Debalkanize the Balkans
George Papandreou is the foreign minister of Greece.
Athens-Through the recent elections, the Serbian people have sent Europe a clear message: They want democracy, stability and security. And they want to share their future with us. Now is the time for us to answer. That answer must be a strong yes.
Southeastern Europe can be a region reunified with Europe and within the European Union. This vision led more than 40 nations last year to develop a unique contract between the international community and Southeastern Europe coined the Stability Pact. In my view, the Stability Pact can be the incubator of a new contract for the Balkans.
Greece has a clear sense of how this can come about: First we need to empower this region that has been historically handicapped, dependent and divided by a world community of competing interests and a babble of conflicting signals. This Balkanization of the region-in which Great Powers competed, fought proxy wars and set up spheres of influence in the absence of democratic institutions-must be replaced by coordination of international efforts.
It therefore is an optimistic sign that today international organizations, the EU, the United States and Russia cooperate in the context of the Stability Pact.
Second, we need to support cooperation within the region. Regional integration can be achieved as the Stability Pact promotes investment in infrastructure projects, democratic leadership training, institution building and education that will bring us together, stimulate economic development and promote systematic cooperation and respect of international law among the states and peoples of Southeastern Europe.
In the ever-changing world of the 21st century, cultural and educational diplomacy should be a vital political priority. Through culture and education, we can fundamentally transform the Balkans. Educational diplomacy will help promote European integration in the Balkans. Educational exchanges among the Balkan countries will be essential to the establishment of peaceful cooperation.
In response to the challenge posed by the opening of Central and Eastern Europe, the Brussels-based College of Europe has made a commitment to provide the necessary European education channels and training with the establishment of a second campus in Warsaw. With the opening of the Balkans, the College of Europe, in close cooperation with the European Commission, should commit itself to establishing a third campus in Thessalonika, providing the region with the same opportunities.
Already Greece's bustling northern seaport has become a commercial and cultural center for our neighboring countries. Today it is the host of the regional office for the pact and the seat of the EU's Reconstruction Agency for Southeastern Europe. Its academic institutions can provide training possibilities for young leaders from the Balkans concerning EU laws and institutions.
Finally, we need to integrate the region into the wider European family. This translates into providing a road map for the region with clear standards to be achieved by each country prepared to join Europe: improved systems of governance, an effective market, strong democratic institutions and a thriving civil society.
Central, therefore, to the future of the region is whether the EU is willing to commit itself, by action, to the eventual integration of the region into the union. The Serbian people have now offered Europe a chance to transform the Balkan region that has been the spark of so many fires. Clearly, a failure of vision at this moment would squander that opportunity.
BEYOND THE BALKANS-TURKEY | A strong message was sent to the peoples and governments of southeast Europe in Helsinki in 1999. The EU Summit in December of that year decided to open negotiations for membership with Bulgaria and Romania, offer EU candidacy to Turkey and provide a special stabilization and association relationship to the remaining countries, including a democratic Yugoslavia. This effort gives a European specificity to what already exists in the Stability Pact and will assure greater stability for Europe as well as a clear objective, of historic proportions, for the region.
The Balkan Stability Pact and the decisions taken at the EU summit in Helsinki have created a new reality: a framework of principles and a road map for the Balkans in their course toward European integration. This is why Greece strenuously supports a real-not a virtual-candidacy for Turkey, and the improvement of relations between Bulgaria, Romania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and the EU. This new framework should embrace Serbia as well. Excluding Serbia would be inconsistent with our principles of inclusiveness. Greece strongly advocates a comprehensive, consistent policy that must be carried out within a specific time frame.
Since I became foreign minister of Greece in February of last year, I have consistently followed a policy of regional co-operation. Greece is committed to embracing all those nations who strive for democracy within their frontiers, and peaceful cooperation beyond them, into the European family. This policy applies to Turkey.
EARTHQUAKE DIPLOMACY | Greece and Turkey have no choice but to explore new avenues for cooperation. Our mutual interests can outweigh our political differences. We can and must resolve these differences through peaceful means, through the arbitration of the International Court of Justice and other legal mechanisms. That is why Greece has initiated a process of constructive dialogue with Turkey-a process which began even before the Kosovo crisis and the earthquakes that shook both our countries.
In short, Greece has attempted to turn a new page in Greek-Turkish relations. Out from under the rubble of last year's earthquakes came a strong moving message from the people of both Turkey and Greece. We want to live in peace, in cooperation, working for our own mutual benefit. It is up to the political leadership of our two countries, with the help of Europe, to make this a reality.
This policy of openness requires courage and determination. While Greek foreign policy is guided by a genuine commitment to regional stability and prosperity, we also have a duty to safeguard our national interests. Our European allies appreciate that Greece has both more to gain-and potentially more to lose-from Turkey's European prospects, than any other EU member state.
That is why Greece has created a window of opportunity for Turkey to move closer to Europe. The time has now come for Turkey to prove that her intentions toward Europe are serious. EU candidacy brings shared benefits, but also mutual responsibilities. If Turkey is willing to play by EU rules, we in Europe must back Turkey's candidacy both in substance and in process.
What does this mean in practice? We cannot condone double standards: the entry criteria apply equally to all candidate nations. In Turkey's case, this means greater political and religious freedom, independence of judiciaries and free media. It means guarantees for the protection of human rights and minority rights. It means the settlement of disputes by peaceful means and respect for international law. We remain worried by Turkey's incessant violations of Greek airspace and its practice of placing restrictions on the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople.
Turkey still has a long way to go before meeting EU entry criteria. Indeed, some of our partners in Europe believe that Turkey is not yet politically, economically or socially stable enough to join Europe. I do not agree with this approach. Let Turkey prove her maturity by undertaking the necessary reforms. And let the EU provide a realistic framework and assistance for Turkey to undertake these reforms-a road map of conditions, criteria and deadlines.
The accession partnership defines the priority areas which the EU considers that Turkey should focus on, in progressively complying with the so-called "Copenhagen criteria" within the framework of the Helsinki invitations. The importance the EU attaches to the Copenhagen criteria and the Helsinki conclusions in this context cannot be over-emphasized. The Copenhagen criteria of 1993 established political and economic criteria for accession as well as the ability to take on the obligations of membership. An institutional stability which guarantees democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the respect and protection of minority rights, as well as the existence of a functioning market economy and capacity to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the union, are conditions for membership for all candidates.
All member states of the EU abide by the basic principle defined at Copenhagen-that compliance with the political criteria is a prerequisite for the opening of accession negotiations and that compliance with all the criteria is the basis for accession to the union.
Turkish candidacy is not a bilateral question for Greece, but an issue of Turkey adjusting to the democratic principles of the EU. Equal responsibility lies with the EU: Turkey cannot and should not be expected to carry out painful reforms, unless the EU demonstrates an unequivocal commitment to Turkey's European future.
THE EU CONTRACT | Membership in the EU is a binding contract. It is a contract that requires engagement both within and among countries. A contract that requires economic efficiency and the reduction of military expenditure, in exchange for participation in the greater security provided by the union. It calls for the renunciation of unilateral action and submission to the multilateral arbitration of differences. Turkey must commit to these values, and Europe must be determined to uphold them and her commitments.
The Helsinki European Council stated that all countries aspiring to become EU members must share the values and objectives of the EU as set out in the treaties, particularly stressing the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the UN Charter and international law. The European Council urged candidate states to make every effort to resolve any outstanding border disputes and other related issues. Failing this they should within a reasonable time bring the dispute to the International Court of Justice at the Hague. At the latest by the end of year 2004, the European Council will review the situation relating to any outstanding disputes, in particular concerning the repercussions on the accession process and in order to promote the settlement through the International Court of Justice.
Greece has built half the bridge that will draw Turkey closer to Europe. Our European partners should commit themselves to build the other half, so that we can cross the river together.
CYPRUS | EU membership is the best way to guarantee progress on the Cyprus issue. Cyprus is closest among all EU candidates to fulfilling entry requirements. Entry into the European framework would increase the security, stability and prosperity of both communities on Cyprus. Indeed, the Turkish Cypriot community, now isolated from the rest of the world, would benefit the most. Indeed we see them as brothers in our wider European family.
We consider the matter of accession of Cyprus to the EU as of strategic importance for Europe and the Middle East. The international community appreciates the responsible and consistent stance of the Cypriot government throughout all efforts toward a just solution as well as its will to defend the interests of the whole population of Cyprus: the interests of both communities in Cyprus. Greece supports the effort and commitment of the Cypriot government so that proximity talks become substantive; so that they lead to a just and viable solution for Cyprus; so that they secure the essence of the Republic of Cyprus as a modern multicultural society, an inseparable part of the EU.
I truly believe that the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities can fnd solutions that will allow them to live together peacefully. We, both Greece and Turkey, can aid them in this process. Cyprus will either unite or divide our two countries. We have a responsibility to cooperate on the Cyprus problem and to facilitate the process. Greece and Turkey, through their rapprochement, share a rare opportunity to help the citizens of Cyprus rebuild their island, their homes and their dreams. The outcome of these efforts should be that every Cypriot enjoys safety, equality under the law, protection of human rights, appropriate representation and security under a European roof.
Turkey continues to occupy 38 percent of the island with over 30,000 troops. Can the EU accept any candidate country, which forcefully occupies the territory of another candidate country? Blatantly disobeying UN resolutions it maintains that troops are to protect the Turkish Cypriots. The EU can provide greater security and prosperity than the fragile status quo of Cyprus today. The EU has a responsibility to help break down the last Berlin Wall dividing a European capital. The legitimate government and innocent population of Cyprus must not be held hostage to the whims of a regime, which is not recognized by the international community. This would tarnish the moral integrity of Europe.
ARISTOTLE'S STANDARDS | Greece's regional policy is, in a sense, our answer to the new challenges of globalization. The Greek government has chosen to seize these challenges as a unique opportunity. An opportunity to take bold initiatives, an opportunity for the EU to engage fully in the process to shape the political, social, and economic reality of the entire region, to our common standards, as defined by Aristotle and the Treaties establishing the Union.
Are we going to create impermeable borders to close out the world? Then how do we hope to be effective in opening up our own minds to the debates, the ideas, the new ethical-moral issues of our technological world and shape a new democratic community?
Are we to deny the beauty of our differences, of all differences, and seek homogeneity? If we are, then how do we hope to ever know and understand ourselves? Education without frontiers, that is the key policy for our future.
Even though we might look similar in our respective neighborhoods, I can assure you that our power is not derived from the way we see each other but from the way others see us. What they see is a kaleidoscope of cultures deeply committed to using our differences in making our world a better democratic place. This is the Europe Greece is committed to.
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