- George A. Papandreou - http://papandreou.gr/en -

Informal Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the SEECP

“I would like to thank the Ministers for allowing me to speak before they take their turn. It is a pleasure to be here, to be able to meet with you, even for this short while, with the colleagues from our neighborhood. Of course I would like to thank the Foreign Minister of Turkey for the exceptional hospitality, which I always have found when I have come to Turkey. So thank you again.

I would like to make a general point that we in Europe recently have had European elections, and on the one hand this is something that has shown how unique Europe is in the world, a unique political process where sovereign nations elect a common representation, a common Parliament. At the same time, Europe, I believe, is going through a critical point of where it is losing some of its dynamism, a crisis of identity, an economic crisis of course around the world, a social crisis, a cultural crisis, often a crisis even in values.

And I believe that we need to have a Europe which is socially just, more green, more democratic and with a greater role in the world. Otherwise, if we do not have this European momentum of integration, of deepening, Europe will slow down, it could become dominated by more fear, it could revert to extreme nationalisms or fundamentalisms or racisms and our citizens can become more pathetic and more rejectionist of Europe.

And this I think is one of our big challenges as Europeans: a challenge to reinvigorate the vision that Europe is, which existed after World War I and which transformed the continent into a divisive and divided continent of conflicts and wars into one where we had common values, respecting territorial integrity, rule of law, democracy, protection of human rights, solidarity and prosperity. We need to continue to transform Europe and our fears of changing borders, or minorities, to make our relations ones of respect and strength in our diversity.

We need to create a new dynamic and I believe that the process that we have here, the Southeastern Europe and the Balkans is a process which can contribute to a new dynamic in Europe. A new dynamic in enlarging the European Union towards this region. And this was the basis of our work when we were in the Presidency in the EU in 2003, the so-called Thessaloniki Agenda.

And I believe this Agenda needs to be given a new dynamism, it needs to be today revived. And that is why I would suggest and I would like to hear your views; my Alternate Minister will be here afterwards.

A roadmap for this enlargement, for the enlargement of the rest of the Western Balkans, a roadmap of accession which I think could be a date which is both symbolic but also realistic. It could be 2014, one hundred years after 1914 when World War I began and unluckily over these hundred years we still had many divisions and many wars and many conflicts in this region.

By creating a roadmap with a specific date, this will give new dynamism to our internal processes for a political leadership to make the necessary changes in these countries. It will give a new dynamism in possible bilateral problems or regional problems. I think it will also give a new dynamism to Europe itself, in giving a new goal, a new project, even though we all know that there is an enlargement fatigue. However with the Lisbon decision hopefully this enlargement fatigue will be less.

In this context of course, and I would like to hear your views, because of course I would like to be able to, as a Prime Minister, push this on the agenda in the European Union. In this context of course is the EU – Turkey relationship and I have been a very strong supporter of this and I would like to again say that my view is that we need to give Turkey the possibility of full membership, no special relationship, I do not believe in this special relationship. I believe in the prospects of a full membership. And I will work for that in the European Union. At the same time of course we need to work together, to deal with problems which often block this process and some of them of course have to do with bilateral issues and issues such as Cyprus.

Concerning our other neighbor, to the north, in Skopje we share common interests in seeing our region flourishing, seeing our region stable and secure. We do want to solve the one unresolved issue, and I will work very sincerely in looking at all the possible ways to do so. We do of course, you know our position, our position in Greece is very well known. And I just wanted to make this statement in order to say that I will be working very closely with all of you to help this European project, this Balkan project both on a bilateral level, but also in making the vision of this common family come true in the Southeastern Europe and in Europe.

Thank you very much and please excuse me for not staying to hear you or see some old friends in here and others also but I do have a meeting with the Prime Minister Erdogan.”