23 November, 2006
Title: “Dora Bakoyannis: There is no place for words like “blackmail” and “blame” in relations between Europe and Russia”
Journalist: What are you going to discuss in Moscow?
Ms. Bakoyannis: It is a great pleasure for me to be visiting Russia – so much more, because the time since my latest visit in June has been very short. There is a long, interesting and varied history connecting our two countries and a long-standing and strong friendship between the two peoples. I look forward to exchanging opinions and views with Minister Lavrov. To me, he is a good friend and a distinguished colleague and our relationship has always been friendly; our meetings are thus being held in a good and constructive climate.
Minister Lavrov and I have an agenda of discussions that covers a wide range of topics. We intend to discuss the Middle East issue, the situation in Iran, the Western Balkans and Turkey’s European perspective. A separate issue of discussion will be our cooperation and our partnership at an international level, mostly within the UN Security Council, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Journalist: How is the preparation for the signing of the intergovernmental treaty on the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline developing?
Ms. Bakoyannis: As you are aware, energy is a field in which there is very close cooperation between our two countries and the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline will strengthen this cooperation even further. The preparations for the signing of the treaty – I am happily in a position to say – are progressing well. The joint declaration on cooperation during Mr. Putin’s visit to Athens in September and the subsequent progress during Mr. Frankov’s visit have given new impetus to the plan. Greece, of course, fully supports the implementation of the agreement concluded during Mr. Putin’s visit to Athens.
The competent authorities on the Greek side are focusing their attention on the relevant texts in order for an intergovernmental agreement to be signed by the end of 2006. I am confident and I believe that we will keep to this deadline. There is political will on all sides and I’m glad to say that we are on the right track.
Journalist: Lately, many European countries have been expressing their concern about an excessive dependence on Russian oil and gas. Do you share these concerns? Could Russia be accused of “blackmailing” Europe with energy?
Ms. Bakoyannis: First of all, I have to make one thing clear to you: we do not wish to get involved in a “blame game” and we do not share the view of those who might be playing this game. The relations between Europe and Russia are characterised by a friendly atmosphere and mutual appreciation and there is no place for “blackmail” and “blame”. Russia is a key international player and ally of the European Union. Russia is also a key figure in geopolitical issues and security issues, as well as a basic provider of energy resources to European Union. Energy security, of course, is a reasonable concern of the European Union and we must all try to find alternative sources of energy.
There is a need to differentiate and, most of all, to use more environmentally friendly sources of energy. This is essential if we want to protect our planet for future generations. The new agreement between the European Union and Russia – the negotiations on which will hopefully start soon – is addressing the issue of energy.
The European Union and Russia have common interests and a mutual dependence with regard to energy cooperation. On our part, we are in favour of strong cooperation on energy matters between Russia and the European Union, which will bring long-term benefits and obligations on both sides.
Journalist: What is Greece’s position on the issue of Kosovo’s status?
Ms. Bakoyannis: Our position regarding the Kosovo issue has been clear and it was openly and repeatedly stated to all involved parties. Greece is convinced that the future status of Kosovo has to be the product of dialogue and negotiation. This is the only way that we can reach a fair, viable and definitive solution of the problem. Furthermore, this solution has to be a “European” solution, i.e. a solution within the framework of the European Union’s principles and values. Such a solution will guarantee peace and stability, not only for Kosovo, but also for the wider region.
We are in favour of a European good neighbourly relationship, and for this reason we support the EU perspective for the whole region. The issue is, of course, complex, and a more realistic approach must indeed be adopted on both sides. Kosovo’s Serbs, for instance, can participate in the process more actively and be more open to dialogue and compromise. On the other hand, Kosovo’s Albanians have to show tangible results, implementing the corresponding standards.
Finally, Greece’s position has been not to sacrifice the achievement of a long-term and comprehensive solution to time constraints. We believe that involved parties should be given sufficient time and opportunities for a responsible and viable solution. We need a solution that will respect human rights for all, as well as democracy.
Journalist: Many European countries are opposed to Turkey’s entry into the European Union. What is Greece’s official stance with regard to Turkey’s accession to the European Union?
Ms. Bakoyannis: Greece has been and still is a firm supporter of Turkey’s European perspective. Indeed, we have always supported the idea of a European neighbourhood, including Turkey as a European partner. But, this is not unconditional support. Turkey must fully comply with the obligations it has agreed upon and with the commitments that result from the negotiating framework and the additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement. These rules are valid for every country that wishes to accede to the European Union and are also valid for Turkey. Our position has been and remains very clear. If Turkey carries out the necessary reforms, satisfies the required criteria and fully implements the Protocol that is valid for all the European Union’s member states, then it must accede to the European Union as a full member.