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Statements by the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, G. Katrougalos, at the end of the meeting of the National Council on Foreign Policy (MFA, 21.12.2018)
G. KATROUGALOS: We had a very substantive and level-headed discussion at the National Council on Foreign Policy, in a spirit of national understanding, despite the differing views recorded. First of all, I would like to say that I and speakers from other parties, all underlined the important contribution of Nikos Kotzias in shaping foreign policy and everyone –I repeat “everyone”- strongly and unreservedly condemned the recent threats made against his person.
This was a planned and not an extraordinary National Council since it was my intention to inform the party representatives about some significant recent developments, the most important being, from a strategic perspective, the upgrading of Greek-American relations within the framework of the Strategic Dialogue. Nevertheless, we also de facto discussed Greek-Turkish affairs –due to the recent exacerbation of Turkey’s provocative behaviour- which was also one of the topics on today’s agenda.
Thus the stable position of Greece’s foreign policy was confirmed, meaning that since our national laws are anchored in international law, we at least have no reason to invest in an escalation of verbal rhetoric and aggression.
It is the other side that is in actual need of rhetorical outbursts and unfounded provocation since it has adopted a revisionist policy vis-à-vis International Law. Our side, in a vigilant and sober manner, would like to confirm that our national laws are safeguarded, not only through the upgrading of our position internationally, which, as I mentioned, is also ensured through our trilateral diplomatic initiatives and the overall recognition of our country as a pillar of stability, but also through the deterrent power of our Armed Forces, which is something I would like to emphasize.
Next, I provided a detailed update to the party representatives about recent developments on a range of issues, regarding the trilateral initiatives of our government in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and placed particular emphasis on the Strategic Dialogue with the USA that does not merely highlight the fact that our relations with the said country are at their best point ever, but that they also precisely reflect the established view that Greece is not just a stable country in itself, but also “exports” stability and peace to the whole region.
As expected, we also discussed the Macedonian issue, and I answered questions regarding the procedural aspects of the ratification of the Agreement. I said that, in my opinion, our position has been fully verified that the Agreement consolidates citizenship and not ethnicity –it could be no other way- and that this is also confirmed by the recent amendments within the framework of the Constitutional Revision.
I have no doubt that, being aware of their national responsibility, the majority of the Hellenic Parliament, will ratify the said agreement.
Finally, we were also concerned about the issue of the protection of our Minority in Albania, in view of the law, which is being brought forward in an manner unacceptable, and contrary to European legality –and I am not only referring to Albania’s obligations with regard to its prospects for accession to the European Union, but also its more general obligations in relation to the legal culture of Europe, including the European Convention of Human Rights.
At the same time, however, I confirmed on our side, on the side of the Greek government, that we believe that our bilateral relations also deserve protection, which is why we have repeatedly asked the other side, the government of Albania, to take this matter seriously into account. We continue to favour the European prospects of Albania and of the other countries of the Western Balkans, with the self-evident condition however, of their respecting the European institutional acquis, International Law and obviously also the rights of our Minority in that country, which, being a historical National Minority, has the roots and rights enjoyed by all European citizens.
I believe there was a climate of awareness, despite the odd differences of opinion and the more generalised differences voiced. We, the government, will continue to aim for a spirit of national consensus, at least regarding vital national issues.
JOURNALIST: Minister, does the statement of the Chief of the Defence General Staff have the support of the political leadership?
G. KATROUGALOS: We are in full agreement with the Chief of Defence. As I said earlier, we have no interest in stepping up the political rhetoric, but, on the other hand, the Chief of Defence has sent a clear message regarding the deterrent power of the Armed Forces, as well he should.
JOURNALIST: When will the Prespa Agreement come to Parliament for ratification?
G. KATROUGALOS: Right after the process is completed in our neighbouring country, which we estimate to be around the 15th of January.
JOURNALIST: So it could even be the end of January?
G. KATROUGALOS: This period will begin from the 15th of January –most probably- and right after.
JOURNALIST: New Democracy claims that Greece will also need to ratify the NATO Accession Protocol at the same time, from what we understand.
G. KATROUGALOS: I shall answer this question too. I confirmed the political position that you remember New Democracy referred to as the Bucharest acquis. First the name, then accession. We did not only manage to resolve the name issue, but we also succeeded in the Revision of the Constitution and the complete elimination of any risk, any hint of irredentism. And obviously, after the fulfilment of this obligation by the other side, the NATO accession will follow, in accordance with the fixed national policy. Thank you very much.