New York (ANA-MPA – P. Panagiotou)
The need for a collective approach when tackling foreign policy issues, and the valuable role played by the Greek diaspora around the world, was stressed in an address given by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis to Greek-Americans in Manhattan on Thursday.
“We are determined to deal with the problems and move forward, all together. In this difficult environment, Greece is going through a period of change and reform,” the minister said.
Bakoyannis said that Greece’s foreign policy was exercised with “extroversion and national self-confidence”, while Greece and the United States were linked by close, long-standing and strategic ties.
“Both on a bilateral level and in the framework of international organisations, Greece and the U.S. work closely together to deal with all major international challenges. We are jointly fighting the battle against terrorism in all its forms. We are not just another ally. We believe that we are a valuable ally and partner,” she stressed.
Referring to the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bakoyannis urged Greece’s northern neighbour to “finally actively demonstrate, with realistic proposals, its intention to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution on the basis of a composite name with a geographic determinant that will apply for all.”
She expressed conviction that Skopje would soon realise that solving the name issue would be to the country’s own benefit, since it needed Greece’s support in order to make progress in its bids to join NATO and the European Union.
Regarding Greece’s relations with Turkey, she said that Athens’ support for Turkey’s European perspective formed part of a strategic policy of helping all countries in the region come close to European institutions. She said the goal was for Turkey to gradually become a modern European democracy that adopted European rules of behaviour, something that would be to everyone’s benefit, including its own.
“But Turkey’s European future is in its own hands. It must demonstrate that it has the political will to meet the criteria set by the member-states of the EU,” she added.
She repeated that solving the Cyprus issue was a central goal of Greek foreign policy, which sought the reunification of the island in a fair, viable, functional way that was based on a bi-communal, bi-zonal federation, and stressed Athens’s support for the efforts of Cyprus President Demetris Christofias in this direction.
Lastly, Bakoyannis underlined the government’s continued commitment to giving overseas Greeks the right to vote in national elections from abroad, noting that this was a long-standing demand and desire of expatriate Greeks throughout the world, while accusing main opposition PASOK and the other opposition parties of “delaying tactics” on this issue.
“For the Greek government, giving a vote to expatriates remains an important commitment that we will continue work hard to bring about, with a deadline at the end of this year,” she said, adding that two draft bills had already been tabled and a third would be following soon.