© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
13 March, 2003
Greek Foreign Minister Speech at the European Parliament (12/3/2003)
Mr. President, I want to stress that I agree with the decisions of the Summit Meeting, as well as those of the Foreign Ministers on January 27, and by reason of the peace demonstrations, the Greek Presidency is under obligation to exhaust every means to the peaceful and diplomatic solution of the Iraq problem.
The Iraq question concerns us for many reasons. First of all, I would like to brief you on the Iraq issue itself and where it stands, but many other issues are also involved. Because of Iraq, relations and institutions are being tested, and this constitutes a challenge for all of us.
First of all, the unity of the European Union - the fifteen - is being tested, as well as the unity of the twenty-five and twenty-eight. European Union-United States relations, our trans-Atlantic relations, are being tested. Relations between the European Union and the Arab and Muslim world are being tested.
Countries neighboring on Iraq are also being tested, and must be particularly concerned regarding developments in their region. The notion of multilateral diplomacy is being tested - particularly the future, significance and functioning of the UN.
At the same time, his very era is being tested by new challenges, such a weapons of mass destruction and international terrorism. Also being tested are our approaches to how we can best confront these new threats. And Europe has something to say on this. It is a Union that believes in common values, and those common values are a departure point for our approach to the problems of our age.
I would like to stress that the European Union, with regard to its unity - and we have made great efforts as the Presidency - has taken two important decisions. You are aware of them. I would simply like to note that at the Summit Meeting of February 17 we managed to formulate an important common statement, a common approach, in which we stress that the goal of the Union is the full disarmament of Iraq and Iraq's full compliance with Security Council Resolution 1441.
We did not and do not consider war unavoidable, and I want to stress that today we are of the same mind. It is up to Baghdad to put an end to this crisis, complying with the demands of the Security Council. The fifteen are in full support of the continuation of the work of the Inspectors, and we want them to be given the time and means judged to be appropriate by the Security Council. The Security Council carries the main weight of responsibility regarding the handling of the disarmament of Iraq. The unity and decisiveness of the international community as expressed in Resolution 1441, and the reinforcement of the military presence in the region, contributed greatly to the resumption of international inspections.
Finally, within the wider framework of the policy of the Union on the consolidation of peace, security and cooperation in the Middle East region, we stressed that our top priority is the promotion of the Middle East question, the peace process, and particularly the road map, which we requested be promoted, made public and implemented.
On this issue I would like to stress that the recent developments in Iraq have created an exceptionally critical situation. We listened attentively to Mr. Blix, and I would like to stress that the Greek Presidency endeavors to be present at all the UN proceedings and to meet will all the sides discussing the Iraq issue. We are in constant contact with Kofi Annan, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as with many, if not all, members of the Security Council.
We had the opportunity to hear Mr. Blix recently, and, according to the analytical report of UNMOVIC, positive steps towards cooperation with Iraq have been taken, particularly recently. I am referring to the initiating of the destruction of the Al Samoud missile and the holding of unrecorded interviews with Iraqi officials without the presence of third parties. However, the international community still awaits the full compliance of the Iraqi side with the relevant decisions of the Security Council, and, more specifically, with Resolution 1441. So we once again call on Iraq to comply immediately with these decisions.
Concerning the issues which I characterized as challenges, I would like to stress the initiatives of the Greek Presidency, in cooperation with the Secretary of the Council, Mr. Solana and Commissioner Patten, and to stress that we see these as being of the greatest importance. First of all, our relations with the Arab world. We have taken important initiatives. We have paid constant visits to the Arab world in recent weeks. Mr. Patten was in various countries in the region - Iran, Jordan, Turkey. The same holds for the Presidency. I have visited the region four times recently. I took part in the Arab League Council of Foreign Ministers, and was called upon by the Arab League Summit in Sharm ash Shaykh to speak on behalf of the European Union. Other colleagues from the Council, the Foreign Ministers of Austria and Italy and others have also visited the region on behalf of the Presidency.
Our goal is to cooperate with the Arab world. Firstly, in order to send a strong message to Iraq that there is hope for a peaceful solution provided compliance is full and essential, and, secondly, to stress that this crisis is not a clashing of civilizations or religion. In fact, it is a crisis in which we are working with the Arab and Muslim world, which the Arab world greatly appreciates. Thirdly, our goal was to mobilize the Arab world, which, I think, we succeeded in doing. In the coming days a delegation from the Arab League will be sent to the region to relay to Saddam Hussein a specific and clear message.
A second important area is United States-European Union relations. I think that it would be a mistake for us not to recognize that there has been much tension in these relations of late, especially regarding Iraq. Perhaps there were other issues earlier, such as the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and perhaps other issues, but the greatest tension has arisen around the issue of Iraq.
I believe that we all wish to preserve a relationship of cooperation based on the many decades of this joint effort of ours to establish security based on the common values voiced by Europe and the United States; the values of freedom, democracy and peace.
We want to point out that there is a need for a dialogue of substance on the future of international security and on how to confront related problems. We have already met not just with Mr. Powell, but with Ms. Rice and other American political figures. With the goal of carrying out a more substantial dialogue between the European Union and President Bush at the EU-US Summit Meeting in June, we are in constant contact with the United states concerning our positions with regard to the Iraq issue.
Concerning the countries of the region, we are in close cooperation with Turkey, which took the initiative of discussing the problems that might be created by the Iraq crisis, and the efforts it is making in cooperation with neighboring countries towards averting a war and bringing about the compliance of Saddam Hussein We continue this close cooperation. Turkey is also a candidate country, while we are, of course, also concerned about the potential consequences of developments in the region for the Kurdish question, the question of refugees, and wider economic and political consequences. We are working with them.
With regard to multilateral diplomacy, I think that we have, as I said, fully supported the efforts of the UN. The European Union - all fifteen countries, if not all twenty-eight - have stressed the importance of the role of the UN, and I think that this points to a key issue concerning the further decision we are to take as the international community.
As the Presidency, we, too, have tried to support every initiative based in the Security Council. A number of proposals have been put forward - that of Canada, the Mexican proposal, the Spanish-Anglo-American and Franco-German proposals. With many of our own members sitting on the Security Council, our effort is aimed at contributing - to the extent that we can - to a common approach to the problem.
As I said, the Iraq crisis is raising new questions, or, rather, is pointing to the problems of our age: how to confront countries that possess weapons of mass destruction, how to confront the fear that weapons of mass destruction might be used in acts of terrorism. And here, I think, Europe has a very important role to play.
Europe is a community of values; it has experience in incorporating into itself countries that have been under dictatorship and autocratic regimes; it has shown that it can integrate countries into a new reality of democracy and freedom and contribute to peace in the wider region of the European continent.
This invaluable experience is, I think, a guide and important basis for confronting new problems in all regions of the globe. I believe that this experience is not a weakness, as is often said regarding Europe, but a very important strength, and we must use this very important strength, I think, to formulate a unified and powerful international voice. Our Presidency will continue in this direction, in cooperation with all the partners, the fifteen as well as the twenty-eight, and, of course, with the European Parliament.
With these few words I would like to thank you for your attention, and I am prepared, of course, to answer your questions. I would also like to stress that I would like there to be more time for discussion and my presence here. Please understand, though, that much of my time is spent flying from one continent to another, from one region to another, due to the Iraq crisis, representing the European Union in these difficult times.
Mr. President, I would like to thank you all for your observations, your perspectives, your positions, which send many and important messages, not just to the Council, but also, I would say, to public opinion and the international scene. It is truly, as the President said, a very interesting discussion, and I would like to answer three or four basic questions raised, in one way or another, by all of you.
First of all, whether there is the possibility of a diplomatic solution of the crisis within the narrow margin that is left. Here, I would like to stress that all of you, without exception, as well as the EU Council and a unanimous Security Council, have a common position on the disarmament of Iraq and the immediate and unconditional cooperation of Saddam Hussein with the Security Council. I think that it is important not to interpret whatever differences we have - we are a democratic community; we are here at the European Parliament; we are in a democratic European Union - as ill-conceived message to Saddam Hussein, that we have differing opinions on the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is specific, and we all agree on it.
Second, the Summit Meeting essentially gave a mandate to the Greek Presidency to take initiatives. First of all, to make every effort towards exhausting the diplomatic avenues for the solution of the Iraq crisis. And, of course, we have also stressed that Saddam Hussein bears the responsibility fr any consequences. I would like to express a personal opinion drawn from my personal experience, having observed at first hand the Security Council and the General Affairs Council over the last few weeks. I believe that, as Kofi Annan stressed, we also have an important responsibility. Our responsibility is, to the extent that we are able, to formulate a common position, and, as far as we can, to move with a unified voice, to the extent that the UN is strengthened by the authority and the means at our disposal, we will then be more effective, particularly in working towards a peaceful solution to the problem.
The European Union, at the Summit Meeting, did not reject the possible use of military means, but, as Mr. Anderson and Mr. Cushnahan and many others stressed, those means are a last resort. We are aware of the consequences of a war, and they will be many and deplorable, and the mandate of the Council is, of course, to take every possible initiative.
For this reason we took the initiative of approaching the Arab world through constant cooperation and meetings. That is why, at this time, the Arab League is approaching Saddam Hussein to send an important message. But the question raised by Mr. Watson and Mr. Cohn-Bendit is, I think, quite legitimate. Mr. Cohn-Bendit posed the question: "Could not the United States or the international community today a say that we have succeeded?" Truly, we did succeed in placing the inspectors on Iraqi soil, in setting the inspections in motion and in starting the disarmament process, but there are many EU member states that of a different opinion. And that is one of the problems that we are confronting - whether this glass is half full or half empty. And when the Arabs request specific clarifications regarding the message they are to deliver to Baghdad. The discussion of benchmarks being held in the Security Council at this time is very important. So are there specific goals that would allow us to assess whether Saddam Hussein has taken the strategic decision concerning disarmament, as the Americans and British stress? And if there are, within what timeframe will we be able to make that assessment? Here I see that at the same time, as Mr. Titley stressed, we are not really talking about and indefinite timeframe. Already, at the Summit Meeting, we have said that it is not an indefinite timeframe. Even in the Security Council neither side in the discussion is talking about an indefinite timeframe. Of course, there is disagreement as to what the timeframe should be. This shows, though, that there is a margin within which the two sides can approach one another, if they can agree on a timeframe and the benchmarks that will be the basis for the assessment of to what extent Saddam Hussein is acting in good faith.
So I believe that we must not look upon the issue of war as a foregone conclusion. And I stress again the position of the European Council, that until such time as the first bomb falls, the war will not be unavoidable. We must continue to make every effort through diplomatic actions towards the resolution of the crisis by peaceful means.
I still believe not only in the feasibility of a diplomatic solution, but also that, should we fail to find a diplomatic solution, we can avoid unilateral actions, as Mr. Baron Craspo so rightly said. And here I think the European Union has an important role to play. That brings me to the second point to which I would like to refer, that of the European voice, the European presence - as Mr. Poettering said, European unity.
Of course, the Presidency, as Mr. Alavanos so rightly said, can move only within the framework of the unanimous decisions of the Council. But we have a common position. We have common conclusions. Beyond that, there are, in fact, differences in our practical approach. What are the next steps? My opinion, again personal and based on the experience of recent weeds, is that there is an inclination towards approach and unity within the Council, and we must use that dynamic in the coming days, in order to see whether we can set down a common stance concerning even the most specific steps. Of course, it is not the European Union, but the Security Council, who will take the final decision on what we will do in Iraq.
I would also like to underline what Mr. Patten stressed with regard to the unity of the European Union. My feeling is that the larger member states often do not perceive that at this time, under today's international conditions, even they do not have the necessary power to have a decisive influence on the international political scene. We can play a role in the political scene if larger and smaller states work together with a powerful, unified, European voice.
And I come to the question of the presence of Europe. I think that the crisis in Iraq has brought to the fore important questions concerning the aftermath of the crisis, whatever that may be. First of all, through the Convention on the Future of Europe, the upgrading of the discussion of defence and our foreign policy, and even the power of European bodies, the authority of European institutions and the democratic legitimization of European institutions, so that we may speak with one voice and with an authority that will truly speak for all the citizens of the Union.
Second, our essential decision on the development of our defensive capabilities - the technological and industrial means that we possess, but also, and essentially, on the important question of how Europe can reliable submit its own proposals concerning the confronting of larger issues, such as the issues of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and others. In recent years we have shown our capabilities in foreign policy, e.g., in the Balkans. We have a unified, coherent and essential policy that influences this region. I think that we should follow this example in considering how we should proceed to our next steps.
Regarding the European voice, I want to say a few words regarding the enlargement. It is important that the enlargement should go ahead, that it not be influenced by this state of affairs, but that we make use of the lessons of this experience. First of all, we are a community of values that respects various democratic perspectives - and they exist - and we want these new countries to come into a democratic community. That is, if you will, the essence of enlargement. It is their incorporation into a democratic community of values, but, at the same time, the message being sent to them is that democracy means the ability to synthesize perspectives into a common strategy on various issues.
A third factor to which I would like to refer is a question to which many of you referred - the issue of the crisis with the United States. I will agree with many speakers who say that "anti-Americanism or pro-Americanism" is a pseudo-dilemma. It would be a grave error for us to treat this as a war of slogans and stereotypes - new Europe; old Europe; bad America; good Europe or bad Europe; weak Europe or strong America. That will obscure the real dialogue and the real discussion that we must carry out.
And we must finally carry out a fundamental discussion of our world and its practical problems. This was stressed by Mr. Patten, Mr. Pasqua and others. What are today's threats? How can we confront these issues? How do we confront terrorism? We understand the great trauma of September 11. But at the same time, as Mr. Patten said, regarding the Palestinian question, what are the causes of terrorism? Is military and police action against terrorism the only way to wipe out this phenomenon? Or must we, perhaps, really win the hearts and minds of citizens in regions where there is violence and conflict, and where terrorism is often cultivated?
Here, too, Europe has an important role to play. As Mr. Patten said, we invest in humanitarian aid, in development aid, we open our markets to regions around the world in order to aid economic development. And we confront problems such as poverty, the environment, equality, nationalistic crises, fundamentalism. These are the issues that we must discuss with the United States to see how we can really formulate a new policy for the confronting of these phenomena in a new age. And here it is not a weak Europe that speaks. It is a Europe of values and of its own experience.
But I would like to say that you, the European Parliament, have a very important role to play. It is not enough for the foreign minister of the presiding member state or Mr. Solana or Mr. Patten to meet with Mr. Powell or any other US secretary of state. We must make American society participate actively and we must communicate with American society. And the European Parliament can play an important role in this dialogue with American society, particularly with the American Congress. I have spoken to the President of the Parliament about his own initiatives and I think that he agrees completely with this perspective.
Fourth, I would like to talk about the Arab world. Many of you stress that this crisis cannot turn into a clash of cultures and religions - there is a real fear that this may be a consequence of this crisis. I can tell you, based on my experience and the talks I have had with the Arab world, that the actions, role and voice of Europe have contributed not only to the avoidance of war, but also to the strengthening of our cooperation with the Arab world. And this partnership relationship with them is of fundamental importance. We have a common fate in our region concerning the security of the region, as well as many other issues, economy, political cooperation, and we are, and we have stated this repeatedly, dedicated to the resolution of the Middle east problem. We want a new relationship between the EU and Israel, within which we, too, can contribute to the security of the region, but we believe that there can be even more basic guarantees for the security of Israel, permanently, if you like, if the Middle East problem is solved. The creation of a reliable, organized, democratic Palestinian state, and, of course, cooperation throughout the region, in accord with the initiatives of the Arab League, with Israel recognizing this state and helping towards the security of this country.
So I think our position is very important and has been assessed positively by the Arabs. But, as Mr. Brok said, the dialogue between cultures is of the highest priority. The Arab League requested that we open a dialogue of cultures and we accepted that proposal, and we have already begun. And at the Arab League Summit I referred to the need to discuss issues such as terrorism, security, human rights, participation of citizens in democracy, the role of women in our societies and the UNDP report, which is very important with regard to the necessary reforms in the Arab world.
And here I would like to stress that Mr. Cohn-Bendit spoke of democracy in the Arab world. We do not disagree and I will agree completely, and I have stressed this, that democracy, by definition, cannot be imposed. Democracy, as the word itself says, flows from the people, from the citizen, from the ground up. Thus, we must cultivate democratic institutions. And here, too, the European Union has an important role to play in the Arab world, in a dialogue that will support just those reforms, respecting the Arab world, respecting its sensibilities.
We have already decided to open the dialogue between cultures on a political level, but also with religious and other intellectuals to begin a Euro-Arab dialogue, and within the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation to open a discussion on the role of women. And I would like to thank Ms. Diamantopoulou, who will make an important contribution with her report on the role of women at the meeting between the Euro-Mediterranean partners on the discussion that we will carry out on the role of women.
Finally, the role of Parliament, and more specifically the European Parliament, where we want to institutionalize the meeting of parliaments in the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation. Before I close, I would like to say a few words about an issue that was raised. Both Mr. Watson and Mr. Cohn-Bendit spoke of whether Cyprus is the first victim, as well as of democratic developments in Turkey. It is true that many consequences may accrue from this crisis, and we must confront them, regardless of whether there is a war. Our concern over Turkey is important - it is a candidate country, and we, as the European Union, have a special responsibility for it because it is a candidate country. We have a responsibility because in 2004 we will have to make an important decision concerning Turkey's European course, a decision regarding its accession course, which, as I said before, means its accession to a community of values. And it would be negative in many ways if the victim of the crisis were that very course of changes, of reforms in Turkey. And I think that the Turkish Parliament is truly gaining democratic momentum that we must respect and exploit. And here, again, the European Parliament has a very important role to play.
I think that we all must continue our efforts towards democratic changes in Turkey. And we must also bear in mind some significant fears Turkey has due to Iraq, and particularly the territorial integrity of Iraq. Otherwise, if the territorial integrity of Iraq cannot be secured, the Kurdish question flares up. The European Union is dedicated to the protection of the democratic and minority rights of the Kurds. Perhaps Iraq will later become a federation. However, the European Union is against any change of borders or threat to the territorial integrity of Iraq. I think that is an important message that must be stressed.
Turkey also has serious economic problems due to the crisis, and if there is a war these will be exacerbated, which we must also bear in mind as the European Union. At the same time, Turkey's course towards European Union demands that the Cyprus problem be resolved. I would like to thank Kofi Annan, on behalf of the Presidency, for all his efforts towards the solution of this problem. These efforts are continuing. This chapter has not been closed. And, of course, Cyprus is not a victim of Iraq. I believe that there is still significant momentum, or that momentum will build as Cyprus accedes to the European Union. We want the Turkish Cypriots with us. We want them in this hall. We want them on the Council and in European institutions.
But this means that the Cyprus problem must be solved. We want the Turkish Cypriot community with us. This means that we also want Turkey to help, so that the Turkish Cypriots are not left out of this large family of ours, the community of values.
My friends, I have spoken more than the rules allow. I thank the President and I thank you for your endurance, but, as you can understand, this is a discussion of exceptional importance. I want to close with a few words.
We are truly in the midst of a crisis, but, as the Chinese say, a crisis presents threats as well as opportunities. This opportunity is first of all for the reformation of our institutions and functions so that we may have a more essential voice on the international scene - a voice that must be based on unity. Bt unity must be based on the democratic legitimization of all of these new institutions we are creating, the confronting of the democracy deficit, because our citizens want this common voice and they have indicated this through their own demonstrations in the streets of the European Union.
Secondly, it is an opportunity to revamp our relations with the Arab world, as I said, through a dialogue between cultures. It is an opportunity for a new relationship with the United States concerning the issues of security, democracy and multilateral diplomacy. And, as Mr. Beres and many others said concerning the UN, it is an opportunity to strengthen that Organization, because the interdependency of developments on the international scene - technology, economy, politics and environmental developments, which create interdependent interests - poses the problem of world governance. And the issue of world governance poses the basic question of what values and principles will form the basis of this world governance, so that one world will function - a world with many problem, but problems that can be resolved peacefully, with a sense of justice and with respect for the human being and our environment.
Europe is a prototype of multilateral cooperation - a vanguard, I would say, in the world. And this didactic strength of ours is decisive. And we teach the power of justice and not the justice of the powerful. We must secure this ethical authority if we want to live in a world of security and peace.
Dear friends and colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, as the Presidency we will make every effort to meet the expectations of our European Union citizens, the European Parliament and the member states. And at the same time, whatever the outcome of the crisis, I would like to invite you to work with us so that we can exploit the opportunities presented by this crisis for Europe to emerge stronger and for our values to constitute a powerful voice on the international scene, as well as a powerful voice for the strengthening of democracy and security on our own continent.
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