NEWS

EU acquis communautaire is not up for negotiation

You have just returned from New York and the conclusion of the Greek presidency of the UN Security Council. What is your initial summing up? We did the best we could at the human and the political level. Greece, which is a country of a certain size, found itself chairing the Security Council in one of the most difficult months of the year in international politics. It had an opportunity, which it used. And it paid off. We managed to introduce an extraordinary discussion on the Middle East at the Security Council among foreign ministers, which had not happened for 22 years. You have been criticized, however, because the discussion had no outcome. They said it was not possible even to issue a presidential statement. There may not have been a presidential statement, but we had no illusions that we were going to solve the Middle East problem in a day. Those who know the way the Security Council works and who have a sense of the breadth of interests around the subject and the difficulty of getting members of the Council and the countries in the region at the same table understand the significance of the Greek initiative. In the US you met with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. How do you see the latest developments in Turkey, given Ankara’s intransigence just before the EU 25 decide on its European prospects? For a start, we are entering an unquestionably difficult period in Europe-Turkey relations. The time Turkey has left to implement the Ankara Protocol is running out; there are just a few months until the end of 2006. The time has come for the Turkish leadership to make decisions, as well as for the European Union member countries, including Greece, which will evaluate those prospects on the basis of the agreed conditions. One decisive element in this procedure is that ships flying the Cypriot flag are banned from Turkish ports. Certainly. It is decisive and crucial. What is Greece’s stand on this issue? There are rumors in the EU of a partial postponement, so as not to start arguments, or a total postponement of the negotiations, at least until Turkey responds. It is easy to come out and announce decisions that have not been made. There is no point, because the next three months will be a time of intense negotiations. One thing is certain: Europe cannot deny itself. In other words, when a candidate member state does not meet it obligations, the EU cannot go ahead as if nothing had happened. Greece has an extra reason to remain unswerving. It’s a matter of principle. No candidate member can bring up the acquis communautaire and obligations for negotiation. And on the strictly bilateral level? As well as observing and evaluating EU-Turkey progress, our aim is to do our best to improve bilateral relations. Realistically, responsibly, in the knowledge that bilateral relations are influenced by the progress of EU-Turkey relations, we plan policy on bilateral relations in the national interest, guided by the principle of mutual benefit. While you speak of mutual benefit, Ankara is bringing up the issue of Thrace in strong terms, involving the principle of mutuality. How do you interpret that decision? That is not serious, I want to stress that Greece, with its policy of equality before the law for all citizens, is on strong ethical and political ground. It has absolutely nothing to fear. Greece is a contemporary European republic. Such stories get very little response, whoever they are intended for. In 2009-2010, Turkey will be a candidate for the Security Council. Will we support a country, which, among other things, maintains occupation forces on the soil of an independent member state of the UN? The election procedure is a complex one. Before Turkey announced its candidacy, Greece had made a commitment to support another country as a candidate for the Security Council. All that happens well in advance, and is subject to various exchanges. So at this stage, as we had the occasion to say in Turkey, Greece has already made a commitment to another country which belongs to its group.