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Statements of the outgoing Minister of Foreign Affairs, Giorgos Katrougalos, and the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, at the handover ceremony
G. KATROUGALOS: Minister, welcome to your Ministry. A Ministry whose human resources not only have nothing to envy of the European average, but, in my opinion, are above that average.
You are coming to serve our country’s foreign policy, which has always been peaceful and founded on international law, implementing – more or less, depending on the government in office at a given time – a multidimensional foreign policy.
We tried – with success, I think – to make our homeland’s voice stronger and more respected. We tried to make it clear that we solve problems and that we are not just a stable, democratic country, but that we also export stability, from the Balkans and the Prespa Agreement to the Eastern Mediterranean.
So I think that in your first major test, on 15 July in the EU Foreign Affairs Council, you will be in a good position to defend the country’s interests against those who do not always follow international law but want to promote their interests in a different way.
We tried to make our country’s voice heard in the European Union, while also promoting a package of measures for a more social and democratic European Union. In the field of economic diplomacy, we wanted to enhance the country’s international orientation in the context of the new economic model, and we had significant help in this direction from prominent representatives of the business world. I want to thank Mr. Michalos, the President of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Mr. Bitsios, with whom we cooperated effectively in the framework of the relevant business missions, because, as you know, I have been the Minister for less than a year. But I have been at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for over three years, having served in the three positions I mentioned.
I also want to say that I had the good fortune to take over as Minister of Foreign Affairs from Alexis Tsipras, one of the most internationally oriented of Prime Ministers, and from Nikos Kotzias – who left an indelible mark, I think, not only on the Macedonia issue, but on the Cyprus issue as well – who both aimed to promote and improve our country’s position on the international stage.
And I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, the Ministry’s precious human capital. Obviously, my colleagues, the Alternate Minister, my friend Sia, my friend Terens, and Markos, who for personal reasons is not with us today.
The Ministry is being taken on by a political opponent of mine whom I hold in very high regard. We’ve known each other since our university years. I had the opportunity to applaud in Parliament when he took a courageous stance against Golden Dawn. Yes, my friend Nikos, I think in that instance you got more applause from our party than you did from yours.
I am certain that he will continue the same peaceful policy based on international law, and he will also ensure this atmosphere of peace and collaboration within the Ministry, and the national consensus we tried to have in the National Council on Foreign Policy.
And I would like to take this opportunity to mention another political opponent I respect, George Koumoutsakos, who also, through his stance in the National Council on Foreign Policy, promoted this vital unity we must have on our national issues.
Welcome, Minister. I wish you all the best.
N. DENDIAS: Thank you very much. The first thing I want to stress, after thanking the Minister, Mr. Katrougalos, for his kind words, is that foreign policy should not be a topic of inter-party controversy.
I would like to assure Mr. Katrougalos and his associates and all of you that the Mitsotakis government will pursue consensus on foreign policy, aiming for greater, stronger national unity on the top issue of defending the country’s rights.
Together with my colleagues, the Alternate Minister and the two Deputy Ministers – and together, I am sure, with the Foreign Ministry’s excellent human resources – we will defend the country’s interests, develop our economic diplomacy, promote and enhance our relations with Greeks abroad.
Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t intend to use this ceremony as a platform for taking substantial positions on our very diverse and complicated foreign policy issues.
I will do that the next time we have a chance to meet.
Minister, my warm thanks for the welcome.