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Joint statements of Foreign Minister N. Kotzias and the Foreign Minister of Montenegro, S. Darmanovic, following their meeting (Athens, 13 June 2017)
N. KOTZIAS: I would like to thank the interpreter for the very good job.
I want to welcome my colleague Srdjan Darmanovic for visiting us, for the very interesting talks we had one on one and between the two delegations.
I want to thank him for the friendship and the feelings he shows for our country and for the solidarity he expressed with the victims of the earthquake in Lesvos.
I want to congratulate his country, Montenegro, on its successes on the international political stage and its participation in international organizations, including its accession to NATO and above all, of course, because, of all the countries of the Western Balkans, Montenegro is the country most advanced in the negotiations and is closer than any other to being ready for accession to the European Union.
Our country, and I personally, expressed our desire to support Montenegro's European course, to provide our knowledge and expertise, to the degree it is needed and we are able to, for there to be exchanges on all levels and in all sectors of cooperation between our two Ministries, and for us to promote overall cooperation between our two states.
In particular, our cooperation is developing in military academies, and I also proposed for this cooperation to be extended to the new Firefighting Academy in Kozani, as well as cooperation between our universities and our research and cultural centres.
Montenegro, like Greece, is a beacon of stability in the Balkans. We are two countries that work hard to contribute to stability and security in the region, and from this perspective, the friendly country of Montenegro is a country that contributes to spreading the political culture that is so dear to me, the political culture of consensus and compromise in our region, and it has shown this by having done everything necessary to resolve all kinds of problems that all of us are carrying from the past in this region.
We are both enemies of this nationalism that filled our region with conflicts, and we want to develop a positive agenda for the future of our relations.
We want to create networks. We want to capitalize on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) so that the Adriatic-Ionian Pipeline is developed, we want to support the major motorways of the Ionian Highway and its branches. We want to work together on educational and cultural issues, and, certainly, we want to fight organized crime.
It was a pleasure to accept the invitation, on behalf of the President, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, and the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, to visit the beautiful country of Montenegro, and I hope we intensify our meetings in the future. It profits both countries, and it profits our region.
I also invited my colleague to a number of institutional meetings being organized by Greece, including the one we are holding at the end of October this year, the Conference for the protection of religious and Cultural communities of the Middle East. And I also invited him to the next Conference for Security and Stability in the Eastern Mediterranean, which will be taking place in June 2018, in Rhodes. I also had a thought regarding the quadrilateral cooperation scheme we have between Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia – that we invite Montenegro so that we can look at how, collectively, we can support its European course, which benefits the whole region.
Once again, I thank my friend Srdjan for visiting us and for the pleasure of speaking with him. Thank you very much.
S. DARMANOVIC: Thank you, honourable Minister Kotzias, dear Nikos, ladies and gentlemen. It is always difficult to speak second, after so profound and interesting a thinker and speaker as Minister Kotzias, because there is little that remains to be said after him.
Frist of all, allow me to thank you for the cordial welcome and acknowledge the traditional friendly and close relations between Montenegro and the Hellenic Republic.
The main goal of my visit to Greece is to further strengthen the relations between our two countries, constructive political dialogue, and to further promote economic cooperation. I take this opportunity to underline that Montenegro highly appreciates the affirmative policy of Greece towards the Western Balkans, in terms of the EU and NATO enlargement. In this context, I would like to remind you that Greece was the first NATO contact country for Montenegro in 2008, and even more, it is my great honour to visit your country just a few days after Montenegro officially became a full-fledged member of the Alliance. This achievement, we actually finally achieved also with your substantial help.
I would like to express my gratitude for the sustained support in the area of EU integration that Greece has been providing to Montenegro, especially during the Greek Presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2014, when Montenegro opened five chapters of the Acquis Communautaire. In that sense, I take this opportunity to express the expectation that Greece will continue supporting Montenegro in the forthcoming period in our EU drive, because we can say that two big national goals of Montenegro are achieved: our independence in 2006, our NATO membership this year. And we are counting on the support of our friends in order to achieve the third big national goal, to become member of the European Union.
Having in mind Montenegro's growing tourist industry, we have agreed that there is a high potential to explore in this area too. In this regard, an Aegean Airlines direct line is to be opened on June 21st this year, so in several days, actually next week, it will strongly contribute to the better links between our two countries. It is to be opened and to last through September, but who knows? Maybe they will find an interest in making it standard.
The presentation of the tourism and investment potential of Montenegro to the Greek public is another goal of this visit. We are very glad to have reputable Greek business partners in our country. Hellenic Petroleum has been present in Montenegro for more than a decade. We have agreed that there is room for additional promotion of economic relations, as well as cooperation in the field of science and education. Education-wise, we are very grateful that 12 of our officers actually get their education here, in the Greek military academies, and we are grateful for them getting a high-level, quality education that, once they are back in our country, they will contribute to our military, though small country-small military, but it is even more important for them, then, to get a great and high-quality education.
I also want to emphasize our very constructive multilateral cooperation, and let me point out that we have reached a mutual agreement to support each other for the membership of the UN Security Council, for Greece in the period 2025-2026 and for Montenegro next year, 2026-2027.
We also have a reciprocal support agreement for the membership of the UN Committee of Human Rights. We exchanged views on the situation. We exchanged views on the situation in the Western Balkans, of course, in terms of the current challenges that Europe is facing, both internally and externally.
We came to the agreement, what is quite natural of friends, that EU enlargement should not lose momentum in the Western Balkans and that the EU will have to step up its presence and to find a way to encourage the countries of the Western Balkans in their European drive, because not only history taught us, but also the present; that if the most important clubs of today, clubs of democracy and economic prosperity like the EU, if they are not active in the Western Balkan region, somebody else will be. And we strongly believe that Europe will not be whole, free and at peace, if it does not find a way to absorb Western Balkan countries in its club.
Of course, it is not a one-sided way. We also have to deliver, we also have to continue our reforms, but we are not going to make it without the generous and critical support of our friends, as Greece also is.
I look forward to welcoming Minister Kotzias to Montenegro and I have extended an open invitation to my dear colleague this moment. I know he is a great enthusiast of fishery, so maybe he can find interesting places in our beautiful coast for that sport, and I am looking forward for the moment when he finds a way to come to our country.
Thank you once again.
MODERATOR: Two questions. Please introduce yourselves and your medium.
JOURNALIST: Welcome to Athens, Minister. The issue of defining the borders between Montenegro and Kosovo is still open. My question: How is this going to be affected by the recent election result in Kosovo?
S. DARMANOVIC: Actually, this question is not any more open for us, because we finalized our procedure in good will. We accepted all Yugoslav borders between us. That border was inspected by the International Commission. The International Commission found the solution; actually confirmed the solution. Then, we signed a treaty with the Kosovar government in Vienna and actually the majority in the Kosovar Parliament and the former government supported the treaty and we ratified the treaty in good will in our Parliament.
So the issue was kind of reopened as a result of the internal political battles in Kosovo; it is normal in any democracy that parties sometimes open some issues that can be maybe useful for the debate. And we know, we are aware that there has been a problem to find a majority, a two-third majority in the Kosovar Parliament, for this treaty to be ratified. But we are very patient. We have not aggravated the situation in any way. We have not made any push for our Kosovar friends to actually close this issue.
We strongly believe they are going to find a way to resolve it internally and we are very patient to wait for that moment. Because we strongly believe that EU visa liberalization has as a necessary condition to be fulfilled, this ratification to be done in Kosovar Parliament – is right for the Kosovar citizens. We would like to embrace them in the community of the countries that have visa liberalization, so we have very good relations with Kosovo, we recognize Kosovo, we have continued dialogue. We don’t see the reason why it should not be continued with the new government, whoever it will be. It is likely to be a coalition government and we are just going the same way and we firmly believe the solution will be found in the Kosovar Parliament, among the Kosovar political forces, and we are quite, I would say, relaxed about this.
JOURNALIST: I have a question for Mr. Kotzias: Mr. Minister, tomorrow you will have a meeting here at the Foreign Ministry with Mr. Dimitrov. What do you expect from this meeting? Thank you.
N. KOTZIAS: First of all, my expectation is for it to be as good and creative as the meeting I had today with my Montenegrin colleague.
I think it is first of all an introductory meeting. Second, it is a meeting for us to exchange our views on the developments there have been of late in the relations between the two states, and how we will move ahead. We have some new thoughts and proposals that we will set out regarding the confidence-building measures between the two states.
We will show and once again reaffirm that what comes first for Greece is the stability and security of the region and, by extension, of this country. I don't think we will discuss the name issue, because it will be an introductory meeting, for us to get acquainted. We will probably discuss the method for continuing our talks regarding the relations between the two states.
Nikola Dimitrov shares his first name with the previous Foreign Minister in Skopje as well as with me – you know, in landlocked FYROM, the most common name is 'Nikos', who for us is the protector of the seas. I think he is an experienced person, he has taken part in negotiations with other governments, he is a diplomat who I hope and am sure will capitalize on the potential for seeking solutions.
And I want to reaffirm and explain once again what I often say: That in its international relations, a state, especially in our region – and Montenegro has done this, and I say this in a positive way – should exhibit the ability to adopt the culture of compromise and consensus. And the better a state does this in its international relations, the bigger the chance it will function democratically, with consensus and a culture of compromise, in its domestic affairs.
I often underscore to my friends, to our partners in the international organizations that the manner in which they behaved towards this country taught it, to a great extent, not to compromise and not to have a political culture of consensus. As you know, I warned them two and half years ago, when I became Minister, that this would also transfer to the domestic political stage.
I don't think I need to explain how closely domestic and foreign policy are related with regard to the political culture one follows. The messages I got from the talks I had personally with the Prime Minister of FYROM, Mr. Zaev, and from the discussion between the two Prime Ministers, Mr. Zaev and Alexis Tsipras, and from my phone talks with Nikola Dimitrov, is that they are showing a positive attitude and an intention to have done with irredentism.
And no one will be more pleased and happier than I am if we finish with this whole story that, as I often say, converts history from a school into a prison.
I will be equally pleased if we resolve the Cyprus issue and eliminate the treaties of guarantee and the presence of foreign troops. Don't forget that, following these visits and the trilateral meeting with Cyprus and Israel, and my trip to Romania, very soon, on 28 June, we begin Geneva II. I will issue an extended statement about this in the coming days.
I hope the press and the news media use it.
Once again, I thank Srdjan, my good friend from Montenegro. I thank him for his invitation. I will certainly take him up on it, as concerns the first part. Regarding the second, we will have to wait until we are no longer public figures to get back to what we like.
I thank all of you.