AL. PAPAIOANNOU: Good morning. First of all, I would like to apologize for not holding the briefing two weeks after the previous one, as I had promised, but, of course, as you know, I had several obligations abroad, not mine, I accompanied the Minister. So, for this reason we adapted our schedule and that is why I am holding the briefing today, Thursday.
Allow me to open a parenthesis. The date today does not mean much in Greece, it does not make much sense; but for both Belgium and Great Britain- where I have lived for around 25 years- today is a significant date, because 103 years ago, at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month the First World War ended. Best known at the time as the “Great War” because there was no other war of such scale before; or in other words, “the war to end all wars”, as people used to call it then. Of course, we are all aware of the tragedy that followed, but at this point I would like to make a remark and mention something of a personal nature, if you will allow me.
A few years ago, when I lived in Brussels, I went to Ypres, Flanders, where the largest Allied cemetery is located. It really impressed me. It was the first time, because it’s one thing to just hear the descriptions and another thing to see 12,000 graves with your own eyes. In fact, most of them had no names of soldiers inscribed on them.
And that is why I wanted to mention this. Of course, as I said, we could hope for an end to wars in general and, of course, if you will allow me, for all countries to refrain from the use of violence or even the threat of use of violence, as defined in the United Nations Charter and specifically as set out in Article 2, par. 4, with the sole exception, of course, of the right to self-defense, as defined in Article 51 of the Charter.
That was a brief introduction.
Now, let’s turn to our affairs. I do not know if some of you heard or watched the speech given by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dendias, yesterday at the launch event of a book. I mention this because the Minister spoke of the five circles of Greek foreign policy, circles that intersect.
The first circle concerns the Balkans, of course, the second circle is the Middle East, our neighbourhood in general, including Turkey and the Eastern Mediterranean, the third circle is the European Union and European countries. The fourth circle is the transatlantic bond – I am referring to it very briefly now – the United States, NATO and so on. And the fifth circle is the opening-up to other directions, to emerging Powers China, India, Russia and, of course, it covers the expansion to other areas of the world with which -until now- we had almost none or minimal contacts, such as with sub-Saharan Africa.
Why am I saying this? Because, in fact, if we look back at the past three weeks, the Minister has already implemented the strategy of these five circles. And let me say a few introductory words about the contacts he had in the past weeks, put in chronological order.
First of all, I would like to refer to the Minister’s visit to London, where he met with his counterpart, the new Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Ms Liz Truss. It was, and I want to emphasize this, the Minister’s second visit to London this year. The first took place last February. And if we consider that the last visit before February took place in 2014, that in itself speaks volumes about the importance we attach to our bilateral relationship with the United Kingdom. And, of course, we do so in the post-Brexit era, thus laying the foundations for a new relationship, both at a bilateral level and in the context of cooperation in international organizations, both in NATO and in the UN, in the OSCE and so on.
Of course, you saw the Memorandum of Cooperation which is a Framework Agreement on Cooperation between Greece and Great Britain. What I also want to point out is that Greece is essentially the second country in the European Union to sign such a framework for cooperation with Great Britain. The first one was Germany and actually it was not even a Memorandum they signed; it was a Joint Declaration. We are the first country to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Great Britain and I think this is particularly important.
I would like to point out that during the talks, the British counterpart placed special emphasis on two out of the ten or more areas contained in the memorandum: namely, on the one hand, on defence, both bilaterally and in the context of cooperation within NATO, and, on the other hand, on trade and investment. These two areas almost monopolized the interest. And, of course, cooperation at the level of Foreign Ministries was also mentioned because the two Embassies, the Greek Embassy in London and the British Embassy in Athens, will also have the delegated authority to coordinate the implementation of this Memorandum.
Furthermore, there was a wider discussion on various other issues; there was quite a long discussion on the Cyprus issue; also, on the eastern Mediterranean and especially Turkey. What I would especially like to emphasize is the particular concern expressed by the British side, but also by ours, of course, about the developments in the Western Balkans. And I will return to this immediately afterwards.
The very next day, on Wednesday, October 27, as soon as the Minister returned from London, the Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr. Wang Yi, visited Athens. I want to emphasize, in this context, the relations, the close relations we have with this Superpower, although the sizes are completely different, especially in the areas of trade and investment, but also the cultural ties, to which extensive reference was made in this context.
The European Union-China relations were also discussed. Of course, our country has always –we emphasized this- been in favour of a dialogue between the European Union and China as well as the exploration of joint initiatives to address common challenges.
And I want to dwell on just one point that raised a few questions. The Chinese Minister also referred to this in his public statements, so it is no secret: his reference to the respect for international law and, in particular, to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
This started with a discussion on Chinese legislation on international navigation. The Minister asked for some explanations and his Chinese counterpart said that they took into account various practices and, of course, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The issue here is not whether there is a full consensus or not between Greece and China regarding the provisions of UNCLOS. What interests us is that, unlike other countries, China acknowledges the existence of this Convention and its provisions, and I emphasize that.
And, of course, it does not act as if this Convention does not exist.
Two days later, the Minister of Foreign Affairs received in Athens the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Dr. Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf, if I pronounce the name correctly. Allow me at this point to underscore that it was actually their third meeting within six months. They met last April in Riyadh, where they, among other things, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation between Greece and the Gulf Cooperation Council, then they met on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York in September and the third time was in Athens.
Well, I would say that this in itself speaks volumes. Our relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council and more generally with the Gulf countries were not particularly close until a few years ago. There is a radical change and deepening of relations with these countries because the way we see the region has also changed. We believe that the Gulf area is actually part of our wider neighbourhood and therefore we cannot be absent.
I will briefly refer to what they discussed: the strategic relationship we have with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, where the Prime Minister, Mr. Mitsotakis had travelled a few days before the visit of the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The Minister is travelling to Dubai the day after tomorrow. He is going to Bahrain next week – I will go into more detail later. And a visit to Kuwait at the beginning of next year is being scheduled.
During the contacts, they discussed issues of our concern, of our immediate neighbourhood, but, of course, other issues as well, such as the situation in Yemen. And on this occasion, let me emphasize once again, as we have done repeatedly so far, that we, Greece, condemn the Houthi attacks targeting civilian population in Saudi Arabia.
During the following week we had a very busy schedule as well. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Mr. Nikola Selakovic visited Athens. The main messages conveyed during this visit were that relations between the two states should reflect the popular sentiment about the particularly close ties between our peoples over time and, in this context, it was stressed that there is still much room for improvement.
Of course, the Greek side reiterated its full support for the accession perspective of Serbia, but also of the Western Balkans in general, to the European Union with the well-known conditionality.
We also discussed and expressed on our part – something that has been reiterated in other contacts as well- our particular concern for the stability in the wider region, the rise of nationalism, the external players that interfere, especially those who invoke historical, Ottoman and religious traditions, that is, the Muslim Brotherhood, in order to increase their influence in the region.
Indeed, the Minister expressed his deep concern about developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The very next day, Mr. Logar, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, which is the country currently holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, was here. The focus was on developments in the Western Balkans again, of course in a different context, as we were discussing with the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Two messages were emphasized by us. The first one was that the European Union and the member states, of course, need to do more regarding the accession path of the Western Balkans.
There is widespread frustration in the countries of the region with regard to their European perspective. Expectations have diminished and that is why we believe – and on this, of course, the Slovenian counterpart agreed – that an effort must be made to reverse this negative climate.
At the same time, the Greek side reiterated its support for the immediate opening of accession negotiations, the convening of the first Intergovernmental Conference, with both North Macedonia and Albania. That was the one message.
The other message was to the countries of the region, that they should also make efforts and abide by the agreements. And let me emphasize at this point something that the Minister said in an interview, that governments come and go, but states remain and, of course, so do the international obligations they undertake.
Shortly afterwards, the next day, the Foreign Minister travelled to Rwanda. It was his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office and, at least as far as I know, as far as the records we keep here allow us to know, the first visit of a Greek Foreign Minister to Rwanda.
In fact, what we found was that the last bilateral agreement between Greece and Rwanda was concluded in 1986 and, as far as I know, that happened in Athens. Let me say a few words about this visit.
For me, personally, it was a landmark visit. First, the Minister visited the 1994 Genocide Memorial. It was a highly emotional and moving experience.
I will just tell you two things about it, because hearing it and reading just numbers is one thing and laying a wreath at a burial site is another – 250,000 victims are buried in Kigali alone. That was the one thing.
The other thing was the Museum, which, of course, was located there, having various halls covering the period from the colonial era to the genocide. And there was a hall that evokes chilling memories, with 10-15 photos of children, from infants to up to 10 years old, on display, and under each a note with their names, their interests, what games they played, what music they liked and, finally, how they died. It was really shocking, to say the least.
Rwanda is, however – and this was something that the Minister also stressed – a model of national reconciliation and economic development. In fact, what they told us and really impressed me is that about 70% of the population is under 30 years old. Bearing in mind that the genocide took place 27 years ago, this shows how the country has entered into a new phase.
It is a country that, as I told you, has experienced rapid economic growth. It is trying, successfully I would say, to attract investment. It is a country with a regional role in Africa. It is a small country both in terms of territory and population, with 12 million inhabitants. By African standards, it is quite a small country but the Secretary General of the Francophonie, of which Greece is also a member, comes from Rwanda, the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission is also from Rwanda. The country has a bearing on regional and international affairs that is disproportionately high compared to its size.
Of course, there was a humanitarian dimension to our visit, as well. We transported there and delivered an additional 330,000 vaccines, following another batch of 200,000 vaccines that had been shipped in September. So, over half a million vaccines were donated to Rwanda.
At the same time, a donation was made to the Rwanda Governance Board on behalf of our government for financing projects aiming at protecting journalists and freedom of the press.
And finally, of course there was the Minister’s visit to Rome earlier this week. The occasion was, of course, the exchange of the instruments of ratification of the Agreement on the delimitation of the Maritime Zones, which essentially, both officially and symbolically paved the way for the start of the implementation of this bilateral Agreement. Something which was very important to us, and to Italy of course, because it indicates both countries’ adherence to international law, to the International Law of the Sea.
The Minister had extensive discussions with his counterpart, Mr. Di Maio. Of course, there was a comprehensive discussion on all bilateral issues, but mainly on international developments. There has been, I would say, a great convergence of views regarding the Western Balkans and, of course, developments in Libya.
I will also underline two things, if you will allow me, from the discussions that the Minister had with his Italian counterpart. One was Italy’s clear support for the condemnation of the Turkish-Libyan memorandum, which, as they repeatedly stressed and said, essentially defies all logic.
As for the second thing, which was of interest to us as well, there has been, I would say, a gradual shift in the position of the Italian Government, in their view on developments, in their attitude towards Turkey in general.
The Italian side seemed to be concerned about the latest developments. I will not go into more details, but this sparked our interest.
While in Rome, the Minister also addressed the Foreign Affairs and European Affairs Committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.
This, allow me to say, was not just a random meeting. It was part of the expansion of our contacts not only with governments, but also with the elected members of parliaments of the countries we visit, especially those of friends, partners and allies, for instance, as they come to mind, of Germany, Great Britain, the USA more recently.
What I would also highlight is that some MPs were very, very critical of Turkey on various issues such as migration, values, shared principles, and they were more critical, I would say, than one would expect.
The Minister was received by Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State is his official title. He is actually the Prime Minister of the Holy See. This meeting took place following the videoconference that the Minister had with the Secretary for Relations with States, that is, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Holy See, Mr. Gallagher, about ten days ago, but also in view of Pope Francis’ visit to Greece in early December. That was one major issue that was discussed.
The other issue that was discussed and I want to highlight is the Holy See’s interest in developments in the Western Balkans and the concerns expressed by both sides.
And, in this context, there was a discussion as to whether in the future – for an institution that has existed for 2,000 years, ‘future’ does not mean that it will take place next week – there is a possibility for a multilateral meeting to be convened, in which the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Holy See together with other Foreign Ministers in the region could participate.
This would be an important development but, of course, we are still at a very early stage.
Well, that’s all in a nutshell concerning the past few weeks. Now, as always, a few words about the Minister’s schedule.
As you know, today, as we speak, the Minister is in Bern where he will meet with his counterpart, Mr. Ignacio Cassis. They will discuss bilateral relations, but also developments in the wider region.
This meeting is part of what I told you earlier, of our efforts to strengthen bilateral contacts with European countries both inside and outside the European Union. The day after tomorrow, the Minister will accompany the Prime Minister to Paris for the International Conference on Libya and there will be an event to celebrate UNESCO’s 75th anniversary.
The Minister will travel to Dubai on Saturday and Sunday. He will participate in this year’s 12th Sir Bani Yas Forum organized by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The Minister will speak in a panel discussion themed ‘Reimagining Future Trajectories for peace and stability in Syria, Yemen and Libya’. I should add that this meeting will be closed. It won’t be broadcast either.
On Monday morning the Minister will fly to Brussels. First of all, the Minister is hosting a working breakfast on behalf of the Greek Presidency of the South East European Cooperation Process, which is expected to be attended by some countries of the European Union, the High Representative of the EU Mr. Joseph Borrell, as well as the participants in the process at ministerial level. And then we have the Foreign Affairs Council, where there will be a debate on the Western Balkans, for the first time in quite some time. If I am not mistaken, the last debate on the Western Balkans took place in an informal Council in August 2020. Of course, I have already stated our positions, I do not need to repeat them. There will be a debate on the situation in the Sahel, which is, of course, also an issue that concerns us.
Let me remind you here that we have opened an Embassy in Senegal, precisely because we are interested in this area and our Ambassador there has been appointed Special Envoy of Greece for the Sahel.
And then, under “current affairs”, Belarus will be discussed. Let me remind you at this point of the full support we have already expressed to Poland because of the situation in the region and, of course, that we condemn any attempt to instrumentalize migration.
Also -although this does not fall within my competence-, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus will inform [the Council] about Varosha and then there will be a joint meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the Ministers of Defense of the European Union on the so-called “Strategic Compass”, which is a document that addresses the challenges and threats to Europe and includes some proposals on how the European Union could deal with them. This is the first discussion. This is essentially the opening of the debate. The document will be presented; the aim is to be adopted by the European Council in March 2022.
Next Tuesday, the Minister will continue his contacts. He will travel to Nicosia to attend the Economist conference. He will participate in a panel discussion with his Cypriot counterpart, Mr. Christodoulides, themed “Can the potential of peace and cooperation prevail in Eastern Mediterranean?”
On Wednesday, the Minister will be in Tbilisi, where he will have contacts with Georgian officials. Unfortunately, I do not have further details at this moment. There will be a relevant announcement.
The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, will visit Athens next Friday, with whom there will be a bilateral meeting. And then, there will be a Quadrilateral Conference with the participation of Mr. Christodoulides, the Cypriot Foreign Minister and the Egyptian Foreign Minister Mr. Sameh Shoukry.
I do not have details at the moment when statements to the press will be made, if they will follow both the bilateral and the quadrilateral meeting, but you will be kept informed anyway.
On Sunday, November 21, and Monday, November 22, the Foreign Minister will travel to Bahrain. He will participate in the “Manama Dialogue”. At the moment, I do not know which panel discussion the Minister will participate in. We will see. Afterwards, he will hold bilateral meetings.
Then, on Wednesday 24, he will travel to Ghana and Gabon where he will continue his contacts with African countries. Let me just remind you at this point that he also met with the Foreign Ministers of both Ghana and Gabon in New York. If I am not mistaken, both are currently non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. Probably, but I do not have any details at the moment, there will be a donation of vaccines. That’s all about the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dendias.
Well, regarding the schedule of the Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, I would like to point out the following:
On Tuesday, 23 November, he will participate in the EU General Affairs Council, which is preparing the European Council on December 16 and 17. Among other things, the General Affairs Council will address enlargement issues, EU-UK relations and the annual Rule of Law Dialogue.
Finally, on Friday, November 26, he will travel to Spain where he will have talks with his counterpart, the Spanish State Secretary for the European Union, Juan Gonzalez-Barba.
The Deputy Minister for Economic Diplomacy and Openness, Mr. Kostas Fragogiannis, will travel to Belgrade on November 15 and 16 for bilateral contacts. This was also announced by the Minister when the Serbian Foreign Minister was here.
On November 22, he will participate in a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the South East European Cooperation Process.
And finally, the Deputy Minister for Diaspora Greeks, Mr. Andreas Katsaniotis, will travel to Nicosia next Tuesday and Wednesday, November 16-17.
That’s all regarding the schedule and, as always, I am at your disposal for questions.
Ms. Tasouli, the floor to you.
A. TASOULI: Thank you.
I wanted to ask about tomorrow’s Conference on Libya in Paris. Greece, as you have said and the Minister has said, is in favour of the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from Libya. So, I would like to ask if the text that is being prepared to issue following the Conference will contain a clear reference to the withdrawal of foreign troops, or it will just be a general statement, and if there will be mention of a timetable for the withdrawal of troops.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Yes, I thank you. To tell you right from the beginning, I have not seen the text, but as you said, Greece is in favour of the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from Libya, this is our firm position. Let me stress that this position is shared by the overwhelming majority of countries with an interest in Libya. Moreover, this view was expressed by the Italian side as well.
France, as you know, has also clearly taken a stand on this issue. So, I expect, of course, that this issue will be high enough on the agenda.
Now, as regards details on how this will be put down in the final text, I’m sorry but I do not have anything to tell you at this point. But – and I will emphasize it again – it is not just us. The overwhelming majority of states interested in the region have supported the need for a complete withdrawal, I would say with one exception – at least as far as I can remember, in my humble opinion one exception.
Allow me to also recall that the other issue we are insisting on is the holding of elections on the basis of what has been agreed by the Libyans themselves. These two conditions are necessary.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs participated in the Libya Stabilization Initiative Conference, held about three weeks ago, where he reiterated these points.
But of course, our interest in Libya is ongoing and in fact we are planning at some point – I have nothing fixed to tell you at the moment – our intention is that the Minister will travel to Libya again, in the context of various activities that our country has undertaken in the humanitarian field, as he himself stated yesterday.
We are funding, through the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a program for internally displaced persons in an area, a suburb of Tripoli.
And in this context, we are helping this municipality, which also has a football team that the Minister met with, when he travelled there. And we are considering the possibility of the Minister travelling there again in the near future. Now, as regards the time this will happen, well, that’s another issue. When I have something, I will be very happy to tell you.
K. BALI: I would like to ask you about the way our solidarity with Poland is expressed. Is it something more than just verbal solidarity? Are we preparing to provide know-how, send people?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: At this stage we are among the first to voice our support, we have issued a statement in support of Poland. The issue will be discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council. We have already supported, I do not remember now if it is three or four, rounds of sanctions against Belarus. I do not know what the outcome of the discussions in the Council will be, but we are certainly in favour of any…
K. BALI: Pardon me, haven’t we decided, hasn’t Greece decided to provide some form of assistance to Poland?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: I am not aware of anything like that. Not to my knowledge at least. No.
G. MELNIK: Pardon me, could you make a clarification as regards Belarus and Poland, that is, the sanctions being discussed in Brussels? The second part of my question is about Russia: Mr. Dendias spoke on the telephone with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in view of Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ visit, as is known. When will the Greek-Russian Joint Interministerial Committee be held? Mr. Varvitsiotis maybe, at some point? Thank you.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: Thank you so much. Allow me, Belarus is one issue, Russia is another. They are completely different. Let’s be clear. And our relations with Belarus are different to those with Russia. They point to different directions. Let this be clear.
As far as Greece is concerned, we have supported and will continue to support the imposition of sanctions on Belarus. At the moment I do not know whether a new package of sanctions on Belarus will be discussed at the next Council.
From what I know, I doubt it. I can check it and come back. I can come back in writing, but as far as I know, Belarus will not be discussed as a separate item in the Council; it will be discussed as part of current affairs. What I understand is that basically the Polish Foreign Minister will brief [them] about the situation. In other words, there will be no other, broader discussion on measures at this stage.
Let’s turn to the other, completely different issue. Yes, you are absolutely right. I did not mention it, because it is scheduled for later. On Monday, November 29, and Tuesday, November 30, Mr. Varvitsiotis will visit Russia to co-chair with Mr. Savelyev the Greek-Russian Joint Interministerial Committee and, also will have bilateral contacts with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Grushko.
All these, of course, in view of Prime Minister, Mr. Mitsotakis’ visit to Moscow, on December 7 and 8, where he will be accompanied by Mr. Varvitsiotis.
S. RISTOVSKA: First of all, I would like to ask you – since you did not inform us about the telephone conversation Mr. Dendias had today with Ms Nuland – is there something more you can tell us than what is on Twitter? This is the one thing.
The other is a statement made by Mr. Varvitsiotis in Parliament regarding North Macedonia and its European perspective. Do you want me to read it to you? “The return to a nationalist rhetoric on the part of North Macedonia will lead us to redefine our national position regarding our support to the enlargement process”. Does this mean that Greece could veto the European perspective in case something changes in this country’s stance? I am not referring to this government, but to any government in general. Thank you.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: I thank you very much. Mr. Dendias spoke with Ms Nuland yesterday and they talked almost exclusively about developments in the Western Balkans, as we wrote on twitter. The Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed his, and of course Greece’s utmost concern for the developments, and the main issue on which he expressed his concern was Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Beyond that, there was a discussion on developments in other countries in the region; it was just an exchange of views. That’s it. And he reiterated our firm support in the European perspective of the Western Balkans, which for us is indeed not merely important, it is fundamental. And that’s why I will keep saying it, as long as I have a voice.
Let me add that Ms Nuland also expressed her satisfaction upon this, something Mr. Blinken also said when he met with the Minister in Washington; that they look forward to Greece’s role – which, after all, was the first country in the region to join the then EEC – to continue helping the countries in their European perspective.
As regards North Macedonia, we need to get things in the right order. We have repeatedly stated that we are in favour of opening accession negotiations with both North Macedonia and Albania. This issue is closed.
Furthermore, as regards the accession prospects not only of North Macedonia, but of the whole of the Western Balkans, there is the known conditionality as reflected in the conclusions of the European Council of March 2021, if I am not mistaken.
There, it speaks also of obligations as regards the implementation of bilateral Agreements, the Prespa Agreement. So, this is a sine qua non, to put it this way. Beyond that, I do not wish to discuss hypothetical scenarios. I will stick to this.
P. MICHOS: Good morning, Panayiotis Michos from “VIMA” newspaper. Regardless of developments, political developments in North Macedonia, are there any violations in the implementation of the Prespa Agreement? Can you identify some of them? Thank you very much.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: First of all, let me say that it is our firm principle not to comment on internal developments in any country, let alone in neighbouring ones. This is the one thing, which is fundamental.
Regarding the implementation of the Prespa Agreement, it was and still is an issue that is on the agenda of discussions between Greek officials, including, of course, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who only this year has met three times with Mr. Osmani, his counterpart from North Macedonia. They met in January, July and September.
As I said, the issue of implementation was on the agenda, it was discussed. Allow me, however, to emphasize that it is one of the issues that are being discussed. Other issues are being discussed as well, such as the development of bilateral cooperation, investment, trade, energy, transport and so on. And, of course, the Greek side always raises issues regarding the implementation. And it calls, of course, for the faithful implementation of the Agreement.
D. MANOLIS: Thank you so much. You mentioned the “Strategic Compass” of the European Union. What is the Greek side’s reading of the draft Strategic Compass of the European Union that was presented and whether it is in the direction of the strategic autonomy of the European Union? Thanks.
A. PAPAIOANNOU: I thank you.
To begin with, the draft, as you said, is an initial document presented to the member states by the High Representative, Mr. Borrell. There will be a position of the Greek side, of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, next Monday. I cannot, at this time, anticipate what the Minister will say.
What I always want to emphasize, as is the case with these documents, is the starting point. We do not know what the end point will be. We have concrete positions and views on this draft which we will set out and, of course, we hope that, during the negotiation, these views will be taken into account because, as you know, the adoption of this text requires a unanimous decision.
On the issue of European autonomy, as you know, we have always maintained that we are in favour of strengthening European capabilities, but at the same time we believe that this needs to be done in a Euro-Atlantic context and to mutually support, to put it this way, both the European Union and our obligations to NATO. There is no contradiction between the two.
In this context, Greece will continue to support European capabilities, the development of European military capabilities and the ability of the European Union to take action autonomously, if deemed necessary, of course always under the auspices, under the umbrella of a United Nations Security Council Resolution.
TH. BALODIMAS: I am a bit surprised every time either you or some other government official mentions this, but in relation with what is taking place in NATO – let’s suppose this is an academic question – are there any countries within the European Union that openly seek even greater strategic autonomy vis-a-vis NATO?
A. PAPAIOANNOU: First of all, I will not answer academically, although I would have liked us to have such a discussion. I will answer in my official capacity that, to begin with, there are countries in the European Union that are also NATO allies.
There are 21 countries in the European Union which are also NATO allies. And what the Lisbon Treaty itself provides for is that when it comes to collective defence issues, if a country undertakes certain obligations towards NATO as well, those obligations take precedence, if there is – and I emphasize this – an obligation towards both the European Union and NATO. And this is accepted by all member states of the European Union which are also NATO allies, and I emphasize this again.
However, what I have discovered, at least in the years I have served in Brussels, is that there are countries that are keener on strengthening European autonomy and other countries which believe that this role, not only that of collective defence, but also of collective security, should be largely the responsibility of NATO.
But these things change. I have seen how other countries change their position depending on developments, wider developments. There is no fixed rule.
Good, thank you. Have a good day, a nice weekend and we’ll talk again soon.