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Greek MP Dora Bakoyianni Speech - Georgetown U. 96-02-14

Misc. Greek news Directory

From: Andrew Galanakis <gala@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu>

Dora Bakoyianni

Member of Parliament and Former Minister

Georgetown University Law Center

"A New Era in the Balkans: the Role of Greece as a member of NATO and the European Union"

Wednesday, Febuary 14

Mr. Chairman,

I want to sincerely thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here with you at Georgetown University and address such a I distinguished audience.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For a Greek, it is only appropriate to begin my speech by quoting Thucydides. Words articulated 2,500 years ago by Athenian generals to the representatives of Melos. A small Aegean island that the Athenians wanted to subjugate and add on to their coalition.

"Let us discuss", the Generals told the Melians, "what can be done, aware of each other's true goals and bearing in mind-that, where human relations are concerned, legal arguments only stand when those who invoke them are about equal in power; otherwise the strongest imposes as much as his power allows, and the weakest yields to the extent that his weakness dictates".

2,500 years later the contemporary version of this argument is used today in the same tormented Region and I'm here to contribute my point of view on the Balkans, the position of Greece, and the role of the United States, as we see it.

Today, six years after the end of the cold War and the victory of the free world, we all share feelings of both optimism and concern. The war in Yugoslavia and the recent. crisis in the Aegean have proven that the Balkans, as described early this century remain the "powder keg of Europe".

As with any powder keg, the Balkan case should impose certain very strict safety regulations that need to be respected by all parties involved in order to minimize the possibility of an explosion.

As with any powder keg, the Balkan case should impose certain very strict safety regulations that need to be respected by all parties involved. in order to minimize the possibility of an explosion. I Of course, these regulations apply also to those who rush into the area of the powder keg, no matter how good their intentions. This is the case today with the United States whose presence in the Balkans is indeed catalytic and decisive.

The first rule that must apply is that national borders are and should remain, inviolable. This is an axiom that was applied even for the states within ex-Yugoslavia, despite the fact that those were internal borders of a multi-ethnic state, map-drafted arbitrarily by a totalitarian regime.

The same rule constitutes the basis for the smooth co-existence between the Balkan nations. But, if it is to function as a deterrent, it must be combined with the appropriate behavior of the international community, and especially the United States, towards all nations that seek to contest it.

The second rule involves the rights and obligations of minorities. The Balkans are pre-eminently a region of the world where the presence of ethnic and religious minorities is very strong. This is due, historically, to the presence in the region, for 2,000 years, of two multi-ethnic empires: the Byzantine and the Ottoman.

During the last 150 years, the Balkan states have gradually acquired their separate national identities through forced large- scale population displacement.

This process, intertwined with military operations and the blatant violation of human rights - the ethnic cleansing that occurred these past years in former Yugoslavia is the most recent example - is a perfect recipe for an explosion of the powder keg.

In the greater area of the Balkans there are still many minorities. Albanians in Kosavo and FYROM, Greeks in Albania, Hungarians in Romania, Turks and Pomaks in Bulgaria, Kurds in Turkey, Serbs in Croatia, Greeks in Turkey and others.

If we wish to limit the danger of an explosion, then there should be sacred respect for the rights of minorities and treatment of equity and equality towards them by the international community. When this does not occur and, we tolerate for any reason, a widespread violation of human rights, then we only cultivate a breeding ground for tension and we intensify the danger of local conflicts.

The third condition finally, to avoid explosions in the region must, the international community, and especially the United States, act preventively, before a crisis and rush in after it has been unleashed.

There is of course a prerequisite: Well rounded and in depth understanding of the complex local and regional conditions and careful evaluation of all nuances of the historical particularities of the whole region.

For the sake of the region, the United States and the European Union should develop and adept policies that are only to be based on international law and existing treaties. Keeping, as much as passible, away from calculated "military" interests.

The question often raised in relation to my country, is whether Greece is part of the Balkan problem. The answer I give is that it is inevitable for Greece to be influenced by the conditions that prevail in the region.

But if the applied policies are to meet the above conditions Greece will constitute a part of the solution for the Balkan problem. This is, to a great extent, only natural.

We are the most developed country in the region.

We are the only country with a long democratic tradition.

We are a member of NATO. We are the only country which is a member of the European Union.

We are, therefore, obviously the only vehicle for stability and peace in the region, and at the same time it is to our great interest to help establish the appropriate climate for the whole region's economic development.

One could argue that during the past few years Greece has sometimes given the impression that it created, rather than solved, problems in the region. I freely admit that my country has made its share of mistakes. However, before, criticizing, lets take into account the particular conditions of Greece.

The last fifty years of Greek history are powerfully marked by the consequences of the civil war which kept the country in the Western camp.

It has also been influenced by the events involving the orthodox minority in Turkey, which was eradicated by use of state and parastate violence.

And then there is Cyprus, the independent island, that remains in a state of invasion and occupation for the past 22 years.

In reality Greece is today the only NATO and European Union member state whose borders have been directly threatened. These internationally omnipotent organizations should be able to guarantee our borders.

In fact, within the framework of the Western European Union, special adjustments have unfortunately been made (with the amendment of article 5 of the relevant treaty) for Greece not to be protected in case that Turkey violates its territorial integrity. And of course the exposure has induced feelings of insecurity and mistrust.

During the recent past, we are observing the Unites States undertaking initiatives towards an effort to solve all major international problems. Uniquely complex problems, such as the ones of Middle East and Yugoslavia were salved due to the catalytic intervention of the United States.

Under the banner of re-establishing international law after the Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait, the Unites States headed a gigantic military endeavor, in which my country also participated. And yet, even though all this has occurred, there has been no successful effort undertaken to resolve the Cyprus issue, which remains today the only case of invasion and occupation in the European continent.

The Wall in Berlin has fallen.

The wall that divides Nicosia still remains.

Under these conditions, the crisis that recently occurred in the Aegean a short while ago, and the U.S. reaction to it led inevitably to the aggravation of Greek-American relations.

What was the impression formed by American public opinion regarding this affair.

This crisis was presented here, to the American public, as a clash between two age-old adversaries, Greece and Turkey, over a rock somewhere in the Aegean; a clash in which the United States fortunately intervened, averting thus a war between Greece and Turkey.

If this picture were indeed true, the Greeks would have had every reason to thank the United States. And yet the crisis was followed by strong resentment and disappointment feelings. A resentment which in fact, was qualitatively different, compared to the past, since they were no longer ideologically charged but ran through the entire political spectrum.

Why did this occur?

When this specific event took place, the United States was perceived to adopt a policy of equal treatment for both sides. It were perceived to offer equal treatment to both the aggressor, Turkey, and the victim, Greece.

-They refused at the beginning to take into account to whom this tiny island belonged according to international law.

-They did not acknowledge their own maps that describe these islands as definitely and unequivocally Greek.

-They refused to take into account that by contesting this part of Greek territory, Turkey was directly contesting the international conventions that govern the legal status of the Aegean. By placing on an equal footing both adversaries they essentially sided up with Turkey.

I wonder, if that rock had been U.S. soil and was being militarily contested by a neighboring country, how would the United States have wished their allies to react?

How did they in fact react in the case of the Falkland Islands?

How would they have reacted if the rock in question had been Ellis Island, which, I assure you, is not much larger than many of the Greek islands in the Aegean that Turkey is contesting?

The fact that war was. even in this way, averted is no doubt positive and gratifying. We would have expected. however, from the USA a strong stand on principle. Recently, the White House issued a statement stressing the support on the part of the U.S. of international treaties that govern the legal status of the Aegean and proposed that the matter be referred to the international court in the Hague; had the United States expressed this view to start with, it would have been equally effective but, would not have created the impression that it supported the aggressor, Turkey.

I am not criticizing the choices which were made on the part of the U.S. government in this particular case because 1 would have wanted it to side up with Greece against Turkey, but only, because I believe that if a different policy were to be adopted, would contribute to safeguarding peace and stability in the region.

What should happen now with Greek-Turkish relations and how can the United States help?

My opinion has been and still is that the United States can and should play the role of a catalyst in the region. As long as they try to heal the causes of the illness and not its symptoms.

The main cause of the Greek-Turkish dispute does not float in the Aegean. It lies in Cyprus.

Certainly there are problems in the Aegean, such as the continental shelf, and these also have to be dealt with. They can be solved, by two countries destined to be neighbors and friends, I on the basis of existing treaties and international law. And of course by contributing effort in building mutual trust and good will.

As long, however, as Cyprus remains under military occupation, am afraid good-will and basic trust can not be re-established. How can any of the so-called confidence building measures for the acquisition of trust in the Aegean succeed when the invasion and occupation of Cyprus remains?

Can the trust between two countries be fragniented on the basis on geographical criteria?

How can we overlook the fact that 40,000 Turkish troops remain in Cyprus, two thousand people are still missing, and that an ethnic and cultural cleansing has been going on for over 20 years?

Such a development will empower Turkey's European orientation, weaken the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism and reinforce the powers that aspire to the completion of Turkey's journey towards I the modern of a contemporary western democracy, a journey first embarked by Kemal Ataturk and applauded by Elefterios Venizelos. A journey that has however to pass a toll-station.

Its' name: Cyprus.

The settlement of the Cyprus issue and the re-establishing of Greek-Turkish relations would also have a positive effect on the image and cohesion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. the credibility of which comes under scrutiny when two of its member nations appear every so often to be on the brink of war.

The re-establishment of Greek-Turkish relations will also have very important for both countries, side effects: economic, tourist and cultural co-operation. Each one of them is the other's geographical bridge to another continent and Greece can really contribute ta the modernization of Turkey.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In this academic workshop I choose to close by sharing with you all some personal thoughts.

I have often, silently, wondered how lonely, it must feel for the United States to have remained the one and only power. More often

I get to fear that this new status may have room for exaggerations. Indeed, this nation's unique power allows the luxury to elaborate but to also impose policies.

but then I am certain, that America will only use what it takes to assure and sustain the democratic principles and ideals of its founding fathers. The very same principles that were born 2,500 years ago on the Aegean shares.

In the Balkans, more than anywhere else in the world today, the United States' presence (along with the European Unions') is sincerely wanted and sought after.

In hope, that the above principles will be applied and fruitful

In belief, that our era's discussions will be founded on principles other than those Thycidides channeled through the Athenian generals' tongue.

Dear friends,

in full optimism and conscious realism, I am looking forward to our common future. There are difficult problems to be solved and deep rooted suspicions to be uprooted. Yet, we both know that we can be the pioneers of a new world. We both know that only through mutual respect and dignity nations acquire and maintain strength, stability, happiness.

In my opinion, the advantages of resolving the Cyprus issue have not been adequately evaluated, neither by the international community, nor by the United States.

The occupation of Cyprus is the Gordian knot that must be cut to open the way to improve relations at all levels between Greece and Turkey.

It will indeed constitute a leap in the re-establishing of trust between the two sides and will create particularly positive prospects in the effort to solve the issues concerning the Aegean.

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