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Statements by Mr. N. Kotzias, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ms. Federica Mogherini, Vice-President of the European Commission and and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, following their meeting
N. KOTZIAS: I would like to welcome Federica Mogherini, the Lady of Europe, I would say. Ms. Mogherini is a person who, through hard work and a lot of creativity, has developed Europe’s presence in the world, has developed its foreign policy and its security policy.
We are greatly appreciative of her work, and we are supporting her core choices. We support the shaping of common european policy in affairs relating to our ministry.
We are, therefore, in support of the initiative she took last year to shape an EU Global Strategy. It is the first major effort undertaken to consider a long term role for Europe, as well as the prospects of Europe in a changing world.
We live in times where reflection is necessary, in order to be able to realise the changes that are happening and to be in a position to process and develop the best possible policy, both for our country and for Europe, along with Ms. Mogherini.
Moreover, we are supporting the EU Global Strategy because this was a breakaway from single-sided approaches to Europe, where we approach each issue on its own. But, life has proven that there could be things running at the same time, both in North Eastern Europe -where we have the issue with Ukraine- and in the south with the refugee flows, and in the Western Balkans where measures are being taken to support their european prospects, but in the Middle East as well.
We are supporting the policy followed by the European Commission for the integration of the Western Balkans, as is also the desire of the people of the Western Balkans, to become part of the European family. The Western Balkans is a region that has seen difficult times in its history. It is a region where we must not confide ourselves to be prisoners of history, but where history must serve as school. History must teach us to become better and move ahead.
We are supporting the enlargement policy in the Western Balkans, but always under the requisite that the relevant criteria be met.
We are supporting the path of Montenegro towards the European Union. We support the unity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. We are extending a helping hand, whenever this is asked, to Albania, in order that the five criteria set by the Council of Ministers be met. And we are also supporting the path of our friendly neighbour, FYROM, on condition, and we hope that this condition will be easier to fulfil today than it was yesterday, that the name issue is resolved.
We are supporting the line of the Vice President in the state of affairs between Turkey and the EU. Ms. Mogherini strongly and steadfastly supports the need to see a European Turkey, not just by name, but also in essence.
And I would like to stress here that for us, for Greece, it would be to our greatest benefit to have a neighbouring country, European and deeply democratic. We would gain more from a Turkey in Europe and this is why, despite the difficulties, despite the problems through history, despite the ups and downs, we are always in support of Turkey’s path to Europe.
Also, I would like to thank the Secretary General of the UN and Ms. Mogherini and the European Union and its President for the embrace they have offered to Cyprus, and their strong support for the resolution of the Cyprus issue, in a way where Cyprus will become a normal state -without the presence of foreign troops, without third party interventions- a term which we are happy to see that has been adopted by the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Once again, Federica, thank you very much. Thank you very much for coming here despite the difficulties, and despite that long journey that you had to make from a place that, usually, it’s very simple to travel here from. Thank you very much for being here with us.
F. MOGHERINI: Ευχαριστώ. Nikos, it’s indeed a pleasure for me to be here, a special pleasure. I was indeed very motivated and committed. I also apologise for the delay, which is due to indeed some infrastructures that we might need to reinforce a bit. This is the paradox of this region that, sometimes, you have to go all the way back north to come all the way back south. We have to work on that.
But this is also due to the fact that we took our time, for once, to discuss in details and in depth with Nikos, with the Prime Minister, a series of issues that are of common not only concern but also are the object of common work of Greece, which is an important member state of the European Union and the European Union institutions.
I cannot start than by expressing also formally and publicly my condolences and all the European Union’s solidarity for the earthquake that has happened tonight in the Aegean. We have mobilized immediately the possibility for the European Union instruments to support Greece if need be, and Commissioner Stylianides that, as you know, is responsible for the crisis management support and the civil protection mechanism, will also visit Athens next week and has already immediately expressed readiness from the European Union side to not only bring solidarity but also concrete support, if the government will assess that this is needed.
But also personally I would like to express my solidarity. Being Italian, I know very well what it means, and I would like this to be not only a formal expression, institutional expression, but also personal closeness to all the Greek people that, not for the first time, have to face an earthquake on their territory.
We have discussed common work we are currently doing. I will not repeat things that the Foreign Minister, my friend Nikos, explained already perfectly well. It’s good for once to have the European Union well represented by one member state.
I will only stress two or three points that have been particularly at the centre of our exchanges and are particularly at the centre of our common daily work.
One is the work on the Balkans. For the European Union institutions and for me personally, it is the top priority to guarantee security, peace, regional cooperation and integration in this region. And we know very well that the way to more stability and more peace, reconciliation and regional integration, including economic development, goes through the intensification of the path towards the European Union of the entire region.
For this, the role of Greece is crucial, and we work in an excellent manner together to accompany this process in a transparent, serious, consistent but also forward-looking manner.
And we have discussed in particular, country by country, situation by situation, the ways in which we can move forward. My personal ambition is to finish my mandate in two years from now, having had all the region advanced so much towards the European Union that the process becomes irreversible, and a response in this way to the aspirations of the citizens of the Western Balkans.
There are, I believe, windows of opportunity that can open up in these coming months, and we discussed, in certain detail, ways in which this could be brought to good results, particularly regarding the name issue, but also the developments of the Belgrade-Prishtina dialogue, and the overall situation in the region.
We spent some time discussing the Cyprus issue. We were together in Crans Montana. I could witness the excellent work that the Minister himself personally did in a search for a solution, and I am confident that at a certain moment the process could continue to be built.
I have been myself there for the beginning and for the end of the talks, and I am convinced that there is enough substance for a continuation of the process, when the political conditions would be appropriate.
We have obviously discussed about our relations with Turkey, in the manner that the Minister has explained. But we also discussed about the positive agenda that we are building in Europe.
And on this I would like to recognise in particular the very important role that Greece is playing, first of all to shape the common foreign and security policy of the Union. Often the European Union is perceived – I know that well also from my national background – as either interfering in some internal matters, or, not always and not necessarily in a positive manner.
But there is a side of the European Union that for sure is needed by all of us Europeans, which is our global role.
No matter if a country is perceiving itself as big or small, I often say there are not small and big countries in the European Union; there are only countries that have the illusion of being big. If you look around the world, we are all medium-sized in Europe, but we are big when we act together.
And Greece is contributing enormously to shaping a common european foreign and security policy that makes Europe relevant in the world, and in these times of our history this is needed more than ever. Strong pillar for multilateralism, strong pillar for conflict prevention, mediation, peacekeeping, development, cooperation, humanitarian support, and a certain approach for foreign policy, which is always looking for the diplomatic way, always looking for negotiations and diplomacy, as the way of solving controversies.
This is the European way, and it can be built also thanks to the excellent contribution that Greece gives daily to the European work that we do. The European Union doesn’t exist without its member states, and I am grateful for the work that we do together in this respect, in all international fora and in all our work in the region and globally.
Again, it’s more important than ever in this moment that we are together united as Europeans. Our partners in the world need us to be strong, present, united, and constitute a point of reference.
There is one specific field that I would like to mention. It doesn’t make the headlines of media normally, but maybe in Greece there is a chance for that. One special contribution that Greece together with other member states has given in these last years of work in the European Union has been to develop our cultural diplomacy. Countries like Greece or Italy or others understand very well that the soft power of Europe lies in our cultural foundations. And I don’t need to explain it here.
And I believe that we have finally understood, as Europeans, that we have great instruments that we can use more, to use also culture as a manner to create dialogue, understanding, and look for that way of understanding each other, preventing or managing conflicts and creating positive agendas, including positive economic cooperation, on the basis of our cultural heritage.
And for this just one small example of important things we are doing together in the European Union, thanks also to the contribution of Nikos personally and Greece as a country. Thank you.
N. KOTZIAS: Any questions? Please state your name and the agency you represent.
JOURNALIST: I would like to ask Ms. Mogherini this: The Minister of Foreign Affairs has expressed the opinion that is the position of the Greek government, and has been adopted by the UN General Secretary, that a reunited Cyprus must be a normal state without guarantees and without the presence of any foreign troops.
For the European Union, that is a Union of principles and of values and has a common foreign policy dimension, would a solution be acceptable that would include intervention rights by a third party? Would the European Union accept that?
F. MOGHERINI: We made it very clear from the very beginning of the negotiations, and I personally had the opportunity to restate in Crans Montana a few weeks ago very clearly that: First, we are looking forward to welcome a united island as a member state of the European Union. Second, that this means that any settlement, any solution to the issue of Cyprus has to be consequent as to comply with the security architecture of the European Union.
There is an acquis that concerns the internal settlement of the issue, but there is also a security aspect that has to obviously respond to the current security architecture of the Union.
We don’t have formally a security acquis, but we have a common understanding of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, what is sustainable and what is not sustainable for a European Union member state. That was made very clear during the negotiations bilaterally and during the meeting.
Having said that, the European Union does not take part in the negotiations on the Cyprus issue. We are very careful in respecting our role that has to be institutionally very clear. We are observing the negotiations, so we are not part of it, we are not guarantors. We observe it, and we support it. And we try to make sure, we tried, but I am sure we will continue to try to make sure that any outcome can be accommodated in the future European Union membership of a united island. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Ms. Mogherini, what is your position as regards the reforms taking place in Albania? We have a feeling that sometimes Brussels only focus on judicial reforms and the other four areas that need reforms in Albania are not in the limelight. Could this possibly send the wrong message to the countries? And could this be the reason why we have nationalistic policies and irredentism so often? And this has not only happened in Albania, but we see that in Kosovo, for example, and in FYROM.
F. MOGHERINI: The work we do with Albania, but with all the other countries of the Western Balkans as well, is focusing on the priorities that the citizens of the countries indicate, first and foremost.
They are also reforms that are shared and whose ownership is clearly felt by the political leaderships.
I have seen, in Albania in particular, the political leadership, the current government, particularly dedicated to the traditional reform, but also the anti-corruption reform and all the other economic and social reforms that are needed by the country.
And the same goes with the other partners we have in the Western Balkans. I see the understanding from the leaderships that reforms are not something that is asked from Brussels, but it’s something that responds to the need of change of the people in their countries or in their regions.
And I believe that this is particularly important to keep in mind, not only when we deal with countries that are not yet in the European Union. I think this is important to bear in mind also when we talk about European Union member states.
I come from a country that has experienced sometimes the perception that things were asked from Brussels, while decisions in the European Union are taken by all of us together. Again, as I said before, the European Union without the member states does not exist.
That same goes with the Western Balkans, with the countries in the Western Balkans that are not part of the European Union yet.
What we do is to accompany, provide support for the reforms that are indicated as priorities by the citizens, the society, in the field of governance, rule of law, anti-corruption, judiciary reform, but also economic and social reforms.
All of this and more are constantly and together in the focus and the priority of the work we do with each of them, including with Albania.
And, as the Minister was mentioning, the process is always focused on the merit of the reforms approved, implemented, and our purpose is always this: to respond to the citizens’ needs, to accompany the processes, provide assistance also for technical or political or economic, in many cases, as much as we can, because we really believe that the region requires transformation, and the transformational power of reforms that can be initiated in the path towards the European Union can be beneficial for societies as a whole.
JOURNALIST: Going back to the Cyprus issue, based also on what you stated earlier when you met with the Prime Minister, where you expressed your own personal interest on the affair, I would like to ask you whether, as regards the Cyprus issue, it would be possible for the European Union to satisfy the Turkish claims for equal treatment of Turkish citizens with Cypriot citizens who are residents of an EU member state.
And what is the EU’s position about the equal treatment of citizens, and as to the rights of European citizens, French, German journalists, on the way they are being treated in Turkey? Thank you.
F. MOGHERINI: You will forgive me. I will not answer the first part of your question. I have the natural tendency of not exposing publicly to the media what details or negotiating positions we have during negotiations, even less so in the moment when negotiations are currently taking place. So you will forgive me, but I would leave this for a later stage, hopefully.
JOURNALIST: In the next time...
F. MOGHERINI: In the next time. But I want to say something on the last part of your question. It is not just a matter of rights for European Union citizens in Turkey. It’s a matter of human rights in Turkey. Turkey is not only a candidate country. That involves a series of commitments when it comes to rule of law, human rights and governance. Turkey is also a member of the Council of Europe, and this has clear implications. This is why we are working very closely with the Council of Europe Secretary General, Mr. Jagland – I was meeting him in Strasbourg just a few weeks ago – to guarantee that the commitments that Turkey has taken, as a sovereign country, to high standards of human rights respect, rule of law, and in particular media freedom, and the rights of the opposition in the country are respected.
And I would – obviously I discussed this constantly with our Turkish counterparts. I will meet the Foreign Minister and the Minister for the European Union of Turkey next week in Brussels for one of our regular high-level political dialogues. This also will be part of our conversation. That is clear.
And we expect Turkey to take some steps that show its commitment to the same principles it has signed to in becoming a member of the Council of Europe and a candidate country to the European Union.
N. KOTZIAS: May I say something? There is something I want to say in public. We want a Turkey that’s a good neighbour. We can only benefit if Turkey is on the path to Europe. I need to say that I feel sorry, being a friend of Turkey, I am sorry when I see that the country is thinking in terms that are outdated. Also on the Cyprus issue, when it thinks that it should maintain intervention rights or occupation forces. These come from another era. This era is long gone. And when human rights are violated, and yesterday they arrested a German citizen who is now incarcerated, and this makes difficult the relations between Turkey and Germany.
All this show of force is a thing of the past. It is not a show of force that’s creative, that leads to consensus, that is based on the culture of consensus and compromise, a culture that’s european in character.
And our policy – and this is why I often do not reply to personal attacks that I receive – is that the best possible Turkey is the best possible outcome for us. A Turkey that is looking to the past, or that is using tools of the past, is a much more difficult neighbour than a European Turkey. From our part, in our foreign policy, we don’t want to get back to others. We don’t just want to prove that we are able to coin smarter words than others.
Our foreign policy is to keep all the roads open for the Balkans and for Turkey towards a modern and progressive way of exercising inter-government relations and foreign relations.
And if we can succeed in helping, even only to the slightest degree, the countries go forward and not return to the ways of the past, this would be to the benefit of our culture, it would be to the benefit of our countries and for everyone.
Thank you very much.