Greece will not abandon the UN process for resolving the name issue with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but neither has it any reason to shun direct contact with Skopje, Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said on Friday. He made the statement while briefing a joint session of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs and the Special Parliamentary Standing Committee on European Affairs regarding Athens’ proposals for the accession course of Western Balkans countries in the European Union.
“Greece will not abandon the path of negotiations in a UN framework for a solution on Skopje’s name, but it will continue to have direct contact with the neighbouring country, because it is not afraid and because it believes that this will help the process further,” he said.
Droutsas was replying to concerns voiced by main opposition New Democracy MP Dora Bakoyannis, the previous foreign minister, regarding a recent meeting between Prime Minister George Papandreou and his FYROM counterpart Nikola Gruevski in which the name issue was discussed, expressing concern that “Greece will come up against renewed pressures from the European Union to hold direct talks with Skopje”.
Droutsas admitted that Greece was under considerable pressure from the EU to find a solution through direct bilateral contacts, noting that these pressures were likely to continue, but insisted that Greece would not submit to these because its positions were absolutely clear.
“We have laid down the national ‘red line’, which is a solution based on a geographical qualification and a single name for all purposes,” the minister emphasised. “There is only one solution, as this is laid out by our national red line: A definitive composite name with geographical qualification of the term Macedonia, for all purposes (erga omnes) and for all uses,” Droutsas underlined.
So long as Greece’s neighbour did not abandon its intransigent and obstructive stance at the UN, the further it would distance itself from its European future, the minister said, adding that Greece was now waiting to see how Gruevski would read Athens clear and non-negotiable message.
“This is our great difference with the previous government. We believe that Greece has no reason to hide and are therefore not afraid to take initiatives and go forward, though always with cautious steps,” he said.
Droutsas particularly emphasised the importance of the government “2014 Agenda” for the accession of the western Balkan countries to the EU, saying that this initiative was once again giving Greece a leading role in the region.
He said this policy sought to enhance Greece’s presence in Eastern Europe by actively promoting the Western Balkans with the aim of incorporating them into Europe, deepening economic growth, as well as preserving and reinforcing Greece’s role in the region.
The minister also stressed a fourth goal that sought to make the Southeastern Europe Cooperation Process a more useful body for security and peace in the region. While admitting that serious problems remained to be dealt with, such as organised crime, illegal migration, drug trafficking and environmental protection, he also pointed to the EU accession of Bulgaria and Romania and the new opportunities for growth thus created.
The alternate minister also called on the Albanian government to respect the rights of the Greek ethnic minority in Albania and spoke of a “lack of progress in Bosnia-Herzegovina”.
He repeated Greece’s active, tangible support for Serbia’s bid to join the EU and criticised the Community’s “absence” on the issue of Kosovo, stressing that for Greece there was no question of recognising Kosovo.