HomeGreeceMinister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ interview with “The Economist” and journalist,...

Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ interview with “The Economist” and journalist, Daniel Franklin, at the 26th Annual Economist Government Roundtable (Lagonisi, 05.07.2022)

JOURNALIST: Well, on that optimistic note I think we should leave it there and with thanks for serving up the appetizer for tonight’s evening, we have an evening also of musical entertainment afterwards, but first I think it is time to eat, and thank you very much, please join me in thanking Mr. Dendias for his words.
But, we thought it would be an interesting way to enjoy this wonderful setting to have a conversation about Europe, in particular, before we eat.
Now, if, and I am always saying to my dear friends the other Foreign Ministers, in regard with the Greek-Turkish relations: look, if you feel that Greece is doing something wrong, if you feel that Greece is saying something wrong, if you feel that our positions are not the right ones, are not the ones based on international law, kindly let us know.
But, honestly speaking, Madrid was a positive turn. First of all, it was, a green card for Sweden and Finland. And I have to say that it is very important, that Sweden and Finland are joining NATO.N. DENDIAS: Well, again, that has been many times the case in our other family the European Union. You know, we always talk about the North and the South, and also that sometimes the North totally ignores the South or the North doesn’t understand the mentality of the South.
But we should address them by remaining faithful to the main core of this unique experiment in the history of mankind, and with one other dimension that we should always remember: to keep the Euro-Atlantic bond alive. It is important that in this process the USA stay with us.
Having said that, I am repeating myself, I said the same things this morning, the European experiment is young, only 70 years old. For such an experiment this is just the first or the second stage, we have a long way to go.
Thank you.
And, anyway, honestly speaking, we have clearly seen who the wolf is. And the wolf is here, the wolf is in the North, the wolf is in the Black Sea, the wolf is in Syria, the wolf is in Libya and the wolf is in the Sahel.
And I have to say I didn’t see anybody forthcoming and telling us that Greece’s position on subject X or on subject Z is not a position based on International Law.
Now, if Turkey comes around to that sort of understanding, not just with us but with the international community, I could say that Greece and Turkey and the region would have a very bright future, a very bright future indeed.
But that may take a while.
N. DENDIAS: Well, “what is the way forward”? The truth is that for Greece good relations with Turkey are very important. But good relations with Turkey have to have a very solid basis, as with all other countries of the world. And what is that solid basis? It is obvious. It is international law, it is international Law of the Sea, it is human rights, it is rights of women, it is respect for each other and it is tolerance.So, very kindly, the Foreign Minister has agreed to have a conversation for about 10-15 minutes. So don’t worry, we are not going to delay for too long from your dinner. But it is a magnificent setting, so I think it would be wrong in this setting not to have some thoughts about the world, not to reflect.
JOURNALIST: Could have been the first.And for us Greeks, after the economic crisis of the previous decade, this is something quite well understood and quite well appreciated.
But as far as NATO is concerned, I am not seeing Finland and Sweden as members that, in a sense, will alter the balance in favour of the North versus the South. I don’t see the situation in the Alliance as one in which someone who cries first “wolf” is getting more help and more attention.
Honestly speaking, I didn’t expect to see that in my lifetime. And this is a very proud “achievement” of President Putin, it’s a gift to the Alliance and it’s a gift to the free world.
So of course there are problems in Europe, and there are problems that the new generation of leaders, like President Macron, like Olaf Scholz, have to deal with.
But, yet again, the important thing is for Europe to stay on course.
JOURNALIST: But you did have these forums, and just now in NATO you had the opportunity to discuss questions with Turkish colleagues, you have the ability to meet on the sidelines of these events. Is that sort of opportunity useful? Are those conversations happening or is there a problem of communication right now with Turkey? N. DENDIAS: Well, I am afraid that it is the latter rather than the first. As everybody knows, or almost everybody knows, I know my colleague Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu for 20 years, I know President Erdogan for 20 years. So we have discussed and discussed and discussed many times.Of course, there are problems. Let me refer again to the Economist, in my private Athens’ office there is a copy of the Economist, a yellow front page with the German eagle, just, you know, in a table shape, referring to Chancellor Merkel’s departure, and it is ‘the mess she left behind’ or something like that.N. DENDIAS: Yes, it could have been, yes, but yet again. Well, the answer is it could happen but I hope it won’t happen. I hope that the Turkish government, I hope that President Erdogan appreciates how critical the moment is, appreciates how important it is to show unity, appreciates how important it would be for the Alliance to have Sweden and Finland, and what has been achieved in Madrid.N. DENDIAS: Well, first of all we have to remind ourselves that this is a dinner opportunity, so what we say should not prohibit anybody to have a nice dinner tonight and enjoy the surroundings.JOURNALIST: I am sure it will go down as a historic Summit for that very reason. But, here we are in the south of Europe and of course Finland and Sweden are northern countries, I know it is an Alliance of values, as you say, but what effect do you think the arrival of Finland and Sweden in NATO will have on the balance between North and South within NATO?N. DENDIAS: Well, I have to say, first of all, I have the best memories of my cooperation with Secretary Pompeo, and that is something I, but also my government and my country, will never forget. So I am happy to see him again here tonight.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias’ interview with “The Economist” and journalist Daniel Franklin at the 26th Annual Economist Government Roundtable (Lagonisi, 05.07.2022)JOURNALIST: So we’ve had a very busy day of conversations about very weighty things and we don’t want to weigh you down with too many weighty conversations before dinner.
And Greece has always hoped, or at least for the last three decades, that Turkey would come closer to that set of ideas, would come closer to the European Union, let me remind to everybody that Turkey still aspires, or at least pays lip service to the aspiration of becoming a member of the European Union, and that Greece is the only country that supports Turkey towards that aspiration. Still supports Turkey.
But also, I am expecting Sweden and Finland to change a little the climate within NATO when they become members, because they are both proud democracies, important democracies, and it is important to underline that NATO is an Alliance of democracies.
So let’s, I think, first of all just ask you about your reflections on the meetings that have just taken place in Madrid, and how you feel Europe emerges after these decisions, these Summits. What do you think the outcome means for Europe and particularly for the region. The challenges posed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine make it more difficult, inflation makes it more difficult, the situation in the Sahel in Africa makes it more difficult, but these are challenges we have to address and we can address.They are a number of countries that decided to defend not just themselves, but also values and the rules-based international order.
So, you may really say that Madrid was important, very important.
So let’s try to strike an optimistic chord on what’s happening in our world nowadays, although that’s quite difficult.
Sometimes in the EU Council of Ministers I am the minority of one, the only supporter of the Turkish candidacy, but under which terms? And again -I am repeating myself- under the obvious terms: International Law, International Law of the Sea, European acquis, rules-based order. That is what it is.JOURNALIST: Just one final theme, and this is not Turkey, one final theme. I think it would be interesting to cover before we eat, and that is, if you like the central dynamic of Europe which you’ve been also observing at close quarters, you know, we just had an election in France, we have President Macron re-elected but also with one hand tight behind his back in the Parliament re-election.
We have still a relatively new German government, the world is still getting used to Europe after Angela Merkel.
Sometimes, historically, there have been concerns that too much attention was being paid to the security in the north of NATO, sometimes southern members have had to say “well, what about us”? We have threats as well, it is not just the Baltic, but it is the southern Seas as well. JOURNALIST: It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t quite simple, right? I mean, we had the threatened Turkish veto. Are you satisfied that that veto is entirely lifted now? Or is it still dangling a little bit over the party?
And what is the answer to that? That they should use the same set of rules. And which is the set of rules? Not the one that Greece speaks about, not the one that Turkeys speaks about, but the one that international community accepts. International law, International Law of the Sea, UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. That’s what it is.
In essence, in simple words, there is no reason whatsoever for which Greece and Turkey cannot become the best of friends. But Turkey has to accept International law and International Law of the Sea.
I am stating the obvious, but of course some time the obvious is not that apparent to everybody.
N. DENDIAS: Well, this is an important moment. I am sitting here with an important interlocutor and the word ‘Turkey’ comes up in the third question. So…
JOURNALIST: Since we have Secretary Pompeo here with us, are you optimistic of that bond and that we can keep that bond through thick and thin for another 70 years on the way on?
I’ll tell you a story. Once I made a pocket call to Secretary Pompeo and he answered, which says something about the kind of relation we had and we do have with the US.
But, yes, I believe that the US will remain close to Europe for one very simple reason: its values. We serve the same values.
Of course there will be problems, there will be ups and downs. That’s human history after all. But we will remain close together because that’s what our values, our common values dictate.
N. DENDIAS: Well, that is an interesting one. First of all, I have to tell you, I am a committed European, and I belong to a government, the Mitsotakis government, which is headed also by a committed European, Prime Minister Mitsotakis is a committed European. And we are very proud and very happy to be part of this, what we say unique experiment in the history of mankind.
A continent in which human rights, democracy, rule of law, rights of women is the obvious.But, allow me to give you an example. Let’s try to solve an exercise in geometry and let’s try to do it together. What happens is that Greece tries to solve the exercise according to the Euclidean geometry where parallels do exist, and Turkey tries to solve the same exercise with a completely different set of rules, its own set of rules with elliptical geometry where parallels do not exist.
No matter how long we talk, we will never be able to solve this same exercise together.JOURNALIST: So let’s bring Turkey into the fourth question, as well.
Tell me a little bit about how you see Greece, in particular, working towards a better relationship with Turkey, because it is always an issue, it is always a tricky one, but it seems to be particularly fraught in this period, I am not quite sure why in this period, perhaps you can give some thoughts on that, but what is the way forward?
The second thing that is important about Madrid is the Strategic Concept, how NATO looks to the future. And again, the important element into in the Strategic Concept, that all the Allies have accepted, is to remind all of us that NATO is a value-based Alliance. It is not just a defence Alliance, it is not just a number of countries that decided to help one another to defend themselves.And as we have heard from Enrico Letta today, we have an Italy which is under highly respected Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
How do you see the dynamic, if you like, of the European engine, the heartland of the European project? Is it in good shape, and who is driving right now?  So we know who the wolf is. The fact that Finland and Sweden, two countries with important military structures, but also -I am repeating myself, because I would like to underline that as much as I can- important democracies, countries that respect human rights, countries that respect the rights of women, countries that have the structure that could help us create a better tomorrow for our children, are an important addition to Alliance.
So I am very happy that they are coming along.

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