By Yvonne Montesantos
Ambassador Vassilakis; how do you view Greece’s important role in the United Nations?
Greece is a founding member of the United Nations. During the past 60 years, Greece has actively participated in the work of the United Nations guided by the principles of its foreign policy: commitment to peace, respect for international law, democracy and human rights, the eradication of hunger and poverty, and strengthening international cooperation among the peoples of the world. In October 2004, the international community entrusted Greece with another highly demanding task: a two-year membership of the Security Council, as a non-permanent member. The fact that Greece was elected with the highest number of votes ever received by a country of the Western European Group, demonstrates that it has an important role to play as a bridge-builder and that can approach issues with deep understanding and evenhanded neutrality.
Our contribution will be judged by others, most importantly by the countries that voted for Greece to become a member of the Security Council. Yet, we are proud to be able to say that we spared no effort in trying to contribute to the resolution of complicated longstanding conflicts around the world. Greece chaired two important Sanctionsʼ Committees on Cote dʼ Ivoire and Sudan. As Vice-Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, Greece helped formulate the response of the international community to what probably constitutes the greatest threat to freedom and democracy in the 21st century. Greece also chaired the Working Group on Sanctions and in this respect we tried to formulate general unified guidelines which will apply in all Security Council sanctionsʼ committees. It was responsible for coordinating the work of the Council on the issue of the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea. It played an active role on the issue of the Middle East, which culminated in a Ministerial Meeting that took place in September 2006, during the Greek Presidency of the Security Council and under the chairmanship of the Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyannis.
The goal of Greece as a non-permanent member of the Security Council has been to retain permanently open channels of communication with all parties involved in disputes and crises, to allow differences to be bridged and mutually acceptable solutions to emerge. At the same time, Greece has continued to increase its engagement in humanitarian and development projects, recognizing that peace is unattainable without clear prospects for a better future. Greece has strived to push forward the United Nations reform agenda, cognizant that the Organization is in dire need for change. The United Nations need new tools, modern mechanisms, strong and efficient management techniques and an impeccable ethics record. In September, addressing the General Assembly, Foreign Minister Bakoyannis said “We need a powerful and productive UN”. As we come closer to the end of our tenure in the Security Council, we know that a lot remains to be done. We will continue to work tirelessly with other nations in invigorating the United Nations, making the Organization powerful and productive once more, and ready to face the challenges of the future.