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Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, on 247 radio, with journalists Angeliki Spanou and Vassilis Skouris (18 April 2018)
JOURNALIST: We welcome the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias.
JOURNALIST: Good morning, Minister.
N. KOTZIAS: Good morning.
JOURNALIST: We thank you very much for being with us in these difficult times.
N. KOTZIAS: Good morning to you. Good morning to our listeners.
JOURNALIST: The state of affairs is difficult, Mr. Minister. Every day there is more bad news, mainly from Turkey. Where will this end?
N. KOTZIAS: I think we have to be more composed and assess things carefully, because I often explain to my interlocutors that, if I were Erdogan and saw how Greece is reacting, as a society as a whole and politically, to Turkey’s provocations, I would be pleased. Because every provocation causes a commotion that is many times greater than the significance of the provocation. I don’t want play down the provocations, but I want to say that the country needs composure, and this composure has to be shown by the political leadership, including the opposition parties. In difficult times there has to be sober and composed thinking.
JOURNALIST: “Imia is Turkish territory,” says an announcement from the ...
N. KOTZIAS: They have been saying this since 1996. And I remind you that they first said this in 1993. We are issuing a response. We made two announcements today, which we prepared late last night. The first has already been posted on the Foreign Ministry media. It is our assessment of the Commission’s recommendation. And shortly we will post a shorter announcement concerning Turkey’s conduct. In our assessment, Turkey, rather than learning and studying what the European Commission says, especially regarding respect for the European acquis and international law, is once again violating these.
There are the older decisions of international law, there is the Italian-Turkish agreement itself, there is the 1947 Treaty of Paris. It is clear in three international texts that Imia belongs to Greece, and it would be good for Turkey to realise that, at least in the Aegean, it needs to behave, and would benefit from behaving, according to international law. And as I often say, not meaning any insult to Syria and Iraq, Greece is a much more organized country, in all fields and in all sectors, than Syria and Iraq, who found themselves in civil wars, with Turkey taking this opportunity to invade.
JOURNALIST: Yes, but one could say that the Erdogan government is violating the Treaty of Lausanne in Syria and Iraq.
N. KOTZIAS: That is what I said on Monday, when I was at the Foreign Affairs Council in Luxembourg and there was a discussion regarding Syria. I stressed two things that some of our partners do not take much into account. The first is that Assad, If and when he uses chemical weapons – and it appears that he did – isn’t just perpetrating an inhuman act, which we certainly have to underscore, but is also breaking the rules of warfare. And the rules of warfare have been shaped over the past 4,000 years, in three main regions of the world: in Greece, China and India. In other words, there are some rules even in war. And in fact this was expressed from 1400 to 1600 in a broad debate, particularly in Spain and Holland, when the first inklings of the internal law of war were being formed. We have what is at first glance absurd: that there is law regarding how you must conduct war. Assad has violated the law of war.
And next door we have Turkey, which they forgot about a little, and I reminded them that Turkey is also violating the international rules and international law – in this case, the Treaty of Lausanne. What Turkey is doing in Afrin is reminiscent of what it did in the 1930s, when, via a pseudo referendum, it seized the area of Alexandretta. And I want to remind you that the Turks were a minority in the Alexandretta region. The largest portion of the population, if I remember correctly, were the 29,500 Armenians, and there was a group of 11,500 Greeks.
When the Syrian crisis started, I accused Turkey of doing in Syria what it had done in Alexandretta, and I remember Çavuşoğlu called me and said: “What’s this now? What are you comparing? We have no such intentions.” And I said, “Mevlüt, we’ll see. The war is still ahead, and the way you are conducting it, my assessment is that you would like to seize territory near Alexandretta,” Afrin, as proved to be the case, in Syria. We have violations of international law by all the sides in Syria.
JOURNALIST: Let’s go to the events of the past few days. What is your conclusion from the games with flags on the islets?
N. KOTZIAS: My opinion, as the head of Greek diplomacy, is that foreign policy must be exercised first and foremost by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I say this to everyone. Second, foreign policy must be made by the country’s institutions. And third, if someone wants to take an initiative in foreign policy, he would do well to consider the consequences. Because one of the things you have to know in foreign policy is that you don’t just open a door and whatever happens, happens. You have to open a door and know that you will go in, that you will close it behind you; you have to know what you are going to do and where it will lead.
JOURNALIST: The response is, yes, but shouldn’t we raise a flag on Greek territory?
N. KOTZIAS: One should certainly raise a flag. And the Greek flag can fly anywhere. But you also have to think about how and when you will defend this action you take. As far as I know, the Greek flags weren’t raised there, or weren’t taken down, to put it more accurately. As I always say, with every action that has to do with foreign policy, you also have to think about what will follow. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done, but it can’t be done like that.
JOURNALIST: You say that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must exercise diplomacy, and you say this to everyone. When you say ‘everyone’, do you mean the government and the opposition and the country’s institutions?
N. KOTZIAS: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government, the Prime Minister of the country in particular are responsible for foreign policy and its coordination. I don’t think uncoordinated foreign policy is good, or people making foreign policy from other positions, perhaps outside the institutional system, because this makes things more difficult for the country or undermines the country’s policy.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Koutsoumbas, yesterday and, in more detail, today considers a ‘heated incident’ in the Aegean inevitable. Do you agree with that assessment?
N. KOTZIAS: Diplomacy’s job is to avert such developments.
JOURNALIST: Your goal is to avert it.
N. KOTZIAS: It mustn’t happen. But our problem isn’t the ‘heated incident’ that might happen at some point. The main problem is our not allowing accidents to happen in the region because of the constant tensions we have with Turkey. And I want to tell you something to make myself clear. I tuned into ERT this morning, the state television station, and I have to say that the warlike climate I saw this morning – at 06:00 – this atmosphere that the Aegean smells of gunpowder, that we are heading for war, that war is coming, etc., is not the atmosphere of a composed society. It is an atmosphere that will make Erdogan smile. In other words, that through one or two minor moves he has brought such turmoil to us. That is why I said that we all have to show composure, and this doesn’t concern only politicians. It also concerns journalists, if I may say so. This competition over who will smell the most gunpowder, etc., doesn’t help the atmosphere in the country.
JOURNALIST: Since we’re on the subject of news, Minister, there is a great deal of mystery surrounding various issues. What happened in Ro, when the tracer rounds were fired, how was the Greek squadron leader lost?
N. KOTZIAS: If someone is suggesting that what is being said publicly and officially is not true, he is certainly right in saying it’s a mystery. But if we say that the information given out is accurate, then there is no mystery.
JOURNALIST: What happened in Ro? A night-flight without lights?Just that?For what reason?
N. KOTZIAS: What I know happened in Ro is that shots were fired at a sound, and not at a visible object. They said they heard a sound. They didn’t say they saw anything.
JOURNALIST: It had to be something.
N. KOTZIAS: It didn’t have its lights on.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe Turkey really has aspirations in the Aegean as a whole?
N. KOTZIAS: I think Turkey has two characteristics. One is that it is a very restless power. That many, many internal contradictions contribute to this restlessness. It has development and social contradictions. In some places it has feudal structures, and in other places modern capitalist structures. It has national contradictions. The Kurdish problem, with 15 or 16 million Kurds. It has religious tensions, especially with the Alawite Turks and Kurds. It has every kind of contradiction. Added to these is a restlessness among its leadership, which is a clash, as I always describe it, between fear and worry, on the one hand, and the arrogant belief that they can do anything. These are not good guides.
Turkey’s second characteristic, as I always say, is revisionism. In other words, that it has the sense that it can gain enough power to give it the ‘right’ to ask for a change in the realities arising from international conventions, agreements, international law as a whole. In this case, the Treaty of Lausanne.
Third, I believe that certain aspects of the problem have changed, because energy resources have been found in the region, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean, and Turkey is exerting pressure in various ways in order to find a way to participate in the exploitation and transportation of these energy resources.
JOURNALIST: Do you think this was Mr. Erdogan’s overall strategy, or does he have a ...
N. KOTZIAS: Which?
JOURNALIST: This Turkish strategy, as you described it. Or will the tensions be lowered after the Turkish presidential elections?
N. KOTZIAS: I think the attempted coup played a major role in Turkey, strengthening this sense and this arrogance, that “we won.” And the insecurity and fear that we can walk out onto the corner and ‘someone will shoot us’. The fact that elections are coming up also plays some role. And it appears they will be holding elections earlier than they were scheduled for. These two elements further boost the tension, but the revisionism and this orientation are strengthened by the need for them to participate in the energy ‘game’.
JOURNALIST: There is great concern over what will happen when the 8 Turkish military personnel who have requested asylum in Greece are released. A few days ago, here, the Justice Minister, Mr. Kontonis, said mid-May. Are you concerned?
N. KOTZIAS: The Greek state has to provide for everyone’s security.
JOURNALIST: And do you have an assessment regarding the two Greek soldiers, Mr. Minister?
N. KOTZIAS: You may have noticed, Mr. Skouris, that I have never expressed an assessment. From the first night, I said that this is an issue that I feel falls within another type of Turkish strategy from the past. I was alone in saying this at the time.
JOURNALIST: That’s true, but do you think it was a substantial rather than simple or chance move?
N. KOTZIAS: I don’t know whether it happened by chance. What I do know is that – and I will say this again – in Ankara, Erdogan and his circle see how we are reacting, and we are right in reacting this way, passionately demanding the release of our two soldiers. But Turkey has another outlook on the lives of people and soldiers, because during the time the two Greek officers have been detained, Turkey has lost five or six hundred soldiers and officers without shedding a tear. At this point we have two problems with Turkey. First, a different outlook on civil liberties and especially human life, and second, a sense that, ‘look at how upset the Greeks are just because they detained two officers’. In other words – and I insist on this point – Ankara reads events differently from us.
JOURNALIST: There is an issue, I understand that you are satisfied with the European Union’s stance on the Aegean issue. Isn’t that right?
N. KOTZIAS: I don’t think it is the European Union’s stance that pleases us. We are pleased at the work we have done which led the European Union adopt this stance. Our work has paid off. It isn’t that the European Union is suddenly, for the first time, addressing Turkey so sternly. There are the international agreements, the Europeans’ relations with Turkey overall, and there is the work we have done.
JOURNALIST: But why haven’t you had corresponding results on the NATO issue? For example, we saw what Mr. Stoltenberg said regarding the Aegean as provocative. And a lot of people are asking why you didn’t protest? Why didn’t you issue an announcement?
N. KOTZIAS: What Mr. Stoltenberg said publicly is not what he said privately to the Turks. And I am very much interested in the latter.
JOURNALIST: Did Mr. Putin say something too? Because we had the Prime Minister’s telephone conversation with him. Do you have any news, I mean, on Russia’s stance?
N. KOTZIAS: I think Russia is interested in Syria, but it is also very interested in breaking Turkey away from the ‘western world’. We’ve seen this policy from Russia before. I remind you that in the 1920s, going back 95 years, the Soviet Union followed the same policy. It tried to break Kemal Ataturk off from the West. That is why I always say to Turkey, regarding the European Union and other western institutions, that they themselves have to decide whether or not they want to belong to the West, and not talk about whether Austria or some other country is angry with them.
JOURNALIST: What is your assessment regarding the fate of the two Greek officers who have been detained in Turkish prisons for 50 days now?
N. KOTZIAS: As I said before, we are taking all necessary action to see them released, but it doesn’t depend us alone. It depends on whether or not Turkey acts rationally.
JOURNALIST: Minister, a lot of people are wondering whether Greece might need a change in strategy. To date, since the beginning of the 1990s, our policy has said that Turkey has a European perspective. We as a country support this perspective, and this is the framework within which we place our rights in the Aegean, our demands. Now, Europe doesn’t seem to want Ankara, Ankara doesn’t seem to want to join Europe. Do we perhaps need a different strategy?
N. KOTZIAS: Europe doesn’t want Turkey – the European Union doesn’t want Turkey – in the same way it once did. This doesn’t mean that the Europeans don’t want to have strong ties and economic relations with Turkey. Moreover, Turkey isn’t under the same pressure to join the European Union, but it is under great pressure to renew its economic relations and the Turkey-EU customs union, which is business matter worth over €60 billion to the Turks. So there is still leverage, there are still interests.
Second, no one who is talking about a new strategy has said even a single word describing a proposal for a new strategy. In other words, they are mostly calling into question a policy of their own from the past. And third, we have many elements of a new foreign policy that they apparently aren’t in a position to acknowledge, especially the emphasis we are putting on the Eastern Mediterranean, where there is the Kastelorizo-Cyprus line and the energy resources.
That is the centre of our policy, and we also have the trilateral cooperation schemes. Next month we will have meetings with Israel, with Armenia, and with the Palestinians, here in Athens. And there is also the very serious work we are doing in Rhodes for the shaping of a new security and stability system in the Eastern Mediterranean, which began with 11 countries and now stands at 23. All of the Arab countries and the European countries of Southeast Europe come, and for the first time the Palestinians will be coming too. And we are shaping a positive agenda to stabilize the region, which we consider to be insecure, because of the energy resources, the Eastern Mediterranean.
JOURNALIST: For instance, some people say: We need to increase defence spending. We need resolve, because if something happens in the Aegean, Europe won’t come to our aid.
N. KOTZIAS: But increased defence spending isn’t a strategy.
JOURNALIST: Yes, right.
N. KOTZIAS: And second, we don’t have the same resources as Turkey. We have a GDP of €178 billion. Turkey’s GDP is €1.428trillion. The ratio is 1 to 8. So we don’t just want new spending for defence. We want any spending on defence to be smart and to serve our defensive goals. In other words, we want defensive armaments, because we have no intention of invading a third country. Turkey is buying armaments for invading third countries.
JOURNALIST: Minister, the opposition often criticises you – the government, I mean – for not keeping them well enough informed.
N. KOTZIAS: Right. They complained two days after I had briefed them. Let me tell you something: Regarding fYROM, in the space of two months we have briefed Parliament, the Prime Minister briefed Mr. Mitsotakis, I briefed the representatives of Mr. Mitsotakis, and we have twice given them a file on this country. Five briefings in two months. They never briefed anyone. I see this as impertinence. They never briefed anyone, for example, on fYROM, because they didn’t use our own diplomats from the Ministry, as we do. They used National Intelligence Service personnel, if you remember. Intelligence personnel carried out the negotiations with fYROM under New Democracy, regarding whom no one knew, first, why they were doing it and, second, where they were from. But I want to say something else: Unfortunately, there are some political parties that, no matter what you brief them on, feel the need to let the information leak to the press and so on.
JOURNALIST: Do you mean Mr. Leventis? Or others as well?
N. KOTZIAS: I don't mean anyone. I’m stating the reality of the situation. You are journalists. You can find this out easily. I go to Parliament and give a briefing. And during the briefing, what I say appears in the press. I brief the political parties, and they let what I tell them leak to the press. And I’m talking about articles, not just what they say directly; that’s the least of it. It is what they leak in an attempt to curry favour with journalists, and this enables the other side to know what we are thinking, how we are prioritizing our goals and their content. This isn’t good. Rather than complaining that they haven’t been briefed – when in fact they have – they would do well to be responsible with the information they are given. And can I tell you something else? It’s risible: Dimitrov tells me that he briefed an opposition politician who, at the end of the briefing, said, “But don’t tell anyone you briefed me today.” A party representative said exactly the same thing to me. One evening when I briefed him for two hours, he said, “Yes, but you won’t come out tomorrow and say you briefed me – don’t consider this a briefing.” This is just ridiculous.
JOURNALIST: What is happening with the proposal Potami made to the Prime Minister for establishing a National Security Council?
N. KOTZIAS: We have met with the Potami representative, we have agreed on how this should be structured and developed, and it has now been undertaken by professors of international law, and they are elaborating it based on the guidelines they were given.
JOURNALIST: So you will set up a National Security Council.
N. KOTZIAS: We will. The National Security Council is an advisory Council to the Prime Minister. It is something we will prepare, but it is the responsibility of the Prime Minister, not of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
JOURNALIST: And will former prime ministers sit on the Council?
N. KOTZIAS: Look, you can see the National Security Council in two ways. The first way is as an expanded National Council on Foreign Policy that, rather than being on the level of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his counterparts in the political parties, is on the level of Prime Ministers and former Prime Ministers. And there is a second way, which is what most National Security Councils have evolved into. And this is a system in which the major and common problems the country has are considered jointly, with the participation of scientists, diplomats, and politicians from the various political parties.
I think we are leaning more towards the second.
JOURNALIST: Right. Let’s take a commercial break and come back.
JOURNALIST: We get the sense, Minister, that the Skopje issue has come to a standstill recently.
N. KOTZIAS: Now, how is it that it has come to standstill already?
JOURNALIST: When Mr. Zaev is talking about a double name and says he will not be meeting with Mr. Τsipras any time soon …
N. KOTZIAS: As if he had previously given in on the name, and now it has come to a standstill...
JOURNALIST: You tell us. Because you made a very stern statement as well.
N. KOTZIAS: Look, as I have also told you about the Turkish issues and Greece, I think that we must all learn -all of us, myself included- to be more responsible, more level-headed, and more serious. Some diplomatic issues cannot be solved with declarations, nor can you come out in interviews and say things that are part of the negotiations. Let’s say now that politician X comes out and says, “I refuse to do Y.” This results in two things: if he does this, he will be left exposed. If he does not do this, it will also be due to the fact that he has contributed to the failure of the situation to change. I will give you a more concrete example: The Government does not have a ruling majority on the name issue.
JOURNALIST: The Greek Government, you mean?
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, the Greek Government. But I am tackling this issue, and the Prime Minister is tackling it even better. The Government is tackling it, and conditions of a majority are starting to take shape.
JOURNALIST: In other words, you have written off Mr. Kammenos and the ANEL party. They have made public statements, moreover.
N. KOTZIAS: I am not writing anybody off. I am simply respecting the stances they themselves have taken. Mr. Zaev, who does have a majority in his own Parliament, is saying, “I am not in a position to get this passed by Parliament.”
JOURNALIST: He has a majority?
N. KOTZIAS: He has 61 seats, 59 + 2 Albanians who do not participate in his Government, from the small Albanian party. Mr. Zaev needs a qualified majority for the Constitution. He needs to fight hard to attain it. If he says, “Since I don’t have a qualified majority, I won’t do it,” he will never fight for it, and we are never going to come to any substantial agreement. We aren't going to reach an agreement.
And let me tell you something else. It’s nice that when we began negotiations with Nikola Dimitrov - we essentially began in January, two or three months before we had done the preliminary work, in other words how we were going to go about the negotiations, etc. - everyone was saying, “We are doing this because they are pressuring us to join NATO in June,” and therefore we, the Government, did not open this up, as we say, which I continue to uphold and say, because it was our national duty to solve problems with fYROM and Albania which were left to us unresolved by previous parties and Governments, for decades and much longer, but they were saying to us that someone had whispered in our ear, you had better behave because, in June, they must join. It is very obvious that fYROM is not going to get into NATO in June.
JOURNALIST: You think they missed the chance?
N. KOTZIAS: Of course they have. Because I will tell you this: Now instead of saying, “We were wrong, and Tsipras and Kotzias were right, who had been saying that we are doing this because we have assessed that it is for reasons of national interest,” they are saying, “But it stopped, it’s not happening or it isn’t going to happen.” Let me now tell you why they missed the chance. It is already April. An agreement must be approved in various ways. They want to hold a referendum. The referendum in our friendly country to the North requires more than two months. In other words, just the referendum will be held no earlier than June. And after the referendum, the agreement will have to go to Parliament, which will take half a month, or an entire month. And once it has gone to Parliament, Parliament will then need to continue making constitutional amendments. In order for us to have an agreement, we will need to have agreed to the constitutional amendments. So it will continue into the Fall.
JOURNALIST: For that, there is no need for another Summit. They can also join without one, provided that the name issue is resolved.
N. KOTZIAS: At NATO, decisions are made even by the Permanent Representatives, in other words by the branch of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is why sometimes, when I hear New Democracy saying in Parliament, “But how is Mr. Kammenos going to go to NATO and negotiate and sign?” it surprises me that former Foreign Ministers also say this. Because NATO has two formats: it has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and then the Permanent Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and it also has the Ministries of Defence and the military officials. The Ministries of Defence and the military officials make the technical arrangements between the Member States, which pertain to the co-ordination of defence or various defence activities. Political choices are made by the Foreign Ministers. In other words, the political issues that have to do with fYROM go through either the Prime Minister, or the Minister of Foreign Affairs, or the Permanent Representatives, in other words our Ambassadors to NATO.
JOURNALIST: So you are saying that even if Mr. Kammenos should vote against any agreement, should one come up, and even should he succeed, he can remain Minister of Defence, he can remain in the Government in other words.
N. KOTZIAS: I have given the example of my friend Boris Johnson. As you know, Boris Johnson has often directly attacked Ms. May, and they belong to the same party in Britain, and nobody came out to say that Mr. Johnson has different views than Ms. May, and that he must leave. Because societies are pluralistic, they are democratic.
JOURNALIST: Well, aren’t Governments always involved, however, in major issues.
N. KOTZIAS: Governments always have, all the Governments in the world, majorities and minorities. Let me remind you that with regard to the issue of fYROM, New Democracy twice had publicly expressed minorities. One was Mr. Samaras, who ultimately decided to leave, he was not thrown out by Mr, Mitsotakis, and the second was the group of three, which included Mr. Dimas, Mr. Evert, and Mr. Kanellopoulos and, in the end, Mr. Mitsotakis feared them and did not promote changing of name of fYROM, wrongfully so in my opinion, because you have seen how it has festered to date. Therefore, the same party that was in power, and was not simply in power with great internal disagreement on this issue, but did not dare do it because it got scared, cannot criticise us, because we are showing responsibility and courage, for the country to be done with this problem, and indeed I think that if I were New Democracy, I would be happy that there are politicians like Mr. Tsipras and Mr. Kotzias, who do not think about political cost, but only think about national interest, who are solving a problem that others were unable to solve over the last 25 years, which has festered; which, if it continues to exist, will create problems for us.
JOURNALIST: Why do you believe that Mr. Mitsotakis is taking that specific stance?
N. KOTZIAS: He is coordinating the various groups within the Party. But whether he is succeeding or not, I don’t know. That’s his issue.
JOURNALIST: You say that you are resolving an issue that previous politicians failed to resolve, which they created. But when, after so many months of negotiation, we hear Mr. Zaev saying that we will not change the name as regards domestic use …
N. KOTZIAS: It really surprises me that three months of negotiations is considered an equal length of time to 25 years of problem creation.
JOURNALIST: But expectations were created, that a different sort of momentum exists, that the international community is involved, that the Zaev Government is willing …
N. KOTZIAS: I have never said that the international community is involved. On the contrary, I have publicly stated that this is a beneficial situation for the negotiations, because the Americans are not too concerned about the Western Balkans, and the Germans did not have a Government.
JOURNALIST: And the fact that, in any case, there is a willing government in fYROM.
N. KOTZIAS: I said that there is a government that has leeway to make these negotiations. As far as its determination, this shall be proven in the end.
JOURNALIST: Without an erga omnes revision of its Constitution, can a solution exist?
N. KOTZIAS: No.
N. KOTZIAS: No.
N. KOTZIAS: Categorically. I will tell you two things, something political as well as an example. Let me begin with the example: people from fYROM are always saying to me “Look Nikos, we will make an agreement, and there will be documents for abroad which will bear the international name, and documents for domestic use only, and you shouldn’t care whether some Municipality writes “Republic of Macedonia.” I say to him, “Okay, I will bring you ten documents, and you tell me how this will work.” I produce the first document. What is the first document? The Constitution of fYROM. And I ask: “The new Constitution of fYROM, when you send it abroad in English, either to international organizations, or for negotiations, or at academic seminars on this country, this Constitution, how will it refer to the country? Will the name of the country be translated, or will it change to the international name?” He tells me “It will be translated, we cannot change it.” So we begin with the first document already, that it will be distributed abroad with the domestic name.
What do I mean? That if there is no erga omnes, in other words to be used in all international and transnational affairs, international organizations, bilateral and internal affairs, we will have invested - this is what I am trying to explain to fYROM - in an argument and friction for the entire century to come. Because documents will be coming out abroad - for example, a university degree with the domestic name, we will be hunting them down for “disrupting or violating agreements,” they will say that “it happened by accident” and, if we have an argument today as to what name shall be used in international Organisations, there we will have a daily argument which will represent an impasse and will only serve to further exacerbate the conditions between the two states. I am telling them that we are doing it and I insist on erga omnes because we want an agreement that will be stable in the long term and that will solve problems instead of creating them.
JOURNALIST: The name is one thing. Here, are we closer to "Gorna Macedonija"?
N. KOTZIAS: It is out of the question for me to start publicly discussing which stage the negotiation process has reached.
JOURNALIST: Are we close to a name?
N. KOTZIAS: Mr. Nimetz has proposed five names. One has been rejected. This is a name which had been accepted by the Greek Governments …
JOURNALIST: Macedonia dash (-) Skopje
N. KOTZIAS: Not dash, parentheses (Skopje). This is very different from a dash. With the dash it is a name, parentheses are left out. And using only Macedonia domestically, within the country, for some of those who are wagging fingers at us today. The other four names, we have said that it is a matter for the country itself to decide as to what it would like.
JOURNALIST: In other words, whichever one the Skopjans choose.
N. KOTZIAS: As far as we are concerned, as long as it has a compound geographic qualifier, we have no problem. But this compound geographic qualifier must be for domestic use as well.
JOURNALIST: There are seven points around which negotiations are revolving, if I remember correctly. It is clear that Greece cannot have it all, isn’t it?
N. KOTZIAS: You can’t have it all in any negotiation that is not preceded by victory in a war. Because the other side won’t let you have it. It must be a compromise, where each side gets what it considers to be most important.
JOURNALIST: Because there is an issue that was placed on the table by former Prime Minister Karamanlis - indeed, it was to me that he made the related statement - on the issue of nationality. That if the issue of nationality does not change, there can be no agreement. It may perhaps be more central than the name even. Do you agree with this assessment?
N. KOTZIAS: I imagine he means identity. Because nationality, as Mr Zaev also stated, will appear in their passports, “nationals of the Republic of so and so”. Therefore, they will be nationals of the country whose name has been agreed upon. Identity is a matter of self-determination, Mr. Skouris. We must remember this, because we also must not violate international laws, should we believe this suits us somehow.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Voutsis said that the Macedonia issue may be the occasion for restructuring the political scene in the country. Do you agree? Do you share this view?
N. KOTZIAS: I will tell you the opinion I have as President of “Pratto”. Of an organization that participated in the ballots of SYRIZA, and I remain grateful for our excellent collaboration and communication.
JOURNALIST: Which will continue?
N. KOTZIAS: Of course. I see no reason for it not to continue. This is what I believe: we did not consider the government that would be formed in 2015 a Leftist Government. I have also written a book, if you recall, on the matter. We considered it to be a government of salvation. Because it was a government of salvation, collaboration could take place between left-wing forces and the populist right-wing forces.
The Leftist Government could come once the problems which were the objective of the salvation Government had been solved. Why do I say this? Because, in my opinion, and according to my experience and everything I have read and studied in my lifetime, the nature of a Government is not determined by the forces that are involved in it, but by the types of problems it solves. Lenin even referred to the Bolshevik revolution of 1905 as bourgeois democratic, not because the nature of the Bolsheviks of ‘17 had changed, which was, as he said, socialist, but the tasks that it had to resolve, for the Tsar to leave, to establish a Parliament etc., those of a bourgeois democracy.
JOURNALIST: Now I shall be compelled to ask you a question here. In other words, you believe that once the country has exited the Memorandum …
N. KOTZIAS: The fact that you are compelled to ask a question does not mean that I am compelled to respond.
JOURNALIST: No, that is completely fair. I would like to ask you, the Memorandum is coming to an end. According to the Prime Minister, a new memorandum agreement will not be concluded. The country is gaining certain levels of freedom. The divide returns to the forefront even more decidedly - as far as I am concerned, it was never gone- the divide between Right - Left. Thus, along with the present parliamentary term, the collaboration between SYRIZA - ANEL shall also expire.
N. KOTZIAS: No, no. We are finishing with the Memorandum, and I think that we need to implement the policy for recovery of the poor working classes, rehabilitation of the country’s potential for growth, and the upgrading of these in the international community, which is always in the agreement and understanding between ANEL and Synaspismos-SYRIZA.
JOURNALIST: In other words, this will remain even after this Parliament has gone.
N. KOTZIAS: This will be decided later, by the majorities that take shape after this Parliament is gone. But as regards this one, I am clear.
JOURNALIST: I wanted to ask you how you explain such a large participation in rallies and, at the same time in polls - I saw the last one conducted by PALMOS Analysis - 7 out of 10 Greeks are in favour of a mutually acceptable solution to the Macedonia.
N. KOTZIAS: This poll, which I also saw yesterday, is something positive, and indicates that people are shifting towards a more realistic line. I think whomever of us you may ask: “Would you like for the country to the north of Greece to be named “the Central Republic of the Balkans” or “Macedonia…so and so,” one would prefer the former. The first is what I prefer, the second is the reality of what I can and must do. I think that developments also with Turkey, in recent weeks, have shown that now is the time to solve our problems with Albania and fYROM.
JOURNALIST: Incidentally, where are we with Albania? They say that the negotiations have foundered. I see many reports. Is that the case?
N. KOTZIAS: As to the reports saying they have foundered...let me tell you. A “problem” exists for Greek reporters: The fact that the Foreign Ministry does not leak information, that certain opposition parties who took documents and information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and leaked information do not have access. Because Ministry officials - the diplomats, the experts, and the lawyers - have risen to the challenge of the present situation. They know that we are implementing a very serious national strategy. They themselves participate in these negotiations and do not allow things to leak from those negotiations and discussions in such a manner as to undermine the negotiations.
In the negotiations, I would say that we have remained on one last point. We can have a look at this. We have meetings coming up, as provided for in the Constitution of our friendly country, and an agreement that Mr. Meta made with its Government. They have a complicated internal procedure. I think by the end of May, the formalities will essentially be over, as well as the final pending issue. You know, these are problems that have existed for 70-80 years. When it comes up for debate in Parliament, you will be shocked at what you hear, and at the nonsense that took place on both sides.
JOURNALIST: I hear that they are reviving the issue of the Cham Albanians, for example.
N. KOTZIAS: Nobody in these negotiations is raising the issue of the Chams. We have not accepted for such an issue to be raised in these negotiations. As far as the properties, the only properties that exist are those that have to do with the state of war. Technically, according to one interpretation, we are still at war with Albania. As long as this state of war is not lifted with sufficient legality, the seized properties shall remain in the hands of the Greek State. These seized properties have to do with properties that came under the guarantee of the Greek State upon waging of war by Italy and Albania, which was then one united monarchy against Greece. In other words, these things are pre-war, they have nothing to do with the Chams, which are decisions of the Courts made after the war; and these decisions are final and irrevocable.
JOURNALIST: Could you, I don’t know - an iconic figure of the Left, of the communist Left, later of the Left overall - could you be a member of a Government in which the Police defended the statue of Truman from being taken down?
N. KOTZIAS: I don’t think the Police were protecting the statue of Truman, to keep it from coming down. The Police did not want a new diplomatic problem to be created where one isn’t necessary.
JOURNALIST: I think you were clear. Shall we thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs?
JOURNALIST: Let’s thank him.
N. KOTZIAS: So you have to ponder over that issue?
JOURNALIST: Have we got another question? Have we forgotten anything?
N. KOTZIAS: Do I have to respond? Let me thank you. I don’t need to ponder over it.
JOURNALIST: We thank you very much Mr. Minister, for your participation here, for the news you provided us with.