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Statements of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Kotzias, following his meeting with the Serb Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivica Dačić (Belgrade, 11 April 2018)
N. KOTZIAS: I thank you for the invitation and the hospitality. I thank the Serbian people for their friendship and love for Greece. We are two peoples who have been through difficulties and joys together in the history of the region. My country, Greece, feels the responsibility it has for the stability and security of the region, and we are working with Serbia in that direction. My friend the minister and I talked about the region’s problems. We discussed on how to transform the friendship and love we have into a real force, into practical cooperation. We looked at how to deepen the cooperation between our two ministries, our joint actions and cooperation in the European Union and wherever we can help each other with our experience and expertise. We discussed what Europe’s future should be. I invited Mr. Dačić – and he accepted my invitation – to come to the meeting we will be having in May, in Sounion, between the Balkan member states of the European Union, the Visegrad countries, and the five candidate countries for EU membership. We believe that Serbia belongs in the European family. It is a developed society with knowledge and technology, and today it must discuss not only the chapters in its accession negotiations with the European Union, but also how it sees our common European future. We also talked about some of the changes in the world and issues related to international and regional organizations. I am always happy to be in Belgrade. I thank you for the invitation and the deep positive energy that I get every time I am in this city.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Kotzias, I would like to ask whether you expect the big step, today or tomorrow, towards the resolution of the Skopje name issue, in the talks you are having in Ohrid, and what the key is to the big step. And a question for Mr. Dačić: Bearing in mind the statement you made at an earlier time, that Serbia made a mistake in recognizing fYROM under its constitutional name, what message would you send Skopje, at this critical time in the talks, regarding the need to compromise so that there can be stability and security in the region? Thank you.
N. KOTZIAS: Thank you for the question, your main question, here in Belgrade, where we took a step forward in cooperation between the two friendly states. During the trip to Ohrid we will have the opportunity to discuss, and after the talks in Ohrid we will have the opportunity for a briefing on the results. I think the key to this problem is realism, pragmatism and the realisation that we have to make compromises – not rotten compromises, as I always say, but compromises that are a win for both sides. And compromise means that the two sides have to realise that they can’t have it all their own way; that both sides have to win. I hope this has been understood by all the sides in the negotiations and that we will get positive results.
I. DACIC: I can say that it is very good and it would be very effective for these talks to be direct, and, as Nikos said, for common interests to be sought. It is in everyone’s interest for this issue to be resolved, and this means that all of the deep-running problems have to be removed, as in Serbia’s case, because they run deep into the past, the history, the tradition of our region. This is why Serbia understands so thoroughly Greece’s stance on this issue. I have expressed my opinion a number of times: that I think Serbia made a mistake – it wasn’t Serbia, it was the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – in recognising this country under its constitutional name, because at one time, in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, this country was one of six Republics, and that is where the agreement came from for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to recognise this country, and this name has remained. I consider this stance incorrect, and to be frank, Skopje’s behaviour towards Serbia and Serb interests was not appropriate. They have recognised Kosovo’s independence. I won’t talk about these relations, but we want this issue to be resolved, and in this sense we cannot help, we cannot offer major assistance. We can only propose that they meet here in our country.
JOURNALIST: Mr. Kotzias, are the reports in the news media true: that your country supports the opening of a Consulate of Kosovo in Athens?
I. DACIC: I’ll just say a few words. I told Mr. Kotzias that you would be asking that, even though I hadn’t had any contact with you. I assumed, however, that you would ask him that question. I want to say that we have discussed this issue and that a few years back there was such an initiative for the opening of a Commercial Affairs Office and that it isn’t a Diplomatic Bureau and doesn’t concern a change in Greece’s stance on Kosovo’s status. That’s what I wanted to say, as you want Nikos himself to tell you...
N. KOTZIAS: Yes, Ivica mentioned what I told him I was going to say. In other words, we do not have diplomatic recognition of Kosovo, nor will we recognise it diplomatically. There is an agreement from 2010-2011 and 2014, from the PASOK and New Democracy governments at the time, on the opening of a Kosovo Commercial Affairs Office in Athens. This Commercial Affairs Office, when it opens – and it will open at some point – will not be a diplomatic representation of Kosovo. A consulate means diplomatic representation and rights of a diplomatic mission. Such an agreement has not been made and we don’t foresee such an agreement.