoslavia.
N. KOTZIAS: It was a federal state then. I don’t think it is good to use the word statelet.
S. KOTROTSOS: You are right. I withdraw it.
N. KOTZIAS: We call them states. That is how we translate it the political sciences.
S. KOTROTSOS: Right.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, the first discussion is whether or not this language was established in 1977 and not as an official language of Yugoslavia, because it was found later, by the new political entity which emerged after the dissolution of Yugoslavia. It was found and adopted, and it was accepted by the UN, but the story doesn’t end there. In 1992-1994, the International ISO Conference took place. The International ISO Conference is the registration of names and indicative names, first names, abbreviations and so forth of all the names.
That is where it shone through, and we are talking about two eras; the first era was under the Mitsotakis’ government and the second era was under PASOK, our country was conspicuous by its absence. No-one ever went to ISO to discuss the issue. Make someresearch on it. You’re a good reporter, how did it happen that the 'Macedonian language' was discussed at ISO and Greece did nothing about it?
We also have a third episode. For the first time, under Mr. George Papandreou’s government, and rightfully so, Greece raised a question about the 'Macedonian language', which had already been recognised by the UN as the official language of the state that is to our north.
S. KOTROTSOS: Were you at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at that time?
N. KOTZIAS: No, no, not at all. This was 2010.I was then a university professor. In 2010, the Greek side raised this question for the first time. And what was the official answer of the UN? That is why I am saying that Mr Babiniotis does not know anything about the UN, that unfortunately for the last 35 years this language has been registered as an official language of Yugoslavia and its successor country, because the successor countries took over the rights of Yugoslavia, insofar as this concerned them, and as a successor country, it was entitled to this language and you come with a 35-year delay to raise this issue for the first time.After 35 years of the language’s being established. Mr. Babiniotis and New Democracy and the press today act as if there were no official language. As if no language has been recognised by the UN.And who is telling us this? History is convoluted. Ms. Spehar. At that time, Ms. Spehar was the Director of the South-east European Department at the United Nations. Do you remember anything about Ms. Spehar? She was part of Mr. Eide's negotiating team and she is still the Representative of the UN in Cyprus. Ms. Spehar tells them that they haven’t said anything for 35 years. But, if Mr. Babiniotis believes that what happened in 1977 was no big deal, I understand why he did not say anything for 35 years.
S. KOTROTSOS: Obviously now you have lit some fires. I imagine tomorrow morning there will be an answer from Mr. Babiniotis and others about everything you have said here.
N. KOTZIAS: All this is stated in the UN documents. The language as well. They should look at what language the United Nations considers as the official language of Yugoslavia and the successor country since 1977.
S. KOTROTSOS: I also bear in mind what you said that, under George Papandreou’s government in 2010, for the first time an issue was raised for officially removing the consequences you described earlier, regarding the 'Macedonian language'.
N. KOTZIAS: If there was no issue, there would have been no issue of reversing the decision. Let’s stop trying to kid each other about this.
S. KOTROTSOS: So, you have another public witness, Mr. George Papandreou himself.
N. KOTZIAS: He did not do it himself.
S. KOTROTSOS: Obviously. So, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Droutsas, I think.
N. KOTZIAS: To be clear, the Permanent Mission to the UN did it.
S. KOTROTSOS: The Permanent Mission to the UN. Coming back to the subject.When I told you about 'Severna Makedonija' you said that you did not want to get into a discussion about what the name is. But after we removed ‘Macedonia – Skopje’ from the five names of Nimetz's proposal, we have 'Gorna Macedonija', we have 'Nova Macedonija', we have 'Severna' and the fourth 'Vardarska' which I keep forgetting.
N. KOTZIAS: This fourth name was not accepted by fYROM, because, although many support it in goodwill, this is a name that this state bore in the interwar period ...
S. KOTROTSOS: “Macedonia” of Vardaris.
N. KOTZIAS: It was not the only Vardaris, it was one of its components. They themselves consider that it is connected with fascism and with parliamentary coups and with the royal house of that time, which governed Yugoslavia and, therefore, they cannot adopt it as their name.
S. KOTROTSOS: So, once they have excluded that name, there are three names left. I’m using the process of elimination.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, three. From the beginning, I would have told you that there were three.
S. KOTROTSOS: We, as the Greek side, do we agree with any of these three names?
N. KOTZIAS: Also among the Slavic Macedonians of Skopje and among the Albanians of Skopje and among the Slavs of Skopje and among us, there are choices or preferences for one or another. My own personal position is that, in the selection of the name in this final phase, the citizens of this country themselves should have the first say, regarding what they want the name of their country to be. For us, the main thing was that there must be a clear distinction between Skopje as a country, which has the word 'Macedonia' in a compound name, and Macedonia both the Greek Macedonia of today and the Macedonia of antiquity and its cultural heritage which we bear.
S. KOTROTSOS: However, 'New Macedonia' is not a geographical qualifier. It is a chronological qualifier.
N. KOTZIAS: It concerns time, and certain people take the interpretation that it is also geographical. I will not give you another concession in this debate.
S. KOTROTSOS: So, we keep to the fact that …
N. KOTZIAS: Three names are accepted by us and the fourth would have been acceptable. I know there are objections, because the Vardaris river in Greece is called Axios, but it also has another name, but in any case, that name has been withdrawn. I think it is up to them. Those five names, I remind you ....
S. KOTROTSOS: Four of the five.
N. KOTZIAS: The five. I am also talking about those which we excluded and they excluded and which have been on the negotiation table since January 2018. They were put forward by Mr. Nimetz as subjects of negotiation.
S. KOTROTSOS: Apart from these five names, and I want to clarify this issue, because it caused a major political confrontation, after the meeting of the Prime Minister with Mr. Zaev in Sofia, a sixth name appeared on the table and I refer to the “Republic of Ilindenska Macedonia”. For 'Macedonia of Ilinden’.
N. KOTZIAS: Of the Prophet Elias.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes. Okay. I wish it was of Prophet Elias.
N. KOTZIAS: That is what 'Ilnden' means. It's like San Marino.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, in that sense... yes, and Agia Lavra is Holy, but it is also something else for us. So, as New Democracy claims and as Mr. Zaev implied, did we come to accept 'Macedonia of Ilnden' as a discussion?
N. KOTZIAS: No, no. At a stage at which they had difficulty accepting one of the names, we told them to find some names for themselves, which would be linked to their particular national characteristics, and to put them forward. One of those names was Ilnden. It was not accepted because it has a specific history and historical weight in the region.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, but on this,Mr. Zaev set up a whole meeting of political leaders, in Skopje, and also made declarations, apart from the leaks to the media in Skopje.
N. KOTZIAS: Let me tell you something. The leaks to the Media in Skopje or to the Greek media do not concern me. I am the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
S. KOTROTSOS: I say that their side did it.
N. KOTZIAS: I am Minister of Foreign Affairs and not a leak manager.
S. KOTROTSOS: Of course.
N. KOTZIAS: That is something which can be done by journalists, and with greater success than I would have. What should be taken as an outcome from the meeting of the political leaders in Skopje is that for the first time the Skopje side accepted the principle of erga omnes.
S. KOTROTSOS: That is true.
N. KOTZIAS: Of the compound name’s qualifier, and the opposition, instead of acknowledging these two tremendous steps, which, the Skopje side took with great difficulty, great boldness, with great courage, found the issue of the specific proposal for the name which was not accepted by us in order to make a circus out of it here in our country. That is not proper conduct. And it does not lead anywhere.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, but what I am trying to understand is if you had indeed rejected 'Macedonia of Ilnden'. Why was it included in the discussion that you had with the opposition?
N. KOTZIAS: The Prime Minister had to inform them of the names put forward by Mr. Zaev. The Prime Minister informs the heads of political parties about the discussion and what the other side proposes, and the opposition blames him for the other side's proposals. I believe that whatever the current government says, whatever our current negotiating team says, New Democracy has to put forward a line that is against the legacy of Konstantinos Karamanlis, against the legacy of Konstantinos Mitsotakis. Against the legacy of the Kostas Karamanlis government. Even against what the Samaras government said. This has nothing to do with what Samaras says himself or formerly as Minister. They have decided to go with their most extreme faction. As you know, this is a political decision. I have the feeling that, and I say this now as a political scientist, as a professor of foreign policy and not just as a minister, I feel that New Democracy is exhibiting a particularly interesting new political phenomenon.Until now, I have been teaching that, in foreign policy in general, Greek foreign policy or the policy of other countries, it is a big mistake is to exercise foreign policy with your gaze focused on your internal affairs and your internal problems, on the polls and balance of political power.Why? Because, when the time comes for that ‘big yes’ or that ‘big no’, you must exhibit leadership qualities, and not go with what whatever makes it easier for you to behave is if you are a majority, but go with whatever is historically correct for the country. What is historically correct for the country is to leave this mire behind, and I will come back to this point directly.New Democracy is not only looking inside the country at how it will practice its foreign policy, but it has gone a level below that. It is looking inside the party. This is unprecedented in its foreign policy and its history. It is not simply looking at the balance of power in Greece. It is looking at the balance of power in the party, and this is doubly dangerous.
S. KOTROTSOS: Anyway, I want to point something out. I am just pointing it out and you can comment on it if you want to. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, I remember very well and especially during the period you were handling, managing the Cyprus issue in cooperation with your colleague and the Anastasiades government, mainly the President of Cyprus, Mr. Anastasiades, the press which today supports New Democracy was cheering for you and your political opponents were praising you for how you were handling it. That come out of the reporting ....
N. KOTZIAS: Not everyone.
S. KOTROTSOS: Not everyone. But many people.
N. KOTZIAS: I remind you that big media conglomerates consider me a hard-line Stalinist, that I was serving the interests of a third country, because I was defending something ....
S. KOTROTSOS: I am mostly referring to New Democracy.
N. KOTZIAS: Something that has never happened before in the history of the country. I put the issue of guarantees and security on the table.
S. KOTROTSOS: The guarantees and the ....
N. KOTZIAS: Just like they are not getting the Skopje issue right today, in my opinion, they didn’t get the Cyprus issue right. So, we, our government, the Prime Minister and I, myself, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, in this line that I have from the government, we represent a perception of a proactive foreign policy that takes initiatives, frames and solves problems.
On the Cyprus Issue, I posed the central problem. The Cyprus Issue had come to be seen as a problem of how energy resources would be distributed. And the main issue, the occupation of Cyprus, disappeared.Therefore, in the Cyprus Issue, the task of foreign policy to bring the real Cyprus problem back into the right framework.In the Skopje issue, the right task for foreign policy is to solve the problem in a way that liberates the country, frees up diplomatic and other resources in order to address its main problem, which is the Cyprus Issue and the Turkish Issue.I would like to say the following....
S. KOTROTSOS: Let’s not get stuck on the Cyprus Issue. I used it for another purpose.
N. KOTZIAS: I re-read Mr. Gryllakis’ book, ‘I Reveal’, closely. As you know, Mr. Grylakis was the Head the Greek Intelligence Service at that time, and it secretly consulted on the Skopje issue on behalf of Mr. Mitsotakis. I bring this up again this because some people in New Democracy act as if they did not make any mistakes when they were negotiating.
S. KOTROTSOS: At least that is how it appeared in the Press at that time.
N. KOTZIAS: But he says it himself. He says it all in there. He has had two books published by Livanis Publishing. Does he say in his book, “I reveal”, what occurred, and what happened to us with the Skopje issue? He says that the first and main issue was that, at that time, the leadership of New Democracy – and this is said by someone trusted by the leader of New Democracy – did not see the changes that were taking place in the Balkans. And instead of playing offence in order to solve the problem, he fell victim to a cheap, vulgar nationalism. This is what Mitsotakis’ top aide says. And does he say what happened to us? They wanted to trap us in a stupid sort of nationalism right across the border, in that small country of Skopje, in order to alienate us from it and to use it as a weapon against us.
Initially, he says that the Serbs, who hoped they would lead it into a deadlock and gain control of it again, says Mr.Gryllakis, I do not support these things. And second, and most importantly, I agree with him on this, Turkey, in order to gain control of that country. One of the major risks in the region, and indeed I discuss this very extensively, because the majority of them are Muslim, with the Albanians in Skopje. This is for the low-level Albanian ‘FYROM’ type of nationalism to turn into religious fundamentalism, as those forces are attempting to do and which, at this time, for two years now, have been acquiring radio, television stations, and newspapers, in order to transform the Muslim element in FYROM into an element of religious fanaticism. Whoever has not yet realized that the last thing that our country needs is to have a source of religious Islamic fundamentalism on its northern borders has understood nothing about current international politics.
Today, another big change is taking place again, and again the same forces are refusing to understand these changes. These forces can be described in two ways, in my opinion. First, they are idle forces which believe that time is working in our favour. But this is not the case. Time is not working in Greece’s favour because, in the interim, the Italians, Austrians, or Americans, or the Turks have shown up -or the Russians- in the region.
S. KOTROTSOS: The New Democracy Shadow Minister, whom you mentioned earlier, Mr.Koumoutsakos, said during an interview that a good solution is preferable later, rather than a bad solution today.
N. KOTZIAS: This is his dilemma. But I say they have failed to provide a good solution for 25 years. This is why a good solution today is preferable. You know, it reminds me of the camel. That is childish reasoning. Ask the camel - you are probably familiar with this - what does it prefer, to go uphill or downhill? And it replies, doesn't flat land exist for you?There aren’t just bad agreements and good ones in the future. There are good agreements that need to happen now. And in any case, these forces governed this land for decades. They created the problem.Will you permit me to tell you something? Do you remember, Mr.Kotrotsos, when the Macedonia issue was created?I’ll remind you. I’ll remind our viewers as well. Yugoslavia gets broken up, and the successor states of Yugoslavia are created. Germany proceeds with recognising Croatia and Slovenia before the decision of the European Union, and the European Union sets up a Commission. The Badinter Commission, and this Badinter Commission undertakes to do the following: First, whether these entities are to be recognised and, second, whether their constitutions include irredentism and other aggression, so that they can be recognized by the European Community, not by the European Union.
What did this Greek government do, the one which did not go to ISO for the “Macedonian” language? What did it do in this case, with the Badinter Commission? It refused. They refused to go to this Commission, even as observers, and this Commission discussed whether or not this state would be recognized as ‘Macedonia’, and, as you know, 14 states recognized it as the ‘Republic of Macedonia’. This was their policy. They did not want to. This inertia got them nowhere. The language was being discussed at the UN ….
S. KOTROTSOS: You give the impression, or the impression is given, to put it more accurately so that I don’t pin it on you ….
N. KOTZIAS: So, the impression is given.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, the impression is given that, for 25 years, Greek governments have been responsible for the fact that the Skopje issue has not been resolved, and that this is not due to intransigence, irredentism, and the manner in which the governments of Skopje handled it.
N. KOTZIAS: That’s right.
S. KOTROTSOS: In other words, it is not just New Democracy and PASOK who are to blame. Or let me say that New Democracy and PASOK are not to blame.
N. KOTZIAS: I did not mention the responsibilities of New Democracy at this point. We shall mention these as well.
S. KOTROTSOS: Those of the governments I mean.
N. KOTZIAS: Nor of the governments, I mean. I referred to how the problem arose. The problem came into existence, as we said, with the breakup of Yugoslavia. No Greek government is responsible for the breakup of Yugoslavia.
S. KOTROTSOS: Obviously not.
N. KOTZIAS: No Greek government is to blame for the decision to create the Badinter Commission, but we are to blame for not sending an observer. I told you when it came into being, not what the behaviour of one or the other side was.
S. KOTROTSOS: I return, because we obviously have much more to say, to what I had started to ask you earlier, regarding the Cyprus issue, that all of a sudden, although we have successfully conducted this year, or rather by the end of last year, together we have conducted - this is the third interview, and we have spoken many times, I have had in front of me a Foreign Minister, a Nikos Kotzias, who had a very great sense of the need for national understanding and the existence of a moderate climate. I have heard you applauding, as you politicians are accustomed to doing, though I would not strictly describe you as a politician, due to your academic status...
N. KOTZIAS: I am a ‘political animal’ as you know, not a career politician.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes. You say very nice things about Mr Koumoutsakos, and about other political opponents of yours.
N. KOTZIAS: About Mr Koumoutsakos, I have not said nice things, nor do I consider him to be my opponent.
S. KOTROTSOS: He is the Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs for New Democracy, nonetheless – the official opposition party.
N. KOTZIAS: He is, and good for him. He is not an opponent of mine.
S. KOTROTSOS: I say that, all of a sudden, I feel that politically you have become more aggressive. Has something been going on recently?
N. KOTZIAS: I’ll tell you. The repeated accusations and repeated bad behaviour can be classified in two ways. The first is continuous lies, where although they gave the name “Macedonia” 20 years ago, although they have been discussing bad solutions, and not good ones like those we brought, they act as if they have nothing to do with this. And these are the same people, many of them, who participated in these procedures. And secondly, unfortunately, from the point of view of New Democracy, in any briefing that I have given them, the next day I read it in the headlines. I note these two things as being problematic. But to explain how the Macedonia issue arose, this is important.Because, some people present it as a sort of parthenogenesis, that they were vigilant, there was no ‘Macedonian language', they had never spoken of Macedonia, they never wanted a compound name; in other words, that we did not find all these commitments in our path, and that we suddenly go and come up with all these things which they haughtily had not even discussed. Lies are short lived. And at some point, because I carefully weigh my responses, and I don't answer every day, at this first opportunity we have today, I shall reply: Let's be done with their fibs, let them open their eyes. They need to stop behaving irresponsibly, concerned only with the internal conflicts of the party. They need to realise that the Skopje issue has been reintroduced because it must be resolved to the benefit of our country, as it should have been resolved 25 years ago, and not because it has something to do with domestic politics or their internal issues.
S. KOTROTSOS: New Democracy today again put on the table two or three, if I remember correctly, specific, I won’t say accusations, but points of criticism. First, I heard it from VassilisKikilias, the Shadow Minister of Defence.
N. KOTZIAS:Wasn’t he the one who confused his words? Mr Kikilias asked me a question, and he didn’t even phrase it correctly. A man who does not know the difference between the effect and influence of the EEZ in politics obviously may not know what he is saying. Mr Kikilias doesn’t know foreign policy, if he will forgive me for saying it.
S. KOTROTSOS: So he said today that he fears that no negotiation is taking place with regard to the name, as a government, so that you can get something in return for debt relief.
N. KOTZIAS: And he said these things in order for the bank to forgive the mortgage he got from them to buy his house. Is this even a conversation to be had? This is why I said, he asked me a question where he got the words effect and influence mixed up when talking about the EEZ. The EEZ is not a poll. The man says these things. That is the level of his questions and comments. What can I tell you?And I take full responsibility for what I am saying. Because what he says, that we who are going to solve the issues with our neighbours to the North, with Albania and Skopje, from a position of responsibility, where negotiations with Albania began three years ago, with Skopje it just changed. I tried and sought for us to begin negotiations as early as January, for him to link it obscenely to economic factors, etc.. This is not a proper manner in which to approach politics. And can I tell you something? There has been no fundamental criticism of foreign policy on their part.
S. KOTROTSOS: Didn't you come under a slightest bit of pressure, or at least was there no urging on your recent trip to the US? You met with the new Secretary of State, Pompeo; you met with the National Security Advisor; you met with the Trump Administration.
N. KOTZIAS: So what does that prove, that foreign policy is isolated?
S. KOTROTSOS: Obviously not. I said no such thing.
N. KOTZIAS: We did not discuss the Skopje issue with Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Bolton.
S. KOTROTSOS: It wasn’t mentioned at all?
N. KOTZIAS: With Mr Mitchell, we discussed the issue of Skopje. I updated him on the Greece’s stances. He is the official responsible for the region, and with whom I speak quite often, whom I update on the issues….
S. KOTROTSOS: Wasn’t there any urging on the part of the United States? Because on the level of official announcements.
N. KOTZIAS: Did you see the official announcement? There is no mention of the things you are asking me, nor could there be any mention of such things.
S. KOTROTSOS: I am told that the New Democracy Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Koumoutsakos, posted a tweet. Immediately after the break, we shall read it.
N. KOTZIAS:Mr.Koumoutsakos grants ten interviews a day saying things that are incorrect, and he can’t deal with me granting an interview once every three months.
S. KOTROTSOS: Another accusation, also from New Democracy, I think even today the New Democracy spokesperson, Ms.Spyrakis, said it, that there is doublespeak, that the prime minister says one thing, you say another, the prime minister’s office another.
N. KOTZIAS: Because the prime minister’s office and Kotzias say that same thing, it would be nice for her to make an effort. What exactly are these different things?
S. KOTROTSOS: That you said in Brussels that we have an agreement, while the prime minister’s office says that we still do not have agreement.
N. KOTZIAS: We have an agreement at the Foreign Minister level, is what I said. I was very clear, and this was obvious from the quote you referred to. I said, because the phrasing is agreed upon with the prime minister and with the other side, that the two Foreign Ministers have finished their work.But I would like to make a comment, not to you, but in the public debate: The criticism of our foreign policy has nothing to do with its substance. It's speculation, little stories, it is whatever else you want to call it. It amounts to personal attacks, support of those who say the country will be bathed in blood, support of the demonstrations which make statements such as: "We will hang the traitors." They shouldn’t act as if they are so innocent.But on the substance of the policy, no one. I propose something to the ladies and the gentlemen of New Democracy: Why don't they produce one of the names that they proposed during the negotiations, with the date on which they proposed it? At the negotiations, not what they had in mind, not what they said in some interview or another.
S. KOTROTSOS: What period are you talking about?
N. KOTZIAS: All the periods when they were in power. At any point in time when New Democracy was in power after the breakup of Yugoslavia. For them to tell us what the proposals were with regard to the name, and to tell us which of these they would like. Why won't they tell us? Have you heard New Democracy say, "I, the proud youth of New Democracy, proposed this incredible name at such and such a point in the negotiations, which you SYRIZA people and the Left forgot about?” Let them tell us. Instead of tweeting and little tricks, let them tell us, "We proposed such and such a name in 1993, that one in 2005, that one in 2008. In the 2005-2008 negotiations, we put forward this name, then at the negotiations, as many as there have been since 2012, and then we said that name and today, out of the 4 names, it has consistently been the same name, out of the 4 names, we only choose one. If New Democracy has the guts, let them publicly announce the names they have proposed. Because then the documents will be produced.
S. KOTROTSOS: What do you mean the documents?
N. KOTZIAS: The negotiations have been documented. They need to stop lying. This is what I am calling upon them to do.
S. KOTROTSOS: You mean that minutes exist to the negotiations, and classified documents belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
N. KOTZIAS: There are minutes at all negotiations.
S. KOTROTSOS: Let me ask you one last thing, because from the one subject, you provide me with the occasion to do so. Because, in order to dispel all these clouds, and for nobody to be able to claim something other than what the government has done, why don't you personally, or as a government, the Prime Minister, take the initiative for a closed-door meeting of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs, to say all these things? To say that, from 2005 to 2008, who was it then, Petros Molyviatis, I don’t remember who it was, said this...
N. KOTZIAS: It isn't important who it was then. I don’t pin it on specific people. I am saying what the perspective was. I may have disagreed with a specific person…
S. KOTROTSOS: Okay, I can accept that.
N. KOTZIAS: Unless they have made public statements.
S. KOTROTSOS: Why don’t you do this, to put an end to the dispute?
N. KOTZIAS: We went to a closed session of the Parliament's Standing Committee on National Defence and Foreign Affairs. Or have you forgotten that?
S. KOTROTSOS: You went, of course.
N. KOTZIAS: Have you forgotten that, while I was still talking…
S. KOTROTSOS: You reported leaks, I remember very well
N. KOTZIAS: What leaks? It was published on all the blogs, sometimes true and sometimes purposefully misleading information…
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, but now in such a case, if they leak information, this will burden... No one will dispute anything.
N. KOTZIAS: Listen, I want to resolve this problem. And if New Democracy has made proposals in negotiations – not when it was asleep and dreamt of itself atop a white horse – if it has proposed a name which it held on to during the negotiations for 2-3 years, and fought for, and if, in addition to the name, anything else was negotiated - because this too is interesting - then let them produce it, and let them tell us.
S. KOTROTSOS: What do you mean? With regard to changes in the constitution?
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, I'm saying let them produce it, let them tell us. Do you understand what I mean? Why should I come out and report what they said? Don’t they know what they were negotiating? Don’t they know what they were doing all those years in one negotiation or the other? Everyone knows.
S. KOTROTSOS: Let's go to a short commercial break, and we’ll return. I think that the debate is in full force, and we haven’t even gotten to a whole series of issues that I believe to be extremely interesting. Returning, because there are already reactions in light of the discussion, as I am told, also on the part of New Democracy, possibly on the part of other sides as well. My colleagues will now bring me the statements that have been made, and I shall inform you accordingly, so the Minister of Foreign Affairs himself can have a chance to respond.
N. KOTZIAS: I think it is very interesting each of them gives ten interviews a day. I never answer them. I leave them to speak, and they go crazy when I come out to say something once every three months. This proves that the things I say are serious and true, whereas what they say doesn't seem to have the same weight and the same level of seriousness.
S. KOTROTSOS: Ladies and gentlemen, I have the pleasure and honor to have with me tonight, in the first interview after the last round of negotiations that effectively closed the negotiations between the Foreign Ministers of Greece and FYROM, Mr. Nikos Kotzias.Minister, the internet is on fire and we have now seen the first reactions.
N. KOTZIAS: I think that is for two reasons: One is that if you do not talk all the time, everyone in the country listens carefully to you and I feel that the country, regardless of political parties, except for those who follow the party line, considers I'm conducting serious foreign policy, that the Tsipras Government has a serious foreign policy and that we are serious people.
Secondly, it makes a great impression on me that some people are accustomed – because as you know, I am working; I work until 2 o'clock in the morning, then I get up again at 7 o'clock in the morning and I work, I travel constantly and I do not respond to all the attacks. Some people are accustomed to a monologue.And I have to tell you that the way they respond, which is also not polite, does not shock me, but it makes me sad: that some people have forgotten that, in a democracy, the government can also talk sometimes and that it is not a monologue. Because they are accustomed to blaming us from morning ‘til night, creating ghosts that they cannot argue against.Whatever I say and whatever I am asked to do, I will submit it in the debate that we have about the agreement with Skopje in the Parliament. I recommend they not provoke me, it is not good for them, but it is not necessary. But, in any case, I would recommend everyone show greater modesty, sobriety, because we have been talking about this for 25 years, especially during the New Democracy era, which was the direction of their negotiation.
S. KOTROTSOS: Before you say that, for ethical reasons and because it represents New Democracy, two tweets have just been uploaded.
N. KOTZIAS: Mr. Kotrotsos, I’d rather not, because I do not answer New Democracy’s tweets.
S. KOTROTSOS: I do not want you to answer; I am just going to mention them.
N. KOTZIAS: No, if you mention them, I will have to answer them. Every day, twenty tweets come out, whoever wants to can retweet them.
S. KOTROTSOS: In any case, there is a reaction from New Democracy.
N. KOTZIAS: The reaction is not to what I'm saying. The reaction is to the fact that I exist and I am talking. It bothers them that I exist. It bothers them that I am talking.
S. KOTROTSOS: But why is that the case?
N. KOTZIAS: Because I know very well what they have done. I know very well what their policy or their lack of policy is, and because our arguments, the government’s and mine, personally, are well documented, and that bothers them, especially in relation to the things that they are wrong about. The degree to which they can tolerate democratic criticism is a problem.Every day, I tolerate democratic criticism, bullets, threats, extortions, and, as you know, I do not react. I am trying to defend the interests of the country. They react to the first criticism. I imagine what they would do if they suffered the things that I am suffering, if, at their offices, they received sand filled with blood, with reports that I do not want to talk about, or ammo from machine guns, antiaircraft guns, etc. 800 letters containing death threats…
S. KOTROTSOS: Do you mean in addition to those that have become known and that we already know?
N. KOTZIAS: Of course. I do not like it, I did not even want it. The Police found these things; I did not even want them to be mentioned, for many reasons. Because then you give them gravity. I do not like that newspapers republish all these miserable things with these miserable 'accusations'. Because then you give them a podium and they like it, so they continue. I am in favour of the idea that they can address these issues in the way that they want to.
S. KOTROTSOS: I want to return to the issue of the negotiation itself. Let's leave the political confrontation behind for a while, although it will perhaps be possible, later, to return to discuss the issue of the demonstrations.We have demonstrations the day after tomorrow. Earlier on, I talked on Radio 24, at 7 p.m., with the Bishop of Florina, who said "of course I will participate in the demonstration," just as most of the Bishops in Northern Greece will do.And I want to ask you directly: Today we had the Ecumenical Patriarch here, who met with the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and Archbishop Ieronymos. At the weekend, I heard the Archbishop on the weekend saying that the name issue is an issue for the government ...
N. KOTZIAS: For the Parliament.
S. KOTROTSOS: You are right, for the Parliament and that the Church does not organise demonstrations. I want to ask you directly, because you have commented on the position of the Church. Given that it seems that we have solutions to the schismatic Church of Skopje, which was one of the central issues raised, is the participation of clergy in the demonstrations the day after tomorrow justified? Do you think participation is justified?
N. KOTZIAS: Christian faith has a phrase given to it by Orthodoxy and reproduced by Catholicism: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's.The Church of Greece, in the decision of the Holy Synod to participate in the previous demonstrations, in the first round, as I told you, said that it will participate because the way that our negotiations will proceed depends on the name, the name of the Church and the name of the State.
S. KOTROTSOS: Of the schismatic Church?
N. KOTZIAS: I had answered that, I'm sorry, because the Church knows. And what does the Church know? That there is a negotiation between the Church of Skopje and the Patriarchate, which the Holy Synod of Greece had to respect.
S. KOTROTSOS: How long has this negotiation been going on?
N. KOTZIAS: For a year now.
S. KOTROTSOS: It was still in progress in January-February, when the demonstrations were going on.
N. KOTZIAS: And they knew it. And that first of all Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, the name does not concern them. As citizens, it concerns them, but as an institution, it is not an issue for them. And if the Church gets into political issues, then it should not question it if politics gets involved in Church affairs. That is a thing I do not want.It is also not their own issue, because if Autonomy and Self-governing and anything else about a Church is recognised, this is a matter for the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarch of the Council. It is not a matter of the Greek Holy Synod. It is not one of its subjects.And the third is that, given that this issue will be solved, it is good that they are not getting involved. They should let the issue be solved. And it would be even better if they would support the solution.
S. KOTROTSOS: However, Archbishop Ieronymos’ statement at the weekend was more moderate compared with his previous statements.
N. KOTZIAS: Archbishop Ieronymos has the wisdom, sobriety and tranquillity to reflect on this issue and I think that he, himself, deep in his Christian faith would have come to the conclusion that what the Patriarchate is doing about the issue of the Church of Skopje is the right thing.What is the Patriarchate doing? They are discussing the recognition of the Church of Skopje under the name "Archbishopric of Ohrid". As you know, for centuries this Church was called the "Archbishopric of Ohrid" and also some periods of Great Bulgaria. "Greater Bulgaria" has no place in this process today, only its renaming.
S. KOTROTSOS: Until recently what was it called? The "Macedonian Orthodox Church".
N. KOTZIAS: The renaming of the "Macedonian Orthodox Church" as the Archbishopric of Ohrid should be welcomed, awards should be given to the bold-thinking of people of Skopje, to regain their traditional and non-provocative name, the Patriarch should be applauded and supported when he contributes to the solution of a problem of naming which also concerns the Church and our political leadership, and our foreign policy should also be applauded whenever it helps in the area that is its jurisdiction or in whatever it is called upon to do.That is why I do not understand why this is not being taken into account. That is to say, like the confidence-building measures, the case of the Church, the fact that in Davos, at the meeting which took place between the Prime Ministers, Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Zaev, and on the one hand, the bold decision taken by Mr. Tsipras to enable FYROM to join the Ionian-Adriatic Initiative while, on the other hand, Mr. Zaev’s decision to rename Alexander the Great motorway, linking the Greek border with Skopje, as Friendship of the People motorway, and to re-name Alexander the Great Airport as Skopje International Airport. Instead of this being applauded, it was ignored.I remind you, rather I remind those who are complaining, that three issues were raised in the 2006 and 2007 negotiations between Greece and Skopje.The first issue raised, which could not be solved, as they could not deal with it, was the issue of naming the Alexander the Great Airport. That means it was then considered the most irredentist issue. We have now even solved that.
S. KOTROTSOS: Mr. Gruevski was Prime Minister then.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes. After the Interim Accord, all these things were done illegally. Mr. Gruevski undertook the degradation of separating “Macedonia” from its geographical determination and a multi-ethnic nation that has Slav-Macedonians, Albanians, Vlachs, small groups of Turks, etc., and to create irredentism that took us back to Alexander the Great and claims on Greek cultural and historical heritage.And we finished with this in January. Isn’t that a positive step? How did it happen that suddenly, the main issue of negotiation, our anger of 2006-2007 had disappeared? What Mr. Zaev is doing is good for his country. He is putting his country back in its proper dimension, what it actually is, what its population actually is, where they come from and where they going. He is breaking down the points of conflict with Greece and he is in tune with the historical reality.I think, OK then, let’s not applaud the Greek government that has managed to successfully negotiate these issues. Should they not at least accept that Mr. Zaev's bold decision works positively for all the problems of the region?
S. KOTROTSOS: You are talking about the renaming of the Church.
N. KOTZIAS: The renaming of the Church and the renaming of the motorway, as well as the renaming of the airport.
S. KOTROTSOS: How did Mr. Zaev succeed in passing the renaming of the Church within the country, removing the term "Macedonia"? I mean, why did Mr. Ivanov and the nationalist opposition not react?
N. KOTZIAS: They cannot do it at this time. But I want to tell you that when I first arrived in Skopje, the Gruevski government was still in power. There was a feeling that they had a vast irredentism, an archaism which was provocative...
S. KOTROTSOS: Someone told me there was an irredentist amusement park.
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, they have a GDP of 8 billion and spent 1 billion on statues. We had the issue of their irredentism, and they felt like we wanted to break their country up. Our foreign policy, the confidence-building measures, the fact that Mr. Gruevski left and this archaism dissipated; this projection of the "Macedonian nation" in ancient times dissipated …
S. KOTROTSOS: You are saying that is positive.
N. KOTZIAS: These are the positive aspects of our own foreign policy as well as of Mr. Zaev's own policy. There is also the bold decision-making. Because, no one else had done that before.
S. KOTROTSOS: Indeed. Let's go now to the next stage. At the beginning of our conversation, you said that you do not think we have a diplomatic shipwreck. Of course you supplemented that with "never say never in politics and diplomacy", but if the good scenario develops, and in the next few days we have the initial communication and then the meeting of the two Prime Ministers immediately afterwards, I would like you to describe to me, in your mind, also based on the negotiations you have undertaken, what is the road map for passing the agreement in Skopje and then here, in Athens?That is in the Parliament of Skopje, a referendum, possibly elections in Skopje? How will things go? Has Mr. Dimitrov said something to you, how is it in their minds? And Mr. Zaev?
N. KOTZIAS: First of all, I want to tell you that both leaders have the will to find a solution. And I want to say that this solution will be a compromise. Because neither side will want to agree on a solution that does not offer them anything. Otherwise, why would they agree to it?Secondly, I would like to say that these compromises are normal in international relations. That is to say, it is the regulation of common life and the common prospect of overcoming the problems that have existed or which are still present and their echo may exist for some time to come.What is needed: First of all, the agreement has to be ratified by the Parliament of Skopje. Skopje, not us, decided to hold a referendum. We did not ask for that.
S. KOTROTSOS: With a simple majority in Parliament?
N. KOTZIAS: Yes.
S. KOTROTSOS: So, Mr. Zaev has this majority.
N. KOTZIAS: And it’s a growing majority. He has reached 65-66 seats, compared to the 59 he previously had. His majority is growing. Secondly, he wants to have a referendum. We are not imposing the referendum, we did not ask for it, no one imposed it; it is a political decision to keep the promise he gave. For our part, this decision is fully respected, it is the way they are going to do this.We have to understand the following: It is not a simple compromise on their part, but they will change the name of their state. And, as far as I know, historically this has happened only once in Central Europe with the "Austro-Germans". That was the only other time.
S. KOTROTSOS: The Treaty of Trianon, I think?
N. KOTZIAS: That is one thing. He has a great battle on his hands and in this battle, he wants to go to the referendum in order to have the legitimacy to change the name. We cannot have a referendum on whether we agree to change the name. That is his own business and his own choice.
S. KOTROTSOS: What do you see as the timeframe for this? Parliament and then referendum?
N. KOTZIAS: I think if the agreement is made soon, he will bring the issue to Parliament in the next few weeks and then, the law in fYROM should state when the referendum can take place, I am not talking about the decisions of their government, what I am saying is that the law on referendums gives a period of at least two months for public consultation on the referendum to take place.
S. KOTROTSOS: So, September-October for the referendum?
N. KOTZIAS: Count it yourself, what can I say? And, I think, after the referendum, I suppose, that he will want to make constitutional changes. Probably even changing the name of the Church.Because it is referred to by a specific name.
S. KOTROTSOS: But does he have the majority to do that?
N. KOTZIAS: I think that by winning the referendum on this agreement, automatically the President of the friendly country and the MPs must also take the will of the people into consideration. I think that is a binding commitment. And I think that all the aforementioned persons in fYROM see it as a commitment to take their people's will seriously into consideration.
S. KOTROTSOS: However, we have seen examples from Mr. Ivanov, for example, I think, twice, in relation to the Albanian language, the laws of the government have been reversed, if we take the extreme scenario that the nationalist lobby and Mr. Ivanov himself react, is there a chance that Mr. Zaev will have elections?
N. KOTZIAS: I do not want to think about it and I hope that does not happen, but that does not depend on me in any way whatsoever. Indeed, the President of that country can return Parliament’s decision. And after one week, Parliament has the right to vote, the result of which is imposed by the Constitution, not by me, on the President of the Republic of Skopje.
S. KOTROTSOS: So, we take the good scenario that the referendum in Skopje will have taken place by October at the latest, and let’s say that the agreement is also approved by the people of fYROM. When will it come before Parliament here? After the referendum in Skopje?
N. KOTZIAS: If Skopje decides to hold a referendum, it is obvious that the circle of ratification, with their own decision, extends beyond Parliament.
S. KOTROTSOS: And when will the agreement come before the Greek Parliament?
N. KOTZIAS: When the agreement will have fulfilled all the conditions for ratification provided for in the agreement.
S. KOTROTSOS: So, after the referendum in Skopje.
N. KOTZIAS: The agreement will provide for the conditions for ratification. I think that cannot be before the referendum in Skopje.
S. KOTROTSOS: Therefore, in order to describe the whole scenario, you as experienced these things – you have often approached the various aspects of foreign policy with good and bad scenarios – the agreement will come before the Hellenic Parliament sometime in the winter. You, as the government, have 146 MPs.
N. KOTZIAS: We have grown lately.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, I think with Ms. Megalooikonomou, you are 146. Panos Kammenos, has explicitly and categorically stated that he will not vote.
N. KOTZIAS: That is his democratic right, I repeat, and it's not the first time in a coalition government, I emphasise this to you again. We have governments like that in Britain, where the whole conservative government is a single party and they have different views.Democracy is neither a concentration camp nor a Stalinist system of discipline. And the two parties' agreement concerns and concerned the country getting out of the memorandums. There are issues on which we have no agreement and it will not be the first time that Mr Kammenos and his party don’t vote as SYRIZA and the other left-wing forces involved will vote.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, but here we are dealing with a major national issue.
N. KOTZIAS: The other issues are major national issues too.
S. KOTROTSOS: I think the Skopje issue is more serious than other bills he did not support.
N. KOTZIAS: For Britain, what is the most important issue today? Brexit.
S. KOTROTSOS: Exactly.
N. KOTZIAS: What are the disagreements between the Foreign Minister and his Prime Minister about? About Brexit. What are the disputes between the Scots, the Welsh and other Irish MPs of the conservative party and party leadership about? About Brexit. Within the British government, which is a single a party, there are major disagreements on the most important issue.On the major issue of Skopje, there have been two successive waves of disagreements in the Mitsotakis government, from officials of New Democracy itself. The first was Mr. Samaras. Or did you forget? A major issue.
S. KOTROTSOS: I did not forget, and there, the government fell.
N. KOTZIAS: Before it fell, there were the Kanellopoulos’, Dimas’ and Evert’s disagreements. The second wave.
S. KOTROTSOS: This is what Mr. Varvitsiotis describes very well.
N. KOTZIAS: Extremely well. But not just him, also others. Those who have dealt with these issues know them well.It really shocks me now. The party, which had two successive waves of deep internal disagreement, which fell because of this disagreement, which nevertheless kept Mr. Evert and made him the leader of the party, and the same party made Mr. Samaras Prime Minister, when the leader of the party disagrees on that issue -not the former leader, the current leader of the party disagrees- and the future head of the party disagrees, and the party’s future prime minister disagrees. After that, they ask how it is possible for another party to disagree - that is absurd.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, but here, this agreement will come before Parliament. You have been negotiating as a government, but suddenly, while you have a parliamentary majority of 153, only 146 of them will support the agreement. Is there not an issue of the principle of proportionality? That is what New Democracy is asking.
N. KOTZIAS: Let's put the issue of the principle of proportionality before Parliament. These issues are very simple.
S. KOTROTSOS: Today I heard Nikitas Kaklamanis say there are thoughts of submitting a motion of no confidence if that happens.
N. KOTZIAS: Great. He can submit the motion of no confidence and get Parliament’s response. These things are resolved through parliamentary procedure. But I want to say this: The agreement – from the statements of the parties, which you monitor more closely, because I’m away a lot – has the majority that, without my knowing this, I mentioned to you half a year ago.
S. KOTROTSOS: You said it around the end of December. You said a parliamentary majority, not necessarily on party lines.
N. KOTZIAS: So, what did I have in mind at that time? That when you believe something is right, when your deep conviction, against the current and easy assessments, is that this benefits the country, because the country, at a time when it is emerging from the economic crisis, is shaping a region in which it can act and, together with this region, develop, because it frees up many of the country’s forces so they can deal with its real geopolitical and geostrategic problems, which include neither fYROM nor Albania. The country’s real geopolitical problems come from the east, and everyone needs to realise that when one takes on all the responsibility, he will convince the Greek people along the way, he will convince the majority of the Greek Parliament along the way. I’ll give you an example. The latest opinion poll from a company that collaborates with New Democracy gives New Democracy a big lead, etc. For the first time, its gives a lead of 48% – over 43% – of Greek people who were asked and said they think it is the right time to resolve the Skopje issue. That is a complete change from the 87-5 we had six months ago. This shows that the Greek people, after responding emotionally, started to think rationally. They see day-to-day life, that the country’s difficulties don’t come from fYROM or Albania, but from the east, which is where we started our discussion today. They see that we must not waste our energy; they see that these countries are inclined to be our friends if the irredentism is broken. And there is a special chapter in the agreement, of great interest regarding irredentism, and we already have results.
S. KOTROTSOS: How many pages is the agreement?
N. KOTZIAS: The latest is 20. The previous version was 19.
S. KOTROTSOS: Just 20 pages for an issue that has plagued us for 25 years?
N. KOTZIAS: Of the agreements drawn up by previous governments, one was only two pages. And I’ll tell you a secret: There were government’s that told foreign players we shouldn’t reach an agreement, but instead find a way for a resolution to be passed in the Security Council; a resolution we would then implement.
S. KOTROTSOS: What do you mean?
N. KOTZIAS: There wasn’t even a draft agreement.
S. KOTROTSOS: And what would the Security Council have done in such a case?
N. KOTZIAS: It would pass a resolution on resolutions 817 and 845, which are the UN resolutions on the name issue, and it would pass a resolution saying that the name issue will be resolved with this name. How do you like that?
S. KOTROTSOS: And Greece would adopt the Security Council’s resolution?
N. KOTZIAS: Now that’s secret diplomacy!
S. KOTROTSOS: Is there such correspondence, the UN, negotiators with the Greek government?
N. KOTZIAS: That’s as far as I go ... I tell everyone to be more modest. They need to judge the agreement.
S. KOTROTSOS: I think what you’re saying is very serious. I can’t confirm it, because I don’t have access to the archives. That is why I say you need to find some way to discuss this with the political forces.
N. KOTZIAS: I found that in the UN archives. It isn’t in the Ministry’s archives.
S. KOTROTSOS: In the UN archives but not in the Foreign Ministry’s archives? Why? It couldn’t make the trip from New York to Athens?
N. KOTZIAS: Let’s not get into it. I’m just saying they shouldn’t play innocent. I’m not saying everyone knows everything. I’m just saying that we – allow me to say this – carried out negotiations, the results of which we brought to two plenary meetings of the Cabinet, to two small Cabinet meetings, where it is just the Ministers. Starting in January, we held 4 Cabinet meetings on the fYROM issue. The Prime Minister himself briefed the Cabinet twice. I briefed the heads of the parties once, apart from New Democracy, which apparently thinks I don’t know the issues, and Mr. Koumoutsakos came and was briefed. I briefed the Parliamentary Committee, where we talked about the leaks. So we have four official meetings of the Cabinet, four official briefings in the space of five months.We also have files that we have distributed. New Democracy hasn’t realised this, but from time to time we are asked for the files so that the President of New Democracy can be briefed on many, many security issues. It is our duty to provide them to ensure the smooth functioning of our democracy. These include files on fYROM. So they are fully up to date. They shouldn’t make out that they aren’t fully informed.
S. KOTROTSOS: So you are saying that, if and when the Skopje issue comes before Parliament – I repeat this 20-page agreement. I don’t know whether you’ve said that before. I haven’t heard it: that the agreement we have been discussing so passionately is only 20 pages long ...
N. KOTZIAS: At first it was 17 pages, then 19, and now 20.
S. KOTROTSOS: Since you mention it, is there room for changes if they are requested, if the Skopje side requests some changes at this point? Because I heard the government spokesperson say this morning that there won’t be any more changes.
N. KOTZIAS: I think it’s the final version.
S. KOTROTSOS: So we are at the point of ‘take it or leave it’. I don’t mean that cynically.
N. KOTZIAS: No, we drew it up together.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, but we have agreed to it. I’m saying on Zaev's part.
N. KOTZIAS: They, too, have agreed on the key points. There are matters of phrasing ...
S. KOTROTSOS: So Zaev is now ‘massaging’ Ivanov and the nationalist opposition?
N. KOTZIAS: I think the fYROM leadership is taking a very difficult and just decision that requires great political courage, great political maturity, and I think they are showing this and will show this. I also think they are explaining the gains there will be for their side, because there has been an agreement without gains only once in Europe. Do you remember what it was? The Treaty of Versailles, against the Germans, after WWI, with the western European powers insisting on shaming Germany. The Americans disagreed at the time. The Russians didn’t participate because they had their revolution. And this treaty caused and led to the Second World War. Any bad agreement leads to revisionism. As soon as someone recovers or feels better, he demands changes.
S. KOTROTSOS: Can I ask something: Over the past few days, with the creation of the sense that complications have arisen, have you spoken to Dimitrov on the phone? Do you have a sense of what is happening right now?
N. KOTZIAS: Mr. Dimitrov and I finished the agreement, as Ministers of Foreign Affairs, on Thursday, Friday. On Sunday, into the early hours of Monday, 02:00 or 03:00, we looked at the agreement again and decided on the changes that needed to be made. And from there on we are talking with Mr. Nimetz, because there is a mediator for whatever arises after this process and based on any instruction we receive from our Prime Ministers.
S. KOTROTSOS: The image I have – I think the Independent Balkan News Agency had a relevant article, that Nimetz was uncomfortable with regard to the withdrawal of the Skopje side. Is that accurate?
N. KOTZIAS: I think Nimetz is on the verge of the greatest success of his life and is very happy. Happy that something he has been negotiating for 25 years will come to an end. I didn’t negotiate it for so many years. It isn’t my life’s work.
S. KOTROTSOS: Yes, if one considers that dozens of negotiations have been held on other international geopolitical problems of this kind, without any result...
N. KOTZIAS: Let me tell you something: I don’t want to get into the Middle East problem, Israel-Palestine, but what Greek doesn’t wish a solution could be found? What Greek doesn’t wish concessions and compromises could be made on both sides, with Israel recognizing a Palestinian state? It seems as if, whether we were in the Palestinians’ position or the Israelis’ position, we wouldn’t want understanding. Not we as a government. Certain people in Greece, I’m saying.I think if we look at the amount of will with which we support the solution of international problems, we can see why it is good for our international position if we resolve this problem. It is a national need. A national imperative. We cannot keep carrying a problem which, really, I understand, I want to say this, I always say it, is quite singular for Greece and for our Macedonian fellow citizens.
S. KOTROTSOS: A charged issue. Highly charged.
N. KOTZIAS: What is this charge? It is a cultural heritage, a historical heritage, a matter of identity. Identity is very important to people. But from the standpoint of the country’s long-term interests, our big problem is the geopolitical and geostrategic issues. We know what our identity is. I want to make a comment. This is something I say to foreigners sometimes, teasingly, because they don’t understand why we are arguing over a name. I explain the history, I explain our culture, and I also explain that, in our region, the battle over the name isn’t just between states; it can also take place within families.In other words, two people fall in love, decide to get married or live together – because we now have the civil partnership law – and out of this great love, they decide to have a child or two or three children. They make a family, and suddenly this loving couple have a falling out. What do they usually argue about? Whether to give the child the name of one grandfather or the other. If both grandfathers have the same name, they’re lucky. If they agree to give the child a ‘compound’ name, a hyphenated name with the names of both grandfathers, that’s good. Otherwise they might get divorced. If they give the child a compound name, as we are doing with fYROM, each grandfather will more often call the child by his own name. That’s life. In other words, the name dispute is one that is part of people’s day-to-day lives. It’s not just a big political issue. Because a name is part of one’s identity. It is an element of the family’s culture, its continuity. Gruevski and his decade made this a big problem; a problem of heritage and culture. We're finished with that, Mr. Kotrotsos.
S. KOTROTSOS: Since you mentioned former Prime Minister Samaras earlier, yesterday I heard New Democracy MP Dimitris Stamatis, who was a close friend and associate of Antonis Samaras during the Politiki Anixi (Political Spring Party) years ...
N. KOTZIAS: And an honest person, in my opinion.
S. KOTROTSOS: Of course. I also know him from the Thessaloniki years, when he said expressly and categorically: No to a compound name that includes the term ‘Macedonia’. And I remembered it now, when you mentioned the grandfathers, because, very soon, the first component will lapse from use, and the name ‘Macedonia’ will be left. ‘Severna Macedonija’? ‘Macedonija’ will be left. Isn’t that a real danger?And I say this to all the people who will gather at the upcoming demonstrations, who need to hear this from you.
N. KOTZIAS: What is the truth of the matter? That the name ‘Macedonia’, on its own, has been used for this state since 1993. There is no one – pick up any foreign newspaper, have New Democracy bring me a single serious international newspaper that doesn’t call fYROM ‘Macedonia’. In other words, we’re kidding ourselves.
S. KOTROTSOS: Even at the Eurovision song contest a few days ago, it was ‘FyroMacedonia’..
N. KOTZIAS: I’m not talking about Eurovision. I mean a serious newspaper. There are 140 states that have recognized it as ‘Macedonia’. What does the compound name achieve? It puts the name back in its real context. It gives it a geographical qualifier. And there is another perspective: Do you know when we started talking about different ‘Macedonias’ and where the conversation started? Our viewers may not remember this: In 1913, in the Treaty of Bucharest. In the Treaty of Bucharest, after the Balkan Wars, it was decided that what was then called the multinational space of Macedonia, the geographical space – not the cultural space, political, heritage, historical space. It was decided that the geographical space would be divided into 4 parts.A very small part was ceded to Albania. This is why they have recognized a Bulgarian and ‘Macedonian’ minority in Albania. A larger piece, about 16%, went to Bulgaria. This is called ‘Pirin Macedonia’, and half of the leadership of the current government in Bulgaria hail from there. And a third part, about 1/3, was taken by what is today fYROM, which was part of Yugoslavia at that time. And the largest part, over 50%, was taken by the Greek state in the Balkan Wars, when they ended. And this is today’s Greek Macedonia and the cradle of ancient Greek Macedonian civilization, the cradle of the royal family of Philip and Alexander the Great. Therefore, since 1913 there have been four different geographical units known as ‘Macedonia’. One of these wanted to be called the ‘Macedonian state’. And Tito, for irredentist and aggressive reasons, named it the ‘socialist Republic of Macedonia’.
S. KOTROTSOS: Now, since I asked you about Mr. Stamatis, Mr. Stamatis is aware of all these things, I imagine. But he highlights one potential danger. And others highlight this as well; I have received a lot of messages. Perhaps, in the end, anything we may agree to now, we will still have lapses? Do we have clauses that safeguard us if something like this should happen?
N. KOTZIAS: To continue: We must begin from the point we are at today. Alexis Tsipras said something very true. We are not going in order to give, we are going in order to take. What is this true fact that I am describing from 1913, from the recognitions?
S. KOTROTSOS: The fait accompli, "Macedonia".
N. KOTZIAS: Here we all act like they aren't called thus. If, and this is what we will do, it is recorded internationally in inter-state relations, relations with international Organizations, their relations with us, all documents issued abroad and internationally, they shall be forced to be called by the name “X Macedonia". There is no way for an international document to be issued. The agreement does not specify what the citizens of any country will say in private, among themselves.
S. KOTROTSOS: There is the right to self-determination.
N. KOTZIAS: The agreement specifies the official name, the name used in official documents and the official public sector. In other words, is anyone prohibited from going by whatever name they choose under penalty of imprisonment?
S. KOTROTSOS: In other words, just a minute, to clarify this. The police identity card will say, and I'm saying this randomly, "Severna Macedonija", but I who am living in Skopje may well say that I feel, that I am Macedonian.
N. KOTZIAS: How can you control that?
S. KOTROTSOS: Obviously you can't. Unless politicians and Prime Ministers start saying this at international fora.
N. KOTZIAS: They will be forced to say it. At international fora, they will say "X-Macedonija”.
S. KOTROTSOS: And not, “I am Macedonian.”
N. KOTZIAS: Because we’re saying erga omnes. And within the country’s interior, the public sector will say "X-Macedonija".
S. KOTROTSOS: Let's go to a short commercial break and come back to wrap it up, because there are still a few questions. There are still many questions, but I will pose just a few of them.
S. KOTROTSOS: I would like you to comment on the stance of certain parties and politicians who see the agreement in a relatively positive light, and I am referring to Stavros Theodorakis and Evangelos Venizelos with his interventions. Even the central committee of the Movement for Change, with F. Gennimata, said that they would support a solution, but not just any solution.
N. KOTZIAS: First of all, I believe that nobody should support a solution that is just any solution. I have outlined personally to Ms. Gennimata the key elements of this agreement. I think that it is an agreement that the Movement for Change, and PASOK in particular, can support. Mr Theodorakis, in spite of any political differences we may have, is set apart by a certain courage and directness, particularly on this issue, and a sense of responsibility that I respect, and I would like to emphasize this. And indeed, all the officials of his party, and the person responsible for foreign policy, Spyros Danellis, are calm, patient people with knowledge, who aid the country on issues of foreign policy.
S. KOTROTSOS: Evangelos Venizelos, George Papandreou?
N. KOTZIAS: Evangelos Venizelos is a man who, as I have told you, to the extent that he has worked at the MFA, has done a good job. I respect his work. I would remind you that he was the first person to open relations with Egypt, in the manner which these were opened, and I would like to state this publicly. We may have disagreements, and we may have disagreed from time to time, but on foreign policy I see a sense of responsibility, and the speech he made at the event for Mr. Mertzos’ book. It was an excellent speech by a lawyer-politician. As for Mr. Papandreou, I think that Mr. Papandreou will be a happy man, because the agreement that the Government will usher in is the best we have ever had, even on this issue, and when you see the agreement, you will understand.
S. KOTROTSOS: There is a request pending from Stavros Theodorakis, since we mentioned it, for the National Security Council.
N. KOTZIAS: We established the Committee, with his party participating, but we got caught up in very intense negotiations with fYROM and Albania, and I hope that…
S. KOTROTSOS: Will the issue move forward?
N. KOTZIAS: We hope so, it must, and this is what we have promised.
S. KOTROTSOS: Will it be a Council, or will it be a second Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence, similar to what Turkey has, let’s say..
N. KOTZIAS: It will be a Council, and our professors have reached a decision, as well as its spokesperson, as to what its main characteristics will be.
S. KOTROTSOS: Who will on the Council?
N. KOTZIAS: Let's get the law passed, and we shall take a look at that.
S. KOTROTSOS: Will former Prime Ministers participate?
N. KOTZIAS: Let's get the law passed, and we shall take a look at that.
S. KOTROTSOS: So it is not out of the question that we might see former Prime Ministers on the Council.
N. KOTZIAS: I do not want to discuss a law which is being drawn up by ministry officials, university professors, and the competent personnel.
S. KOTROTSOS: Will this Council be headed by someone?
N. KOTZIAS: It must be. There are two types of National Security Councils. The first type is the American type, and this is a type that exists in other countries as well. One is an advisory body which includes the participation of experts on the subject, and the second is a body which includes the participation of political figures, as well. This is a fundamental decision that will be reflected in the law.
S. KOTROTSOS: Might you head it?
N. KOTZIAS: No, I don't think so. These councils are normally headed by the Prime Minister, who assigns competence to somebody. Usually, this is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but this isn’t set in stone. It may be headed by a national security advisor. I'm talking about the types of councils that exist.
S. KOTROTSOS: But it will be one body, not two?
N. KOTZIAS: I think so. One. But there can also be a broader one and a narrower one. The committee will decide. The committee isn’t instructed by me. The committee is instructed …
S. KOTROTSOS: Who is the committee composed of? Who is drawing up the law?
N. KOTZIAS: When we make it public, we’ll come back to it.
S. KOTROTSOS: Is this a committee of wise men? Mr. Rozakis, Mr. Pamboukis, those guys?
N. KOTZIAS: They are not on the committee. They are on the Scientific Council, but it will go to them for their approval. I must say that I am very confident in and grateful to our Professors of International Law who are participating in the Scientific Council of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, because, don’t forget, many of them have served as Ministers for other governments.
S. KOTROTSOS: That is what I would say. They don't hail from the Syriza camp or from...
N. KOTZIAS: Only one professor is from Syriza, and he is a Professor of International Law at the University of Oxford, specialized in UN issues. And consequently, what exactly is it that I am trying to say? That in this case, as well, the defamatory statements made in parliament proved to be too severe: that I am allegedly going to hire thousands of SYRIZA party members, etc. There is only one who is close to the Government. The others are from different political camps, as you know, but all of them are fond of scientific truth and knowledge. We conduct foreign policy with the most highly skilled individuals in the land, and I must tell you that I owe them gratitude and, from a certain perspective, perhaps I am proud of the fact that it is during our term in office that these people agreed to partner with us, with myself acting as Minister. They are very kind.
S. KOTROTSOS: Will you be a candidate in the next elections?
N. KOTZIAS: I am not interested in such things. I told you that I am not a politician, I am a political animal. I have been in politics, involved in public life, politics in other words, since I was 14-15. At this point, I am old. I always dream of leaving and writing my books and losing all this weight that I put on in the Minister's chair, in which I work all these hours. I’m not drawn to standing for election. It is an issue that depends on other factors as well. I am not a career politician. My dream was to help a left-wing government. Mr. Tsipras was kind enough to make me a Minister. And my second dream was to be able to solve certain problems for the country. I don’t consider political cost and, luckily, I have a Prime Minister who puts the country's interests before political cost. And I think that, at the end of the day, after we have resolved this issue and the issues with Albania, the Greek people will be pleased that we’ll be having two less problems and that, on an international level, our voice will count and carry much more weight.
S. KOTROTSOS: Over these past three and a half years, were there points on which you disagreed, either with the Prime Minister, mainly, or with SYRIZA, with the Government?
N. KOTZIAS: I would say that the Prime Minister is a charismatic, great political leader. One of his talents is that he is tolerant of people with difficult characters, such as myself.
S. KOTROTSOS: A final word. The day after tomorrow, tomorrow at this point, since the time is 01:05 and it is Tuesday, we have the rallies. If you were given the opportunity to address the organisers right now, some of whom have called you a "traitor," what would you say? And to the people who want to participate in the rallies? And we shall wrap it up with that.
N. KOTZIAS: Listen, it is their democratic right hold rallies. This is coming from a man who, at the age of 13, demonstrated using the slogan "Johnson, take the fez off the Cyprus issue." Therefore, I would be the last person that would dare not to recognize this right, but I urge people to exercise all their democratic rights. Second, I would say that the leaders of these rallies need to speak with themselves and with reality, and everything that has happened over the past 25 years with the Skopje issue. And third, they need to open the eyes and ears of their soul and to realise that we are helping our country when we free it from metaphysical constraints and orientate it towards the future. The solutions that we are providing in the Balkans today are solutions that restore our country to a leading role in the Balkans, which give us a large area for common growth. And it is only through cooperation with these states that our role in the European Union and internationally can be ensured in the 21st century. This is a move which frees us from the remnants of the past and opens the way into the future. I am not a man to turn inertia and pending issues into policy. To say "I want to have unfinished business," you know, this is reminiscent of those who want to be permanently engaged, who never wed, never have families. They sit on the fence for 40 years, saying, “It will happen one day. It will happen one day.” Some people in this land must do it. And it is obvious that when you do foreign policy, you face greater hostility than when you do nothing. But, if you do nothing, the future of the country has been undermined, while you’ll have had a good time. I prefer not to have a good time and to deal with these frustrations and conflicts, with the opposition, but to help, the way I understand it, and with the responsibility I have within the context of the government in which I participate, to help the country to take a huge step forward into the future. We are not afraid of anybody, and because we are not afraid of anybody, it would be very foolish on our part to be afraid of small states that don’t have aggressive inclinations or the means of acting on such inclinations, which, as I said, they don’t have.
S. KOTROTSOS: All this time that you have been handling this issue - we can of course talk for hours - did you have the opportunity or the chance, did you wish, or were you approached to speak with former prime ministers who had handled this matter, and I am specifically referring to Antonis Samaras, who has said good things about you in the past...
N. KOTZIAS: It is true. We disagree on this issue.
S. KOTROTSOS:… or Kostas Karamanlis?
N. KOTZIAS: With Kostas Karamanlis, in a way I understand and feel how he thinks. Antonis Samaras, I know how he thinks, I think that...
S. KOTROTSOS: Whether you had the opportunity to speak with them, or if they have sought this.
N. KOTZIAS: I was not able to directly communicate with them. I am often away at these negotiations. I think we can talk to each other. I am also friends with one of the two. We do have disagreements with Mr. Samaras. But this does not detract from the friendship going back to adolescence that we have had. He is younger than I am, moreover. With Mr. Karamanlis, I have total respect for the way he has carried himself outside the prime minister's seat. He has exhibited self-respect, as few politicians do. I would like to say that I appreciate that very much.
S. KOTROTSOS: Have you ever felt, during this time, when you were also pressured and rebuked and accused, than some people did not support you as much as you would have liked?
N. KOTZIAS: In Greece, it has been a bit “self-evident” for 40 years now that anyone can hurl insults in any manner they wish. I was called horrible things. I went to court. I won. And I found myself reviled.
S. KOTROTSOS: I am referring to political figures.
N. KOTZIAS: Reviled by many people, due to the fact that I exercised my rights. Any politician can go to court because they may have been insulted or defamed. Everyone considers this to be a given. But I don’t seem to have that right. Furthermore, the attacks launched against me, I think it is interesting. An appalling attack was launched against Mr. Boutaris, and 200 articles were written. They launch appalling attacks against me, and no one is interested. It may also be my personality, the fact that I don’t go out, I don’t need support. Perhaps it’s the kind of person I am. I am deeply involved in carrying out my duty, Mr. Kotrotsos, from morning, upon waking, to late at night, when I go to sleep. This is what I do. This is what I do on Christmas. This is what I do on Easter. I haven't had one free weekend, because I believe that the position in which I was placed by the people and my Prime Minister is where I must serve until the last drop of my ability has been spent.
S. KOTROTSOS: Foreign Minister Kotzias, I would like to thank you for the discussion this evening. I imagine that we provided fuel for much debate, which we shall see on the media starting tomorrow morning.
N. KOTZIAS: I shall see it starting the day after tomorrow. I am travelling abroad again, so...
S. KOTROTSOS: I hope all of this benefits the country and that, in the near future, we will reach an agreement on this issue. Thank you very much.
N. KOTZIAS: Thank you.