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Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ address in the context of the Parliamentary debate on the government’s policy statements (Athens, 22 July 2019)
I would like to wish all of you, and especially our new colleagues, a good term as MPs.
In Foreign Policy, Greece has accomplished a good deal since the fall of the dictatorship. After 1974, historic decisions were taken on the country’s western and European orientation. They have been in effect for nearly half a century. They have been strengthened and vindicated, irrespective of changes in government; the various governing parties with their given ideological frames of reference.
The consolidation of national unity and consensus on these fundamental realistic parameters of our foreign policy and the engagement of Greek society in this framework constitute a necessary factor in national survival. Greece does not have the existential luxury of other European countries. It is the only country in the European Union facing a national security problem due to the aggressiveness of its eastern neighbour. We mustn’t forget that after 2021, when we will proudly celebrate the bicentennial of the New Greece, comes 2022. The centennial of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, Hellenism’s greatest catastrophe. The timeless monument that shows where division and a failure to reach pragmatic consensus lead.
It is the aim of the Mitsotakis Government to consolidate the acquis of national consensus on the main lines of foreign policy. It is not pursuing a monopoly on patriotism. It will consult with and inform the Opposition. It will respect and listen to criticism. But it will ignore, out of a sense of national responsibility, any jingoistic or nationalistic/populist posturing.
Our exit from the crisis is an opportunity for reassessment. Many of the traditionally accepted truths have ceased to hold. The Greek state is being called upon to take fresh stances in the face of new challenges. In the new state of affairs, we need to break old habits of mind. We need to look with pragmatism on the passing of the era of the dogmas of the 1980s. We need to disavow the foreign policy of inaction, and we also need to transcend the foreign policy of artificial proactive multidimensionality.
We must stop resting on the interpretational tropes of cultural dualism and centre/periphery that were entrenched by both the Marxist and liberal-modernist analytical frameworks for Greece. We must incorporate into our policy the contraction of time and space created by Globalization. We must incorporate the change in economic model of the post-industrial modern state, where value is created mainly by services and intangible assets.
We have to plan and play an active and proactive role. First of all, within the European Union. An important and visionary role, with self-assurance. A role that shatters the restraints of the impoverished borrower.
In all of human history, the European Union is the most ambitious endeavour towards the peaceful coexistence and shared path of peoples and states. Greece was firmly anchored in the EU, the political acuity and vision of New Democracy’s founder, Konstantinos Karamanlis, ignoring the vehement reaction of the opposition at the time. Within the framework of the Union, we are further developing our close relations with our European Partners. I have already met with many of my colleagues – Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the European states – including my French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch colleagues.
Managing the repercussions of an eventual exit of the United Kingdom from the EU – with or without a deal – is a very important issue. The relevant preparations on the national level will continue and be completed before the UK’s exit from the Union.
Regarding the Cyprus problem:
It is a pre-eminent concern and strategic pursuit of Greece’s foreign policy. The only way to achieve a mutually acceptable and beneficial solution for the Republic of Cyprus is to reopen the negotiations and find a solution based on the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the full implementation of the community acquis. Self-evident conditions for the reopening of the negotiations are an end to the illegal drilling and surveys, as well as the withdrawal of Turkey’s vessels from Cyprus’s territorial waters and EEZ. In the face of illegal activities, we will continue to promote international legality.
I have already met with my Cypriot colleague. From the very outset we have been cooperating closely with the Cypriot government to ensure the best possible coordination and joint formulation of a strategy on all of the critical issues we are facing.
Regarding Greek-Turkish relations:
Our main goal is to promote a policy founded on the firm principles of good neighbourliness and respect for international law and international treaties. In this context, our point of reference is the fact that Greece and Turkey can and must work together in sectors where this is feasible and mutually beneficial. We are trying to promote the prospects without ignoring or tolerating the obstacles. However, it must be made clear that we are guided by international law, which does not tolerate provocative actions, threats of war, unilateral claims. And this will be made absolutely clear to our neighbour and in international forums. To the extent that Turkey’s European perspective is becoming more obscure, it is imperative that we shape a policy that bears in mind this new reality.
Regarding the Balkans:
We need to reassert ourselves as the stable and strong European country in the Balkans, rather than as the Balkan country that exports problems to Europe, as the late Konstantinos Mitsotakis said. A factor for stability, with knowledge of and a perspective on the unstable situation in the Western Balkans. Our goal is to increase Greece’s political and economic footprint in the region, through the plans for connectivity, a further increase in exports to and through these countries.
The Balkans are not our destination. But they are our neighbourhood. We will be present in the developments and assert our role. We support the accession perspectives of the Western Balkan countries, with the aim of consolidating peace, security, stability, development and progress in the wider region. At the same time, we underscore that the path to the EU is intrinsically linked to maintaining strict conditionality, based on the individual candidates’ performances.
Regarding the Prespa Agreement:
Our position is well known, as we expressed it when we were the main opposition party. The Agreement should have been concluded in a manner more beneficial to our national interests. Our goal is to do whatever we can to reduce its negative consequences. We will endeavour to deepen our relations with our northern neighbour in the framework of mutually beneficial cooperation. But we will not tolerate anything but full compliance.
On the subject of honouring international commitments, I must refer to Albania. It is well known that, of the two important Agreements Albania signed with our country in 2009, only one – the one on construction of cemeteries and the burial of the Greeks who fell in 1940 – has gone into implementation, and only recently. We await its full implementation. Albania continues to fail to meet its obligations with regard to the minority and property rights of the Greek National Minority. For this reason, in the context of the opening of accession negotiations with Albania (regarding which the EU has set clear conditionality), we will continue to closely monitor Albania’s fulfilment of the five key priorities. We will continue to closely monitor practical respect for human rights. The rights of all its citizens, including the property rights of the Greek National Minority.
Regarding the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean:
The major developments taking place in the Eastern Mediterranean enhance Greece’s strategic importance in the wider region. They render Greece the vital link between the European chain and the East. Two trilateral cooperation schemes (Greece-Cyprus-Israel and Greece-Cyprus-Egypt), as well as cooperation schemes with other countries in the region, are enhancing the West’s cooperation with these countries. These cooperation schemes are factors for stability in the wider region.
Greek-American relations are currently at an excellent level.
I have already visited the U.S., and I had very productive talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. The developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans, America’s renewed interest in the region, and our country’s active foreign policy are creating conditions for closer cooperation with the American side. We are preparing the second stage of the Strategic Dialogue, which will be carried out in the fall of 2019, in Greece, and we will discuss all of the issues bearing on our defence cooperation.
It is widely known that our country is linked to Russia by centuries of strong historical, religious and cultural ties. The Greek and Russian peoples are linked by a traditional, sincere friendship. We are endeavouring to enhance our cooperation on the bilateral and multilateral levels.
With the People’s Republic of China, we will try to further develop our already close bilateral relations. The example of the Chinese investment in the Port of Piraeus is an encouraging point of departure for a broader prospect for Chinese investments in our country’s infrastructure.
In the wider region of the Middle East, the Gulf and North Africa, Greece has a longstanding, stable and developing presence, which we will strengthen further. Our relations with Israel, which contribute decisively to the region’s stability, have become strategic in nature. We will deepen and expand these relations.
Our traditional relationship with the Arab world has evolved over the past decade. Especially with countries such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Lebanon, our relations have reached a high level of maturity in the fields of political, economic and cultural cooperation.
But we believe that Greece’s voice must be heard beyond the countries of our wider region. The planets centre of gravity has shifted to the east.
The wider Indo-Pacific space is now the centre of international commercial and geopolitical interest. As a shipping power, transit hub and gateway for these countries to Europe, Greece will focus more energy on enhancing its relations with all of the states in this region. We will also include within the framework of our interest the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, strengthening our political ties and the commercial contacts of our enterprises.
We will build on the traditionally friendly relations our country has with the countries of Latin American and the Caribbean.
At this point I would like to make special reference to the recognition of Juan Guaido as the President a.i. of Venezuela – a move we made because of the positions we share with the vast majority of our European partners and because of our perception of Democracy and Human Rights.
To respond to the New Era and to serve our country’s exit from the crisis, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is becoming a modern, different Ministry. In addition to being the agency that exercises foreign policy to promote the national interests of the Hellenic Republic, it is now also an agency for strengthening openness, exports and investments. We are shaping a comprehensive strategic plan to upgrade the Ministry and economic diplomacy through the incorporation into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of services and personnel who, until recently, belonged to other organizations, with the aim of attracting foreign direct investments and strengthening Greek exports. We are creating a triptych of Political and Economic Diplomacy, assisted by Public Diplomacy.
Regarding Economic and Commercial Affairs:
We will redeploy our country’s delegations abroad to serve the whole of our country’s policy. We don’t need rubber-stamp Embassies that don’t serve our strategic planning.
In this context, we are promoting:
• The reorganization of the services at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Integration of the Directorate General for International Commercial and Economic Policy (from the former Development Ministry) and the Directorates for International Communication, Media Diplomacy and Press and Communication Offices Abroad (from the Secretariat General for Media and Communication).
• The commercial re-branding of our country.
• A strengthened role for “Enterprise Greece” and the Commercial Sections at our missions abroad, to upgrade economic diplomacy.
• An enhanced role for the Press Offices at our missions abroad, in the context of a comprehensive international promotional strategy.
We believe that, with new tools and a new mindset, Greece can break out of its introversion and promote itself more effectively around the world. The assistance of diaspora Hellenism will be instrumental in this regard.
Regarding Greeks abroad:
An important new element is Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ announcement that Greeks abroad will be able to vote.
• Strengthening the relations of Greeks abroad with the homeland through facilitations on issues of education, taxation, property (land registry), summer camps for Greek children abroad, and pensions.
• Capitalization on the political presence and power of Greeks abroad to promote our national rights abroad.
• Preservation of national and religious identity and conscience, which can be achieved through Education and the Church.
Achieving the above goals will require synergies. This is why we are directly promoting:
• Full coordination with the Ministry of National Defence
• Coordination with the Investments Ministry – through the drawing up and implementation of an operational plan for openness, setting of priorities (investments and markets – targets, etc.) – of the actions of “Enterprise Greece” and the Export Credit Insurance Organization (OAEP).
• Cooperation with the Rural Development and Food Ministry to promote primary-sector products.
• With the Culture Ministry to capitalize on our country’s cultural dynamic.
• Cooperation with the Secretariat General for Media and Communication to incorporate the actions of international communication into the framework of the National Communication Policy.
New Democracy, the new government and the country’s new Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, were never supporters of a fearful Greece, a walled-off Greece. We were never fans of an isolated Greece. We never preached an insecure Greece in decline. We will not compromise on a Greece of misery, a suspicious and isolated Greece. We believe deeply in the qualities of the Greek people, in the advantages of our geographical position. We believed and continue to believe in a Greece that is European, modern, hospitable, innovative, tolerant, open.
A Greece that is ambitious, self-assured; A Greece independent and strong. This is the Greece we want to promote. This is the Greece we envision in a world that is changing, in an international environment rife with challenges, but also full of opportunities.
A bright, shining Greece.
A New Greece of 200 years.