ΓΙΑΝΝΗΣ ΒΑΛΗΝΑΚΗΣ Καθηγητής Πανεπιστημίου Αθηνών, πρώην Υφυπουργός Εξωτερικών & Βουλευτής Δωδεκανήσου

Τρίτη, 15 Φεβρουαρίου 2005

1. 2005 finds Greece as a Non-Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, holding the Presidency of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation of the Black Sea (BSEC), as well as a collaborating member of the International Organisation of Franco-phone Countries (OIF) for the first time. What do these new positions mean for Greece's international foreign policy, aims, goals, etc?


Greece's new government has introduced a multidimensional and dynamic foreign policy. Our participation in all the aforementioned organisations means that 2005 will be a year of enhanced opportunities, but also of increased responsibilities and challenges for our foreign policy. Both at the international and regional level our country will be in a better position to forward its strategic goals, namely the promotion of peace, stability, development and co-operation in its wider neighbourhood. On the other hand, especially in regards to our role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Greece will have to take an active stance in a series of international issues, which until now have been of less importance for our foreign policy agenda. Today, we have an additional reason to seek a more active presence in all international fora. Indeed, our decision to participate as associate member to the International Organisation of Francophone countries is connected to the above task. I am convinced that our organisational and political preparations, combined with the very positive publicity we have gained from our very successful Olympic Games, has paved the way for a very promising foreign policy year.


2. The question in Europe now is 'what Union do we want - a Union of Federative or Confederative character?' Because the bigger the circle is enlarged, the greater the differences become especially the meaning of the 'ever closer Union'. What is the Greek Government's stance on this issue?


Enlargement and deepening of our integration are the two pillars of the European project. Throughout its history, the EU pendulum has moved repeatedly between intergovernmentalism and federalism. The Union's recent enlargement with 10 new member-states means that there are more interests, more diverse positions that must be combined. On the other hand, the European Constitutional Treaty is yet another important step towards an 'ever closer Union'. Of course, we cannot foresee what exactly the final outcome will be. In any case, our position is that Greece must be at the heart of European integration, and participate in every initiative promoting deeper co-operation. That's why the Greek government decided to ratify the Constitutional Treaty among the first countries in the EU. We have also started a dynamic information campaign under the slogan "Europe for me". It is important for our citizens to understand the significance of the EU in their daily lives as well.

3. During the last EU Summit in Brussels, the EU gave a date to Turkey for its EU accession negotiations. Did the Greek Government secure its national rights, and why are we still witnessing violations of Greek airspace and the existence of the Casus Beli on behalf of Turkey?  


The decision of the December European Council could prove to be a historic one. Turkey is now entering a long and difficult path of adaptation to the EU standards. It is Greece's strategic choice to support Turkey's European perspective. We sincerely believe that it is first and foremost in Turkey's interest; but it is also in our own best interests if our eastern neighbour changes its behaviour, so that to comply fully with the European values and practices. It will be a very long process and we, therefore, don't expect an immediate radical change, but we do look forward to the day when our relationship with our eastern neighbour will be as good as the one with our western neighbour, Italy

4. Are the general atmosphere of cooperation and a climate of good personal relations between Greece and Turkey enough? After years of contacts, are you considering a realistic package/agreement with the neighbouring country? 


Good personal relations between political leaders are always a positive factor. But it is not sufficient. The European roadmap will give Turkey the opportunity to transform itself across the board. The closer it will come to European standards of behaviour, the better it will be for our bilateral relations.

5. With regards to Cyprus, is the Turkish commitment to sign the Protocol for extending the Customs Union with Cyprus satisfactory?

 
Turkey has to sign the Protocol extending the Customs Union to the 10 new member states, and, thus, to the Republic of Cyprus, before the start of the accession negotiations. This is a precondition. This is not just an issue between Turkey and a member state, but a critical point for Turkey's relations with the EU as a whole. I think Turkey has finally realized that one way or another it will have to recognize the Republic of Cyprus


6. Do you foresee another initiative on behalf of the international community for a solution to the political problem of Cyprus, who do you think will be at the forefront of this drive and when?


The solution of the Cyprus problem remains a priority for all. We are committed to reuniting the island and any new initiative has to take seriously into account the lessons learnt in Burgenstock and through the referenda, as well as the fact that the Republic of Cyprus is now a full member of the EU.


7. After many years of stagnation the issue of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia came to a head again recently. Is 2005 the year that both countries can seek a compromise on this, their only difference?


I regret to say that this prolonged stagnation has proved to be counterproductive. From a very early stage, we have demonstrated our willingness to revive the talks under the UN auspices so that a mutually acceptable solution is found. We are sincerely looking forward to a dialogue that will bring results. The name dispute is the last outstanding problem in our relationship, and we do hope to find a mutually agreed solution. This goal is being supported by the EU, as well as by the US and the UN. Moreover, FYROM's ambition to begin accession negotiations with the EU provides a window of opportunity for ending this dispute. We believe that FYROM should finally respond in a constructive manner to our call for meaningful negotiations, to the benefit of stability in the whole region.

8. The national strategy of Greece is to make its neighbouring region an area of peace, security, stability and democracy. Is this feasible in the near future?


Indeed, our strategic goal is to transform our neighbourhood from Europe's traditional powderkeg, into an area of peace, stability, development, democracy, and co-operation. This is not just a vision, it is a policy based on specific principles, such as the respect of human and minority rights, the inviolability of international borders, the peaceful settlement of disputes and the respect of democracy and the rule of law. In this framework, Greece actively supports the EU perspective of the Balkan states, in accordance with the European conditions and based on each country's own merits. Surely, the situation is still fragile, as the March 2004 events in Kosovo have dramatically demonstrated. Yet, European integration provides the only alternative to further disintegration, instability and poverty. Greece heeds great importance to regional co-operation, and the avoidance of unilateral actions. We want to make clear to our neighbours that, in a unified Europe, we will profit by sharing common interests, rather than trying to maximize selfish interests against each other. That's our experience as members of the EU and we consider these goals as realistic.  


9. How was the coordination and cooperation between the Greek Foreign Ministry and the different organisations and services (private and public sectors) which provided assistance to the Tsunami stricken areas?


In the morning of December 26th, we managed to set up in a very short period of time a crisis management mechanism, which allowed Greece to be the first to send a plane to evacuate its citizens from Phouket. At the same time, the MFA co-ordinated all efforts for the collection and distribution of humanitarian aid, in close co-operation with NGO's, whose help was invaluable. Given the magnitude of the task, I believe that this was a successful test. It was above all a good example of fruitful co-operation between public services and the civil society.