Greek position on Kosovo

Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas speaks up on the position of Athens on Kosovo.

(Radio Athens 98.4) Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Full transcript of the interview (translation):

Mr. Paikos: We will have the pleasure of talking to Alternate Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas.

Hello, Mr. Minister.

Mr. Droutsas: Good morning.

Mr. Paikos: Among your recent activities, we have the mediating role you are trying to play - that you are playing - between Belgrade and Pristina, between Serbia and Kosovo, with your visit there. Did you see the role produce results?

Mr. Droutsas: First of all, let me stress that his cannot be an isolated effort - just a visit and that's it. We are at the beginning of this process. As you know, there are new developments with regard to Belgrade-Pristina relations following the issuing of the ICJ advisory opinion.

Mr. Paikos: Did this opinion perhaps make things more difficult?

Mr. Droutsas: Certainly, and that is what made such a move necessary, particularly from a country like Greece, which enjoys the trust that is needed in the region; which has the relations of trust with all the leaders in the Balkan region. We have shown in practice that Greece is the country that can convincingly promote the European perspective of the whole Balkan region, and we firmly believe that the region's European perspective can offer the necessary solutions to pending issues that are still afflicting our neighbourhood.

Mr. Paikos: Mr. Minister, first of all let me ask some questions: Might one say that this effort you are making - our meetings with Thaci, the Kosovo prime minister, etc. - is a kind of de facto recognition on our part, of Kosovo's independence?

Mr. Droutsas: Please, we need to be very careful here with what we say, and let me say it in a categorical manner: Greece's position on this issue is well known and has not changed. The fact that I visited Pristina does not change this position and means nothing in this direction. Allow me to note, here, that other countries that also have not recognized Kosovo have visited Pristina and had meetings with officials there. So, please, it means nothing.

Mr. Paikos: You do well to clarify that.

Mr. Droutsas: In fact, if you will allow me to add this, our presence in the region, and in Pristina at the specific time and following these developments, is of particular importance so that Greece can really move ahead with the role of mediator and the role of trusted voice in the region.

Mr. Paikos: Now, as we have Pristina on the one side, arguing based on the ICJ advisory opinion - just to refresh our listeners' memories - that its declaration of independence is legal, and on the other side the diametrical opposition of Serbia to the recognition of such a status, I don't see how the rapprochement can take place, and I don't see how the European integration process can move ahead. As separate states? As what?

Mr. Droutsas: First of all, let me stress that the ICJ advisory opinion does in fact shed light on certain legal aspects of the whole case, but let us not forget that the whole Kosovo issue remains extremely political. We mustn't forget that. Of course, the opinion has its significance and it must be borne in mind that this opinion and the information it contains - and allow me to say at this point that this opinion contains very interesting information, positive data, very positive data, I would say, regarding the Cyprus issue, the Republic of Cyprus, where this opinion says in a very clear manner that the Turkish invasion was a flagrant violation of international law, and, as a result of this invasion - the violation of international law - the unilateral declaration of independence of the pseudo-state was made.

But, in any case, I just wanted to say that because it hasn't been said much.

Mr. Paikos: It hasn't played at all, in fact.

Mr. Droutsas: It isn't very widely known that the ICJ opinion on Kosovo has very positive ramifications with regard to Cyprus.

In any case, the Kosovo issue remains a political issue, and that is why Greece's role - our presence there - is of particular importance, precisely for the reason you underscored: that relations between Belgrade and Pristina seem to have entered an even more difficult phase, because each one is fortifying their positions, and a country like Greece can play the necessary role here at the right time.

Allow me to add one last thing that some may consider a little exaggerated - but that I think is really very important. We mustn't forget that in issues of this kind, and particularly in our Balkan region, personal relations and relations of trust play a major role and are of very great importance.

Mr. Paikos: You are talking about the very good relations the Prime Minister has and that you have personally, with Mr. Tadic.

Mr. Droutsas: Exactly. I think that the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Papandreou - and many leaders have said as much - can play a substantial role in this rapprochement effort that has to be made between Belgrade and Pristina.

Mr. Paikos: Tadic and Thaci both trust him.

Mr. Droutsas: Exactly. They have a long history together, also within the Socialist International, you will allow me to mention this as well, where in the past we have had the opportunity for some mediation, and I think that we can use these tools to Greece's benefit as well.

Mr. Paikos: Since we are discussing the region, and before we change geographical areas, with FYROM - where the European perspective issue is also pending - we heard one or two months ago a supposed proposal for the name "Vardar Macedonia". We haven't heard anything further. Has anything moved forward in this direction?

Mr. Droutsas: Allow me to be the last person who enters into a public discussion on one name or another, one idea or the other, a proposal, anything. What I can tell you - and I would like to stress this - is Greece's position and Greece's political will for a solution on the issue. It is well know - everyone is aware of it.

Mr. Paikos: And we know the red lines ...

Mr. Droutsas: Here, too, Greece is the one supporting the process. We have clear political will. We have a clear position. We know what we want on this issue as a solution, and we are moving based on this. And, as always, we invite our neighbours to come to the UN negotiating table in the same constructive manner as we have.