New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
On Thursday, December 13, Greek-American relations turn a new page with the inauguration of their strategic dialogue. The meeting will take place in Washington, D.C.; the two delegations are headed by Alternate Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos and the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The strategic dialogue between Greece and the United States was announced last May, following a meeting at the State Department between former Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
During Thursday’s day-long meetings, the two delegations will examine in detail, along six axes, the specific ways in which their cooperative relationship will be shaped: Regional Political and Economic Issues, Defense and Security, Law Enforcement and Counter-terrorism, Regional Investment and Innovation, Trade and Investment-Finance, Energy Cooperation, People-to-People Ties.
The Greek Alternate Foreign Minister will be in New York on Wednesday, December 12, to meet with UN Secretary General’s consultant on Cyprus Jane Holl Lute, three days before the American diplomat arrive to Cyprus for meetings with the two leaders, in order to explore a possible resumption of the talks.
- What is the importance of establishing a strategic dialogue between Greece and the US?
I would say it is of historical importance, on two levels indeed: on the one hand, it upgrades the international standing of our country and demonstrates its position as a pillar of stability and a security provider in the wider region of the Middle East and the Balkans. The Prespa Agreement represents a milestone for our multidimensional policy for peace and consolidation of stability; yet, our foreign policy boasts many other initiatives of a diverse nature. As an example, let me just point out the trilateral cooperation schemes with Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, as well as with Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, fYROM, Armenia, Georgia and other countries. The high level of the international standing of Greece during our term in government is demonstrated by the fact that President Obama selected our country for his last, historic speech and President Macron for his first inaugural speech on Europe. On the other hand, the economic dimension of the strategic dialogue is significant. We will discuss energy, trade and investments, with an emphasis on expertise and cutting-edge technology. We wish not only to maintain, but also to give a new impetus to the very positive momentum of the Thessaloniki International Fair.
- What are the procedural arrangements in view to the first meeting on 13 December, and what results should we expect? Furthermore, how will dialogue develop in the meetings to follow?
From a procedural point of view, the dialogue will be organized in two streams. I will meet with Mr. Pompeo at the State Department to exchange views on the strategic characteristics of our bilateral relations. Subsequently, multi-member delegations of the two countries will examine in detail, along six axes, the specific ways in which our cooperative relationship will be shaped. These axes are: Regional Political and Economic Issues, Defense and Security, Law Enforcement and Counterterrorism, Regional Investment and Innovation, Trade and Investment-Finance, Energy Cooperation, People-to-People Ties. We clearly want this historic meeting to continue. For this reason, we will agree to its structured continuation, so that delegations from the two sides meet at least once a year to further pursue our cooperation.
- In light of your meeting on 12 December at the United Nations with Jane Holl Lute, do you consider it realistic to reach an agreement by the end of the year on the terms of reference for the resumption of the negotiations? What is the position of the Greek government?
We want the new negotiations to be prepared well, to stand good chances of success. We will do our utmost to this end; however, I don’t think there is enough time for laying down the terms of reference by the end of December. It would be beneficial if the parties engaged in informal contacts to better prepare the whole effort. May I also remind you of the upcoming – in the very near future – meeting between our Prime Minister and President Erdogan in the context of which these issues could also be discussed.
- There is much talk about guarantees in Cyprus through NATO. Is this something that the Greek government can accept?
Our long-standing position on the need to abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and on the withdrawal of the occupation forces remains unchanged. This position was promoted with clarity at Crans-Montana, and we will continue in this vein. Any security structure in a reunified Cyprus must be based on a Resolution of the United Nations Security Council, and it clearly requires an active role of the international organization; and the issues pertaining to the relationship between the Republic of Cyprus and NATO fall in the exclusive remit of the national political scene of Cyprus.
- Recently there was a new cycle of reactions regarding the Prespa Agreement, this time among students. Do you see this affecting the majority which the government believes it has for the Agreement’s ratification by Parliament?
Not at all;. I have always stated, right from the outset, that I don’t have the slightest doubt that the Agreement will be ratified. For our two peoples, the said Agreement corresponds to the end of a bitter rift which could have ended positively as early as the 90’s, with full safeguards for our national interests: every element of irredentism is now expressly repudiated and through the constitutional revision it is expressly stated that the neighboring country is not related in any way to the historical Greek Macedonia..
- Does the escalation of Turkey’s rhetoric in the Aegean and Cyprus worry you? Turkey’s heavy armaments procurement programme? How are these dealt with?
We stay always vigilant, but we are not worried. Our country has a long-standing foreign policy which is based on the respect of international law and, for this reason, we have nothing to gain by escalating a war of polemical rhetoric. Clearly, this does not mean feebleness. We consistently fend off every attempt of revisionism and the creation of faits accomplis, and we insist on the resolution of differences through dialogue. And not only with words: Greece and the Republic of Cyprus have launched a systematic and coordinated diplomatic effort to defend national interests. This has brought about numerous results: First, on a European level, the European Council has condemned the systematic violations of International Law on the part of the Turkish side and has called it to respect international law. A simple comparison of this recent statement with the respective one after the Imia incident shows how much our diplomacy has achieved in this respect. Equally important is also the multilateral diplomacy that we and Cyprus have developed through trilateral strategic cooperation schemes, including those I mentioned earlier. Our national interests, therefore, are not just armed with international law but also with diplomatic might.
- A year and a half ago, when we met again in New York, at a meeting with business leaders of the Greek Diaspora at the Consul General’s residence, you had the opportunity to speak with some members of it and listen to the concerns of Greeks abroad about investing in Greece. Today, what would you say to them that is different?
First of all, our country has evidently turned a new page, it is now in a different period of its history. We left behind the gloom of the MoUs. We now have the fate of our country in our own hands. In the last quarter our economy was growing at 2.2% and predictions for 2019 are even better at 2.5%. We have already put in place a new economic model which is not based on interwoven clientelistic relationships but on our country’s comparative advantages. The new development law provides significant safeguards and incentives to investors. Conditions for investment have never been better in our country.