Kotzias: FYROM has a deficit in democratic functioning

Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, in a statement to journalists within the framework of yesterday’s EU Foreign Affairs Council proceedings, inter alia, said:

“I started my intervention […], in the Foreign Affairs Council, with an observation: Council meetings aren’t held on the Monday of the Holy Spirit or Easter Monday. Because I asked whether the same is the case for the Catholic and Protestant dates and feast days, and of course the answer was no. And I said there needs to be equal treatment of nation states as well as convictions, and I told them that, as is well known, I am an atheist, but one who respects and honors Greek Orthodoxy.

Subsequently, I explained that in 1997, when we vetoed Turkey due to the Cyprus issue, everyone in Turkey said that once Greece lifted the veto, Turkey would become a member of the European Union the next day, and that neither would there be democratic problems in Turkey. It has proved that, from 1997 to today – 19 years, and 17 since Tampere and Helsinki, where we lifted the veto – the problems of that time continue to exist in the Turkey of today and in Turkey’s relations with the European Union. I’m not looking at who or what is at fault. I am assessing the fact, responding briefly, as I did, to the argument that if we hadn’t used our veto due to the name issue, FYROM would be stable today. The developments in EU-Turkey relations show how wrong that outlook is.

I reminded them that, last year, in the same Council, of June 2015, I underscored to them that there is a major problem with FYROM, which is a deficit in democratic functioning, and particularly in terms of a culture of democratic dialogue and compromise. This deficit is also due to the member states of the European Union who call themselves friends of FYROM – member states that ‘educated’ the leaderships of FYROM not to make compromises, because they, these member states, would solve FYROM’s problems. And I told them then, last year, that, unfortunately, through the manner you conduct yourselves with FYROM and throw the weight onto Greece, in the end these leaderships of our neighbour will not be in a position to make domestic compromises that are necessary for the development of Democracy.

Unfortunately, I proved to be right. Because this leadership, the way the Europeans treated it, did not learn to make compromises, and the main issues we have today are, first, to help with a culture of compromise. Second, to help in the development of democracy, particularly by contributing to there being regular electoral rolls and democratic functioning of the news media. Third, that they shouldn’t – because this was heard – consider sanctions. In general, like the Greek government, I am against sanction systems. In the case of FYROM, too, we will not allow sanctions. And the real friends of the stability of this country are countries like Greece and Bulgaria, and I reiterated to them that the creation of this state is a real fact that one must look upon it positively. But the name this state has and the irredentism that name conceals are negative elements.”

As regards Western Balkan countries: “I also talked about the need for us to persist with regard to good neighbourly relations with all the countries, stating that FYROM, through the issues it is raising, as well as other Western Balkan countries are not following the rules of good neighbourly relations. I underscored in particular that we are seeing the birth of a new, unique wave of nationalism in the Western Balkans, which must be the object of very close attention on the part of the whole of the European Union. Because it is nationalism that can destroy states and the European course and peace and stability in the region. And this was a message not just to Skopje, but also mainly to countries where, despite the proposals we have made – and I referred to proposals that are known to the Vice President of the European Commission; proposals to others of our neighbours –we are seeing an rash of nationalism that is not helpful with achieving understanding with these states and does not help the European course of these states, and if they persist in allowing the propagation and strengthening of nationalism, there will be corresponding repercussions for their European courses.”

“Diplomacy always has a long list of weapons, which Greece, consistently, depending on the circumstances, uses. And, as you know, over the past year and a half there has not been a tool or weapon of Greek or European diplomacy that has not been used correctly and, I would say, effectively. It is characteristic that states on which, in my opinion, we had come down hard, thanked us publicly, in the Council meeting, for our assistance on the migration issue, with stability in the Balkans, and even with the policy on FYROM.”